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The Government of Elizabethan England. Tasks of the Government To keep law and order throughout the realm To defend England from foreign foes To take.

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Presentation on theme: "The Government of Elizabethan England. Tasks of the Government To keep law and order throughout the realm To defend England from foreign foes To take."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Government of Elizabethan England

2 Tasks of the Government To keep law and order throughout the realm To defend England from foreign foes To take some interest in the well-being of the people To raise money to carry out its tasks.

3 An Organic State Crown Depended upon the Governing Class (the ‘political nation of peers and gentry) to enforce its policies Governing Class Depended upon the Crown for social and economic advancement. Serving the crown was the road to power and profit. “ As the body of man is knit and kept together by the sinews, so is every commonwealth kept in order by obedience. But as if the sinews be too much racked and stretched out or too much shrinked together, it breedeth marvellous pains and deformities in a man’s body; so if obedience be too much or too little in a commonwealth it causeth much evil and disorder” Bishop Ponet 1556

4 The Privy Council Councillors were directly responsible to the Queen. Political Parties did not exist, so PC could be deeply divided. Advise the Queen about policy Three most important ‘departments’ Secretary – close contact with Queen Chancery – royal grants, treaties & appointments Exchequer – kept records of royal income and expenditure & what was owed to the crown.

5 Local and Regional Govt Elizabeth’s family, the Tudors, inherited system of local government that had been established in the last 15 th C. and did little to change it. Sheriffs – organised the county courts, supervised the jail, called the posse to put down riots, conduct parliamentary elections, a thankless job for one year. Justice of the Peace - many in each county, supervised lower officials, administered poor relief, local magistrates, their duties & powers increased over time, being a JP was a mark of prestige. Lord Lieutenant – only addition to administration at the top, a peer, responsible for local milita.

6 The Law... E J L C EL J16 th Century England Modern Parliament

7 Common Law Courts Court of the Queen’s Bench Concerned with matters involving the monarch, evolved into dealing with criminal cases and breaches of the peace Court of Common Pleas Civil suits which did not involve criminal charges Exchequer Financial cases especially those involving revenue owed to the Crown. Prerogative Courts Chancery More flexible than common law courts, tried to apply principals of common sense and fairness. Worked on written rather than spoken evidence. Star Chamber The Privy Council sitting as a court. Cases that threatened law and order. Developed a reputation for a cruel overbearing type of justice. It could deal effectively with ‘overmighty’ subjects.

8 Finance, Favour & Faction Crown Finances Custom Duties – rarely increased, sold or given as favours, smuggling & bribes. Crown Land – leased or sold, selling reduced future income. Feudal Dues – land held by nobles in return for military service and monies, ‘entry fine’ for heirs to retain land. Activities – Pg 76 Extraordinary Finance - Pg 81 Grid of Achievement and Criticisms

9 Favour (Patronage) Royal Rewards Offices – Lord Chancellor, Lord Treasurer, Stewarts of Royal Parks, and for suitably qualified men positions in the Church and Judiciary. Titles – Peers or Lords (Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount, Baron), Archbishops / Bishops, Knights. Benefits – Gifts of crown land at low rent, Pensions & Grants, Monopolies (rights to trade).

10 QUEEN Patrons Clients Contact men Usually servants of the Patron

11 Parliament Parliament and Government were two different things in early modern England - & they still are today. By the time of Elizabeth I’s reign, parliament had developed into an institution representing lords (the nobility & bishops) and commoners. It was designed by English monarchs to assist them with governing the country In the 16 th and 17 th centuries parliament was an important but irregular aid to government. When it meet and for how long was decided by the monarch.

12 Monarch House of Lords House of Commons Appointed Patronage Links Elected Lords Spiritual (Bishops) Lords Temporal (Peers) Gentry Knights of the shire Burgesses of the Towns The Governing Class The Political Nation

13 Elizabeth in effect added the strength of Parliament to her own. She could: Summon Parliament when she needed it. Prorogue or dissolve Parliament when she wished (prorogue meant to put into recess, sometimes for years, but the same Parliament was recalled next time. When parliament was dissolved, new elections had to be held before a new parliament meet). Veto any parliament bill (Elizabeth voted over 60 bills in her reign) Dispense with or suspend any statute or Act of Parliament. (Dispense with = the law (or part of a law) did not apply in particular cases. Suspend = the law did not apply at all until the Queen reinstated it.). Elizabeth called only ten Parliaments in her 44 year reign and there were 13 parliamentary sessions. Each parliament had one session often lasting only a few weeks except for: the 1563 – 67 Parliament which had two sessions. the 1572 – 81 Parliament which had three sessions.

14 Elizabeth reserved the right to tell MPs what they could and could not discuss. She made a sharp distinction between “matters of Commonwealth” and “matters of State”. Matters of Commonwealth = local affairs & non prerogative economic matters. These the commons could freely discuss. Matters of State = the Queens marriage, succession, Religion and Royal supremacy, conduct of Foreign policy, administration and regulation of trade. Not to be discussed unless invited. Elizabeth stood firmly on her prerogative, especially on issues concerning religion and the succession. Though she granted “freedom of speech” to her first Parliament, she was quick to scold Commons for the “the very great presumption” of petitioning her to marry.

15 The Historiography of Elizabethan Parliaments Views of the history and importance of 16thC Parliaments have changed very much with recent research and analysis. The two main views are summarized as such: The old view (Traditionalists) (Neale, Nofenstein) The House of Commons increased its powers during the 16thC while those of the House of Lords diminished. Commons increasingly challenged the authority of the Crown. The new view (Revisionist) (Elton, Haigh, Jones) The House of Commons did not increase its powers in the 16thC and most MPs had no wish to challenge the Crown. The House of Lords did not diminish its importance. Activities – Pgs 68 – 70 “Focus Route” Questions 1 and 2.

16 Issue - Poverty Poor Laws Motives Humane charity Fear of violence & disorder Religious duty Local action 16thC license beggars Stockpile corn Provide relief from local taxes Central action Fear of disorder in 1531 1547 harsh penalties on vagrants 1563 Statute of Artificers Constructive, young into apprenticeships. 1572 Extend poor rates 1576 Parishes to provide work Codification in Poor Law 1601 Poor Law – 3 categories of poor -Impotent (sick & disabled) = deserving -Acceptable poor, those who would work given chance, are to be helped. -Sturdy beggars, rouges, godless, not deserving. From simple repression to constructive problem solving

17 LAWS Parish to provide overseers 2 church wardens 4 ‘substantial inhabitants. To give relief Apprentice children of poor Provide work JPs To extend poor rate when funds low, Provide dwelling & weekly maintance were needed The act was not applied uniformly, depending on quality of officials and resources of parish. 1550 – 1640 most parish areas and towns gained a street or district where the poor gathered. Central govt attitude to ‘sturdy beggars’ PC specifically recommended in times of war that they be conscripted as cannon fodder. Paul Slacks’ study (1974) of 3000 vagrants before the courts between 1598 -1664 found most to be young men caught within 20 miles of own parish – looking for work / relatives. Crime – in times of food shortage and high prices riots took an ‘acceptable’ form often with women seizing grain & leaving what they considered a fair price. After 1650 poor less troublesome – about 1/3 of households were exempt from taxation because of recognised poverty


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