196 England at the Dawn of the Tudor Age

Tudor EnglandEngland in 1485 was at once a deeply traditional medieval society.  And yet poised at the edge of change – economic, social, religious and political. The 16th century would see profound changes presided over by one dynasty – the Tudors.






Download Podcast - 196 England at the Dawn of the Tudor Age (Right Click and select Save Link As)


And for some reason, and few ramblings from me.




Welcome to the history of England, episode196 -dawn…other wise known as 5.1, because
This is the start of the series of podcasts on Tudor England, a period which seems to be a lot of people’s favourite. And to be fair, I understand why. It is of fundamental importance in the formation of the English state, in political, administrative and religious terms. It is peopled with glittering and fascinating figures, and the politics and society of the court of Henry VIII is never other than compelling. It is also a time when at last we have a bit more time to talk about and understand the individuals involved. A historian once remarked to me that the early modern period is the perfect period for study; there are enough records and evidence to paint a compelling picture, but no so much as to overwhelm.
In social terms, this is the glory day of the Republic of the parish; self government at the king’s command, monarchical republics as they have been called. And meanwhile population growth from midway in the century leads to a lot of change – though honestly we cover more of that in Sries 6m, so hold your horses on that.
Because I have split the Tudor age into Early and late, and Series 5 is the earlies, 1485 to 1554 – after all, no one is interested in what happened in the middle, and indeed as Kaa the snake says in Disney’s Jungle book, there’s nothing in the middle. I’ve been waiting years to squeeze in that quote, finally made it. Share the joy with me.
Of course such a split is a bit arbitrary; it means I can go boy-girl, planting the Henries and the boy king Edward first, as earlies, then the usurper queen Mary and Good Queen Bess in the Main Crop. You get the Tudors as tubers here on the History of England.
So in the Earlies we start of course with 14 episodes on Henry VII, a king with a bad reputation for tyranny; but from whom I might ask, and for what reason? Henry VII was the most medieval of the Tudors, and had the same struggle with legitimacy as did Henry IV; how he managed that is a fascinating story. We also meet a dynamic duo in Empson and Dudley, Henry’s hatchet men.
Henry starts the Tudor love affair with talented First ministers; Henry VII was blessed with the inventor of a particular type of Fork, John Morten; the next up is Cardinal Wolsey, to be followed by Thomas Cromwell, men of enormous talents. And what to say about their master Henry VIII that hasn’t already been said? His reign is of course not only a massive hooley and riot of intrigue and glamour, but also laced with outrage, and in his version of reformation of extraordinary significance to England’s history.
There is so much in Henry’s reign, that it takes 46 episodes, 210-255, to get through the stories of the personalities like Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cranmer and so on, as well as the Reformation. Which brings us to the real Reformation – the ruke of the Boy King, Edward VI and Thomas Cranmer’s heyday. Not that Edward’s story just Reformation; Both Henry VIII and Edwrad’s reign are marked by a series of conservative, popular uprisings – notably the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, episodes 234 & 5, and the Year of Camps, 1549, and the story of Robert Kett and the Reformation Tree, in episode 259. There’s also a members shedcast on Robert Kett, should you choose to sign up.
Edward’s death is followed shortly by one of the most tragic stories in England’s royal history, the story of Lady Jane Grey, the 9 day Queen. This podcast takes the view that it was Mary, not Jane, that was the usurper, and we push the boat out. I did a series of 9 short episodes that follow each day of Jane’s reign, The image of the Duke of Northumberland in the market place in Cambridge is one of my defining images of the Tudor period. And that is where we leave series five.
So, that is enough introduction for the 77 episodes of Series 5, the early Tudors, episodes 196 to 282. Now back to the Podcasts.

As you will realise from last week, I am in scene setting mode. No doubt you are impatient for me to get on with the Tudor years that fascinate so many of us; and yet I find myself unwilling to take that first step – even though we start with the least well known of all of them in Henry VII. I feel the need to linger on the doorstep of medieval England and the Modern age.

Nope, sadly I have to ask you to indulge me in my desire to set the scene, make sure we are all at the same point in the story about where England is in the scheme of things. Also, I did wonder if there are folks out there who give not a tinker’s curse about medieval England and only start getting excited when the Tudors appear. If so, I thought it would only be polite of me to give those folks a place to start. Start here.
Last time I therefore tried to give you an idea of the European political world in which England sat – and its rather peripheral position in it. This week I want to do that with the state in which England finds itself in social terms at the start of what is called by Historians, despite constant backbiting about it, the early Modern age. I should stop apologising, but one more; most of what I talk about today we will probably have covered elsewhere; but let me try and pull it together and summarise it.
Let’s start with a little survey of the British Isles, and more specifically England. To say that the British Isles is composed broadly of 4 peoples is going to upset somebody somewhere, and I expect comments. I expect God’s own country of Yorkshire to run up a flag somewhere and digitally burn the History of England podcast in the streets; I expect the Cornish to fiercely point out that they can trace their descent straight back to the pre Roman Conquest Dumnonii and Cornovii and don’t tar us with the brush of that Anglo Saxon stuff. I expect the folks of Norfolk to look up and realise with some surprise that there’s a country called England attached to their western borders. And so on. But forgive me, gentle listeners, and allow me to summarise.
So we have the Welsh in the West of the Island of Britain; or I should say Cymru, Welsh being an Anglo Saxon word for foreigner, since Wales retained her independence for many centuries after the Anglo Saxon migrations. The Welsh are pretty much part of the Kingdom of England after the wars of Edward I, though legally this is a process not completed until 1542. The Welsh retain their own very distinct laws and customs, and they are a people much discriminated against by the English and by English law. Along the border with England lie a number of very powerful lordships called the Marches, where the lords there have rights pretty much at the level of local kings, responsible only on a personal basis to the king of England. They are a hangover from the days of Billy the Conq, who needed men to fight the then independent Welsh.
In the north, where men are still men and women are still women and furry creatures and so on, is the independent Kingdom of Scotland. Their independence has of course been a matter of some debate during the times of Edward I, who decided to muck up a perfectly decent relationship by ignoring the agreement Richard I made for 10,000 nicker with William the Lion that Scotland was no longer subject to the English crown. The result was the declaration of Arbroath, a document stirring enough to almost make you want to be Scottish
…for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself
By golly that’s good isn’t it? From that time, until 1707. England was sadly separated from the land of the Forfar Bridie. During the debate and referendum on Scottish Independence my mate Jimmy said he’d seen a bloke in Slough saying he thought it’d be a shame, because borders create conflict. Wow I thought, that guy has a brain the size of a large orbital satellite, and if you want evidence look at the border between England and Scotland, what the English call the northern marches. That is bandit country ladies and gentlemen. The borders are ill defined – there was an area called the debateable land for example – and the families and clans are organised for constant warfare; they are even called the reivers, and if you want to know more you can go to episode 156. This is wild, beautiful, highland country. Once again, the lords there and the wardens of the Northern Marches have special powers and rights. The kings in the North, the Percy family, ruling from Harry Potter’s castle at Alnwick are absolutely indispensable, part of the soil – king after king was forced to reinstate them after they caused some trouble because the north could not be ruled without them. The vast Bishopric of Durham also had palatine powers, and the astoundingly fantastic Norman cathedral in Durham, ‘half church of God, half castle against the scot; as our lad Walter described it.
And then Ireland across the Irish sea to the west. Ireland is a deeply divided land; the Normans when they came to conquer the English came also to conquer Ireland because that was their thing. But the conquest of Ireland went only so far. So at the start of Tudor times, the area directly controlled by the English crown is a pretty tiny area around Dublin, called the Pale, from the Latin palus, a stake, post. The descendants of the original Norman invaders are now called the Anglo Irish, and they are semi-autonomous, with great lordships in many parts of the Island. They have married into the local Irish population, and adopted many of their customs and dress. And meanwhile the original, gaelic Irish lords effectively control much of Ireland too; the local customs and laws and ways of living remain very much in place. So although the king in England describes himself as king of Ireland, it’s a pretty optimistic claim.
And so we come to England. I can’t go into all the regions of England, but there are maybe a couple of fault lines. One is topography; the north and west of England is broadly speaking an upland zone, with the associated characteristics of more pastoral farming. In the South, midlands and east is lowland, where arable farming had traditionally pre-dominated. The second fault line is north and south. Although the dividing line these days is often the river Trent, the River Humber is probably more accurate in our time. By our period, English kings rarely now travel up there – Richard III was quite an exception in this regard. As his reign showed, there is suspicion between the south and north even then.
Having said that, for the vast majority of the population, daily life and what really matters is not an affinity to the distant king in London, the seat of government. It is about their own lord and locality; in a time of difficult and slow communication, where the remnants of the 1500 year old roman roads are still the fastest land routes, most people travel but little; so all regions have their own dialect and customs.
Despite that, by comparison with most of Europe, England is a highly centralised and integrated kingdom, far more so than say France for example, and Germany, well, Germany is a right old hotch potch. And don’t get me started on Italy. Central government after the conquest had been largely peripatetic, a few folks travelling around with the king; by the Tudor age the vast majority is now centred firmly in Westminster to the west of London and has grown considerable – though a tiny fraction of course to that which we’d recognise now; and the king is also much less mobile that they had been. The Tudor age will see a further transformation of the way government is conducted, and it’s one of the reasons why historians have seen 1485 as a watershed between medieval and modern eras.
At the top of government and society sat the king of course; and we have come a long way from the tribal leader of the AS migrations; we have come quite a long way from Henry II too, from the days when a king was essentially first amongst equals, and his court was on the road all the time touring the kingdom. By Henry VII’s time the king’s will is still paramount, and the king is a theocratic institution – directly blessed and anointed by God; for example, English kings would touch for the king’s evil, apparently a god given ability to cure scrofula. No one is arguing for a constitutional monarchy – they’d have looked at you like a dog whose bone you have hidden. Confused. Deeply hurt. Betrayed. None the less, there are some areas where kings realise and accept they have an absolute responsibility. They have to consult regularly with their great men – their lords. This has evolved into two institutions; a standing council, made of great men and civil servants called the king’s council; and the lords in parliament – which will at some point be called the House of Lords. They have also accepted that there are some things they can only do with the consent of the wider community – the commons, composed of representatives of the people of the shires and towns. Those are principally taxation, in the form of customs dues and direct, special taxes. That’s a main reason why king’s call parliament; and by Henry’s day kings have recognised that they’ll only be given a special tax in times of war. In normal time, they need to live of their own – this is a concept that continental kings, especially France and Spain, would have laughed at – they were able to tax at will, though also with hurdles like local parlement and Cortes. It meant that to survive kings had to be mean, and careful. It meant that England could not compete on equal terms with the leading European nations in terms of resources – a fact Henry VIII, a man with glorious medieval ambitions in the vein of Edward III, would realise to his pain and distress.
There are many reasons why England could no longer compete with the big boys in war, but one of them is population. England was a small place, and not many people lived here; and up to 1450, the population had crept even lower to maybe 2 million. Maybe now, in 1500, the population began to slightly recover, and that would gather pace.
England is a predominantly rural society; 90% of people live in the countryside. There are plenty of towns, but many of them are very small regional centres and markets. Only London is significant in European terms; and at 50,000 people it is a pimple on the buttock that is the global urban population. A few other towns might be around 10,000 – York, Bristol, Norwich. However, towns have an influence out of all proportion to their size.
England is also a strictly hierarchical society, and a patriarchal society, in tune with the rest of Europe. There are three concepts about how society is structured that are talked about at this time, all of which sort of overlap like a venn diagram. One is the analogy of society as a human body, with individuals having different characteristics and roles suitable to their function. The point was that everyone needed to carry out their predestined functions regularly and with discipline for the body to thrive. The second emphasised the importance of Christian virtues – ensuring the good of all through the practice of these virtues. By so doing, individuals would work for themselves and society at the same time, for the common weal. The phrase Common Weal or Commonwealth is an increasingly common concept as we move through the 16th century. And then finally we have the most traditional – the theory of estates. Those who Rule, those who pray, those would work – the nobility, the church, the unwashed. All have their place, all have responsibilities to each other. The strongest theme in all of these theories is order, hierarchy and structure. If people didn’t stick to their function and place, the result would be chaos. Conservatism and resistance to change was deeply embedded in attitudes.
So although there have been changes in the detail of social structure since the conquest, one of Billy the Conq’s henchmen would have basically recognised everything. And let’s be clear – this isn’t a fluid situation with changes happening as they would; Parliament legislated to make sure everyone knew where they sat, down to defined what they could wear. Only a king could wear cloth of Gold; only Peer wear Ermine. If you went out hunting with hawks, if you were a lowly gentleman you’d better not take more than a kestrel. Chronicles are festooned with complaints that so and so should not have been in such and such a position of power because they were low born. This is not a society that would easily accept the word meritocracy.
So, at the top were the Magnates, the great men, about whom we speak so much, a handful of familes; and the rest of the nobility – barns and peers, knights gentry and gentlemen. The vast majority of land lies in the hands of these families, and their wealth and status is very much bound up in their ownership of land. A rich and successful merchant might gain power and recognition, but to gain noble status land was a requirement. Of course land alone didn’t do the job – marriage, connections, family all played their part; but land holding lay at the base of all of it. For this reason, merchants or lawyers or civil servants who do acquire wealth tend to end up buying into land. The problem with that of course that it didn’t buy you lineage, tradition, family; so marrying into the aristocracy was equally important. Family and lineage had always been important to the aristocracy; as the number of new men rises through the Tudor period, it’s increasingly important to display and demonstrate that lineage if you want to be taken seriously. The College of Arms incorporated by Richard III is increasingly popular – you needed your badge, crest and emblems.
The households of these rich men could be enormous; for example Lord Darcy from the north of England, had a household of 80 people. But then of course, Lord darcy’s household was much more than a place to go and kick the cat, put on your slippers, pick up the newspaper; his household included immediate family, extended family members, estate officers, sons of his clients, servants, young men who form a household fighting force.
You might imagine this is very different to the rest of society, and in terms of scale it might be, but there are many similarities. So, if we look below the nobility, the structure chart shows peasantry, those that work. But as you’d expect, the peasantry is as subdivided as the nobility. It was reckoned as a rule of Thumb that half a yardland was the minimum amount of land needed to support a family – so 15 acres. The Yeoman was a wealthy individual, at the head of a significant business, who might hold several yardlands, and employ a number of people; while at the bottom the cottager might hold no more than a cottage garden, and be a purely wage labourer and as poor as a church mouse or in fact even poorer. In fact, a position as church mouse would look like a significant career development opportunity for a cottager.
Let me give you an example of a yeoman. This is Bishop Latimer’s father, probably around the 1490s.
My father was a Yeoman, and had no lands of his own, only he had a farm of three or four pounds at the uttermost, and hereupon he tilled so much as kept half a dozen men. He had walk for a hundred sheep; and my mother milked 40 kine (that is, cows)…He kept me to school…he married my sisters with 5 pounds..
A bit of interpretation; Latimer’s father held land as a tenant, and employed a significant household or number of men; he had enough money to send his son to school to better himself, and indeed he did, becoming a Bishop; and to give his daughters a significant dowry when they got married. Latimer’s father was therefore an example of how the 15th century had moved increasingly away from the direct management of estates by the nobility based on customary labour; more and more land was given to Tenant farmers like Latimer in return for a cash rent. So, Latimer’s father was a relatively wealthy man, maintaining a significant small business.
The Yeoman’s household was many things therefore. It was a unit of production you might say, a business with various roles and functions within it. In both town and country, it would have workshops or room to hold animals. It was also a unit of authority; it had a leader. You won’t be surprised to learn that for the vast majority of cases the head of the household was male, in towns every bit as in the countryside; only in a few examples, mainly in towns, would a widow be declared a femme sole and run the business, but it was relatively rare. The authority of men as head of the household was very much enshrined in law. The authority of the father was central to all authority – monarchical, papal, clerical, and well as in the family. The father was to be feared as well as loved; he ruled and judged his family as well as caring for it. However critical and valued the wife might be, both as part of the family and part of the household as a unit of production, she was always the junior partner.


Modern households are basically where the family lives; and the same phrase might be used in the 1500 household. But that family was not limited to blood relations; when a man talked about his family he meant everyone in his household – including servants and apprentices. Servants would live in the household, and service played an essential mechanic in the economic and social structure. It allowed young people to leave home, learn and make some money to prepare for marriage. Apprentices in towns would join their master, live with him and pay a fee; fully expecting to then become a master in their turn. As the Tudor age progresses, population rises but inflation stunts economic growth, more and more apprentices will never be able to become a master, and will forever remain essentially a wage labourer – the equivalent of the rural labourer. However, the household was therefore not just a centre of family, and production – it was also a centre of training and education.
That household was physically a small place for most people… OK, the great lords had massive stone built castle and palaces; and in this period, we are beginning to see the transformation of the way those residences are defined – as defence becomes less of a priority, and comfort and display more important. But most people would have a mainly wood built house, with just 2 or 3 rooms. The household of a Yeoman was therefore a crowded place, and privacy was very much at a premium; a statement that applies to all classes of society actually. In the great houses, the servants would often sleep together on the rushes on the floor of the great hall. In most normal houses, master and mistress and servants would sleep together in the same room; and the possession of a bed, and if you were really lucky a bed with curtains, was a most exciting and thrilling acquisition. Shakespeare’s famous will where he leaves his wife his second best bed would be unlikely to be viewed as an insult and the time. Because the number of physical possessions people had was tiny. Typical was the will of a craftsman in Lincoln, who left at the end of his life just 22 items. These items were all connected with 3 activities – eating, sleeping and sitting.

Within the house the work of the man was usually well defined, and limited – in the sense that a man had a specific occupation; a farmer, carpenter, or whatever. While what the women did was essentially everything else – labouring in the fields, mending and cleaning clothes, buying food; and critically it fell to the woman to market and sell any surplus the farm might produce in the village or local town. After the age of 7 or 8 Children would be part of the work, carrying out any tasks for which their age made them capable.
Families tended to have 3 priorities; The first was simply survival; the second to see their children launched successfully in life, and the third to transfer wealth through the generations.
The Tudor world was full of scary risks, and the margin between a safe comfortable life and disaster were really narrow. One simple fact that brought this home to be was that within a 21st Century household, food will consume about 21% of total income; in a Tudor household, that figure was 80%. There were many things that could visit disaster on a family; it could be years of bad harvest; these years could not only be devastating, but were very unpredictable. Plague was ever present, and regular rounds of bubonic plague recurred throughout the 15th and 16th century; in York, for example, there were 7 major outbreaks between 1485 and 1550, and mortality could easily be 20-30%. And then in the background was the threat of infectious disease. So very few people made it to 60 years old; the average age was 33, though if you lived to your 20s you could expect to make it to your 40’s.
What this means is that people valued stability over change; their economic strategies emphasised the minimisation of risk rather than the maximisation of opportunity. Tudor society was constantly in search of stability, order and control.
Launching your children into the world saw its end point as marriage; at this point, the standing assumption was that each newly married couple would set up their own, new household. This meant that marriage often came quite late, because it could not happen until the couple had saved up enough to do so. As the 16th century inflation crisis hit the economy, this began to mean later and later, certainly late 20s was very common.
To reach that point, parents had to make sure their children were educated, and acquired a career. So famously to the horror of international visitors, children tended to leave the household early; they might go to useful relatives as an apprentice if they were a boy, or as a domestic servant; girls would very often go to other households as servants. This might be to relatives, or if they were older they would go to local hiring fairs and find themselves a position that way.
And finally, in transmitting wealth to future generations much is made of course of the position of the first son; the concept of primogeniture is very much established in England – except, rather surprisingly, in the weald of Kent. Which is odd, and slightly cute. But it would have been a hard family that made no provision for their other children, and most parents found a way; either proving a suitable marriage portion for their daughters, or a small living for their sons. In this kin and the wider family could be important; the honour a reputation of the family was important, none wanted to see a cousin or closer family member living in poverty, as much for the reputation of the family as for the happiness of the person involved.
So there we go, a very brief attempt to summarise the priorities for a typical household if such a thing exists of course.

But we should talk a little about how things are changing these verities as we embark on the Tudor world.
The relationship between lord and follower was changing. Traditionally built on customary dues and service – labour and payments due from the peasant to his lord in return for protection. In the 15th and 16th century the economic world is shifting; the medieval warm period is definitely at an end and the climate generally getting worse, towards the little ice age of the 17th Century. The stagnant and falling population has led to a drop in demand for food, and a shortage of labour. Faced with losing money on their demesne farms, the big landholders farm out land to yeoman, demanded a fixed money rent and told them to get on with it. This meant the landowner got themselves a steady, relatively risk free income; the yeoman got a chance to improve their position in life. Fine. But the relationship was therefore very much a commercial one, very different to that between lord and dependent serf. It also weakened their ties with the old communal approach to working the land with other villagers. Ties like this were weakening; the opportunities for individuals to make a better life for themselves rather than being part of an unchanging community relationship.
As the idea of serfdom weakened therefore, there were winners; and as international trade strengthened, the same applied very much to towns and merchants – some made it big from the growing cloth trade. But there were also losers. Copyholders, Peasant working land for someone else, with no ownership were very vulnerable to bad years and the landowner raising rents, and there were many failures with families thrown off the land. Peasants without land, the free wage labourers, cottagers, found it increasingly difficult to find work as we move into the 16th century. Farmers reacted to the lack of available labour by often enclosing land and turning from arable to sheep – because it required much less labour. Thus even less work was available, and despite the population decline of the 15th century, the most vulnerable found themselves out of work.
Then as population slowly recovers in the late 15th and 16th C, both these factors really hit home. The medieval attitude towards the poor had always one of Christian duty, and the giving of alms; Christian teaching gave the poor an odd status as sort of blessed by God, which is odd; I could do without that kind of blessing. The Tudor century would see a terrible growth of those trapped by poverty. The desperation at a dole of bread in 1533 in Southwark, for example, resulted in a crush so bad that 4 men, a woman and a boy were crushed to death. Suddenly the poor were everywhere, rather than keeping a safe and controllable distance. And attitudes towards them changed; for a society in search of order and control, the mass of transient and rootless poor was frightening. Increasingly, a distinction was made between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor – those would wanted to work but could not, those that could work but did not. The view was that able bodied men were simply shirkers – the fact that there was just no work to be had was rarely accepted as an excuse, with the resulting pain visited on those without work.
In this world religion played a constant and unchanging part of everyone’s lives; this was a society where devotion to God and the Christian faith were assumed, in which membership of the church and obedience to its teaching were a profound social duty. Religion was part of the turn of the season and the progression of the year, such as the Mystery Plays of midsummer in Corpus Christi, or the priest leading the process around the fields to bless the crops; it marked the progression of life through birth and baptism, marriage and death. There was no tradition of reading the bible for the vast majority; the literate gentry might read devotional books explaining the mysteries or leading them in their devotions, but reading the bible was for those who could, according to the church, properly understand it – those who had been ordained, priests. So the congregation listened to and watched the priest during mass separated by the rood screen, but separated also by knowledge and even language. They listen to the Priest whispering the service in Latin, and knew that in front of them a miracle was occurring, the transformation of the wine and bread into the blood and body, the miracle of transubstantiation. Only very rarely would they take part in the eucharist, and then only the bread, not the wine. Outside of Sunday and the special feast days, Masses were said every day at side chapels – Henry VIII would listen to the mass 3 or 5 days a day. Hence the name of the Mystery Plays – because the plays were the attempt to explain the mysteries, just as were the images in the church and devotional literature. In a world driven by risks and by so many inexplicable events and disasters, the Church was the only true shield; God’s mercies seemed available only to the faithful through the mediation of the church, through the seven sacraments, obedience to the church. The church had huge reserves of spiritual power, which it dispensed through the sacraments and through indulgences.
So however dissatisfaction grew with the Pope and Church among the learned and the political, on a local level the most venal, ignorant and corrupt priest was set above the wisest laymen through the sacrament of ordination. And by large, on a daily level, the church worked hard with much success to satisfy and support their parishioners; new foundations of colleges, particularly at Oxford and Cambridge, were made to turn out well educated priests; most parishes were well provided – in a survey of 500 livings in the diocese of Canterbury for example, only 26 parish priests were recorded as absent.
And yet there was dissatisfaction in some quarters. At the turn of the previous century, John Wycliffe’s objections to the wealth of the church, to the doctrine of transubstantiation, his emphasis on the word of God and desire to see everyone able to access that word through a bible in English, had won supporters – the Lollards. The Lollards had never become a mass movement, and had been firmly driven underground by both church and monarch when Henry V had John Oldcastle’s rising crushed and Oldcastle burned in 1417. But throughout the 15th century, although leaderless, the ‘known men and women’ as they were called had sustained their faith in secret, from household to household, carefully husbanding Wycliffe’s English bible, carefully fostering their community. Lollard masters took up Lollard apprentices; Lollard families protected the missionaries that travelled from community to community. By 1500, there were enough signs of Lollardy’s revival for Bishops once again to hunt for the heresy, and find it.
England then at the dawn of the Tudor age would have been recognised very much by time travellers from 12th century England; deeply structured, defferential and hierarchical, deeply conservative and deeply religious. But look closely and there were currents of change; a population beginning to grow and recover; the loosening of old feudal ties and relationships that was brining opportunity for some and poverty for others; a strain of anticlericalism and murmmerings of the need for church reform; a monarchy driven by the desire to centralise a gain financial freedom.


So there we go; next time, we’ll have a look at Henry VII and how history has perceived him, with the help of acute and deeply professional and erudite observers such as Ladybird, and Sellar and Yeatman.



2 thoughts on “196 England at the Dawn of the Tudor Age

  1. Nice to see your face for once!

    I have aphantasia (no “minds eye”, cannot “picture” things in my head, when my eyes are closed it’s just black, no ability to imagine things visually) and it’s always interesting to see what people i’ve only known the voice of look like!

    I have to say though, you said “planets too have their hierarchy, with FUNGI at the bottom@! Fungi are not plants! I will restrain myself from a rant about how radically different fungi are from plants (and from animals) and leave with a cool random fact : Way back during the development and evolution of life on Earth, there was a time where fungi were by far the largest organisms around, with some of them growing very high indeed! Worth a google!

    1. Hi Tim and it’s lovely to hear from you. Interestingly I am pretty sure my appalling grasp of some of the fundamentals of science have previously been commented on – this one in particular! I am sorry for it. I desperately harbour a desire to do a series on the history of science, because it’s fascinating but also because I would learn; but I fear the fall out of my ignorance! Anyway, I apologise to Funghi – the subject did fascinte me at school, and I now carefully gather pictures and catalgue the various exotic types in my area as I walk…

Leave a Reply