Author Topic: How absolutist were the Tudors?  (Read 8137 times)

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Offline Prince_Lieven

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How absolutist were the Tudors?
« on: December 05, 2005, 02:19:37 PM »
Hi all.  ;) Here's something of a tricky question. I was wondering just how much real power the Tudors had. Were they more, less or equally as powerful than their French and Scottish counterparts?

It often seems that royal power reached it's apogee under the Tudors, especially Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. And yet, I'm curious as to how constrained they were by their parliament and council. With acts often past to suit the monarch's personal needs - Henry VIII's 1544 Act of Succession springs to mind - it makes one wonder whether or not parliament was very much a tool of the monarch. And yet, the fact that the bill had to be passed by parliament before it became law displays one thing - the monarch's will alone was not law.

I hope this thread won't bore you all to death!  ;D
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David_Pritchard

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2005, 02:35:18 PM »
Liam,

No they were not as powerful in their own legal right as the French monarchs but that does not mean that they could not find other means to achieve thier wishes thereby exercising the same actual power as the French monarchs had in theory.

Henry VIII and Elizabeth I had so much influencial power because they had tangibles that the members of parliament wanted, such as manors and lands confiscated from the Church, the real and personal property of those many persons who were attained and in Elizabeth's case the granting of rights to prey on Spanish treasure ships and explore North America and other exotic lands. With so many gifts available to these monarchs it is little wonder that they had their way with parliament.

David



Quote
Hi all.  ;) Here's something of a tricky question. I was wondering just how much real power the Tudors had. Were they more, less or equally as powerful than their French and Scottish counterparts?

It often seems that royal power reached it's apogee under the Tudors, especially Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. And yet, I'm curious as to how constrained they were by their parliament and council. With acts often past to suit the monarch's personal needs - Henry VIII's 1544 Act of Succession springs to mind - it makes one wonder whether or not parliament was very much a tool of the monarch. And yet, the fact that the bill had to be passed by parliament before it became law displays one thing - the monarch's will alone was not law.

I hope this thread won't bore you all to death!  ;D

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by David_Pritchard »

Offline Prince_Lieven

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2005, 02:42:56 PM »
Thanks for contributing David.  :)
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
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"Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget."

ilyala

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2005, 03:33:34 PM »
i think that the tudors had the power of knowing what would work and what wouldn't. i think that they knew how to make something work when they wanted to. it was a sort of absolute power but it had the constraint of the monarch being clever enough to present what he wanted in a favourable light. elizabeth always prided herself in the fact that she could walk the streets of london with very few guards.that came from the fact that she was very popular. her father was equaly popular. her sister, not so much. because mary tudor went about it the wrong way. i'm sure that at the time of mary's crowning the english could have been convinced into catholicism, had she gone about it the right way.

basically, yes, they could do what they wanted, if they knew how to do it. that is a certain kind of absolutism. not as powerful as the french on the short run, but i think more powerful in the long run. and much easier to maintain. it's much easier to make people do what you want if you convince them that they want it too ;)

bell_the_cat

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2005, 02:20:47 AM »
Even the French monarchy was not absolutist in the sixteenth century. There were limits to their powers of raising revenue without having the agreement of the parliament or estates.

As has already been pointed out the actual power of the monarchy depended on how good their finances were, as well as the political canniness of the monarch.

ilyala

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2005, 02:40:44 AM »
i think the french and the spanish absolutists had more power to impose measures that were not popular with the subjects... not absolute power, there were some that even they couldn't do, but more...

Offline Prince_Lieven

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2005, 09:42:41 AM »
Of course, as I should have mentioned, Henry VII greatly strengthened the monarch's position in England by making the crown rich, and by dissolving private armies. Also, when the monarch was a larger than life personality - like Henry VIII or Elizabeth - it made it easier for them to control their government.
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bell_the_cat

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2005, 02:10:59 PM »
Quote
Of course, as I should have mentioned, Henry VII greatly strengthened the monarch's position in England by making the crown rich, and by dissolving private armies. Also, when the monarch was a larger than life personality - like Henry VIII or Elizabeth - it made it easier for them to control their government.


It still wasn't easy. Elizabeth wore herself out in her last decade, trying to deal with Parliament. The Tudors were not absolute monarchs. Even when Henry wanted to get rid of his wives he had to get Parliament involved.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by bell_the_cat »

Elisabeth

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2005, 02:41:10 PM »
But Thomas Cromwell was the key, wasn't he, to getting most of Henry VIII's legislation passed through Parliament? I thought he more or less rammed it through. As much as Henry's charismatic personality, Cromwell's expertise, even genius as an administrator was reponsible for most of the legislation of the English reformation... And he was a commoner! My overall impression is that the English were much more constitutionally oriented than the French, for all that their constitution was unwritten.

ilyala

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2005, 02:48:24 PM »
henry was behind everything thomas cromwell did. wolsey, for example, had a lot more influence, but still he was at henry's mercy. part of the tudor talents was the fact that they knew which people to use and when...

Elisabeth

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2005, 02:53:59 PM »
I completely agree with everything you say, Ilyala. And Henry passed along his genius for choosing talented adminstrators to his daughter, Elizabeth, who never wanted for good advice as a result! ;)

ilyala

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2005, 02:58:20 PM »
unfotunatly that particular tudor talent, that henry 7th also had (despite his advisors being less popular... i think they were well chosen) was lost in the stuart blood

Offline Romanov_fan

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2006, 11:51:55 AM »
I agree that they only had absolute power in the sense that they could do what they wanted, as long someone agreed, who could get it through parliament, or they had a way to convince these people, and thus parliament, that it was for the best. They also had a knack for choosing wise ministers ( most of them), who helped realize their policies, which were mostly good. The Tudors were also popular with the people, and that helped in getting their way. So they had alot of power, but it wasn't unlimited. And of course, the individual ruler's ability to get their way often depended on what they were like in terms of popularity, policies,etc. ;)

palatine

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2006, 02:51:07 PM »
As others in this thread have noted, the basis of Tudor power was their wealth.  The Tudors had enough money to rule more or less independently of Parliament thanks to the appropriation of the property of the Catholic Church by Henry VIII.   If Parliament denied one of the Tudors money, it wouldn’t financially cripple his or her reign, since the crown lands provided large revenues and could be sold off to raise extra money.  If a Tudor really needed something from Parliament, he or she could usually coerce, wheedle or bribe their way to getting what they wanted.  Parliament had great difficulty challenging the decisions and actions of the Tudors, since it didn't have a financial hold over them.  Everyone knew this, and some in time came to resent it.  

By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, the surplus crown lands had been sold off and she ran into financial difficulties.  In order to support herself, her court and her government and to maintain her independence from an increasingly hostile Parliament, Elizabeth borrowed large sums of money which she couldn’t repay.  As a result, when James I and VI came to the throne, he inherited Elizabeth’s debts, not a large number of crown lands that he could use to maintain a large degree of independence from Parliament as the Tudors had done.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by palatine »

ilyala

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Re: How absolutist were the Tudors?
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2006, 01:15:48 AM »
it's not quite like that. henry the 7th became rich after years of counting the pennies. at first, he was poor. henry 8th blew all that away in very few years and yes, the expropriation of the monasteries was profitable but still it wasn't that good for edward not to have any material problems. the country was in ruin by the time elizabeth came to the throne and i sincerely doubt elizabeth was much richer than the rest.

however, the money thing was a tudor advantage. because (and here i'm talking mainly about henry 7th and elizabeth) they knew how to be economical. while henry is more famous for being cheap than elizabeth, they both actually were. they were cautious with money and only used it when necessairilly (although that didn't prevent any of them from throwing lavish balls - but that was a question of image). so, yes, they were much more careful with money than james, for example. elizabeth would have never spent as much as james did.

another thing we must remember is how the tudors happened: henry 7th calmed down the spirits after decades of civil war. of course people supported him, people wanted peace, and as long as he didn't abuse his powers and kept the peace thing going, they let him be. towards the end of the reign he was pretty unpopular because he was very cautious and because he did indeed set a priority on the finances of the king which gave him a pretty bad image. henry 8th came as a uoung and handsome contrast to his father so he was popular too. i tend to think his break with the pope was also popular because (as i mentioned in another thread) the pope was seen as a stranger interfearing with the english business.

edward and mary lost it because none of them was politically shrewd enough. edward didn't have much chance to prove himself, but mary showed enough. by the time elizabeth came to the throne she was considered the hope of the nation: mary's policy had been disastruous. not only the whole 'bloody mary' thing, but also the foreign policy. the country was again in ruin and elizabeth pretty much saved it. so, just like her grandfather she was popular for bringing the peace. she was popular for maintaining the peace. she also had (better than her grandfather) the good sense to entertain her good image. so people went with 'good queen bess'. towards the end of her reign, the whole essex story, her getting old and stubborn and less able to actually rule diminished her popularity.

i still thing the key to the tudors was the fact that they were popular and (most of them) knew how to take advantage of that