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- England Under the Tudors - 4/90 -
for English trade. Mexico and Peru and the West Indies were Spanish posses-*
** Two pages missing from original book here
[Sidenote: Nobility, clergy and gentry]
In the business of managing the Estates, the problem was further simplified to the Tudors because circumstances enabled them arbitrarily to replenish their treasuries largely from sources which did not wound the susceptibilities of the Commons. Henry VII. could victimise the nobles by fines or benevolences, and Henry VIII. could rob the Church, without arousing the animosity of the classes which were untouched; while neither the nobility nor the clergy were strong enough for active resentment. In each case the King made his profit out of privileged classes which got no sympathy from the rest--who did not grudge the King money so long at least as they were not asked to provide it themselves, and in fact felt that the process diminished the necessity for making demands on their own pockets.
The disappearance of the old almost princely power of the greater barons, completed by the repressive policy of Henry VII., with the redistribution of the vast monastic estates effected by his son, were the leading factors which changed the social and political centre of gravity. The old nobility were almost wiped out by the civil wars; generation after generation, their representatives had either fallen on the battlefield, or lost their heads on the scaffold and their lands by attainder. The new nobility were the creations of the Tudor Kings, lacking the prestige of renowned ancestry and the means of converting retainers into small armies. With the exception of the Howards, scarce one of the prominent statesmen of the period belonged to any of the old powerful families. For more than forty years the chief ministers were ecclesiastics; after Wolsey's fall, the Cromwells, Seymours, Dudleys, and Pagets, the Cecils and Walsinghams, and Bacons, the Russels, Sidneys, Raleighs, and Careys, were of stocks that had hardly been heard of in Plantagenet times, outside their own localities. It was the Tudor policy to foster and encourage this class of their subjects, who from the Tudor times onward provided the country with most of her statesmen and her captains, and in the aggregate mainly swayed her fortunes. At the same time the political influence of the Church was reduced to comparative insignificance by the treatment of the whole hierarchy almost as if it were a branch, and a rather subordinate branch, of the civil administration; by the appropriation of its wealth to secular purposes, to the enrichment of individuals and of the royal treasury; and by the suppression of the monastic orders. The effect of this last measure, limiting the clerical ranks to the successors of the secular clergy, was to restrict them much more generally to their pastoral functions; and at any rate after the death of Gardiner and Pole, no ecclesiastic appears as indubitably first minister of the Crown, and few as politicians of the front rank. England had no Richelieu, and no Mazarin. Lastly while the diminution in the importance of the ecclesiastical courts increased the influence of the lay lawyers, the great development in the prosperity of the mercantile classes, due in part at least to the deliberate policy of the Tudor monarchs, led in turn to their wealthy burgesses acquiring a new weight in the national counsels which, however, did not take full effect till a later day.
[Sidenote: International relations]
Finally we have to observe that in this period the whole system of international relations underwent a complete transformation. At its commencement, there was no Spanish kingdom; there was no Dutch Republic; the unification even of France was not completed; England had a chronically hostile nation on her northern borders; the Moors still held Granada; the Turk had only very recently established himself in Europe, and his advance constituted a threat to all Christendom, which still very definitely recognised one ecclesiastical head in the Pope, and--very much less definitely--one lay head in the Emperor. Elizabeth's death united England and Scotland at least for international purposes; France and Spain had each become a homogeneous state; Holland was on the verge of entering the lists as a first-class power. The theoretical status of the Emperor in Europe had vanished, but on the other hand, the co-ordination of the Empire itself as a Teutonic power had considerably advanced. The Turk was held in check, and the Moor was crushed: but one half of Christendom was disposed to regard the other half as little if at all superior to the Turk in point of Theology. The nations of Western Europe had approximately settled into the boundaries with which we are familiar; the position of the great Powers had been, at least comparatively speaking, formulated; and the idea had come into being which was to dominate international relations for centuries to come--the political conception of the Balance of Power.
HENRY VII (i), 1485-92--THE NEW DYNASTY
[Sidenote: 1485 Henry's title to the Crown]
On August 22nd, 1485, Henry Earl of Richmond overcame and slew King Richard III., and was hailed as King on the field of victory. But the destruction of Richard, an indubitable usurper and tyrant, was only the first step in establishing a title to the throne as disputable as ever a monarch put forward. To establish that title, however, was the primary necessity not merely for Henry himself, but in the general interest; which demanded a secure government after half a century of turmoil.
Henry's hereditary title amounted to nothing more than this, that through his mother he was the recognised representative of the House of Lancaster in virtue of his Beaufort descent from John of Gaunt, [Footnote: See _Front_. and Appendix B. The prior hereditary claims of the royal Houses of Portugal and Castile and of the Earl of Westmorland were ignored.] father of Henry IV.; whereas the House of York was descended in the female line from Lionel of Clarence, John of Gaunt's elder brother, and in unbroken male line from the younger brother Edmund of York. On the simple ground of descent therefore, any and every member of the House of York had a prior title to Henry's; the most complete title lying in Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward IV.; while the young Earl of Warwick, son of George of Clarence, was the first male representative, and John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, son of Edward's sister, had been named by Richard as heir presumptive.
But Henry could support his hereditary title, such as it was, by the actual fact that it was he and not a Yorkist who had challenged and overthrown the usurper Richard.
[Sidenote 1: Measures to strengthen the title] [Sidenote 2: 1486 Marriage]
Now the idea that the rivalry of the Houses of York and Lancaster should be terminated and their union be effected by the marriage of the two recognised representatives had been mooted long before. But in Henry's position, it was imperative that he should assert his own personal right to the throne, not admitting that he occupied it as his wife's consort. His strongest line was to claim the Crown as his own of right and procure the endorsement of that claim from Parliament, [Footnote: The intricacies of descent, and the position of the crowd of hypothetical claimants, are set forth in detail in Appendix B, and the complete genealogical chart (_Front_.).] as Henry IV. had done on the deposition of Richard II. He could then without prejudice to his own title effectively bar other rivals by taking as his consort Elizabeth of York; since the Yorkists, as a group, would at any rate hesitate to assert priority of title to hers for either Warwick or De la Pole (who in fact never himself posed as a claimant for the throne). In accordance with this plan of operations, the contemplated marriage with Elizabeth of York was in the first instance postponed as a matter for later consideration. Henry proceeded forthwith to London, entering the City _laetanter_, amidst public rejoicings; [Footnote: Gairdner, _Memorials of Henry VII_., p. xxvi, where a curious misapprehension is explained for which Bacon is mainly responsible.] writs for a new Parliament being issued a few days later. The coronation took place on October 30th; a week afterwards Parliament met, and an Act was promptly passed, declaring--without giving any reasons, which might have been disputed--that the "inheritance of the Crowns of England and France be, rest, remain and abide, in the person of our now Sovereign Lord, King Harry the Seventh, and in the heirs of his body". This was sufficiently decisive; but the endorsement of Henry's title in the abstract was confirmed by further enactments which assumed that he had been King of right, before the battle of Bosworth (thus repudiating title by conquest), since they attainted of treason those who had joined Richard in levying war against him. Thus Henry had affirmed his own inherent right to the throne; and had hedged that round with an unqualified parliamentary title. In the meantime he had also disqualified one possible figure-head for the Yorkists by lodging the young Earl of Warwick in the Tower. It remained for him to convert the other and principal rival into a prop of his own dignities by marrying Elizabeth of York. Accordingly he was formally petitioned by Parliament in December to take the princess to wife, to which petition he graciously assented, and the union of the red and white roses was accomplished in January. Any son born of this marriage would in his own person unite the claims of the House of Lancaster with those of the senior branch of the House of York.
[Sidenote: The King and his advisers]
It is difficult to think of the first Tudor monarch as a young man; for his policy and conduct bore at all times the signs of a cautious and experienced statesmanship. Nevertheless, he was but eight and twenty when he wrested the kingdom from Richard. His life, however, had been passed in the midst of perpetual plots and schemes, and in his day men developed early--whereof an even more striking example was his son's contemporary, the great Emperor Charles V. Young as Henry was, there was no youthful hot-headedness in his policy, which was moreover his own. But he selected his advisers with a skill inherited by his son; and the most notable members of the new King's Council were Reginald Bray; Morton, Bishop of Ely, who soon after became Archbishop of Canterbury and was later raised to the Cardinalate; and Fox, afterwards Bishop of Durham and then of Winchester, whose services were continued through the early years of the next reign. Warham, afterwards Archbishop, was another of the great ecclesiastics whom he promoted, and before his death he had discovered the abilities of his son's great minister Thomas Wolsey. For two thirds of his reign, however, Bray and Morton were the men on whom he placed chief reliance.
[Sidenote: Henry's enemies]
Difficult as it was after Henry's union with Elizabeth to name any pretender to the throne with even a plausible claim, Bosworth had been in effect a victory for the Lancastrian party, and many of the Yorkists were still prepared to seize any pretext for attempting to overthrow the new dynasty. Not long after the marriage, Henry started on a progress through his dominions; and while he was in the north, Lord Lovel and other adherents of the late king attempted a rising which was however suppressed with little difficulty. A considerable body of troops was sent against the rebels, while a pardon was proclaimed for all who forthwith surrendered. Many of the insurgents came in; the promise to them was kept. Of the rest, one of the leaders was executed, Lovel escaping; but the affair, though abortive, illustrated the general atmosphere of insecurity which was to be more seriously demonstrated by the insurrection in favour of Lambert Simnel in the following year--some months after the Queen had given birth to a son, Prince Arthur.
Outside Henry's own dominions, the Dowager Margaret of Burgundy, widow
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