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"The Worst Monarch in History"? Rebuttal/Contextualization
December 7, 2018
2:28 am
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queenhaley321
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I browse these forums a lot, and when I read the article linked in one of the topics — that Henry was voted the worst monarch in history by the Historical Writers’ Association– I was really miffed!

I don’t think the evidence points to Henry being the worst monarch in history, but I do think he’s one of the most famous monarchs in history. I also observe him being decontextualized a lot in nonfiction books and articles; more so than many of his contemporaries.

One monarch I didn’t point to in this essay, was Charles V. If I had needed another example, I think I might have pointed out the hypocrisy of Charles V been lauded as an especially pious figure– he might not have broken with Rome, but he did take the Pope as his prisoner.

In any case, here is my rebuttal:

https://upontherose.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/the-worst-monarch-in-history-contextualizing-henry-viii/

December 7, 2018
2:56 am
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Emm
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I definitely agree; Henry VIII was not the worst monarch in history by far. He did some horrible things that we now can see based on how the world and societies have changed over the centuries, but in comparison to other monarchs in history I don’t even think I’d put him in the top ten. His people loved him while he was ruling, it’s only now that we think of how “horrible” he was. And we almost always focus on his treatment of the wives, when if you’re going to claim someone is the Worst Monarch In History, I think you need to look at more than his treatment of a few individuals. (Not that I don’t think what he did to them was horrible. It was. I’m just saying.)

And yeah, I would hold Charles V higher on the Worst Monarchs list than Henry.

December 9, 2018
2:25 am
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Anyanka
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Because I’m lazy, do you have the link to the worst monarch topic.

I can’t remember much about it so I need to refresh my memory on which monarch are on the list.

HVIII isn’t the worst even by English standards , never mind the rest of the world’s.

I’m positive there are far worse rulers who have “gotten away with it, if it hadn’t have been for those meddling teens” that we have never heard of because they ruled in an era when there was no written history. Or we haven’t yet found any.

It's always bunnies.

December 9, 2018
8:11 pm
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queenhaley321
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Anyanka said
Because I’m lazy, do you have the link to the worst monarch topic.

I can’t remember much about it so I need to refresh my memory on which monarch are on the list.

HVIII isn’t the worst even by English standards , never mind the rest of the world’s.

I’m positive there are far worse rulers who have “gotten away with it, if it hadn’t have been for those meddling teens” that we have never heard of because they ruled in an era when there was no written history. Or we haven’t yet found any.  

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/02/henry-viii-voted-worst-monarch-in-history

Specifically, I focused on contextualizing him based on the previous century/century he was born in (15th) and the century he reigned in (16th). Even within that limited scope, saying he was the worst monarch in those two centuries is a stretch.

As far as England, I would rate King John and William the Conqueror (whose treatment of many of his subjects was tantamount only to how foreign invaders had attacked England; never before had an Anglo-Saxon ruler been so brutal and exacting to so many of their own subjects) as worst rulers for sure. If we are speaking solely of morality over incompetence, I think Edward I, who exiled the Jewish population of England, ranks pretty highly too, even if Henry and his predecssors and many of his successors maintained that status quo.

The ranking for the worst was : Henry VIII, Edward VIII, John I and Charles I tied for third.

For the best monarchs in history, the ranking was : Elizabeth I, Alexander the Great, and Henry II.

Elizabeth I tends to rank higher than Henry as a ruler in public opinion. Honestly, I think that is debatable and based on some misconceptions of the “Golden Age”, which was, much like Spain’s Golden Age, certainly not so golden for everyone. The rate of poverty increased during the Elizabethan era, her poverty ‘outreach’ programs (for lack of a better term) were brutal (funds may have been given to put ‘able-bodied’ men to work, but if they weren’t adequately taking advantage of that labour, they were branded, bored through their ears, and sometimes even hanged– not for stealing, mind you, but only for the crime of begging for alms/money/food etc.), she taxed the upper peerage far less than Henry had, and her reaction to the Northern Rebellion actually exceeded Henry’s brutality in his reaction to the Pilgrimage of Grace.

This, from an Open Yale Course on Early Modern England:

“It was a commercializing society in which there were great opportunities, but many of those who had nothing to sell but their labor were in a poor competitive position and in an exceedingly risky environment. Of course, some aspects of those insecurities were perennial, but at times they could become particularly acute. And the times that stand out are the 1590s, which was a time when the harvest failed four years in a row, food prices rocketed, the weaknesses in the economy were revealed, and there was widespread misery. Indeed, in the years 1596 to 1598 there was actual famine in the most vulnerable areas; parts of the far north, north-west in particular, and parts of the far west. There’s evidence of actual death from starvation.”

And this, from an article on taxation during the various Tudor reigns:

“In the reign of Elizabeth I, the value of the assessments declined in both nominal and thus significantly in real terms… Furthermore, tax collections under Elizabeth ranged from just 25% to 51% of independent assessment valuations, compared to an average of 68% under Henry VIII. The chief cause of this discrepancy was a grossly unfair under-assessment of the peerage and upper classes, from “a combination of personal self-interest and the exigencies of patronage politics” that “conspired to undermine the directly assessed subsidy as a viable form of taxation under the later Tudors”.

If most historians consider Elizabeth to have been the much more enlightened monarch, Schofield contends that, in terms at least of parliamentary taxation, Henry VIII’s reign was the most remarkable of all the Tudors — and Stuarts — “for its sophistication and attention to the principle of distributive justice” — in essence, for its fairness; and that indeed his system of direct subsidies “was several centuries ahead of its time,” with this very short-lived partnership between a more enlightened upper class and the crown. Subsequently, Schofield observes (p. 201), “direct assessment was to be abandoned again in the mid seventeenth century, after decades of complaints over evasion and under-assessments [of upper-class incomes], and would not be revived until the very end of the eighteenth century,” during the Napoleonic Wars, and then only very briefly. The modern income tax was reintroduced, now on a permanent basis, only in 1842, with the Tory regime of Robert Peel: at the modest and flat rate of 7d per pound sterling, or 2.92%. A progressive income tax, on Henry VIII’s 1513 model, would not be achieved in Britain until the early twentieth century.”

And this, on the Elizabethan criminal justice system re: poverty:

“Between 1569 and 1572, there was a determined campaign to persuade Justices to administer the existing laws more thoroughly, which met with some success. 1572 saw the enactment of a Bill whose provisions were more severe than those of any other, with the exception of that of 1547. Punishments included being bored through the ear for a first offence and hanging for persistent beggars. Furthermore, there is evidence that it was enforced – in the Middlesex Quarter Sessions between 1572 and 1575, 44 vagabonds were sentenced to be branded, eight to be set to service, and five to be hanged.”

(The 1547 provision they refer to, btw, is that of the reign of Edward VI, not Henry’s).

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