In this essay I will be looking at Henry V11’s domestic policy, the reasons behind his it and its development during his reign. I will evaluate his policies taking into account the challenges he had to overcome to conclude whether or not his domestic policy was a success.
In order to do this we have to look at the time in which Henry’s reign began. In 1485 Henry V11 won his claim to the throne in the battle of Bosworth against Richard 111. This meant that he had an insecure hold on the crown. Throughout his reign he tried to secure his title and this is the building block on which his domestic policy is based. This made Henry a very cautious and protective monarch; he later became paranoid and over obsessive due to his original insecurities about his claim to the throne.
As Henry’s reign ended the civil war known as the Wars of the Roses the country was uncertain about the authority of the king and the impoverished kingdom needed money and sustainability. Therefore he had to think carefully about his methods of control.
Henrys first challenge was to overturn doubts about the legitimacy of his claim to the thrown and heal the differences between and Lancaster and York. This resulted in his marriage to Elizabeth of York, uniting the two families to produce the Tudor rose. Although this was successful in some respects Henry still had difficulties with rivals throughout his reign.
To keep rivals under control and too a minimum he paid special attention to the control of the nobles. Firstly he abolished standing armies, restricted the creation or advancement of new nobles and curbing actions of the nobles using legal and financial instruments. One example of these was attainders. These were special laws aimed at specific individuals to allow the monarch to seize the title and possessions of the accused without trial. This method was ruthlessly efficient means of extending the lands of the crown and decisively weakening potential enemies. Another method Henry used to restrain the nobility was by creating courts within central government to deal with disobedient nobles, and a special group of councillors where set up by the Star Chamber act of 1487 to stop illegal retaining.
This was one way Henry made money for the impoverished kingdom. There were many others, in fact making money was at the top of Henry’s agenda and he exploited all ways of making money including loans bonds and recognisance’s.. Henry was a money wise and careful monarch, who restored the fortunes of an effective bankrupt exchequer by introducing efficiently ruthless mechanisms of taxation. Henry looked after money very personally up to 90 per cent of money collected by Henry went to household dept chamber in which he went daily to check the records. Taxes were not henrys only means of making money he developed the economy by taking advantage of the fortunes to be made out of the woollen industry, he required that anti-enclosure land over 20 acres to be maintained as farm land. The results were that 90 per cent of goods leaving England were wool. Henry benefited from this as taxes on imports and exports doubled to ï¿½40000 per year. His new laws were given priority to domestic buyers. Henry’s policies were successful there was a 60 % rise in exports of finished cloth and 30 % fall in exports of raw wool. With his money he used it strengthen his position. He paid money towards shipbuilding, strengthening the navy and was also keen on proving trading opportunities.
He improved his trading opportunities by opening up alliances with Spain and later on he won trade terms with burgundy in the 1490s. Henry also tried to persuade Burgundy to agree to the Malus Intercursus in 1506 but this was abandoned. Henry managed to commercialise his wool trade successful with France, Spain burgundy and even managed to sell a monopoly of English cloths to Florence in 1490. Although he did not have such success in northern Europe as German towns were unwilling to give up their Baltic trade so Henry was forced to accept that the Hanseatic League had special trading privileges at England’s expense.
England was increasingly becoming more sustained as Henrys methods of control took their toll. But still Henry was challenged to his claim to the thrown. The challenges were Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel. Perkin Warbeck was a pretender. He appeared from Ireland in 1491; he drew the attention of Yorkist noblemen and invented himself as the duke of York. He became an object of international attention as foreign rulers were prepared to support him in hope of getting something out of it. For example Charles V111 of France used Warbeck to put pressure on Henry to make a deal over Brittany. Although Warbeck had little English support and foolishly he invaded England in 1495 only to be quickly captured. Henry was lenient with the young pretender as he had only been used as a puppet to more powerful people. Warbeck abused this lenience by escaping the king’s custody and alledgy plotting with the earl of Warwick. This resulted in his death, he was hung in 1499. Lambert Simnel was another challenger to the Kings thrown. He was set up by his tutor as an impersonator of the earl of Warwick. When The King heard of this threat, he revealed the real earl of Warwick in public. Simnel went back to Ireland became king and gained support from the house of York. This resulted in the battle of stoke in 1482. But Simnels’ army was out numbered by the king and most of his men were killed. Henry forgave Simnel as he believed that he was just a young boy under the influence of powerful hands, therefore he gave him job in the royal kitchen. I think Henry dealt with these pretenders very well, they caused no great challenge to him and he gave fair punishments to each.
Due to these threats to his crown his insecurities drew. Although, this did have some positive effects on his domestic policy: for central, local and regional governments. Central government was very important to Henry he consulted with them regularly before making his decisions and actions. Within henrys household there was a royal council which met with the king to discuss major policies, this royal council consisted of his most trusted followers. Although in the 1490s this privy chamber was strengthened due to henrys fear of treason and his concern that his councillors were getting too powerful. This resulted in only a few trusted members being allowed to the privy chamber. Although within the local government Henry gave his noblemen the growing responsibility of the justice of peace, they were expected to do tasks such as tax assessments and enforce the king’s laws. Within the regional government Henry had different policies depending on his respect and trust for that region. In Wales for example he restored the council and followed the policy of appointing welsh men into it, this was because it was his homeland and it was used as a launch pad for invasion of England in 1485. On the other hand due too their lawless and rebellious behaviour in the North Henry allowed the council to lapse and used the opportunity of the murder of the earl of Northumberland to replace him with the earl of Suffolk, who had little local experience or land in the North but Henry believed him to have the right qualities as he had enough social clan to maintain order but not enough to threaten the crown.
In conclusion I think Henry exceeded expectations. He entered the country when there was no sustainability or money and the authority of the king was unsure of. By the end of this reign he had built up a large sum of money using it to strengthen the kingdom, he had developed trade, dealt with any enemy’s sufficiently and sustained a good legal system. But he was not as successful in establishing his dynasty. Further he became a very paranoid king and did not often give others any authority which was a major disadvantage in his reign.