Rule Of Northumberland And Somerset 1549

– 1553 Essay, Research Paper

It is clear that by the time that Northumberland took over as the protector of Edward, Somerset had made some serious errors. Accordingly Northumberland was able to capitalise on the situation by ensuring not to make the same mistakes. The greatest mistake made by Somerset and possibly the ultimate reason for his downfall was the fact that he used his position in a way to make the people feel he was an attempting to act as the king. In this way Northumberland was able, after the damaging rule of Somerset, to stabilise the situation in England. The view that Northumberland abused the situation at the time and that he manipulated evidence against Somerset can be disregarded as his actions mearly reflect the moves of a political manoveror taking advantage of the situation he was placed in, he also sorted out Somerset´s legacy.

Immediately Northumberland realised that he couldn´t make himself Lord Protector as this had the potential to make the people feel that he would be attempting to secure power in the same way as Somerset. A clever move by Northumberland was not to make himself Lord Protector but to title himself ‘Lord President of the Council´. By this he was legitimising himself through the council; he realised that the people would trust a decision made by a governing body and it would seem that Northumberland was not ruling as an individual but observing the popular beliefs through an advisory council. This immediately disassociated his protectorate with that of Somerset and therefore set a generally positive tone of feeling towards him as a leader. Somerset on the other hand had seen himself as the substitute king and had acted very much like a new king would. This was not only a major blunder because it made him unpopular with the English people but his actions represented the exact opposite approach to what was needed in England at the time. For example, in September 1547 he decided to invade Scotland. Even though he managed to defeat the Scots at the battle of Pinkie, vast sums of money were spent on financing the war. This expense was exaggerated by the garrisoning of the Scottish boarder and guarding these forts with soldiers. It is clear that Somerset had not thoroughly planned his actions as he failed to secure a naval blockade at the Firth of Forth, this meant that the French could access Scotland and aid the Scots. This type of kingship would be typical of such kings as Henry VIII and may be supported by the people but as Somerset was not the king his attempt at becoming a heroic leader miserably failed. Financially, his actions had cost the crown 580, 000 crowns this expenditure lead to further debasement of the coinage and therefore resulted in elevated inflation, the borrowing of money from the government and mass sale of crown land. Not only did Northumberland ingeniously disguise his position of power but he also cunningly increased it by ridding of many conservatives such as the Earl of Southampton and others who potentially could stand in his way. He soon gained the trust and support of the Kings Household and most importantly the Groom of the Stool, who was the man with the most access to the King. As the King was still very young he was easily influenced by those around him, in this way, with his influence over the Household Northumberland effectively gained control of the vulnerable King. His actions here in ensuring that he could control England through the King can be seen as clever, however, Northumberland really showed his cunning by his actions in 1551 when he re-admits Somerset to the Council. He realised that Somerset would attempt to re-capture his power by scheming a way to the top, therefore Northumberland waited for Somerset to slip up. When he did in 1552 he answered by executing Somerset for High Treason and framed the situation to make it appear that he had saved England from a bloody coup. Thus it is clear that from all of this Northumberland had an enormous degree of power which he had carefully accumulated and he had pushed all opposition to one side. Somerset had to tread very carefully in terms of religious policy as this important issue was a fragile subject within England at this time. It is clear, however, that there is a cautionary move towards Protestantism. This is shown by the fact that Somerset allies himself with the evangelicals and that young Edward is given a Protestant education. Somerset, however, was worried about offending Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor and therefore moved ahead with his Protestant beliefs with caution That said, there were examples of anti-Catholic moves for example the destruction of all Catholic images and any stained glass windows that portrayed Saints in 1548. In 1549 the Elevation of the Host, i.e. the lifting of the bread during the Eucharist, was banned. This is another example of a Protestant change made under Somerset. It seemed that Somerset was not careful enough in his policy as the impression soon stirred that his moves towards Protestantism were too dramatic and too sudden. This common consensus among the people is symbolised by the rebellions of 1549 leading to his eventual downfall. The religious situation in England by the time that Northumberland took the chair had therefore changed dramatically from how it had been at the end of Henry VIII´s reign. Even though Somerset had sparked two rebellions supposedly due to his religious policy one can say that the ultimate cause of his downfall was the hopelessly unpopular position that he had developed amongst the people of England. Northumberland knew that any religious change that he implemented could give his enemies an alibi to rebel against. It may, however, be said that some of the council radicals had found Somerset´s religious policy unsatisfactorily modest. Many wanted radical change and they realised that Northumberland shared their views. In this way there was pressure put on Northumberland to take the next step towards Protestantism and to radicalise religious policy. Fortunately Northumberland believed that further radicalisation was the key process in tiding up the damage that Somerset had left behind. His main moves were those attached to transubstantiation at the Eucharist, this had proved to be the area of most controversy in past years. Even though Northumberland can be seen as more effective than Somerset in his proctorship it is clear that Somerset did inherit an extremely tough legacy from Henry VIII with no previous experience of how to rule. In this way it was inevitable that he was going to find his job very difficult to manage and there was an extremely high chance that it would prove to be a shortened rule due to these difficulties. Northumberland on the other hand had taken over from a protector who was unpopular in every sector of the country therefore he was in the fortunate position of having the support of the people in acting against the man that they despised. The mistakes of Northumberland could also be hidden by the fact that he had created an impression that young Edward was ruling through him and therefore any alterations in policy could be landed on the King. This added much security to Northumberland´s protectorate and gave him the confidence to act on his own accord. It is clear therefore that Northumberland was a more effective leader than Somerset. His financial policy attempted to clear up the legacy that Somerset had left. Immediately he brought the expensive war with France and Scotland to an end thus immediately reducing the expenditure of the crown. Northumberland did issue one final debasement of the coinage for which he can be duly criticised; however he does abandon this as a long-term plan. With the aid of William Cecil and Sir Walter Mildway he effectively reorganised the finances of the crown. Together they cut crown expenditure as much as possible; they extracted an increased revenue from the church and the Kings debtors. The ultimate aim was the ensurance that the accounting system was as effective and efficient as possible. Northumberland also cleverly reduced the price of basic foodstuff to increase his own popularity, in this way he was then able to push through more unpopular policies. Northumberland´s foreign policy complimented his financial policy in that it too ultimately aimed to reduce crown expenditure. He steered England away from Somerset´s war desiring policy and exerted a more peaceful approach. In 1515 the Treaty of Boulogne gave back Boulogne to France, although some historians present this as a national humiliation it was a positive move as it was a massive drain on resources for England to upkeep and protect. This cuts spending and ensures a French pension of 133, 333 pounds. Further finances were relieved by the abandoning of the Scottish garrisons. All these measures aimed at stabilising the situation caused by Somerset it could be argued that if Somerset had not ruled then Northumberland would have then been able to secure more finances for the crown. It can be said, therefore, that Somerset, in his difficult position, chose the wrong style of leadership that only proved to make him unpopular. He also, by this autocratic style of leadership, left all of the negative aspects of the years 1547 to 1549 upon his shoulders therefore it appeared that he was the problem. Northumberland was able to use this negative feeling to his advantage and secure a great deal more power than Somerset had managed. His attempts to bring in his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, was a desperate attempt to secure his future once he realised that Edward was to die and Mary was the heir to the throne. He cannot be blamed for his actions as they mearly reflect human inclination for it was clear that Mary would have him imprisoned or executed. The plot proved to be too obvious and when his attempts fail the inevitable occurs and Northumberland was sentenced to the death of a traitor.


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