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, although it is most likely that he died of cancer. The King withdrew from the contract because it meant that he would lose a useful means of controlling his more powerful subjects. The House of Commons withdrew because they were wary of providing an income that might give the King financial independence.

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 rather extravagant in financial matters, and it is uncertain whether the Contract would have been a permanent solution of his difficulties. It is also 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 it must be said that James, who had a wife and, by 1605, four children to support, had many legitimate expenses which the unmarried and childless Elizabeth did not.

See also[edit]


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