I have used the following books for these and other posts relating to the Tudors:
G. R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution: Documents and Commentary (Cambridge University Press, 1960)
John Guy, Tudor England (Oxford University Press, 1990)
Rosemary O’Day (ed.), The Longman Companion to the Tudor Age (Longman, 1995)
|This depiction of Elizabeth I and her|
parliaments shows Lords and
Commons in front of the
The nature of kingship
The dynastic troubles of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had led to three depositions and four murders, but had not altered the potential power of the Crown. The age was essentially monarchical and the king was held to be the centre of all political and social life. The Tudor monarchs employed new styles and placed a greater distance between themselves and their subjects. From the time of Henry VII the still continued to be referred to as ‘your grace’ or ‘your highness’, but increasingly the title ‘your majesty’ was used. As the sixteenth century progressed there was growing stress on the divinely ordained duty to obey the monarch.
The King’s Council
ParliamentWhat type of institution was parliament at the beginning of the sixteenth century?
50 Lords Spiritual (21 archbishops and bishops; 29 abbots)
57 Lords Temporal (3 dukes, 2 marquesses, 13 earls,1viscount, 38 barons)
The Commons 1529-36
310 MPs (74 knights of the shire, 236 burgesses)
County members were elected by 40s freeholders, following the statute of 1430. They were usually chosen from among the local magnates; elections were rarely held.
Borough members were elected on a varied franchise, depending on the wording of the royal charter which allowed them to be represented in the Commons; in practice, they were controlled by the municipal corporations.
Private bills usually concerned particular towns or individuals. Public bills were drafted in committee.
Statute lawThe traditional medieval view was that statutes did not make law - merely declared an interpretation of natural law, which was the reflection of the eternal law in man’s nature. Statute law was thus limited by divine law, and there was no doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. But in practice King-in-Parliament was the ultimate arbiter of the law.
SessionsParliament was not regularly in session. The king did not have to summon it - he did so when he needed money. It was also a useful way of keeping in touch with what was going on. He could control parliamentary business because those of his Counsellors who were not peers had seats in the Commons - they were seen as the eyes and ears of the King.
Henry VIII and ParliamentIn 1542 Henry declared to judges and the Commons:
We are informed by our judges that we at no time stand so high in our estate royal as in the time of parliament, wherein we as head and you as members are conjoined and knit together in one body politic.There is no reason to doubt his sincerity or the fact that he was interpreting legal opinion. The image of the body politic fitted in well with the thinking of the time. But it would have been extraordinary if Henry had not also used parliament. Previous monarchs had bent it to their own purposes: in 1484 Parliament had declared Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville invalid and their children illegitimate; Henry VII had used Parliament in passing Acts of Attainder.