Social Order 1)Nobility/Peerage (Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount, Baron); 2)Gentry (baronets, knights, esquires); 2 ½ - 3 ½) Merchants and professionals; 3) Yeoman (farmed over 100 acres); 4) Husbandmen (farmed 5 – 50 acres); 5) Cottagers; 6) Wage Laborers
Social Order (continued) The Statute of Artificers – promulgated in 1563 and incorporated into the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601 – required all persons between 12 and 60 without other employment to serve in husbandry while artisans were required to serve seven-year apprenticeships. Wages were assessed by JPs in counties and by mayors in towns. Working hours between March and September were set from 5 am to 7 pm.
Demographics Population of England and Wales was 2.4 million in 1525; 4.5 million in 1600; 5.5 million in 1660. Grain prices rose 400 percent and rents 500 percent in this period. Real wages declined. The late 16 th and early 17 th centuries were a “Golden Age” for the large landowner. Small farmers lost lands and became cottagers or left for a new life in the towns or after 1580, the colonies.
Family Life Family size was closely related to social status – the higher your status, the larger your family. The majority had small, nuclear families. The number of children was limited by relatively late ages of marriage and early onset of menopause, long-term nursing, and high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Life expectancy for adults was approximately 38 years (lower in London).
Intellectual Framework The intellectual background of Stuart England was rooted in the medieval concept of a hierarchical, ordered universe: God/ Angels/ Mankind/ Animals/ Plants/ Stones.
Intellectual Framework Most people believed the world was composed of four elements; the body, four humors. Each had related characteristics: – Earth/Melancholy/Cold and Dry – Water/Phlegm/Cold and Moist – Air/Blood/Hot and Moist – Fire/Choler/Hot and Dry Literacy was higher in the towns than in the countryside, but still only about 25 percent of adult males and 8 percent of adult females could write their names in 1600. (continued)
Religion Stuart England was decidedly Protestant. In fact, many historians argue that it was “the primary influence in the creation of English nationalism.” Certainly, from the time of the Armada in 1588, Catholicism was identified with “foreigners.”
Religion (continued) The basic unit of the church and state was the parish. There were approximately 8,000 parishes in England and Wales in 1603. The parish priest was the main link between the largely illiterate population and the technical and educated world. He taught subordination, norms of conduct, and patriotism. The church was the major source of demographic statistics for each shire.
Religion (continued) The Thirty-nine Articles of Faith (passed by Convocation in 1563) were deliberately ambiguous in order to encompass as many shades of belief as possible). Anglican belief was a blend of Lutheranism and Calvinism. The Church of England kept the Catholic ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons, and Catholic territorial divisions of two provinces (Canterbury and York) comprised of dioceses and parishes. There was a constant tension between the aims of uniformity and comprehension.
Religion (continued) James VI/I was bothered more by the politics than the theology of the Puritans. Although he himself was Calvinist, he felt less threatened by the Catholics. Most English, however, perceived Roman Catholics to be more dangerous since the Pope claimed the power to excommunicate and depose Christian monarchs (Popes had excommunicated both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I). The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 led to stiff penal laws against Catholics. But Catholics could practice their religion of they took an Oath of Allegiance renouncing the deposing power of the Pope.
Politics The King was variously described as the personification of the state, the anointed of God, and a being of sanctity and legend. He was the fountain of justice, the supreme governor of the church, director of foreign policy, and dispenser of patronage.
Politics (continued) The Privy Council was the administrative organization of the King and was responsible for foreign and domestic affairs. The ministers of state consisted of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Treasurer, the Lord President of the Privy Council, the Lord Privy Seal, the Secretaries of State, the Lord Chamberlain, and the Lord High Admiral.
Politics (continued) Parliament assisted the King in devising legislation and raising revenue. The House of Commons had approximately 440 members; the House of Lords, 80. Most of the revenue for central government came from custom and excise duties and sales taxes (only 8 percent of royal revenues came from direct taxation).
Politics (continued) Justices of the Peace (JPs) were responsible for local law and government. Sheriffs (one per shire) gathered rents, annuities, and fees from crown lands and carried out the policies of Council in the shires.
Politics (continued) James VI of Scotland became James I of England when his cousin, Elizabeth I, died on 24 March 1603. He was the great-grandson of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret. His mother was Mary, Queen of Scots, who had been executed by Elizabeth in 1587 for treason. Born on 19 June 1566, he became King of Scotland in 1567 when his mother was forced to abdicate. One of Scotland’s most successful monarchs, he did not fare as well in England.
Politics (continued) James’ personality was both a strength and a weakness. He was warm, affectionate, generous, and peace loving. He disapproved of smoking and was skeptical of superstitious customs. He was in favor of religious toleration. On the other hand, he lacked the kingly image of his predecessor, and many contemporaries disapproved of his homosexual encounters, obscene language, and pacifist foreign policies.
Politics (continued) The True Law of Free Monarchies, published in 1603, expressed his view that “the King is above the law as both the author and giver of strength thereto, yet a good King will not only delight to rule his subjects by the law, but even will conform himself in his own actions thereunto; always keeping that ground, that the health of the commonwealth be his chief law.”
Politics (continued) The English Parliament was a much more activist body than its Scottish cousin, though. Custom dictated that money bills originated in the House of Commons. Statutes (laws made by the King in parliament) were considered more binding and permanent than ordinances and proclamations (made by the King alone). As Chief Justice Coke (pronounced Cook) reminded James, “quod Rex non debet esse sub homine sed sub Deo et lege.”
Politics (continued) Many of James’ problems as king were inherited from Elizabeth – the religious settlement, the Spanish war, and the financial difficulties, to name three. Revisionist historians argued that the early Stuarts were not as incompetent as traditionalists have painted them. Rather, they were “overwhelmed by the difficulties inherent in ruling three different peoples, each with a different majority religion, legal system, social structure, and culture” (Bulcholz and Key, Early Modern England 203).