Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Foundations of the Anglican Church XXVI

As stated in the previous post, the chief challenge facing the new Tudor dynasty after Henry VII Tudor seized the Crown from Richard III, was creating the political stability that would bring an end to the dynastic struggled that had divided England throughout the fifteenth century. 
The major threat to Tudor power and the peace of the realm came from the old nobility.  The peerage was comparatively small.  Many of the noble titles had become extinct when their holders had perished in the One Hundred Years War with France or in the subsequent dynastic Wars of the Roses. Others had lost their titles for being on a losing side as the Crown shifted back and forth during the struggles between the Lancastrians and Yorkists.  Sometimes titles were restored; sometimes they weren’t.   In 1500, there were the Dukes of Norfolk, Buckingham, York, and Cornwall—but these later two were held by the heir to the Crown and so were royal title as differentiated from title of nobility.  That leaves two dukes among the nobility.  The remainder of the peerage consisted of approximately one marquess, ten earls, three viscounts, and seventy barons. 
The nobility was a small group but very proud of their family lineages and anxious to preserve their traditional power and influence.  Henry Tudor, on the other hand, was anxious to centralize power in the Crown in order to create a modern English nation state out of the competing and rival feudal holdings.  It was a time when Kings in France and Spain were consolidating royal power at the expense of the old nobility and Henry Tudor was a man with his eye on the future. 
An important tool in the balance of power between King and nobility was the Church.  The nobility sat in Parliament as the House of Lords.  But they were not the only members of that august body.  Two archbishops and fourteen bishops also sat as Peers.  They were joined by approximately forty-five abbots and mitered priors. 
The nobility found that while their legislative role increased, their personal power diminished during the reign of Henry VII and this made them restless.  They wanted to preserve the old feudal order and could not understand Henry’s vision of an English nation.  Henry, for his part, was anxious to compete with the major European powers which were the Spain, Portugal, and France.  As France was a long-time foe of England, he decided to throw his lot in with the emerging nation of Spain—then a confederation of the Kingdoms of Castile (ruled by Isabella) and Aragon (ruled by her husband, Ferdinand.)  Henry was anxious to marry his older son, Arthur, to Katherine, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella.  This would not only cement an alliance of England with the rich and powerful Iberian Kingdoms, but Katherine would bring a heavy dowry to England—something that the cash-strapped Henry could use as he tried to develop his realm, all but impoverished by a century of war, into a modern nation state.  On November 14, 1501 Arthur and Katherine were married.  The dowry was 200,000 crowns worth about ₤85,000.  Now, ₤85,000 was a fortune in 1501.  This was a world in which a well to do merchant might earn ₤100 a year and live handsomely on that.  It is never precise to convert money over a five hundred year span because it is a question of buying power rather than exact conversions.  But let us say that a merchant could live comfortably on   ₤ 100 a year and that today a businessman to have a comparable life would need an income of $85,000.00.  That would render the value of Catherine’s dowry at approximately seventy million modern dollars.  In fact, it was probably worth much more as it exceeded the annual income of the English Crown in 1501.  Henry could not afford to lose this dowry.  But it would ultimately demand a high price. 

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