Was there a Mid-Tudor crisis? Revision time…

For a significant period of time historians traditionally viewed the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I as a time of crisis. The key aspects of the crisis are summarised by historian John Warren as:

A crisis of political authority – factions were out of control and the ruling class were troubled by rebellion.

A social and economic crisis – poor harvests, debasement of the coinage and high inflation.

A foreign policy crisis – England was clearly a second-rate power among the European powers.

To what extent is this true? Did the factors combine to create a time of crisis?

Your revision homework is to create a set of revision notes / diagrams / mind maps on the Edwardian ‘crisis’. Use your printed notes / sheets to produce the revision work. These are some prompts for your revision:

Somerset and the role of Lord Protector.

Religious changes / problems.

Factions in the Privy Council.

Rebellions – Western and Kett.

Social and Economic problems.

Foreign Policy and events abroad.

Read around the subject – historians such as John Guy and David Loades are useful on this topic. Finally – post a response to one of the following key questions:

What are the main elements of the case in favour of a crisis in Edward VI reign?

What are the counter arguments to the notion of crisis? (divide these into the regimes of Somerset and Northumberland)

To what extent were the governments of Somerset and Northumberland 1547-53 characterised by ruthless ambition and determination to control the affairs of England?

Your revision homework for Mary I is to create a set of revision notes / diagrams / mind maps on the ‘crisis’ in her reign. Use your printed notes / sheets to produce the revision work. These are some prompts for your revision:

The character and personality of Mary I

Marriage to Philip and the Anglo-Spanish alliance

Restoration of Catholicism

Persecution of Protestants

Foreign Policy – dependency on Spain?

Parliament / Privy Council

Wyatt’s Rebellion 1554

Some key questions…challenge = blog a response!

How effective were Mary’s policies? Would the effectiveness have increased if Mary had lived as long as Elizabeth?

Why has Mary’s reign been regarded as a failure?

On what grounds could her reign be considered a success?

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3 Responses to Was there a Mid-Tudor crisis? Revision time…

  1. Lydia Kim says:

    On the one hand, the much-maligned Marian regime did boast some positive achievements. For example, Mary’s government published a revised “Book of Rates” in 1558, which listed the tariffs and duties for every import, and thus increased a key source of revenue that was previously neglected. This would allow Mary to bequeath a solvent treasury and therefore ensure the stable reign of her successor. Furthermore, Mary began a partial re-coinage which was completed under Elizabeth I’s reign, and it did much to re-establish English credit in the continental money market, and consequently augmented England’s prestige. Mary’s naval and militia reforms such as the Militia Act in 1558 were also beneficial to Elizabeth; they laid foundations for the development of the army and navy in the queen’s subsequent reign. These reforms helped to strengthen England’s security and defence against potential foreign attacks. Although the large number of councillors appointed by Mary inevitably led to supposedly an inefficient and faction ridden government, the working council board was smaller and dominated by such experienced figures as Gardiner and Winchester. Therefore, Mary did differentiate between the formal processes of conciliar advice and courtly processes. Additionally, one could argue that Mary’s religious policies to restore Roman Catholicism to England would have succeeded had it not been for the Queen’s premature death. Haigh asserts that religion may have been recognised “as one of the elements of Mary’s appeal”, because Mary’s popularity arguably reflected the considerable devotion to the Catholic faith held by most English people. Even in London, where Protestantism had been well established, some parishes rushed to restore Catholic practices, and Latin service books were re-introduced quickly, suggesting that Mary’s religious policies were being implemented effectively.

    On the other hand, the Marian regime made many mistakes. Mary’s religious policies were largely unsuccessful; the policy of burning heretics from 1555 actually strengthened Protestantism and its’ reputation. Furthermore, the presumed restoration of the “old religion” was not universally accepted, and there was trouble in places such as Lincolnshire, Dorset and Kent. Mary did not embrace the use of propaganda and never trusted public preaching. Therefore, she never won the hearts and minds of the people. Moreover, there was a continual tension between the officers of her household and the Privy Council. The most conspicuous political talents were those of William Paget and Stephen Gardiner, who cordially detested each other and gave the queen conflicting advice on most issues of importance. These tensions and the growing size of the Privy Council (estimated by Pollard to fluctuate between 45-50 men) led to factional rivalry and therefore instability and inefficiency within the government. Furthermore, Mary did not lead and increasingly ignored the Privy Council, and consequently lost credibility with some councillors. Mary instead sought advice from the Spanish ambassador Simon Renard, who proved to be a destructive influence. For example, he encouraged Mary into the disastrous French War, against the Privy Council’s advice. Additionally, Mary’s most important decision – to marry Philip of Spain – was never discussed formally in Council.

  2. Jenny F says:

    The reign of Mary has traditionally been viewed as part of the Mid-Tudor crisis period of instability. While there is basis for this view, historians such as Loades now argue this belief is difficult to maintain and there were some successes of Mary’s reign which can’t be ignored. It is undeniable that Mary’s accession was greeted favourably on the whole; her popularity was evidenced by the scale of support she gathered, much of which was from ordinary people, in acting against Somerset’s Devise to alter the succession. Furthermore, her decisive action undoubtedly demonstrated her strength of character. Mary’s revision of the Book of Rates increased revenue from customs duties to £85,000 from £29,000, demonstrating there were some efforts, which proved successful, to improve the economy. Mary’s reign saw some success in terms of religion as well, with an increase in bequests to the church (59% of testators compared to 32% in Edward’s reign). This perhaps suggests that religion was more at the heart of the English people than in Edward’s reign and that Mary’s policies perhaps restored faith in supporting the churches after the destructive measures of Edward’s reign. Religious changers were accepted in many areas of the county with some, such as Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, immediately rebuilding the altar and singing masses. This suggests there was a sense of eagerness concerning the Catholic policies that Mary would undoubtedly implement. Although some historians suggest Mary’s relationship with parliament was not a smooth one, with Graves saying her reign was ‘marked and marred by parliament’, it was effective as a law-making body. 104 acts were passed in six parliaments, suggesting that contrary to Graves’s view, Mary had an effective relationship with parliament and they were able to cooperate.
    However, there were undeniably some elements of crisis in Mary’s reign. The Marian burnings, which resulted in the death of 289 Protestants, most of whom were ordinary people, strengthened Protestantism and attracted sympathy whilst discrediting Catholicism. There were tensions with the Papacy, with the fiercely anti-Spanish Pope giving no backing to the restoration of Catholicism in England. Furthermore, the fact that Protestants were fleeing abroad meant that a well-organised opposition group was steadily growing, which could potentially pose a challenge to her religious measures. Despite Mary’s revision of the Book of Rates, there were grave social and economic problems during the reign. There were a series of bad harvests and epidemics of disease, while foreign wars meant taxation was high, which was always unpopular. Despite some success with parliament, there was some conflict. For example, in 1555 they refused to grant her a subsidy she had requested and 80 MPs actually voted against the repeal of Edwardian religious legislation. This demonstrates there was some parliamentary opposition to Mary and some religious divisions. There is evidence to suggest she was losing influence in parliament, with 17 councillors in parliament in 1554 compared to 10 in 1558. Wyatt’s rebellion, although successfully suppressed by the government, displayed the extent of hostility towards the proposed marriage of the King of Spain and Mary; this demonstrates there was some unpopularity as a result of Mary’s decisions. Although the loss of Calais’s significance is thought to be exaggerated, it was undoubtedly a humiliating loss for England.

  3. jack davies says:

    It is highly debated among historians that there actually was a mid-tudor crisis, for various reasons for example political, the instability of the throne and short periods of reign with in the monarchy. There was an economical crisis with poor harvests and production which contributed to peasants particularly wanting to rebel. England’s was also not a large European power at the time putting them at a weak position. These factors lead to the question was there actually a mid-tudor crisis.

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