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New Monarchies

New Monarchies

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Western European rulers were able to consolidate power for the Crown. By stripping the nobility and clergy of their power, reworking the Royal Counsel, and creating standing armies these rulers were able to change the ways that their kingdoms were governed. How exactly did they consolidate power? Who were these new monarchs in England and Spain? Let's explore those questions and more!

New Monarchies Definition

First, Let's define new monarchies. In the 15th and 16th centuries, new monarchs in Western Europe began to consolidate their power. They stripped the power of nobility and clergy to make themselves stronger. Many of them began to gather power in the late Middle Ages.

Remember that the new monarchies were not absolute monarchs. They still had a Royal Counsel and did not have absolute power.

New Monarchies and Their Opponents

Before the New Monarchies began consolidating power, kingdoms operated by the feudal system. The king granted land to the nobility in exchange the nobles would pledge loyalty to the Crown and provide knights and soldiers if the need arose. The nobility could tax the people who worked the land.

Another dominating power was the Roman Catholic Church. The Church was extremely wealthy as it owned the majority of land in Europe. This land was considered to belong to God and kings could not tax it because they believed that man cannot tax God. The clergy could not be tried in the king's court because kings did not have the authority to try God's servants so they were tried in Ecclesiastical Courts.

Ecclesiastical Court:

Churches that presided over members of the clergy in the Middle Ages.

Lastly, the Pope could excommunicate rulers who disobeyed the Church. An excommunicated king was no longer a member of the Catholic church, it may be considered illegitimate, and if they died before re-joining the church then he went to hell. This would make a king look weak. If the ruler still disobeyed, the Pope could enact an interdict. This meant that no sacraments would take place until the king appeased the Pope. No weddings, funerals, baptisms, or communion for the entire kingdom!

Nobility and Catholic Church Lose Power

For the new monarchs to take power, the nobility and the Roman Catholic Church must weaken first. Let's look at the two events that drastically debilitated the two groups.

The Black Plague

The Black Plague lasted from 1346 until 1352 but would resurface every so often. Somewhere between 40% and 60% of Europeans died during this pandemic. The Church could not explain the plague, prevent it, or heal people from it; this caused a lot of people to lose faith in the Church. The nobles who survived no longer had commoners to work their land and pay taxes. The commoners who survived were able to renegotiate their leases because lords needed commoners and were willing to bargain with them.

The New Monarchies, The Black Plague, StudySmarterFig 1: A priest praying for victims of the Black Plague

Some nobles saw wealthy towns and began to heavily tax or even plunder them. Towns made charters with the king for protection. The towns would be able to elect council members and govern locally as long as they paid taxes to the king. The educated middle class from these towns could become bureaucrats and work for the king. The king could replace nobles who were loyal to their families with commoners who were loyal to the king.

Bureaucrats: A person who works for the government through its institutions and administers public affairs.

Hundred Years War

The Hundred Years' War began in 1337 and ended in 1453. Knights were the primary way of war until the Hundred Years' War when Englishmen began to use longbows. Arrows from these bows could pierce knights' armor. Kings began to turn away from the practice of nobles gathering forces in favor of standing armies paid for and loyal to the Crown.

Gunpowder was also introduced as a weapon. Kings quickly took control over the distribution by creating royal gunpowder workshops. This weakened nobility even further because their primary way of waging war against their kings was to bunker down in their fortified stone castles. Kings were forced to lay siege to the castles which could take months and weren't always successful. Now with cannons and gunpowder, sieges could be swift and decisive.

  • The Black Plague caused people to lose faith in the Church.
  • Peasants were able to negotiate leases with lords because of the death toll of the Black Plague.
  • The Hundred Years' War made knights obsolete.
    • Introduced English Long Bows and gunpowder as weapons change the rules of engagement.

The Rise of New Monarchies

The Renaissance brought in new ideas about governing. New monarchs were able to consolidate power by stripping it from the Church and nobility. This task was made easier as these two groups had begun to weaken. To take power from the nobility, rulers began to remove them from governing. The nobles of the Royal Court, advisors to the ruler, were replaced with middle-class lawyers. Kings created standing armies so they no longer relied on knights/feudal lords as in feudal times. They began to tax the people directly, disallowing the nobility from this practice which increased the monarch's supremacy.

The Church lost power as rulers began to appoint the clergy within their kingdoms instead of allowing the Church to do so. Some kings even limited the Church's ability to demand tithe from the nobility. The tithe was 10% of the nobles' worth and went to the Vatican in Rome.

King Charles VII of France forced the Catholic Church to keep the tithes taken from France in France.

New Monarchies Examples

Now that we know why new monarchies were able to come about and how they consolidated power. Let's look at two examples of new monarchies for a better idea of what they looked like in practice!

New Monarchies in England

Our example of a new monarch in England is King Henry VII. Henry was the first Tudor ruler of England and the winner of the War of the Roses.

The New Monarchies, Henry VII, StudySmarterFig 2: Henry VII

New monarchies Henry VII

The war-weary aristocratic class allowed Henry to remove them from politics. He then replaced them with low nobles and middle-class lawyers. The majority of his Parliament was constituted of low aristocracy and wealthy middle-class people. A new nobility loyal to him for giving them power.

What was the War of the Roses?

The War of the Roses was a power struggle that began during the Hundred Years' War in 1455. It was mainly between House Lancaster and House York. House Lancaster won in 1487 and placed Henry on the throne. He married Elizabeth of York thus joining the houses.

The Parliament allowed Henry to create a secret court to try nobles. This court was called the Star Chamber. Nobles on trial were not given a fair chance. They pay fines directly to Henry. If their land was confiscated, then it was given to the king. To prevent them from gaining too much power having an army was out of the question.

Henry was given control of taxes and tariffs on imports. He reduced his reliance on Parliament by using tariffs to generate income plus he did not spend much. To prevent wars, he strengthened England's alliances by marrying his children to Scottish and Spanish royalty.

New Monarchies in Spain

Our Spanish new monarchs are Queen Isabella of Castile and her husband King Ferdinand of Aragon. Their union began the process of the unification of Spain. Let's take a closer look at their rule.

The New Monarchies, Ferdinand and Isabella, StudySmarterFig 3: Ferdinand and Isabella

Ferdinand and Isabella

Isabella of Castile married Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469, though they did not combine their kingdoms this did begin the process of combining Castile and Aragon to make Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella started reclaiming Spain by pushing out the Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula. To consolidate power they needed to control religion so the two set about to create a fully Catholic Spain. They gain the epithet of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholics!

Ferdinand, Isabella, and the majority of their kingdom were Anti-Semitic and Anti-Muslim. Jewish people were forced to convert to Catholicism. Pope Alexander VI allowed Ferdinand and Isabella to choose the bishops and other important clergy positions in Spain. Since the bishops were loyal to the Crown, they allowed Ferdinand and Isabella to begin the Spanish Inquisition. The monarchs also replaced their advisors with middle-class lawyers and clergy all of which were loyal to them.

Spanish Inquisition:

The Spanish Inquisition's job was to find if the people who converted from Islam and Judaism were Catholics. They misused their power and often tortured people who were falsely accused.

1492 was a big year for the monarchs. They conquered Grenada, the last Muslim foothold in Spain. This ten-year campaign began in 1482 and was labeled a holy crusade by the pope. It was a success for Isabella specifically as she felt that she completed her family's task of conquering Spain.

Riding off of the thrill of success the monarchy began to push for religious unification. The Jewish people who lived in Spain were told to convert to Catholicism or leave. If they left all of their property was confiscated by the Crown. In 1502, Muslims would also have to convert or leave.

Ferdinand and Isabella would sponsor Columbus's voyage in 1492. His goal was to find an Eastward route to India. Access to an untaxed route to India would make Spain very rich. Instead, Columbus found the New World which the monarchy would exploit for riches.

The New Monarchies of the 15th and 16th Centuries

Henry VII, Ferdinand, and Isabella saw that the nobility and church had lost power. They took that power and used it to make changes within their governments. They relied less on nobility and more on the educated middle class. They brought wealth to their kingdoms. Both crowns established systems to punish people who either stepped out of line or were different from them. Henry VII, Ferdinand, and Isabella were all successful new monarchs.

New Monarchies - Key takeaways

  • New monarchs consolidated power by taking it from the church and nobles
  • New monarchs took advantage of the loss of power experienced because of the Black Plague and Hundred Years' War
  • Henry VII was England's new monarch
  • Ferdinand and Isabella were Spain's new monarchs

Frequently Asked Questions about New Monarchies

The New Monarchies refer to the reigns of Spain, England, and France during the 15th and 16th centuries. 

New Monarchies developed in Europe because the nobility and Roman Catholic Church lost power and the new monarchs took advantage of it. 

The new monarch in England was Henry VII. 

Monarchs consolidated power by raising taxes, creating standing armies, and taking control of religion within their kingdoms.

The new monarchies centralized power by removing it from the nobles and clergy. This was done by replacing nobles with bureaucrats who were loyal to the Crown. Sovereigns, instead of the Pope, also began appointing clergymen. 

Final New Monarchies Quiz

Question

When did the War of the Roses begin?

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Answer

1455

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Question

What year did the War of the Roses end?

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Answer

1485

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Question

Who was NOT a member of the Yorkist faction?

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Answer

Margaret of Anjou

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Who was NOT a member of the Lancastrian faction?

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Answer

Edward IV

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Question

Which house represents the White Rose?

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Answer

York

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Which house represents the Red Rose?

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Answer

Lancaster

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What was the first battle of the War of the Roses?

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Answer

The Battle of St. Albans

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What was the final battle of the War of the Roses?

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Answer

The Battle of Bosworth Field

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Who was Henry Tudor?

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Answer

The last Lancastrian, who overthrew Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field and became King Henry VII, the first Tudor King.

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Who was Richard III?

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Answer

Brother of King Edward IV. After Edward's death, he declared his brother's sons illegitimate and seized the crown for himself.

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Who was Margaret of Anjou?

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Answer

As Henry VI's queen, Margaret led the Lancastrian faction against Richard of York. She was the major political player for her side due to Henry VI's frequent illnesses.

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Question

What was the name of Ferdinand II of Aragon's wife? 

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Answer

Isabella of Castile 

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Question

What best describes the dynamics of Ferdinand and Isabella's rule? 

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Answer

They ruled jointly, sharing the authority and responsibilities of the crown. 

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Question

What was the Spanish Reconquista? 

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Answer

The Spanish term for "reconquest"; an almost 8-century-long struggle between the Catholic and Muslim kingdoms for control of the Iberian Peninsula.  

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How did Ferdinand II of Aragon's efforts in the Reconquista fair? 

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Answer

Ferdinand finished the Reconquista, defeating the Moors at Granada and expelling them from the Iberian Peninsula. 

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Question

What was the Alhambra Decree? 

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Answer

It was an order that required all non-Catholics, specifically Jews, to either leave Spain or convert to Catholicism 

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Why was the Spanish Inquisition created? 

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Answer

To interrogate recent converts to Catholicism (former Muslims and Jews) and crush their influence in Spain. 

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Question

When the Catholic Pope pleaded for Ferdinand II of Aragon to restructure the nature of the Spanish Inquisition, how did the Spanish Monarch react? 

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Answer

Ferdinand II of Aragon ignored the Pope's letters and continued the tortures and interrogations of the Inquisition. 

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Question

What famous Italian navigator did Ferdinand II of Aragon sponsor in his planned voyage across the Atlantic Ocean?

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Answer

Christopher Columbus 

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Question

What was significant about Columbus's voyage for Spain?

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Answer

The success of finding the New World promised wealth and power for Spain in the years to come. 

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Question

Who did Ferdinand II of Aragon name as his successor? 

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Answer

His grandson Charles, who would later become Charles V as a Holy Roman Emperor). 

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Question

New Monarchs were successful in Eastern Europe. 

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Answer

True

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Question

What system was in place before new monarchies?

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Answer

Feudal  System

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Question

Who held the most land in Europe?

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Answer

The Roman Catholic Church

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Why did the Church lose power during the Black Plague?

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Answer

People lost faith in them when they could not prevent it

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Question

Who did kings replace nobles in the Royal Court with?

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Answer

Middle Class Lawyers

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Question

Which two weapons did the Hundred Years' War introduce?

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Answer

Longbows and Muskets 

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Question

What was the English court established to try nobles called?

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Answer

The Star Court

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Question

How did Henry VII generate income?

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Answer

Tariffs  

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Question

Who claimed the property that Jewish people forced to leave Spain left behind?

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Answer

The Spanish Crown

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Question

Ferdinand and Isabella combined their kingdoms when they married. 

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Answer

True

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