Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Surrey provides an excellent case study of the role of justices of the peace in national and county politics in England during the years 1473-1570. Ample documentation exists in the central government records and a rich local collection, the Loseley MSS., and the availability of similar studies for the bordering counties of Hampshire, Kent, and Sussex allows fruitful comparisons. Moreover, though the shire was pulled in many directions by overlapping political and ecclesiastical jurisdictions (e.g., shrievalty, lieutenancy, diocese) and by various regional affinities, there was in Surrey a distinct political county community, the integrity of which all of the Tudors found it necessary to respect through the political and religious upheavals of 1485-1570. Richard III's wholesale purge of commissions of the peace in Surrey and other southern counties contributed to the discontent which erupted in the rebellion of October 1483 and eventually led to his overthrow. Wisely Henry VII restored to the bench the traditional leaders of the Surrey county community and only gradually added his own men. This moderate policy was followed in varying degrees by Wolsey, Cromwell, the Howards, and Henry VIII himself, by Somerset and Northumberland, and by Elizabeth. Even when the Catholic Mary at her accession removed several Protestant JPs, she left on the bench those Protestants with the closest ties to the county community, found it necessary to reappoint some of those removed, and even appointed some new JPs who were Protestants but also among the natural rulers of the shire. Surrey's leaders in general proved loyal to the Tudors, notably Cromwell's conservative courtier-JP allies in the 1530s, and both Protestants and Catholics in Mary's troubled reign. There was, however, often a lack of amity among long-lived local factions, and various combinations centered on the Browne and Howard families respectively feuded, sometimes violently, for most of the period. Religion was less divisive than the struggle for political power, and loyalist Catholics frequently cooperated with Protestants. The first decade of Elizabeth's reign brought greater local harmony with the reconciliation of the dominant local factions headed by the Brownes, Howards, and Mores.