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The Tudors – Henry VIII and the English Reformation, 1509-47

1. Henry's Court

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about how politics worked in Henrician England, focusing in particular on: (i) John Foxe's assessment of Henry VIII that "according as hys Counsell was about him, so was he lead"; (ii) the view of historians such as David Starkey and Eric Ives that Henry's court was dominated by faction; (iii) David Starkey's definition of faction; (iv) the importance of the physical layout of Henry's court, especially the group of rooms known as the Privy Chamber; (v) the history of the institution known as the Privy Chamber, and the extent to which it evolves in the reign of Henry VIII; (vi) Henry VIII's creation of the formal position of Gentleman of the Privy Chamber; (vii) the other institutions that had access to the king, including the Secretariat and the Privy Council; (viii) Eric Ives' definition of faction, which differs from that of Starkey; (ix) the extent to which Henry VIII was influenced by his councillors; (x) the extent to which members of different factions could nevertheless form good working relationships, e.g. Thomas Howard and Thomas Cromwell; and (xi) the potential for individuals to have relationships with several different factions at the same time.


In this course, Dr Tracey Sowerby (University of Oxford) explores the reign of Henry VIII, thinking in particular about the English Reformation. We begin by focusing on decision-making in the Henrician court, before looking at the reasons behind the break with Rome—was it simply because Henry had fallen in love with another woman, or were there greater issues at stake? In the third module, we think about the extent to which the changes made by Henry were Protestant in nature, before moving on in the final two modules to think about the opposition to the changes that Henry was making.


Tracey Sowerby is a Senior College Lecturer in History at Keble College, Oxford. Her research interests cover early modern politics, religion, print culture, and intellectual culture and the interactions between them.

Her doctorate, and the book that developed out of it, examined the activities of Henry VIII’s most prolific propagandist, Richard Morison (c.1513-56), while at present she is researching the cultural history of Tudor diplomacy, thinking about how English diplomatic practice, personnel and theory adapted to three major sixteenth century developments: the introduction of resident ambassadors, the English Reformation and female rule.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Sowerby, T. (2018, August 15). The Tudors – Henry VIII and the English Reformation, 1509-47 - Henry's Court [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Sowerby, T. "The Tudors – Henry VIII and the English Reformation, 1509-47 – Henry's Court." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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