coin issued by Henry VII |
A more modern and lifelike coin introduced by
Domestic and foreign policy
Henry VII and the nobility
Henry VII took various steps to curtail the
independence of the nobility.
Henry was reluctant to hand out titles - making
those servants he wanted to reward Knights of the Garter rather than
hereditary noblemen. When added to natural wastage as families died
out without heirs, this meant that there were only forty-two nobles by Henry's death. (There had been fifty-five at his accession.)
Natural deaths also helped decrease the threat
from major magnates. The estates of the houses of York and Lancaster, and of
Warwick the Kingmaker, all fell to Henry VII. Henry Percy, Earl of
Northumberland died in 1489 leaving a child of eleven as his heir.
begun by the Moreton family during the 15th Century
|Henry tried to reduce the power of great nobles in the
localities by appointing to important local offices lesser men who were
more dependent on royal favor.
The head of another powerful family of magnates
- Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham - had been
executed by Richard III. His heir, Edward was only seven years old when Henry
acceded, and appeared to be no threat. Henry VII took no steps against him and
even made him a Knight of the Garter, but Henry VIII had him executed on flimsy
charges of treason (May 1521.)
Henry VII used financial measures to ensure
that Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset (son of
Elizabeth Woodville) remained
obedient. He took the administration of Grey's estates out of his
hands, and obliged him to enter into bonds and recognisances that
meant he would forfeit large sums of money if he acted against the
Henry VII also kept a careful watch over the
marriage alliances of England's great noble families to ensure that no
rival power base was established.
The ceiling of a chapel in Westminster
commissioned by Henry VII and
Unlike earlier monarchs, Henry VII did not
choose his chief secular advisors from the higher ranks of the
nobility. In keeping with the main ideas of
Humanism, Henry VII promoted people on the
basis of merit even if they were not very high born.
|One of Henry's closest advisors was John Morton
(died 1500.) He had been made Bishop of Ely by Edward IV in 1479, but fell foul
of Richard III and joined Henry in exile. After Henry's accession, he was made
Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury (1486.)
When levying money from Henry's subjects, John Morton
(according to Sir Francis Bacon) argued that those who lived in luxurious style were
obviously rich, with cash to spare, and so could easily afford
to pay. On the other hand, people living frugally must be
saving their money and so could easily afford to pay.
An argument of this type - where apparently contradictory facts
support the same conclusion - is known as "Morton's fork."
|Throughout the Wars of the Roses the penalty of
attainder was freely used to punish political enemies. A Bill of
Attainder was passed in Parliament summarily declaring that the offenders
were traitors and had perpetually forfeited their titles and lands - and
|Before Henry VII, most of these attainders were later reversed
in exchange for promises of loyalty: - Henry VI reversed all
21 attainders, Edward IV 86 of 120, and Richard 99 of 100.|
|Henry VII attainted 138 men, but was far slower in reversing them.
Only 46 were reversed, and many
were conditional reversals (where restoration of property was
conditional on continued good behavior.) The attainder of John,
Lord Zouch, for example, was not reversed until 1495. Moreover, Henry
continued to attaint people throughout his reign: more were attainted in his
last parliament of 1504 than in earlier parliaments.|
|Another attainted nobleman, Thomas Earl of Surrey - the son of John
Howard, Duke of Norfolk - was imprisoned until 1489, not allowed to assume
the title of Duke of Norfolk; his lands were kept permanently in trust; and
this despite the fact that Thomas served the King faithfully and rose to the
office of Treasurer.
Clopton Bridge, Stratford upon Avon.
Its construction 1480-90 was financed by Sir Hugh Clopton,
Lord Mayor of London
Edward IV had tried to bypass the cumbersome
bureaucracy of the Exchequer, and use the Chamber (an office of the
royal household) to control finances.
Henry VII's initials against each entry of Book
of Chamber Receipts
|The Exchequer tried to regain its old position
at the center of financial administration, but Henry continued
to use the Chamber.
He took a close interest in every detail of its activities -
initialing every page of the account book.
Henry paid as much attention
to crown lands - revenue from which went up about fourfold from Edward
IV's days. Customs revenues increased by about one fifth as trade
Henry rarely levied direct
taxation from Parliament (it did not even meet between 1497 and 1504,
or from 1504 to 1510.) Nevertheless, between 1491 and 1509 he had
enough excess cash to spend about £250,000 on jewels and
London, thou art of
towns A per se.
Sovereign of cities,
seemliest in sight,
Of high renown,
riches and royalty;
Of lords, barons, and
many a goodly knight;
Of most delectable
lusty ladies bright;
Of famous prelates,
in habits clerical;
Of merchants full of
substance and of might:
London, thou art the
flower of Cities all.
(William Dunbar, 1465-1520, Excerpt from a
poem In honour of the City of London, written 1501.)
|While Henry VII was increasing the power of the English crown,
Spain too was becoming increasingly important. The marriage of Ferdinand, King
of Aragon and Isabella, Queen of Castile united the two largest states in the
Iberian peninsula - creating the kingdom of Spain; later, they expanded its
borders by conquering Granada; after Isabella's death, Ferdinand also
In fact the Malus Intercursus was not
ratified before Philip's death (September 1506,) and the treaty which it was
intended to replace
(the Magnus Intercursus of 1496) did not grant the same concessions to
English cloth merchants.
Henry VII's horizons were not limited to
Europe. He took an active interest in overseas trade and exploration.
To John Cabot, he granted exemption from customs for goods brought
back from any new country he might discover.|
Like Christopher Columbus, John Cabot hoped to
discover Asia by sailing west. In fact, in June 1497 he made
landfall somewhere in Newfoundland - probably where Cape Breton
On a second voyage in 1498, John Cabot and three of his four
ships disappeared in stormy weather, never to be seen again.
Henry VII died 21 April 1509 - possibly of
tuberculosis or some other lung disease.
politic wisdom in governance, it was singular; his wit always
quick and ready; his reason pithy and substantial; his memory
fresh and holding; his experience notable; his counsels
fortunate and taken by wise deliberation …"
Funeral sermon for Henry VII, [spelling and punctuation