Great Contract

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The Great Contract was a plan submitted to James I and Parliament in 1610 by Robert Cecil. It was an attempt to increase Crown income and ultimately rid it of debt.

Cecil suggested that, in return for an annual grant of £200,000, the Crown should give up its feudal rights of Wardship and Purveyance, as well as New Impositions. The plan was eventually rejected by both James and Parliament: the failure of his cherished project was thought by some to have hastened Cecil's early death in 1612. Whether it would have helped the financial situation remains a matter of speculation: it has been suggested that the financial settlement at the Restoration of Charles II was partly inspired by the Great Contract. On the other hand, James I was so extravagant in financial matters that it is uncertain whether any permanent solution of his difficulties was possible - however, it is important to consider how, at the point of Elizabeth's death, the Crown was £400,000 in debt, and thus the financial problems of James' reign are not necessarily all of his own arbitration. Further James, with a wife and three surviving children to support, had many legitimate expenses which the unmarried Elizabeth did not.

See also[edit]


  • Kenyon, J.P. The Stuarts Fontana edition 1966