Successful Were Henry Vii’s Attempts to Control His Nobility
How successful were Henry MI’s attempts to control the nobility? Alternation says, ‘No king could rule without the co-operation of the nobility, which was largely responsible for conducting the kings business In the provinces’ and Pimpernel supports this when he says that Henry Avis’s prime alma was to restore a partnership in government, shifting the balance in his favor after the disruption of the Wars of the Roses. Policies to achieve this combined a mix of the ‘carrot and stick’ technique.
The ‘stick approach combined military and financial restraints and a reduction in central ND local power. Whereas the ‘carrot,’ approach saw Henry develop a reward system for service and encouraging loyalty from his peers. However the question remains, how did Henry do when meeting the nobles. Are we to believe Pencil who claims, ‘Henrys relationship with his nobility was, ultimately a failure. ‘ Or are we to follow Guys line who claims, ‘by means of bonds, Henry VII in effect disabled his nobility. Henrys first Intention and his belief that this was the key to partnership was to reduce the military power of the nobles. A large band of retainers could provide boles with their own pseudo, army or gang and If they were disloyal, this band could present a threat towards Henry. However, he also sometimes needed these private armies to support him in times of danger so he ideally wished to reduce them or make sure the nobles were not using them in a potentially military way. Literally, Henry limited retaining.
One extreme case when Henry was visiting one of his most loyal supporters the Earl of Oxford, Francis Bacon, gives an account on how Henry, when releasing that Oxford had too many retainers on display to impress him but Henry said ‘by my faith my lord I thank you for your good cheer but I cannot endure having the law broken before my eyes. My attorney must speak with you. ‘ And it is part of the report that the earl was fined no less than 15,000 marks. This shows either how serious Henry was In enforcing the laws against retainers or his overzealousness in Implementing them.
Pimpernel suggests that this might have been a story Invented by Bacon as he says, ‘It seems Inherently unlikely that one of the kings closest advisers for so many years could be so Ignorant of the king’s policy on retaining. ‘ However this incident does prove how keenly Henry applied the law seeing military impotence as his main way to curb the threat of the nobility. Also, the story does reflect the way the king was perceived, that even his supporters were going to be punished if they did not strictly toe the line so his methods of control were going to be very strict.
It is claimed by Pencil, therefore, that Henry was unsuccessful in his aim for a partnership. He thought that he could still rely on nobles to help him run the country, while reducing their power and independence and periodically fining hem. In this respect, traditionally it was thought that Henry was very efficient. If he discovered that a noble was not keeping to the letter of the law, Henry would resort to his system of bonds and reconnaissance. These were financial contracts that kings used to ensure the continued loyalty of their nobles ten years of his reign he collected 191 bonds.
In the later years of his reign he increased this and system of coercion’ and a threat hanging over them’. It was not his main way of raising money but a means of keeping the nobles in line by threatening them with rash financial fines and threats of extortion. Even though he only meant to threaten them the nobles gave Henry EYE,OHO in 1 505, compared with the sum of E,OHO in 1493. Henry VII reign sees a dramatic increase in the use of bonds and reconnaissance from after 1502 which may have been a result of the insecurity he felt after Arthur died.
Polymer Virgil later claimed that ‘Henry fined men so harshly that not only could they not afford to make trouble; their descendents would not be able to either. ‘ But Virgil also gave a list of those in the Kings Council and it is clear that nobles still nominated and Henry made use of his peers for advice, but his financial policies towards them inevitably made him very unpopular. John Guy says that the kings real purpose was to enforce obedience through fiscal coercion in the circumstances of a new dynasty, but if Watchfulness, suspicion and fear’ were indeed the result, Henrys methods may have smacked of pre-emotive overkill. Attainders were not a new technique, Edward IV had issued 27, but Henry issued 51 in one year alone and this did make him very unpopular. In 1507 Lord Bargaining was fined 70,000 by the king ND it is plain that by the last few years of Henrys reign the king and his agents were becoming harsh and unfair and as Pencil says, they were bound to increase tension between the king and the natural rulers in the shires. ‘ Henrys actions made him hated by the nobles which was probably the reason he had to spend so much time watching his back.
Even as late in his reign as in 1503 Henry had reports from his secret agents, that nobles were discussing whether in the event of his death they would support his son’s claim to inherit the throne. ‘ It is clear that the nobles felt every constrained in this atmosphere of financial terror and it is no surprise that one of the first actions of Henry VIII was the cancellation of such bonds. It is fair to say therefore, that Henry VII over stepped the mark, almost to the point of disaster, when aiming for control in this fashion. Henry deliberately didn’t create new nobles.
He aimed to control the nobility also, by keeping their number deliberately low. Indeed, not only from a control standpoint but because it enabled him to keep and control all crown land; a portion normally being transferred on accretions to a title. However this was not enough for Henry. Pencil comments that ‘Despite the apparent security of his position, Henry VII was chronically suspicious of all the nobility of the kingdom. To Henry, it was immediately clear that the nobility could not be trusted. ‘ Hence, he needed to create a regime where loyalty was rewarded rather than disloyalty punished.
Here, Henry placed great emphasis on the order of the garter. This was an ancient honor which had the advantage of being a significant display of honor without involving Henry in any financial obligations. Thirty seven of Henrys losses followers received this privilege during his reign. Some of the nobles who had fought with Henry against Edward had thought that they would receive larger rewards for their efforts one which Henry was unwilling to give to them. Christine Carpenter says that this policy meant that the size of the nobility was therefore greatly reduced. Henrys reluctance to create new nobles reduced the numbers of nobles from fifty five in 1485 to forty two by the end of his reign’. A small nobility would offer less opportunities for ambitious magnates to become ‘overweight so to eve also suggested that the picture is not entirely that Henry was a hated and greedy tyrant as might be interpreted from the evidence of all his repressive measures. Christine Carpenter describes how Henry was prepared to keep a lavish court, and would make splendid royal progresses where he did not stint in money and that his courts had many examples of ‘pageantry and entertainment’.
Nonetheless she goes on to say that Henry had to rely on a huge system of spies and that ‘Henrys mistrust of his nobles, and of local societies as a whole, seems to have been deleterious to local order’. She describes how the kings favored men could get away with feuding in the northwest and the North Midlands, even abducting local heiresses and that in the end the more law abiding gentry could not get the support from the court to restore any kind of order. She compares the chaos there to the Worst period under Henry VI’.
So clearly he was less than effective in controlling the nobles in the outer regions of the country. So in conclusion, it would seem that Henrys attempts to control the Nobles in fact encouraged them to act against him. By assuming they were his enemy he in fact made them so. His introduction of extremely hard rules and laws gave him the image of an anxious and overly controlling individual who concerned himself with extracting from the Nobles as much money from them as possible, and their resentment of this made them less loyal and therefore less easy to control.
Henrys actions were made in an attempt to create a monarch who was not constantly in debt, but he knew that his actions were making him hated amongst the nobles and he had to maintain a comprehensive spy system and revive the laws against retaining. Historians have given full accounts of he actions of Henry and for the first part of his reign he took measures to stop the nobles from rising up against him but these became much worse after the death of his oldest son Arthur.
He had also lost his youngest son Just before, and then his wife died in childbirth and he must have felt that his dynasty was even less secure to there is an obvious shift in his laws and policies which became positively harsh in the last years of his life. Far from establishing a tighter control of the nobles, it may be that if he had not died when he did then the nobles would have reverted to their asocial and dangerous behavior demonstrated in the years of civil war.
The first act of his successor Henry VIII was to cancel all of the bonds and execute Dudley and Meson, who had so efficiently organized the financial pressures on the nobility and this demonstrated clearly that he was not planning to be as harsh as his father. Henrys attempt to control the nobles was therefore only successful to a point in that they did not rebel against him and he successfully handed the crown over to his son. However, they required him to keep a constant eye over them and he did not achieve nobility that was loyal.
Instead he had a nobility who feared the fines that they could receive if they broke his rules or laws.