Commissions were Letters Patent, issued over the Great Seal of England and authorising named individuals to carry out certain functions on the king’s behalf. Some, like the revenue commission of 1552, established enquiries where the commissioners’ instructions were to investigate a specific situation and to make recommendations for action.1 A similar group was set up in 1549 to draft a new code of canon law for the reformed English Church. Such commissions were time-limited, and the eventual outcome of their labours was not under their own control. They might report personally to the monarch, or to the Lord Chancellor, but more commonly to the Council. The revenue commission reported in December 1552, but some of its conclusions were suppressed before they ever reached the Council. Those which were presented were accepted, but very patchily implemented.2 The report of the canon law commission was rejected outright in March 1553, and the commission expired with the end of Edward’s last parliament. When such groups were dealing with important public issues, they were composed of senior officials and Privy Councillors, but a commission of enquiry for a local purpose would be made up of suitably qualified local men. After 1570, for example, most counties had commissions to investigate the incidence of recusancy.
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