Throughout the early Tudor period there was a succession of regional rebellions against the government’s changes in the tax system. Twice, in 1489 and 1497, these revolts were ruthlessly crushed, and then twice again in 1513, but this time the resistance was passive and the rebellion succeeded. Of the revolts faced by Henry VII there were two caused by dynastic intention: the imposture of Lambert Simnel as Edward, earl of Warwick, and Perkin Warbeck as Edward IV’s younger son, Richard of York.
In addition to those and although the intention of the plot was never stated, Lord Lovell and the Stafford brothers were clearly intent on over turning Henry VII’s usurpation, in possible favour of the earl of Warwick. All revolts are a possible threat to the king, but the circumstances, the support gained and the consequences determine whether the treat is serious. A rebellion does not have to be successful to be considered a threat.
Undermining the king’s authority, threatening his personal safety, rousing trouble within the nobility and limiting his actions in other areas of his kingship; such consequences of a revolt would suggest it as a serious threat to the monarchy. In agreement with the statement, the frequency of the tax rebellions throughout the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII does suggest that these more seriously threatened the monarchy as they happened more often than the dynastic revolts. Compared with the Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck impostures of 1487 and 1497, the taxation rebellions occurred in 1489, 1497, 1513 and 1525.
Revolts against taxation are always a threat to the king as they ultimately involve money that the government wanted or needed but was unable to get. Tudor governments lacked an army with which to maintain obedience, they therefore needed to persuade or convince their subjects to remain passive through a generally accepted theory of obligation and submission. Making concessions regularly undermines the king’s authority and may have long-term detrimental effects on other areas of government.
The resistance to the Amicable Grant in 1525 had a significant impact on foreign policy as Henry VIII was forced to abandon his schemes in Europe and peace was France was the only course of action. It also affected his ability to tax again later on, because if he had not been dispensing royal land he may not have been able to tax and then to continue with his large scale continental plans. Compromising shows that there are limitations to the Tudor state and that there are restrictions on having an extensive foreign policy, which is overall a threat to the control and authority that the monarch had.
The tax revolts involved an impressive cross section of society and had a great deal of support. The biggest taxation revolts, the Cornish Rebellion and the Amicable Grant, were backed by more of the public than the rebellions with dynastic intentions. The Cornish Rebellion gathered support from the lower gentry and yeoman who were quite important and influential, rather than just the poorest people making it a more serious threat and the numerical scale even surpassed Henry VII’s own usurpation, their numbers reaching 15000.
Bother were the most frightening variety of rebellion for a Tudor monarch: a cry of anger that cross social barriers. Having your gentry rise against you is a serious problem; as the king needed these people to help prevent rebellion, not join it. The sheer amount of people against him was especially threatening during the Cornish Rebellion as Henry was attempting to fight off a dynastic claim from a pretender who was potentially threatening to his throne and so did not need this extra trouble.
The taxation rebellions also suggest a significant weakness in the Tudor state simply because they had the ability to threaten and successfully sustain the threat. Tudor monarchs always found the need for discussion and persuasion to obtain taxes from parliament. But in the event of the Amicable Grant the government proceeded from persuasion to concession in the face of extra-parliamentary opinion. Popular opinion had made a significant impact on foreign policy.
Taxation became an even larger issue from the 1520s because Henry VIII was demanding more money to fight his succession of wars with the French. Foreign policy and taxes were behind most of the Tudor rebellions. During the reign of Henry VII there was a rebellion in Yorkshire that arose from the efforts of the fourth Percy earl of Northumberland to collect the subsidy that year.
For all Henry’s fears of another dynastic attempt this seems to have been a genuine expression of popular anger over war taxation. All reactions against taxation are serious as it could result in the money not being collected and this had consequences elsewhere, it is how the situation is dealt with that determines the long term outcome. The slowless of raising the revenues, the unreliability of Henry VII’s allies and the distraction of the rising delayed Henry’s foreign venture until 1491.
By then Henry’s objectives had changed from defending Breton independence and aggression to making a deal with the French that resulted in the Treaty of Etaples, follwing the lines of Edward IV’s negotiations in 1475. The taxation revolts not only affected the king’s ability to collect revenues but it had consequences in other areas. To fight other dynastic claims Henry has to raise taxes to pay for it. This means that dynastic and taxation rebellions are often interlinked. To fight James IV of Scotland who was harbouring Perkin Warbeck, he taxed Cornwall to raise revenues, the people of which, in turn, rebelled.
The Cornish Revolt meant that Henry was unable to defend as he had wanted to and so James was persuaded to sign a seven-year truce. Henry’s generous terms, peace and the hand of his daughter to James IV might have been influenced by the impact of this revolt and his troubles with pretenders. If Henry had managed to raise the money from Cornwall he may not have had to resort to such conditions, he lost a political tool with the marriage of his daughter, and made clear that his position as king was still not as secure and strong as he would have liked.
The weaknesses that the taxation rebellions highlight are a key element in what makes them a threat. Direct taxation was a significant weakness, as the revolts point to. Direct taxation is an irregular occurrence from an irregular institution of Parliament, and as taxes are not always granted, it does not happen every year. It is granted for the king’s unexpected expenses to enable him to protect the realm and carry out “commonweal functions”. During Henry VII’s reign along, taxation occurred in 1487, 1489, 1490, 1491, 1497 and 1504.
The effects that the taxation had on the economy and the people emphasises the vulnerability of the Tudor state. Taxes were inconvenient and many found them difficult to pay, as they were unable to predict when taxes would happen and so did not budget. Taxes were also usually introduced when the king was in time of crisis, which also meant that the taxpayers were also hitting hard times. Taxation was also disruptive to the local economy as the taxes were paid in silver, which was then sent to London.
This then meant that there was less silver in circulation and so less to trade with, this in turn had a negative effect on the trading industry. The substantial effect that taxation had on the people led to rebellion, and the fact that this could happen at any time the crown needed to tax was very threatening to the authority and freedom of the monarchy, as it restricted what actions the king could take. This is reflected in the Cornish Revolt, which had a major effect on the actions the king could take against James IV who was supporting an impostor.