Politics in the late 1400s to early 1600s



Politics in the late 1400s to early 1600s


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Politics in the late 1400s to early 1600s


Politics in the late 1400s to early 1600s:



  • After the 100 Years War (between France and England; England lost all territory in France to French King) and after the War of the Roses in England, where the Tudors began their dynasty with Henry VII.
  • People wanted peace and prosperity and were willing to give up some of their power to a strong king in order to get it.  But monarchs could not rely on force to make their subjects obey the laws they created.  The tried cajoling their subjects rather than coercing them.
  • The goal of each monarch was to establish an orderly, well-policed state.  Problem:  No police force.
  • The state began to take over tasks that had been done by the Church, by towns and by feudal lords.  Take care of justice and helping the poor.
  • Subjects began to look to their monarchs in times of crisis rather than to rebel in such times.
  • A big move forward came with courts that gave the lower classes a chance to get justice—didn’t need to rebel (though still a few of those around)
  • The prosperity of the kingdom became an issue of concern to monarchs, who actively interfered with various institutions to help their country be strong economically.
  • Bigger bureaucracies developed:  much more paperwork with all the new responsibilities of government.  Secretaries became hugely important.  With the continuity of bureaucracies, states could weather long periods of crisis without completely falling apart.
  • Some “experts” came to speak for the Monarch, even though Monarch could not physically approve every single thing said. (i.e, judges)
  • New ways of relating to other countries came about, as well—resident ambassadors like the Italians used.  War had become more expensive because of the need for well-equipped standing army of infrantrymen and light cannons (to fight men, not walls of castles).  The use of ambassadors, who served only the interests of their own countries killed the last shreds of the idea of a common Christendom (self-preservation and growth were all-important; use any and every ally you can find-even the Turks).
  • Whether internal to the country or external between countries, alliances tended to be based on common enemies rather than on a community of interest.








Henry VII (1485-1509) established the Tudor dynasty. Conservative; built up funds without too many taxes; avoided foreign wars; increased powers of the Justices of the Peace (JPs, who were local lesser gentry who voluntarily and without pay administered the government in the local counties and were loyal first and foremost to the monarch); kept Parliament subject to the Crown, but chose to consult them anyway.  Disadvantage of the English tax system:  Monarch often had to compromise and sometimes the government was unable to act.  Advantage of the English tax system:  Tax burden spread among all people and the use of Parliament to okay taxes made it so that the people supported what the king was doing.

Louis XI (1461-1483) House of Valois Married Margaret of Scotland. Was able to change law so that the monarch could raise taxes with the consent of The Estates (assemblies around France).  Waged war on the Duke of Burgundy and won; annexed many other areas through diplomacy.  Established first postal service, model for all others.  Disadvantage of the French tax system:  Burden on the poor, as nobles and clergy were exempt.  Advantage of French tax system:  Monarch could raise as much funds as he needed for any venture (based on peasants’ ability to pay and military’s ability to collect). Charles VIII (1483-1498): Married Anne of Brittany. Tried to take Italy in 1494 but lost to Spain.  Hired mercenaries who were at lose ends after the end of the Hundred Years War, and made them into a standing army (they were all nobles, however).  First standing army for a European state.

John II (The Perfect, 1481-1495): Ruled very well and encouraged attempts to go around Africa to get to India Line of Demarcation was created in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI.  To keep Spain and Portugal from fighting over the New World. Manuel I (The Fortunate, 1495-1521):  Married Eleonore of Austria (Charles V’s sister). Golden Age of Portugal was during his reign.  Began an overseas empire and supported great works of art.  However, religious persecution was a strong “duty” of the state, as well.

Isabella I of Castile (1474-1504) married Ferdinand II of Aragon (1479-1516) and they co-ruled their two countries.  After their time, the two countries became known as “Spain.”  Both were from the House of Trastamara. An agreement with the Pope left them very much in control of the Church of Spain.  To control the nobles, they sent them on the quest to rid Granada of the Muslims.  Started a sales tax to pay for government so no real need for the Cortes (assemblies).  Nobles were generally ousted from the Cortes (and punished for wrong-doings like common people!) until they were mainly made up of merchants who were interested in peace.  Lesser nobility (hidalgos) became the most important members of the government bureaucracy.  Court lawyers were ordered to represent poor without pay. Their youngest daughter Catherine married King Henry VIII and another daughter married Philip I.

Maximilian I (1493-1519):  Second in the Austrian House of Hapsburg.  Married Marie, Duchess of Burgundy, which brought all of the Netherlands, into the HRE.  Their son was Philip I (the Handsome), who married Joanna (the Mad) of Castile (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella) and they inherited the kingdom of Spain for a short while until their deaths.  Their son was Charles V (of HRE)/Charles I (of Spain)

Henry VIII (1509-1547): A bit wilder than his father. Kept trying for a male heir and went through six wives. Broke with Roman Catholic Church in order to make his own law and gain the money the churches in England possessed (creating the Anglican Church); had a Privy Council of advisors led; protected the common people by punishing lords who evicted tenants (trying to get more land for sheep-grazing as wool was very profitable); tried to figure out how to help towns who were losing population or wealth.

Louis XII (1498-1515): Married Mary Tudor, sister to King Henry VIII) Continued war with Spain/HRE for Italy and almost bankrupted the country.  To raise money, built a larger bureaucracy and then sold offices in the government (good: made for social mobility; bad: led to much more corruption).  Took a lot of loans and later defaulted (did not pay them back). Francis I (1515-1547): Married Claude, daughter of Louis XII, then Eleonore of Austria. Was able to get Pope to give him the power to make Church appointments, which allowed him to control the Church without having to break from it (as Henry VIII did).  Called The Estates General so little that they lost almost all influence.  Continued the war in Italy, though lost a disastrous battle and ended up being captured himself.  Loved the arts and was a generous patron, inviting Leonardo da Vinci to stay with him.


Charles V (HRE)/Charles I (Spain) (1519-1556):  Married Isabella of Portugal, daughter of Manuel I.  Used the funds from Spanish conquistadors for furthering the ends of the HRE (to re-conquer lost territories and expand, as well as defend their territory from the Ottoman Turks who were still trying to push into the west).  The Spanish weren’t happy but Charles kept control through a loyal bureaucracy.  Expanded the HRE by adding Lombardy, Hungary and Bohemia (a HUGE territory). Tried to unify the whole of the HRE, but it ended up more like a federation (which is what the United States came to be later).  In the Netherlands, had to crush many rebellions (based on national pride and on religion) by turning commoners and nobles against the very powerful towns.  Finally won the war with France for Italy and took over a large portion of the city-states (though life continued on in them without much change, they were now considered part of the HRE). Made sure the poor were taken care of at a minimal level, at least.

Edward VI (1547-1553): Sickly child who was not king for very long. Mary I (1553-1558): Married to Philip II of Spain and raised in France.  Very strongly Catholic. Elizabeth I (1558-1603):  Many were unsure a woman could be ruler, but Elizabeth was one of the most capable rulers in English history.  She had to fight for the right to do so, against those who thought that Mary, Stuart (a Catholic and distant cousin to Elizabeth) would be a better choice.  Mary had lived in France for most of her adulthood and was forced out of Protestant Scotland when she tried to sit on her throne after Francis’ death.  She left her infant son James VI behind. Elizabeth tried to avoid any costly wars, but she supported the Netherlands financially to fight Philip II for their freedom and sent privateers to plunder the wealth of the Spanish galleons coming from America. She was able to decisively deal with other attempts by France and/or Spain to take over her kingdom.  When Spain conspired to put Mary Stuart on the throne, she had Mary beheaded, sent troops to help out the Netherlands rebels, and sent Sir Francis Drake to damage as much of the Armada as he could.  A storm and Dutch sea fighters did the rest and the Armada was almost wiped out.  England began developing a naval power of their own.  Elizabeth was revered by her people and made huge strides in developing England’s domination of Europe.

Henry II (1547-1559): Lost the war to Spain but was a very strong monarch.  He overhauled the justice system to make it more just for the poor.  Very concerned over potential between England and Spain with marriage of Mary and Philip.  Married Catherine de Medici and was killed in a joust. Francis II (1559-1560):  Married Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, who ended up living in France rather than Scotland for most of her reign.  Catherine de Medici (regent, 1560-1563): Had to balance between two rival and powerful families: the Guises (Catholic) and the Bourbons (Protestant). Henry IV (The Great, 1559-1610):  Married Marie de Medici.  Started the Bourbon Dynasty when he stepped in as the closest relative to the Valois family.  He was also the King of Navarre and was Protestant.  In order to keep peace in France, he converted to Catholicism and issued the Edict of Nantes, which granted Huguenots the right to worship and be part of civic life in France.  Wars between the religions and between France, Spain and England had devasted the land and the country needed to have peace in order to restore its health.

Philip II (1556-1598)  (Charles’ son):  Married Mary I, Queen of England, then Elizabeth Valois, daughter of Henry II of France, then Anne, daughter of Maximilian I.  Spain was at height of power, with a wealthy overseas empire, and an invincible navy.  He routed the Turkish navy and pretty much halted the Turkish invasions of Europe.  He tried to woo Elizabeth I, but she firmly refused his offer.  He sent the powerful Duke of Alva to subdue the rebellious Netherlands (Protestants), but ended up uniting Catholic and Protestants of these areas with each other to fight the Duke.  Philip took over Portugal and became the new king there, as Philip I (1580-1598): Originally, he did not support the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots against Elizabeth because that would unite France and England too closely.  Later, however, he felt he must interfere when it looked like the French would have a Protestant king (Henry IV).  The aim was to put Mary on the throne in England, with himself as the heir, and a Catholic puppet on the throne in France, and the return of the Netherlands to Catholicism.  A huge invasion, involving the Papacy, Jesuits, Mary Stuart, English Catholics and French Catholics was to make series of blows to these areas.  However, the main thrust was to be fought by the Spanish Armada, the most powerful sea force at the time.  However, the Armada was defeated when it sailed in 1588 and the plan was a disaster.  Spain ended up losing much of the Netherlands, with the Dutch getting the parts that weren’t as ravaged by war and creating a very powerful sea kingdom of their own.  The remaining parts of the Netherlands never regained their former wealth and glory because trade routes had been totally disrupted and new ones, favoring the English and Dutch, had arisen.  The country was also running out of money from the New World.

Ferdinand I (1556-1564) Married Anne of Bohemia (Charles’ younger brother—starts a line of Hapsburgs separate from the Spanish Hapsburgs)

James VI (Scotland)/James I (England) (1603-1625):  Son of Mary Stuart.  Attempted to enforce more royal absolutism but was strongly resisted by Parliament.


Philip III (1598-1621): Made peace with James I and gave up trying to take back the parts of the Netherlands that had been lost.  Freedom of religion was established.

Ferdinand III (1637-1657):  The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) within the HRE was the last of the Wars of Religion.  It was a civil war within the HRE but all the major states of Europe began involved in some way or another.  It ended with the Treaty of Westphalia, which again reiterated the right of each part of the HRE to choose their own religion.  Religious tolerance finally became the rule rather than the exception.





John II

Manuel I (Eleonore of Austria, sister of Charles V)



Henry VII

Henry VIII (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr)

Edward VI

Mary I (Philip II)

Elizabeth I

James I



Louis XI (Margaret of Scotland, d. of James I)

Charles VIII (Anne of Brittany)

Louis XII (Mary Tudor-sister to King Henry VIII)

Francis I (Claude, d. Louis XII/Eleonore of Austria, sister of Charles V)

Henry II (Catherine de Medici)

Francis II (Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots)

Henry IV (Marie de Medici)



Ferdinand and Isabella (Catherine of Aragon, Joanna)

Philip II (Mary I, d. Henry VIII/Elizabeth Valois, d. of Henry II/Anne, d. of Maximilian I)

Philip III



Maximilian I (Marie, Duchess of Burgundy/Philip the Handsome)

Charles V (Isabella of Portugal, d. of Manuel I)

Ferdinand I (Anne of Bohemia)

Ferdinand III (


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Politics in the late 1400s to early 1600s