To some extent, there was a Mid-Tudor Crisis between 1547 to 1558 but arguably the crisis was not mainly due to the Mid-Tudors- Edward VI and Mary I but due to long-term problems left over by Henry VIII. He left the government with huge sums of debt as well as an unstable foreign policy which put the young Edward in a difficult situation.
Moreover, rebellions that took place under Edward VI and Mary I were not as serious as other rebellions under Henry VIII such as the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 which threatened national security and the throne more than the rebellions of 1549 and the Wyatt rebellion of 1544 as well as the Spanish Armada in 1588 under Elizabeth’s reign which has been branded as a ‘golden age’ although suffering a far bigger threat to national security and a large risk of invasion.
Therefore, although there was much economic and social instability during Edward and Mary’s reigns this is not necessarily a crisis as all Tudor monarchs suffered from unrest and some had it worse thus the ‘Mid Tudor Crisis’ seems to have been exaggerated.
Although it was evident that Henry VIII was at the root of the financial problems, Somerset, Edward’s advisor exacerbated them which arguably displays a Mid-Tudor crisis with the rate of inflation continuing to rapidly increase during Somerset’s time. His continued pursuit of an aggressive foreign policy and war against Scotland meant he was forced to continue the debasement of the coinage which heightened inflationary pressures.
Therefore, creating an economic crisis that led to two simultaneous rebellions in 1549. For many historians, 1549 was the worst year in the Tudor period with these two massive rebellions. The Western rebellion which was caused predominately due to religious changes but also had underlying social and economic grievances rose from Cornwall and Devon. Rebels demanded a reversal of religious reform and displayed their grievances towards taxation and resentment of the sheep tax of 1548.
Moreover, the Kett’s rebellion which had limited religious influence and was mainly due to social and economic problems saw 3,000 rebels display their hatred of local government officials and their frustration at the failure of the government to stop enclosures.
However, although these rebellions display growing mistrust between the people and the monarchy and show the extent of social and economic crisis these rebellions were crushed easily and did not threaten national security as well as the throne as much as other rebellions which had already taken place under Henry VIII such as the pilgrimages of Grace in 1536 which was a far greater threat. Moreover, under the more pragmatic time of Northumberland as Edward’s advisor, there were no rebellions showing improvement in social stability thus the Mid-Tudor crisis seems to have been exaggerated.
Moreover, later on in Edward’s reign and under his advisor Northumberland, although the economic problems continued with the rising population leading to more pressures on food supplies and the poor harvests in the early 1550s made food even more expensive as well as the suffering trade with the Netherlands in 1551 due to problems in Antwerp thus showing a continuation of Mid- Tudor economic crisis, Northumberland helped fix these problems and later on Mary also helped with the improvement of England’s economy thus preparing England’s economy for future monarchs specifically Elizabeth.
Some of the policies that were introduced to help the situation was repealing the sheep tax of 1548 and anti-enclosure legislation was passed to protect arable farming. Moreover, Northumberland was clever and pragmatic in his foreign policy and stopped the aggressive foreign policy of Edward’s early reign by stopping the war against Scotland helping him focus on domestic issues. He sold Boulogne back to France for £133,333 which helped the crown’s finances.
Moreover, Northumberland put William Cecil and Thomas Gresham in charge of the financial planning and this included the sale of the chantry lands, borrowing money from European bankers, and reversing the debasement of the coinage by adding more silver content thus helping with the revival of the economy and stopping the Mid-Tudor crisis from escalating further. This, therefore, shows that although to an extent there was a Mid-Tudor economic crisis whose root cause was Henry VIII’s poor economics, the Mid-Tudor monarchs were vital in helping revive the economy ready for the future.
During Mary I’s reign a Mid-Tudor economic crisis is even less apparent. She continued Northumberland and Edward’s policies of improving the damaged economy. So, although inflation continued with the debasement of the coinage and the harvest failures in 1555 and 1556 leading to a shortage of food and a strain on wages for the poor she helped improve the financial administration ready for Elizabeth. She introduced a number of reforms in 1553 to help tackle the economic problems. The Court of Exchequer took over both the Court of First Fruit and Tenths and the Court of Augmentations.
Financial administration was also under the Lord Treasurer, Winchester who was extremely competent. She also introduced a new Book of Rates in 1558 and this also helped improve crown income from customs duties and was very useful for Elizabeth later on. Therefore, Mary managed to increase long-term financial security of the crown-making her a vital Mid-Tudor monarch in helping England’s economy thus making the Mid-Tudor crisis seem exaggerated.
However, moving on to Mary’s government and foreign policy, there seems to be a crisis due to unrest and continued failures in foreign policy and government. Her marriage to a foreign king; Philip of Spain caused unrest as people weren’t trusting of foreigners specifically someone who could become their king. However, this was less of a problem as Mary managed to smartly control the situation by limiting Philip’s powers.
She did this by allowing him to only hold the title of ‘king; and was not permitted to hold English offices also if Mary was to die, he would no longer have a claim to the English throne. However, there were other problems surrounding her accession to the throne as she was not raised to rule and was the first female monarch making it hard for her to gain support. Even her loyal supporters had little experience, so she had to rely on those who served Edward’s, and this caused instability in her reign due to the lack of trust between her and the government.
Furthermore, she appointed 50 councilors which led to factional rivalries and an inefficient government causing her further problems. This alongside her foreign policy displays the validity of the view of a Mid-Tudor crisis to an extent. Although she improved the military and the navy and had 6 new ships built and others repaired with a navy budget of £14,000, she was dragged into unnecessary wars due to her marriage which put a strain on domestic problems. She was forced into the Franco-Spanish war and in January 1558 England lost Calais- a humiliating loss due to the length of time England had held onto this colony.
The failures of foreign policy continued with the 1558 summer attack on Brest which was also another failure thus showing a Mid-Tudor crisis as this ultimately led to opposition. An early example of opposition was the Wyatt Rebellion from 1553 to 1554 which was due to unrest with her marriage and her reversal of religious reforms as well as the poor economic situation with the decline in the cloth industry.
The rebellion saw 3,000 men rebelling and it was mainly a protestant rebellion as most of Wyatt’s supporters came from Maidstone, a strong protestant stronghold. This alongside the policy of persecution that Mary followed by reviving the Heresy laws in 1554 leading to 289 protestant burnings including Cranmer thus leading to her being nicknamed ‘Bloody Mary’ as well as increased opposition towards the catholic reforms as many of the victims were made into public heroes.
Therefore this social unrest to an extent shows a crisis, however, the view of it being a Mid-Tudor crisis that was the worst the Tudor period faced is not convincing enough as this type of social unrest was seen throughout the Tudor period, and if anything was worse during the reign of Henry VII and Henry VIII with the pretenders and the pilgrimages of Grace which were a far greater threat towards England’s social stability, the throne as well as national security.
Overall, to some extent, there was a crisis in the Mid-Tudor period specifically in foreign policy under Mary’s reign and the increased rebellions in both Edward’s and Mary’s reign. However, those rebellions were crushed easily and did not threaten the throne and national security as much as other rebellions under other monarchs have already done thus making it hard to claim that the Mid-Tudor crisis was the worst crisis of the Tudor period.
Moreover, although the economic situation was poor, the root cause for this was Henry VIII’s poor decision making rather than the Mid-Tudors themselves and if anything, they helped revive the economy making it easier for future monarchs to fix it even further. Therefore, the view that there was a Mid-Tudor crisis in the years 1547 to 1558 is not valid.
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