- Free Essays, Term Papers & Book Notes

How Successfully Did Henry Vii Strengthen Central and Local Government?

Page 1 of 7

        How successfully did Henry VII strengthen central and local government?

        Henry’s success as a monarch largely depended on his ability to exert his authority throughout his own kingdom, and therefore, movements towards increasing his control by strengthening central and local government were vital. Henry was determined to ensure that law and order were firmly established after the chaos of the Wars of the Roses and did so through changes to central government, the re-establishment of royal authority in regions and the reform of local government.

        Henry’s central government, unlike previous monarchs, relied on a smaller committee within the council, depending on what was a smaller core group of individuals: Morton, the Lord Chancellor, Fox, the Lord Privy Seal, Dynham, the Lord Treasurer, and five other members. With this, came a greater sense of trust associated with his inner circle, increasing the reliability of the advice shared to him and increasing the efficiency of meetings by decreasing unnecessary bureaucracy; this made sense considering Henry’s lack of experience in dealing with the council. The kings council, including the Court of Requests, the Court of General Surveyors, this oversaw the surveying of revenue from crown lands, and the Council learned in the Law, which handled bonds and recognisances. This meant that each committee could specialise in a specific area: it was easier for Henry to supervise the actions of these smaller committees, increasing his personal control, and therefore, increasing his level of authority within government.

        The Council Learned in the Law, established in 1495, was the most notorious and feared of Henry’s committees. It was initially set up to establish Henry’s position as feudal overlord and was supposed to deal with all of his lands in order to check he was maximising his incomes: it dealt with wardships, marriage, payments on inheritance and administered bonds and recognisances. However, it was particularly detested because of it’s scrupulous enforcement of royal rights which resulted in Henry receiving a larger revenue, upsetting much of the nobility because of its coercive power.  

        Another change to central government commented on and discussed by Historians was Henrys’ appointment of ‘new men’ in his councils (e.g. professionals/ gentry who had never previously been involved in government): a great deal of Henry’s advisors were drawn from the lesser landowners. This appointment served the dual purpose of helping his administration at a time when Henry wanted to exploit his lands, and therefore required men who understood auditing and property laws and were skilled administrators, as well as reducing the power of the established patterns of government associated with the nobility. Henry VII demanded loyal service from nobles who did work for the administration, and in return rewarded them, so as not to alienate the nobles within government.

        New men appointed by Henry had gained some of their experience, being part of the administration. Parliament was not a permanent feature of government, and Henry didn’t summon parliament regularly (7 times in 24 years) as its major role was to grant taxation, which Henry avoided due to his lack of involvement in serious foreign affairs. Although parliament had certain judicial functions, these were becoming increasingly filled by committees such as the Council Learned in the Law. When Henry did call parliament, he used it to ratify his own position though upholding his claim to the throne and to pass Acts of Attainder, increasing his level of power within central government.

        Another key theme associated with Henry VII’s attempts to strengthen his authority within government were changes to regional government; Henry needed to increase his grasp over the outlying regions of the country. Henry did this through a system of regional councils: Henry established the Council of the North, appointing the Duke of Northumberland as head of the council in the north, but following his death in the Yorkshire rising, Henry appointed the Earl of Surrey to act as his deputy in the North. The council was responsible for both defending the border with Scotland however, also had administrative and judicial power so the law was enforced quickly. Henry appointed its members so they were loyal and enforced royal will, appointing Surrey after the Yorkshire rising.

        Henry also re-established the Council of Wales, (using a similar model to Edward IV) to deal with the rising power of the Marcher lords, who had gained considerable wealth and influence within the region. In 1493 Henry placed his son, Arthur as the nominal head of the council; Henry used his Welsh connections and the death of many marcher lords to increase his control in the region.

        Furthermore, the problem of Ireland posed a large challenge to Henry, due to it’s support for Yorkists and logistically due to direct English control over Ireland was limited to an area called ‘the pale’, around Dublin, but passed this, the crown had little control, and it was the major Irish families that held sway here. The Earl of Kildare was problematic due to his support for rebels such as Perkin Warbeck, however, after Ponying's failure to bring Ulster under greater control, Kildare was placed back as deputy for Ireland.

Download as (for upgraded members)  txt (9.6 Kb)   pdf (76.7 Kb)   docx (300.8 Kb)  
Continue for 6 more pages »