display | more...

There were many financial issues during Elizabeth I’s reign (1558-1603) - some major threats and others just enough to cause minor concern. Initially the government was poor and Elizabeth I wasn't getting enough money to run the country, previous monarchs and she included were spending too much. There was a 300,000 pound debt floating over her head and to top it all off, maybe the biggest threat to finance loomed... the sick state the system was in.

Elizabeth I found many ways to handle the financial issues during her reign, while at the same time maintaining her excellent relationship with the governing class. She used the finance system to her own advantage and got as much out of it as she could. She sold Crown land for short-term revenue and even convinced the governing class to grant extra-ordinary revenue in ordinary times.

There was no personal distinction between the monarch's money and the money to run the government. The government, and in turn, Liz, was seriously under funded. England, however, was not a poor country. Liz realised that England's actions were being severely restricted and knew she had to do something about it. She decided to address the issues one by one and in doing this gained her good reputation in terms of handling finance.

To first address the issues we must take into account that part of these were not Liz's fault, they just simply came into being. The first of these issues was the fact that the government in England throughout Liz's reign was poor. Why was the government poor? Partly because Liz's money was all she had to run it, and further, she was spending too much on unnecessary avenues (e.g., the Navy, Liz's personal spending and royal palace building were all cut down). By no means was England poor, there were many individuals that were rich in materialistic goods and money, e.g., Barron Burghley (Cecil) and the Duke of Norfolk were two of these men.

Upon becoming Queen on England, Liz had the current financial advisor stay in place. This, of course, was a good decision. Her first advisor was Winchester and he was a wizard at cutting expenditure. Although good, he was later replaced with William Cecil. With the help of her financial adviser she realised her spending was too high. Amidst other expenditure cuts she decided there would be no more royal palaces built, candles would be blown out at night and she would even recycle bottles. Her personal expenditure would be cut in half, easing the pressure somewhat.

She also wasn't bad at getting as much as she could out of the existing system either. She maximised her ordinary revenue by creating recusant fines, i.e., if you didn't go to church then you'd be fined. This proved to be a reasonably constant form of income as there were always Catholics that didn't go to Liz's Anglican Church. She charged customs duties, collected rents from Crown lands, encouraged feudal dues, claimed Destraint of Knighthoods and formed joint stock companies (these were companies with private individuals to gain revenue) for extra revenue.

Looking for a short-term solution to an obviously long-term problem, Liz sold 600,000 pounds worth of crown land. This immediate income served her purposes in the short-term, but proved to be a dent in her shining armour - it turned out to be a bad thing for England as not having the same large amounts of capital in the future would taint her long term revenue. Less land meant less annual rents.

Still finding she didn't have enough money, Liz called parliament a number of times to ask for money. She used "Fifteenth and tenth", "tonnage and poundage", subsidies and she could've also used Ship Money (but didn't) to get it. Her excellent relationship with the governing class proved useful here as the statistics show it was granted 12 out of the 13 times she asked for it.

We know that salaries of officials were low or non-existent. These were kept as low as possible and were not adjusted for inflation. Was the efficiency of government compromised by this cost cutting? Yes, to some extent. E.g., the navy suffered minimally and morale took a bit of a hit.

Liz, from our point of view, is the most likely monarch of early England to attempt a reform of the finance system as it was obviously in need of a revolution. This is where I mark Liz down, she didn't even attempt to make a change. Because she got on so well with the political nation her own recommendations of reform may have been looked upon more favourably than, say, James I's. Her low expenditure would've also helped the cause.

Towards the end of her reign, Liz is using her right to buy supplies at below market prices (Monopolies Purveyance) and is being frowned upon by the Governing Class. All things considered however, she's done pretty damned well. She was introduced to a 300,000 pound debt when she first started out and worked the system throughout her reign until she had a 300,000 pound surplus.

Overall, Liz could've reformed the system but didn’t and made good out of what she had.

This series of essays (Decision to..) were written in preparation of exams in a weeks time. Wish me luck. Please feel free to /msg me with suggestions of what I could add, remove, edit, etc. Anything that is inaccurate I'd appreciate it if you gave me your opinion :) Special thanks to iamkaym for your comments.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.