In this article we will discuss about History of England in 1485 and the Renaissance. After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Battle of Bosworth, 1485 2. Political and Socio-Economic Condition in 1485 3. The New Monarchy in England 4. Foundation of the New Monarchy in England 5. Rebellions of Henry VII 6. Legislation 7. Revenues During Henry VII’s Rule 8. Henry VII and Ireland and Others.
- The Battle of Bosworth, 1485.
- The Political and Socio-Economic Condition in 1485
- New Monarchy in England
- Foundation of the New Monarchy in England
- Rebellions of Henry VII
- Legislation During Henry VII’s Rule
- Revenues During Henry VII’s Rule
- Henry VII and Ireland
- Henry VII and Scotland
- Henry VII’s Foreign Policy
- Henry VII’s Services to England
- Henry VII’s Character
- The Renaissance
- The Renaissance in England
- Effects of the Renaissance in England
1. Battle of Bosworth, 1485:
The long quarrel between the Yorkist and Lancastrian houses deluged England with blood. Edward III’s hope of ensuring peace among his children by getting them married to richest houses and by bequeathing large estates was belied, for fortune made his descendants more covetous and each house was attempting to seize the throne.
In fact, the Wars of the Roses were born of family ambitions aiming at the throne. Misgovernment under Henry VI’s weak rule, lawless spirit of the nobles, the rivalry between Richard of York and Duke of Somerset had made England a bubbling cauldron.
Gathering indignation of the people offered opportunity to Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, a descendant of Edward III through the House of Lancaster, to defeat Richard III, the last of the Yorkist kings at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 and seize the throne for himself.
He ascended the throne as Henry VII and by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, combined the Yorkist and the Lancastrian houses, the White and the Red Roses. The battle of Bosworth ended the protracted civil war in England and brought on the throne Henry VII, offering him excellent opportunities, by leaving the nobles impoverished and exhausted, people willing to submit to a strong government, to build-up a strong, despotic government and put an end to the lack of governance that had characterised the entire period of the Wars of the Roses. Bosworth was thus an important event in the British history, a turning point marking the beginning of the transition from medievalism to modernism in England.
2. Political and Socio-Economic Condition in 1485:
The year of the battle of Bosworth presented in England a picture of utter political and socio-economic confusion which may be described to have been the birth-pangs of modern England. In the Wars of the Roses, the feudal nobility had been divided into rival camps one supporting the Yorkists, the other the Lancastrians.
The weakness of the ruling kings made the situation easy for widespread lawlessness. The civil war between the Roses had no greater ideal than the selfish ambition of getting at the throne, and the people suffered for no fault of their own.
Politically, the year 1485 was the climax of the lack of governance. The blood-stained rule of Richard III (1483-85) was hated by the people and despite his efforts to govern well, he was thoroughly unpopular. The feudal nobles whom the Hundred Years’ War had made habitually warmongering and were maintaining retainers to support them in their private wars became both weak and impoverished.
The medieval immunities enjoyed by the feudal nobility which made them a challenge to the executive government of the state became in 1485 too weak to resist the executive arm of any effective government. In matters judicial, the over-mighty feudal lords with the help of their retainers compelled decisions in their favour.
But their loss of power both physical and financial set the stage for their loss of local power to influence or compel judicial processes to their advantage. The king’s courts reasserted their authority over these lords now left weak. The houses of nobility emerging weak and impoverished naturally could no longer continue their mutual wars of aggrandisement.
Situation was, therefore, very opportune for building up of a strong government on national support; particularly because of the popular indignation at the prevailing situation of uncertainty and violence and willingness to stand by any that would ensure stable, strong government.
Yet it would be exaggeration to say that the Wars of the Roses had destroyed the baronage. True, some of the great names had disappeared and several more were to disappear before the end of Henry VII’s reign. Wherever the lord still possessed power, he could sway the law in his own interest.
Maintenance of the lord’s interest in law courts by his retainers was still common, the royal officers were either bribed or terrorised. But speaking on the whole the authority of the lords crumbled away and they were less able to make trouble for the Crown than their fathers had been.
Socially, the decline of the feudal nobility and the disappearance the dregs and annoyances of feudalism swept the field clean for the emergence of a new class that goes by the name middle class. Undisturbed by the prolonged war to the extent the nobility had been, the merchants and tradesmen as also the agriculturists earned profits to make them comparatively rich.
With wealth, education and intelligence, this middle class emerged as a greatly important social factor which soon assumed political importance as the new monarchy began to rely on this new class for support. In fact, it was this so called middle class that gradually became the backbone of the English nation. A new ruling class of lawyers, merchants, squires began to control public opinion.
Economically, men of average means lived in isolation, each manor produced most of its needs, gilds and crafts carried their trading within the locality. Commerce was still in the hands of Venice, Flanders and the Hanseatic League. Cloth trade was however growing and- the monopoly of the Merchant adventurers was to have important repercussions in various branches of the English life.
Centres of industry were towns and in 1485 there was seldom any town which did not have its own weavers, tuckers, shear-men, dyers whose combined labour went to produce cloth. Foreign demand was mostly for unfinished cloth which would be sized, dyed and dressed after it would reach the continent.
Modern researches have modified the contemporary and traditional opinion that there was a widespread conversion of arable land into pastures.
As Bind off points out, only a small percentage of the land of the country was converted into pastures for growing wool by sheep rearing. The traditional notion of a wholesale depopulation due to enclosure system is also found to be untenable. Yet the protracted war since the Hundred Years’ War had led to the occupation of Crown lands by individual lords.
This along with the loss of feudal dues not paid by the over-mighty lords, as also the loss of judicial income due to private jurisdiction of the feudal lords and above all the expenses of long drawn wars led to the impoverishment of the Crown.
Thus the poverty of the Crown and equally impoverished and weakened nobility left the situation easy for a strong and determined monarch to exploit the resources without being challenged by the now weakened feudal nobility.
The effects of the Wars of the Roses on the economy of the country were seen in the agricultural depression and languishing trade and keener competition in the markets of Flanders and Central Europe. Yet, speaking generally, the country looked prosperous.
The only institution whose machinery still functioned regularly was the church. The church was, however, not conscious of its weakness although aware of the criticism that was being levelled against it.
3. The New Monarchy in England:
The establishment of the new system of Government by Henry Tudor was given the name The New Monarchy by John Richard Green, has been invested with unique constitutional attributes. The name New Monarchy suggested a fundamental change in the structure and working of the government based on the removal of the essential checks on the authority of the Crown.
But when it ended in 1641, the principle of absolute monarchy on which it was based was rejected. But the New Monarchy’s main features were as distinctive as they were impressive.
(i) In the Middle Ages authority was diffused among a multitude of holders, both lay and clerical. But the New Monarchy concentrated all authority in the grasp of the Crown.
(ii) The feudal aristocracy and the Church had been all throughout the Middle Ages a veritable challenge to the Crown. Much of the weakness of the crown proceeded from the great measure of independence enjoyed and exercised by the feudal aristocracy and the church. But the New Monarchy destroyed their independence and swayed both.
(iii) The medieval feudal aristocracy and the clergy enjoyed immunities political and financial, judicial and governmental. All this impeded functioning of the monarchy. The New Monarchy reduced all such immunities and made the executive arm both effective and severe on them.
(iv) Lack of governance which characterised the Middle Ages was ended by the New Monarchy which soon transformed the royal authority into personal despotism unfettered by legal rules.
(v) Formerly, an individual had very little dealings with the Crown, unless he held land directly from it. But under the New Monarchy the Crown concentrated power into its hands and enlarged its sphere of activities.
Royal control was largely extended over the social and economic affairs of the nation at large. ‘The intellectual convictions of each individual, the most intimate scruples of his conscience, became subject-matter of royal inquisition and coercion.
(vi) The New Monarchy’s machinery of government was completely overhauled and modernised with the new materials provided by every aspect of the national life. New institutions were developed but the old ones were not abolished—these were renovated. The King’s Council now comprised a powerful executive system and the central government strongly asserted its authority in the local administration.
The entire administration derived its direction and motivation from the centre. The Council of the North, Council of Wales and similar other local authorities which under the previous system of administration had enjoyed the decentralised authority were all abolished and the local officials were brought under the direct control of the centre. The most important of these officials were the Sheriffs and Justices of the Peace.
(vii) The governmental machinery under the New Monarchy naturally called for the services of expert lawyers, administrators and advisers, etc. A host of persons so qualified made their appearance for both domestic and foreign services and a new class of service-men unknown hitherto before arose and formed the very backbone of an effective and efficient administration.
Diplomacy turned into a regular profession henceforth.
What was most distinctive about the emergence of this new class of loyal and efficient service-class was that it arose from the middle class. It was in the nature of a nobility by service. ‘The ablest minds of the age thus enlisted themselves among the king’s servants, and magnified the sovereignty of which they were the instruments.’
(viii) The changes in the system of government under the New Monarchy certainly could not be effected without & corresponding change in the whole conception of royal authority. The monarch now became a political sovereign of all pervasive and overwhelming authority.
The medieval kings were feudal overlord, holders of great fiefs, sovereign of the people not related to them through feudal system. But the New Monarch’s position was much more simplified. He was the utmost sovereign according to the absolutist principles of Roman law.
The Roman law now had become a subject for the inculcation by the English lawyers and jurists and they attributed to the Crown ‘power over the minds and consciences of every estate of its subjects’ never claimed by medieval monarchs.
‘The position asserted for the Crown during this period came naturally to be expressed in terms which emphasised its monopoly of power, the essentially derivative nature of all other lawful magistracies, the lack of legal restraints on royal action, and the divine sanctions by which it was upheld.’
Yet, it will be a mistake to suppose that the New Monarchy had snapped all link with the past or that it was something exceptional or abnormal. It grew naturally out of the system which preceded it and transmitted a legacy to that which arose on its own overthrow.
‘The foundations of modern English government were already laid when the House of Tudor came to the throne. The edifice of later ages embodies much of their handiwork.’
The wonted structure and principles of government were maintained. The theoretical basis and claims remained substantially unaltered. ‘The main organs of Government, Crown, Council, and Parliament, Central and Local Administration, and Courts of Justice had retained their characteristic attributes throughout.’
‘Henry VII’s reign is as much a post-script to the Middle Ages as a prelude to the New Monarchy.’ It was not a breach with the past, but determined and successful attempt to make the existing institution to yield best and proper results.
4. Foundation of the New Monarchy in England:
The Tudor monarchy as founded by Henry VII usually goes by the name New Monarchy in that it displayed tendencies of centralized control and royal power. But as Elton points out there was nothing new in such attributes of kingship. The task of the new dynasty was to reinstate the kingship to the heights it had reached nearly two hundred years earlier.
The protracted wars did not wipe out the foundations of the government, these merely overlaid them with slime of lawlessness and general corruption. The task of the Tudors was to revive the government under which all action centred upon the king’s person and all action started from the Curia Regis, i.e. the king’s court. But the difficulties of the task must not be underrated.
It is customary to regard Henry VII as the founder of a dynasty and his reign as marking the beginning of a new era. Both views are true, yet it must be borne in mind that in his reign almost up to the end,
(i) his throne was insecure,
(ii) his authority challenged by more than one enemy. Henry had succeeded to
(iii) a depleted inheritance. The spiritual malaise induced by the visitation of the great plague—the Black Death in the fourteenth century and the great mortality during the mid-fifteenth outbreak in London brought
(iv) symptoms of disintegration of society. Prolonged wars for more than a century brought uncertainty and consequent
(v) violence in public life, decay in law and order, and weakness of the Crown.
(vi) The first and foremost cause of weakness at the top was the uncertainty of succession.
(vii) The relation between the Crown and Parliament, although the latter had acquired some precocious importance due to Edward III’s need for money for his wars, had yet to be defined, and take the shape of a composite sovereign body of the King-in-Parliament.
(viii) There was also the question of franchises, particularly of the nobility.
(ix) These apart, the finances and
(x) Royal justice had to be rehabilitated, for both had fallen into utter decay and confusion. In short Henry VII’s task was to bring order out of the prevailing confusion. Fortunately for England, Henry VII was eminently fitted for the job.
5. Rebellions of Henry VII:
The first problem that Henry VII was confronted with and upon the solution of which depended his security on the throne was the question of his claim to the Crown of England, Upon Henry Tudor’s victory in the battle of Bosworth, Lord Stanley put the crown on Henry Tudor’s head and the people rejoiced and acclaimed Henry as King.
But this did not make the crown sit securely on his head, Henry had to convince the country and the people that he was really King.
From the point of view of legitimacy Henry’s claim to the English throne was weak. His mother Margaret Beaufort was great-great-granddaughter of Edward III through John of Gaunt. From the point of direct descent from Edward III, the young Earl of Warwick, son of the late Duke of Clarence had decidedly a better claim.
Legitimacy, therefore, did not help the case of Henry Tudor. Henry’s marriage with Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, had at best appeased the Yorkist faction, but did nothing to enhance Henry’s claim to the throne. In fact, Henry meant to be king by his own right. He had gained the Crown by battle which was as much his own success as proof of God’s will expressed in his victory at Bosworth.
This Divine approval expressed through the arbitrament of war explained the Tudor claim to Divine Right. Henry even would not depend on Parliamentary sanction to his claim. As soon as Richard III was dead, he thought and acted as King of England. Only twelve days after his arrival in London Henry issued writs of summons for a Parliament.
The very fact that the Parliament met in its traditional way in November, 1485, on the writs of summons issued by Henry was enough proof that Henry was really king, for only true king could summon a Parliament. There was, therefore, no question of Parliament’s conferring or confirming Henry’s title as king.
Yet, Henry VII was clever enough to use the Parliament for the double purpose of enacting ‘that the inheritance of the Crown of England, with every right and possession belonging to it, should remain and abide with our now sovereign Lord King Henry and his heirs’. The act thus recognised that Henry was king and that succession must pass to his line.
Henry VII thus obtained security of his dynasty on the English throne without having to depend on Parliament’s formal conferment of the Crown on him. The other purpose for which Henry VII used the Parliament was to do certain necessary things some of which were unpopular.
These were setting his finances in proper shape, punishing his enemies and rewarding his friends with the help of the Parliament, thereby maintaining a correct legal form.
Henry VII had to defend his throne against the threat of conspiracy from which his reign was never quite free. Lord Lovell, Richard III’s friend and Chamberlain, together with Humphrey and Thomas Stafford threatened risings in Yorkshire, the stronghold of the Yorkists.
But the pomp and pageantry with which Henry was received in York scotched, Lovell fled abroad, Humphrey and Thomas Stafford were dragged from sanctuary and thrown into the Tower.
The dragging of the Stafford from sanctuary naturally gave rise to the question whether churches’ right to give asylum was violated and therefore, whether Stafford’s could escape trial.
The Court of king’s bench tried the case and decided that sanctuary was a matter of Common Law and the Pope had no right to interfere and that the privilege of asylum did not cover treasonable offences. Humphrey Stafford was executed, but Thomas Stafford received royal pardon.
The whole affair, apart from showing that Lovell worked for a lost cause, showed the growing spirit of resisting Papal pretensions and the king’s reliance on English Common Law and the independence of the judges.
Richard Symonds, an Oxford priest sought to pass off a boy Lambert Simnel as Richard of York, the younger of Edward’s sons. Soon after, when it was rumoured that Warwick had died in the Tower, Symonds passed off Lambert Simnel as Earl of Warwick in the thought that it would not be possible for Henry VII to prove Simnel to be an impostor by producing the real Warwick, now that he was dead.
The conspiracy was blessed by Margaret, dowager duchess of Burgundy, sister of Edward IV as well as the support of Lord Lovell who took shelter with Margaret. John de la Pole, Richard Ill’s successor designate whom Henry VII treated with kindness fled and joined the rebels who had raised the standard of rebellion in Ireland, where the Yorkist sympathies were always pronounced.
In May 1487, the impostor Warwick was proclaimed Edward VI in Dublin and all Ireland stood by him. On June 16, 1487 at Stoke all the Yorkist leaders were killed. Symonds and Simnel fell into king’s hands. Simnel was taken into royal household as an employee, Symonds was confined for life and Simnel’s followers were made to pay heavy fine.
Another impostor appeared in the scene in 1491. Perkin Warbeck was sought to be passed off as Richard of York, younger son of Edward IV. Warbeck’s charm and intelligence impressed the Irishmen at Cork. Warbeck obtained support from the French king Charles VIII with whom Henry VII was then at war.
Emperor Maximilian of Austria went to the extent of recognising Warbeck as Richard IV and Netherlands became the centre of Warbeck’s conspiracy which even developed a branch in the very court of Henry VII. Robert Clifford who had gone to Flanders to join Warbeck —now called Richard IV eventually sought king Henry’s pardon and gave out all information about the disaffection in England.
Arrests and execution followed and the attempted invasion of England in Warbeck’s cause proved a failure. Warbeck sailed hurriedly to Ireland, where he failed in an attempted siege of the royalist town of Waterford. He then went to Scotland where James IV had come upon the throne and was bitterly hostile to England.
A border raid was made and some area of England was burnt and looted. The Scottish force then retired making the prospect of impostor Richard IV worse still for gaining the English throne. Having tried his luck in Ireland once again with no better results, Warbeck fell upon Henry’s mercy (1497).
Warbeck was kept at Henry’s court in honourable custody, bat his repeated attempt to escape eventually led to his hanging. Warwick was also beheaded. These conspiracies having failed, Henry VII felt secure on the throne and could sleep more easily.
6. Legislation During Henry VII’s Rule:
Henry VII now felt safe enough to put the new policy under his government into practice. Policy of proscription and attainder was reversed. His merciless ferocity was now substituted by statesmanlike forbearance. The Parliament in 1491 reversed the Acts of Attainder passed on the Earl of Surrey and several Yorkist supporters.
Earl of Surrey became a loyal follower of Henry VII and proved to be the best of his generals. The policy of pacification continued throughout the reign.
A series of Acts were now passed by the Parliament of 1495 which while made Henry VII’s dynasty secure on the throne brought order out of the prevailing confusion and solved many of the problems Henry VII was faced with. The Statute De facto ensured security of life and property for subjects owing faithful allegiance to the king.
The importance of the Act lay in the fact that Henry’s intention to allow the past to be forgotten and judge his subjects on the basis of their present, actual loyalty.
Henry VII recognised the fact that lack of good government in England was not due to any fundamental troubles in the body politic but due to the weakness of the Crown. But unlike the kings of France and Spain he would not make his pre-eminence dependent on the armed forces. He was conservative in military matters and relied on his bowmen and the forces raised by his supporters.
Even his guard of 200 yeomen which he instituted on his accession was only a decoration adding formality and dignity to the royal person and policing the king’s court. Henry, however, took a special interest in his nascent navy, built six of the king’s ships, encouraging expansion of merchant marine upon which he might depend in times of war.
Fundamentally, Henry drew strength from the people’s support. Had he allowed the hands of the army to rise over his head, it is doubtful if his dynasty would have survived long.
But Henry, in fact the entire Tudor line, depended on the lesser gentry, merchants and craftsmen of the towns who needed peace for their developing activities and who might be called middle sort of people—not exactly middle class for to call them by the latter name in the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries would be to put too much stress on the merchant class.
Yet it would be a mistake to regard Henry VII as a middle class king or to say that he deferred to the interests of the gentry and merchants. What Henry VII was very much particular about was that he took good care that the greatest of his subjects should appear small by his side. This was made easier because of the decline of the nearest rivals of the Crown. The nobility was weak, impoverished and depleted.
Yet those of the nobles that remained still powerful to disobey summons of the shire courts were dealt with the Court of Star Chamber, called because it was held in a star-marked chamber, and composed of more influential, more important and more powerful of the king’s councillors.
Restoring obedience to law by bringing the lords who were too powerful for lesser courts to justice was the main function of the Court of Star Chamber. Strong, impartial, energetic and incorruptible the Court of Star Chamber soon grew popular with suitors.
Henry from the first took up the task of enforcing law and order, suppressing those whose improper power had threatened the peace of the country. Heavy fines and recovery of king’s feudal rights were financial weapons which proved effective in breaking the power and spirit of the over-mighty subjects.
By enactment of the Statute of Livery and Maintenance the system of retainers was prohibited. This while disposed of the private army of the feudal lords cleared the way for justice uninfluenced by the lord’s supporters.
It was not by military power that Henry VII gave his government its compelling force: ‘His strongest arm was the money.’ Recovery of feudal rights of the king, heavy fines and resumption of kings’ estates and forfeiture of the estates of the attainted persons increased his resources.
His taxes ‘were his daggers’ which he used’ not only to ruin his enemies but to increase his own strength. Like any other English King Henry drew his revenue from his lands, from the customs, tonnage and poundage granted by the Parliament, wool-subsidy, from farms of shires and towns, from the papal curia, took the income of a dead bishop and restitution fee from his successors.
Only on rare occasions the king was allowed to levy direct tax by the Parliament.
7. Revenues During Henry VII’s Rule:
When Henry VII came to the throne, the royal finances were in a ruinous state. Henry cancelled the grants and leases made by Richard III and due to the strict economy of Bray who was appointed chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Henry’s very first year crown lands yielded £13,633 which steadily rose and reached £32,630 in 1504—5. Customs and confiscation at the port did not however yield any spectacular result.
Being a businessman himself Henry let out on hire his ships which fetched him a fat income. It has been the opinion of historians that Henry loved money for its own sake, yet as many foreign observers believed, Henry ‘had an intention to keep his subjects low, because riches would only make them haughty’.
He and his agents called old obsolete statutes from oblivion and exercised power in unworthy and dishonourable ways.
Pardon for murder was sold, promotion, preferment and king’s favour would be sold for money. Benevolences and forced loans, the devices of Morton, Dudley and Empson were all for financial end. It must, however, be remembered that intent upon making himself rich, Henry VII enriched his country as well.
He understood well the importance of commerce and he pursued a settled design for capturing foreign trade. Enriched from his own resources and devices, Henry, therefore, had no particular demands to make upon the generosity of the Parliament.
8. Henry VII and Ireland:
The ready asylum and support that the impostors Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck received in Ireland underlined the truth that Henry had enemies within the British Isles and Ireland and Scotland were danger spots. Barring a narrow strip north of Dublin where the English influence still remained, the rest of Ireland except Cork and Waterford in some measure, had swamped the English settlers into Irish.
From the point of view of the English King, there was hardly anything to choose between the purely Irish chieftains and the Anglo-Irish families like the Butlers or the Geraldine’s. Even in the strip north of Dublin, called the English Pale, Anglicism was fast dying out and Irish dress, manners, and speech were submerging everything English.
During the Wars of the Roses Kildare and Desmond of the Geraldine’s sided with the Yorkists while their rivals the Butlers under the Earl of Ormond took the side of the Lancastrians. The defeat of the latter naturally made Ireland a Yorkist stronghold. But the reality of the situation was that the Irish lords, Irish or Anglo-Irish, wanted independence from royal control to freely fight their internecine quarrels.
Recovery and reduction of Ireland, therefore, became a Tudor problem, for as it was seen, the country was being used as a springboard of attack to any claimant or impostor to the English throne. When Henry VII came to the throne the power of the Geraldine’s was paramount in Ireland.
The defeated Butlers moved over to England and although Henry restored his estates at Ireland, Fitzerald, Earl of Kildare remained unquestioned. Kildare gave open support to the rebel Lambert Simnel but Henry ignored it and allowed Fitzerald and his brother Thomas Fitzerald to continue to hold the offices of Lord Deputy and Chancellor of Ireland, when they admitted their mistake in supporting Lambert Simnel.
But Kildare’s support to Perkin Warbeck in 1491 was too much for Henry. In the year following Henry removed Fitzerald, Earl of Kildare from the post of the Lord Deputy and Thomas Fitzerald from that of the Chancellor. The archbishop of Dublin was made the ‘Lord Deputy and Alexander Plunket the Chancellor.
Again Kildare played the trick of seeking royal pardon and on his personally coming to the king that in 1493 pardon was granted. But Henry could not do anything as yet to improve the situation in Ireland except appointing some mediocre Englishmen to replace Kildare. But at last in 1494 Henry made his second son infant prince Henry Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and appointed Sir Edward Poynnings as Lord Deputy.
The offices of Chancellor and Sir Edward Poynnings was one of the most trusted of Henry’s ministers and his policy was from the very start hostile to everything Irish. His object was to reduce Ireland into obedience, to England. Lord Poynnings was no mere soldier, he was a statesman and the fittest person to execute the plan for which he was sent to Ireland.
He was to conquer Ulster, the wildest part of the country, which was a safe refuge of rebels. His other task was to secure fullest control of the English government on Ireland.
Poynnings led an expendition against Ulster but failed and had to be content with buying of the peace with the tribes in Ulster. Earl of Kildare was made to accompany Lord Poynnings in his expedition against Ulster. But being suspected of treason, he was attainted at the instance of Lord Poynnings by the Irish Parliament which was summoned by Lord Poynnings at Drogheda. He was put under arrest and sent to the tower.
The Irish Parliament at Lord Poynnings’ instance passed certain acts the net results of which were subordination of the Irish Parliament to the English government.
It was enacted that the Irish Parliament could not be summoned or legislate without the king’s previous approval; no law in future was to be discussed by the Irish Parliament unless previously agreed to by the King-in-Council; laws passed in England were to automatically apply to Ireland.
These enactments virtually gave the king more power over Ireland than what he had 1 over England itself. The independence of the Irish Parliament was lost. The English colonists who supported these measures as also others that were passed to curb lawlessness in Ireland were later to become foremost opposers of Poynnings’ laws.
Soon Henry found that his Irish policy was not wholly successful. The policy of buying off the Ulster tribesmen put a heavy burden on the Irish budget. This was a continuous blackmail for peace. When Perkin Warbeck attempted to seize Waterford, Poynnings succeeded in beating him off. But Henry- expected greater security than keeping a part of Ireland in peace through payment.
He recalled Poynnings and released Kildare from the Tower and appointed him Lord Deputy once again. This- was some love to Kildare but no policy. The problem of Ireland turned too big and complicated to admit of solution with the return of Kildare and in spite of the operation of Poynnings’ laws.
Henry’s Irish policy in the end proved not only a failure but showed his lack of sagacity. If there was a chance of solving the Irish problem, Henry VII had the best of it. But his policy of parsimony and opportunism led to the failure. To him Ireland would have no more occasion to support an impostor since there was none and in the circumstances it was foolish to lose good money for a mere satisfaction of direct rule over Ireland.
‘There were no claimants about to disturb the peace from Ireland; why then waste good money on a probably futile policy of direct rule? Henry VII was lucky to die before the Irish problem revived, but revive it did—and largely because he gave up the fight.’
9. Henry VII and Scotland:
Scotland since Edward I’s attempts to conquer it remained a most irreconciled enemy to her nearest neighbour, the Kingdom of England. She remained a thorn in the flesh of England and had been maintaining her ancient alliance with France and persistently opposed to English interests.
The border between England and Scotland was never at peace and intermittent border raids from both sides led to burning, looting, robbing and killing. Raids were followed by temporary truce only to be broken at the earliest. Compared to England, Scotland troubled by domestic feuds, gang warfare, murders and dynastic upsets presented a picture far worse than what England had seen during the Wars of the Roses.
Feuds and troubles were considered by the turbulent Scottish nobility as not only pleasurable but a necessity of life. In 1488 the ruling King James III was murdered and replaced by James IV. The latter was romantically disposed to warlike ambitions and incited border incidents and followed them up with treaties none of which lasted its appointed length of time.
The overthrow and murder of James III of Scotland left a section of the nobility dissatisfied and irreconciled to the newly set up King James IV. This section, quite powerful, carried on secret intrigues with England. This naturally offered a handle to Henry VII to deal with Scotland with advantage.
During the French war of 1489—92 there was no interference from Scotland despite traditional Franco-Scottish alliance. But when rebel Perkin Warbeck came to Scotland he not only found ready asylum there but James IV sided with him to, embarrass England.
In 1497, situation drifted very much near to a serious war between the two countries but the Cornish rebellion saved a direct invasion of Scotland by Henry VII, against which James IV had little chance of success.
Although Earl of Surrey crossed the border, he refused the challenge of James IV to a single combat. But Henry VII ‘preserved his peaceful reputation unsullied to prove once more how well he could exploit difficult situation without precipitating war’.
The end of Warbeck took away the wind from James IV’s sail and furthermore, the intrigues of a dominant section of his own nobles with the enemy, i.e. England made his position quite uncomfortable.
Situation, therefore, made Henry VII’s offer of real peace more acceptable to James IV. An agreement was eventually arrived at between the two countries in 1497 only to be broken by border raids in the next year.
In order to make some permanent arrangement for peace between the two countries Henry VII proposed marriage of his daughter Margaret to James IV. Margaret, born in 1490 was too young for marriage and there being prospects of a Spanish marriage with a bride of a riper age James IV was reluctant to begin with, to accept Henry VII’s proposal.
But persevering efforts of Henry ultimately succeeded in getting Scotland to sign a treaty of peace and alliance with England which was followed up with serious negotiations for marriage between Margaret and James. After some years of delay James IV finally consented to the marriage in 1502.
Henry VII’s policy of dynastic marriage succeeded well with Scotland, the marriage between Margaret Tudor and James Stuart proved fruitful. The significance of the marriage lay in the distant future. So far as Henry VII’s hope of an immediate peace with Scotland, the marriage did not bring any improvement.
Scotland remained persistently hostile even after the marriage, but it was through this marriage that England got her Stuart kings, and the border feuds were ended and the way to a union between both Scotland and England was opened. ‘Henry VII’s Irish policy was right but not pursued long enough; his policy towards Scotland was wise and far-seeing and in the end completely successful’.
10. Henry VII’s Foreign Policy:
In foreign affairs, Henry VII was a pacifist valuing good relations with all countries and earnestly trying to avoid war. If not from any ethical-consideration, at least- his abundant common-sense must have made it clear to him that Ms newly acquired uncertain throne could be best secured by avoidance of war.
All this was manifest in his proclamation of one year’s truce with France to be renewed one year later in 1486, for a period of three years. With Scotland his policy was equally for peace and he made pacific overtures to Scotland. With Brittany he signed a commercial treaty in 1486. He received an ambassador from Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor, and renewed till 1487 the treaty entered into with him by Edward IV.
With Spain he opened negotiations for the marriage of his eldest son Arthur with Catherine. These were sufficient proofs of Henry VII’s peaceable intentions yet despite the promise of peace all around, he was at war within a few years of his reign.
Two nations in contemporary Europe which were most powerful, were Spain and France. The union of the houses of Castile and Arragon through the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand as also the Spanish success over the Moors made Spain one of the strongest monarchies of the then Europe.
France was likewise a strong united power because of the national unity fostered during the Hundred Years’ War with England, and the growth of royal power under Louis XI. What made France a source of danger to Henry VII were the former’s traditional friendship with Scotland and her attempt at conquest of Brittany.
In contradistinction to the unity and strength of the Spanish and the French monarchies England had been weakened by the wars of the Roses and she lost her influence in European politics. All this justified Henry VII’s pacifist policy and his earnestness in maintaining peace and good relations with his neighbours. But nothing could prevent his entering into war.
It has been suggested that prevailing war-spirit in England had forced Henry VII into a war with Trance. But as Mackie points out, there was no great clamour for war in England, on the contrary, despite Englishmen’s willingness to trouble France, they were least willing to pay for a full scale war.
The suggestion that Henry VII was dragged into hostilities with France at the heels of his new ally Spain also does not find favour with modern historians. After all, Henry VII was certainly wise enough to find out other means of pleasing Ferdinand than going into war for his sake. Henry’s getting involved into a war was certainly due to more compelling circumstances and some of them must have been beyond his control.
Henry considered his own interest first and then he identified his interest with that of his country. It must not be lost sight of that Henry was essentially a diplomat. He wanted to secure his throne above all things and to that end deprive his rivals of all possible foreign support.
He would also like to endear himself to his people and to make himself a true king with all the traditional pretensions of the English King and earn the gratitude of his subjects by improving their economic lot. Bacon’s remark that Henry VII had ‘bowed the ancient policy of this estate from consideration of plenty to consideration of power’ would be a wrong assessment of Henry’s aims.
No one understood better ‘than Henry VII that plenty was the mother of power and as such his mercantile policy had both plenty and power as its object.
During the reign of Henry VII, the spirit of Renaissance was in the air. Even diplomacy was influenced by the individualism and realism which were the essentials of the Renaissance. The old diplomacy of English alliance with Netherlands or Burgundy in opposition to France and her ally Scotland did no longer hold good.
The days of papal interference was also over. An English King would not now be affected by affairs in the Mediterranean, Baltic or at Vienna.
Against this backdrop, Henry VII had to determine his foreign policy. For nearly first ten years of his reign, Henry VII depended on the diplomacy of an alliance with Spain whose hostility to France was very much pronounced because Ferdinand of Spain was bent on regaining Roussillon and Cerdagne and to that end was pledged to help Anne, heiress of Brittany against France.
Charles VIII of France planned to annex Brittany and marry Anne, its heiress.
When in 1488 Charles VIII proceeded to subdue hitherto independent Brittany, he encountered a stiff nationalist opposition there. Old Duke Francis II of Brittany had no son and he was influenced by the opponents to France to arrange for the marriage of Anne and Isabella to Maximilian and to Maximilian’s son Philip. But Francis himself had already promised to give Anne in marriage to Alain d’ Albert of the Gascon house.
All this made the whole problem of marriage very much complicated on the one hand and enraged Charles VIII on the other. The latter in order to mollify the possible wrath of Henry VII for his invasion of Brittany sent his ambassador to Henry to congratulate him on his success at stoke and to inform him that the French King was also trying to bring his rebellious subject to book, as did Henry VII.
Henry VII was now in an embarrassing position. On the one hand Brittany gave him shelter while in exile, on the other France helped him to get the Crown. Again Brittany in French hand would remove a good continental ally and would make it more difficult to invade France, the most pronounced enemy of England.
Henry was also not willing to enter into a full-dress war. He, therefore, at first tried for a compromise between France and Brittany but his attempt failed.
Charles VIII forced Francis, the old Duke of Brittany, to sign the Treaty of Sable by which Brittany had to recognise France as her overlord, to agree not to give Anne in marriage without Charles’ consent, to send out foreign troops, and to hand over four towns to Charles as pledges of integrity.
Soon after Francis died, but Charles would not agree to Anne’s assumption of the title of Duchess of Brittany. On the contrary he claimed wardship over her.
Henry VII now realise that something must be done for Brittany, but he was not; willing to go the whole hog alone. He dragged Ferdinand into the game, for he had a covetous eye of Roussillon and Cerdagne. Early in 1489 he decided to resist France both by his own arms and by creation of a league to maintain independence of Brittany.
To this end he entered into arrangements with Brittany, the Empire and Spain.
Anne was willing to seek English help almost on any terms and by the Treaty of Redon (Feb. 10, 1489) Anne pledged to give support to Henry should he try to recover English possessions in France; not to marry without Henry’s permission, not to enter into any alliance without Henry’s, consent, except with Ferdinand of Spain and Maximilian the Emperor, to pay the cost of the English soldiers that would go to Anne’s assistance the number of which was to be six thousand men.
This showed less of Henry’s generosity but more of his bargaining capacity. With Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor of Austria Henry’s relation was not good, for the Netherlands were breeding ground of Yorkist conspiracies and the Flemish pirates, were preying Upon the English shipping.
But on Ferdinand’s urging, Henry forgot his grievances and signed an agreement with Maximilian re-establishing the good relationship between the two countries since the days of Anglo Burgundian alliance.
With regard to Spain Henry was the suitor and only tried to obtain the best terms he could . He valued very much the friendship with the rising monarchy of Spain whose shipping could be useful to English trade and whose power would limit over-mighty France. By the treaty of Medina del Campo (March 29, 1489) Henry’ strengthened his political alliance with Spain by arranging marriage between Prince Arthur with Catherine.
This apart, in trade relations between the two countries, customs were reduced to what they had been thirty years before Neither monarch ,was to aid the other’s rebels. In times of need they were to help each other with troops the cost of which was to be borne by the requesting party. Neither party was to make separate peace or alliance with France without consulting the other.
In 1490 Henry was, not as a principal, was already at war with France, for six thousand English troops had landed in Brittany in the previous year, occupied Guingamp and made for Concarneau. All seemed to go extremely well, but soon disillusionment came. The French and Anne were about to make peace which was foiled by England.
The French, therefore, continued their attack and exerted diplomatic pressure on Henry, who was the only obstacle to their complete success. Henry had also sent troops to Flanders to help Maximilian. But the latter also deserted his English ally.
Despite high pretensions, Maximilian had little real power and had very little interest in Brittany and saw no need, for a war with France. Brittany, it seemed, must inevitably be lost.
France had redoubled her efforts to induce England to abandon war. But for Henry VII it was clear that if it was difficult for him to continue the war, it was dangerous for him to make peace. So in spite of all disillusionment and discouragement, he held firmly to his old policy.
But by 1491 Charles VIII conquered Brittany, married Anne, although she was earlier betrothed to Maximilian, and Brit any was annexed to French dominions. This resulted in a great resentment in the English people. Charles’ ambition had not only roused indignation in the English but had the effect of alienating the whole of Europe and England could count upon many allies in the event of a direct attack on France.
In 1492 an English expedition was sent to France, which easily captured Boulogne. Charles now bent upon conquering Naples made peace overtures to Henry at Etaples. These were accepted and by the provisions of the Treaty of Etaples which was to last until one year after the death of the king who would live longer, each king was to abstain from supporting other’s enemies, and from condoning piracy.
Henry’s ally Maximilian was to be included in the treaty if he would so desire. In case of his refusal, he was to receive help from Henry only in the event of an attack by France. By a separate instrument Charles agreed to pay Henry a sum of £1,49,000. Charles also undertook not to assist Henry’s rebels.
Henry VII has been blamed for trafficking in war and for feathering himself rather than to plume his nobility or the people. In fact, he had been bought off by Charles and the campaign did not last for more than three weeks. English nobles who had spent good money on equipping themselves for war felt that they had been defrauded. Those who contributed to the benevolence felt that they had very little for their money.
Even Henry was not sure if the Parliament would ratify the terms of the treaty and by special arrangements, obtained Charles’ consent for getting the time limit for such ratification extended to three years. The King of England appeared to the discerning, to have cheated his own people, as also his allies.
For he did neither consult Ferdinand nor Maximilian. But it must be noted that although Henry VII’s policy displeased his people he was following the’ policy which he had been following all along. He was always for avoiding a full-dress war and never to be a principal in any war that he might be led into. He wanted always to keep the door open for negotiation. These were the basic facts of his foreign policy.
True that, he did not make any attempt to recover Normandy and Aquitaine, but it must have been known to him as well as to all serious politicians that recovery of these places was impossible. It is also true that he could not save Brittany, but remembering the fact that his allies had forsaken him and that the cause of Breton independence in the hands of an aristocratic champion had lost its native force.
In the circumstances Henry did what was possible for him to do under the circumstances. If his failures in foreign policy are set off against the gains he made, his foreign policy must be regarded as extremely successful.
“It was not splendid in action, but its results were real.” Removal of danger from France certainly had strengthened Henry’s position, and the possibility of a more friendly alliance between Henry and France made England a more sought for ally to Spain. Ferdinand became more conciliatory towards Henry.
From 1494 a new phase in the foreign policy of England opened. Charles VIII of France led an expedition to Italy and easily obtained the submission of Rome, Florence, and conquered Naples.
In the circumstances Ferdinand as also the Pope and Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor, Venice and Milan formed what is known as the League of Venice, apprehending upsetting of the balance of (power in Europe should Charles succeed in adding to his recent conquests, implored Henry VII to join the League. Henry VII became a much sought for ally, and the question of the balance of power which for the first time emerged in Europe, made him the holder of the balance.
In 1496 Charles VIII of France was preparing for resuming his expedition to Italy. In the mean time Henry had been reconciled to Flanders with whom he signed the commercial treaty commonly known as Magnus lntercursus or the Great intercourse.
This was due to Ferdinand. Henry now joined the League of Venice without, however, committing himself to enter into war against France or pay any cost of war to the common fund.
The fact that Henry succeeded in joining the League of Venice on his own terms and the anxiety of the European powers to enlist Henry VII’s support which was felt to be essential for the success-of the League of Venice, made Henry’s position very much enviable in Europe. It was a great triumph of Henry.
This was followed by the marriage of Prince Arthur with Catherine of Spain, pursuant to Henry’s policy of dynastic marriages. This had the effect of getting the fortune of England tied with that of Spain. But unfortunately, Arthur died within a year of his marriage and Henry who was unwilling to sever his close tie with Spain got his second son Henry, the later Henry VIII, married to Catherine, widow of Arthur.
The Pope was approached for a special dispensation, since brother’s widow was within the prohibited degree of marriage. The Pope who had become gravely concerned at the growing power of France, readily issued a papal sanction for the marriage between Henry and Catherine.
This secured the continued support of Spain, the greatest and the most powerful monarchy of the then Europe for the maintenance of the Tudor dynasty in England. Henry VII’s remarkable success in diplomacy made England one of the most important nations in Europe.
This apart, the Spanish marriage brought in consequences not foreseen at the time of the marriage. It was out of the question of divorce of Catherine by Henry VIII that the Reformation Movement began in England.
The growth of the French power had become a matter of grave concern as much for the European powers as for England. Scotland was a traditionally of France and inimically disposed towards England. Pursuant to his policy of dynastic marriage Henry VII gave his daughter Margaret in marriage to James IV, King of Scotland belonging to the House of the Stuarts.
This was obviously done with the purpose of detaching Scotland from the French alliance and thereby to be rid of the thorn by England’s, side.
Apart from detaching Scotland from the French alliance, the Scottish marriage was of far- reaching consequence, since it was through this marriage that the future Stuart dynasty was to succeed to the English throne and the ultimate union of Scotland and England in 1707.
In 1504 died Isabella of the House of Castile, wife of Ferdinand. This made Ferdinand’s position weak, for Isabella left Castile bequeathed to her daughter Joanna, wife of Philip of Flanders, son of Emperor Maximilian.
Ferdinand married Germaine de Foix, niece of Louis XII of France who had in the mean time succeeded to the French throne. Henry VII whose fond principle of diplomacy was the policy of dynastic marriage wanted to marry Philip’s sister, Margaret of Austria as Elizabeth of York had died in 1503, and to give his younger daughter Mary in marriage to Philip’s son.
All this was mooted with a view to making alliance with Philip of Flanders. But the negotiations did not appear to have succeeded, when in 1506 Philip took shelter in England as the result of a shipwreck on the coast of Dorset. Henry conveniently made Philip to agree to the Treaty of Windsor by which he had to agree to the proposed marriage between Henry VII and Margaret of Austria, Philip’s sister.
A second commercial treaty wresting great privileges from the Netherlands and definitely to the detriment of the people of Netherlands was signed between Henry and Philip who gave it the name Malus Intercursus, for it had contravened the clauses of the Magnus Intercursus signed in 1496 between England and Flanders.
In the same year 1506 died Philip and Henry VII whose character took a turn towards profligacy sought to marry Joanna, Philip’s widow. Henry’s policy of dynastic marriage ceased to be as states manly as it had been before and degenerated into undignified intrigues.
Henry was fast losing his eminence and importance in the European politics and in 1508, when Ferdinand, Louis XII, Maximilian and the Pope entered into a league, called the League of Cambrai for partitioning Venice, Henry was not called upon to join it. Thus towards the end of his reign Henry had lost much of the political importance that he had acquired earlier.
11. Henry VII’s Services to England:
Henry VII came to power at a most critical juncture of the history of England and any person with lesser calibre and capabilities would have succumbed to the pressure of the multifarious problem that England was then faced with.
But Henry VII answered well to the needs of the hour. He put down rebellions at home and by enactment of certain anti-feudal measures and by bringing those of the barons who- were still too powerful (to pose a challenge to the authority of the Crown.
All this had the effect of bringing the much sought for peace in England. He also replenished the state coffers with money obtained through forced loans, benevolences and Morton’s fork and thereby made himself independent of Parliamentary control.
Taking advantage of the fact that the Lancastrian experiment of constitutional rule was premature and had proved a failure and people’s faith in Parliamentary government shaken, Henry VII set up a strong despotic government.
It was after all despotism by consent, for, with the power of the House of Lords broken and the representations to the House of Common being limited to 40 freeholders and to a limited number of privileged voters, the Parliament proved incapable of governing.
Henry was clever enough to combine his accession by right of conquest with Parliamentary title and through marriage with Elizabeth of York, with dynastic right. Yet Henry was by and large independent of the Parliament and ruled through his Council.
Henry made good laws and administered justice in the best way except when the king’s interest was involved.
In foreign affairs he succeeded by his skilful diplomacy to make England a very important power in Europe and held the balance of European politics. His fundamental policy was one of peace, except when he was compelled to join war to serve greater interests of England.
He allied himself with Spain through dynastic marriage and became the ally of the greatest power of the then Europe. Likewise his policy of dynastic marriage brought England and Scotland together and paved for the union of Scotland and England. He also bound England and Scotland closely together.
In matters of trade and commerce, Henry signed Magnus Intercursus with Philip of Flanders in 1496 and extorted more advantageous terms for England when Philip took shelter in England as the result of a shipwreck, by a second treaty termed as Mains Intercursus by Philip.
Henry VII also entered into commercial treaties with Denmark, Riga and thereby extended the English trade in the Baltic. With Florence he signed a commercial treaty and helped the English wool traders. The carrying trade of England and Flanders had been monopolised by the Hanseatic League.
This was possible due to the quarrel between England and Flanders. Henry therefore passed Navigation Acts to regain for England the carrying trade. This gave a spurt to shipbuilding. This was how England started on the path of becoming eventually a naval power. It is for this reason that Henry VII is sometimes called the creator of the English navy.
Henry VII was a great patron of exploration and paid for many of the voyages for discoveries. It was under his patronage that John Cabot proceeded on his voyage of exploration.
In an estimate of Henry VII Lord Bacon’s remarks are of special value. Bacon calls Henry as “one of the best sort of wonders—a wonder for wise men”. He advanced church men. He was tender in the privilege of sanctuaries, though they wrought him much mischief.
He professed always to love and seek peace; and it was his usual preface in his treaties, that when Christ came into the world peace was snug and when he went out, peace was bequeathed.
And this virtue could not proceed out of fear or softness, for he was valiant and active, and therefore, no doubt it was truly Christian and moral. Yet he knew the way to peace was not to seem to be desirous to avoid wars. Therefore, would he make offers and fumes of war till he had mended the conditions of peace. It was also much, that one that was so great a lover of peace should be so happy in war.
“For his arms, either in foreign or civil wars, were never unfortunate, neither did he know what a disaster meant.” He did much to maintain his laws. Justice was well administered save where the king himself was a party. With his justice, he was also a merciful prince.
But the less blood he drew, the more he took of treasure. He was of high mind, and loved his own will and his own way; as one that revered himself and would reign indeed. There was nothing in him of vain-glory, but yet kept state and majesty to the height.
Macaulay points out that all the political differences which had agitated England since the Norman conquest seemed to be set at rest under Henry VII’s rule. The long and fierce struggle between the nobles and the king had terminated.
The grievances which had produced the rebellions of Wat Tyler and Jack Cade had disappeared,—villeinage was scarcely known. The Yorkists and the Lancastrians whose rival claims had convulsed the kingdom, were at length united. The pretensions of rival claimants were overthrown. In religion there was no open dissent, nor much of secret heresy.
The net result of Henry VII’s reign was emergence of order out of the prevailing confusion. The over-mighty barons had been brought to book through a series of anti-feudal measures, establishment of the Court of Star Chamber, etc. By placing his confidence in people who served him with loyalty and devotion, he paved the path for the rise of the English middle class.
Through dynastic marriages he sowed the seeds that bore fruits in the future history of England. While the Spanish marriage brought the English Reformation in the future and the rupture with the Pope, the Scottish marriage led to the union of Scotland and England.
His patronage of discoveries opened up the vistas of new relations which had their influences on the English economy, culture, naval development and laid the foundation for the growth of England into the mistress of the seven seas.
12. Henry VII’s Character:
Henry, the victor of the battle of Bosworth was “a wonder for wise men” for he combined in him confidence and assurance, wisdom and watchfulness, foresight and fortitude. He was a king of great and profound judgment and knew how to use opportunities and withstand the lure of adventurism.
Open hearted and jovial, he could be easily cruel and severe although cruelty did not grow into his nature. As a friend he was loyal yet no friendship was deep enough to get an inkling of his thoughts.
Cautious and practical he knew well how to serve the needs of England. His statesmanship made him recognise the fact that England then was on the thresh hold of a new age. The Middle Ages were shading off into the modern with all its possibilities. The spirit of the Renaissance was in the air and with commendable foresightedness Henry VII made England a receptacle of this spirit.
To this end he realised the need for keeping England in peace abroad and bringing order out of the prevailing confusion. His building of several fine ships, at his own expense, for use in war or trade were larger in size; that the English ships that were seen in English harbours hitherto before. This was an encouragement which eventually made England what he had been for centuries.
As a diplomat Henry VII was unrivalled at his own time. His relations with Spain and Scotland, his commercial relations with different powers revealed his diplomatic skill on the one hand and his craftiness, greed for money and his unscrupulousness on the other.
A wise statesman, an able administrator, a good judge of personalities, a believer in peace abroad and order and security within, Henry VII left his mark not only as a soldier and a king but as the layer of the foundations of English greatness in succeeding centuries.
13. The Renaissance:
Taken in its customary meaning the Renaissance was the revival of the classical learning, but it was more than that. It was a rebirth, the dawning of a new spirit, a new awakening which released the minds of the people from the fetters of Medievalism. The essence of the Renaissance was release of mind.
Once this release began taking place, the individual became conscious of himself. Reason took the place of faith and unquestioned obedience. A spirit of adventure and enquiry characterised the people of Europe including England.
Revival of learning, geographical discoveries, the Reformation, rise of national states, etc., became the salient features of the Renaissance which was a transition from the medieval to the modern period.
14. The Renaissance in England:
The passing of medieval England was marked by the end of the Wars of the Roses. The break was not sudden, for ways of life do not change overnight. Forces of transformation and transition were long at work re-modelling society throughout western Europe as also in England.
The first half of the fifteenth century was a period of stagnation in England as plague decimated population and trade declined. Land went out of cultivation, villages were depopulated and towns decayed. The thriving wool trade was checked by war at home and abroad.
Shortage of labour enabled the peasants to wrest greater facilities from landlords and the process of abolition of the villeinage which had begun as the result of the Peasants’ Revolt (1381) was nearing completion and compulsory labour service on land was replaced by money rents.
The upper levels of society were changing as fast as the lower levels. No medieval king had been able to ignore the influence of the over-mighty aristocracy.
But England was saved from the dangerous prospect of being parcelled out into principalities like contemporary Germany because of the Wars of the Roses in which the English aristocracy destroyed itself by fighting for the Crown and pouring out its wealth and power on the battlefields of Towton, Barnet, Tewkesbury and Bosworth.
With the baronial power liquidated, the smaller property-owners, squires, lawyers, merchants and the like, took over the leadership of English life and they looked to the Crown for protection as this would prevent any baronial revival, preserve peace and order and lead the country to prosperity.
It was from alliance with these elements that the Tudor monarchy initially drew its strength. “In England, as in France and Spain, the early sixteenth century was the age of kings.”
The triumph of the Crown over the landed aristocracy synchronised with the revival of European trade and the stagnation gave place to optimism. The Crown drew the fullest benefit from this coincidence. Royal authority and general prosperity went hand in hand. Cloth and wool trade made much for the English prosperity.
The changing scene mirrored itself in the contemporary art and architecture. The magnificent chapel at King’s College in Cambridge, started by Henry VI testified to this new spirit. Edward IV’s St. George chapel was a superb example of architecture.
When Henry VII came to the throne revival was well under way and if Henry VI and Edward IV had built for the glory of God, Henry VII did so for the glory of the monarchy. Henry VII completed the unfinished chapel at King’s College, Cambridge, at the request of his devout and learned mother Lady Margaret Beaufort.
Henry’s work was however, unlike the sober restraint of the earlier work, full of heraldic emblems significant of triumphant monarchy.
This was to be perceived in greater measure in the chapel built by him at the east-end of the Westminster Abbey. The austerity of earlier architecture was replaced by artistic and architectural works with the precision of a cut diamond, intricate delicacy like the skein of lace, etc.
The influence of the Italian Renaissance was not long to reach England, in fact it spread rapidly all over the western world including England. When Henry VII died, his son brought a sculptor from Florence to curve a tomb worthy of the first Tudor, which looked more like the tomb of a Roman emperor. It marks the early stages of Renaissance influence, which was to turn English art and architecture into new courses.
It was not in the visual arts alone that the Renaissance was confined. While study of Latin had never died out in the west, Greek was little known. Many Greek texts, however, were still surviving. Scholars now avidly studied Greek literature and were eager to liberate themselves from the superstition and backwardness of the Middle Ages which were responsible for the prohibition of the study of Latin and Greek.
The greatest figure of the literary renaissance was the Dutch scholar Erasmus (1466-1536). ‘He was an enthusiast for classical learning and realised how the printing press, invented shortly before his birth, could spread the treasures of Greek and Latin literature all over Europe.’ He began editing the various manuscripts and got them printed.
He paid several visits to England where he was warmly welcomed by the leading English scholars of the day— John Colet, John Fisher, Sir Thomas More and others who also wished to strip the Catholic-church of the superstitions and other abuses. ‘To speak of pride of life’ wrote Colet ‘how much greediness and appetite of honour and dignity is nowadays in the men of the Church’.
It was at the suggestion of Sir Thomas More that Erasmus wrote one of his most famous works, The Praise of Folly, in which he brought the pomposity and corruption, love of power and greed for wealth of the churchmen to ridicule. By his scholarship Erasmus gave the enemies of the then church the weapons to overthrow it. This was done when the Reformation succeeded.
The Renaissance intended to create new patterns of thought and looking to the past hoped to revive the virtues of the ancient world. Old ideas when revive under new setting produce revolutionary changes. This was true in the field of science.
The rediscovery of the works of Archimedes and Pythagoras and the publication of other Greek mathematicians were the points from which Galileo made his discovery of the nature of the universe.
Among the first to challenge the accepted explanation about the nature of the universe was Pole Nicholas Copernicus. The English exponent of the typically new spirit were Francis Bacon, William Gilbert, William Harvey, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle and others.
When European thought and society were undergoing profound changes a discovery brought to light a new continent on the far side of the Atlantic. In 1492 Columbus, searching for a sea-route to Cathay reached American Indies. Likewise Bartholomew Diaz blown by a storm discovered the sea-route to India round the Cape of Storms, later named as Cape of Good Hope.
Into this exciting world the Tudor dynasty came to rule England. Although England was slow to follow the lead of Spain and Portugal in discoveries, Henry VII in 1497 sent out John Cabot to search for “any regions or provinces of heathens and infidels unknown to all Christians”. Cabot discovered Labrador. Sebastian Cabot reached the Newfoundland.
By the time the first Tudor died, the commercial supremacy of Venice passed over to Antwerp, Amsterdam and eventually to London. The English trade expanded and the wealth and importance of the merchants increased.
“While the crown offered them peace and security they accepted its order, but as they became more powerful they found royal authority increasingly irksome. In the sixteenth century they grew critical of the leadership of the crown and demanded a larger and larger share in the government of the country which they called their own”.
15. Effects of the Renaissance in England:
Originating in the revival of the classics, the Renaissance brought about a revolutionary change in man’s ideas and extended the horizon of their thoughts and knowledge. It discovered new worlds, and what was more important, it also discovered the man.
The removal of the medieval fetters that had bound man mentally, socially and politically, led to his emancipation. The individual was released and new vistas opened before him. Reason took the place of faith and he was no longer willing to accept anything without testing it .on the anvil of reason, be it religion, politics or anything else.
The effect of such an awakening in England could be seen in the enriching of literature. Widening of the horizon of human knowledge and experience was reflected in the romanticism in English literature. English literary renaissance reached its peak and flowering time under Elizabeth when music and songs, drama and literature marked an unprecedented excellence.
Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spencer enriched the English literature of the age.
On science as well, the effect of Renaissance was manifest in the increased interest in the mysteries of Nature and Universe. England made rapid strides in knowledge of sciences following the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo.
Revival of the classics created a great enthusiasm for the study of Plato and Aristotle. Political Science and Philosophy became thereafter favourite subjects of study.
One of the most important effects of the Renaissance was that the world of beauty of the Classical Age became open before the people of Western Europe including England. Study of nature and beauty which was a taboo was now taken up in right earnest. Study of Theology, the only knowledge conceivable during the Middle Ages was now pushed into the background.
New discoveries and new inventions created a great enthusiasm for the study of new literature which was marked by the writings of the Humanist scholars. Humanism in place of blind faith was one of the major contributions of the Renaissance. Encouragement of education was marked by the establishment of the Christ College, Queen’s College, etc.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Renaissance was the triumph of reason over blind faith, a spirit of enquiry and criticism characterised the people. This spirit of enquiry has been the one single factor that makes for progress and modernism.
This spirit of criticism and reasoning did not leave out religion from its purview. It was out of the spirit of criticism and reasoning that the absurdities of Catholicism, corruption among the churchmen were challenged. The result was the Reformation which came to England as a personal and political move by Henry VIII. The Catholic church was split and the Protestant church came into being.
Discovery of new countries and regions naturally gave a spurt to trade, commerce and industrialism. New markets with wider demands while opened up new avenues of commerce had also become source of supply of raw materials, joint-stock companies, banking institutions, great manufactories and commercial houses were the result of the Renaissance.
Colonial expansion was also the result of the bold adventurous spirit which was characteristic of the Renaissance period.
The Renaissance which meant the release of man from the medieval fetters made him feel that the state existed for the people not people for the state. Man also realised that the worth of a government was the totality of good that it could do to the people. This brought about a change in the relation of man and government.
The break up of the mystery of the Papal supremacy as a result of the Reformation led to the break up of the idea of a universal empire and gave rise to national states.
The scepticism which resulted in the wake of the Renaissance made people overreach the mark and become somewhat pagan in outlook. It made people immoral and lax. Morality was looked upon as unnecessary and unreasonable inhibitions. Old accepted restraints were cast off and people did not hesitate to indulge in every kind of laxity.
In politics as well the same tone was to be met with in Machiavelli’s Prince. Political morality was considered inconsistent with effective rule.