For Henry VII to have control over government he had to have control over Parliament. At this time Parliament only met to grant taxes and to pass laws. It was in the latter role that Henry VII had a need to control Parliament if he was to become as powerful as he felt a king should be.


Henry had already shown the nobility that loyalty to him would be rewarded. Hence the House of Lords – made up of senior clergy and peers – was easier to exert some form of control as to an extent Henry VII determined the social rise of these men or not. The Commons – primarily made up of rich merchants, lawyers etc. – was gaining in power around the time of Henry who clearly recognised their importance to the growth of England’s economy. However, while Henry conversed with the Lords, he rarely spoke directly to the Commons. They communicated their thoughts to the king via the Speaker of the Commons. While the most important body in Parliament was the Lords, the fact that Henry recognised the Commons as possessing men who were valuable to the economic growth of his kingdom was important.


However, such was Henry’s desire to control government that Parliament met only infrequently during his reign. Between 1485 and 1509, Parliament met only on seven occasions and five of these were between 1485 and 1495. When Henry felt more secure, he no longer felt the need to call Parliament. The failure of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions strengthened Henry’s hold on government – hence his lack of any desire to call Parliament.


Henry rarely needed Parliament to grant him money for wars abroad as his policy was to avoid expensive overseas military campaigns as often as was possible. The judicial authority of Parliament was also effectively by-passed by the Council Learned of the Law. Functions undertaken by the Royal Council was also usually at the expense of Parliament. Also during the years of Henry’s reign, few bills were ever discussed or passed as laws. The most common aspect regarding this was acts of attainder. The men condemned by acts of attainder would have been known by many in Parliament – as would the consequences.


Parliament was used to support Henry’s drive to full monarchical power. 10% of all statutes dealt with by Parliament involved the responsibilities of JP’s and their control within the provinces. In 1504 an act was passed which forbade corporations from making any regulations unless they first had the approval of Henry VII. Such was the tone of the relationship between Henry and Parliament – as long as Parliament was seen to support the drive by Henry to extend his monarchical powers, the relationship was sound. Therefore, Parliament became a rubber stamp for Henry. Many within Parliament would have been very aware of what could happen if they moved against the king – an act of attainder.

Related Posts

  •   Many in England believed that the succession of Henry VIII would usher in a less austere era than the one Henry VII had ruled…
  • Henry VIII was very much a conformist with regards to his beliefs. His main belief was that God had had created society as it was…
  • Henry VIII is usually viewed as a powerful king who was all but unopposed in government. However, Henry himself was always concerned that at some…