Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Question from Diane - Regent v. Lord Protector

What was the difference between a Regent, such as Margaret Beaufort, Catherine of Aragon and Catherine Parr were; and a Lord Protector, such as Edward Seymour was? Was Edward more accountable to Parliament than the Regents? And since Margaret and Edward were acting in place of minors who did not have full authority yet, would both Queen Catherines have been more powerful because they were acting in the name of a sovereign king?


PhD Historian said...

Margaret Beaufort was "regent" during the first ten weeks of the reign of her grandson Henry VIII, but in name only, according to Eric Ives. Henry VII's surviving council held actual power and even carried out a kind of "coup" that undid many of Henry VII's policies. Her power during those ten weeks was probably somewhat less than that of the two Katherines in later years.

Catherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr each served as regent for Henry VIII during Henry's brief absences from England. They were appointed by an adult monarch for a short period of time while the monarch himself was outside the realm. They were charged with safeguarding the realm during the period of their regency, and empowered to act in the king's behalf. The monarch's return to the realm automatically terminated their regency.

Edward Seymour, on the other hand, was appointed by a council, not by the monarch he actually served. His period of office was intended initially to be for many years, until Edward would have attained his majority in 1555. His Protectorship, had it continued, would have been terminated by a formal declaration that Edward was fully adult and in full possession of his regal powers.

But most significantly, Seymour was charged with protecting the physical person of the underaged Edward. The title of "Protector," as it was used in England, typically involved literal physical protection of a minor (Edward V, Edward VI) or mentally impaired (Henry VI) monarch. Regents were tasked with protecting the realm, while the duty of protecting a minor monarch often fell to a separate individual or even a group. This was especially true in the case of female regents for minor male monarchs. Women were not considered sufficiently capable of physically protecting anyone, including themselves, and thus could not serve as "Protectors." Early drafts of Edward VI's Devise for the Succession envisioned a female regent supported and guided by a large council of male "protectors."

Summarizing briefly, Regents are appointed by a sitting monarch, usually for relatively brief periods of time, and they protect the realm rather than the monarch him- or herself. Lord Protectors are appointed by a council, usually for longer periods of office, and they protect both the realm and the physical person of the monarch.

PhD Historian said...

Addendum: In respect to your specific question about relative powers, Margaret Beaufort had less power than each of the others. Catherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr each held significant power as regents, though less than the full power of the Crown, largely because their term in office was intended to be short. Seymour, however, held full regal authority, greater than that of a temporary regent, largely because he was intended to serve for almost a decade. Of the four you named, Seymour held the most power during his term in office.

Foose said...

I don't know whether anyone can answer this, but I've been interested in some time in whether Henry VIII deliberately modelled his early monarchy on that of Edward III, with particular reference to Catherine of Aragon's regency.

There are many parallels and reasons for why Henry would want to do this: Edward III was just about the last uncontroversial king of England (barring, maybe, Henry V), before the conflict of the Wars of the Roses. Henry VIII may have wanted to restore that "golden age" of Edward's rule (for much of his life) -- emulating his invasion of France; his assignment of the regency to Catherine of Aragon (his queen, Philippa of Hainault, succeeded in capturing the Scots king, while Catherine of Aragon's forces killed him); his efforts to concilate the divisions of the previous reign; the elaborate pardoning of the rebellious apprentices (like the pardoning of the Burghers of Calais, only Henry had 3 queens on hand, rather than Edward's one).

If this was Henry's model for his monarchy, it may have foundered on Catherine's lack of successful fertility; Philippa of Hainault had numerous living sons while Catherine had only a daughter.