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Helen Ryland

To what extent should changes in the relationship between monarchy and parliament from 1529 to 1640 be seen as arising from divisions over the future of the church?Until he entered his middle years, Henry VIII was faithful Catholic. His main concern was to gain control of the Church’s vast wealth rather than radically change the liturgy. However, this all changed when Henry tried to put aside his first wife because she had not borne him a male heir (a serious matter for the security of the state). The pope’s refusal to consent led Henry to reject papal authority and declare himself head of Church by the Act of Supremacy in 1534. He was careful to act in conjunction with Parliament. Thus for a time England remained in most respects Catholic. This is typical of the Post Revisionist view as they saw that different issues could lead to disputes between King and Parliament, but within a framework that can be seen as co-operative.It wasn’t until the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) that reform really took hold. In 1548 an English language order for the administration of Holy Communion was published and the following year a complete Book of Common Prayer appeared. England became a thoroughgoing Protestant state. This is where the monarch encountered its chief parliamentary obstacle. They resisted every step of the Protestant reformation.During Mary’s reign (1553-1558), England briefly reverted back to Catholicism. She wished to restore Catholicism and papal authority. This provoked fears and opposition from old Henricians loyal to the King’s memory and Edwardian Protestants and in order to do this she had to overcome strong resistance from the House of Commons. There was also opposition of her marriage to Philip II, King of Spain. He was an uncompromising Roman Catholic and was very unpopular in England. There was speculation that he would add strength to Mary to reverse the reformation. Mary gained the title of “Bloody Mary” because of the large religious persecutions that took place. 300 Protestants died as a result of trials for heresy. However she also appointed Protestants to supreme positions, which shows that she did have some toleration towards religion and must have had support in some form. This is typical of the Whig view because they saw that the commons were willing to stand up to the crown over issues they didn’t agree with.Elizabeth was completely different to all other monarch’s of this period. She was determined to rule a united country. She favoured a moderate reform, which would leave the core doctrine of the church intact, but would embrace the positive elements of the reformation. It consisted of a series of Acts of parliament, which established a revised Book of Common Prayer, the articles of religion and various other minor pieces of legislation. She also founded the Anglican Church, which borrowed principles from both the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. The main factor was that in this period of 1559 to 1601 Parliament was willing to co-operate with Monarch, even if there were disagreements and criticisms. However there was opposition from the Puritans/Presbyterians, who tried to demolish the Elizabethan settlement. This again is typical of the Post Revisionist view as they co-operated even though there were disagreementsReligion wasn’t the only factor influencing the relationship between monarch and parliament.During the 1530s the economy changed. There was increasing discontent over issues such as the introduction of enclosures and inflation in prices. This led to a disruption in traditional village life. This was the only real discontent with finance during the reign of henry as he passed the Statute of wills to ensure co-operation.Money was wasted during Edward’s reign due to the war with Scotland in 1547. They gained victory against them, but because the war came late, Scotland was able to look to France for support.Although there was a rebellion in 1549 resulting from economic difficulties, mainly the enclosures, Mary did a lot to improve the financial situation in Britain. Efforts were made to make revenue collection more efficient by transferring more responsibility to the exchequer, the new book of prayers was introduced in 1558 to improve crown income from custom duties and plans were made to re-value currency after the ‘Great Debasement’ of the 1540s.Elizabeth was popular among the poorer classes as she encouraged people to grow more food grains in the country, creating more profit and ensured self-sufficiency. One of the main functions of parliament in Elizabeth’s reign was to fund the government, but this would most probably be apparent for any monarch during the whole period being observed. However the Queen, short of money, granted monopolies to courtiers and royal servants which caused rumblings in parliament, Elizabeth responded with unfulfilled promises of reform. This caused the rumblings to become uproar.This would make co-operation very difficult at this time, which backs up the Whig view, Elizabeth promised things, which she just couldn’t fulfil, which leads onto the next issue, the Monarch’s personalities.Henry seemed to be quite a stubborn person. If he couldn’t get what he wanted then he would change something to make sure things went his way, for example, the rejection of papal authority. He was a bully and had quite an aggressive personality. This can also be seen from the treatment of his wives. Parliament felt intimidated by this, which led them to support him. However when he did reject papal authority, he made sure it was in conjunction with parliament, which shows that he didn’t really want to cause conflict between them both.Edward was very young to be a King; he had advisors, which made his decision making easier. Parliament weren’t always happy, but they co-operated with the monarch.Mary, like Henry was very stubborn. She was a fanatic Catholic, if Protestants fell out of line they were burned to death. She also rejected a parliament petition, which begged her to marry and Englishman. She wouldn’t listen to anyone else, except herself.Elizabeth wanted to please everyone; she was over ambitious as this could never work. She promised people things, which she couldn’t do. She gave parliament free speech, however they could only speak on subjects, which she addressed. This meant that they couldn’t really say what they really felt about certain subjects. This could also be seen as being stubborn because it shows that the monarch decides everything, including when parliament is called and dissolved. Perhaps this is why parliament co-operated with every monarch from 1529 to 1640.As the different monarch’s wanted different religious policies, so to would they want different foreign policies.The aims of Henry were to maintain the balance of power in Europe, to resist the power of enemies of England and to dominate European politics. Henry joined the holy league intending to drive France out of Italy. He made peace with France after the marriage alliance of his sister Mary. But after the terms of his alliance with Spain expired, Henry declared war with France. The Scots refused to accept the marriage proposal of Henry’s son for their daughter and he invaded and burned Edinburgh. He crushed an Irish revolt against the supremacy of England and acquired the title ‘King of Ireland’. He divided the country into many provinces and included Wales with England. England was looked upon as the most important political nation of Europe, this increased parliaments co-operation with henry due to the status England had gained.Mary’s marriage to Philip, King of Spain, in 1554 provoked a lot of discontent among parliament and the English public. They knew he would have influence over Mary’s foreign policy. She was put under enormous pressure from Philip to declare war with France and by doing this, she put English foreign policy back to its traditional anti-French footing. Together, with Spain they achieved victory, but Spain was financially distraught and France had the ability to recover and seize Calais from England, a huge blow to England. This symbolised the limited role, which England could now play in Foreign affairs. This was humiliating to Mary, and the public proved her wrong.Elizabeth framed her foreign policy with the intense ambition that England should emerge as an important nation, socially, politically, religiously and economically. She encouraged internal differences and revolts in European countries to give England room to grow more powerful in the community of European nations. Anglo-Spanish relations had already deteriorated but Elizabeth didn’t desire to have the same relations with France and decided to remain neutral when Scotland requested help. She later helped them against France, but secretly so she could maintain relations with France and Scotland. A revolt broke out in Ireland at the same time the Pope excommunicated with Elizabeth. She sent the Earl of Essex to suppress the revolt and Ireland became under the control of England. As with all the issues included in the Elizabethan period, parliament co-operated with whatever the monarch did as she had overall power. This backs up the Revisionist view, it shows that Crown, Lords and Commons existed in reasonable harmony.This leads onto the next issue, constitutional issues, who held power in this period? Henry broke with Rome and amongst many other things ended Wales being a separate country with England. This shows that he held the power and that Parliament supported whatever he did. However as stated in his personality issue, he was intimidating and aggressive which led them to support him. But having said this parliament did seem to gain some power at least. They passed legislation more frequently, they were allowed to discuss religious policy, although the powers of parliament were changed to facilitate Henry’s will, which meant all of this was down to what Henry wanted, not what parliament wanted.Because Edward was so young to be King, his advisors took control of most things in the country. It is stated that he was ‘no longer a powerful, adult King, no longer a royal focus of loyalty but divisive aristocratic politics’. The nobles of the country were taking control of the country not the monarch nor parliament. In Edward and Mary’s reigns factions developed within parliament. In Edward’s reign, this caused a lack of leadership and social and economic problems developed. However when measures had to be taken, there was co-operation. Backing up the Post Revisionist view.During Mary’s reign, there were still factions, however they all co-operated to restore an effective government. This is shown when parliament drew up a document in conflict with Philip, they didn’t agree with the marriage, which backs up the Revisionist view because they saw parliaments principle function as advising the monarch. Parliament spoke for themselves and the English public in their opposition to the executions of Protestants. Catholicism spread as a result. This doesn’t show that they held the power though because Mary ignored it and Married him anyway.Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer were imprisoned and executed, removing the major sources of opposition. Mary had overall constitutional control, although she had a lot of opposition which spread and she couldn’t put an end to it.Parliament showed that it had some power as the monarch granted monopolies because of the financial situation. This led to uproars within parliament; the monarchy was forced to act. Parliament was only functioning as an advisory and legislative body in Elizabeth’s reign, although they could give influences, policies were always made by the monarch. This again backs up the Revisionist view, of parliament as a legislative and advisory body. Elizabeth granted them free speech, however this was restricted as they could only speak on matters brought up by the monarch. Thus, Elizabeth held constitutional power.The final issue to address was the other individuals involved in advising the different monarch’s during this period of investigation.Thomas Wolsey was known for bribing people. He tried to bribe the Pope into allowing the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. This didn’t work, he was later executed. Seymour embarked on a political career. To promote his ambitions, he looked to parliament for support but instead he was attained and executed. Anne Boleyn caused a lot of conflict when her marriage to Henry was pronounced legal by Cranmer. Cromwell believed that Anne must go, as he couldn’t legitimate Mary. He turned against her and made implies for a divorce. Sir Thomas Moore, Lord Chancellor, and bishop, John Fisher, were both executed for failing to recognise Henry as the head of Church. Thomas Joyle canvassed support in the Houses of Lords and Commons. He must have had a lot of influence over legislation.Somerset, during Edward’s reign, practically ruled the country for Edward. He took control over all issues. But people were against him no matter what he did. The war with Scotland was left too late, which meant Scotland could look to France for support. He was quite tolerant on religion, but he had many pressures on him. He failed to satisfy radical Protestants yet alarmed traditional Catholics. He didn’t have much political experience, leading to conflict with parliament, which backs up the Whig view. He was later imprisoned and executed in 1552. Northumberland took over from Somerset and sorted all issues out. He gained a lot of support. He ended the war with France, advanced the protestant faith, making a more decisive statement of national beliefs and restored government finances by strengthening the currency and tackling a wider range of social grievances, which backs up the revisionist view as it shows Co-operation. This wasn’t to last though, Edward’s health was failing.Gardner caused conflict in parliament. He led opposition in the House of Lords against Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain. Factions developed as a result. The main individual in Mary’s reign was her husband, Philip of Spain. He led her into war against the people’s will. It ended badly as France recovered from the war and seized Calais from England.The Wentworth’s were perhaps the most heroic figures during Mary’s reign. They took the lead in defending free speech. They strove for full, free and unrestricted speech on all subjects. This backs up the Whig view as it shows parliament defending their rights and privileges. The Queen reacted by imprisoning them. It didn’t have an effect on the House of Commons because they didn’t see it as important, but they were heroic because they stood up to the Queen and no one had done that before. Burghley’s demand for a triple subsidy provoked angry outbursts, furious debate and protest at the Lord’s infringement of the Commons liberties. Norton was the best defence against Catholicism, making lots of speeches, written arguments and had the skill of a parliamentary draftsman. He had lots of support and had some success. Harsher penal laws were put against catholic recusants; he didn’t have control over the commons though.After addressing all of the issues involved during this period, I believe that religion was not the most important or the only factor influencing changes in the relationship between monarchy and parliament from 1529 to 1640. I believe that the most important factors were other individuals because this caused the most conflict and constitutional issues, as this was the main factor for co-operation.

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