Select Cases in the Council of Henry VII

Select Cases in the Council of Henry VII

Select Cases in the Council of Henry VII

Select Cases in the Council of Henry VII


The work of Henry VII's Council was partly administrative and partly judicial. It consisted in advising the King on any subject on which he consulted it, carrying out his orders in various departments of executive government, sitting in judgment on transgressors who were not amenable to the ordinary law, and adjudicating as the King's delegates on the civil disputes of his subjects.The activities of the Council are recorded in sources of four kinds: --

1. references in contemporary histories and diplomatic correspondence,

2. extracts made in the sixteenth century from registers that are not now extant,

3. pleadings in several hundred suits between private parties,

4. the book of Orders and Decrees of the Court of Requests.

Of these four classes the third and fourth are concerned with the judicial work of the Council in the Courts of Star Chamber and Requests. It will be convenient to defer reference to them till later. The first consists of a few passages in Polydore Vergil's history 1 and a few remarks in the despatches of Spanish, Milanese and Venetian ambassadors. The second furnishes almost all the information that we possess of the composition of the Council and of its operations as an instrument of government. In the reign of Henry VII its proceedings were entered in volumes that are not now extant. When they were lost is matter of doubt. In a memorandum on the Privy Council written in 1625 Sir Julius Cæsar, privy councillor and antiquary, stated that the early volumes had disappeared. His words are 'But as there were none left in the end of Q. Elizabeth's dayes more auncient then 36 of H. the 8 his reigne 2; so in the time of King James of blessed memory by occasion of the sudden fier wh consumed the banquetting howse at Whitehall manie of those bookes are perished.'3 William Mill, on the other hand, who was clerk of the Star Chamber from 1587 to 1608, referred to the Register in 1590 as then in existence and in his custody. He says 'until! of very late tyme even untill . . .

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