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Did popular protest have any lasting influence on the Royal Policy in the 15th century?

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Suzanne L.
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  1. Introduction
    1. Charges particularly leveled at the Revolt of 1450
    2. The Londoners who turned on Cade's rebels
  2. The case of the 1450 revolt
    1. The involvement of popular protesters
    2. The mutiny of lordly retinues
  3. Lengthy campaigns in the French wars
    1. The lack of personnel
  4. Re-invoking the Statute of Winchester
  5. Popular dissatisfaction with the regime
    1. The momentum generated
    2. The armigerous quality in England's populace
  6. Attempts to quash popular protest
  7. The commons
    1. A sense of hierarchy
    2. The sense of devolved responsibility
    3. The idea that the Henry was only the monarch
    4. The commons: The instruments of justice
    5. Receptiveness to the assistance of a usurper
    6. The driving force behind dynastic change
  8. The consequence of the increased use of propaganda
    1. Royal policy under Henry
  9. Conclusion
  10. Bibliography

This was a period of immense political change, both in the way the English people were viewed by the government, and in the way they thought of themselves within it. It was characterised by popular disturbances, pieces of critical literature and seditious speech, and a corresponding increase in the use of proscriptive and propagandist measures by the government to deal with them. In addition to the rather limited initiative of Henry VI, these years saw the direction of royal policy by magnates such as Cardinal Beaufort, the Dukes of Suffolk and Somerset, the Duke of York whilst he was Lord Protector, Henry's queen Margaret and the royal Household, as well as by Edward IV at his accession in 1461. But popular protest was not always directed against the executors of royal policy and the court. It could, as History shows, equally be directed against the Duke of York, after he became the focus of a magnate ?anti-court' faction.

The populace, or commons, for the purposes of this essay this will be defined as the great mass of the country excluded from the lay and clerical aristocracy, both those nominally represented in the Commons and those denied it by the Forty-Shilling Freeholder Act of 1429. It was a people certainly capable of criticizing the official regime.

[...] So the possibility that popular protest might have an influence on royal policy in terms of finance and law and order existed even for Fortescue. What is more interesting is that he includes in the sphere of public concern another more important part of the economy, land. Land was a staple foodstuff of a sense of hierarchy, which the commons, as discussed above, adhered to. Fortescue makes the case for Resumption being in the interests of the public good[xvii], thereby suggesting that land too was a domain in which the public had a right to protest. [...]


[...] But this fails to take account of the cumulative influence that the different elements of popular protest had in the longer term. Whilst these elements might not have been nationally coordinated in a campaign to rid the country of Henry VI or improve the lot of the Third estate, three facts remain. The first is that an effective act of Resumption was no mean feat to achieve, it had not been managed on so nearly successful a scale by the parliamentary Commons alone in 1449 [xxx]. [...]


[...] This armigerous quality in England's populace was possible for a number of reasons, largely originating in the new compact between royal policy and popular interest made under Edward III. In an effort to fund and legitimize his designs on the French crown, Edward used propaganda and piecemeal concessions to secure financial grants conferred by Parliament and levied from the commons. The growth of a ?war-state?[viii] was accelerated both by notions that it was possible to resist demands made by the king on his subjects (Wat Tyler's 1381 rebellion), and by Henry V's efforts to popularize the war in France[ix]. [...]

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