Courseworks

‘Henry VII deliberately exploited the rights of the crown in order to make it once again rich and powerful.’

‘The people considered they were suffering not on account of their own sins but on account of the greed of their monarch.’ (Polydor Virgil). This quote seems to support the view in the title, that Henry did exploit the rights of the crown. Although, what were these rights?As king, Henry was entitled to rights of income that could be separated into ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary income included such rights of income as royal estates, feudal dues, customs duties and profits of justice. Extraordinary income included parliamentary grants, loans, clerical taxes, pensions from other powers, feudal obligations and bonds and recognisances. Although did Henry exploit these rights?The Collins English dictionary describes exploiting as ‘to make use of selfishly or unethically.’ Therefore, in order to ‘exploit’ these rights, Henry must use these rights of the crown to ‘selfishly and unethically’ increase his income.In answer to the question, there were a few areas in which Henry did indeed, ‘selfishly and unethically’ increase his income through the rights of the crown. One area was parliamentary grants. This source of income was only granted to the crown on special occasions and with no regularity. There were three occasions throughout Henry’s reign in which he requested money from parliament, to defend England from Scotland and Perkin Warbeck (1486) the Battle of Stoke (1487) and the war against the French (1489). On the first occasion, when Henry requested money to defend England from Scotland and Perkin Warbeck in 1486, the initial invasion had already been stopped when he requested the money. There was no further trouble from Scotland after the initial invasion. However, Henry did not return the money to parliament. Historians argue as to whether this money went to waste. Roger Turvey argues that ‘some of the money was used to suppress a rebellion in Cornwall.’ However, the money that parliament granted was not for this conflict but for the conflict with Scotland, therefore ‘selfishly and unethically’ increasing his income through the rights of the crown, as no war took place.Another area in which Henry ‘selfishly and unethically’ increased his income through the rights of the crown was through the profits of justice. Henry increased his income through the profits of justice through punishing all crimes, including treason, with fines. Although the fines were not given to innocent victims, this way of punishing crimes trivialised and perverted the justice system of the time. This is because although this increased the rights of the crown, it was unethical to do so this way as if a criminal had enough money, he could literally get away with murder, whereas a criminal without money will be punished differently. If the justice system was ethical, all perpetrators of the same crime would be treated the same. Therefore Henry punishing all crimes, including treason, through fines selfishly and unethically’ increased his income through the rights of the crown.Another area in which Henry ‘selfishly and unethically’ increased his income through the rights of the crown was through the pension, which he received through the Treaty of Etaples. This pension was given to Henry as a bribe to remove his army from French territory. The sum was agreed at �5,000 a year. This was increasing Henry’s income ‘selfishly and unethically’ as this money will not be money that is contributed to the state, but for Henry’s private use. Therefore the use of the money would not benefit the people that need it, but Henry, therefore increasing Henry’s income selfishly.The main area in which Henry ‘selfishly and unethically’ increased his income through the rights of the crown was through bonds and recognisances. Bonds were contracts in which people promised to pay sum of money to the crown if a promise was not kept. Recognisances were formal acknowledgements of debts that existed to the crown. These two areas increased Henry’s income ‘selfishly and unethically’ for many reasons. One reason is that bonds could be used to pardon murderers and release criminals. This is a very unethical way of collecting money as it is putting the income of the country ahead of the safety of the residents.Although most, if not all of the fines gained from proceeds of justice were from guilty people, the income from bonds and recognisances was not always from guilty parties. Edmund Dudley confessed shortly before his execution that he believed that there were 84 cases in which people had to ‘unjustly forced to pay.’ He said this to ‘win help and relief for the dead king’s soul.’ In these catholic times, there is no reason more holy and true; therefore he is probably telling the truth. As Henry was collecting funds from bonds and recognisances, which were not from guilty parties, he was ‘selfishly and unethically’ increasing his income through the rights of the crown.However, how successful was Henry in becoming ‘rich and powerful.’ Firstly ‘rich and powerful’ will have to be defined in order for a nation to be powerful, they must be ‘capable of producing great effects of any kind’ and to be rich a nation must ‘Possess great material wealth’.A main factor which shows Henry’s relative success in regard to financial policy is the fact that he died in the black. This shows that Henry had certainly made the crown richer. Although did all his policies show success or were there failures?In the first few years of Henry’s reign, ‘No man succeeded to the throne of England with such a total lack of financial experience and resources as did Henry VII’ (Chrimes). This is shown by the failure, at the start of Henry’s reign, to recognize that using the chamber system was far superior to using the old, cumbersome and slow Exchequer system. It is also shown by the fact that Henry’s finances had ‘Greatly fallen into decay.’ With accounts dropping from �25,000 pa to �12,000 pa in 1487. These early failures developed Henry into a monarch who by the time he died, many historians said that ‘In many ways Henry VII showed his greatest ability in financial matters.’ (Elton). This is shown by his ability to increase the crown’s income by any means possible (as shown above) as well as using all the other means of accumulating wealth lawfully and efficiently.As for making the crown more powerful, it is a different story. Henry had a policy of making illegal retaining (the employment of private armies) as difficult as possible. However, these private armies that were retained by nobles were vital to England’s war machine. Therefore, as Henry made it harder and harder for nobles to retain, the power of England to be ‘capable of producing great effects of any kind,’ became smaller.However, with the increase in wealth came an increase in security, and with an increase in security came and increase in power. This is because Henry could become ‘capable of producing great effects of any kind,’ in his own country and, with financial means, abroad.In conclusion, ‘Henry VII deliberately exploited the rights of the crown in order to make it once again rich and powerful’ is a statement, which is not entirely true. Although Henry did exploit the rights of the crown to some extent, he did use a lot of other means to make the crown once again rich and powerful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top