When was the ‘New Monarchy’ in Medieval England?

‘New Monarchy’ and the Tudor Revolution in Government

What is “New Monarchy’?

‘New Monarchy’ is a term used to describe the monarch’s consolidation of power by unifying their respective nations, creating a stabilised and central government. The term was created by J.R. Green, an English historian, in 1893 and refined by A.F. Pollard, another English historian, in 1910. ‘New Monarchy’s’ definition can of course be used in terms of any monarchy worldwide, and indeed it is; however, its original use was to describe the take-over of the Tudors from the Plantagenets in 1485. The term became a contentious area of historical debate after 1953, however. Geoffrey Elton, a German-British historian, did not dispute the term ‘New Monarchy’ but rather argued it should not reference the change in monarchy in 1485 but rather be attributed to the Tudor revolution in Government in the 1530s. The key question I will look to answer therefore, is whether the term ‘New Monarchy’ should be placed in reference to the Tudor revolution of government in the 1530s as opposed to the changing of the monarchy in 1485. Before going on to discuss this, I think it is important to briefly think about how useful the term ‘New Monarchy’ is. It is important to recognise that this is a very elastic term in that it encompasses a range of different changes and dynamics in different countries and regions. With a historical mindset it is essential to consider the specific context and nuances of each monarchy when applying this concept and be aware that whilst it is a useful framework for understanding shifts in Governance and Power, it can oversimplify the complexities of individual historical situations.

The Tudor Revolution of Government

In this article, I will argue the case for the 1530s being considered when this term ‘New Monarchy’ should be established and leave the reader to dispute with themselves over their agreement. I will be arguing that the reforms of the 1530s, succeeded in obtaining that continuity which makes modern government, there was a deliberate application of one principle and pronounced success in applying that principle (I will go on to say what principle I am referring to here) justify seeing the 1530s administrative revolution as the ‘New Monarchy’.

Geoffrey Elton’s reasoning for the 1530s being considered a ‘New Monarchy’ (and the principle I was referring to above) was that every organisation that took place was in the direction of greater definition, of specialisation, of bureaucratic order. Those opponents to my view will be jumping to say that despite this reasoning of success in the 1530s, from 1540 to 1558 the government was generally considered to be a failing one. It is here that I shall add one of the criteria for why the 1530s is so important is that it created longer-term effects than a small blip in failing government immediately after its enaction more or less because no man was able to fill the shoes of Thomas Cromwell as exchequer. After the administrative efforts of the 1530s, we can see that no serious administrative organisational changes took place until the joint monarchy of 1688 over 150 years later suggesting the longevity of success these reforms created.

Now to look at what happened in the 1530s; there was the creation of the Court of Augmentations 1536 which involved the financial administration of the seized assets from the Dissolution of the Monasteries; the Court of General Surveyors centralising and increasing the crown’s role; the creation of the Court of First Fruits and Tenths 1540 establishing control over the church with the collection of tithes; the Act of Union 1540 merging Wales and England; finally the Proclamation of Royal Injunctions 1536 enforcing clerical adherence to royal authority. So, after I have dumped this list into this article, I find it conclusive that the 1530s were the ‘New Monarchy’ this is where the definition of a stable and centralised government seems most conducive. However, this is not a forgone conclusion and is still debated in historiographical circles today, so do you agree? Or, stepping back, do you even find the term ‘New Monarchy’ useful at all?

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