Tudor Placemen and Statesmen: Select Case Histories

Tudor Placemen and Statesmen: Select Case Histories

Tudor Placemen and Statesmen: Select Case Histories

Tudor Placemen and Statesmen: Select Case Histories


This study uses the lives of four Tudor officials who were personal servants of the monarch- Sir Thomas Heneage, Sir Anthony Denny, Sir John Gates, and Sir William Herbert- to demonstrate the inertia of personal monarchy in spite of Thomas Cromwell's reform and reorganization of government. It also investigates the link between a courtier and a councilor, between a king's or queens's man and a statesman.


Self-protection is the foremost and constant consideration of
a wise man. [For] the life of the man in the service of a king
is compared to the life in fire.

—Kauṭilya (c. 350–275 B. C.)

In spite of the momentous reorganization of the royal household and council in 1536, Tudor government remained centered, as always, on the person of the monarch. There never was any clear-cut division of the arena of politics and government— between the court as the hub of politics and the privy council or the great council as the sphere of government. The line of demarcation between the two spheres tends to become blurred when individual biographies of the Tudor servants are considered. “Institutional history, however accurate in details, becomes meaningless,” Walter Richardson warned long ago, “when separated from the dominant personalities of the period who gave it life and color.” And such a study, while revealing the messy and confusing reality of Tudor politics and government, also provides some understanding of the changing nature and structure of administrative and governmental institutions. Even though the decade 1547 to 1558 witnessed the rule of an ailing boy followed by that of his depressed and sickly sister resulting in the ascendancy of the influential politicians in chamber and council, there was never a time when the monarch’s influence was totally eclipsed. Admittedly during this period of eleven years policy did not always emanate from the Crown, but it invariably did from those who had the closest access to and the greatest influence on the person of the monarch.

This persistence of monarchical influence and power in Tudor government highlights the odyssey of the royal servants who had to operate with considerable finesse in a world that was at once uncharitable and unprincipled. The problem was most acute for those who were most familiar with the monarch. No doubt, as the . . .

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