Home  »  Volume V: English THE DRAMA TO 1642 Part One  »  § 4. Strength of the Tudor Monarchy and Popular Sentiment

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XIV. Some Political and Social Aspects of the Later Elizabethan and Earlier Stewart Period

§ 4. Strength of the Tudor Monarchy and Popular Sentiment

It is not to the personality of queen Elizabeth, or even to the statesmanship of her chief advisers and to the acceptance almost always given by her, before it was too late, to their counsels, that should be ascribed, in the first instance, the great political results achieved by the Tudor monarchy of whose rule her own was the crown and the consummation. The primary cause of these results, without which the achievement of them is inconceivable, was the principle of that monarchy itself, which supplied unity and strength, and made possible the direct control of national action by individual intelligence. The Tudor monarchy in England, like the other strong monarchies of Europe of which the latter part of the fifteenth century had witnessed the consolidation, was a creation of the renascence; but the conditions in which it sprang into life and, after a short period of cautious circumspection, established its system, acquired fresh force as it progressed. It was an aristocratic monarchy, but based, not on the doubtful consent of great nobles, their sovereign’s peers in power and influence almost as much as in name, but on the assured support of farseeing statesmen, learned and surefooted lawyers, and merchants whose ambition spanned seas and lands—all of whom were chosen and maintained in high place by the personal confidence of the monarch. The policy of the crown was not dictated by the will of the people at large, expressed by such representation as it possessed in parliament; yet, in the midst of all the changes through which troubles at home and abroad obliged this policy to pass, it contrived, while deliberately pursuing its own path, to remain in general harmony with popular sentiment.