Promoting ‘English Civility’ in Tudor Times
Ellis, Steven G. (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Tolerance and Intolerance in Historical Perspective, (University of Pisa, 2003)
Like states everywhere, the 16th-century English monarchy regulated the conduct of its subjects by promoting a series of political, cultural and religious norms to which subjects were expected to conform. These norms related to basic aspects of everyday life – dealings with his neighbours and with royal officials, his duties and privileges as a subject, and his religion and beliefs. They were backed by a system of royal courts at local and national level which, in the English case – unlike most other states of early modern Europe – enforced a standard law code throughout the crown territories, English common law. In general, too, these norms came to be more tightly drawn and more closely regulated as the century progressed, particularly from the 1530s. For instance, legislation enjoined the use of the English language (rather than Welsh or Gaelic) in pleadings in the royal courts; the standard English institutions of local government (counties, sheriffs, and JPs, for instance) were extended throughout outlying territories (Ireland, Wales, and the English north) in those parts where hitherto they had been lacking; and in particular a whole series of changes associated with the Reformation imposed confessional change and uniformity in terms of religion.