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.
Sir Richard Abberbury of Donnington (Berks.) and his son, also Sir Richard, play a minor but instructive part in the history of Richard II’s reign. Sir Richard le pere was, successively, a retainer of Edward prince of Wales, ‘first master’ to the prince’s son and heir, Richard of Bordeaux, a knight of Richard’s chamber and chamberlain to the King’s first wife, Anne of Bohemia. Sir Richard le filz was a retainer, chamber-knight and, finally, chamberlain to Richard’s uncle, JohnofGaunt, duke of Lancaster. If ‘the courtier civil servant is the important man
Lancaster under JohnofGaunt, duke of Lancaster, in the light of the Commons’ complaints, seek 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.
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. JohnofGaunt’s territorial preeminence in the county was
When Simon Walker began researching the retinue of JohnofGaunt in 1980, ‘bastard feudalism’ had been the subject of debate for thirty-five years. Beginning with the printing and analysis of indentures of retainer by N. B. Lewis, K. B. McFarlane and W. H. Dunham, controversy had centred on whether its mercenary character loosened feudal loyalties, encouraged lawlessness and corruption, and destabilised the polity to the point of civil war. As studies of individual retinues and the political structures of different counties began to appear in the 1970s, bastard
with personal feelings (as is the case for Coriolanus), because
the future of the country or the reality of the place where one dwells
becomes derisory compared with deep love (as for Kent and Lear), because,
conversely, one can be denied or even crushed, and the priority given to the
country out of allegiance to the king (JohnofGaunt) or out of an
identification with a particular idea of it (Volumnia).
When the homeland
Huntingdon, his cousin Edward earl of Rutland, and the
under-chamberlain of the royal household, William le Scrope.
Richard’s relationship with his senior surviving uncle, JohnofGaunt duke of Lancaster, was also – at least on the surface
– much better now than it had been during the 1380s, while Thomas
Mowbray earl of Nottingham, after a brief spell of opposition in
1387-88, had returned to favour at court
reconstruction (as when, in King
Richard II , JohnofGaunt seeks to comfort his son by presenting his
banishment as travel taken for pleasure), or to escape into an inner world
removed from reality and reason (as with Richard’s withdrawal into
himself while imprisoned at Pomfret and Lear’s wandering through the
elsewhere of his own madness).
Mental spaces as strategies of resistance
When Kent and Coriolanus
in the late 1370s, had a claim to the throne in right of his wife, while
their son, Roger Mortimer, fourth earl of March, was to be widely
regarded as Richard’s heir [3, 89] .
Edward III’s next surviving
son was JohnofGaunt, born 1340, styled duke of Lancaster from
1361. 7 Gaunt
had many assets: he was a healthy adult, already twice married and the
King Richard II opens with the
monarch’s address to JohnofGaunt concerning his son. His speech
contains an interpolated clause, a comment testifying to both his lucidity
and his casualness:
Old JohnofGaunt, time-honoured Lancaster,
Hast thou according to thy oath and band