Was it the policies pursued by Henry VIII that caused "the mid-Tudor crisis"?

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Was it the policies pursued by Henry VIII that caused "the mid-Tudor crisis"?

"The mid-Tudor crisis" is a term often used by historians to describe the reigns of Edward VI (1547-1553) and Mary I (1553-1558). This period can be seen as a crisis, due to the fact that there were so many problems, financial, social, religious and constitutional, all of which led to rebellions, and placed the country in a very unstable position.

It is clear that many of the origins of this 'crisis' have their roots in the reign of Henry VIII, especially in his final years, and therefore to an extent his policies were responsible for the 'mid-Tudor crisis'. He left a very difficult legacy to his successors, but it must be remembered that Somerset exacerbated the problems already in existence and Northumberland and Mary then had the difficult task of resolving them. Henry VIII on his own can not be held entirely responsible for the crisis, he was only one contributing factor. There were many underlying social and economic problems which his policies did not cause.

Henry's policies relating to the constitutional difficulties can not be held to blame for the crisis. Indeed, during his reign, Cromwell's reforms had actually made the Tudor state more powerful, but "this advantage was weakened by a minority". Before he died in 1547, Henry had attempted to prevent a power struggle by setting up a Privy Council of his most trusted advisors. The members were to have equal powers and were to govern until Edward reached the age of eighteen. This corporation was meant to be balanced between the conservative and radical factions but by the time of Henry's death, the radical party had gained control. It could be argued that Henry was partly responsible for this, as it was he who had expelled Gardiner and had Norfolk arrested, thus weakening the conservatives, but it was almost inevitable that one faction would emerge stronger. Although a balanced solution is ideal in theory, in practice it is almost impossible to operate when there is a power vacuum and "no longer a royal focus of authority". There was much rivalry between factions which prevented the government from being as united as it could have been on Henry's death.

From this struggle for power, Somerset emerged as leader. It is evident that he did not have enough support in the government, as he had to resort to the use of proclamations. Government under Henry VIII had been strong, and he had managed Parliament relatively well - but this was due to his force of personality and the same system, whereby the power of the monarch was based in Parliament, was not workable with a king who was only a minor, and a weaker leader, such as Somerset. Mary I also had problems with Parliament but these were not down to the policies pursued by Henry VIII; they were due to her own shortcomings, and also due to the fact that the House of Commons was increasing in importance - mirroring what was happening in society. Mary's personal stubbornness (including her aims to restore Catholicism and to marry Philip II of Spain) led to a decline in efficiency with the House of Lords and she also increased the size of the Privy Council to such an extent that it was too large to work effectively. Problems were also caused with the amount of faction at the time - in 1555 with the death of Gardiner, these decreased. It is evident, however, that Mary's troubles with Parliament were not due to any of the policies of Henry.
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The succession crisis which came about after the death of Edward VI can in no way be blamed upon Henry VIII either, and Northumberland must be held responsible. Henry's will dictated that Mary should reign if Edward died without an heir, and it appears as if he had been trying to prevent the crisis which occurred. Northumberland tried to change the succession himself, proclaiming Lady Jane Grey queen. However, such was the support in the country for Mary, the rightful heir, that a potential political crisis was avoided. Even if the situation had been worse, Henry's policies could ...

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The main strength of this essay is its detailed knowledge of the period. The points are well supported with accurate and relevant factual detail from across the period. The main way to improve this work is to really tackle the question at the start and set up a stronger argument. One way to do this is to tackle the issue of whether the period should be seen as a crisis or whether it just had a normal amount of problems for the time. There also could be a lot more writing directed at explaining where the causes of the problems came from. There could also be more judgement given to the different areas of 'crisis'. Some issues could be seen as being far more dangerous than others. However overall this essay does a very thorough job of examining the period and largely stays focused on the question.