Maintaining Order in Tudor England

R. E. Foster explains how law and order were institutionalised in the 16th century.

The idea of a divinely ordered world came naturally to 16th-century Englishmen. In Henry V the Archbishop of Canterbury explains how:

heaven divide

The state of man in divers functions,

Setting endeavour in continual motion;

To which is fixed an aim or butt


King Henry VII holding a Tudor Rose, wearing collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, dated 1505.When, in times of rebellion, the links in the ‘Great Chain of Being’ appeared in danger of snapping, the reaction was bewilderment at acts so unnatural. As Secretary Paget informed Lord Protector Somerset during the widespread disturbances of 1549, ‘As for the law, the foot takes on him the part of the head, and the common people are behaving like a king’.

To read this article in full you need to be either a print + archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.

If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in. 

Buy Subscription | Buy Online Access | Log In

If you are logged in and still cannot read the article, please email

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week