Friday, January 18, 2013

Question from Laura - Political machinations of Court

Greetings, I just found this blog the other day and I have been having a wonderful time reading through the old entries! It seems like this might be the place to ask for help with something I've been looking for.

I'd like to read more about the political machinations/intrigue of the court. That is to say, how the struggle for lands, offices, titles, royal favor, etc., played out. Most of what I have read thus far confines itself to a bare statement about powershifts and a laundry list of awards given -- e.g. "Then the Seymours rose to power and Edward Seymour was appointed..." But what I am interested in is more process than result: how they went about engineering their rise and their rivals' falls.

I'd be particularly interested in cases that don't revolve around putting potential queens in HVIII's bed. Something during the other Tudor reigns, or in the early days when CoA was still secure, perhaps?

I have been trying to get my hands on a copy of Ives' "Faction In Tudor England" which sounds promising for what I'm interested in, but have not run across much else in that direction. Does anyone here have recommendations?

Many thanks!


tudor princess said...

I think both Starkey and Ives agree that court faction during the reign of Henry VIII developed mainly as a result of the Great Matter. Although it existed before, Henry's annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, led to more divisive factions at court.

A good read on this is David Starkey's The Reign of Henry VIII - Personalities and Politics. It covers the early part of his reign but also provides a masterly picture of the faction-fighting that characterized the last years of his reign. The account of how Edward Seymour and Paget fiddled Henry's original will to power-grab is a wonderful tale.

It is also widely illustrated and makes a lively read!

shtove said...

Faction is treated like an institution, but by its nature it must have been very fluid - therefore the historical model relies on a lot of assumptions.

If you take faction as simply the politics of the self-interested, it doesn't particularly apply to the Tudor era.

If you do take it as an institution, then it was a court institution - therefore you can't get away from the support/ opposition relative to the monarch.

If you take it as a Tudor institution, the clearest example outside of H8's reformation period is Essex v Cecil under Elizabeth I. That covers about 10 years, and in the end involves putting James VI on the English throne and making peace with Spain.

Sorry, just thinking through the logic of it.

John Guy gives the bones of a useful lecture on the subject here:

He's sceptical of the faction analysis, but he's also creating a narrative of something that's impossible to know.

My view is that analysis of Tudor faction is mostly speculation in need of an economic analysis - and we'll never have the economic data to explain the deep moving force of Tudor politics.

kb said...

I think the word faction needs to be viewed as something fluid as well. I am not convinced faction was institutional. Faction was more often based on kinship networks.

There is a great letter I found in the British Library from Frances Howard, new countess of Kildare to Julius Caesar the judge of the admiralty court that starts with this revealing line: "Having procured my good Lord father's assent for granting of the office of Admiralty in Ireland unto my lord my husband agreeable...." and then goes on to say that she thought it best to let Caesar know so the paperwork could be completed.

Frances Howard was 16 and newly married. Her father was Charles Howard, baron Effingham and Lord High Admiral. This is a clear example of the 'political' machinations' of achieving office as an outgrowth of personal relationships. It is unclear if the bridegroom pressured his bride into persuading her father or if it was the bride's own idea - which I suspect.

The answers you are looking for are best found in the state papers of the years you are interested in. The letter above is from July 1589 and is in the archives but there are plenty of readily available printed primary sources if you have the time to slog through looking for clues.

The books on faction somehow always leave me cold. Mostly I think because they do not seem to describe how the faction came into being. The only answer I have is kinship networks and patronage.