Controlling Nobility - Henry VII (The Nobles - Overview (Nobility depended…
Controlling Nobility - Henry VII
The Nobles - Overview
He needed to win the support of the nobles and at the same time make sure their power and arrogance were controlled
There were two ways he could do this: either to buy their support by rewarding them with land and titles, or to force them to support him by showing him the unwelcome concequences of oppostion
Henry was most inclined to use the second option
Henry's relationship with leading nobles was critical to his survival as King.
He depended on them to maintain law and order in areas where they held land and estates
However, Nobility had grown powerful in the fifteen century, gaining more lands at the expense of the crown.
The nobles large estates generated income from rents and leases - which some had used to build impressive strongholds and to recruit and retain private armies.
Henry was fortunate in 1485 that his victory had been so decisive and that a series of deaths in the 1480s meant that key families, such as the houses of Warwick, Northumberland and Buckingham were now headed by children
Henry VII used a variety of different policies to reduce his reliance on the nobility and to limit their power
Nobility depended on three main factors: land, wealth and support
To maintain their independence from the King
Henry reduced all three during his reign, while being careful not to push them into open rebellion.
From the start of his reign Henry used attainders to seize the titles and possessions of nobles he suspected of disloyalty.
Attainders were special laws passed by Parliament which allowed someone to be declared guilty of treason without going through the process of trial
As with other policies, Henry was often prepared to reverse an attainder and restore lands and titles if he thought that would secure the gratitude and future loyalty of the victim
During his reign 138 attainders were passed, of which 46 were reversed
51 of the attainders were passed in the years 1504-09.
Severity was also a feature on many occasions when an attainder was reversed - especially from those below noble rank
Sir Thomas Tyrell had to pay £1, 738 for the reversal of his and his Fathers attainders
Henry asked his first Parliament to issue attainders against men who had opposed him at the Battle of Bosworth, and resorted to using them periodicity during his reign.
Henry (largely) abandoned Edward IV's policy of distributing lands to loyal followers
There were some grants at the beginning of his reign but Henry was concerned not to create a new group of nobles who could rise to become a potential threat
The result of his caution, was that the number of people who could be described as nobles fell by about 1/4 during his reign through deaths and attainders
When Henry need royal agents in local communities, he looked to men lower down the social scale who did not have extensive lands in the area
These men were dependent on him for the position and status they held and were not distracted by competing loyalties.
Vacant lands were also absorbed by Henry's personal domains - making him the largest landowner in the country
Attacks on Retaining
Retaining was the practice by which a nobleman kept a large number of men as his personal staff.
In theory to be used as household servants but in practice as gangs of enforces
Retainers were used to put pressure on tenants who were slow in paying their rent, or on juries to return the verdict their master wanted.
Henry (Like Edward IV) regarded them as a lawless element.
Laws were passed in 1485 and 1504 against illegal retaining
The 1504 Act required nobles to obtain a special licence from the King before they could retain large numbers of men and imposed severe fines if they did not
The Penalty was £5 per month per illegal retainer.
The idea behind the law were sound, but the problem had gone on too long to be settled so easily
Nobles found ways to avoid getting a licence, for example by covering up records of wages they paid to servants - so that no one knew exactly how many men were being retained
Henry would demand a financial bond from individual nobles or their families
This would place the noble in debt to the thrown - so he would remain loyal in the future
In effect Henry forced nobles to agree with him or face a ruinous fine
It was a widely used policy and in Henry's last decade of being king about 2/3s of nobility were held under bonds