Simon Walker studied modern history at Magdelen College, Oxford, graduating with first-class honours in 1979. When Walker began researching the retinue of John of Gaunt in 1980, 'bastard feudalism' had been the subject of debate for thirty-five years. A study of John of Gaunt's retinue could be expected to throw important, if not decisive, light on these problems. For not only was his the largest retinue in late medieval England, but for thirty years the duke himself had a dominant role in the domestic, military and diplomatic policy of England. In 1994, Michael Jones and Walker published for the Camden Society an edition of all the surviving private life indentures for peace and war apart from those of John of Gaunt and William, Lord Hastings. Walker's introduction to the volume reviewed the evolution of life indentures, the range of services they embraced, the regulation of obligations for service and reward, and the changing role of such indentures over the period 1278-1476. From these broad investigations into the balance of power between magnates and gentry, Walker returned to examine how, in individual cases, two men from different backgrounds built their careers on noble and royal patronage. Walker then turned to examine the retrospective view of the 1399 revolution in literate culture. He used case studies to build up a picture of collective mentalities among different social grades and vocational worlds, hoping ultimately to construct a new approach to the tensions and strength of the late medieval polity.
Between 1389 and 1413, the powers and composition of the commissions of the peace underwent a series of changes. This chapter examines the strength of these reservations against the evidence available for the membership and activity of the commissions of the peace in the three Ridings of Yorkshire during the majority rule of Richard II and the reign of Henry IV. It discusses the personnel of each of these categories and defines the part each played in the work of the Yorkshire justices of the peace. Among the general observations, the first concerns the respective attitudes of the rulers towards the self-regarding local sentiment embodied in the parliamentary Commons' aspirations to control the county bench. A second general observation concerns the opposition between central government and local autonomy, royal authority and gentry independence.
Sir Richard Abberbury of Donnington and his son, also Sir Richard, play a minor but instructive part in the history of Richard II's reign. Sir Richard le filz became a well-established figure in English political life by the 1390s, known as an acute diplomat and a trusted servant of the duke of Lancaster. Sir Richard le filz did not turn the high position he had held in John of Gaunt's esteem to greater advantage after 1399, especially in view of the importance of old Lancastrian servants in Henry IV's establishment. Within twelve months of old Sir Richard's death, Richard II was deposed and dead; John of Gaunt was dead; his son, Henry of Derby, was King of England. The Abberburys' decline has less to do with 'unskillfulness' than with the scale of priorities by which the later medieval gentry conducted their lives.
The palatinate of Lancaster provides a unique case in the study of 'bastard feudalism,' an opportunity to observe the operation of a lord's favor almost unrestrained by the exercise of royal power. This chapter examines the state of law and order in the palatinate of Lancaster under John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, in the light of the Commons' complaints. It seeks to assess the extent to which they were justified, and then use the conclusions derived from this local evidence to attempt a more general estimate of the nature and effects of 'bastard feudalism' in later medieval England. Intense competition and pressure for land, the ever-growing complexity of the law, the opportunities for manipulation and collusion, all seem more important causes of disorder than the deliberate lawlessness of the nobility. The palatinate should be ascribed to the endemic failure of medieval rulers to control their local agents.
The 'county community' in later medieval England enjoyed a brief but influential vogue during the 1980s. It was one of a number of lesser solidarities, the parish, the hundred, the kindred, the affinity, which might each play a part of variable significance in the social, and occasionally the political, life of the later medieval gentry. This chapter defines what that part was and suggests how it may have changed over time. It can be assumed that there were three separate stages in the evolution of the county community. In the first stage, the shire gained both definition and authority by its acquisition of a range of new administrative powers and responsibilities. The second, the 'social' phase, saw changes that were principally demographic and driven by high levels of plague-related mortality. In the third, chiefly political, phase, county society responded to external pressures, principally the polarisation of national politics.
All over the country during the early years of Henry IV's reign, groups and individuals freely expressed their dissatisfaction with the rule of the new king. Such conversations were part of the 'infrapolitics' of later medieval England, the broad area of discussion, complaint and dissent that fell somewhere between wholehearted consent and open rebellion. Anxiety at the scope and effect of such seditious comments led to a relaxation, sanctioned by Henry IV and his judges, in the definition of what was legally admissible as evidence in certain cases directly affecting the person and security of the king: the evolution of the doctrine of 'treason by words'. The full extent of the Ricardian rumour has never been documented, while its place within the broader context of the abundant evidence for popular protest and discontent in the early years of Henry IV's reign remains to be considered.
This chapter is an investigation of the nature of political society in later medieval England, though the angle from which it approaches it is notably oblique. Its starting point is an attempt to investigate the nature and significance of the religious sanction enjoyed by the political order through an examination of the changes in the definitions of sanctity that occurred within this period. Later medieval England was unusually rich in one further group of candidates for sanctity, the 'political' saints. The chapter discusses principal representatives of this group, who will receive more detailed attention in this paper, are well known: Simon de Montfort, Thomas of Lancaster, Edward II, Richard Scrope, archbishop of York, Henry VI. Political saints were no different from the other saints venerated in later medieval England in being valued 'not primarily as exemplars or soulfriends, but as powerful helpers and healers in time of need'.
This chapter describes some events that are well attested in the reign of Henry IV. The king's suppression of the Yorkshire risings and his successful reassertion of royal authority on the northern march are proved to be vital turning points that allowed a crisis-ridden regime to assume some appearance of permanence. A movement of protest at the disorder prevalent in the region, led by the archbishop, which sought to articulate the grievances of the citizens and clergy of York in politically acceptable terms. The chapter looks at the narrative sources for the risings and shows that an informed reading, which pays due attention to their rhetorical structure and polemical purpose, can support such an interpretation of events. It also examines how political defiance, one that united significant elements of the shire's nobility, gentry, clergy and townsmen into a single movement, became both possible and justified.
When Richard II, disguised as a priest, arrived at Conway castle in August 1399 the army he had brought back from Ireland had dwindled to a band of about fifteen companions. Among those who accompanied him were three commoners: Sir Stephen Scrope, under-chamberlain of the household; William Ferriby, the king's notary; and an esquire of the household, Janico Dartasso. Janico's own identity as a Basque, a people without a territory, and his early experience of Navarre, where a fluid ethnic mix of servants gathered around the French-born ruler of a multiple kingdom, inclined him towards a looser pattern of lordship. He sought to maintain the integrity of his lands on the western edge of English rule by expedients that used to the full his cosmopolitan contacts and experience: frequent trips to the English mainland; military service in France; commercial ventures to Aquitaine; a projected marriage into the Scottish aristocracy.
Richard II's views on the rights and duties of kingship and the effect that these views had on his conduct of government have attracted much attention. This chapter attempts to reach some preliminary conclusions by concentrating on one of the fullest, but least-studied, reports of Richard's views on kingship. From Sir William Bagot's account of a conversation he had with the king at Lichfield, four cardinal points in Richard's thinking on the subject of kingship seem to emerge. First is the importance of obedience: Richard sees the obedience of his subjects as the touchstone of his kingdom's prosperity. Second is the influence of precedent and history. Third relates to renunciation, while the last point is that Richard laid great emphasis upon the protection of the church as one of the essential duties of kingship and displayed a lively awareness of the spiritual prestige-the many good confessors-of the Plantagenet lineage.