How Successful Were Henry Vii's Attempts to Control His Nobility

Topics: Henry VII of England, Wars of the Roses, Edward IV of England Pages: 5 (1899 words) Published: May 11, 2013
How successful were Henry VII’s attempts to control the nobility? Lotherington says, ‘No king could rule without the co-operation of the nobility, which was largely responsible for conducting the king’s business in the provinces’ and Pendrill supports this when he says that Henry VII’s prime aim was to restore a partnership in government, shifting the balance in his favour 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 and 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 Pendrill who claims, ‘Henry’s relationship with his nobility was, ultimately a failure.’ Or are we to follow Guy’s line who claims, ‘by means of bonds, Henry VII in effect disabled his nobility.’ Henry’s 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 nobles 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 realising 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. Pendrill suggests that this might have been a story invented by Bacon as he says, ‘it seems inherently unlikely that one of the king’s 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 Pendrill, 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 them. 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 recognisances. 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 Lotherington wrote that Henry used bonds and recognisances as ‘an organised 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 harsh financial fines and threats of extortion. Even though he only meant to threaten them the nobles gave Henry £35,000 in 1505, compared with the sum of £3,000 in 1493. Henry VII reign sees a dramatic increase in the use of bonds and recognisances from after 1502 which may have been a result of the insecurity he felt after Arthur died. Polydore Vergil later claimed that ‘Henry fined men so harshly that not...
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