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Great Contract

Great Contract, 1610. By the time James I ascended the throne of England the royal finances had been undermined by inflation. In 1610, therefore, Lord Treasurer Robert Cecil proposed that Parliament should vote the king a regular annual income. In return, the crown would abandon its deeply resented right to make wards of under-age heirs of landowners and sell control of their estates to the highest bidder. The Commons were allergic to the idea of permanent taxation, particularly for the benefit of the spendthrift James, but eventually accepted Cecil's proposal, though they offered far less than he had hoped for. The contract was duly formalized, but during the parliamentary recess members were made aware that their constituents were implacably opposed to it. Since James had become convinced that it would leave him no better off, the contract was abandoned, amid general recriminations.

Roger Lockyer

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