In 1580, when Queen Elizabeth attempted to grant a monopoly on the gauging of beer to one of her court favourites, the Brewers’ Guild mounted a fierce campaign to dissuade her.Similarly, when one Edward Darcy obtained a right to approve and stamp all skins, his monopoly sparked a rebellion by the Leathersellers.
In time, non-liveried members were shut out entirely, and eligibility for membership was determined not by competency at a craft but by ability to pay a fee of capital.Among the London guilds, a strict ranking developed.A dispute between two guilds the Goldsmiths and the Tailors had escalated until it turned into armed conflict.The issues that led to the fighting are not recorded, but history does tell us that over 500 men were involved, including members of the Cloth workers’ Guild and the Cordwainers’ Guild, and that many were injured or killed.Such rumbles broke out from time to time among the scores of craft guilds that had arisen during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
In 1340 it was the Skinners fighting the Fishmongers in the Cheapside district of the city. Though bloody, those conflicts were both mere skirmishes compared to the all-out war of the 1390s in which a grand alliance consisting of the Drapers, the Mercers, the Tailors, the Goldsmiths, the Saddlers, the Haaberdashers, and the Cordwainers went to war against the Fishmongers and the Victuallers.
For example, during the war between England and Spain, it was the Grocers’ Company, among others, that financed the ships that defeated the Spanish Armada.
During peace times, sales of land were a primary avenue of royal revenue, but as that source was exhausted by 1685.
Despite the objections of the guilds, sales of monopolies became a major source of royal revenues in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
In 1623, Parliament passed the Statute of Monopolies, intended to halt the practice, but Charles I exploited loopholes in the act and managed to raise £100,000 per year from selling monopolies.
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