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Ruling the Country

Sir Henry Guildford, RCIN 912266 ©

As a Tudor monarch, Henry claimed that his right to rule came directly from God. After 1534, the Act of Supremacy gave Henry control over religious as well as secular law. Throughout his reign, the King was assisted and advised by a number of key figures, many of whom (like Henry Guildford and William Fitzwilliam) had been his companions when he was young. Several of these men were portrayed by Holbein, who, by the mid-1530s, had a thriving business providing portraits of members of the Court.

Parliament (consisting of the House of Lords, and the House of Commons) also played an important role in the rule of the country, discussing and ratifying laws. Although the King had ultimate authority, Parliament was the place where new legislation was debated. The opening of the 1523 session of Parliament, with the enthroned King surrounded by the members of the House of Lords, with members of the House of Commons at the Bar (at the foot of the page), is illustrated in the Wriothesley Garter Book.

Parliament sat continuously between 1529 and 1536 to discuss and pass the numerous laws required for Henry’s religious changes. At times Henry himself appeared at this ‘Reformation Parliament’ to encourage dissenting members to ratify his bills. One of the consequences of the legislation passed at this time was the dissolution of the monasteries. This directly affected the composition of the House of Lords which had previously been attended by representatives of the monastic houses.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543)

Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532)

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543)

William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton (c.1490-1542)

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543)

John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford (1485-1555)

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543)

Sir Nicholas Poyntz (c.1510-1556)

Sir Thomas Wriothesley (c. 1460-1534)

The Wriothesley Garter book

Robert Glover (1544-88)

Nobilitas politica vel civilis