To what extent were Tudor rebellions caused by factionalism?

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To what extent were Tudor rebellions caused by factionalism?

Faction within the Tudor dynasty has been seen as pernicious by many historians; Christopher Haigh argues that faction fighting in the counties and at Court was certainly disruptive. Writing about Elizabeth I, he comments on how sources of factional conflict are thought to have tested her political skills, and, as she lost control in the 1590s, to have contributed towards the slide to disaster. On the other hand, it has been reasonably argued that faction was a necessary phenomenon for active and energetic government. Paul Thomas argues that although it did pose a danger, faction returned to its role as an engine of politics, noting how the core of council and administration remained remarkably consistent at least until 1589.

Evidence of the threat posed by faction begins in the fifteenth century where weak kingship and challenges to the succession had led to the rapid turnover of factions and rulers; Simnel and Warbeck's rebellion were both politically motivated due to Yorkist and Lancastrian faction. Sir Geoffrey Elton endorses this view, saying ‘the northern risings represent the effort of a defeated Court faction’. Haigh argues the importance of the threat factions posed to central government; in Wales and the Marches the repercussions of courtly faction fighting undermined the authority of the ‘provincial governor’, Pembroke, which damaged the fabric of county government. However, in terms of the outcomes of rebellion, Elton argues that fear of anarchy overrode all faction and even Norfolk proved implacable in his opposition to it, saying ‘Loyalty and obedience to the king, the guardian of peace and order and the symbol of the state, dominated everything’.

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Paul Thomas acknowledges faction as a potential threat, but one of little consequence: he argues that in the absence of organised parties, the main requirement was that successful factions should stay successful long enough to provide stability, continuity and effectiveness. The ‘strong’ rule of Henry VII and his son until 1540 had seen faction kept within bounds, and so, when faction overthrew Wolsey from 1529 to 1530, its victory was short lived. Thomas Cromwell’s promotion from Wolsey’s own household and his grasp of many of the essentials of the Cardinal’s rule ensured stability. Once Cromwell was himself overthrown in ...

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