The Tudors Wiki

King Henry's Privy Council, Season Four. Left to right: Edward Seymour, Thomas Seymour, Richard Riche, Charles Brandon, Bishop Stephen Gardiner. Not pictured: Thomas Wriothesley

The Privy Council is the body through which the King of England- in The Tudors, this is King Henry VIII- delegates his authority.  Besides Parliament (which consists mostly of the nobility and clergy) the Court of Justice, and the King himself, the Privy Council is the only centralized body of power in the English government, although its' members are appointed and dismissed by the King and thus cannot really check his power.  The headquarters of the Council are at Whitehall Palace, and all its' members are given quarters there unless they are out of the King's favor.

Senior positions include:

  • Archbishop of Canterbury (Head of the Church of England, although this title becomes ceremonial only after the role is passed to the King in Season Two)
  • Lord Chancellor (executor of the King's laws and bearer of the Great Seal of the Realm, usually the most powerful individual besides the King)
  • Lord High Steward (the highest position, but only exercised during coronations or trials)
  • Lord Privy Seal (bearer of the King's personal Seal, often one of the King's closest advisors)
  • Lord President of the Council (subordinate only to the Lord High Steward within the Council, but only holding authority at Privy Coucil meetings unlike the Chancellor and Lord Privy Seal)

A number of other positions exist that may be entered into the Privy Council, including Comptroller of the Royal Household, Lord Warden of the Cinq-Ports, Vice-Regent of Spiritual Affairs, Solicitor-General, Lord Protector (only if the monarch is a minor or incapacitated) Royal Secretary, or a number of ministers or bishops without portfolio.  Military positions such as Marshall of the Field, Commander of the Royal Army and Admiral of the Royal Navy, may also be included or excluded from certain meetings, as may ambassadors to foreign countries.

Henry and most of his Privy Council, Season 2. Left to right: unknown, Charles Brandon, Thomas Boleyn, George Boleyn, and Thomas Cromwell. Not shown: Thomas Cranmer.

Although the Privy Council is normally made up of nobles and sometimes clergymen (who will therefore also hold a position in Parliament), Henry made a point of sometimes elevating men of low birth to his council based on merit alone, such as Thomas Cromwell and Cardinal Wolsey.  However, all members of the Council depend on retaining the King's favor to thus retain their positions.

Most of the Privy Council at the start of Season Two. Left to right: Charles Brandon, Thomas Boleyn, George Boleyn, Thomas More. Not shown: Thomas Cromwell.

  • Cardinal Wolsey- Papal Legate, Archbishop of York and Bishop of Winchester, and Lord Chancellor.  Banished from court and relieved of his position in episode 1.09.  Later arrested for treason in episode 1.10; committed suicide in prison.m
  • Richard Pace- Secretary of State.  Dismissed of his position in episode 1.03 and placed in the Tower of London; released due to insanity in episode 1.04.
  • Sir Thomas More- appointed Lord Chancellor at the end of episode 1.09.  Resigned from the position in episode 2.02.  Later executed for not swearing the Oaths of Succession and Supremacy.
  • William Warham- Archbishop of Canterbury. Although a member of the Council he is never shown attending any meetings, probably due to having little standing with the King.  Died of illness in episode 2.02.
  • Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk- appointed co-President of the Council in episode 2.10, alongside the Duke of Norfolk.  Held the position for an unclear ammount of time, then resigned; subsequently re-appointed as a minister without Portfolio, temporarily re-appointed President of the Council in Season Three.  Twice appointed Commander of the Royal Army in Seasons Three and Four.
  • Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk- appointed co-President of the Council in episode 2.10, later retired*.
  • Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire- first Ambassador to France and Comptroller of the Royal House; subsequently appointed Lord Privy Seal in episode 1.10, later Lord Protector.  Dismissed from both positions and banished from court in episode 2.10 after being investigated for treason, but released from the Tower.
  • Sir Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex and Lord of Wimbleton- appointed Secretary of State in episode 1.04, Lord Chancellor in episode 2.03, Vice-Regent of Spiritual Matters (a newly-created title) in episode 2.06, and Lord Privy Seal in episode 3.01.  Removed from all offices in episode 3.08 after being found guilty of treason, and subsequently executed.
  • George Boleyn, Lord of Rochford- initially minister without Portfolio in episode 1.10, later Lord Warden of the Cinq-Ports in episode 2.03.  Expelled from this position after being (falsely) found guilty of treason (adultery and incest with his sister the Queen) in episode 2.09 and subsequently executed.
  • Thomas Cranmer- appointed Archbishop if Canterbury in episode 2.03.  Removed from the council after Season Two, though retaining his position.
  • Sir Thomas Wyatt- appointed minister without Portfolio in episode 2.03.  Expelled from this position in episode 2.10 after being arrested investigated for treason, but released from the Tower.
  • Thomas Wriothesley- appointed Royal Secretary in episode 3.05, Lord Chancellor in episode 4.09.
  • Stephen Gardiner-Bishop of Winchester.  Appointed minister without Portfolio in mid-Season Three.  Expelled from Court in episode 4.10.
  • Sir Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford- appointed Lord Privy Seal in Season Four.  Made Lord Protector at Henry's death.
  • Sir Thomas Seymour- appointed minister without Portfolio in Season Four.  Later made Grand Admiral of the Royal Navy
  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey- Appointed Minister without portfolio in late Season Four.  Later appointed Marshall of the Field.  Later revoked of these positions after his defeat in France and subsequently his trial for treason in episode 4.09.

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