God and Monarchy

Divine Right of Kings - God chose who would be monarch


  • top of hierarchy
  • decided on next monarch


  • Chosen by God
  • Rule as they wished - needed support of nobility and gentry
  • No standing army/police force - relied on nobility and gentry to carry out roles
  • Controlled country
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Nobility and Gentry


  • Group of men who held highest titles below king (duke, earl, viscount)
  • Small but powerful minority - held 10% land for cultivation
  • Relied on monarch to protect land
  • Carried out govt. locally


  • 5000 gentry families - knights/esquires
  • Originally had military role, increasingly involved in local govt.
  • Landowners, less extensive estates than nobility
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Yeoman and Artisans


  • Prosperous farmers, tended to own land
  • 1600 = 60,000 
  • Financially secure, less affected by price/rent increases


  • Skilled craftsman, lived in towns/large villages
  • Prosperous in wool/cloth industry
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Peasants, Vagrants and Beggars


  • Worked on land for local landord for wages
  • Reliant on food production for survival
  • Didn't own land
  • Most vulnerable to socio-economic changes e.g. poor harvests


  • Without masters, in countryside
  • Feared/seen as a threat
  • Harshly treated and punished under Acts of Parliament
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Monarchy and Government

  • Made important and key decisions
  • Sensible monarch = take advice
  • Ruler = adult, competent and male
  • Duty = protection from invasion, and rights and privileges
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Royal Court and Royal Household

Royal Court

  • Served monarch - followed them everywhere they went
  • Display and entertainment
  • Informal source of power - anyone wanting power visited Court for patronage
  • Important for monarch to emphasise power and wealth to visitors e.g. tournaments and plays

Royal Household

  • Responsible for domestic needs
  • 100s employed in kitchens, laundries, gardens and servants, controlled by Board of Green Cloth
  • Based on personal needs of monarch and family
  • Attempts to reform = Thomas Wolsey issued Eltham Ordinances (1526) = unsuccessful
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Privy Chamber

  • Private rooms where king and family lived
  • For example = Hampton Court Palace - Great Hall for formal events, Guard Room for visitors, Presence Chamber for dining
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Household structure and function changes 1485-1603

  • Privy Chamber increase in political importance
  • 1495 = Chamber restricted access to Henry VII and other monarchs
  • Created Yeomen on the Guard = personal bodyguard
  • Chamber collected and stored royal income, monitiored personally, lapsed after Henry VII
  • 1518 = Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, most important was Groom of the Stool (royal commode)
  • Filled with nobility and gentry, employed in areas of govt. e.g. expeditions and diplomatic missions
  • 1540s = control of dry stamp, faction led by Edmund Seymour and John Dudley got control of stamp through members of Chamber, made changed to King's will in their own favour
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Privy Chamber under Mary and Elizabeth

  • Roles replaced with women e.g. Mary's = Frances Waldegrave and Fraces Jerningham - influence on the queen
  • Married to male members of Mary's household
  • Dry stamp kept under lock and key, didn't allow administrators to use it
  • Elizabeth - chamber decreased in political importance, major decisions determined through council
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Royal Council under Henry VII and Henry VIII

Henry VII

  • Larger, more informal
  • Consisted of mixture of members - nobility, churchmen, royal officials, lawyers
  • Included men who served under Edward IV (22) and Richard III (20)
  • Gathered information about popular opinion and mood of country
  • Created 'Great Council' for nobility and councillors (5 held from 1487-1502)

Henry VIII

  • Made up of experienced administrators - Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of Winchester
  • Supported Henry's policy of not engaging in expensive foreign wars = Henry VIII opposite
  • Wanted to prove himself against France and Scotland
  • Council retained traditional functions (day-to-day running of country)
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Privy Council reform 1540

  • Reformed in 1536-7 and 1540
  • Under Henry VII  = 227 members
  • Under Henry VII = 120 members
  • Increased under Edward VI - Edward Seymour (Duke of Somerset) in charge
  • Under Mary I = inclusive, larger no. of men appointed, average 12 members in 1555, active regular meetings - clerk recorded meetings
  • 1603 = 13 members
  • 1540 reform = Became chief minister (as one), members collectively responsible for work previously perfomed by Cromwell (executed 1540) and Wolsey
  • Role = issue orders and proclamations in monarch's name without having to wait for them
  • Under Elizabeth = William Cecil used position to be Secretary, increased administration, meetings increased by 1590s to everyday, sometimes twice
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Role of Secretary

  • Close, personal access to monarch, controlled personal seal, made documents official
  • Thomas Cromwell became secretary in 1534. controlled council meetings, had access to King's private correspondance, fell in 1540
  • Role decreased in political importance - split between Ralph Sadler and Thomas Wriothesely
  • Increased amount of work, one more dominant than the other
  • Increased in importance under Elizabeth I, William Cecil appointed 1558-1572 / Francis Walsingham 1573-1590 / then Robert Cecil
  • Elizabeth's reign = permanently important, enhance own power and conduct day-to-day running of govt.
  • Can be dangerous e.g. William Davidson (1586), responsible of keeping death warrant of Mary, Queen of Scots, was sent, blamed him, 10,000 marks fine, released in 1589
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Lord Lieutenant

  • 1549 = Duke of Northumberland appointed members of nobility as Lieutenants - dealt with rebellion trouble
  • Expected to have policing and military role at local level
  • Mary I = 1557-8 nobility and gentry couldn't recruit troops, Mary divided country into 10 lieutenancies, each one responsible for defence of religion and military recruitment, diminished in 1558, unsuccessful in war with France
  • Elizabeth I - permanent post, response to war with Spain 1585-1604, LL appointed to each county with deputy = for life
  • Work - organisation of war effort, recruitment of army, commission given to organise recruitment, ensure men properly armed, trained and disciplined, local officials expected to help and obey LL
  • Directly answerable to monarch - disobeyed orders = punished
  • Locals could refuse to cooperate - Suffolk and Wiltshire in 1590s
  • Relied on nobility - council members acted as LL
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