England Forced Loans and Prerogative Taxes 1347 to 1640 (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral and Insurance Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Forced Loans and Prerogative Taxes

Forced Loans 1347-1455

Forced loans were demanded by the monarch on numerous occasions and TNA research guide calls them official extortion. Some early ones were levied in anticipation of subsidies and some nominal returns survive in Exchequer class E 34 and other places.

Benevolences 1474-1639

These were free gifts made to the king by his subjects but they were informed that the alternative was personal military conscription! They had different titles, such as the Amicable Grant of 1525, and theFree and Voluntary Present of 1546 but all were for military purposes. Only a few enrolled accounts survive, for 1474, 1491, and 1546; but there are plenty of historical accounts of the times, for example that of the 1525 riot at Bayham Abbey, Kent against the hated Amicable Grant (Moon).

Forced and Privy Seal Loans 1496-1628

In Tudor and Stuart times the forced loan, orprivy seal loan as it was known by Mary I’s reign, was more prevalent than the benevolence, and took the form of a pro forma letter under the monarch’s signet (private seal). Those reluctant to pay were imprisoned! Henry VIII retrospectively converted them to grants, but at least his daughters Mary and Elizabeth repaid those that they ordered. Some records of individuals contributing in 1522, 1523, 1542, 1556, 1562, 1569 and 1611 exist (see Jurkowski et al.(Lay Taxes in England and Wales 1188-1688, 1998) who include an illustration of a 1611 privy seal letter, and Hoyle (Tudor Taxation Records: A Guide for Users, 1994) with a photo of a 1589 privy seal). Noble (The Names of Those Persons Who Subscribed towards the Defence of This Country at the Time of the Spanish Armada, 1588, and the Amounts .... with Historical Introduction, 1886) published a printed edition of those subscribing to the privy seal loan after the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Military Survey and Forced Loans 1522-1523

In 1522 a joint muster and fiscal assessment was made to assess both the total wealth of the country and the manpower available for war, and to discover who controlled it. Only a few returns survive, varying in the detail given, and comprise all or part of 13 counties for the military survey, and 14 counties for the contributors to the forced loans. Hoyle (Tudor Taxation Records: A Guide for Users, 1994) gives a handlist of extant material and a photocopy of an original military survey from Berkshire.

Rowe’s work (Tudor Exeter: Tax Assessments 1489-1595 including the Military Survey 1522. Devon and Cornwall Record Society, New Series, Vol. 22) on Exeter’s excellent 15th-16th century extant tax records includes the 1522 survey and muster, which probably includes all the adult male inhabitants of the city together with some widows. Extra details such as servants and apprentices, occupations, places of birth of aliens, and armour and weapons held by able men are also found.

Ship Money 1628-1640

The responsibility for the provision of ships for the defence of the realm was traditionally carried out by the Cinque Ports, who received exemption from parliamentary taxation in return. In 1628, when faced with threats from the Dutch, French and pirates, Charles I tried to levy money for ships from every county and borough. This was greatly resented and had to be abandoned, however it was re-instated from 1634-1640 giving the counties and cities the choice of providing fully manned and rigged ships or money. Ship money was the last tax levied by royal prerogative without parliamentary approval, being declared illegal by this body in 1641, so was one of the items triggering the civil war. Surviving lists are mainly schedules of defaulters, but I found a couple of relatives in the simple lists of contributors of Essex Ship Money in 1636, neither of whom was in the Subsidy Rolls of 1605-1628 viz:

John REMNANT in North End Ward of Hornchurch
Edward DARTNELL in Tilbery (sic - Tilbury) East


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