How significant were the actions taken by Thomas Cromwell in strengthening royal authority in the short-term?

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Sasha GrovesCandidate Number: 1119Centre Number: 15205 How significant were the actions taken by Thomas Cromwell in strengthening royal authority in the short-term?    As chief minister to Henry VIII between 1533 and 1540, Thomas Cromwell ‘laid [religious] foundations that did not crumble for centuries’[1], and as a result, permanently changed the course of English history. There is therefore no doubt that Cromwell played a significant role in the events which defined the 1530’s, although there is debate regarding whether it was the King or his Minister who orchestrated such changes.[2] This essay will assess the short-term significance of Cromwell’s actions, by considering the consequences up to twenty years after they were undertaken, and analyse the effect that they had on Henry’s royal authority in terms of the increase in his power as King. It will consider Cromwell’s involvement in religious policy in bringing the church under Royal control and dissolving the monasteries, and his role in moulding Henry’s government into an efficient administration and increasing the importance of statute law. Cromwell’s actions certainly strengthened Henry’s authority in the short-term by extending royal sovereignty, increasing the status of parliament and ensuring that religious changes were enforced without opposition.   Whilst the English Reformation was part of the wider process of the European Protestant Reformation[3], it is Cromwell who is often attributed as its main driving force[4] in England. Described by Elton as ‘the most remarkable revolutionary in English history’[5], only Cromwell could devise a way out for the King who desired decisive action to secure a male heir, and consequently, dynastic stability.[6] The Reformation itself was a series of complex processes and manoeuvrings which asserted secular control over Catholicism by supressing its institutions and breaking with papal authority. Regardless of interpretation, it is accepted that Cromwell was at the very least responsible for drafting the legislation which formalised England’s break from Rome.   Elton believes that Cromwell ‘seized the unique opportunities presented by Henry’s marital problems’[7] to turn England into a unified, independent sovereign state. An excerpt from the introduction to the 1533 Act in Restraint of Appeals, written by Cromwell himself, supports this view. It states that the ‘realm of England is an Empire’ which ‘has been accepted so in the world’, to be governed by ‘one supreme head and King’.[8] This Act argued that Englishmen should not have an automatic right to appeal to Rome on issues of religion since England was an independent
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political body in which all power derived from the monarch. Cromwell, acting as the King’s chief minister, passed the Act through Parliament[9] to appear as though the will of the people had been listened to, as an alternative to Henry imposing the Act on his deeply religious subjects. We can assume that the source is useful since it is a statute and therefore has a legal authority, and the fact that it was written by Cromwell raises the possibility (coupled with Elton’s thesis), that Cromwell himself spearheaded the Reformation. However, one must be aware of Cromwell’s possible agenda in orchestrating ...

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