Although the Earl of Hertford played political poker in his consolidation of power, assuming the offices of both protector and governor and stimulating consent through bribery; the Duke of Somerset’s real gamble was whilst he was protector when handling the cards of religious policy, foreign policy and administration in government.

Somerset increasingly threatened his political stability in his foreign policy, with his continued adherence to the defunct Treaty of Greenwich, attempting to subdue French influence in Scotland and achieve the union of the Crowns. However, this policy only pushed Scotland ever closer to the embrace of France. Despite the Battle of Pinkie appearing to be a step closer to Edward VI reclaiming suzerainty over the Scottish throne; in June 1548 6,000 French troops landed in Leith, capturing English forts and securing Mary Queen of Scots passage to her impending marriage to the Dauphin. The Duke of Somerset continued to jeopardise his political authority by ignoring the advice of the regency council and amassing an estimated 500,000 to pay for his obsession over the Treaty of Greenwich.

Moreover, the Duke of Somerset’s administration in finance, with revolved around his foreign policy, caused further instability due to his debasement of coinage, exacerbating the already prominent inflation that existed in 1547 and reducing the purchasing power of money. Furthermore, this coincided with Somerset’s enclosure commissions and sheep tax, a platform that confirmed the nobility’s worse fears that the Protector supported the poor against the rich; this alienated the nobility and members of the regency council, again threatening Somerset’s political stability.

However, the Duke of Somerset retained a degree of political stability in his religious policy accommodating influential radicals such as Latimer and Ridley, whilst adjusting to the more conservative like Gardiner. The Duke of Somerset also took into consideration Charles V, with the French alliance to the Scots against England; Somerset ensuring that relations between England and the Holy Roman Empire were at least cordial. This included making sure that Mary Tudor, Charles V’s aunt, was not persecuted for her religious practices. Another example of the Duke of Somerset’s more politically stable religious policies was the 1549 Book of Common Prayer; Cranmer instructed to write a prayer book, which would be acceptable to both radicals and conservatives.

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In conclusion, the Duke of Somerset’s exercise of untrammelled power in Edward VI’s name without the constraints of the council was what ultimately allowed the Duke of Somerset to play this game of political poker. If the Duke of Somerset paid adherence to the advice from the Privy Council and was informed on key decisions in government, Edward Seymour’s time in politics may have been more secure.


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