- The Exchequer was the government department in charge of crown money
- In Tudor times the monarch was expected to pay for all the costs of running the country
- There were different ways a monarch could gain money. These sources of crown income were rental income from tenants on living and/or working on the monarch’s land, sale of crown lands, fines given as a punishment by judges, customs duties on imports (goods being brought into England to be sold) and feudal dues
- If the monarch needed extra money he or she had to ask Parliament to approve taxation.
- Elizabeth tried to avoid this as gave Parliament more power her and any plans she had – her preference was to be independent and beholden to nobody
- Elizabeth inherited £300K of debt from her sister Mary’s reign
- Most crown wealth came from land but rent prices were mainly fixed which meant Elizabeth suffered whenever people became to poor to afford to pay their rent
- Edward and Mary had introduced reforms to improve the running of the Exchequer and Elizabeth built on this
- Elizabeth cut back government spending and strictly monitored the costs of her household
- Exchequer officials were told to “balance the books” and to call in any debts from people who owed Elizabeth money
- Elizabeth sold loads of Crown lands over 20 years and brought in money totalling £600K
- By 1585 Elizabeth had finally paid off Mary’s debt and built up a reserve of £300K
- Things went down hill again as a result of war with Spain, BUT if she hadn’t paid off her debt and built her finances up then she would have struggled to get enough money together to go to war with Spain
THREAT FROM ABROAD
When Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 France was at war with England and Spain. England had allied (joined together) with Spain in the war because the previous queen, Elizabeth’s sister Mary I, was married to Phillip II of France. France was interested in winning against England because Mary, Queen of Scots (married to the heir to French throne) had a claim to the English throne. France wanted her as Catholic queen of France AND England (instead of Protestant Elizabeth)
Ruled by Mary, Queen of Scots (but she was in France at the start of Elizabeth’s reign), thus there was a strong link between France and Scotland (both Catholic at this point). French soldiers were stationed in Scotland and Elizabeth and her Privy Council really feared the danger of a joint attack from across the Channel (France) and the northern border (Scotland)
Spain was the most powerful and wealthy country in Europe in 1558. It had territory in Europe, Central and South America. Spain was devoutly (really seriously) Catholic and was committed to preventing the spread of Protestantism. Spain and England were quite friendly at this point because of Philip’s marriage to Mary I and was interested in marrying Elizabeth after Mary died.
Options = Continue war with France OR make peace
- Continue: A military victory would be very popular and there was a chance that England might regain the territory of Calais which had previously been under English control. Also a victory would end the threat of a combined invasion from France and Scotland
- Make peace: It could make Elizabeth look weak. Elizabeth and her councillors had no interest in war with France because they knew they were not likely to win. Also Elizabeth couldn’t afford to keep sending money to support Philip II because the famine of 1557 onwards killed over 200,000 people – farming communities couldn’t spare men for fighting. Furthermore defeat (which was likely) would get her reign off to a terrible start.