Monday, March 28, 2011

Question from Colleen - Nobility paying taxes

Did nobility (under Mary I, specifically) pay taxes to the Crown or were they exempt for any particular reason?


Foose said...

Taxation policy, both Tudor and modern, is a difficult subject. I can give you some tentative information, after consulting various sources.

According to Joseph S. Block's "The Rise of the Tudor State," an essay in A Companion to Tudor Britain, eds. Robert Tittler and Norman Leslie Jones, "Taxation took two different forms. A system of levying tenths and fifteenths on moveable property had been in effect from early in the fourteenth century. This was an indirect tax that charged a fifteenth of the value of rural property and a tenth of the value of urban property. All land was exempt. Values had been fixed in 1334 and remained about at the same level nearly two centuries later. The advantage of the system lay in the fact that it provided a simple tax with a fixed yield on communities rather than individuals."

Although apparently many have believed nobles were exempt from the tenths and fifteenths, actually they were not. In Taxation under the early Tudors, 1485-1547, Roger Schofield notes that “formally, the peerage together with the whole lay population was liable to the fifteenth and the tenth. Yet it is quite possible that the Lords and other privileged groups managed, by virtue of their social position, to avoid paying their full share of local assessments.” This became apparent after the taxes were first initiated. Schofield: "The same suggestion, that the ‘greate Estates’ were not contributing to the fifteenth and the tenth, appears at the beginning of the sixteenth century."

Possibly this was the reason that Wolsey introduced the subsidy system. The tenth and fifteenth were levied with the consent of Parliament and brought in about 30,000 pounds (Schofield), but Henry had a lot of expenses from his military ventures early in the reign, and so, according to Block, "Wolsey brought forward a plan between 1512 and 1515 for direct taxation based on assessments of the current wealth of individuals." (This also required the consent of Parliament.) This subsidy was accompanied by a preamble that specifically suggested that the nobles and gentlemen should make more of an effort to pay. Subsidies were henceforth a fixture of Henry's reign, and continued through Edward and Mary's.

With relation to Mary Tudor's reign, the key fact is that the Crown was obliged to seek a number of subsidies owing to inherited debts and Philip's wars. This was not popular. There is apparently a document from the Privy Council to Philip, after the loss of Calais, explaining that more money will probably not be forthcoming for a number of reasons, including:

“The noblemen and gentlemen, for the most part receiving no more rent than they were wont to receive, and paying thrice as much for every thing they provide, by reason of the baseness of the money [i.e., devaluation], are not able to do as they have done in times past.”

David Loades suggests that Mary alienated the "great middle" of Tudor noblemen and gentry by factional politics, and possibly the subsidy/taxation policy had a great deal to do with it. They were annoyed at being asked for more money when Mary had deliberately alienated the Crown's ecclesistical property acquired under Henry VIII, reducing her own resources, and apprehensive about being dragged financially into the never-ending Habsburg-Valois wars. Along with Schofield's work and Block's essay, I would recommend looking at Loades' The Reign of Mary Tudor and Jennifer Loach's Parliament and the Crown in the Reign of Mary Tudor.

Colleen said...

Wow - Foose, thank you so much! Excellent answer, as always. I truly appreciate you doing all that work for me!