This article explores the creation, workings and significance of the select council, an advisory board created by King Philip II of Spain in England, during his joint-reign with his second wife, Queen Mary I. Traditional interpretations of the episode have described the new council, created in 1555, as an ineffectual institution, which only created confusion when placed alongside Mary’s large and allegedly chaotic privy council and which was only sustained in name to satisfy the king’s ego. In this view, the select council never really worked separately from the privy council and its activity disappeared entirely after 1556. This interpretation does not stand the scrutiny of the documentary evidence available. The article first surveys the conciliar traditions of England and Spain to contextualise the creation of the select council within the parameters of Spanish conciliar culture and the demands of the composite Spanish Monarchy, of which England was now an integral part. This is followed by a detailed exploration of the documentation – mainly epistolary exchanges – produced by the select council and King Philip to ascertain the level of activity the new board engaged in, as well as Philip’s direct intervention in English matters through the select council. His indirect engagement with the council, through the sending of envoys, rounds up the article, which ultimately confirms that the select council was an active board, that it was distinct from the privy council and that it served its purpose well and placed England firmly in the context of the Spanish Monarchy.
|Journal||English Historical Review|
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 2022|