1st Edition

The Queen's Wards Wardship and Marriage under Elizabeth I

By Joel Hurstfield Copyright 1973

    Originally published in 1958, this new impression of The Queen’s Wards from 1973 made available once more a work that remains a significant contribution to the history of society and government in Elizabethan England.

    The Court of Wards was a bizarre institution with roots going back to feudal mediaeval times. Revived by Henry VII, formally instituted by Henry VIII, the concept of wardship reached its zenith in Elizabethan times, when it was used as a powerful weapon in the raising of revenues and in controlling the aristocracy.

    The Court administered on behalf of the Crown the properties of fatherless minors (of whom there were many), bought and sold the rights to exploit these properties during the minority of the heirs, and even sold the heirs themselves into marriage (or withheld permission to marry). This control of marriage rights was clearly open to abuse, corruption and political exploitation, and as a symptom of Elizabethan times the Court provides an interesting and illuminating subject for study.

    The system had a special significance in government policy and played a considerable role in the politics of the age: this is attested to by the fact that for nearly half a century the history of the Court of Wards is dominated by William Cecil (Lord Burghley) and his son Robert. Many other prominent courtiers and politicians were involved, and figure in this book.

    Preface.  Introduction: Feudalism Declining.  Part I: The Revival of Royal Wardship  1. Feudalism Resurgent  2. Resistance  Part II: Procedure  3. Discovering a Wardship  4. Suitors for Wards  5. The Grant of a Ward  6. Private Wardship  Part III: Wardship and Society  7. Guardians and Wards  8. Marriage  9. Coming of Age  10. Corruption  Part IV: The Rule of the Cecils  11. Offices and Office Holders  12. Lord Burghley as Guardian  13. Lord Burghley as Master  14. The Vacant Mastership  15. Sir Robert Cecil  Part V: Conclusion  16. Wardship and the Government of England.  Index.


    Joel Hurstfield

    Reviews for the 1983 edition:

    ‘Mr Hurstfield has taken on a most difficult task and discharged it triumphantly. It is hard to see how this obscure and complicated matter could have been treated with more exact thoroughness or more patient and balanced judgement.’ – Times Literary Supplement

    ‘Joel Hurstfield has a delightful way of writing. He is lucid where lucidity cannot have been easy, and where he picks human instances, he writes with dry wit and a palpable sympathy for all in distress.’ – Stevie Smith, Daily Telegraph

    ‘Its strong human theme, coupled with ease of writing and a flair for the telling phrase, make it a book that will be no means appeal only to specialists.’ – The Times