POLITICS of the Tudor Court

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The King
Henry's crown season 1 episode 1
Personal Monarchy
Government is the response
to the will of ONE man.
"the life, the head, and the authority of all things that be done in this realm of England." ~ Sir Thomas Smith


- Royal authority operated in terms of Royal favour
- Executive authority given to the men the King trusted
- A Struggle for power by competing for the King's favour


FACTION in Tudor England was crucial in Tudor Politics. Throughout history faction is the form politics takes when its focus is the will of one man. Factions can be compared to the political parties of today, however ties in Tudor faction were organic, not idealogical. They emerged from the realities of family relationships (good and bad), friendship & antagonism, locality, sponsorship, upbringing.

Some groupings and antagonisms lasted for years, yet because the ultimate concern was to promote objectives in and through individuals, calculations could alter as circumstances changed. Anne Boleyn's fall was a consequence of precisely such a recalculation among some of her supporters.

However, a Monarch should be able to exploit competition for his favour on the "divide & rule" principle (something Elizabeth I would make into an art form). Henry was always in authority; he was nobody's fool; at times he did lead and he could not be taken for granted. But he was also significantly dependant on those around him.

Factions did not always get their way, but on the right issues and in the right emotional circumstances he was vulnerable and men (& some women) calculated accordingly.[E.Ives]

"Courts are strange, mysterious places; those who pretend most to despise them seek to gain admittance within their precincts; those who obtain an entrance there generally lament their fate, and yet somehow or other cannot break their chains.... Intrigues, jealousies, heart-burnings, lies, dissimulation thrive in [courts] as mushrooms in a hot bed. Nevertheless they are necessary evils, and they afford a great school both for the heart and the head. It is utterly impossible, so long as the world exists, that similar societies should not exist also; and one may as well declaim against every other defect attendant upon human institutions and endeavour to extirpate crime from the world as pretend to put down courts and their concomitant evils" Queen Caroline 1838

Court Factions 1529 - 1547

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Evangelical/Reformist Faction

Anne Boleyn's coronationAnne of Cleves as played by Joss StoneCatherine Parr
Edward Tudor as played by Eoin Murtagh
Princess Elizabeth as played by Laoise Murray
Anne Boleyn

Catherine Parr

& eventually
Edward Tudor
Elizabeth Tudor

Anne of Cleves - although personally a catholic,
Cleves was a member of the Schmalkaldic League
of Protestant Princes
which tied in
with the Evangelical/Reform faction.


Shown on the series:
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Boleyn
George Boleyn
Henry Norris
Thomas Wyatt
Mark Smeaton

Thomas Cromwell switched factions
as it suited him but generally seen as a reformist.

Edward Seymour

Anne Stanhope
Thomas Seymour
Catherine Brandon nee Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk (surname Brooke in the series)

Not shown on the series:

Richard Page
Frances Weston
William Carey ( Husband of Mary Boleyn)
Sir Thomas Cheney

Sir William Cecil
Sir Nicolas Throckmorton William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke
Conservative/Catholic Faction
Origins go back to Henry VII and also referred to as "Aragonese", "the Stafford-Neville" & later "the Neville-Courtenay" connection & would last many centuries
katherine Howard as played by Tamzin MerchantTudor Court Politics - The Tudors WikiKatherine of Aragon's crown
Princess Mary Tudor


Katherine of Aragon
Mary Tudor

Jane Seymour
Katherine Howard

Shown on the series:

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey whose downfall was
orchestrated by the Boleyn faction at court

and alrhough politics always came first,
was a catholic conservative.

Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham
Sir Thomas More
Princess Margaret Tudor (Mary Tudor - Henry's sister)
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Ambassador Chapuys
Pope Paul III
Charles V
Lady Salisbury - Margaret Pole
Lord Darcy
Reginald Pole
John Seymour
Henry Pole, Lord Montague
Bishop Stephen Gardiner Thomas Wriothesley (Risley)

Francis Bryan - switched factions as it suited him

Henry Fitzroy - Henry's illegitimate son
had his own faction until his early death
but generally conservative

Not shown on the series:
Sir Nicholas Carewe (one of Anne Boleyn's bitterest enemies)
George Neville,

Lord Burgavenny
Sir Edward Neville
Henry Courtenay, Earl of Devon
Lord Thomas Hussey

<embed allowfullscreen="true" height="340" src="http://widget.wetpaintserv.us/wiki/thetudorswiki/widget/youtubevideo/e2cc579401905d1a8de09cf21c609cc9475b0331" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" wmode="transparent"/>
Experts discuss how politics worked in Henry VIII's Tudor England
[source: <a class="external" href="http://www.youtube.com/user/HistoricRoyalPalaces" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">HistoricRoyalPalaces</a>May 22, 2009]

  1. GR Elton, Reform and reformation
  2. EW Ives, Faction in Tudor England (Historical Association pamphlet)
  3. David Starkey 'The age of the household' in Stephen Medcalf, ed, The later middle ages
  4. JJ Scarisbrick, Henry VIII
  5. David Starkey, The reign of Henry VIII: personalities and politics
  6. GR Elton, The Tudor revolution in government
  7. C Coleman and D Starkey, eds., Revolution reassessed: revisions in the history of Tudor government and administration
  8. D MacCulloch, ed., The reign of Henry VIII. Politics, policy and piety
  9. J Guy ed., The Tudor monarchy
  10. G. W. Bernard, Power and Politics in Tudor England. 2000
  11. John McGurk ed., The Tudor Monarchies, 1485-1603 CUP 1999
  12. GR Elton 'Tudor Government: the points of contact: III The Court', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 1976
  13. M Girouard, Life in the English country house
  14. David Starkey 'Representation through Intimacy' in Joan Lewis, ed, Symbols and sentiments
  15. JA Murphy 'Popinjays or professionals: officers and ministers of the mid-Tudor household', Exeter Studies in History, 1981
  16. Richard Rex, The Tudors, Stroud 2002
  17. G Bernard 'The rise of Sir William Compton, early Tudor courtier' English Historical Review, 96 (1981)
  18. G Bernard, The power of the early Tudor nobility: a study of the fourth and fifth earls of Shrewsbury
  19. GR Elton, 'Politics and the Pilgrimage of Grace' in B Malament, ed, After the Reformation (also in Elton's Studies in Tudor and Stuart politics and government, vol 3)
  20. EW Ives, Letters and Accounts of William Brereton of Malpas, Record society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 116 (1976)
  21. EW Ives, 'Faction at the court of Henry VIII: the fall of Anne Boleyn' History 57 (1972)
  22. JA Guy, The public career of Sir Thomas More
  23. David Starkey 'Igtham Mote: Politics and architecture in early Tudor England' Archaeologia, 107 (1981) -- summarized in History Today 30 (1980)
  24. Narasingha Prosad Sil 'The rise and fall of Sir John Gates' Historical Journal 24 (1981)
  25. David Starkey 'The political structure of early Tudor England' in M Falkus and J Gillingham, eds, Historical Atlas of Great Britain
  26. Diane Willen, John Russell, first earl of Bedford: one of the king's men
  27. David Starkey 'From feud to faction: English politics c.1450- c.1550' History Today 32, (1982)
  28. David Starkey 'Court, council, and nobility in Tudor England', in RG Asch and AM Burke ed., Princes, patronage and the nobility.