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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Privy Chamber
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0393  Thursday, 27 February 2003

From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003 12:24:26 -0000
Subject: 14.0376 Privy Chamber
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0376 Privy Chamber

I can see how this might now look a bit confusing.

"Whilst previous postings on the Privy Council and Chamber are not
wrong, its function changed decisively under James VI and I", writes
David Lindley: "the Privy Chamber was downgraded in effectiveness", and
"It was those appointed to be Gentlemen of the Bedchamber who now had
the closest contact with the king".

It should be clarified that Henry VIII's Privy Chamber was downgraded,
not during James VI and I's reign, but during Elizabeth I's - because
her female entourage was relegated to mere domestic duties by the Privy
Council and Secretary of State. James restored much of the political
influence of the Privy Chamber by replacing it with the Bedchamber (in
his 1603 Bedchamber ordinances). What we have, basically, is a male
monarch restoring some of his personal power against the Privy Council
by revitalising the Privy Chamber (which had suffered during the
previous forty-five years) by giving it a new name and filling it with
male courtiers (Somerset, and, of course, Buckingham, for example - at
the expense, as David Lindley observes, of Secretary Robert Cecil).

As David Lindley suggested, Neil Cuddy's work is particularly useful on
this transformation, and provides a counterweight against Elton's notion
that Henry VIII's reign saw the "Tudor revolution in government" (i.e.
the increased political power of the Council) rather than Elizabeth's.
According to Cuddy, James simply restored the structures and hierarchies
that had persisted under Henry VIII. (I confess that in response to the
original posting, I was really describing the situation under Elizabeth,
rather than under Henry, against the wishes of the correspondent).

As well as the article cited by David Lindley, see Cuddy's more recent
treatment of the same subject: "Reinventing a Monarchy: The Changing
Structure and Political Function of the Stuart Court 1603-1688", Eveline
Cruickshanks, ed., The Stuart Courts (Stroud 2000), pp.59-85, esp.
pp.70-73

While you're there, you might want to check out Lindley's own, fine
essay on "The Politics of Chapman's Memorable Masque", Ibid., pp.43-58

martin

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