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Crown Land and Royal Patronage in Mid-Sixteenth Century England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2014


Yf you thincke yt to be suche lande as I maye geve wythe my honor, I shall thincke yt verye well bestowyd, for that he is one that hathe well desarvyd yt and hathe had no kynde of recompence.

So wrote Mary Tudor to the Marquis of Winchester in 1554. The subject of the Queen's approval was Sir Edmund Peckham, one of her most trusted councilors. The result of that approval was an outright gift of land worth nearly one hundred pounds a year.

Land, the basis of the social structure of the age, was one of the crucial instruments of patronage. The crown estate not only had its financial function as a regular source of income and an emergency source of realizable capital, but one directly relevant to social control and to government. It was a means by which past services to the prince could be rewarded and future services perhaps anticipated. The way land was used for this purpose and whether the frequency and extent of its usage can throw any light on problems and methods of government are questions meriting close consideration. The period taken here—the late 1530s to the early 1570s—spans several very different phases of government: how far did policy towards patronage vary from phase to phase? And how far did these variations reflect the needs of each successive government?

To acquire an accurate picture of the use of the crown's estate, some localized knowledge is essential.

Research Article
Copyright © North American Conference of British Studies 1980

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A version of this paper was read at G.R. Elton's seminar in Cambridge in March 1978. I would like to thank Professors Elton and C.S.R. Russell for reading an earlier draft and for their helpful criticisms and suggestions.

1 Original Letters, Ellis, Henry (ed.), ser. 2, ii (London, 1827) pp. 251–52Google Scholar. I am grateful to the History of Parliament Trust for drawing my attention to this reference. Public Record Office, London, E 318/46/2470. Unless otherwise stated, all documents cited are in the Public Record Office.

2 For an analysis of the crown's Somerset estate, see Wyndham, K.S.H., “The Royal Estate in Mid-Sixteenth Century Somerset,” Bull. Inst. Hist. Res., Vol. LII No. 26 (November 1979)Google Scholar. Property acquired as a result of Edwardian measures dissolving chantry and college endowments does not fall within the scope of these articles.

3 Youings, J.A., “The Terms of the Disposal of Devon Monastic Lands, 1536-58,” English Hist. Rev., lxix (1954) pp. 21, 27Google Scholar.

4 C 66/689 m. 47.

5 E 318/32/1822.

6 E 318/24/1394; Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1553,224. (Hereafter, CPR; references cited by page number until 1563, thereafter by item number.) Since the Somerset property was granted without encumbrance, this and a handful of similar grants have been accounted clear gifts for statistical purposes.

7 Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, Brewer, J.S., Gairdner, J., Brodie, R.H. (eds.), (18621932) (hereafter LP)Google Scholar xii.ii.970; xx.ii.910(55); xix.i.444(14).

8 E 318/35/1935; British Library Royal MS. 18 Cxxiv, f. 333.

9 E 318/22/1168.

10 E 318/42/2248; CPR, 1553-4, 136; B.L. Harleian MS. 607, ff. 18,117; for current sales ratings see Wyndham, K.S.H., “The Redistribution of Crown Land in Somerset by Gift, Sale and Lease, 1536-72” (Unpubl. London University Ph.D. thesis, 1976) 99Google Scholar, and Youings, J. A., Devon Monastic Lands: Calendar of Particulars for Grants, 1536-1558 (Devon and Cornwall Rec. Soc., new ser. i (Torquay, 1955) pp. 109–19Google Scholar. All figures giving the value of land alienated on special terms are, for obvious reasons, based on the total annual value of the grants concerned. Grants of reserved or fee-farm rents are not included in this study.

11 E318/13/572; in such cases the whole transaction is counted as a partial gift. Unfortunately, details of exchanges are hard to come by; even the particulars for grants (E 318), Deeds of Purchase and Exchange (E 305) and the Close Rolls (C 54) taken together prove a spotty and unsatisfactory source.

12 Thomas, D.L., “The Administration of the Crown Lands in Lincolnshire Under Elizabeth I” (Unpubl. London University Ph.D. thesis, 1979)Google Scholar ch. 8. I am grateful to Dr. Thomas for allowing me to see a copy of the final draft of his thesis before it was examined.

13 E 315/224 f. 445; CPR, 1563-6, 2134. See Wyndham, thesis, pp. 135-39 for a discussion of current entry fines on sound property, and on concealed or decayed property.

14 LP, xv.942(121).

15 LP, xiv.i. 191(24); xviii.i.623(78).

16 CPR, 1557-58, 396, 1566-69, 2275; 1569-72, 2045.

17 See Wyndham, art. cit.

18 Property leased or granted to lay or ecclesiastical bodies is excluded from all figures.

19 LP, xiv.ii.780(36).

20 Proportion of crown land alienated on favorable terms, by percents:

For the distinction between gifts and the various types of partial gifts and favorable sales, see p. 19 and ff.

21 See n. 4 above; LP, xii.ii. 1008(19); xiii.i. 190(42).

22 LP, xii.i.311(33); xiii.i.1115(11); C 66/678 mm. 29-30.

23 LP, xv.1032 (p. 540); xix.i.812(49); E 318/17/818.

24 A.F. Pollard, Wolsey (London, 1929) pp. 285, 295-97; LP, iv.iii. 6738, 6763; v.120, 283; x. L; xv. 1032, p. 539.

25 E 318/2/59; LP, xx.i. 1335(40).

26 The approximate annual values of all Somerset landed property alienated were: 1536-1547: £3,870; Edward VI's reign: £4,470; Mary's reign: £1,830; Elizabeth's reign to 1573: £870.

27 CPR, 1547-48, pp. 124-33. There are no particulars for this grant; for the valuations used, see thesis, p. 86. This, together with gifts to others of the privy council, also in 1547, was supposedly granted at the late king's behest. See Miller, Helen, “Henry VIII's Unwritten Will: Grants of Lands and Honours in 1547,” in Wealth and Power in Tudor England: Essays Presented to S. T. Bindoff, Ives, E. al. (eds.) (London, 1978)Google Scholar.

28 E 318/28/1588. Some of these lands were in reversion and so were valued at half-price; the full value of his estate in possession was nearly £150 per annum.

29 Ibid. For discussion of payment specifications on purchases, see Wyndham, thesis, p. 84.

30 1547 and 1553 were also the years in which most Somerset property was alienated overall; consequently, these are not the years in which the highest proportion went on concessional terms; the honors there go to 1551-52, when the quantity of land alienated overall was relatively low. For a number of reasons it has not proved feasible to compare my figures with those of Jordan, W.K. (in Edward VI: The Young King (London, 1968), Excursus II)Google Scholar; for example, in taking one county, exchanges of land affect the picture where they would not if one were covering the whole kingdom; Jordan's criteria for “gifts” may not be the same as mine; my method of calculating totals is designed to show actual amounts of freehold land alienated and so does not make deductions for reserved rents or use one multiplier to find a notional capital value.

31 CPR, 1550-53, pp. 299,31; C 66/845 m. 33; E 318/30/1687.

32 I would like to thank the History of Parliament Trust for this information.

33 CPR 1547-48, p. III, 172, 193-98; 1549-51, 416; 1550-53, pp. 7, 31, 196, 357-58; 1553, pp. 167, 169, 175, 177.

34 E 318 box 30 nos, 1685-8; box 33 nos. 1859-63; CPR 1550-3, 7. This figure excludes two of Herbert's grants in 1547, which are unvalued.

35 Property worth £130 per annum: E 318/30/1686; E 318/33/1860.

36 E 318/30/1685; CPR 1547-48, 172. The details of the third grant are not known, but it was clearly not a straightforward purchase; ibid. 111.

37 Jordan, , The Young King, pp. 105106Google Scholar; Wyndham, thesis, 96; E 318/30/1686.

38 Dictionary of National Biography sub William Herbert; CPR 1550-53, 7; C 66/834 m. 11.

39 E 318/30/1688.

40 E 318/33/1859.

41 For a description of these last months, see Jordan, , Edward VI: The Threshold of Power (London 1970) pp. 510–20Google Scholar

42 See n. 1 above.; DNB sub Herbert; E 318 box 33 nos. 1860-63.

43 Gift to Lord Howard of Effingham for which there are no particulars. He was to pay 30s 8d for the whole grant in which the Somerset property alone was worth over £31 per annum: CPR 1554-55, 163; C 66/888 m. 39; E 315/385 ff. 79v-82.

44 CPR 1553-54, 81; 1555-57, 113.

45 For examples see p. 4.

46 CPR 1569-72, 268; E 302/1/165. For an example of the problems encountered when proving the royal title see E 310/23/126 m. 35.

47 CPR 1569-72, 2568; E 318/48/2524; DNB sub Peter Carew.

48 C 54/911. In the light of this and of the fact that two Henrician statutes ruled that neither a fine nor a recovery was to bar tenants in tail where the crown had the reversion, the queen's gift of this reversion was probably intended to facilitate a private sale: Statutes of the Realm (London, 18101828) iii pp. 790, 919Google Scholar:32 Hen. VIII, c. 36; 34 & 35 Hen. VIII, c. 20. I would like to thank Dr. S.M. Doran for the reference to the private sale and Dr. D.L. Thomas for drawing my attention to the relevant statutes. In his thesis, pp. 292-93, Thomas describes some rather similar grants, which, he points out, were in effect licenses to hunt for reversions.

49 CPR 1558-60, 82; 1569-72, 3358; LR 2/66 f. 269.

50 For examples of the latter wording, see the fiats on particulars for leases in E 310/3/23.

51 CPR 1555-57, pp. 312, 315; see Wyndham, thesis, Table VIII, for the incidence of reversionary, as well as long-term, leases.

52 After November 1560 the commissioners for lease could no longer sanction terms exceeding 21 years, and so the long lease was once more a special concession: CPR 1558-60, pp. 444-45; 1563-66, 2758; 1566-69, 59; 1569-72, 3091.

53 See, for example, Kerridge, E., “The Movement of Rent, 1540-1640,” Econ. Hist. Rev. 2d ser. vi (1953)Google Scholar. For leases in reversion of Lincolnshire land, see Thomas, D.L., “Leases in Reversion on the Crown's Lands, 1558-1603,” Econ. Hist. Rev. 2d ser. xxx, No. 1 (February 1977)Google Scholar.

54 CPR 1566-69, 2275.

55 E 310/23/126 m. 4b.

56 CPR 1569-72 and 1572-75, passim.

57 CPR 1569-72, 1390, 2111.

58 For Northumberland's attempts to arrest the slide towards bankruptcy, see Hoak, D.E., The Kings Council in the Reign of Edward VI (Cambridge, 1976) 203Google Scholar and passim.

59 SirD'Ewes, Simonds, The Journals of All the Parliaments During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (London, 1682) 13Google Scholar. Professor Conrad Russell kindly drew my attention to this speech.