Monarchy, State and Political Culture in Late Medieval England: Essays in Honour of W. Mark Ormrod 1903153956, 9781903153956

The essays collected here celebrate mark the distinguished career of Professor W. Mark Ormrod, reflecting the vibrancy a

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Monarchy, State and Political Culture in Late Medieval England: Essays in Honour of W. Mark Ormrod
 1903153956, 9781903153956

Table of contents :
Preface and Acknowledgements
Professor W. Mark Ormrod: A Personal Appreciation
1 The ‘Unfortunate’ Fraudster: Thomas de Boulton and the East Riding Lay Subsidy of 1332
2 Negotiating and Creating Collegiate Statutes in the Fourteenth Century
3 An Emotional Pragmatism: Edward III and Death
4 Defaming The King: Reporting Disloyal Speech In Fourteenth-Century England
5 Law and Arms: The Politics of Chivalry in Late Medieval England
6 The Parliament of April 1414 and the Drafting of Late Medieval English Legislation
7 The Medieval ‘Side-hustler’: Thomas Hoccleve’s Career in, and out of, the Privy Seal
8 The Order, Rules and Constructions of the House of the Princess Cecily, Duchess of York
9 Church, State and Society in the Registers of the Archbishops of York, 1225-c.1650
List of PhD Supervisees
List of Grants
Tabula Gratulatoria

Citation preview


he essays collected here celebrate the distinguished career of Professor W. Mark Ormrod, reflecting the vibrancy and range of his scholarship on the structures, personalities and culture of ruling late medieval England. Encompassing political, administrative, Church and social history, the volume focusses on three main themes: monarchy, state and political culture. For the first, it explores Edward III’s reactions to the deaths of his kinfolk and cases of political defamation across the fourteenth century. The workings of the ‘state’ are examined through studies of tax and ecclesiastical records, the Court of Chivalry, fifteenth-century legislation, and the working practices of the privy seal clerk, Thomas Hoccleve. Finally, separate discussions of collegiate statutes and the household ordinances of Cecily, duchess of York consider the political culture of regulation and code-making. GWILYM DODD is Associate Professor of History, University of Nottingham. CRAIG TAYLOR is a Reader in Medieval History at the University of York. CONTRIBUTORS: Elizabeth Biggs, James Bothwell, Gwilym Dodd, Helen Killick, Helen Lacey, Joanna Laynesmith, Jonathan Mackman, Anthony Musson, Sarah Rees Jones, Helen Watt.

• Design: Toni Michelle Cover image: Edward III’s coronation ceremony, from an early fourteenth-century manuscript. The Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (The Parker Library, MS 20, fol. 68).









Political Culture in the Middle Ages Volume 1

Monarchy, State and Political Culture in Late Medieval England


YORK MEDIEVAL PRESS York Medieval Press is published by the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies in association with Boydell & Brewer Limited. Our objective is the promotion of innovative scholarship and fresh criticism on medieval culture. We have a special commitment to interdisciplinary study, in line with the Centre’s belief that the future of Medieval Studies lies in those areas in which its major constituent disciplines at once inform and challenge each other. Editorial Board (2020) Professor Peter Biller, Emeritus (Dept of History): General Editor Dr Henry Bainton: Private scholar Dr J. W. Binns: Honorary Fellow, Centre for Medieval Studies Dr K. P. Clarke (Dept of English and Related Literature) Dr K. F. Giles (Dept of Archaeology) Dr Holly James-Maddocks (Dept of English and Related Literature) Dr Harry Munt (Dept of History) Professor W. Mark Ormrod, Emeritus (Dept of History) Professor Sarah Rees Jones (Dept of History): Director, Centre for Medieval Studies Dr L. J. Sackville (Dept of History) Dr Hanna Vorholt (Dept of History of Art) Professor J. G. Wogan-Browne (English Faculty, Fordham University) All enquiries of an editorial kind, including suggestions for monographs and essay collections, should be addressed to: The Academic Editor, York Medieval Press, Department of History, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD (E-mail: [email protected]) Details of other York Medieval Press volumes are available from Boydell & Brewer Ltd. Political Culture in the Middle Ages

Series editor

Anthony Musson Historians have increasingly embraced exploration of the prevailing ‘political culture’ as a way of understanding the dynamics of politics, political action and constitutional events. This new series encourages studies of institutions and structures of power as well as exploration of the codes, beliefs, attitudes and experiences of individuals/groups from across the medieval political and social spectrum. It welcomes contributions in the form of monographs or edited collections of essays from scholars across the full chronology of the Middle Ages.

Monarchy, State and Political Culture in Late Medieval England Essays in Honour of W. Mark Ormrod


Edited by Gwilym Dodd and Craig Taylor


© Contributors 2020

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner First published 2020 A York Medieval Press publication in association with The Boydell Press an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK and of Boydell & Brewer Inc. 668 Mt Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620–2731, USA website: and with the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York ISBN 978 1 903153 95 6 hardback ISBN 978 1 78744 934 3 ePDF A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library The publisher has no responsibility for the continued existence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate Cover image: Edward III’s coronation ceremony, from an early fourteenthcentury manuscript. The Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (The Parker Library, MS 20, fol. 68)

Contents Preface and Acknowledgements Contributors Abbreviations Professor W. Mark Ormrod: A Personal Appreciation Sarah Rees Jones 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

The ‘Unfortunate’ Fraudster: Thomas de Boulton and the East Riding Lay Subsidy of 1332 Jonathan Mackman

vii ix xii xv


Negotiating and Creating Collegiate Statutes in the Fourteenth Century 21 Elizabeth Biggs An Emotional Pragmatism: Edward III and Death James Bothwell

Defaming the King: Reporting Disloyal Speech in FourteenthCentury England Helen Lacey

39 71

Law and Arms: The Politics of Chivalry in Late Medieval England 94 Anthony Musson ‘Nother by addicions, nother by diminucions’: The Parliament of April 1414 and the Drafting of Late Medieval English Legislation 117 Gwilym Dodd The Medieval ‘Side-Hustler’: Thomas Hoccleve’s Career in, and out of, the Privy Seal Helen Killick The Order, Rules and Constructions of the House of the Most Excellent Princess Cecily, Duchess of York Joanna Laynesmith

144 164

Archbishops’ Registers Revealed: Church, State and Society in the Registers of the Archbishops of York, 1225–c.1650 188 Helen Watt

ist of PhD Supervisees L List of Grants Index Tabula Gratulatoria

210 213 217 229

Mark Ormrod’s former PhD students and research collaborators, King’s Manor, September 2017. Photograph: Craig Taylor.

Preface and Acknowledgements On the 16 September 2017, thirty-three people gathered in the Huntingdon Room at the Centre for Medieval Studies in the University of York. Thirty-­ two of those people knew that the workshop entitled Political Culture in Late Medieval England was a celebration of the sixtieth birthday of Professor Mark Ormrod, the culmination of years of secret planning to bring together his doctoral students and the researchers who had assisted him on an array of funded projects. Nine of those individuals presented scholarly papers at the workshop, and then, once the academic portion of the day was complete, the audience viewed a series of congratulatory video messages from a number of Mark’s friends and colleagues, before enjoying a grand celebratory feast. This volume serves as a record of that event, bringing together papers presented at that workshop with additional pieces, all written by Mark Ormrod’s students and former research assistants. Since our primary aim in putting together this volume is to celebrate Mark’s birthday and to highlight his outstanding contribution to the field through PhD supervision and research projects, we have chosen not to include a list of his extensive publications in this book: we anticipate that such a list will be forthcoming when Mark’s contribution to the discipline is further celebrated and recognised. The volume reflects the vibrancy and range of the honorand’s own illustrious research on the structures, personalities and culture of rulership of late medieval England. It encompasses political, administrative, Church and social history, focussing upon three main themes: monarchy, state and political culture. For the first, it explores the history of emotion by considering Edward III’s reactions to the deaths of his kinfolk and close associates, emphasising the practicality of the king’s responses. It also investigates cases of political defamation in the fourteenth century, highlighting how non-elite subjects engaged in discourse about kingship and monarchy. The workings of the ‘state’ are examined through studies of a Yorkshire tax collector caught in the act of defrauding the exchequer, of the function and jurisdiction of the Court of Chivalry in the late fourteenth century, of the power dynamics underpinning statute-making in the early fifteenth-century parliament, and of the working practices of the privy seal clerk, Thomas Hoccleve. By surveying the possibilities opened up by the Archbishops’ Registers project, a further contribution highlights Mark’s invaluable work in improving the availability of, and accessibility to, contemporary medieval records. Finally, separate discussions of collegiate statutes and the household ordinances of Cecily, duchess of York consider the political culture of regulation

v i i i    Pre f ac e and Ac k now l edge ment s

and code-making. Together the contributions provide important insights into late medieval English history and are a fitting tribute to the ground-breaking and inspirational research of Mark Ormrod. We would like to offer our grateful thanks to those who helped with the workshop and with this commemorative volume, including Alison McHardy, Caroline Palmer, Chris Given-Wilson, Jeff Hamilton, Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Judith Buchanan, Maryanne Kowaleski, Pete Biller, Sarah Rees Jones and the anonymous reviewer. We would particularly like to acknowledge Gillian Galloway for her support in organizing the workshop, and Mark’s partner Richard Dobson for successfully keeping the secret for so long and sharing this joyful event with us. We owe a debt to Pete Biller, Caroline Palmer, Anthony Musson, the editorial board at York Medieval Press and the entire team at Boydell and Brewer. We are delighted that this book is being published by YMP, an imprint that Mark has played such a fundamental role in building and developing. It is especially fitting that this collection of essays should be the first book in their new Political Culture series, honouring Mark’s instrumental role in developing a cultural approach to political history both at York and amongst late medieval historians in general. Gwilym Dodd and Craig Taylor 1 November 2019

Contributors Elizabeth Biggs is interested in the intersections of political and religious culture in late medieval England and in the adaptation of religious buildings for new uses after the English Reformation. Her monograph on the major palace chapel at Westminster, St Stephen’s College, Westminster: A Royal Chapel and English Kingship, 1348–1548, was published in 2020. Mark Ormrod supervised her PhD on St Stephen’s College, Westminster as part of the AHRC St Stephen’s Chapel project at the University of York. He introduced her to the world of royal administration in the fourteenth century and always asked the kind of questions you think you can answer easily and then realise actually need careful research. Since completing the PhD, she has been a postdoctoral researcher at Durham and York as well as teaching at the University of the West of England at Bristol. James Bothwell is Lecturer in Later Medieval English History at the University of Leicester. His past publications include Edward III and the English Peerage: Royal Patronage, Social Mobility and Political Control in Fourteenth Century England (2004) and Falling from Grace: Reversal of Fortune and the English Nobility 1075–1455 (2008), along with various edited volumes, journal articles and essays. Mark Ormrod was the external on his PhD viva, and later advisor on his Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada postdoctoral fellowship. Gwilym Dodd completed his PhD under the supervision of Mark Ormrod in 1998. He is proud to have been Mark’s first fully registered research student! He secured a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship (1998–2001), and in 2002 a position in the department of History, University of Nottingham, where he has been based since then. His research focusses on late medieval English politics and governance. Between 2003 and 2007, he worked as Co-I on Mark’s AHRC-funded ‘Medieval Petitions’ projects, and in 2007 he published Justice and Grace: Private Petitioning and the Late Medieval English Parliament (2007). He has co-edited, with Alison K. McHardy, two collections of editions of petitions (Petitions to the Crown from English Religious Houses, c.1272–c. 1485 (2010); Petitions from Lincolnshire, c.1272 –c.1485 (2020)) and is one of the editors of the biennially published Fourteenth Century England series. He is currently working on a major study of the late medieval English parliament.

x    C on t r i b u t o r s

Helen Killick is currently Research Associate at the University of Oxford working on the AHRC-funded research project ‘The People of 1381’, a comprehensive re-examination of the Peasants’ Revolt. Her PhD was supervised by Mark Ormrod and Linne Mooney, and she subsequently worked with Mark on two projects focussing on the ‘Ancient Petitions’ series, the second of which resulted in an edited volume of common petitions published by the Camden Society. Thereafter she was employed as Research Assistant on a project at the ICMA Centre, University of Reading, examining the market on freehold property in England between 1300 and 1500. Her research interests include Thomas Hoccleve and the office of the privy seal, scribes and book production, parliamentary petitions, multilingualism in late medieval documentary culture, late medieval finance and digital humanities, in particular the use of relational databases as a means of storing and analysing historical information. Helen Lacey completed her PhD under the supervision of Mark Ormrod in 2005. From York she moved to a position in the Department of History, University of Durham, 2005–6, and from there to Mansfield College, University of Oxford, where she has worked since. Her research focusses on later medieval English political and legal culture. In 2009 she published The Royal Pardon: Access to Mercy in Fourteenth-Century England. She is currently co-investigator on the AHRC project ‘The People of 1381’, which runs until 2022. The database of people connected with the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 to be produced by this project will be a unique ‘history from below’, using an unparalleled set of medieval records to investigate the participation of social groups whose role has been little investigated, such as household servants, soldiers and women. Joanna Laynesmith is a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Reading, currently researching the politics of royal adultery in medieval Britain. At York’s Centre for Medieval Studies, she completed an MA dissertation on Cecily Neville and a DPhil thesis on late medieval queenship which were both co-supervised by Mark Ormrod. This research was eventually published in her monographs: The Last Medieval Queens (2004) and Cecily Duchess of York (2017). Jonathan Mackman completed his DPhil with Mark Ormrod in 1999, his thesis being a study of the gentry of Lincolnshire during the Wars of the Roses. He has since worked on a number of medieval archival and research projects, including the long-running ‘Records of Central Government Taxation (‘E 179’) Project’, ‘Londoners and the Law’, looking at the fifteenth-century court of Common Pleas, and projects to calendar the Gascon Rolls and the Fine Rolls of Henry III. He has also worked extensively for the University of York,

Con tr ibutors   xi

including Mark’s own ‘Medieval Petitions’ and ‘England’s Immigrants’ projects, as well as ‘The Northern Way, 1304–1405’, examining the relationships between the crown and the fourteenth-century archbishops of York. He is particularly interested in the history of medieval taxation and the local history of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the East Midlands, and is a Trustee of the British Association for Local History. He is co-author (with Mark Ormrod and Bart Lambert) of a study on medieval immigration, Immigrant England, 1300–1550 (2019). Anthony Musson is Head of Research at Historic Royal Palaces. He initially benefitted from Mark Ormrod’s knowledge and expertise whilst undertaking his PhD at King’s College, Cambridge when Mark was a British Academy Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at St Catharine’s. While pursuing legal studies at the College of Law in York, he became a Research Associate at the Centre for Medieval Studies and collaborated with Mark on The Evolution of English Justice. He later gained a lectureship at the University of Exeter, where he became Professor of Legal History and Director of the Bracton Centre for Legal History Research. He was on the Advisory Board for the AHRC ‘Ancient Petitions’ project and co-edited Medieval Petitions (2009) with Mark and Gwilym Dodd. Helen Watt is Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of York, where she works on the project ‘The Northern Way: Archbishops of York and Northern Identity, 1304–1405’, conceived by Mark Ormrod. Previously, she worked with Mark on the pilots for that project and the ‘Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ project which preceded it (2012–14). She has previously been Research Associate on several projects based at The National Archives, Kew, including the ‘Completing the Calendar of Patent Rolls, Elizabeth’ (University of Reading), and particularly those examining the records of lay and clerical taxation for England and Wales (various universities), for which Mark served on the advisory boards. Her first major peer-reviewed research article grew out of the taxation records project and examined material which suggested that Henry IV lost revenue from taxation in England as a result of the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dŵr. It was published as a chapter in The Reign of Henry IV: Rebellion and Survival, 1403–1413, ed. G. Dodd and D. Biggs (2008). She also has expertise in naval history and correspondence, acting as co-editor of Letters of Seamen in the Wars with France, 1793–1815 (2016).

Abbreviations BIHR  Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research BIA  Borthwick Institute for Archives BL The British Library, London CChR  Calendar of Charter Rolls CCR  Calendar of Close Rolls CCW  Calendar of Chancery Warrants CFR  Calendar of Fine Rolls CIPM  Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem CPR  Calendar of Patent Rolls CYS Canterbury and York Society EETS Early English Text Society e.s.  extra series o.s.  original series s.s.  supplementary series EHR  English Historical Review FCE  Fourteenth Century England GEC  The Complete Peerage, ed. G. E. Cokayne, 13 vols (London, 1910–57) HR  Historical Research (formerly BIHR) JBS  Journal of British Studies JEH  Journal of Ecclesiastical History JMH  Journal of Medieval History ODNB  The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and B. H. Harrison, 60 vols (Oxford, 2004–) – online edition. P&P  Past and Present PROME The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. P. Brand, A. Curry, C. Given- Wilson, R. E. Horrox, G. Martin, W. M. Ormrod and J. R. S. Phillips, 16 vols  (Woodbridge, 2005) – online edition at RS Rolls Series SR  Statutes of the Realm, 11 vols (London, 1801–28) TNA The National Archives, Kew, London TRHS  Transactions of the Royal Historical Society VCH Victoria County History

A bbre viation s   xiii


London, Westminster Abbey Muniments Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society

Unless otherwise specified, all unpublished documents are held in The National Archives (TNA), Kew, London

Professor W. Mark Ormrod: A Personal Appreciation Sarah Ree s Jone s


Professor Mark Ormrod is among the leading historians of the later Middle Ages in Britain. His contributions to the field are enormous: over his career he has published extensively and he has also fostered the field through the creation of funded projects that have brought previously hard-to-access archival resources into much wider public use, through the supervision of research students and through mentoring early career researchers. He has provided leadership at the highest level, both within his own institution, the University of York, and through his service to a number of national research councils and scholarly societies and, in particular, The National Archives. Mark completed his doctorate in 1984 at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor James Campbell and then held a number of temporary and part-time positions at the Universities of Sheffield, Evansville (British Campus), and Queen’s University Belfast before holding a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Cambridge from 1987–90. From there he moved to a lectureship at the University of York in 1990 and was promoted to full Professor in 1995. His experience of what is now widely known as ‘precarity’ in this early phase of his career always informed his later nurturing of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, whose careers were always at the forefront of his mind in the creation of the many funded research projects that he so successfully established. At York, Mark found a very happy home in both the Department of History and the interdisciplinary postgraduate Centre for Medieval Studies where his co-supervisors and co-teachers included Jeremy Goldberg, Jon Finch, Richard Marks, Nicola McDonald, Alastair Minnis, Linne Mooney, Sarah Rees Jones, Felicity Riddy and Craig Taylor. He was Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies 1998–2001 and 2002–3, and was Head of the Department of History in 2001 and 2003–7. He also struck up a very close working relationship with the Borthwick Institute for Archives, working with

xv i    S a r a h Ree s J ones

colleagues including Philippa Hoskin, Chris Webb and Gary Brannan. It was little surprise to his colleagues when he was appointed as the first Dean of the newly created Faculty of Arts and Humanities at York in 2009, a position that he held until his retirement in 2017. Yet research remains Mark’s chief joy: he is the author or co-author of seven books, thirteen edited collections and over eighty book chapters and articles (and rising …)! He has supervised twenty-eight PhD theses, in addition to being the Principal Investigator on nineteen major funded research projects (all listed separately at the end of this volume). None of us are quite sure how he manages to do it all! When Mark arrived at York in 1990 he had already accepted a commission to write a biography of one of England’s least understood but longest-­reigning monarchs, Edward III, for the Yale British Monarchs Series. Edward III’s exceptionally long and complex reign had already defeated a number of distinguished historians, not least because of the huge volume and technical challenges of the under-explored records of English royal government. This monumental project was finally brought to press in 2011. In a volume of over 700 pages Mark brings the man who was Edward III to life. He combines deft and accessible narrative, with an unparalleled insight into the machinery of medieval government and a number of ground-breaking reassessments of aspects of royal policy, ranging from Edward III’s handling of foreign affairs to his financial policy and management of overseas trade. This remarkable achievement was possible because of the prodigious expertise that Mark had already developed in studying the machinery of English government. Major funded projects and published works focused on the rolls and petitions of the English parliament and on the medieval taxation system, in each case leading to a reassessment of the core institutions and practices of medieval government. One of the hallmarks of this scholarship is Mark’s ability to lead large research teams and to work in collaboration with others, forging partnerships with colleagues, such as Professor Chris Given-Wilson of the University of St Andrews, and with institutions, such as The National Archives where he worked with David Crook, Sean Cunningham and Paul Dryburgh. This has enabled him to shape the field, not just through his own scholarship but also through that of junior scholars who, having first encountered him as a student, went on to careers in doctoral and postdoctoral research as one funded project followed upon another. These former students and researchers hosted the celebration of Mark in September 2017, and their papers are collected and published in this volume. They include a number of distinguished and now leading scholars in the field of later medieval history as well as a large number still in the earlier stages

Pro f e sso r W. Mark O r mro d: A Pe r son a l Ap p recia tion    xvii

of their careers. Many have published with York Medieval Press, which grew and flourished under Mark’s astute directorship; it is therefore fitting that this book is published under its aegis. Despite being one of the leaders in this field Mark once said to me that he did not want to become ‘pigeon-holed’ as a political historian, and it would be wrong to neglect his significant contributions also to social and cultural history. Together with Rosemary Horrox he edited A Social History of England, 1200–1500 (Cambridge, 2009) building on earlier work on the impact of the Black Death as well as on a number of papers in cultural history, often influenced by partnerships in the Centre for Medieval Studies. He helped to establish the Centre for Christianity and Culture at York which has pioneered new digital approaches to studying the medieval past. Working with the Borthwick Institute for Archives, he has headed up initiatives creating major new online resources from the records of the northern province of the Church. Indeed ‘digital humanities’ is yet another field in which Mark has been a leader and an area where his engagement with the public is to the fore. All these strands of Mark’s interests were brought together in his most recent set of externally funded projects and the creation of the ‘England’s Immigrants Database’ ( The aim was to contribute to debates about the role of immigrants in society by making publicly available – free, online and in English – the records relating to the registration and taxation of first-generation immigrants to the realm of England between 1330 and 1550. The timeliness and success of the project was such that Mark and his team were invited to contribute materials to the new national curriculum in History for schools, to new GCSE teaching materials for History and to a website hosted by the Runnymede Trust, ‘Our Migration Story’, which won the Guardian University Award for Research Impact in 2019. This all spoke to another of Mark’s passions: his enthusiasm for communicating with the public and promoting the teaching of medieval history in schools. At his retirement he was actively pursuing new possibilities for such work in schools with the Historical Association, and throughout his career he has always been willing and on hand to visit local history societies and participate in public events (such as York’s annual Festival of Ideas). Immigrant England represented and fulfilled many of Mark’s finest qualities and ambitions. It combined a commanding expertise in the records of medieval English government, strong interests in the social context and impact of that government, a desire and profound skill and generosity in leading and enthusing others, and a real commitment to making medieval history accessible and relevant to the widest possible range of audiences.

xv i i i    S a r a h R e e s J ones

Underpinning all these achievements is Mark’s very happy home life with Richard, who joined Mark in supporting (and feeding) his extended academic family of students and colleagues. Mark’s professionalism at work was always combined with modesty, good humour, a ready smile, and a generous understanding of colleagues. He laughs a lot and enjoys life to the full.

1 The ‘Unfortunate’ Fraudster: Thomas de Boulton and the East Riding Lay Subsidy of 1332 Jonat han Mac kman



f all the many and varied sources available to late-medieval historians, few have proved as useful, or as controversial, as the records of central government taxation. These records, with their long lists of taxpayers and the sums they paid, generally arranged by parish or township within hundreds and counties, have long been a staple source of information and insight.1 For genealogists and family historians, they can provide a rich source of names, particularly in the early-modern period, showing where people were living at particular times and, where the records survive, allowing generations of families to be traced over time in a particular place or region. For local historians, they provide snapshots of places at specific points in their history and development, giving at least some idea of the local population, the wealth of the place, and how settlements expanded, contracted, and in some cases disappeared entirely.2 For economic and social historians, for whom the specific individual details are generally less important than the wider picture, these documents can give insights into issues such as the relative sizes of the populations of places over time, and their actual and relative wealth and economic prosperity. And these records can also be used to study broader topics, such For specific examples of the various uses to which these records can be put, amongst many others, see R. E. Glasscock, ‘England circa 1334’, in A New Historical Geography of England before 1600, ed. H. C. Darby (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 136–85; J. Sheail, The Regional Distribution of Wealth in England as indicated in the 1524/5 Lay Subsidy Returns, 2 vols, List and Index Society Special Series 28–29 (Kew, 1998), although the gazetteer (vol. 2) does unfortunately contain omissions and errors.



See, for instance, the cases of the lost ports of Dunwich and Ravenser Odd, in B. English, ‘Ravenser Odd: a Lost East Yorkshire town’, in The Yorkshire Coast, ed. D. B. Lewis (Beverley, 1991), pp. 149–55; The Bailiff ’s Minute Book of Dunwich, 1404–1430, ed. M. Bailey, Suffolk Records Society 34 (Woodbridge, 1992).

2    J on a t ha n Mac k man

as the mobility of the medieval population, with the topographical surnames listed in these records giving strong indications of the origins of taxpayers or their ancestors, whether from neighbouring towns and villages, other parts of England, or overseas.3 Historical and antiquarian societies, conscious of the huge amounts of information contained in such records, have been only too keen to publish transcribed taxation lists in their volumes. They provided a regular source of material for Victorian journals, and various national and local societies continue to publish editions to this day. For instance, between 1998 and 2005, the British Academy published Carolyn Fenwick’s monumental editions of the extant records of the fourteenth-century poll taxes, and as recently as 2014, the Hampshire Record Society published an edition of the 1327 lay subsidy assessment for that county.4 The Centre for Hearth Tax Research at the University of Roehampton has also edited and published large numbers of documents from that tax from the late seventeenth century, as well as using the returns to produce various studies based on the information they contain.5 But perhaps the most important recent development in accessing these records is the ‘Records of Central Government Taxation’ project (known more commonly as the ‘E 179’ project), which fully sorted and catalogued the vast series of taxation assessments surviving in the exchequer records at The National Archives, and made that information available in a dedicated and highly-searchable database.6 That project, which began in the early 1990s, was devised by a number of eminent historians of the day, including Dr Robin Glasscock from Cambridge University, Professor Paul Harvey from Durham University and Dr David Crook from what was then called the Public Record C. Dyer, ‘Local Societies on the Move in the Middle Ages: Migration and Social Mobility in England 1100–1500’, The Local Historian 48 (2018), 3–18; P. McClure, ‘Patterns of Migration in the Late Middle Ages: The Evidence of English PlaceName Surnames’, EcHR 2nd s. 32 (1979), 167–82. For specific examples of the use of such sources in this area, see E. M. Carus-Wilson, ‘The First Half-Century of the Borough of Stratford-upon-Avon’, EcHR 2nd s. 18 (1965), 46–63; W. M. Ormrod, B. Lambert and J. Mackman, Immigrant England, 1300–1500 (Man­ chester, 2019), esp. chapters 3–5.



The Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381, ed. C. Fenwick, 3 vols, British Academy Records of Social and Economic History 27, 29, 37 (Oxford, 1998–2005); The Hampshire Tax List of 1327, ed. P. Mitchell-Fox and M. Page, Hampshire Record Series 20 (Winchester, 2014).

For an example of the work of the Hearth Tax Centre, see London and Middlesex 1666 Hearth Tax, ed. M. Davies, C. Ferguson, V. Harding, E. Parkinson and A. Wareham, British Record Society Hearth Tax Series 9 (London, 2014).


[accessed April 2019].


T h om a s d e B o u l t on and t h e East Ri di ng L ay S ubsidy of 1332    3

Office, with various other specialists from across the period forming its advisory board. Over the course of the project, the large team of researchers sifted through the entire contents of that huge series, comprising over 30,000 individual rolls and files relating to the taxation of both the laity and the clergy across England and Wales between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries. Recent research using taxation records has benefited greatly from the work of that project in identifying and re-uniting separated and previously uncatalogued material, and reconstructing documents that had become dispersed.7 For instance, the original archival listings of the alien subsidy returns had been basic at best, with many documents misidentified or missed entirely, and without the work of that earlier project, the research carried out by the recent ‘England’s Immigrants’ project would have been considerably more difficult.8 Historians have, on the whole, been quite careful in how such documents are employed in historical research and analysis, since the questions, caveats and concerns surrounding their use are many and varied, and the data they contain cannot be used without exercising extreme caution about the reliability of that information.9 For those simply trying to find evidence of an individual in a particular place, they are relatively straightforward, although a failure to appear could be the result of any number of different reasons. But professional historians need to question the data far more deeply when undertaking wider analysis of population or wealth. How many people were simply not listed, either because they were too poor to pay that particular tax, or because they managed to make themselves scarce at the time of the assessment? What exactly was being assessed? And were the sums listed in the documents based on any sense of reality, or were they just educated guesses by the officials or figures effectively provided by the individuals? Were people simply concerned with paying as little as possible, or could some have been more concerned with social one-upmanship, and trying to appear richer, and hence more important, than their peers within their local communities? All

The third volume of Fenwick’s edition of the poll tax records included an appendix of newly identified documents for that tax, and the London Hearth Tax volume incorporated an edition of a previously-dispersed assessment roll reconstructed in virtual form by the E 179 project from numerous current references.


W. M. Ormrod and J. Mackman, ‘Sources, Contexts and Debates’, in Resident Aliens in Later Medieval England, ed. W. M. Ormrod, N. McDonald and C. Taylor (Turnhout, 2017), pp. 3–31.


For instance, see the discussion in S. Jenks, ‘The Lay Subsidies and the State of the English Economy (1275–1334)’, Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 85 (1998), 1–39 (esp. pp. 5–7).


4    J on a t ha n Mac k man

these factors and more need to be considered carefully when drawing any conclusions from such records. However, a subject which has rarely been addressed is the existence and impact of administrative failure and corruption, and particularly their consequences for the various tax records left behind. This is an issue that became particularly clear during recent work on the fifteenth-century alien subsidies, where local officials, protected by taxation grants that provided a simple way of avoiding any consequences for laxity, regularly and increasingly failed to fulfil their duties, making little effort to collect assessed sums, and submitting sub-standard or even fraudulent documentation.10 But was such indolence, lack of interest or downright dishonesty from officials confined to this, a unique tax with a unique system where those concerned could be confident that they would face no consequences, or was it a more widespread if less obvious phenomenon within the medieval taxation system? When set against issues such as under-assessment or evasion, this may not be a major factor, and there are relatively few examples of officials being investigated or prosecuted for such activities.11 However, amongst the records surviving at The National Archives are a series of documents which highlight the fact that administrative failure and corruption certainly did take place within the more general organisation of medieval taxation. They not only show how such activities had obvious consequences for crown revenue at the time; they also, as this study will show, point towards what may potentially be much wider repercussions for the content, and hence the accuracy and historical value, of the records produced.

Documenting the Fraud

Naturally, the E 179 series at The National Archives is highly valued for the thousands of assessment rolls it contains, which, as previously noted, have long been used by historians of all kinds to further their research. However, it contains far more than just those assessment rolls. The main county sequences also include dozens of accounting and administrative documents, from writs and commissions through to final accounts drawn up prior to enrolment in 10


Ormrod, Lambert and Mackman, Immigrant England, pp. 45–9. See also S. L. Thrupp, ‘A Survey of the Alien Population of England in 1440’, Speculum 32 (1957), 262–73. For references to a small number of other examples, see J. F. Willard, Parliamentary Taxes on Personal Property, 1290 to 1334. A Study in Mediaeval English Financial Administration (Cambridge MA, 1934), chapter 8, esp. pp. 187, 192, 224; J. F. Willard, ‘Side-Lights upon the Assessment and Collection of the Mediaeval Subsidies’, TRHS 7 (1913), 167–89 (p. 186).

T h om a s d e B o u l t on and t h e East Ri di ng L ay S ubsidy of 1332    5

the main account rolls. In addition, sorting of the previously uncatalogued material also highlighted many more such documents, not included in the main sequences and largely ignored, possibly because they did not include the long lists of taxpayers for which the series is rightly renowned. Yet despite not attracting the same attention from historians as the assessment rolls, these subsidiary documents can often be vital to any understanding of the administration and collection of medieval and early modern taxation, and can shed important light on the content and context of the more renowned assessment and collection rolls. Alongside the assessment rolls for the East Riding of Yorkshire now at The National Archives are hundreds of small acquittances relating to the collection of the fifteenth and tenth granted to Edward III by the parliament of 1332. In themselves they are relatively unremarkable documents, simply recording the amounts of money paid to the chief collectors of the tax by the constables or other petty collectors within each of the taxation units of the Riding (generally a single village or parish, but often a group of two or three settlements). Many are attached to a copy of the assessment list for that unit, recording the individuals taxed there, but otherwise the documents are simply basic administrative records attesting to one specific stage in the collection process. Other than the names of the petty collectors and the dates of the processes, they contain little information which would not ordinarily appear in the collectors’ assessment roll, which also survives, although it is damaged and incomplete.12 Two large bundles of these acquittances survive, along with various other loose membranes which had presumably become detached from the two bundles long before the series was created in the nineteenth century, and which now have separate references of their own. Further examples have recently been discovered amongst previously unsorted records, and in total just over 400 such documents are now known to survive, both acquittances and related assessments, spread across thirty separate archival references.13 It is not so much the records themselves that are remarkable, but rather the fact of their very existence. Such documents do not generally survive, for this or any other similar tax from this period. In theory they should not be in the exchequer archive at all – they should have remained with their recipients,

12 13

E 179/202/18.

The two main bundles are now at E 179/202/16 and E 179/202/19, but further acquittances survive in E 179/202/8–15, E 179/202/21–35, E 179/239/221–3, E 179/240/296 and E 179/364/19.

6    J on a t ha n Mac k man

as their proof that they had paid their money to the chief collectors.14 Their survival is a fortunate and largely inadvertent consequence of the fact that the East Riding collectors for this tax were subsequently investigated for a systematic and widespread fraud committed during the collection process. The records were gathered together as the exchequer officials conducted a forensic and exhaustive examination into the collectors’ activities in order to recover money that had been lost. The course of this investigation was recorded in detail on the exchequer memoranda roll, and this, together with other surviving documents at The National Archives, not only allows the full details of the events to be reconstructed, but also highlights important implications of the surviving documentation and other such material for other medieval taxes.15 The existence of this episode was noted by J. F. Willard in the 1930s, when he used details from the case to illustrate aspects of his discussion of the administration of medieval taxation, and particularly the wider accusations of corruption which followed the collection of the 1332 tax.16 Willard briefly outlined the basic details of the case, and the methodology used for the fraud, but the incident has many other implications beyond those highlighted by Willard. The case as a whole certainly merits a much fuller and wider discussion. As well as what it tells us about the nature and extent of local record-keeping, it is also clear that the fraud itself had specific consequences for the documents it left behind, and this in turn raises questions not only about the accuracy and reliability of these records but also, and perhaps more importantly, of all taxation records. In September 1332, parliament granted Edward III a subsidy of a fifteenth and tenth on movables – that is, a tenth of the value of their moveable goods to be paid by the inhabitants of cities, boroughs and the royal demesne lands, and a fifteenth by the rest of the population (the palatinates of Cheshire and Durham excluded as usual).17 Chief taxers were appointed in the standard way 14


16 17

Receipts do survive from other fifteenths and tenths collected later in Edward III’s reign, but they attest to sums returned to taxpayers under the terms of the grants, from fines levied under the Statute of Labourers and from the sale of the goods of convicted felons and fugitives: M. Jurkowski, C. L. Smith and D. Crook, Lay Taxes in England and Wales, 1188–1688 (Kew, 1998), pp. 51–3. Thousands of receipts survive for sums received towards the poll tax of 1377, when copies were routinely made and returned to the exchequer. E 159/112, rot. 143. Unless otherwise noted, the details of the process before the exchequer have been taken from this source. Willard, Parliamentary Taxes on Personal Property, pp. 189, 215, 224–6.

For a wider discussion of what precisely constituted ‘moveable goods’ at this time, see Jenks, ‘Lay Subsidies and the State of the English Economy’, pp. 5–7.

T h om a s d e B o u l t on and t h e East Ri di ng L ay S ubsidy of 1332    7

on 16 September, and for the East Riding of Yorkshire these were named as Thomas de Boulton and Anketin Salvayn.18 Neither man was a stranger to local office. Salvayn was from one of the region’s most prominent landholding families. He had served in the Alnwick garrison under Henry Percy in 1322, and had been a regular royal official in Yorkshire, mainly in the North Riding.19 Boulton had interests in both the East and North Ridings, mainly in the areas immediately to the north and east of York, and had been named alongside another local notable, Geoffrey de St Quintin, as chief collector of the twentieth granted in 1327, the previous such subsidy in the East Riding.20 Boulton and Salvayn were evidently well-acquainted, and probably good friends. Both were amongst the various people pardoned in October 1313 for their adherence to Thomas of Lancaster and any involvement in the death of Piers Gaveston, though this pardon may simply have been an insurance policy rather than a reflection of any actual participation in those events.21 Both witnessed a quitclaim by William Manners of Stittenham for property in Farlington in September 1326, and in May 1328 Boulton witnessed a grant by Salvayn himself of property in the city of York.22 Also in 1328, Boulton had been ordered to enquire into royal rights in the Forest of Galtres near York, where Salvayn served as a verderer.23 But perhaps most tellingly in terms of their relationship, Salvayn acted as a witness when Boulton set up a family 18






CPR 1330–34, p. 357. For the parliamentary and political context of the subsidy, see PROME, parliament of September 1332, Introduction. CPR 1321–24, p. 201. Amongst other duties, he was appointed to levy a scutage in the North Riding in November 1319 and was a commissioner of array there in 1325: CFR 1319–27, p. 10; CPR 1324–7, p. 217. CPR 1327–30, p. 173. Salvayn was subsequently appointed to replace St Quintin a few weeks later, but that was then cancelled for an unknown reason, and St Quintin presumably retained his post, since the tax was accounted in the name of both St Quintin and Boulton: CPR 1327–30, p. 175; E 359/14, rot. 16.

CPR 1313–17, pp. 23–5. However, Boulton may not have been a stranger to local disorder or contempt for authority, and may have been the man of that name accused (and subsequently acquitted) alongside various other local notables of forcibly taking £200 worth of livestock and goods forfeited to the crown at Foulbridge in the liberty of Pickering in 1323: JUST 1/1117, rot. 1. I am grateful to Jack Newman for this reference.

East Riding Archives, DDCS/7/1; Northumberland Archives, BMO/D2/4. Also, on 29 June 1335, just as the problems with the tax collection were reaching a head, both witnessed a release of rights by Agnes de Barton of Fryton: C 54/156, m. 21d. The published calendar volume misinterpreted his forename as Anthony: CCR 1333–37, p. 499. CPR 1327–30, p. 296; CCR 1349–54, p. 533.

8    J on a t ha n Mac k man

chantry in the church of Appleton le Street in July 1346.24 The two men obviously had close connections, and were to die within weeks of each other in the spring of 1351.25 The tax was collected in 1333, and the East Riding seems to have been accounted as normal, with nothing to suggest that it was anything other than a straightforward process.26 However, the wider suspicions of the exchequer had clearly been aroused. As Willard noted, a decision had been taken to tighten the accounting procedures significantly since the time of the previous subsidy, granted in 1327, and the exchequer officials now made strenuous efforts not only to receive the money swiftly, but also to ensure that all documentation, most notably the county assessment rolls, was returned promptly by the chief taxers. Previously, the exchequer had been content for collectors to submit their rolls as and when they remembered, but this time, and probably to their surprise, tardy officials found themselves subject to amercement.27 Moreover, the rolls were clearly being inspected to some degree, as those for some counties were rejected by the exchequer as being inconsistent with those received for previous lay subsidies, and were returned. For instance, the Huntingdonshire collectors submitted their rolls on time in February 1333, listing a total assessment of just over £407, but the exchequer decided that this was insufficient, as previous taxes in the county had raised over £500. The rolls were returned to the collectors, but nothing appears to have been achieved, and the final account actually recorded a sum 2½d. lower than that originally assessed. Similar problems were found in the rolls for Wiltshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Nottinghamshire.28 The precise driving force behind this increased vigilance is unclear, but the answer almost certainly lay in the king’s need for money, something which would trigger the next stage of the East Riding story. The expulsion of Edward III’s ally, Edward Balliol, from the throne of Scotland, and the prospect of 24


26 27 28

Borthwick Institute for Archives, York, Archbishops’ Registers, 10, fol. 158v. The foundation charter recited there also gives extensive details of Boulton’s immediate family. Boulton died on 5 April 1351, leaving his 18-year-old grandson, also Thomas, as his heir: C 135/112/40. Salvayn died on 24 May 1351, his heir being his son Nicholas, aged 38: C 135/113/1. By chance, their inquisitions post mortem now appear next to each other in the published calendar: CIPM, IX, nos. 653–4. For the enrolled accounts, see E 359/8A, rot. 5d and E 359/14, rot. 19d. Willard, Parliamentary Taxes on Personal Property, pp. 281–2.

Willard, Parliamentary Taxes on Personal Property, pp. 160–1, 289–90. Willard’s reference to the Lord Treasurer’s Memoranda Roll for the Huntingdonshire case is incorrect, and it actually appears on E 368/105, rot. 162.

T h om a s d e B o u l t on and t h e East Ri di ng L ay S ubsidy of 1332    9

war on the border, meant that the king not only needed money but also needed it quickly, and in September 1334 parliament granted him another subsidy. Before this date, subsidies on movables had always been granted at rates dependent on the king’s need and, more importantly, how generous or otherwise parliament was willing to be, and were re-assessed anew each time. Hence, in 1294 Edward I received a tenth and a sixth, and in 1297 a ninth, but in 1319, Edward II had only managed to persuade parliament to grant him an eighteenth and twelfth, and as noted, the regime of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer had only secured a twentieth in 1327.29 But in 1334, a different method was employed. The rates were to stay the same as in 1332, at a fifteenth and tenth, but parliament agreed that the county taxers would no longer oversee the re-assessment of individual taxpayers. Instead, they would simply negotiate with the chief inhabitants of each taxation unit (generally the village, town or city) and agree on an overall sum to be paid by that unit. The population of the unit would then divide between themselves the raising of that sum, which was specifically to be no less than the amount paid in 1332. Very few records survive to show the allocation of the tax burden within individual settlements after 1334, but this was presumably done by agreement based on an individual’s ability to pay.30 To help with this new process, details of the sums paid in 1332 were extracted from the exchequer accounts and sent out to the new chief taxers appointed for each county, who, for this particular grant, were explicitly to comprise a trusted royal official and a prominent local churchman – in the case of the East Riding, these were Thomas de Brayton and the prior of Warter Priory. This basic method was to prove extremely efficient, and was employed relatively unchanged for the next 300 years. However, as a result, the amounts collected during the 1332 tax suddenly, and unexpectedly, became vitally important in the assessment of the next one.31 The reason formally cited by the crown for this abrupt change to the collection procedures, and the abandonment of re-assessment, was the supposed prevalence of corruption. The instructions issued to the new collectors in 1334 29



Jurkowski, Smith and Crook, Lay Taxes in England and Wales, pp. xxvi–xxxiv, 22–4, 34–7. For detailed discussion of this subsidy and its collection, see R. E. Glasscock, The Lay Subsidy of 1334 (London, 1974).

Thereafter, the assessments for subsequent taxes were specifically to be based on those used for the previous such tax, a system which still allowed for reductions and re-assessments in the fifteenth century, and was employed until the final such tax, granted in 1624; see Willard, ‘Side-Lights’, p. 169; M. Forrest, ‘Patterns of Economic Change in the South-West During the Fifteenth Century. Evidence from the Reductions to the Fifteenths and Tenths’, EcHR, 2nd s. 70 (2017), 423–51.

1 0    J on a t h a n Mac k man

recounted that the king had been given to understand that the officials of the previous subsidy, both the chief taxers and their ‘clerks and ministers’, had enriched themselves by taking bribes in return for accepting under-valued assessments, and had also demanded more than was due and embezzled the excess.32 However, as Stuart Jenks has noted, the slow process against any of the 1332 taxers, and the apparent fact that none were ever prosecuted for extortion or taking bribes, only for concealment, suggests that, at least at the time of the 1334 parliamentary grant, this may well have been a convenient excuse rather than a major concern. The real reason was royal expediency.33 The new system was not only quicker, since it removed the need for re-assessment, but also allowed the king to estimate the sums he could expect to receive, vital information if and when he attempted to use future tax revenue as collateral for loans. The fiscal and administrative benefits of the new system were extremely attractive, and as Jenks notes, ‘the allegations of corruption provided a golden opportunity to scrap an inefficient system’.34 There is no obvious sign that the East Riding taxers were the subject of any allegations by the time of the 1334 grant. However, as the exchequer memoranda roll recounts, once the new chief taxers set to work, they quickly noticed ‘discrepancies and discordances’ between the sums they had been furnished with by the exchequer and the sums which the local people of the East Riding claimed they had paid two years earlier, the latter regularly being greater than the former. Clearly it would have been in the taxpayers’ interests to keep this quiet, but the chief taxers reported this to the exchequer barons, who responded by ordering that the acquittances issued to the officials of each taxation unit by the 1332 taxers in the East Riding be gathered up and submitted to them, so that they could investigate the nature and extent of the matter. It is these acquittances that now survive in such great numbers at The National Archives. Boulton and Salvayn were initially summoned to appear before the king’s council at York at the octave of Midsummer 1335, along with the chief taxers of various other, mostly northern, counties: the other two Ridings of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and the three Parts of Lincolnshire. All those summoned failed to appear, and were summoned again on 18 July, to appear one week later, on the feast of St James.35 Whether Boulton and Salvayn appeared then is unknown, but in October 1335 Boulton sued out a pardon specifically for these offences, he or his representative 32 33 34 35

Rotuli Parliamentorum, 7 vols (London, 1783–1832), II, 447.

Jenks, ‘Lay Subsidies and the State of the English Economy’, pp. 10–11. Ibid., p. 12.

CCR 1333–37, pp. 504, 514–5.

T hom a s d e B o u l t on and t h e East Ri di ng L ay S ubsidy of 1332    11

having followed the king up to Berwick-upon-Tweed in order to secure it.36 As the pardon stated, he was to be fully absolved for his actions, but only provided that he answer for all the sums concealed – in short, he could go free as long as he acknowledged and paid back all the money he had taken. The focus of the matter therefore returned to the exchequer, and in Easter term 1336 both Boulton and Salvayn appeared, charged with illegally and fraudulently concealing and embezzling money from the 1332 tax. Faced with the charges, Salvayn immediately denied all responsibility, saying that he had taken no part in the collection and that Boulton had acted alone. Boulton did not challenge that claim, and given the closeness of the ties between the two men, presumably it was indeed true.37 This may have been part of Boulton’s plan from the start, with Salvayn only too pleased to take up Boulton’s offer to shoulder the burden of the collection. Or perhaps Salvayn had been reluctant or unable to act, thus providing Boulton with a tempting opportunity. Either way, the exchequer appears to have accepted Salvayn’s explanation, and indeed his involvement in these events did not prevent him being appointed to collect the subsidies granted in 1344, 1346 and 1348, and he also helped to administer one of Edward III’s wool schemes of the 1340s.38 The remainder of the investigation focussed on Boulton, although the case continued to be brought in the name of both men, and Salvayn continued to be summoned to each stage of the case. Indeed, when he or his attorney later failed to appear at one hearing in December 1336, he was promptly thrown into the Fleet prison and had to pay a fine of 40d. for his release. Boulton, by contrast, obviously knew that the game was up, and came prepared. He immediately presented the exchequer with a royal writ, issued around two weeks earlier in April 1336, which explicitly referred to the investigation being conducted and ordered that he was to be pardoned for his actions, provided that he answered for the sums involved. This was in accordance with the pardon 36 37


CPR 1334–38, p. 175.

The final account was enrolled as having been rendered by Boulton ‘for himself and Salvayn’, rather than in the names of both collectors, though no further explanation was given. However, this was not unusual phraseology, and was also used for the accounts for that tax for Dorset, Kesteven in Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire, Sussex, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Devon, suggesting that it may have been a reasonably common occurrence: E 359/8A, rots 4–5; E 359/14, rot. 19d. See also Willard, Parliamentary Taxes on Personal Property, p. 189. CFR 1337–47, pp. 393, 435, 483–4; CFR 1347–56, pp. 45–6, 91, 191, 193; CCR 1343–46, pp. 12, 24. In March 1348, Salvayn was also to arrest people who refused to pay the second payment of that tax: CPR 1348–50, p. 77. For details of these subsidies and Edward’s wool scheme, see Jurkowski, Smith and Crook, Lay Taxes in England and Wales, pp. 46–51.

1 2    J on a t h a n Mac k man

Boulton had secured six months previously, and the exchequer had no choice but to comply. Nevertheless, the exchequer barons were clearly determined that Boulton would repay his ill-gotten gains. By the time of this first hearing, the exchequer had already gathered evidence to show that Boulton had concealed a total of £80 19s. 8¾d. As is clear from the collection documents, and from a summary report compiled from them by the exchequer, the methodology he had used was remarkably simple.39 On collecting the money, Boulton had issued the usual acquittances to the petty collectors in each taxation unit, acknowledging receipt of those amounts and discharging them from their responsibilities. However, for a large number of those places, he then entered lower figures onto his particulars of account, and paid those amounts into the exchequer, presumably keeping the remainder of the money paid to him. As the investigators discovered, he did not take money from every tax-paying unit, but he did work by embezzling sums from lots of separate places, presumably in the belief that by taking small sums from lots of different places, he would raise less suspicion if anyone in Westminster decided to compare his list with those from previous subsidies. As can be seen from the first part of the exchequer report’s list for Holderness (Table 1), there was no obvious pattern to his concealments, other than that, in most instances, the sums taken were in full shillings. For instance, the village of Eske had originally paid just over 23s., of which Boulton took 6s., but from Rimswell, which had actually paid 5s. more than Eske, he took only a single shilling. In Kilnsea, one of the bigger taxation units in the Riding, he took 10s., around a ninth of the total, but from Garton’s payment he took almost half. This seemingly random pattern was repeated right across the Riding, but it did not happen everywhere, and the report lists around a hundred places, from across the entire Riding, where the villagers’ documents were found to agree with the county roll.40 In itself, this method was extremely straightforward, but Boulton’s fraud, by necessity, had to go even deeper than that. As with all such taxes up to that date, Boulton had also been required to submit a nominal list of taxpayers to the exchequer, detailing the amounts paid by each person taxed in each of 39 40

E 179/202/17.

The report, which summarised the state of the investigation at Easter term 1336, first listed those places where the amount shown on the acquittance did not match that recorded on the county roll, then those which did match, and finally those places which had not returned their acquittances. It was clearly a working document, as various annotations were subsequently added, and in some places crossed out. A copy of this document was also attached to the memoranda roll, but both copies are now damaged and illegible in places.

T hom a s d e B o u l t on and t h e East Ri di ng L ay S ubsidy of 1332    13

Table 1: Extract from auditors’ report, Holderness section (concealment figures have been calculated and added) Collectors’ roll

Villagers’ acquittance



17s. 4½d.

23s. 4½d.



39s. 2½d.

47s. 8½d.


Rimswell Thorpe and Pensthorpe

27s. 7½d.

37s. 11½d.

28s. 7½d.

45s. 11½d.




20s. 4½d.

21s. 4½d.



18s. 3½d.

35s. 3½d.


South Skirlaugh Easington with Dimlington

15s. 8½d.

78s. 2½d.

16s. 8½d.

£4 7s. 2½d.



Long Riston

21s. ½d.

26s. ½d.


Tickton and Weel

41s. 9¼d.

49s. 9¼d.



Ryhill and Camerton

£4 4s. 11½d. 56s. ½d.

£4 14s. 11½d. 68s. ½d.

10s. 12s.


19s. 6½d.

25s. 6½d.


Hornsea Burton

18s. 11½d.

24s. 11½d.





Catwick with Catfoss

18s. 8½d. 13s. ½d.

14s. 7¾d.

28s. 6½d.

23s. 9½d. 16s. ½d.

30s. 7¾d.

34s. 6½d.

5s. 1d. 3s.

16s. 8s.

Great and Little Cowden

23s. 6d.

28s. 6½d.

5s. ½d.


Elstronwick and Danthorpe

17s. 2½d.

26s. 3½d.

22s. 7½d.

5s. 5d.


16s. 4½d.

21s. 4½d.


Source: E 179/202/17, m. 1

33s. 3½d.


1 4    J on a t h a n Mac k man

Table 2: Beswick. Comparison between the county roll and the assessment returned by the villagers. Assessment roll

Robert Danyell

Geoffrey de Lunde

John le Carter

7s. 6½d.

6s. 8d.

6s. 8d.

Villagers’ assessment

Robert Danyelle

Geoffrey de Lundon

7s. 6½d.

6s. 8d.

John le Carter

6s. 8d.


Geoffrey son of Martin


William Sutore

3s. 3¼d.

William Suter

Sum Total

40s. 5¾d.

Alice Sutore

5s. 4d.

Geoffrey Bakester

4s. 4d.

Geoffrey son of Martin

Stephen de Willardby

3s. 8d.

Alice Sutere

5s. 4d.

Geoffrey Bacstere

5s. 4d.

Stephen de Willarby

3s. 8d.

Sum Total

3s. 3¼d.

41s. 5¾d.

Source: E 179/202/18, rot. 4; E 179/202/16, m. 39.

the roughly 450 taxation units in the Riding.41 As noted, when sending in their acquittances, many of the villagers had also returned their own copy of their settlement’s nominal assessment. Some of these even contained details and values of the items being taxed, such as plough-beasts, cows, wheat and oats, information which was common in the returns to the exchequer of the thirteenth-century, but very rare in the fourteenth.42 While there is no clear evidence that the exchequer officials ever did so at the time, these individual assessments can be compared with Boulton’s county roll. Unfortunately, damage to that roll means that there are only a few taxation units for which both forms of the assessment survive in a fully legible form, but those that do survive give important further insights into Boulton’s methodology. At its most straightforward, such as in Beswick, near Beverley (Table 2), where he took only a single shilling, Boulton simply reduced the assessment for one taxpayer in his list to compensate. However, in other places, the changes were far more substantial. For instance, in the combined vill of Ryhill and 41


E 179/202/18. The number of taxation units does not necessarily reflect the number of settlements in the Riding, as many units comprised multiple settlements, and some settlements were taxed in separate portions, as parts of ecclesiastical liberties or as royal demesne land. For a full list from the 1334 subsidy, see Glasscock, Lay Subsidy of 1334, pp. 356–70.

For example, the assessment for Metham in Howdenshire, which listed the taxable belongings of four people, two being women, to a total value of £7 2s. 6d.: E 179/202/19, m. 28.

T hom a s d e B o u l t on and t h e East Ri di ng L ay S ubsidy of 1332    15

Table 3: Ryhill and Camerton. Comparison between the county roll and the assessment returned by the villagers. Assessment roll

Villagers’ assessment

Marioria de Botheby


Margeria de Botheby

9s. 4d.

Walter de Sledemer

2s. 8d.

Walter de Sledmer

3s. 4d.

Stephen son of Simon John de la Chaumbre John Belle

Robert Arnalde

Simon Stanharde

6s. 10d. 4s. 7d. 3s.

18d. 3s.

Master of the hospital of 4s. 2d. St Sepulchre Robert son of Stephen

4s. 6d.

Walter de Barowe

2s. 1d.

John Frankys

8s. ½d.

Robert de Ryhill Sum Total

6s. 8d.

56s. ½d.

Stephen son of Simon John de Camera John Belle

Robert Arnald

Simon Stanard

7s. 4d. 4s. 8d. 3s.

18d. 4s.

Master of the hospital of 4s. 8d. St Sepulchre by Hedon Robert Gilbert

5s. 4d.

Simon Manning


John de Camerington Walter de Barow Robert de Ryhill John Franchis Sum Total


2s. 4d.

4s. ½d. 4s. 6d.

68s. ½d.

Source: E 179/202/18, rot. 2; E 179/202/16, m. 22.

Camerton, near Hedon (Table 3), many of the named taxpayers had their amounts reduced by a small amount, but two of the original taxpayers, with sums amounting to 14s., were removed from the final list completely. Boulton may then have become concerned over the size of the amounts he had taken from this place, and the sums against the names of the final two taxpayers were actually significantly higher in Boulton’s list than they were in that of the villagers, resulting in an overall concealment of 12s., roughly 17.5% of the amount originally paid. Faced with these charges, and seemingly prepared for them, Boulton immediately agreed to re-pay £60 18s. 2d., but he challenged a large proportion of the rest. According to Boulton, three places – Cottingham, Market Weighton and Fulford – had paid their contributions in instalments, and multiple acquittances had been issued, some for the part-payments and final ones for the full amounts, and he claimed that the exchequer had mistakenly added them all together. There is nothing to show whether or not this was

1 6    J on a t h a n Mac k man

a common way of collecting the money from specific settlements, but these were some of the larger places in the Riding, so it is perhaps not surprising. Despite accepting his other misdeeds, he remained adamant about this, and when the case resumed in Michaelmas term 1336, he presented another royal writ ordering the exchequer to investigate this aspect fully. He was clearly determined to make this point, since securing this writ had been no mean feat, given that the king was on campaign in Scotland, and the writ, dated 8 November and enrolled in full within the process on the memoranda roll, had been issued in Stirling. Over the summer of 1336 the exchequer had managed to add a further £4 6s. 7d. to Boulton’s charge, and on 5 December he handed over another £6 12s. 3½d., covering these latest revelations and the uncontested sums from before. The case was then repeatedly postponed, as the exchequer continued to chase up the remaining acquittances. In 1337, Boulton was charged with a further £10 15s. 5¾d., mainly from settlements whose inhabitants had lost some or all of their paperwork, but who came to the exchequer and swore to the sums they had paid. Details of this stage of the investigation also survive in a further file at The National Archives, a set of memoranda compiled by an (albeit slightly innumerate) exchequer clerk. Within this file, it was recorded that Boulton had charged his account with £5 11s. 5¾d. for the village of Hunmanby, yet the representatives of that village, Stephen Frere and Richard de Keyingham, had appeared at the exchequer and sworn that, although they had lost their acquittance, they had actually paid him £6 11s. 5½d. The memorandum then states that the taxers had concealed a total of 20s, a farthing having apparently been lost somewhere in the calculations. Similarly, the men of Settrington had also lost their acquittance, but said they had paid £5 10s., while Boulton had only passed on £4 19s. 10½d. to the exchequer. This was allegedly a shortfall of 10s. 5½d., though again the clerk seems to have got his calculations wrong, as the figures suggest that should have been 10s. 6½d.43 After four more years of delays, by Easter 1341 another £5 4s. 11d. had been added to Boulton’s charge sheet. Some places still had not sent in their documents, but it is undoubtedly remarkable that so many of the original acquittances had actually been recovered, and it says a lot about the record-keeping skills of people at a relatively low level of society that the exchequer had been able to gather up so many, particularly given that their owners, when they received them, could have had no idea that they would ever be needed again. Obviously, some were never tracked down, and further local men appeared before the exchequer to swear to their collection, and to confirm that they had lost some or all of their documents, or that other events 43

E 179/202/20, m. 1.

T hom a s d e B o u l t on and t h e East Ri di ng L ay S ubsidy of 1332    17

had occurred. Two men from Bubwith, John de Gunby and Stephen son of William, recounted that they had paid 41s. ½d. by an acquittance which had been lost, then somehow re-discovered at Pocklington (about 10 miles away), but had since been destroyed. Nevertheless, it had apparently been viewed by the prior of Warter, presumably during his work as chief taxer in 1334, and he had been happy with its contents.44 But it was now around eight years since the acquittances had been issued, and the exchequer barons seem to have drawn a line under the matter at that point. The investigation was closed, and it was determined that Boulton had concealed a final total of £101 6s. 8½d. The exchequer continued to chase Boulton for payment of the disputed sums, and almost £11 of the remainder which they claimed he had not yet re-paid. However, another seven years later, in 1348, they finally acknowledged that Boulton was correct in asserting that Cottingham, Market Weighton and Fulford had been issued with multiple acquittances, and therefore those sums, almost £18, were written off. They also accepted that Boulton had paid the other outstanding sums to various Yorkshire sheriffs, who had then failed to account it properly with the exchequer, so after a thirteen-year investigation, and sixteen years after the crime was committed, the case was finally laid to rest. Overall, Boulton had been required to repay a grand total of £83 10s. 10¼d. Given that the original assessment roll submitted by Boulton gave a total of £841 11s. ¾d., Boulton had concealed, and thus effectively stolen, a fraction over 9% of the total collection. Since many places never submitted their paperwork, and thus the losses from those settlements could not be calculated and included, the true figure was undoubtedly higher, perhaps 10% or possibly more.45 This was not an insignificant sum of money, though unfortunately the documents do not record precisely how Boulton re-paid his ill-gotten gains.

Questions and Consequences

The case of Boulton’s fraud clearly raises many questions about the administration and recording of late medieval taxation, and also what that might mean to historians looking to use the data that those records contain. Not least of these is the issue of who actually administered the tax, and who compiled the documents. Willard has already noted that, although such documents were generally drawn up in the names of both collectors, this example clearly highlights that this was not necessarily the case. Individual collectors could, and 44 45

E 179/202/20, m. 1d.

The auditors’ report includes a list of around 100 places which had not submitted their documents by Easter term 1336. Details for some were added afterwards, others were crossed through, and some are now illegible: E 179/202/17, rot. 2.

1 8    J on a t h a n Mac k man

did, act independently, with the acceptance of their supposed colleague but not necessarily their full knowledge of their actions.46 However, under normal circumstances, it seems unlikely that the chief taxers, men of significant local or even national standing, would have performed many of the basic administrative and clerical duties themselves. They would presumably have sent out servants or trusted officials to appoint the sub-taxers, arrange the assessments, collect the money and issue the acquittances in their name(s).47 Boulton could well have followed such procedures at first; but could and would Boulton, by the latter stages, really have trusted his staff, whoever they may have been, with such an obviously fraudulent task? The royal administration certainly seems to have assumed that he, and others accused of similar misdemeanours, had assistance, since, as noted earlier, the instructions to the 1334 collectors referred to the taxers and their ‘clerks and ministers’, and the orders summoning various collectors before the council at York in the summer of 1335 had instructed each man to appear ‘bringing with him the clerk elected by him for the office of taxing the tenth and fifteenth’.48 Boulton may have had an accomplice, a trusted clerk who helped him with his deception, but if so, his identity is not recorded. Alternatively, he may have had the necessary literacy and numeracy skills to compile the final assessment roll himself. Or perhaps he drew up an intermediate document, incorporating his alterations and hiding his deception before giving his notes to an unwitting clerk to copy up. The often quite significant differences in spellings and details between the villagers’ lists and Boulton’s are also intriguing, and offer another potential methodology for the compilation of Boulton’s roll: that he was making use of earlier documentation. Many of these differences could simply be the result of one clerk reading out the names and another writing them down as best they could, but others are less easily explained in that way. In the assessment for Ryhill and Camerton (Table 3), one man’s name seems to have been translated from Latin ( John ‘de Camera’) to French ( John ‘de la Chaumbre’), while another, ‘Robert Gilbert’, suddenly became ‘Robert son of Stephen’. These are both almost certainly the same men (the first quite clearly, the second most likely), and since there is no obvious reason for making such changes in a simple copying exercise, this might suggest that the details were actually being 46 47


Willard, Parliamentary Taxes on Personal Property, p. 189.

For a wider discussion of the general procedures for assessment and collection employed at this time, see Willard, ‘Side-Lights’, pp. 170–5; Jenks, ‘Lay Subsidies and the State of the English Economy’, pp. 8–9. However, how rigidly these ideals were adhered to, even by honest officials, is unclear. CCR 1333–37, p. 504.

T hom a s d e B o u l t on and t h e East Ri di ng L ay S ubsidy of 1332    19

added from another source. It must be remembered that Boulton also collected the 1327 subsidy in the East Riding, and would presumably have retained a copy of the nominal roll he submitted at that time. Unfortunately, the exchequer’s copy of that 1327 roll does not survive, and thus the two cannot now be compared, but Boulton could easily have used information gathered during that collection to amend the later documentation. The 1327 tax had been assessed at a twentieth, and thus the sums payable by each individual ought to have been lower, but perhaps not so much lower as to arouse suspicion at the exchequer, and the East Riding was not amongst those areas noted by Willard for which the rolls were rejected. It was also compiled recently enough that the people named would not have changed significantly. Boulton (or his clerks, wittingly or otherwise) could easily have incorporated information taken from the earlier assessment into the later roll, complete with its lower figures, thus allowing Boulton to retain the difference. Given the nature of the occasional differences in language and format between Boulton’s roll and the assessments returned by the villagers, this seems a possible explanation, though the precise methodology remains unclear. While there is no way of knowing exactly how Boulton compiled his fraudulent documentation, such clear discrepancies, regardless of how they were produced, certainly raise questions about the reliability and historical value of these returns and thus, by extension, potentially all medieval taxation assessments. The problems with the fifteenth-century alien subsidies are glaringly obvious, as the returns very quickly degenerated from seemingly reliable records to obviously ridiculous ones, of much more limited historical value and usefulness. By contrast, the records of general lay taxation have usually been seen as rather more reliable, taking into account the standard caveats about evasion, under-assessment, poverty and the like. However, if such manipulation of the records by officials was happening, as clearly happened in the assessment for Ryhill and in others in this collection, how reliable can they really be? On a basic level, as noted, Boulton’s nominal list for the 1327 subsidy may not survive but the final accounts do. Given what we know about his subsequent activities, should we also be suspicious of those? Did he embezzle part of the revenue of that collection too? If so, how much? And even more importantly, were Boulton’s activities unusual, or was skimming off part of the revenue, and slightly altering the records to compensate, a common activity across the country as a whole? The odd shilling being taken off an individual’s assessment may be relatively unimportant in many respects, but widespread or even patchy under-recording could have serious consequences for any detailed analysis of national and regional wealth and its distribution. Furthermore, Boulton was also leaving the names of some taxpayers out of his lists

2 0    J on a t h a n Mac k man

completely, some of whom were seemingly relatively substantial individuals. In Ryhill and Camerton (Table 3), John de Camerington, who vanished from the record completely, was, according to the original assessment, the biggest single contributor in that vill. Meanwhile, the far less-wealthy Simon Manning, who also disappeared from that assessment, may not appear in any other extant historical record. Moreover, if Boulton did indeed duplicate details from the 1327 tax, how closely did he check the names of the individual taxpayers? Can we be certain that everyone listed in the roll was indeed still alive when the later subsidy was supposedly assessed in 1333? From Boulton’s point of view, the risk of exchequer clerks being familiar enough with the East Riding population to spot dead people in the assessment was probably negligible, and even if they did notice one or two, it could probably be explained away relatively easily as a clerical error. But for historians almost 700 years later looking for the appearance or absence of particular individuals or families in these records, the loss or manipulation of such information could have far-reaching consequences for their research. Were the people named in this document actually alive in 1333, or had they died during the years since 1327? There is no way of knowing just how widespread such activities might have been, as the documents simply do not survive for similar comparisons to be made, which is what makes this particular set of records so valuable, and potentially so concerning. The issue of more widespread wrongdoing in the collection of the 1332 subsidy may well have been more of a convenient allegation than a genuine concern, one which allowed the crown to manipulate the administration of the taxation system for its own ends while seemingly making only half-hearted and piecemeal attempts to remedy the supposed problem. But Boulton’s case does at least show that, when faced with overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing, the exchequer could and did act, and it was this investigation that led to the production, assembling and retention of so much documentation, much of which would never otherwise have been produced or preserved. Boulton was undoubtedly a fraudster, though not necessarily an isolated one, and although he seems to have escaped any significant punishment for his crimes, he did not get away with it. He has not been described here as ‘unfortunate’ because he was innocent – far from it, and it was only the prevailing attitudes of the time that allowed him to escape more serious punishment. He was ‘unfortunate’ simply because he committed his crime at a time when the crown decided to alter the fundamental basis of the tax administration; if he had acted at just about any other point over the previous century, he would almost certainly have got away with it.

2 Negotiating and Creating Collegiate Statutes in the Fourteenth Century 1 El iz abe t h Big gs



tatutes are usually taken for granted as one of the definitional features of medieval, and indeed modern, collegiate life. As a form of document, however, they emerged in response to particular constraints in the late thirteenth century and were widely taken up in the mid-fourteenth century. This type of document was important to their institutions, and often remained in use until dissolution, or, in the case of the English cathedrals, until modern renegotiations. For this reason they have often been used as descriptions of what life in a medieval college was like.2 They have also been used as a basis for categorising institutions. In making such categorisations, historians have followed the pioneering work of Alexander Hamilton Thompson from the first decades of the twentieth century. He used collegiate statutes as a class of document displaying what collegiate life as a whole could be, and to divide colleges into two types: chantry colleges and older institutions in the ‘cathedral model’.3 The key difference between chantry colleges and colleges following the cathedral model was the differing expectation of residence set out in their respective regulations.4 Finally, statutes have more recently been seen as proscriptive and regulatory texts that were part of founders’ efforts to ensure accountability and good management by the community.5 I would like to thank Craig Taylor and especially Martin Heale for their generous and helpful comments on earlier drafts.


See for example, the comments of M. Heale, ‘Colleges and Monasteries in Medieval England’, in The Late Medieval English College and its Context, ed. C. Burgess and M. Heale (York, 2008), pp. 67–88 (p. 70).


A. H. Thompson, ‘Notes on Colleges of Secular Canons in England’, Archaeological Journal 74 (1917), 139–99 (p. 139).


Ibid, pp. 159–60, 196.


J. Sabapathy, Officers and Accountability in Medieval England, 1170–1300 (Oxford, 2014), pp. 192–5.


2 2    El i z a b e th Bi g g s

This essay comes out of a conversation with Mark Ormrod in the early months of my doctoral work, as part of a discussion about a fragment of the almost entirely lost statutes of St Stephen’s College, Westminster, from 1355.6 He asked me ‘what were medieval statutes?’ Part of the answer emerged in a reconstruction of what might have been included in the statutes of St Stephen’s using the provisions in the statutes surviving from large royal and noble foundations in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This essay extends that assessment by discussing how statutes became the standard and routine definitional document in the lives of collegiate communities after 1340, when colleges began to be a popular form of lay foundation, and how statutes subsequently became an expected and ubiquitous part of the collegiate foundation process in the fifteenth century. It makes no attempt to survey the statutory provisions at every one of the several hundred institutions known as colleges in the later Middle Ages. Instead, it looks at the development of statutes as a means of defining and regulating colleges, and one which was created by negotiation between their founders, the college’s own staff, and the local ecclesiastical authorities.


Medieval colleges can be frustrating to define because the term covers an idiosyncratic grouping of institutions that could vary enormously in size, in wealth, in influence and in purpose within the Catholic Church.7 Yet, for medieval founders, they were a clear category of institution within the wider Church, as a form of priestly communal life and corporate existence.8 Colleges were a long-established part of the religious landscape by 1340, including old pre-Conquest institutions such as the royal free chapels and the secular cathedrals. After the eleventh century momentum had largely turned away from colleges as a standard form of communal life, and many colleges were re-founded as monasteries or houses of Canons Regular.9 Around the same time that the Oxford and Cambridge colleges were coming to be defined as institutions in the late thirteenth century, bishops started to create foundations 6 7



WAM 18431.

For a survey of colleges as a type, including a gazetteer for all known colleges in England and Wales, see P. Jeffery, The Collegiate Churches of England and Wales (London, 2004), pp. 11–12. C. Burgess, ‘An Institution for All Seasons: The Late Medieval English College’, in Late Medieval English College, ed. Burgess and Heale, pp. 3–27 (p. 5). J. Bertram, ‘The European Context: Collegiate Churches on the Continent’, in Late Medieval English College, ed. Burgess and Heale, pp. 128–43 (pp. 31–4).

C o l l e g i at e S t at u t e s i n t h e Four teen th Cen tur y   23

that they could use to reward their servants.10 Lay founders, however, only returned to founding colleges outside the universities from the 1340s onwards.11 Late medieval founders valued their flexibility in opposition to the formal rules of the monastic orders.12 Like monasteries, colleges demanded elements of communal life and worship, but unlike monasteries, they were not grouped into orders with a uniform rule and supervisory structure. Unlike monasteries they could be quite small, and the possibilities for customisation were wide. They could be as small as two or three priests, assisted by servants, maintaining the church fabric of a local parish church.13 At the other end of the scale, the great noble and royal colleges might be made up of two or more institutions, separately constituted, including for example sub-colleges for the priest-vicars or for the chantry priests; such sub-colleges, exemplified for instance by St William’s College at York Minster, were common at the cathedrals.14 They could thus be tailored to the available resources and to the desires of their founders for their own commemoration. They could easily also be combined with a household chapel, or with educational or charitable provision.15 In addition, from the late thirteenth century colleges provided ideal vehicles for the lay concern for commemoration and aiding souls in Purgatory, and so were usually founded explicitly to pray daily for the souls of the dead.16 All of these 10


12 13


15 16

C. Fonge, ‘Patriarchy and Patrimony: Investing in the Medieval College’, in The Foundations of Medieval English Ecclesiastical History: Studies Presented to David Smith, ed. P. Hoskin et al. (Woodbridge, 2005), pp. 77–93 (p. 78).

Andrew Budge has recently argued that 1340 did not mark an inflection point in collegiate foundation and that colleges were founded at the same rate before and after. However, the earlier fourteenth-century non-university colleges tended to be very small chantries, to be founded by churchmen, or to be rapidly converted into Augustinian or Benedictine houses. After 1340, the new foundations were larger and more institutionally stable: A. L. Budge, ‘Change in Architectural Style: the adoption of macro- and micro-architectural motifs in 14th-century collegiate churches in England and Wales’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London, 2017), p. 36. Burgess, ‘Institution for All Seasons’, p. 11.

For example, the small chantry colleges discussed in Burgess, ‘Strategies for Eternity: Perpetual Chantry Foundation in Late Medieval Bristol’, in Religious Belief and Ecclesiastical Careers in Late Medieval England, ed. C. Harper-Bill (Woodbridge, 1991), pp. 1–33 (pp. 8–9). P. R. Newman, The History of St William’s College (York, 1994); see also Jeffery, Collegiate Churches, pp. 22–3, 27. Burgess, ‘Institution for All Seasons, pp. 11–12.

These were the chantry colleges in Thompson, ‘Notes on Colleges of Secular Canons’, p. 159; see also the discussion of lay priorities in B. Thompson, ‘The Laity, the

2 4    El i z a b e th Bi g g s

institutions were individual and often idiosyncratic, because they were adapted to the needs and expectations of their founders, and then of their members, throughout their existence. Their statutes were similarly diverse, because these statutes responded to the size of the institution and the tensions between the founders, the college’s personnel, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy.17 The distinction between cathedral colleges and chantry colleges is not particularly sharp in their statutes, which all deal with similar concerns and issues. For Alexander Hamilton Thompson there were nevertheless two key elements by which an institution could be defined as a college and categorised according to the two main college types he identified. Hamilton Thompson argued that a chantry college required both a common life and reasonable residency. The key divide for him was that the older colleges expected some canons to be non-resident because of obligations elsewhere, while the chantry colleges enforced full residence.18 If the revenues of a parish church supported multiple priests who were not bound together into a single corporate existence with a common seal, then Hamilton Thompson would call those multiple rectors a collection of portioners, and not a college.19 As he noted, these types of divided churches tended not to be dissolved in the sixteenth century. The old cathedral foundations and those pre-Conquest minster churches that remained active after the Conquest were distinguished by the presence of distinct revenues for each priest who held a prebend, while the chantry foundations used a common fund split between the prebendaries.20 Yet the old cathedral church of Exeter used a common fund to pay canons, as did the new royal foundations at Windsor and Westminster after 1348, which is where the second part of Hamilton Thompson’s definition comes into play.21 Exeter, St Stephen’s and St George’s all made provisions for dealing with absences and thus fall into Hamilton Thompson’s cathedral type, while the university colleges were


18 19 20 21

Alien Priories, and the Redistribution of Ecclesiastical Property’, in England in the Fifteenth Century, ed. N. Rogers (Stamford, 1994), pp. 19–41 (pp. 20–1).

Here Sabapathy is discussing the colleges within universities, but the same dynamic is also at work in other types of colleges: Sabapathy, Officers and Accountability, p. 186. Thompson, ‘Notes on Colleges of Secular Canons’, p. 159. Ibid, pp. 194–5.

Ibid, pp. 146, 159.

K. Edwards, The English Secular Cathedrals in the Middle Ages: A Constitutional Study, 2nd edition (Manchester, 1967), p. 74; ‘The Statutes and Injunctions of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle’, ed. M. Bond (unpublished edition of galley proofs by J. N. Dalton, 1962), p. 9 [An edition of Windsor, St George’s College Archives XI D 20]. The practice at Westminster would have paralleled that at Windsor.

C o l l e g i at e S t at u t e s i n t h e Four teen th Cen tur y   25

chantry types by virtue of the expectations placed on their fellows. For the type of well-documented foundations that I am considering, the difference between a cathedral-type, which tolerated and regulated absenteeism, and a chantry-type, which forbade it entirely, did not particularly affect the wording or the processes that created these documents. Statutes’ provisions for residency and for the use of a common fund might differ according to the priorities of the foundation and the founder, but they were all concerned with proper management of the institution, and the efficient maintenance of its liturgical and institutional responsibilities. These institutions had to be defined as well as regulated to ensure correct behaviour. Each medieval college had its own set of internal rules and regulations dividing up the tasks that needed to be done among the members, and regulating the management of the institution. It is one particular form of such rules – formal statutes – that is the concern of this discussion. Statutes are distinct from two other forms of definitional documents important to late medieval colleges. The first was the foundation document of some type, often a licence, charter or letter patent, which set out the founder’s intention to form a college and created it as a legal entity with a corporate and communal existence in law.22 Second, internal regulations were built up over time through the commands of the bishop in his visitations and through the college’s own rule-making processes as a chapter, which would define and modify the college’s routine practices.23 These internal regulations were a matter for the ecclesiastical hierarchy, not for the secular powers. Statutes differed from both of these other definitional and regulatory documents by being enacted by the community with additional external confirmation. Like the statutes made for the kingdom in parliament, collegiate statutes were made with the consent of all interested parties. Parliamentary statutes were in theory made with the consent of the realm, while collegiate statutes needed the consent of all those who were felt to have a personal, institutional or financial interest in the institution. Precisely who confirmed statutes depended on the individual institution, but they usually invoked the community itself, the founder, and the relevant diocesan authorities. They thus represented a statement about the college’s existence, its rules and its relationships with the wider world that could be used to judge the success 22


At St Stephen’s, Westminster, a letter patent, CPR 1348–50, p. 147; at Merton College, Oxford, a licence from Gilbert de Clare, the relevant overlord, ‘Merton College’ in The Victoria County History of the County of Oxford. Volume Three: The University of Oxford, ed. H. E. Salter and M. D. Lobel (London, 1954), pp. 95–106. For example, The Chapter Acts of the Dean and Canons of Windsor: 1430, 1523–1672, ed. S. Bond (Windsor, 1966).

2 6    El i z a b e th Bi g g s

of the institution, and that could then be amended through the internal processes. Statutes were not a new development in the fourteenth century, yet from the 1340s onwards they increasingly were used as the standard means to define and regulate colleges. In the mid-fourteenth century, St Mary’s, Warwick, which had previously relied on an accumulation of older customs, ordinances and regulations, negotiated a new set of statutes, which could then be refined through internal regulations and episcopal visitations.24 At the same time, a series of new colleges were founded or re-founded by members of the royal family and then by aristocratic families during the later fourteenth century.25 These foundations tended to be given statutes as part of the foundation process, which involved the local ecclesiastical authorities, the new institution’s own staff, and the founders. Thus, in the mid-fourteenth century statutes became a key tool for defining these institutions and regulating their existence.

Origins as a Genre

Statutes as a category of regulatory document first emerged as a means of defining collegiate life out of the complexities of trying to create self-governing constituent institutions within the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, by delineating the institutions’ existences, financial management and governance structures alongside their commitments to the emerging structures of the wider university. They were frameworks to resolve disputes and provide structures of ‘external oversight’ within these new institutions.26 Their statutes are the first thing the historian of the medieval colleges within the universities of Oxford and Cambridge would reach for when trying to understand these institutions in contrast to the university halls, which were much more temporary and usually did not survive through to the present day.27 Writing about the early colleges at Oxford, T. H. Aston and Rosamund Faith defined them by noting that ‘their way of life was regulated by statute… that there



26 27

The Cartulary of St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Warwick, ed. C. Fonge (Woodbridge, 2004), pp. 143–55. Major examples include Arundel College (earls of Arundel), Fotheringhay College (dukes of York), Tattershall College (Ralph, lord Cromwell), St Mary’s Warwick (earls of Warwick), and St Mary’s in the Newarke (earls then dukes of Lancaster). Sabapathy, Officers and Accountability, p. 193.

J. R. L. Highfield, ‘The Early Colleges’, in The History of the University of Oxford Volume 1: The Early Oxford Schools, ed. J. I. Catto (Oxford, 1984), pp. 225–64 (p. 230).

C o l l e g i at e S t at u t e s i n t h e Four teen th Cen tur y   27

was no element of financial profit… and that they owned their own sites.’28 Similarly, for Damien Riehl Leader, the Cambridge colleges ‘gave physical stability to Cambridge’ through their buildings and landowning.29 Yet statutes were not necessarily created for these institutions, nor were they even the most immediate form of definitional document. Letters patent or charters from the authorities were needed to give colleges the status of corporate entities. University College became a corporate institution almost accidentally, when its endowments to support scholars were transformed into a communal life with rules after 1280.30 Similarly, although Balliol College was founded in the 1280s by the gifts of John de Balliol and the charter of Devorguilla, it would wait until the 1340s for its first statutes.31 In the 1260s and 1270s, the chancellor of England, Walter de Merton, experimented with various statutes for his new educational and collegiate community of Merton College, first in Surrey and then at Oxford itself, with the involvement of the bishop of Winchester, the king and the nascent community.32 It took almost a decade of revisions before Merton was satisfied with his regulations for his community, issued in their final form of 1274.33 An Oxford college’s statutes did not necessarily reflect the community’s life when they were written, but rather what the founder hoped the community would become or what the founder felt was most essential to regulate at that moment. The statutes of Oriel, as copied from Merton, envisaged a much larger and more complex community than Oriel was at that moment in time. At the other end of the spectrum, the first statutes of Exeter College in the 1320s only regulated the dean’s role in financial management.34 There the matter rested for two generations until statutes were used for a series of new foundations and re-foundations with a corporate existence beyond Oxford and Cambridge. At first, most of these statutes were created at the behest of lay founders, and were directly copied from Oxford and 28


30 31

32 33


T. H Aston and R. Faith, ‘University and College Endowments’, in History of the University of Oxford I, pp. 265–310 (p. 309). D. R. Leader, A History of the University of Cambridge Volume I: The University to 1546 (Cambridge, 1988), p. 87. Aston and Faith, ‘University and College Endowments’, pp. 287–9.

‘Balliol College’, in Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford Volume I (Oxford, 1853), pp. v–vii, viii–xix. The sequence is outlined in ‘Merton College’, pp. 95–106.

Printed in The Early Rolls of Merton College, ed. J. R. L. Highfield (Oxford, 1964), pp. 52–4. Aston and Faith, ‘University and College Endowments’, pp. 300, 304.

2 8    El i z a b e th Bi g g s

Cambridge. The other course available to fourteenth-century founders who wanted to describe, regulate and structure their new institution, as Martin Heale has noted, was to draw on the possibilities of monastic rules for regulating communal life, while also rejecting some of the perceived abuses of monastic revenues such as the sale of corrodies and pensions to laypeople.35 Monasteries were the most commonly known form of Christian communal life at the time, and so it is not surprising that in the first generation of collegiate statutes, founders might have turned to a similar type of document to describe their colleges and to provide a framework for what they did and did not want to see in their foundations. The idiosyncratic first statutes of Rushworth College in Norfolk, written and sealed in 1342, were created by one of the founders of what would become Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge.36 Edmund Gonville drew upon the university collegiate forms with which he was also engaging at the same time in order to regulate and define his new foundation, one of the first colleges of the later Middle Ages not to be founded by a bishop. His foundation of Gonville Hall at Cambridge was completed by the bishop of Norwich after his death, and so the statutes are not directly comparable.37 But at Rushworth, Gonville used the collegiate concept of statutes to formally ensure that his wishes would be carried out in perpetuity.38 Edward III followed suit when in 1348 he founded his pair of colleges, St Stephen’s at Westminster and St George’s at Windsor. The statutes of both these colleges were written by William Edington, bishop of Winchester, within a decade of their foundations.39

Why Statutes?

Statutes spoke both to the spiritual and temporal place of the new or re-founded colleges within England. The process of writing statutes was usually first authorised by the pope in response to the founder’s 35 36

37 38


Heale, ‘Colleges and Monasteries in Late Medieval England’, pp. 70–1, 73.

He called his regulations ‘ordinacionem sive statuta’: E. K. Bennet, ‘Notes on the Original Statutes of the College of St John the Evangelist of Rushworth, Co. Norfolk, founded by Edmund Gonville AD 1342’, Norfolk Archaeology 10 (1888), 50–64 (p. 56). Leader, University of Cambridge I, pp. 84–5.

The bishop of Norwich was to be the visitor, responsible for overseeing his wishes, ‘Statutes of Rushworth’, pp. 52–3. St George’s had statutes sealed in 1352 which survive in an early-fifteenth century copy: St George’s College XI D 20; published in ‘Statutes and Injunctions of St George’s’, p. 20.

C o l l e g i at e S t at u t e s i n t h e Four teen th Cen tur y   29

petition.40 The finished texts were designed to be enforced by the ecclesiastical hierarchies, particularly through regular visitations to the community by the bishop appointed as visitor. These were not necessarily as frequent as founders had desired but were there as a tool to be deployed when abuses emerged. At St Stephen’s for example, a visitation in 1377 by the chancellor, Bishop Adam Houghton of St David’s, referred to the statutes when censuring the college for not adequately maintaining the liturgy, and for not managing its finances as carefully as it should.41 For most colleges, the visitor was to be the local diocesan, exercising his authority over ecclesiastical institutions. In these cases, statutes were either written or approved by the local bishop as part of the process of inserting the colleges into these diocesan structures of authority.42 If the college had responsibilities to the local parish or was to take over parochial revenues, as many did, its relationship with the lay community also needed to be clarified. Similarly, the college’s temporal rights and revenues also were part of the process of foundation. Statutes often followed the date of foundation by a few years, and so were documents created when an institution was already operational and in the process of completing its foundation, firming up its rights to lands and revenues, and finding out what was unclear or contested in its relationships with the temporal world as well as the ecclesiastical hierarchies. At Tattershall, for example, a licence to found a college was granted in 1439, while papal permission to write statutes was granted in 1442 for an institution that already had been begun.43 The college’s own experiences in the early years would potentially shape what went into the final documents. The final aspect of finding the college’s place in the world that needed to be considered was its ongoing relationship with the founder and his or her family. The statutes offered a chance to set a new institution into a clearly defined patronage relationship that all parties were agreed on, and which could be referred back to later, if necessary.44 40

41 42



For example, Petitions to the Pope 1342–1419, ed. W. H. Bliss (London, 1896), pp. 126, 188, 493–4. C 66/ 298 m. 34; CPR 1377–81, p. 57.

For example, see the case of the bishop of Lincoln emending the statutes of St Mary’s in the Newarke discussed below, p. 35.

S. J. Payling, ‘The “Grete Laboure and the Long and Troublous Tyme”: The Execution of the Will of Ralph, Lord Cromwell and the Foundation of Tattershall College’, in The Fifteenth Century XIII: Exploring the Evidence: Commemoration, Administration and the Economy, ed. L. Clark (Woodbridge, 2014), pp. 1–30 (pp. 8–9). A. K. McHardy, ‘Patronage in Late Medieval Colleges’, in Late Medieval English College, ed. Burgess and Heale, pp. 89–109 (pp. 89, 92–3).

3 0    El i z a b e th Bi g g s

Foundation patents served as interim documents that could be very detailed, and indeed might continue to govern the institution indefinitely, in conjunction with local ordinances and visitations. Their primary purpose, however, was distinct from that of statutes. A foundation patent or licence established the institution’s legal existence and usually specified the lands that were being given to it, establishing title to lands and financial rights. These licences did not need the involvement of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, although they might well be confirmed by them. At Wingfield College in Suffolk the foundation letter patent was issued by the bishop on behalf of Alienor Wingfield, the widow of the founder Sir John Wingfield, and his other executors in 1361.45 Alienor Wingfield evidently did not want, or was unable, to issue the patent herself, and so looked to the local diocesan, the bishop of Norwich, Thomas Percy, to issue this first founding document, which was confirmed by his cathedral chapter. The bishop was expected to write and confirm the statutes that subsequently came to be mentioned in the fifteenth-century visitation records, when the college was measured against the statutes, not the foundation patent.46 The text of the foundation patent in the case of Wingfield College anticipated its own redundancy, naming the three chaplains who then made up the college, and saying that the foundation would expand to nine chaplains, and that statutes would be issued to fully regulate the college’s activities.47 At St George’s Windsor thirteen years earlier the same pattern can be seen. The foundation letter patent of 1348 was concerned with the first canons, and named the lands with which the king endowed the foundation.48 It also sets out a staffing pattern of twenty-­ four canons, which Edington was to change in the statutes of 1352 to a dean, twelve canons, and thirteen vicars.49 Here, ecclesiastical experience was being used to reshape lay wishes into a much more conventional structure, with the same number of priests as at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and with both canons and vicars, as was cathedral practice. Edington’s statutes for St George’s also dealt not with specific lands, but with how lands would be 45


47 48 49

‘The Foundation and Surrender of Wingfield College: The Texts of the Original Foundation Charter of 1362 and the Surrender Document of 1542, with Explanatory Notes’, in Wingfield College and its Patrons: Piety and Prestige in Medieval Suffolk, ed. P. Bloore and E. Martin (Woodbridge, 2015), pp. 61–73 (pp. 61, 66).

‘Colleges: Wingfield’, in The Victoria History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, ed. W. Page (London, 1907), p. 152. ‘Foundation and Surrender of Wingfield College’, pp. 62, 67. C 66/ 225 m. 6; CPR 1348–50, p. 144.

‘Statutes and Injunctions of St George’s’, p. 5.

C o l l e g i at e S t at u t e s i n t h e Four teen th Cen tur y   31

managed and the procedures for ensuring accountability.50 Statutes could offer reassurance to the lay founder that the resources handed over to the Church would be maintained. They also provided a tool for later regulation, and could be used in litigation, as seen by the way that Westminster Abbey copied provisions about mass-offerings from the statutes of St Stephen’s to justify its own claims to jurisdiction in the 1370s.51 There was not yet any sort of customary process for creating statutes, and much depended on which jurisdictions the founder wanted to ensure would offer protection for the rights of the new foundation. At Ottery St Mary in the 1330s, Bishop Grandisson of Exeter made statutes and an ordinance the twin pillars of his re-foundation of the church there as a college, and had the documents confirmed by the hierarchy within the diocese as well as by the papacy, drawing on his own wider European frames of reference.52 The letter patent of Edward III licensing the foundation and giving it legal status was granted in December 1337 and authorised either a monastery or a collegiate foundation.53 The vagueness implies that Grandisson was not yet sure of what he wanted, but the first ordinance was dated just a month later in January 1338. The ordinance was sent off to Rome, where Grandisson wanted it to be confirmed with a papal bull, and word seems to have come back that his document was complex and was missing details, as the statutes start by saying that they will correct what propter prolixitatem in prima Ordinacione omissa sunt.54 In response, Grandisson issued the statutes unilaterally in September 1339, then he provided visitation documents holding canons to account in relation to the statutes in October 1339, and after that, in 1342, he finally had the revised ordinance and the statutes confirmed by the new pope.55 The final version of the ordinance does some of the work of a foundation patent by setting out Grandisson’s intentions and making the last vicar of the parish the first warden of the college. It also starts to regulate practice and responsibilities

50 51 52

53 54


Ibid., pp. 9–10, 16–17. WAM 18431.

J. N. Dalton, The Collegiate Church of Ottery St Mary, being the Ordinacio et Statuta Ecclesie Sancte Marie de Otery (Cambridge, 1917), pp. 113, 115. CPR 1334–38, p. 569.

‘left out in the first ordinance on account of long-windedness’: Dalton, Collegiate Church of Ottery St Mary, p. 133.

The Register of John de Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter 1327–1369, ed. F. C. HingestonRandolph, 3 vols. (London, 1894), I, 119–22; Dalton, Collegiate Church of Ottery St Mary, pp. 122–3.

3 2    El i z a b e th Bi g g s

within the college as one would expect from statutes.56 It describes the numbers of individuals in the foundation, the method of electing officers and the lands that the college were to have, including some rights in the manor of Ottery St Mary itself. Grandisson’s 1339 statutes dealt largely with the liturgical details of how he wanted his college to celebrate the Divine Office, particularly in the devotion to the Virgin Mary.57 The two documents were to be used together by his foundation. Here, the awkwardness of not having a single document came from the involvement of Benedict XII, and his unwillingness to authorise the original ordinance. How, then, did these statutes play out in practice, and how necessary were they? Colleges seem to have found it useful to have a single set of rules which could be referred to when required, and altered if found to be problematic. Some older colleges did continue to manage without the formal agreement of defined statutes. At Exeter Cathedral, the cartulary compiled in the late fifteenth century contains provisions from the eleventh century that were still in force, and that had been added to over the years by various bishops in the absence of a single set of statutes.58 The small bishop’s college of St Mary and Holy Angels in York similarly relied on its twelfth-century foundation charters and never drew up a single set of statutes.59 Royal free chapels such as St Martin le Grand also tended to use customary practice and tradition, and to have statutes only at a much later date.60 St Mary’s, Warwick, founded in the twelfth century, was only granted partial statutes in 1367, which dealt with the pressing issues, such as the loss of lands, facing the college at that point.61 At Warwick these new statutes look like a remnant of older approaches to governance. Rather than being comprehensive, they were concerned with particularly pressing matters (management of lands and the duties of the warden) and only happened to be treated formally as statutes approved by the bishop and the patron. St Mary’s in the Newarke, founded in 1331 by Henry, earl 56 57 58




Register of John de Grandisson, I, 122–30, particularly 123, 130. Dalton, Collegiate Church of Ottery St Mary, pp. 141–44.

The Exeter Cartulary from the late fifteenth century contains material from the twelfth century that was still in force: BL, MS Harley 1027.

E. M. Warren, ‘Community and Identity in the Shadow of York Minster: The Medieval Chapel of St Mary and the Holy Angels’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Leeds, 2013), p. 7.

‘Colleges: St Martin le Grand’, in The Victoria History of the Counties of England: London, ed. W. Page (London, 1909), pp. 555–66. Cartulary of St Mary’s Warwick, pp. 143–55; the circumstances of these statutes are discussed in his introduction, pp. xlviii– liii.

C o l l e g i at e S t at u t e s i n t h e Four teen th Cen tur y   33

of Lancaster, only gained full statutes in 1355–6, having used its foundation charter up to that point.62 These two colleges were both considerably older than the new royal foundations, yet in both cases they only codified their practices in the wake of the example set by St Stephen’s and St George’s. Later fifteenth-century colleges had statutes as part of the foundation process because collegiate forms were becoming more standardised and founders recognised the value of statutes for expressing their wishes. After 1400, as collegiate statutes gained currency and spread, the influence of monastic models on collegiate practice decreased.63 Ralph, Lord Cromwell was inspired by existing colleges such as St Stephen’s, Westminster and Fotheringhay when designing his own foundation of Tattershall in the fifteenth century.64


Statutes offered an opportunity for the lay founders to set their mark on the college, safeguard the resources with which they were endowing the institution and ensure that any particular concerns they had could be guarded against, as well as shape each college to their desired commemoration or charitable purpose. Lay founders were crucial to the process of creating statutes as a key form of regulating colleges in their management of their financial, landed and ecclesiastical responsibilities. They sought reliable homes for their charitable impulses, and statutes were part of their efforts to make institutions accountable and long-lasting.65 When bishops founded colleges in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, they knew that their successors would continue to supervise their foundations through the authority of the diocesan to visit institutions within the diocese. Lay founders had no such assurances that they or their heirs could step in to correct any abuses that developed or create new rules; that would fall to the diocesan and to the college’s internal management structures.66 Statutes and the process of having them confirmed by the diocesan acted as a promise that if the college’s resources were mismanaged there would be a mechanism for 62 63 64

65 66

Thompson, St Mary in the Newarke, pp. 41–81. Heale, ‘Colleges and Monasteries’, pp. 74–5.

M. Williamson, ‘The Eton Choirbook: Its Institutional and Historical Background’ (unpublished DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, 1997), p. 90 n. 31, citing Kent County Record Office, MS U1475 Q/20. Sabapathy, Officers and Accountability, pp. 218, 221.

For example, the injunctions for St George’s in 1378: ‘Statutes and Injunctions of St George’s’, pp. 21–2.

3 4    El i z a b e th Bi g g s

correcting abuses by setting out what should be done and delineating who had the authority to correct mismanagement. Founders were concerned with both resource conservation and maintenance of the stipulated spiritual services. On the positive side, statutes allowed founders to express what they wanted from their institution, whether liturgically or in terms of specific prayers. At St George’s, Edward III was able to make extensive provisions for the type of liturgical remembrance he wanted for himself and his dynasty, including that the collect ‘Salus Populi’ be said daily for him and his family, and that the Office of the Dead and the Lady Mass should be said at particular times.67 Other founders also made detailed provisions for what the college should do in remembrance of them, including processions and feasts, as well as the education they should provide to the founders’ descendants. Founders, however, were not always given their way. Late medieval collegiate statutes were shaped by a range of interested parties. As they were created after the college had been formed as a corporate entity by a foundation charter or deed of some type, they dealt with the college’s own staff, and so mark a time when the institution’s members were able to contribute to defining their own roles and accountability.68 Some canons had experience of what had worked at other colleges and may have brought that knowledge into the discussions regarding new statutes. For example, John Buckingham was both a canon of St Stephen’s, Westminster and of St Mary’s, Warwick and it is possible that provisions in the Warwick statutes about a common fund were drawn from his experience of the same provisions at Westminster.69 At St George’s, practical experience between 1348 and 1352 may lie behind the provision that chapter business was to be announced ten days before it was discussed so that canons could return to make their arguments about the matter at hand and to vote.70 In addition, statutes could be used as a way of getting agreement from wider constituencies beyond the college’s own members. At Westminster, St Stephen’s College was inserted into a religious landscape where the abbey was dominant and held its own exempt jurisdiction over the relevant archdeaconry. The abbey was consulted over the statutes and sealed the agreement in 1355. While the statutes did not fully address what were to become pressing issues over the college’s rights in the 1370s, both institutions seem to have tried to use the statutes as an opportunity to delineate the college’s rights in relation

67 68 69 70

Ibid., p. 11.

Hamilton Thompson, ‘Notes on Secular Colleges’, p. 196. Cartulary of St Mary’s Warwick, p. 150.

‘Statutes and Injunctions of St George’s’, pp. 16–17.

C o l l e g i at e S t at u t e s i n t h e Four teen th Cen tur y   35

to the wider parish, and so prevent conflict.71 At St Mary’s Warwick in 1367, the monastic chapter of Worcester joined their bishop, William Whittlesey, in agreeing to the new statutes.72 Similarly at Wingfield in Suffolk, the prior of Norwich Cathedral confirmed the statutes of the new college there because the cathedral held rights in the parish church which became the collegiate church.73 The relevant diocesan bodies were being consulted here, although there is no sign that the cathedral priories were ever involved with the college’s actual running. The process of creation was one in which a range of concerns and interests could be accommodated. The finished documents marked an agreement between the interested parties, which might then lessen the chances of litigation over conflicting or unclear rights. The strongest single voices in the formulation of these documents were those of the bishops. Their preferences and concerns, including those of Edington at the royal foundations of 1348, played the major role in determining what was, and was not, included in statutes. As they had supervisory powers over institutions within their dioceses, their understanding of what colleges needed and their injunctions and regulations helped to set norms for statutes. The bishop intervened at St Mary’s in the Newarke in the 1350s. Here the draft document that the founder submitted to the diocesan, Bishop Gynewell of Lincoln, the copy actually enacted, and a contemporary codicil were all entered into the register.74 Gynewell felt the foundation was under-resourced for the planned staffing, and so cut expenditure in the enacted statutes to ensure that St Mary’s would be financially solvent, if less lavish than originally planned.75 The earl of Lancaster revised the provisions and added a codicil which made the final form of the college’s organisation not only answer the bishop’s concerns but also fulfil his ambitions for a large and impressive college. If a bishop was the sole authority over a college, statutes might not be felt to be required, although bishops could create their own regulations such as at Ottery St Mary. At Exeter Cathedral, where the bishop had the role of founder and patron and so did not need to consult widely, William Warelwast and his successors until Edmund Lacey in the 1450s promulgated new regulations, adding to and adapting the current regulations to reflect their

71 72 73 74 75

WAM 18431.

Cartulary of St Mary’s Warwick, p. 143.

‘Foundation and Surrender of Wingfield College’, pp. 65, 71. Hamilton Thompson, St Mary’s in the Newarke, p. 41. Ibid., pp. 44, 51.

3 6    El i z a b e th Bi g g s

particular concerns about the behaviour of the dean and chapter.76 Unlike at St George’s, the statutes for St Mary’s, Warwick, covered only the need for residency and the new requirement for a common fund replacing individual prebends drawing on individual landed estates.77 The level of detail in the statutes of St George’s from 1352 was unusual, and may reflect Edington’s desire to establish firm rules and regulations for this new and prestigious institution, as suggested by the provision that the new college should look to the cathedral chapters for their guidance.78 Edington was the only bishop to specify how a college was to manage its money, down to the level of reserves that were to be kept in the common fund before any distribution of profits to the canons.79

A Defence Against Litigation?

The most basic requirement of statutes was to set out the roles and duties within the college, and the rights of presentation and patronage to it. All early statutes deal with such matters because these lay at the heart of what might later come into dispute. Presentation and thus the ability to exercise patronage to one’s own clerks was an important motive for foundations, as Alison McHardy has observed.80 Bishops such as Edington used colleges as an alternative source of patronage to reward their own household as the cathedral chapters became further removed from their influence.81 At York, the small college of St Mary’s and Holy Angels was founded in the twelfth century to give the archbishop of York leverage against the cathedral chapter by offering canonries as rewards to his own clerks.82 These episcopal foundations could rely on the future bishop to defend his own rights. Lay patrons sought more security. Even the otherwise fairly fragmentary statutes of St Mary’s Warwick dealt with the rights of the earls of Warwick to present canons and the dean.83 At St Mary in the Newarke, great care was taken to ensure that there would not be disputes over the presentation of canons if the earldom of Lancaster


77 78 79 80 81 82 83

D. Lepine, A Brotherhood of Canons Serving God: English Secular Cathedrals in the Later Middle Ages (Woodbridge, 1995), p. 1; BL Harley MS 1027. Cartulary of St Mary’s Warwick, pp. 143–55.

‘Statutes and Injunctions of St George’s’, p. 3. Ibid., p. 9.

McHardy, ‘Patronage in Late Medieval Colleges’, pp. 89, 92–3.

For earlier examples, Fonge, ‘Patriarchy and Patrimony’, pp. 77–93. Warren, ‘St Mary and Holy Angels’, p. 20.

Cartulary of St Mary’s, Warwick, pp. 150–1.

C o l l e g i at e S t at u t e s i n t h e Four teen th Cen tur y   37

should be divided among multiple heirs in the future, as did occur in 1361.84 There, interestingly and fairly unusually, the dean was elected from among the canons, and not chosen directly by the patron, who thus gave up this avenue for future influence over the institution.85 The statutes of St George’s did not deviate from the standard pattern whereby founders’ descendants continued to appoint new canons. The king was to have the right to present both the dean and the canons.86 Judging from the patent roll records of royal presentations to St Stephen’s, similar language would have been used in its statutes. The one unclear detail about the language regarding presentation to canonries at St Stephen’s is whether the right confirmed in 1356 to the treasurer of the exchequer to present to one of the prebends was written into the statutes from the previous year.87 The need for clarification after Edington left the exchequer for chancery would suggest that this was not mentioned in the statutes, but it seems unlikely that Edington, who was so particular at St George’s, would have been so careless at St Stephen’s, unless it was his personal privilege to present to a prebend, and his successor at the exchequer wanted to transform it into an institutional privilege tied to the post of treasurer. Statutes could be immensely important in any lawsuit, as St Stephen’s was to find to its cost in the 1370s through to 1394, when its relationship to St Margaret’s and to Westminster Abbey was the subject of litigation.88 St Stephen’s did not have charitable or parochial responsibilities, but it was to try to claim jurisdiction over the palace of Westminster in 1377. The statutes were evidently unclear on this matter and so the case was to drag on through the Roman Curia until 1394, when the matter was clarified and an agreement reached which modified the statutes.89 Thereafter, the personnel at St Stephen’s had to swear their obedience to the agreement, and the college as a whole was required to pay a yearly pension to the abbey.


85 86 87 88


Thompson, St Mary’s in the Newarke, pp. 48–9; for the arrival of John of Gaunt as patron on his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, ibid, pp. 39–40. Ibid., p. 48.

‘Statutes and Injunctions of St George’s’, p. 7. CPR 1354–58, p. 430.

For a summary of the case, see the comments in R. Lützelschwab, ‘Verletze Eitelkeiten? Westminster Abbey und St Stephen’s, Westminster – Mönche und Kanoniker im Konflikt’, in Pluralität – Konkurrenz – Konflikt: Religiöse Spannungen im städtischen Raum der Vormoderne, ed. J. Oberste (Regensburg, 2013), pp. 85–101. CPR 1392–96, p. 553.

3 8    El i z a b e th Bi g g s


In all of this, we get a picture of statutes as highly variable, and highly responsive documents, which could fulfil a variety of functions – guidance for the community, reassurance for the founders, and a reference point for the bishop acting as Visitor. They were also living documents, supplemented and extended by custom, or perhaps even superseded by tradition, or revised in whole or in part. Visitation reports, such as the one in 1377 for St Stephen’s, or in 1441 for St Mary’s, Warwick usually had ordinances that were to be read alongside the existing statutes, and which might then modify actual practice, if the college faithfully observed the new regulations. St Stephen’s and St George’s were given detailed statutes at a time when statutes were not as necessary as they were to become, and may have started the trend. Earlier colleges relied on foundation charters, custom and institutional memory to govern their actions. In the 1340s, just as colleges were becoming more popular, founders, among them Edward III, realised that through statutes they could manage and direct the life of the institutions they founded in a way that was not possible when establishing monasteries. The assumption that colleges could manage themselves in everything from their wages to their celebration of the liturgy or to their schedule of general chapters was fading away in favour of specific and minute detailing. For older institutions, such as the royal free chapels or the bishops’ colleges, that could be done in the mid-fourteenth century through visitation ordinances, chapter acts or new and sometimes partial statutes. For new colleges such as St Stephen’s, statutes provided a vehicle to set out those expectations and provide a yardstick against which to judge the college’s performance. After 1340, lay founders realised the possibilities of the form first created by Walter de Merton in the 1270s and did not look back for the rest of the Middle Ages. By 1400 statutes had become a standard part of the foundation process for any new college and founders and colleges copied and modified earlier statutes to meet their particular needs and expectations, as well as their ambitions.

3 An Emotional Pragmatism: Edward III and Death Jame s Bot hw el l



ne of the downsides of advanced old age, in the Middle Ages as today, is that one gradually outlives family and friends. Though not old by modern standards, upon his death at 65 in June 1377, Edward III had survived his wife, Queen Philippa (d. 1369), and his siblings, namely his brother ( John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall (d. 1336)) and two sisters (Eleanor of Woodstock, countess of Guelders (d. 1355) and Joan of the Tower, Queen of the Scots (d. 1362)). Similarly, along with three children who died very young, five of his nine offspring living past infancy also predeceased him: Joan of the Tower (d. 1348); Margaret of Windsor, countess of Pembroke (d. 1361); Mary of Waltham, duchess of Brittany (d. 1362); Lionel of Antwerp, duke of Clarence (d. 1368); and most famously, Edward, the Black Prince, his son and heir designate (d. 1376). All of these children, whether they had lived past infancy or not, are commemorated on the side of Edward’s tomb monument in Westminster Abbey. Edward also outlived many close companions of his prime – William Montagu, earl of Salisbury (d. 1344), Henry Grosmont, duke of Lancaster (d. 1361), and Walter Mauny (d. 1372), to name but those closest to him – men who had helped the king seize power in 1330 and/or hold onto it thereafter, whether through support at home or military activities abroad. Mark Ormrod has often noted the importance of death in Edward III’s life, his ‘sheer capacity for survival’ being beaten only by King George III, Queen Victoria and the present queen, Elizabeth II.1 This essay examines how Edward reacted to these deaths, as husband, brother, father, and friend, but also as the primary representative of a royal dynasty which had seen such a fundamental crisis at the beginning of the reign, namely the deposition of his father, Edward II. Moreover, the events of the previous reign left problematic E.g. W. M. Ormrod, Edward III (New Haven and London, 2011), pp. 1, 465–71; also W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Personal Religion of Edward III’, Speculum 64 (1989), 849–77 (pp. 867–72).


4 0    J a m e s Bo t h wel l

legacies not just in terms of the forced end of a monarch’s tenure. There were also the issues of both Edward II and Queen Isabella’s familial, aristocratic and wider European relationships, including lovers for both king and queen (Piers Gaveston, Roger Mortimer, and possibly Hugh Despenser the Younger),2 armed revolts against each as governors of the realm,3 and problems with France, Scotland and Ireland.4 Edward III would have had to deal with the memories of them all, and part of the way he did so was through his treatment of the deaths of those closest to him. One assumes that the death of a family member or that of a close friend would usually elicit an emotional response, even from a medieval monarch, alongside more pragmatic behaviour. We should briefly consider overarching theories of the role of emotion in history, as well as emotion when it came to medieval kings in particular. Historians of early modern and modern England and Europe have been taking the lead here, with an ever-growing corpus of literature on the place of emotion in history.5 Perhaps the most active area for the Middle Ages in England is that of emotion and the law. Bailey and Knight have surveyed the terrain, while scholars such as Hudson have begun to dig down into the legal records to explore the place of emotion in the early common law.6 As for medieval monarchs, even from the briefest of surveys of the chronicles of the period, we get a sense that kings often did not behave in line with the more restrained Victorian ideals which we have come to expect, if not always get, from twentieth or even twenty-first-century royals. Accounts abound in the chronicles of fits of seemingly spontaneous emotion, some of the more famous being Henry II tearing at the rushes of a carpet with his teeth in anger,7 Edward I sacrilegiously playing on the name of his Bygod earl of Norfolk as part of a threat,8 and Richard II beating the earl of Arundel For Despenser, see The True Chronicles of Jean Le Bel, 1290–1360, trans. N. Bryant (Woodbridge, 2011), p. 31.



4 5




That is, during Edward II’s reign (1311, 1322, 1326–7), and during the minority of Edward III (1328 and 1330). Including Edward the Bruce’s invasion of Ireland in 1315.

For recent overviews, see R. Boddice, The History of Emotions (Manchester, 2018); and B. Rosenwein and R. Cristiani, What is the History of Emotions? (Cambridge, 2018). M. L. Bailey and K-J. Knight, ‘Writing Histories of Law and Emotion’, and J. Hudson, ‘Emotions in the Early Common Law (c.1166–1215)’, both in Journal of Legal History 38 (2017), 117–29, 130–54. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, ed. J. C. Robertson, 7 vols (London, 1775– 85), VI, 72. The Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough, ed. H. Rothwell (London, 1957), p. 290.

An Emo t i onal Pr ag mat i sm: Ed wa rd I I I a n d Death   41

with an attendant’s baton until he fell to the ground, ostensibly for being late for Anne of Bohemia’s funeral.9 Though some such stories are probably apocryphal, and others deliberately ‘staged’ emotional behaviour by kings to serve political or other ends,10 the number that filter their way down to the contemporary commentators’ ears as worthy of specific note seem to indicate that most monarchs were often not, at base, overly concerned with the views that others had of them as individuals, especially when it came to personal issues such as the death of family members and those of close friends. 11

t So how did death, pragmatism and emotion play off each other in Edward III’s case? In many ways, it is natural, when looking at the impact of death on a king, or indeed any individual, to first look to the effect of the death of their spouse. A medieval king’s consort was not just supposed to act as wife and mother of his children, but also as counsel and support in times of need.12 The impact of Eleanor of Castile’s death on Edward I in 1290 is well known, the most famous physical manifestation being the setting up of twelve ‘Eleanor Crosses’ to mark the route of her funeral cortège from her birth place in Harby (Lincs.) to London.13 Moreover, it is worthwhile noting that, after the death of both Edward I’s wife and his mother (Eleanor of Provence) in the same year,14 the politics of his reign became considerably more fraught. Similarly, the early death of Richard II’s beloved Anne of Bohemia was said to have resulted not only in the destruction of Sheen manor,15 where she died, but arguably also marked a turn towards a more authoritarian style of kingship. Whether these St Albans Chronicle, I, 1376–1394. The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, ed. J. Taylor, W. Childs and L. Watkiss (Oxford, 2003), p. 960.






See discussion of Althoff in Rosenwein and Cristiani, History of Emotions, pp. 45–7; also see D. Boquet and P. Nagy, Medieval Sensibilities: A History of Emotions in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2018), pp. 169–71.

For other examples of the reporting of expressions of emotion by kings in chronicles, see A. Gransden, Historical Writing in England, 2 vols (London, 1974–82), passim (including I, 151, 171, 389; II, 72, 91–2, 184). E.g. The Book of the Knight of the Tower, ed. R. Barnhouse (New York, 2006), chpts 6–7.

N. Coldstream, ‘The Commissioning and Design of the Eleanor Crosses’, in Eleanor of Castile, 1290–1990, ed. D. Parsons (Stamford, 1991), pp. 55–68. M. Prestwich, Edward I (London, 1988), p. 355.


Historia Vitae et Regni Ricardi Secundi, ed. G. B. Stow (Philadelphia, 1977), p. 134; N. Saul, Richard II (New Haven, 1997), p. 456; C. Fletcher, Richard II: Manhood, Youth and Politics, 1377–99 (Oxford, 2008), pp. 239–40.


4 2    J a m e s Bo t h wel l

two shifts are, at least in part, cause and effect, or whether they primarily resulted from larger processes taking place, is open to debate. What cannot be denied is that the death in 1369 of Edward III’s queen, Philippa, opened a new phase in his reign, characterised by increasing tensions around a court clique headed by his mistress, Alice Perrers, as well as the start of the second, less successful, phase of the Hundred Years War. By this point, Edward and his wife had been married for over forty years, and had produced at least twelve children. Philippa is usually put forward as the faithful wife, the quiet counsel, as well as the producer of male heirs,16 and it is perhaps therein that her most obvious influence on Edward lay. Queen Philippa died at Windsor in mid-August 1369. However, it was another five months before her funeral took place – by comparison, Edward III died on 21 June 1377, and his funeral was held on July 5, a mere two weeks later. When Philippa’s funeral was finally held in the first days of January 1370, it was a magnificent affair spanning six days, involving five hearses in a procession which travelled from Windsor to Westminster Abbey.17 Why there was such a delay is open to conjecture. Ormrod suggests that it was because of the need to ‘settle the queen’s business affairs, to stage manage the appropriate solemnities and to gather the elite together’,18 but the length of time seems excessive considering the speed with which the king’s own funeral was later arranged, and the considerably shorter period usually taken for the burial of monarchs in the later Middle Ages.19 It may instead have been the result of more general disturbances in court and government routine due to the renewal of hostilities with France in the latter half of 1369,20 or even a safety measure 16





Though Philippa’s roles have been fleshed out and given more nuance by L. Benz, who challenges Ormrod’s comment on the queen as ‘a consort entirely devoid of political ambition and content to provide loyal support to an adored husband’: L. Benz, Three Medieval Queens: Queenship and the Crown in Fourteenth-Century England (Basingstoke, 2012), pp. 4–5 and passim. The Anonimalle Chronicle, ed. V. H. Galbraith (Manchester, 1927), p. 58; Ormrod, Edward III, pp. 469–70; E 361/4/16d; ‘Enrolments and Documents’, Life Records of Chaucer, ed. W. D. Selby et al., 4 vols (London, 1875–1900), IV, 172–5. W. M. Ormrod, ‘Queenship, Death and Agency: The Commemorations of Isabella of France and Philippa of Hainault’, in Memory and Commemoration in Medieval England, ed. C. M. Barron and C. Burgess (Donington, 2010), pp. 87–103 (pp. 91–2). The average time between death and burial for a king dying in normal circumstances, and near to Westminster, was less than three months – e.g. Henry III (one week), Henry IV (two months), Henry V (nine weeks), Edward IV (eleven days).

Sherborne argues that the queen’s death stopped Edward from direct involvement in the war’s opening stages: J. Sherborne, ‘John of Gaunt, Edward III’s Retinue and

An Emo t i onal Pr ag mat i sm: Ed wa rd I I I a n d Death   43

in the face of another outbreak of plague in the same year; bringing together large crowds at a funeral was perhaps not the best idea at a time when a highly contagious disease was present in the populace. But the delay may also show Edward’s affection for his dead wife, in that he postponed the event until their wedding anniversary in January,21 thereby ensuring that the remembrance of the dates of both her death and their marriage firmly reinforced each other in the minds of the couple’s subjects. That said, the plan for a double interment as requested by Philippa for her and Edward was not seen through and they were buried in separate tombs, though close to each other, in Edward the Confessor’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.22 As for the design of the two tombs, the sides of Philippa’s had thirty-two ‘weepers’ (representing both blood relations and in-laws),23 figures meant to show mourners at the funeral lamenting the passing of the deceased.24 Edward’s tomb would also have weepers, though in this case only representing each of the couple’s twelve children alternating with empty panels.25 The king’s own tomb design, then, may well have been a nod to his wife’s who had been planning her burial since at least the 1360s – though probably it was also



23 24


the French Campaign of 1369’, in Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages, ed. R. Griffiths and J. Sherbourne (Gloucester, 1986), pp. 41–61 (p. 50).

J. Vale, ‘Philippa (1310x15?–1369), Queen of England’, ODNB. Orders for London’s preparation for the arrival of Philippa’s body included the threat ‘to imprison all those whom they find contrariant or rebellious in this until the king give other order touching their punishment’: CPR 1367–70, pp. 340–1.

V. Sekules, ‘Dynasty and Patrimony in the Self Construction of an English Queen: Philippa of Hainault and Her Images’, in England and the Continent in the Middle Ages, ed. J. Mitchell and M. Moran (Stamford, 2000), pp. 157–74 (pp. 169–73). Sekules, ‘Dynasty’, pp. 172–3.

Though Morganstern has argued that ‘weepers’ are a misnomer in many cases, and that they more often represent those ‘for whom the prayers were offered, because they constitute an abbreviation of the chantry commendations’; while Binski sees the ‘weepers’ on both Philippa’s and Edward III’s tomb taking more the form of ‘court entourage’ than ‘weepers’ as such: A. M. Morganstern, Gothic Tombs of Kinship in France, The Low Countries and England (University Park, PA, 2000), pp. 3–4; P. Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (London, 1995), p. 198.

While Edward’s own tomb would not be completed until later in Richard II’s reign, as would the Black Prince’s, as Ormrod notes, the decision to put the weepers on his tomb ‘surely reflects the stated preference of a king so renowned for his commitment to dynasty’ as well as the precedent of the tombs of both Philippa and John of Eltham, the stability of his relations with his children, and the tendency to collect the family together in both art and remembrance: see Ormrod, Edward III, pp. 582–3, 599, and elsewhere in the present chapter.

4 4    J a m e s Bo t h wel l

Fig. 1. Tomb of Edward III, side view (with weepers). © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

influenced by John of Eltham’s tomb (see below).26 It is also worth noting that Philippa’s effigy, completed in 1376,27 and which her husband would have doubtless had the final say over, was that which Edward would have 26


Though Morganstern suggests that Edward may have been planning his final resting place as early as the 1350s, documentary evidence for the design of the tomb is quite limited: Morganstern, Gothic Tombs, pp. 125–6.

Issues of the Exchequer, ed. F. Devon (London, 1847), pp. 199–200; R. A. Brown, H. M. Colvin and A. J. Taylor, The History of the King’s Works: The Middle Ages, 2 vols (London, 1963), I, 486 (hereafter HKW).

An Emo t i onal Pr ag mat i sm: Ed wa rd I I I a n d Death   45

Fig. 2. Tomb effigy of Queen Philippa. © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

well recognised, rather than a younger, more idealised image:28 namely, that of a time-weathered woman aware of the trials and tribulations of bearing at least twelve children to a reigning monarch.29 Similarly, Edward’s tomb would show the king as a wizened older man, if perhaps a little more sympathetically 28


HKW, I, 486–7; Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England 1200–1400, ed. J. Alexander and P. Binski, (London, 1987), pp. 103–4.

See also words found on her dress in life (‘Ich wrude much’ and ‘Myn biddenye’): M. M. Furrow, ‘The Politics of Queen Philippa’s Mottoes: Five England Words’, Modern Philology 114 (2017), 503–23 (p. 523).

Fig. 3. Tomb effigy of Edward III. © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

An Emo t i onal Pr ag mat i sm: Ed wa rd I I I a n d Death   47

‘aged’ than his wife, but again one clearly well aware of the vagaries of fortune. Froissart’s vision of Philippa getting her husband to ‘affirm his commitment to lie with her in death’ may well be, then, once more a sign of their mutual affection and shared past rather than a ‘barbed hint’ of marital infidelity.30 However, there was also a more practical side to her funeral arrangements which involved both the queen’s own plan and the willing implementation by Edward III himself, notably at a time when the king was increasingly dominated by a court clique headed by his mistress. Philippa had engaged the services of Jean of Liège, and possibly Andre Beauneveu, for the effigy. They were sculptors from Brabant and Hainault who would later become well known for the tombs of French royalty, and who were in this period in the employ of Charles V.31 This was, then, at least in part perhaps a reference both to her Low Countries origin and to her, albeit diffuse, royal blood of the first rank. The overall design of the tomb was, however, an indication not just of pride in her family’s past, but also insecurity over her background. After all, Philippa was not just the daughter of a foreign count who had helped invade England in 1326 on behalf of a wayward queen, but also the English representative of a continental comital family whose problems had grown considerably in the decades since her marriage to Edward in 1328.32 Thus, it is not surprising that the weepers on the tomb included her relatives by both blood and marriage, placing ‘her and Edward’s family firmly in the context of the great courts of Europe’,33 including those of France, the Holy Roman Empire, and Castile, to name but three.34 Indeed, the selection of only those of their deceased children who had married as weepers for the tomb (Mary, Margaret, and Lionel), again shows 30



33 34

J. Froissart, Chroniques, ed. S. Luce et al., 15 vols (Paris, 1869–75), VII, 181–3; Ormrod, Edward III, p. 470. Before her death Edward named Queenborough, Kent, in Philippa’s honour, though money spent on the castle there decreased considerably after 1369: HKW, II, 793n. Edward III ordered the queen’s manor of Gillingham (Dorset) to be destroyed after her death – though it is unclear why: HKW, II, 945. L. L. Gee, Women, Art and Patronage from Henry III to Edward III, 1216–1377 (Woodbridge, 2002), pp. 115–18; Sekules, ‘Dynasty’, p. 171.

By the 1360s, Hainault had been destabilised by male line failure in its ruling family, civil war and the mental illness of one of its counts, who also happened to be the Holy Roman Emperor: W. Prevenier, ‘The Low Countries, 1290–1415’, in The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 6, c.1300 – c.1415, ed. M. Jones (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 570–94 (pp. 578–9). Sekules, ‘Dynasty’, p. 173.

Morganstern, Gothic Tombs, p. 99 (diagram of Philippa’s tomb).

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the importance for Philippa of placing her English family firmly within the highest European royalty, even at the expense of her other children. However, though designed around the ideas of Philippa, the interment as a whole was, of course, ultimately seen through by the king, who in total paid out the massive sum of around £3,000 to that end.35 This was a notable expense at a time when the royal government was increasingly beset by military debt and financial corruption.36 Such excessive expenditure, the equivalent of at least twice the annual income of an earldom,37can be viewed not just as an act of affection by a husband of forty-one years, but a dynastic statement on the part of Edward to mirror that of Philippa, and a reaffirmation of his wife’s ties to the highest levels of European royalty. Finally, by having Philippa remembered with the same set of prayers as for his mother, Queen Isabella,38 Edward III not only emphasised his affection for his wife, but again reinforced the importance of these bonds between his wife and his blood family for the sake of his dynasty as a whole, however politically problematic memories of Isabella’s younger self may have been.

t But from those of his own generation it was not just his wife’s death that impacted on Edward, it was also the early deaths of all his siblings, John of Eltham, Eleanor of Woodstock and Joan of the Tower (d. 1362). John’s death in 1336 would have a particular poignancy for Edward III. This was so not just because John was Edward’s only brother and the first of his siblings, indeed close family, to die but also because of his death, aged twenty, while on campaign in Scotland,39 a country with which Edward had had mixed 35





For example, see G. Holmes, The Good Parliament (Oxford, 1975), passim. Edward III, however, was somewhat less concerned about the payment of the debts of the late queen’s household. For example, see SC 8/104/5166.

Depending on whether one goes by the minimum amount for earldoms cited by the Modus Tenendi Parliamentum, or practice at the time: Parliamentary Texts of the Later Middle Ages, ed. N. Pronay and J. Taylor (Oxford, 1980), p. 81; CPR 1321–24, p. 93; CChR 1327–41, p. 94; C. Given-Wilson, The English Nobility in the Late Middle Ages: The Fourteenth-Century Political Community (London, 1987), p. 37. M. Evans, The Death of Kings: Royal Deaths in Medieval England (London, 2006), p. 214. Though initially entries for the anniversaries of their deaths were one after the other in the wardrobe accounts (E 101/397/7), they were merged into one by 1373–4. E 101/397/13, 18; E 101/547/16. The reason for his death is unknown but, according to Dryburgh, ‘the assumption must be that John contracted a disease so aggressive that it cut him short in his

An Emo t i onal Pr ag mat i sm: Ed wa rd I I I a n d Death   49

Fig. 4. Tomb of John of Eltham, side view (with weepers). © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

experiences.40 There had been crying with rage during the setbacks of the 1327 Stanhope Park campaign,41 and the embarrassment of Mortimer and Isabella’s 1328 peace treaty with the Scots:42 the loss of his brother during the problematic Lowland campaigns of the later 1330s might well have been among the final blows for Edward’s wavering interests there. Though there were later Scottish claims that Edward had murdered his brother, these seem unlikely,43 and his death on 13 September 1336 at Perth could not but have been traumatic for the still young king. John’s funeral was conducted by the

40 41 42 43

prime’: P. Dryburgh, ‘Living in the Shadows: John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall (1316–1336)’, in FCE IX, ed. J. Bothwell and G. Dodd (Woodbridge, 2016), pp. 23–47 (p. 45).

S. Waugh, ‘John, earl of Cornwall (1316–1336)’, ODNB.

T. Gray, Scalacronica, ed. and trans. A. King (Woodbridge, 2005), p. 99.

E. L. G. Stones, ‘The Treaty of Northampton, 1328’, History 38 (1958), 54–61.

T. B. James, ‘John of Eltham, History and Story: Abusive International Discourse in Late Medieval England, France and Scotland’, in FCE II, ed. C. Given-Wilson (Woodbridge, 2002), pp. 63–80. Gray refers to him ‘dying a fine death’ but, as Andy King points out, this might well have been a riposte to these rumours: Gray, Scalacronia, pp. 123, 240–1n.

Fig. 5. Tomb effigy of John of Eltham. © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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archbishop of Canterbury in Westminster Abbey in early 1337, attended by the king and many lords of the realm, and was one of the last such state occasions before the outbreak of the Hundred Years War in April of that year.44 Initially, he was temporarily buried in an obscure part of the Abbey, but Edward, as requested by Queen Isabella, asked the monks to move John’s remains to ‘“a more suitable position among the royals”’(another sign of a growing dynastic funeral emphasis during the reign) – though ‘reserving “the most honourable positions for the repose and burial of us and our heirs”’.45 The alabaster effigy survives in St Edmund’s chapel, just south of Edward III’s tomb, alongside those of two of Edward’s children, William of Windsor and Blanche of the Tower.46 John’s was the first royal tomb monument in Westminster Abbey with weepers around the sides, a practice which had a much longer tradition on the Continent.47 This was a choice which Edward more than likely made for his brother, possibly advised by his French mother and his Flemish wife.48 Moreover, while the figures around the base of his tomb appear to be generic royalty, not only would they emphasise John’s own royal blood, again important for the son of a deposed king, they would also lay the template for more identifiable weepers as clearer dynastic statements – which, as we have seen, Philippa would order for her tomb, and Edward would later arrange for his own.49 Thereafter, a commemoration of his brother’s funeral was held each year at court.50 Less conventionally when it came to remembrance of John, 44 45



48 49

Dryburgh, ‘Living in the Shadows’, pp. 44–6.

Westminster Abbey Muniments 6300* as cited in D. M. Palliser, ‘Royal Mausolea in the Long Fourteenth Century 1272–1422’, in FCE III, ed. W. M. Ormrod (Woodbridge, 2004), pp. 1–16 (p. 9); Binski, Westminster Abbey, pp. 177–9; M. Vale, The Princely Court: Medieval Courts and Culture in North-West Europe 1270–1380 (Oxford, 2001), plate 27.

K. W. Woods, ‘Plantagenets in Alabaster’, in The Plantagenet Empire, 1259–1453, ed. D. Green, W. M. Ormrod, and P. Crooks (Donington, 2016), pp. 89–108 (pp. 91, 95); Which manifested itself first in English noble tombs, and then in the niches, possibly for figures, on Edward II’s tomb in Gloucester Abbey: see Morganstern, Gothic Tombs, passim. Ibid., pp. 91, 101.

L. Southwick, ‘The Armoured Effigy of Prince John of Eltham in Westminster Abbey and Some Closely Related Military Monuments’, Church Monuments 2 (1987), 9–21 (p. 12); N. Saul, Death, Art and Memory in Medieval England: The Cobham Family and Their Monuments, 1300–1500 (Oxford, 2001), pp. 114–15.

E.g. The Wardrobe Book of William de Norwell: 12 July 1338 to 27 May 1340, ed. M. Lyon et al., (Brussels, 1983), p. 209.


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Fig. 6. Weepers on side of John of Eltham’s tomb (west view). © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Edward also made the rejected offer of his dead brother’s marriage, among others of those of his children, to ‘any lady of the blood royal in France’ one of the grievances which caused the English to declare war on the French in the spring of 1337.51 Just because his brother had recently died did not mean that he could not still be of use to Edward III in both the dynastic positioning of the Plantagenets in England and also the furthering of English interests abroad. By comparison, the early deaths of his two sisters had less obvious impact on Edward, partly because, in the loss of John he lost a potentially important political ally. It may have also been to do with the greater age difference: John was four years younger, Eleanor six years, and Joan nine years. Also significant, however, was the royal princesses’ childhood at Pleshey (Essex), a Bohun stronghold, separate from the future king and his brother, as well as their early marriages.52 Eleanor of Woodstock (b. 1318) was married to the count of Guelders at the age of fourteen in 1332,53 the result of Edward’s attempt to 51 52


James, ‘John of Eltham’, pp. 66–7.

M. A. Everett Green, Lives of the Princesses of England, 6 vols (London, 1849–55), III, 67.

See A. K. McHardy, ‘Paying for the Wedding: Edward III as Fundraiser 1332–3’, in FCE IV, ed. J. S. Hamilton (Woodbridge, 2006), pp. 43–60.

An Emo t i onal Pr ag mat i sm: Ed wa rd I I I a n d Death   53

further strengthen English relations with the Low Countries which his own marriage had so recently emphasised.54 Eleanor’s was an increasingly loveless marriage to a man around thirty years her elder; by the early 1340s, not long before his accidental death, he would be unsuccessfully trying to annul the union on the grounds of (claims of ) leprosy or mental instability.55 In this case, though later briefly a regent for their son, Eleanor died in obscurity in 1355, and, despite the early breakdown of her marriage (she was in her mid-twenties at the time), she was buried in the Low Countries at her foundation of Deventer Abbey.56 Though this was most likely at her own wish, it was perhaps at least in part also an indication of the continued importance of Flanders to English interests at the time, and the desire on Edward’s part to avoid any unnecessary friction by bringing the body of his much abused sister, who was still in regular contact with him up to the time of her death,57 back to England. Similarly, his other sister, Joan of the Tower (b. 1321), was married off to the future king of Scotland, David, at the age of seven, as part of the Anglo-Scottish peace negotiations in 1328.58Again, this ended up an unhappy union. Joan separated from her husband after his release from captivity in 1357, and she died, aged forty-one, at Hertford Castle, and was buried at Christchurch Greyfriars, London, near her mother, Queen Isabella, one of the few English queens of the period not to be interred in a cathedral.59 Though 54




58 59

Relations which Edward continued to shore up monetarily during Joan’s marriage, especially in the years just prior to the latter’s breakdown. E.g. C 47/30/8/2; C 47/28/9/13; C 47/28/9/11. Ormrod, Edward III, p. 126; for most of what we know about Eleanor, see Everett Green, Lives of the Princesses, III, 65–97.

Everett Green, Lives of the Princesses, III, 95–7; Record of tomb monument at

Ormrod, Edward III, pp. 126–7. In 1348 Edward ordered the payment of 1500 gold florins in debts owing to the Duchess of Guelders in England: SC 8/248/12352; CPR 1348–50, p. 76. B. Webster, ‘Joan (1321–1362), Queen of Scots’, ODNB.

A sixteenth-century inventory of burials for Greyfriars records that Joan was buried in the choir at the head of Isabella’s tomb, while Isabella, countess of Bedford, one of Edward III’s daughters, was, in 1379, buried on her right: The Grey Friars of London, ed. C. L. Kingsford (Aberdeen, 1912), pp. 74–5. Carmi Parsons suggests Greyfriars developed into a burial site for ‘displaced’ royal females: J. C. Parsons, ‘“Never was a Body Buried in England with such Solemnity and Honour”: The Burials and Posthumous Commemorations of English Queens to 1500’, in Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe, ed. A. J. Duggan (Woodbridge, 1997), pp. 317–38 (pp. 330–1); Issues of the Exchequer, ed. Devon, p. 184. For more on

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this burial place was again more than likely at Joan’s own wish, that it was sanctioned by the king was also in itself something of a political statement in support of his own mother’s still problematic legacy, especially as Joan now lived apart from her husband and so was, as Eleanor had been, in a somewhat irregular marital and familial position. Nonetheless, while Joan’s burial place at least can be seen partly as an attempt to continue to rehabilitate Isabella – this time through renewed association in death with the royal family – the demise of neither sister seems to have warranted a response from Edward to compare with his actions on the death of his younger brother.

t What conceivably had more resonance for Edward III was the death of so many of his children before him, and before their time. Though childhood, as is so often pointed out,60 was a dangerous business in the Middle Ages, the large size of his family meant that in this case death was potentially even more present for Edward than his father, son or grandson. The children who died in infancy, in some ways, could be argued to be the least emotionally significant to the king, having yet to develop any real identity. And yet, all of Edward’s known children are shown on his tomb in Westminster Abbey, something which occurs in the case of no other English medieval monarch. Moreover, all were ‘adults portrayed in miniature’,61 assigning to them an individuality in death they were not allowed time to find in life. William of Hatfield, born in late 1336, and dead by early February 1337,62 was the second son of Edward III, and significant as being the first male ‘spare heir’. Not much is known of William’s brief life, except that a nurse named Amy de Gloucester was engaged for his, and his sister’s, care, in return for a £10 annuity until land or rents became available.63 This was later changed, in 1348, for the farm of an alien priory (under the king’s authorisation) at the request of the recipient.64 Aside from this, there was a trip by the king to Thomas Becket’s shrine at

60 61 62

63 64

Queen Isabella and Christchurch Greyfriars, see M. Robson, ‘Queen Isabella (c.1295/1358) and the Greyfriars: An Example of Royal Patronage Based on Her Accounts for 1357/1358’, Franciscan Studies 65 (2007), 325–348 (esp. pp. 346–8)

For example, N. Orme, Medieval Childhood (New Haven, 2001), chpts 1 and 3. HKW, I, 486.

Adae Murimuth Continuatio Chronicarum, ed. E. M. Thompson (London, 1889), p. 78; Ormrod, Edward III, pp. 130, 174. CPR 1334–38, p. 388.

CPR 1348–50, p. 198.

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Fig. 7. Tomb of William of Hatfield. © Chapter of York: Reproduced by Kind Permission

Canterbury in honour of his birth,65 and possibly a rather depressing churching for Philippa a few weeks after his death.66 Perhaps delayed because of more pressing events connected with the war in France, but perhaps also because of the upset of the loss of his son after seven years of trying for a ‘spare’ male heir, notably only a few months after the death of his next heir, John of Eltham, prayers for William’s soul were not arranged until 1345,67 and no memorial was put up until late in the reign. Ultimately, William’s tomb was erected in York Minister with the effigy as a grown child, with a lion at his feet.68 Besides Yorkshire being the county of William’s birth and death, the reason for the choice of York Minister for this burial is not entirely clear, especially as William’s tomb was only commissioned in the 1370s, many years after Edward

65 66

67 68

I. Mortimer, Edward III: The Perfect King (London, 2006), p. 133.

C. Shenton, ‘Philippa of Hainault’s Churchings: the Politics of Motherhood at the Court of Edward III’, in Family and Dynasty in Late Medieval England, ed. R. Eales and S. Tyas (Donington, 2003), pp. 105–21 (pp. 110–11). CPR 1345–48, p. 16.

P. Routh, ‘Yorkshire’s Royal Monument: Prince William of Hatfield’, Church Monuments 9 (1994), 53–61 (pp. 53–8).

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III had last been to York.69 The most plausible suggestion for the location of the tomb, again one which emphasises Edward’s pragmatism when it came to death, is that while it may partly have come from the initiative of Archbishop Neville of York,70 it may also have been in part an attempt by Edward to bring Neville back into the fold after a series of disagreements with the king.71 By this point, of course, Edward needed all the backing he could get in the north, especially with the resurgence of Scottish fortunes due to Robert II’s accession to the throne and the renewal of the Auld Alliance with the Treaty of Vincennes in 1371. Edward’s daughter Blanche of the Tower, on the other hand, born in 1342 and died in 1343, and his son William of Windsor, born and died in 1348, were both buried in Westminster Abbey in a double tomb, with the effigies representing them as older children, or possibly again as ‘adults in miniature’. Blanche’s birth was marked by hastiludes,72 maybe also an attempt to make the most of her birth after the political problems of the previous year. Similarly, the second use of the name of William for a son of Edward III – for William of Windsor – may again have been an effort to come to some sort of reconciliation with the loss of William of Hatfield, and again, a tournament was held in connection with the queen’s churching.73 However, both sets of tournaments might in part also have been indications that the children were sickly from the start: an attempt, possibly, to change the fate of the infants through high spirits and celebration. If this was the case, neither worked. William of Windsor had his funeral arrangements recorded in the wardrobe book for the year before the entries for the needs of his life,74 and was given an ‘unusually flamboyant funeral’ with activities of the court thereafter ‘immediately and severely curtailed’.75 The occasion ended up being a final statement of the victorious chivalric culture which had been developing since Crécy in 1346, before the effects of the plague really began to be felt. As with William 69 70

71 72 73 74


Ormrod, Edward III, Appendix II.

Perhaps commissioned by Neville: S. Oosterwijk, ‘“A Swathe feire graue”: The Appearance of Children on Medieval Tomb Monuments’, in Family and Dynasty, ed. Eales and Tyas, pp. 172–92 (pp. 183–4). R.B. Dobson, ‘Neville, Alexander (c.1332–1392), Archbishop of York’, ODNB. Ormrod, Edward III, p. 254.

J. Vale, Edward III and Chivalry (Woodbridge, 1982), p. 174.

N. H. Nicolas, ‘Observations on the Institution of the Most Noble Order of the Garter’, Archaeologia 31 (1846), 1–163 (pp. 50–1, 143–4); C. M. Woolgar, The Great Household in Late Medieval England (New Haven, 1999), p. 100. Ormrod, Edward III, p. 306.

Fig. 8. Effigy of William of Windsor and Blanche of the Tower. © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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of Hatfield, the double tomb was commissioned and completed much later, in the 1370s, perhaps as a reaction on Edward’s part to the illness and death of his son and heir, the Black Prince.76 Indeed, it is worthy of remark that these three children who died as infants had their final resting places decided only towards the end of Edward’s own life – more than likely this was part of a growing sense of the importance of ensuring the orderly succession of the ‘heirs of the body’ of Edward III, especially in the face of growing problems in the period around the Good Parliament of 1376 and the memory of the way he himself had come to the throne.

t Rather, it was his children surviving past infancy who leave the most immediately available evidence of Edward’s response to their early deaths. In terms of Joan of the Tower (1334–48), we have indications that, though a major diplomatic blow to English interests on the Continent, her death from the plague did not leave Edward III unmoved at a personal level. In a letter dated 15 September 1348 to King Alfonso of Castile, father of Joan’s intended, though later on discussing what was to be done about the dowry,77 Edward first expressed his grief in the most personal and unformulaic of language, language that government clerks would have had to have been very bold to put into the king’s mouth without guidance from the monarch himself: But see (with what intense bitterness of heart we have to tell you this) destructive Death (who seizes young and old alike, sparing no one, and reducing rich and poor to the same level) has lamentably snatched from both of us our dearest daughter (whom we loved best of all, as her virtues demanded) Ecce! Tamen, quod cum intense cordis amaritudine dolenter referimus, mors funesta, quæ sicut senem, sic juvenem intercipit, et nemini parcit, donec simul et in unum convenient dives atque pauper, carissimam filiam nostrum, quam, præ ceteris, conditionibus suis celeberrimis id poscentibus, sinceriter dileximus, a nobis pariter et a vobis lamentabiliter jam subtraxit. No fellow human being could be surprised if we were inwardly desolated by the sting of this bitter grief, for we are human too. But we, who have placed our trust in God and our life between his hands, where he has held it closely through many great dangers – we give thanks to him that one of our own 76 77

HKW, I, 486; Issues of the Exchequer, p. 200.

T. Rymer, Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae et Cujuscunque Generis Acta Publica, 20 vols (London, 1704–35), III, 40.

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Fig. 9. Joan of the Tower – weeper on the tomb of Edward III. © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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family, free of all stain, whom we have loved with pure love, has been sent ahead to heaven to reign among the choirs of virgins, where she can gladly intercede for our offences before God himself. Pro quo, si pungentis mœroris aculeo secundum carnem interius perfundamur, nemo mortalis poterit admirari. Set nos, qui in Deo posuimus fidem nostrum, et inter cujus manus sæpius, in arduis periculis, concluserat vitam nostram, gratias sibi reddimus quod unam de nostris, ab omni macula puram, quam si pure dileximus, ad cœlos præmissit inter choros virginum regnaturam, quæ pro nostris reatibus velit et valeat intercedere penes Eum.78

While possibly in part a negotiating trick to manipulate Alfonso, one does wonder how much Edward really had to gain from such expressive language in diplomatic correspondence concerning what, at base, was a political alliance waylaid by private tragedy. Rather, whether because of the increasingly well known horrors of death by this new sickness, or the death of his first daughter surviving past infancy, or because Joan’s demise was one of the first cases of European royalty succumbing to the Black Death, such rhetoric seems to have been heartfelt beyond the courtesies of the age. That said, this did not stop Edward in a separate set of documents dated the same day, while again expressing his grief, also reminding Alfonso of the need for an alliance between their two houses, as well as sending long letters to Alfonso’s son Peter (‘the Infant’) himself and to Alfonso’s wife.79 Only after all this, on October 25, did Edward attempt to have her body retrieved from Bordeaux for an English burial, with the bishop of Carlisle heading the mission, though without success, presumably because of the impact of the plague in the area.80 Edward was not about to let his larger plans on the Continent, especially when it came to the strategic marriages of his children, be forgotten in his grief for Joan. As for Mary and Margaret, both of whom died in their mid-teens in the early 1360s, somewhat less is known of Edward’s reaction, though he was still moved enough to set up two memorials each for his two daughters. Both were


79 80

The Black Death, ed. and trans. R. Horrox (Manchester, 1994), p. 250. Notably even Le Baker, usually laconic on such events, was moved to some eloquence concerning her loss: The Chronicle of Geoffrey Le Baker, trans. D. Preest (Woodbridge, 2012), p. 85. CCR 1346–49, p. 590; Foedera, III, 40.

Foedera, I, 43. Cantor suggests the mayor of Bordeaux set fire to the port in order to stop the spread of the plague, and Joan’s body ended up being burned: N. Cantor, The Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era (New York, 2004), pp. 67–8.

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at court throughout their childhood, and considered something of a pair.81 Soon after her marriage in July 1361, Mary, often known as Mary of Waltham, duchess consort of Brittany, died possibly in connection with pregnancy.82 Margaret of Windsor, betrothed to John Hastings, earl of Pembroke, had died of another unknown disease a few months earlier – indeed both might well have succumbed to the second outbreak of the plague, the so-called ‘Plague of the Innocents’, which swept England in 1361–2.83 However, though probably upset by the death in quick succession of his two teenage daughters, Edward III also made sure that Mary’s husband, John duke of Brittany, would not marry again without the king’s express permission.84 This was unsurprising for, as with his daughter Joan and Peter of Castile, Mary’s marriage was an important part of the king’s strategy on the Continent.85 But it was not just the international positioning of the English monarchy that Edward had an eye to in this regard, but also its reputation at home, especially in light of the events of his father’s reign and his own minority. Aside from the fact that Margaret’s marriage to John, a grandson of Roger Mortimer, earl of March, continued the process of the Mortimer family’s rehabilitation,86 his daughters’ memorials also made another important statement of his attempts to continue to reconcile the past and the present. While both daughters were buried in the ancient royal Benedictine priory of Abingdon (Berks.), with Queen Philippa arranging for the tombs there, in 1368 Edward III had two windows, costing £14 each, placed in the northern part of the choir of the Dominican priory of Kings Langley (Herts.) in memory of the princesses;87 the priory was a major foundation of Edward II’s, and the burial place of his controversial favourite, Piers Gaveston.88 These memorials again indicated the quiet willingness of Edward to continue to rehabilitate his father – as he had his 81 82 83

84 85

Everett Green, Lives of the Princesses, III, 264–301. Ormrod, Edward III, p. 431.

A. Goodman, John of Gaunt: the Exercise of Princely Power in Fourteenth-Century Europe (London, 1992), pp. 42–3. E 30/196.

See W. M. Ormrod, ‘Edward III and His Family’, JBS 26 (1987), 398–422.

As was emphasised in 1354 with the reversal of the 1330 judgement against the earl and the succession of his grandson to the title: PROME, parliament of April 1354, Items 8–12.


E 101/466/4; HKW, I, 262; for Kings Langley, see Ormrod, ‘Personal Religion’, pp. 873–6.


VCH Hertfordshire, 4 vols (London, 1908), II, 238; VCH Hertfordshire, 4 vols (London, 1914), IV, 446–8.


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mother through Princess Joan’s burial by her side at Christchurch Greyfriars – long before Richard II’s more famous attempt through canonisation.89 As the manor and priory of Kings Langley were in considerable use in this period as a key residence of the monarch in the southeast,90 with £3000 spent on them between 1359 and 1377,91 the many nobles, churchmen and other dignitaries who visited the king’s court at Langley could not but notice the wide range of individuals remembered in the priory, from the present monarch’s beloved daughters to Edward II’s beheaded favourite. Thereafter, Edward received something of a respite from mortality. For the next six years, from 1362–8, there were no deaths in his immediate family, or among his closest companions – the first time for many years that this had been the case. Overall, the 1360s are often seen as the heyday of Edward’s reign: the French had been defeated, the court was in full splendour, and the plague had abated. The children of Edward III were beginning to produce children themselves, most notably the Black Prince, who had two sons in relatively quick succession: Edward of Angoulême (b. 1365) and Richard of Bordeaux (b. 1367). If nothing else, the direct male line of the Plantagenet dynasty seemed assured on the English throne well into the next century. Therefore, it would be surprising if the death in Italy in October 1368 of Lionel of Antwerp, duke of Clarence,92 Edward’s second surviving son, was not considered a blow, especially as, along with his other children,93 he had had important marriage plans for Lionel in order to continue to expand English influence on the Continent.94 The great and the good of England were summoned to attend masses for Lionel’s soul at Westminster Abbey in early 1369.95 However, though in his will, made a couple of weeks before his death, Lionel asked to be interred 89

90 91



94 95

C. Given-Wilson, ‘Richard II, Edward II, and the Lancastrian Inheritance’, EHR 109 (1994), 553–71 (pp. 567–70). Ormrod, Edward III, Appendix II.

D. S. Neal, ‘Excavations at the Palace of Kings Langley, Hertfordshire 1974–1976’, Medieval Archaeology 21 (1977), 124–65 (p. 126). See also E 101/466/2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9. Knighton asserted he was poisoned, though Martin suggests dysentery: Knighton’s Chronicle 1337–96, ed. and trans. G. H. Martin (Oxford, 1995), p. 197 & n. Lionel had gone out to Italy in great state early in 1368 to marry Violante Visconti, daughter of the Lord of Pavia: C 62/142; E 101/315/30. Notably after a less than successful governing role in Ireland: D. Green, ‘Lordship and Principality: Colonial Policy in Ireland and Aquitaine in the 1360s’, JBS 47 (2008), 3–29. Ormrod, Edward III, pp. 443–4. Anonimalle Chronicle, pp. 56–7.

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at Clare Priory (Suffolk) near his first wife, Elizabeth de Clare,96 his body was not returned to England until the mid-1370s when it seems to have been buried in the priory.97 There may have been royal orders not to move the body because of the grief it would cause his family,98 or again it may have been a result of the disruption caused both by the renewal of the French war and a third outbreak of the plague. Nevertheless, as with his three children who had died in infancy, the king seemed in no rush to retrieve Lionel’s body, only doing so when putting his own affairs in order in the face of increasing ill health and a troubled royal court. And, around the same time as those for Mary and Margaret, a window was put in Edward II’s priory of Kings Langley in Lionel’s name, yet another step in Edward’s ongoing rehabilitation of the deposed king.99 That Kings Langley itself was still strongly connected in Edward III’s mind with his father even this late into his reign was made clear by his completion of the linked Dominican nunnery of Dartford in Kent, a project close to Edward II’s heart, restarted by his son in earnest in the mid1340s and formally endowed in the early 1370s.100 Finally, there was the death of Edward, the Black Prince, on 8 June 1376 – the first born and heir designate of Edward III, and the last death of one of his children before his own end in mid-1377. Dysentery, or possibly some other incurable illness,101 had taken hold in the Prince’s body in 1367, during the Najéra campaign, and, as a result, he was gradually, if not consciously at first, phased out of government during the 1370s, being replaced by his brother, John of Gaunt. Though the Black Prince, along with his father, opened the Good Parliament in April 1376, it was clear that his strength was all but gone.102 When close to death two months later, he took leave of his father and John of 96

97 98 99

Wills … of the Blood Royal, ed. J. Nichols (London, 1780), pp. 88–91. On his deathbed he requested, however, that his flesh and entrails be buried in Pavia: The Cartulary of the Augustinian Friars of Clare, ed. C. Harper-Bill (Woodbridge, 1991), p. 76. H. Jarvis, ‘Clare Priory’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute 6 (1888), 73–84 (p. 80).

A. S. Cook, The Last Months of Chaucer’s Earliest Patron (New Haven, 1916), p. 94.

This time in the southern part of the priory’s choir, costing £20: E 101/466/4; HKW, I, 262. For evidence of considerable building work around this time, see E 213/200; E 101/683/41; E 101/683/61. An idea originally of Edward II’s mother, Eleanor of Castile: VCH Kent, 3 vols (London, 1926), II, 181–4.


D. Green, ‘Masculinity and Medicine: Thomas Walsingham and the Death of the Black Prince’, JMH 35 (2009), 34–51 (pp. 35–6).


R. Barber, ‘Edward, Prince of Wales and of Aquitaine (1330–1376)’, ODNB.


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Gaunt, asking them to take care of his wife and son.103 His burial took place in Canterbury Cathedral, more than likely due to his wife’s connections with Kent as well as his own,104 and was considered one of the great state funerals, and tombs, of the Middle Ages, with the well-known inscription noting the transient nature of human life and its rewards.105 While this was something which the Black Prince wanted on his tomb,106 they were also thoughts that Edward himself could not but be increasingly aware of, especially with the demise of so many of his children. The death presumably affected Edward, not only because the Black Prince was his eldest son, but also, for 46 years, his heir apparent and therefore closely bound to the future of the Plantagenet dynasty. The fact that the Black Prince’s first son, Edward, also died in the early 1370s, may have had Edward III wondering about the fate of the direct male line of that dynasty, and made it all the more important that Richard of Bordeaux be recognised as his heir.107 If nothing else there was otherwise the idea abroad that John of Gaunt, Richard’s uncle, might ignore the rules of succession and seize the throne for himself – which, whether true or not, was still enough to further destabilise the already tense political environment at the end of Edward’s reign.108 Nonetheless, while Edward continued to emphasise, for dynastic and political reasons, the importance of Westminster as the place of interment for key members of the royal family, he also, perhaps due to the denial of his own father’s preferred burial place by Mortimer and Isabella,109 tried to make sure that, where preference was indicated by his blood relations, they would, sooner or later, be buried in the place of their choosing. Pragmatism for the sake of his dynasty’s reputation was important, but it was, usually at least, tempered by the wishes of those who had died.

t However, it was not just the death of so many of his blood relations before their time that Edward had to deal with, but the early demise of many of his closest companions, those men who had stood with him in the trying 103 104 105

106 107 108


Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince, ed. R. Barber (Woodbridge, 2002), p. 139. R. Barber, Edward Prince of Wales and Aquitaine (Woodbridge, 1996), p. 236.

D. B. Tyson, ‘The Epitaph of Edward the Black Prince’, Medium Aevum 46 (1977), 98–104. N. Saul, Richard II (London, 1997), p. 299n.

PROME, parliament of April 1376, Item 50.

M. Bennett, ‘Edward III’s Entail and the Succession to the Crown, 1376–1471’, EHR 113 (1998), 580–607 (p. 587). Palliser, ‘Royal Mausolea’, pp. 8–9.

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days of his early reign. Most important among these were William Montagu, earl of Salisbury, Henry Grosmont, duke of Lancaster, and Sir Walter Mauny, three of the most famous nobles of the later Middle Ages, and, except Mauny, to be given titles during Edward’s reign. Possibly one of the most shocking deaths for Edward III, because it was the earliest and least expected, was that of William Montagu, made earl in 1337. In many ways an elder brother figure to Edward, being eleven years his senior, Montagu had been a part of the royal household when the king was growing up, a key participant in the Nottingham Coup of 1330, and a stalwart political and military supporter of Edward throughout his life.110 The death, then, of the earl in late January 1344, from wounds which Montagu received while tourneying, was all the more disturbing.111 After a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral in early February, Montagu was buried at Bisham Priory (Berks.), set up by him in the previous decade as a family foundation and acting as a Montagu mausoleum until the Dissolution.112 Notably, Edward took no part in tournaments for several years thereafter, and may have postponed the first meeting of his ‘Round Table’ as a result.113 Similarly, when Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster, and father-in-law of John of Gaunt, died in 1361 and was buried in the Newarke in Leicester, again a family foundation, he asked in his will that Edward III attend. Though prevented from attending by important governmental commitments, Edward III sent his three sons, Edward the Black Prince, John of Gaunt and Edmund of Langley in his stead.114 Both these deaths were marked, then, by what were in effect state occasions, useful expressions of royal power in connection with two of the greatest warriors of the age at times 110

111 112



C. Shenton, ‘Edward III and the Coup of 1330’, in The Age of Edward III, ed. J. S. Bothwell (York, 2001), pp. 13–34 (pp. 18–19). Adae Murimuth, p. 232.

CPR 1334–38, pp. 243, 422; CChR 1327–41, pp. 358–9, 419–21. The king laid the priory’s foundation stone in 1337, a fact recorded on the inscription: Alexander and Binski, Art in Plantagenet England, p. 498. Montagu’s will cancelled all royal debts: CPR 1345–48, p. 473.

For Edward’s involvement in tournaments, see Vale, Edward III and Chivalry, p. 173. If there was any truth to stories of Edward’s rape of Montagu’s wife, an uneasy conscience might further have encouraged this retirement from tournaments. For discussion of the allegations, see A. Gransden, ‘The Alleged Rape by Edward III of the Countess of Salisbury’, EHR 87 (1972), 333–44.

Knighton’s Chronicle, pp. 182–5; Ormrod, Edward III, p. 467; for Henry’s will, A. H. Thompson, The History of the Hospital and the New College of the Annunciation of St Mary in the Newarke, Leicester (Leicester, 1937), pp. 37–9; K. Fowler, The King’s Lieutenant: Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster 1310–1361 (London, 1969), p. 218.

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when both Edward and England were somewhat less active militarily – the early 1340s and the early 1360s. One of the most important responses to the death of a friend, however, was one of a mere peer though a very famous one – Sir Walter Mauny (b. 1310), who died in mid-January 1372. Though Mauny had requested a simple funeral at his foundation of Charterhouse, London,115 according to Sumption ‘it was a great occasion, attended by the king, all his sons who were in England, and a great concourse of prelates and noblemen’.116 Though again presumably a heartfelt occasion given the nature of the event, it was also one final way for Edward to show to the capital, and the realm as a whole, the continued vivacity of his monarchy, at a time when he himself was aging rapidly, and the kingdom as a whole was increasingly mired in political and military problems. In contrast, there were the deaths of other important titled nobles, again promoted at various points during Edward’s reign, highly noteworthy in their time, but in which the king took far less interest. William Clinton, earl of Huntingdon, had a somewhat different relationship to Edward III than the nobles mentioned above. Though he had been one of the men promoted by Edward in 1337 to an earldom, and was one of his supporters throughout the 1330s, Clinton appears to have fallen out of favour as a result of his criticisms in the parliamentary crisis of 1340–1.117 Thereafter it is unsurprising to find that he only received a limited amount of patronage, and was one of the few such men left out of the creation of the Order of the Garter in 1348.118 His funeral and burial, at Maxstoke Priory (Warwickshire) in August, 1354, not far from the grand residence he had built there, while clearly an event, does not appear to have seen Edward take part. Moreover, the king did not allow the title of earl of Huntingdon to go to William’s next male heir, his nephew, though he did permit him to crenelate William’s castle at Maxstoke.119 Other boon companions of Edward III had more interest shown towards their deaths, though still not as much as, say, Montagu, Grosmont or Mauny. For instance, Edward was not present at the funeral of William Including a large bequest of debts owed him by Edward III and the Black Prince in his will: E 135/2/42.


Froissart, Chroniques, VIII, 33; Registrum Simonis de Sudbiria, dioceses Londoniensis AD 1362–1375, ed. R. C. Fowler, 2 vols (Oxford, 1927), I, 1–4; J. Sumption, ‘Mauny, Sir Walter (c.1310–1372)’, ODNB.


Though illness may also have been an issue: J. S. Bothwell, Edward III and the English Peerage (Woodbridge, 2004), Appendices 3–5; Ormrod, Edward III, p. 367n.


Vale, Edward III and Chivalry, pp. 89–91.


C. B. Fetherston-Dilke, A Short History of Maxstoke Castle and Its Owners (Coleshill, 1982), p. 3.


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Bohun, earl of Northampton, in 1360 at the Benedictine Abbey in Walden, Essex. Bohun was another individual not initially included in the Order of the Garter, though he did provide a gilt cloth for the occasion.120 Similarly, the funeral of Robert Ufford, earl of Suffolk at the priory of Campsey Ash, Suffolk, was apparently not attended by Edward, though perhaps in this case because Ufford died so soon after Edward’s queen, Philippa.121 While Ormrod notes that, for ‘practical reasons’ Edward could not attend many such noble funerals in the provinces,122 the sense seems to be that, even within the group of six men he had personally made earls in 1337, there were those who were considered more important to the king as a person in death as in life.123 Unlike his relationship with his family, then, there were clearer tiers of friendship and death in Edward III’s mind which were not, as seen in the case of Mauny, simply decided by affection or social rank, but also by their usefulness.

t What becomes clear is, though Edward III’s feelings did show through in a public form at the time when it came to the loss of those closest to him, he was also, underneath, a very practical man when it came to death. Whether it was because of his own tumultuous early life, including the apparent murder of his father and the execution of his uncle, the earl of Kent, or simply the number of bereavements he ended up facing within his family alone, Edward understood that the death of relatives and friends was not just an issue of personal bereavement for a monarch, but also often needed to be approached as a means to other, more practical, ends. The failed arrangements for the marriage of his only brother, John of Eltham, was, as we have seen, used as one of the planks of Edward’s declaration of war on France in 1337. And, though one of his ‘separated’ sisters was left where she died in the Low Countries, if possibly partially out of diplomatic necessity, the other, Joan of the Tower (d. 1362), was buried in the same priory that her mother, Queen Isabella, had been four years previously, Edward’s authorisation of which can be seen as having an eye to the more general reputation of both Isabella and the royal GEC, IX, 667 n. O.


For Ufford, see W. M. Ormrod, ‘Ufford, Robert, First Earl of Suffolk (1298–1369)’, ODNB.


Ormrod, Edward III, p. 467.


Edward and Philippa also attended the funeral of Henry of Grosmont’s father, Henry of Lancaster, in 1345, again in Leicester: S. Waugh, Henry of Lancaster, third earl of Lancaster and third earl of Leicester (c.1280–1345)’, ODNB.


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family. When it came to his children, for those who died in infancy, Edward clearly saw nothing wrong with waiting decades before arranging the tombs of William of Hatfield, Blanche of the Tower and William of Windsor, in essence until he was facing his own death, with the placing of Hatfield’s tomb possibly also being connected with the king’s relations with the archbishop of York. Even the funeral of Queen Philippa may have been delayed with a view to other concerns, including war and plague – though, as discussed above, Edward may also have postponed it for the sake of joint remembrance with their marriage anniversary. Similar practicality was evident in his treatment of those children who lived beyond infancy. While his response to the death of Joan of the Tower (d. 1348) was, on the whole, couched in the language of heartfelt grief for the loss of his daughter, at the same time he was still able to be concerned with both the dowry and the importance of an alliance between Castile and England. Similarly the windows in names of both Mary and Margaret as well as, even more significantly, Lionel of Antwerp, at Edward II’s foundation of the royal priory of Kings Langley, notable also as the burial place of Piers Gaveston, again showed an eye to the wider domestic political atmosphere, and the need to, if not sanitize, at least smooth over events of the not so distant past.124 Only the Black Prince’s death, so near to Edward’s own and that of the heir apparent, seems to have been left on its own terms – though of course the wider context of his demise would have repercussions for the royal family in the years to come. As for Edward III’s boon companions, the deaths of Montagu, Grosmont and Mauny all caught his attention in one form or another, and especially in the case of Mauny, perhaps used for other ends, while those of other key nobles were shown markedly less interest. And yet, as we have also seen throughout this chapter, there was often an underlying emotion present in Edward when it came to these deaths, if intertwined with pragmatism, an emotion that may further, at times, have influenced the wider political environment. Whether it was the impact of Philippa’s death on Edward III’s relations with the royal court, especially through his increasing dependence on Alice Perrers, or the fading king ensuring that his grandson be recognised as his heir after the death of the Black Prince, there was a seemingly charged atmosphere which could not but, to a degree at least, influence events. But it was not just these top rank deaths which could give inherently distressing events broader consequences, but also Also helped by the placing of windows in the names of two of his living children there, Edmund of Langley and Thomas of Woodstock, costing £20 each, as with Lionel’s, situated in the southern part of the choir of the priory church: E 101/466/4; HKW, II, 262.


An Emo t i onal Pr ag mat i sm: Ed wa rd I I I a n d Death   69

those of individuals such as John of Eltham and the question of the continuation of the war in Scotland.125 Even the death of Montagu in 1344 could be argued to have helped delay the creation of the Order of the Garter until 1348, with Edward no longer engaging in tournaments during that time. Thus, more quietly articulated, but nonetheless keenly felt, emotion also had the potential to play into the way Edward III saw death in his own family and group of close friends, both as family and friends, and as the ruling elite of England. In some ways the best evidence we have concerning this aspect of Edward’s mind is his approach to his own resting place.126 One could argue that, by designing his own tomb with all his children on it as weepers, Edward was emphasising the importance of his family to him, as well as making a dynastic statement, an attempt to keep all the blood of the king by the side of the king. All this brings us back to the figures of Queen Isabella and King Edward II who, although each in their way estranged from Edward III during his early years, were his parents nonetheless, as well as being important for his own position for posterity. Edward II may have been a point of stress for most of his son’s life, but so too was his mother, who, while gradually returning to family and court life after 1330,127 could still be considered problematic when one thought back to her early years. Both were, however, further brought back into the fold of royal affection and kinship through the medium of more general familial remembrance at Christchurch Greyfriars and Kings Langley.128 Similarly, the use of weepers for both the king’s and queen’s tombs, as well as that of John of Eltham at Westminster, can be seen as reflecting the style of Edward II’s tomb at Gloucester.129 Edward had begun to think not just about his own position, and those of his children, but also about those two individuals upon which his claims of royalty were ultimately based – King Edward Dryburgh emphasises Eltham’s importance to Edward: Dryburgh, ‘Living in the Shadows’, pp. 45–7.


For Edward III’s will, see C. Given-Wilson, ‘Richard II and His Grandfather’s Will’, EHR 93 (1978), 320–37; and C. Given-Wilson, ‘The Exequies of Edward III and the Royal Funeral Ceremony in Late Medieval England’, EHR 124 (2009), 257–82.


J. Parsons, ‘Isabella [Isabella of France] (1295–1358), Queen of England, Consort of Edward II’, ODNB.


Including, most notably, visits to Gloucester Cathedral as well as obits in the royal chapel. Ormrod, ‘Personal Religion’, p. 871.


See footnote 47, and Morganstern, Gothic Tombs, pp. 82–91. There is some debate as to whether Edward II’s tomb was arranged by Edward III in the 1330s or by Isabella as well as the young king soon after her husband’s death: Morganstern, Gothic Tombs, p. 83.


7 0    J a m e s Bo t h wel l

II and Queen Isabella.130 The interlinkage of familial emotion and dynastic pragmatism was not just relevant to the active, but also to the retired, and the dead, however out of favour they may have been at times. In the very end, however, we return to Philippa. Though Edward III may, or may not, have had romantic indiscretions while she was alive,131 the placing of all of their children on the side of his tomb was as much a statement of his dynastic and emotional connection with his queen as with his children themselves. In particular, the similarity of tomb design between Philippa and Edward, not just in terms of their realistically aged effigies, but also both bringing versions of the royal family together, says as much.132 Perhaps most importantly, it emphasises the desire of Edward to make sure that his queen, whatever her family’s position and past, was safely integrated into both English and European royalty. This trope of collecting Edward’s family together had precedents earlier in the reign, in the 1350s, when a mural was painted at the east end of St Stephen’s Chapel in Westminster near the north altar, with his sons led by him on one side, and daughters led by Philippa on the other – and, as with her tomb, with ‘points of contact’ with Flemish art, unsurprising considering the region’s many connections with Edward’s queen.133 Again, in his will two decades later Edward arranged for chantries for himself, Philippa, and all his children at Kings Langley, the foundation which had been used to memorialise Mary, Margaret and Lionel.134 Edward may have been practical, and at times emotional, when it came to death of both kith and kin, but he also profoundly believed in the importance of the Plantagenet dynasty for the past, present and future.

It is worth noting here that, according to an, albeit much later, inventory of Christchurch Greyfriars, Edward II’s heart was placed ‘under the breast’ of Isabella’s effigy in the church. Greyfriars, ed. Kingsford, p. 74.


Namely with Alice Perrers – who possibly became Edward’s mistress in the early 1360s. L. Tompkins, ‘The Uncrowned Queen: Alice Perrers, Edward III and Political Crisis in Fourteenth-Century England, 1360–1377’ (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of St Andrews, 2013), pp. 41–4.


Philippa’s effigy was also notable in the use of alabaster, following the example of Queen Isabella, John of Eltham, and Edward II himself (according to Binski, the ‘first major alabaster tomb of the English royal circle’), and all arguably upon the authorisation of Edward III. See above, pp. 5–10 and Binski, Westminster Abbey, pp. 177–80.


Alexander and Binski, Art in Plantagenet England, pp. 499–500.


Also further cementing their connection with his problematic father: Wills, ed. Nichols, pp. 60–1.


4 Defaming The King: Reporting Disloyal Speech In Fourteenth-Century England Hel en Lac e y



his study examines the extent to which disloyal speech was tolerated in fourteenth-century England. As people outside the elite increasingly conceived of themselves as royal subjects, some of them voiced criticism of those in power, whilst others reported their neighbours for defamatory political gossip.1 In all probability this kind of speech was not entirely new, but it was in this period that it began to be reported and recorded. Scholarship in this area has tended to focus on the fifteenth century and later; the fourteenth-century cases under discussion here are rarer, but a number of examples do survive in which people were alleged to have spoken defamatory words against the king or criticised royal government.2 These cases offer insight into the way in which people understood and internalised the role of subjects in fourteenth-century England. Conceptions of what it meant to be a subject can be found in a range of different textual genres: governmental texts, including the opening sermons of parliament, outlaw ballads and satirical poems, petitions, letters and chronicles, all invoked the idea of subjecthood in strategic ways. However, this study focuses on the reported speech of subjects themselves. These cases involved a complex matrix of ideas drawn from legal concepts of defamation, slander, conspiracy, rebellion and treason. Those involved tested the boundaries



See below, n.10 and A. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture in the Fourteenth Century (Cambridge, 2013).

A recent project demonstrated the Europe-wide range of this material, with a preponderance in the fifteenth century, see: The Voices of the People in Late Medieval Europe: Communication and Popular Politics, ed. J. Dumolyn et al. (Turnhout, 2014), p. 3. See also: H. Wicker, ‘The Politics of Vernacular Speech: Cases of Treasonable Language, c.1440–1453’, in Vernacularity in England and Wales c.1300–1550, ed. E. Salter and H. Wicker (Turnhout, 2011), pp. 171–97; J. Dumolyn and J. Haemers, ‘“A Bad Chicken was Brooding”: Subversive Speech in Late Medieval Flanders’, Past & Present 214 (2012), 45–86; and D. Cressy, Dangerous Talk: Scandalous, Seditious, and Treasonable Speech in Pre-Modern England (Oxford, 2010).

7 2    H e l e n L ace y

of acceptable speech and, crucially, the extent to which communities would tolerate dissent. Ultimately, these cases survive for us because people reported them. Thus, it is clear that royal government formulated and enforced laws on ‘political’ speech in the law courts, but wider social norms also evolved to self-police speech within local communities. One of the defining features of fourteenth-century England was the ‘growth of government’. Whether through paying taxes, witnessing royal events, serving in or supplying armies, sitting on juries or holding minor royal offices, more people directly experienced their status as royal subjects than ever before. Mark Ormrod’s 1995 publication Political Life in Medieval England set out the parameters of this interaction with royal government, and his work influenced a generation of historians interested in understanding the experiences of royal subjects.3 In the last twenty years, further research into the political life of non-elites in later medieval England has shed new light on concepts of public opinion and the formation of more integrated and articulate political communities.4 Recently, Andrea Ruddick argued for a shift from fealty (as a personal, contractual relationship to a lord) to subjecthood in this period.5 In this formulation, subjecthood represented the experience of a more authoritarian concept of kingship, reflecting ideas from both Christian and Roman law. Obedience, rather than fealty, was required; and the king dealt with his people by his grace, rather than from any sense of mutual obligation. Ruddick also emphasised the need to consider changing attitudes towards those born in the king’s territories outside England. In the later thirteenth century, they too were described as subditi, subjects of the king of England. However, this category gradually narrowed, so that by the fifteenth century subjecthood was confined to those of English blood or descent. Ruddick’s thesis of a shift towards a more prominent, but also more exclusive, concept of subjecthood is persuasive. When we examine the political landscape of fourteenth-­century England there is clear evidence that people from an increasingly wide spectrum were engaging in the activities of royal government. In the mayoral courts, the county courts, in public spaces and people’s homes, in churches and 3 4


W. M. Ormrod, Political Life in Medieval England (Basingstoke, 1995).

La comunidad medieval como esfera pública, ed. H. R. Oliva Herrer et al. (Seville, 2014); J. Watts, ‘The Pressure of the Public on Later Medieval Politics’, in The Fifteenth Century IV: Political Culture in Late Medieval Britain, ed. L. Clark and C. Carpenter (Woodbridge, 2004), pp. 159–80; J. Watts, The Making of Polities: Europe, 1300–1500 (Cambridge, 2009); V. Challet and I. Forrest, ‘The Masses’, in Government and Political Life in England and France, c.1300–c.1500, ed. C. Fletcher, J. Genet and J. Watts (Cambridge, 2015), pp. 279–316. Ruddick, English Identity, pp. 225–7.

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heretical meetings, we find evidence of people engaging with, and sometimes challenging, the activities of royal government. Chris Fletcher and Christian Liddy have both demonstrated the extent to which civic authorities were alert to the destabilising nature of political rumour. Mayors and civic officeholders were engaged in political dialogue with the crown in the form of rumours coming from royal officials and payments to lawyers sent to the royal court.6 Fletcher has argued convincingly that this did not just involve a closed oligarchy. Meetings to discuss the latest news from the royal court clearly took place in taverns where there was potential for a wider audience. Thus, the circulation of news created a socially diverse, informed public. This was a public who were willing to inform on one another, as Liddy demonstrates, seeing this as an extension of their duties as members of tithings and heads of households who were tasked to keep a vigilant eye on those around them. This alertness to political rumour and gossip was also a consequence of contemporary sensitivities to defamation more generally, as defined in canon law. This has been a popular area of research in recent years, and social historians have analysed the connections between speech, reputation and honour, often represented in cases recorded before the ecclesiastical courts.7 Sandy Bardsley highlighted contemporary notions of ‘sins of the tongue’ and identified a wider context in which tenants and guild members were cautioned against harming others through their words. This was ‘part of the widening late medieval discourse about the evils of speech and the threat that evil speech posed to reputation, or fama.’8 Defamatory words were carefully calibrated to

C. D. Liddy, ‘Cultures of Surveillance in Late Medieval English Towns: the Monitoring of Speech and the Fear of Revolt’, in The Routledge History Handbook of Medieval Revolt, ed. J. Firnhaber-Baker and D. Schoenaers (Oxford, 2016), pp. 311–29; C. Fletcher, ‘News, Noise, and the Nature of Politics in Late Medieval English Provincial Towns’, JBS 56 (2017), 250–72.


I. Forrest, ‘Defamation, Heresy and Late Medieval Social Life’, in Image, Text and Church, 1380–1600: Essays for Margaret Aston, ed. M. Aston, C. Richmond and M. Jurkowski (Toronto, 2009), pp. 142–61; Fama: The Politics of Talk and Reputation in Medieval Europe, ed. T. S. Fenster and D. L Smail (New York, 2003); F. Dabhoiwala, ‘The Construction of Honour, Reputation and Status in Late Seventeenth- and Early Eighteenth-Century England’, TRHS, 6th series, 6 (1996), 201–13; E. Foyster, Manhood in Early Modern England: Honour, Sex and Marriage (London & New York, 1999); M. James, ‘English Politics and the Concept of Honour, 1485–1642’, in Society, Politics and Culture in Early Modern England, ed. M. James (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 308–415.


S. Bardsley, ‘Sin, Speech, and Scolding in Late Medieval England’, in Fama, ed. Fenster and Smail, pp. 145–64 (p. 149).


7 4    H e l e n L ace y

gender stereotypes in order to heighten their effect.9 For women, sexuality was intrinsic to reputation; attacking their chastity or sexual fidelity to their husband would immediately damage their reputation. The same could also be true of men, but here there was a more fine-grained approach to sexual conduct, dependent on social status and, at the elite level, chivalric notions of honour. Men were also regularly impugned for false trading, or deceitful conduct in their business affairs. Women were far more likely to be labelled as a ‘scold’, a term used to describe someone who regularly slandered their neighbours. In a largely separate historiographical tradition, historians of political culture have examined the use of words like ‘rumour’, ‘murmur’ and ‘noise’ by medieval writers to capture a sense of unrest and protest among the people, often in the context of insurrection.10 As Claude Gauvard stresses, this was a world in which oral communication was central to governance; people were required to speak, to swear oaths and shout to raise the hue and cry, but it was vital to prevent the official oath or cry from blurring into the unofficial murmur, rumour and noise.11 Legal sanctions against such speech were also evolving and by 1352 the Statute of Treasons gave the famous definition of ‘treason by words’ as ‘compassing or imagining the death of the king, his wife or his eldest B. C. Kane, ‘Defamation, Gender and Hierarchy in Late Medieval Yorkshire’, Social History 43 (2018), 356–74; J. Haemers and C. Delameillieure, ‘Women and Contentious Speech in Fifteenth-Century Brabant’, Continuity and Change 32 (2017), 323–47; G. Neal, ‘Husbands and Priests: Masculinity, Sexuality, and Defamation in Late Medieval England’, in The Hands of the Tongue: Essays on Deviant Speech, ed. E. Craun (Kalamazoo, 2007), pp. 185–208; S. E. Phillips, Transforming Talk: The Problem with Gossip in Late Medieval England (University Park, PA, 2007); S. Bardsley, Venomous Tongues: Speech and Gender in Late Medieval England (Philadelphia, 2006); B. A. Hanawalt, Of Good and Ill Repute: Gender and Social Control in Medieval England (Oxford, 1998); J. A. Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England: the Church Courts at York, Borthwick Papers 58 (1980).




C. Fletcher, ‘Rumour, Clamour, Murmur and Rebellion: Public Opinion and Its Uses Before and After the Peasants’ Revolt (1381)’, in La comunidad medieval como esfera pública, ed. Herrer, pp. 193–210; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Murmur, Clamour and Noise: Voicing Complaint and Remedy in Petitions to the English Crown, c.1300–c.1460’, in Medieval Petitions: Grace and Grievance, ed. W. M. Ormrod, G. Dodd and A. Musson (York, 2009), pp. 135–55; A. J. Prescott, ‘“Great and Horrible Rumour”: Shaping the English Revolt of 1381’, in Medieval Revolt, ed. Firnhaber-Baker and Schoenaers, pp. 76–103; S. Walker, ‘Rumour, Sedition and Popular Protest in the Reign of Henry IV’, Past & Present 166 (2000), 31–65; R. J. Faith, ‘The “Great Rumour” of 1377 and Peasant Ideology’, in The English Rising of 1381, ed. R. H. Hilton and T. H. Aston (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 43–73. C. Gauvard, ‘Rumeur et stéréotypes à la fin du moyen âge’, in La circulation des nouvelles au moyen âge, ed. P. Contamine (Paris, 1994), pp. 162–3.

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son and heir.’12 This study tries to unite these two historiographical traditions (the social history of gossip and slander and the political history of rumour and unrest) by considering the political context of defamation and gossip that concerned royal government. People voicing criticism of the monarch or his close advisers were not necessarily intending to incite insurrection, but they were uttering words which had a particular political resonance. The cases that form the basis of this study survive largely in defamation actions and depositions and afford an insight into the ways in which people carefully crafted their self-presentation before the courts.13 The existence of these cases prompts questions pertinent to the wider historiographical debates outlined above: how were non-elites reacting to the expansion of royal governance and what limits did they adhere to when expressing criticism of the crown? What does the reporting of critical comments tell us about how communities policed themselves and how they interpreted restrictions on defamation and political gossip? How did people assimilate long-standing canon law definitions of defamation and elide them with emerging notions of conspiracy, rebellion and treason? One interpretation has been to see the regulation of speech as part of a ‘civilising process’ imposed from above on those they perceived to be socially inferior to them. Another has been to see this speech as a ‘weapon of resistance’ deployed by those excluded from more direct forms of political influence.14 In an important article on defamation cases in the church courts, Ian Forrest has suggested a different approach: that the fine line drawn between acceptable and unacceptable speech was something that took place within a social group, the ‘good and worthy’ of the parish regulating standards of respectability among their peers.15 This notion of self-regulation and respectability has parallels in the cases under consideration here: individuals were reporting on, or testifying against, their peers 12




SR, I, 319–20; A. King, ‘False Traitors or Worthy Knights? Treason and Rebellion against Edward II in the Scalacronica and the Anglo-Norman prose Brut chronicles’, Historical Research 88 (2015), 34–47; Bardsley, ‘Speech’, pp. 149–52; J. G. Bellamy, The Law of Treason in England in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1970). H. Lacey, ‘The Voices of Royal Subjects? Political Speech in the Judicial and Governmental Records of Fourteenth-Century England’, Anales de la Universidad de Alicante. Historia Medieval N. 19 (2015–16), 241–68; J. Arnold, Inquisition and Power: Catharism and the Confessing Subject in Medieval Languedoc (Philadelphia, PA, 2001). N. Elias, The Civilising Process: The History of Manners and State Formation (New York, 1978); J. C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, 1987). Forrest, ‘Defamation’, pp. 142–61.

7 6    H e l e n L ace y

for ‘shameful’ words spoken ‘in contempt’ of the king. There is also a sense in which they were manipulating the procedures of royal justice for their benefit, pursuing vendettas against their neighbours through strategic accusations before royal authorities. The notion of the loyal subject lay at the heart of the issue: both representing oneself as a loyal subject and reporting those who transgressed such standards.

Speaking in Contempt of the King

In 1275 Edward I issued the first Statute of Westminster which forbade subjects from spreading slanderous reports that might ‘engender discord between the king and his people’.16 Those who devised ‘such tales’ were to be held in prison until the ‘first author’ of the tale was found and brought to court. The focus here was on the destabilising potential of political rumour, and this appears to have been one of the standards by which such accusations were judged throughout the fourteenth century. Further regulation and legislation prohibiting the spread of rumours intended to ‘shame’, ‘malign’ or ‘slander’ the king or the great men of the realm was introduced in the 1320s and again in the 1370s and 1380s.17 Even in the relative stability of the 1350s, the Statute of Treason included a provision against such words.18 Yet the balance between prohibition and leniency in these matters was a fine one; overly-strict policing of defamatory speech risked signalling the insecurity of the regime. In several of the cases discussed below the crown was prepared to pardon the offender, or to order further investigation into possible ulterior motives behind an accusation. Such investigations sometimes even led to accusers themselves being prosecuted for false accusations under charges of ‘conspiracy’. The first surviving cases in which individuals were reported by their peers for ‘speaking ill’ of the king or his officials or of some aspect of royal government date from the 1310s.19 These cases are few in number and did not always result in harsh punishment for the defendant; thus it would not be appropriate to characterise them as products of a ‘surveillance culture’ of the kind that historians have written about in the context of the fifteenth-century Wars of the

16 17 18 19

SR, I, 35.

CCR 1318–23, pp. 505–8; CCR 1327–30, pp. 586–591; SR, II, 9; SR, II, 59. SR, I, 319–20.

Carpenter identified one earlier case in king’s bench: D. Carpenter, ‘English Peasants in Politics 1258–1267’, Past & Present 136 (1992), 3–42.

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Roses.20 Rather, it seems plausible that they represent the strategic negotiation of the boundaries of political speech within communities, and the association of these ideas with wider, pre-existing canon law concepts of defamatory speech. The question that presents itself is: what motivated an individual to inform on their peers in this way? In some cases, the accusation seems to be part of a wider dispute between the two parties. In these circumstances the accuser was presumably alert to the possibility that an accusation of irreverent speech against the king would attract the interest of a powerful royal justice, and this opened up the possibility of inflicting a time-consuming and expensive court case on their opponent. These were people of similar social standing, one of whom was presenting themselves as a loyal subject by informing on the transgressions of his or her opponent. This might well have been the motive behind the accusation Robert de Malton made in 1316 against Thomas de Tynwelle, a clerk from Oxford: A certain Robert de Malton, present here in court, has suggested to the court that a certain Thomas de Tynwelle, a clerk, recently in Oxford … within the north gate of Oxford in the presence of Johannes de Necton, Edmund le Barber, Adam Calabre, Thomas le Tanner, Adam le Iremonger, Johannes de Bure, Radulphus de Setford and others, spoke irreverently about the lord king, expressing contempt for him by means of shameful words and saying that he was not the son of lord Edward recently king of England in contempt of the lord king etc. and he (Robert) sought that the same Thomas who is present etc. should answer to the lord king concerning this charge, testifying publicly that he wishes to prosecute this same Thomas on behalf of the lord king and prove the aforesaid things to be true.21 20


I. M. W. Harvey, ‘Was There Popular Politics in Fifteenth-Century England?’, in The McFarlane Legacy: Studies in Late Medieval Politics and Society, ed. R. H. Britnell and A. J. Pollard (Stroud, 1995), pp. 155–74; Wicker, ‘Vernacular Speech’, pp. 171–97. E 368/86, m. 94; H. Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon, 1284–1307 (Manchester, 1946), p. 130; J. R. S. Phillips, Edward II (London 2010), pp. 15, 277–8. Phillips states that the incident took place in a ‘park’ in north Oxford. This seems to be a misreading of ‘portam’; thus the translation should be ‘within the north gate’. Many thanks to Carolinne White for expert advice on this point and for her translation of the following: Praesens in curia quidam Robertus de Malton suggessit curiae quod quidam Thomas de Tynwell clericus, nuper apud Oxoniam die Veneris proximo ante festum S. Thomae Apostoli hoc anno, infra portam borealem Oxoniae, in praesentia Joannis De Necton, Edmundi le Barber et Adam Calabre, Thomas le Tanner, Adam le Iremonger, Johannes de Bure, Radulphus de Setford et aliorum, locutus est irreverenter de Domino Rege, parvipendendo ipsum per verba indecentia et dicendo ipsum non esse filium Domini Edwardi nuper regis Angliae in contemptum domini regis etc. et peciit quod

7 8    H e l e n L ace y

In response, Thomas, pled not guilty and an inquisition of twelve probos et legales homines (upright and law-worthy men) was summoned before the barons of the exchequer. The case dragged on and witnesses on both sides repeatedly failed to appear on the day appointed, until Thomas was finally acquitted. From the list of witnesses it appears that some were local tradesmen from Oxford (tanner, ironmonger, barber) but others were from further afield (Malton in North Yorkshire, Necton in Norfolk, Tinwell in Rutland), suggesting that they were possibly students at the university. Thus a ‘town versus gown’ dispute might be one explanation. In this case, the transgression seems to be one of insult, Malton claiming that he wanted to prosecute Thomas ‘on behalf of the king’, to protect the royal honour and dignity. In this construction the words spoken appear to be akin to blasphemy; they were not invoking violence or alluding to plots or conspiracies against the king, but they were shameful and derogatory, implying that Edward II had not lived up to his father’s standards. Thus, the concept of defamation here is not a private case between defamer and defamed (commonly seen in the church courts of the period), but between defamer and bystander who chooses to take offence on behalf of the king and demonstrate his loyalty before the court. These tactics had their risks, however; there were instances in which those accused of defamatory words were found not guilty and allowed to pursue a case of conspiracy against their accuser. One example occurred in January 1315 when a London goldsmith, John Bonaventure, complained in a petition before parliament that his long-time adversary, John of Lincoln, had made false accusations against him that had resulted in his imprisonment. Lincoln had apparently accused Bonaventure of having said ‘certain evil and shameful things about the king, in contempt of the king’.22 Bonaventure had been imprisoned in the royal household by the king’s marshals but an inquisition found him not guilty and ordered a writ of conspiracy against John of Lincoln. The ‘not guilty’ verdict is interesting here: in defamation cases between private individuals in the church courts, the accused had to argue that he/ she had not in fact spoken the alleged words, or that they were not malicious, or that the person against whom they were directed was in fact not of good fame. In this instance, of course, the third category was not applicable, since arguing that the king was not of good reputation was not an option. In most of these cases where the defendant was found not guilty, it seems reasonable to suppose that he/she had convinced the justice that they had not in fact


idem T. qui praesens est etc. respondeat inde Domino regi, protestans se velle sequi pro domino rege versus eundem Thomam et verificare praemissa etc.

PROME, parliament of 1315, item 145; Phillips, Edward II, pp. 15, 277.

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uttered the words they were accused of saying. In Bonaventure’s case there was clearly a long history of antagonism between the two men. His convoluted petition described how John of Lincoln and his sons had attacked him and his servant in his shop in London on more than one occasion and extorted money from them. Furthermore, he claimed that inquisitions had already been ordered, but the sheriffs and jurors had failed to appear because of threats and intimidation from John of Lincoln. Whilst the outcome of the conspiracy charge is unknown, the antagonism between the two men rumbled on at least until 1321 when yet another case between them was heard before a session of the eyre court sitting in London.23 In this wider context of antagonism, conspiracy in the form of fabricated accusations seemed a distinct possibility to the justices. Other cases centred on royal officeholders. In 1312 and again in 1314 two men, one a sheriff and the other a royal messenger, were summoned to appear before the king’s council in the exchequer for making critical comments about Edward II’s governance of the realm. The sheriff, a man called John de Bedwynd, was accused of making critical comments before a session of the full county court held at Lostwithiel in Cornwall in 1312. Bedwynd allegedly declared that the king had been badly advised by Anthony Pessagno, a Genoese moneylender who was unpopular in the local area because of the rights he had been granted to the purchase of tin in Cornwall. Bedwynd was also accused of organising a strike among the local tin miners to ensure that Pessagno did not profit from their work.24 Another case concerned a messenger of the royal household called Robert of Newington, who was alleged to have had a conversation with the sub-bailiff of Newington in Kent which included negative comments about the recent defeat inflicted on the English army by the Scots at Bannockburn in the summer of 1314.25 Newington allegedly told the sub-bailiff that the king’s armies had been ‘confounded by the Scots’ and that the king could not be expected to win battles when he was so preoccupied with ‘idling and applying himself to making ditches and digging and other improper occupations’ rather than hearing mass. In both cases, the sheriff and 23



The Eyre of London, 14 Edward II, A.D. 1321, ed. H. Cam, Selden Society 86 (1968), pp. 112–3. E 159/86, m. 76d; E 368/83, m. 1d.; J. R. Maddicott, ‘The County Community and the Making of Public Opinion in Fourteenth-Century England’, TRHS 28 (1978), 27–43 (p. 39); J. C. Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II (Cambridge, 1918), p. 553, Appendix, no. 19; J. F. Baldwin, The King’s Council in England During the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1918), p. 221.

E 368/86, m. 32d; E 159/89, m. 89d; Johnstone, ‘Eccentricities’, pp. 264–7; Baldwin, Council, p. 221, n. 3.

8 0    H e l e n L ace y

the royal messenger were drawing on well-established tropes of the ‘evil counsellor’ and the ‘idle’ king, tropes that had been articulated at an elite level by the Ordainers in 1311 and echoed by several chroniclers.26 Both were informed on by members of the local community; in Bedwynd’s case the informant was not named, in Newington’s case the man who overheard the conversation was named as Philip le Viroler, and his story was later confirmed by a jury of neighbours. The crown’s response to Bedwynd’s case was to order further investigation ‘from all the poor people of Cornwall’ as to how Bedwynd bore himself.27 Some members of the local community were clearly on Bedwynd’s side, and after several more complaints against Pessagno from the Cornish tin miners, his monopoly was eventually cancelled in 1316.28 In the other case, Robert of Newington was released from prison after eighteenth months, on the mainprize of Walter Reynolds, archbishop of Canterbury, and Queen Isabella, two influential patrons who had been persuaded to act on his behalf. Both cases revolved around the attitudes of the local community and their perceptions of the boundaries of licit speech. We could ask what motivated Bedwynd and Newington to utter these words (assuming of course that the accusations were not entirely fabricated). Were they intending to show off their ‘insider’ knowledge of rumours that were circulating in the royal court? Were they positioning themselves as spokesmen for the local community, prepared to articulate the views that others would not dare voice? Were their words uttered in exasperation, intended to let off steam but nothing more, or were they a call to action? Dumolyn and Haemers have argued that the social status of those involved and the physical setting in which they spoke are particularly important. Here they draw on the work of Bourdieu and Bakhtin to emphasise the need for ‘heteroglossia’, a reading strategy which identifies tension and overlap between different discourses within a culture, and the performative context of speech.29 The accused were royal office holders, and the linguistic register they used echoed those elite critics of the king, the Lords Ordainers. In Bedwynd’s case, he spoke before the full county court, an institutionalised setting which represented the king’s authority in the locality. The degree to which it was also a forum for ‘robust’ political debate is an open 26 27 28 29

Lacey, ‘Voices’, pp. 256–7.

SC 8/327/E824; SC 1/45/173; SC 1/45/174; SC 1/49/14. Davies, Baronial Opposition, p. 326.

Voices of the People, ed. Dumolyn, et al., p. 8; Dumolyn and Haemers, ‘Subversive Speech’, pp. 65–6; M. M. Bakhtin, ‘Discourse in the Novel’, in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. M. Holquist, trans. C. Emerson and M. Holquist (Austin, 1981), p. 308; P. Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, ed. J. B. Thompson, trans. G. Raymond and M. Adamson (Cambridge, 1991), p. 93.

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question, but Dumolyn and Haemers argue from their examination of the Flemish evidence that a degree of open discussion and debate was tolerated in such venues, particularly from men of relatively high social status. In Newington’s case, the less formal setting seems to give the speech the characteristic hallmarks of gossip: informal, entertaining and somewhat humorous remarks to a neighbour. Whilst it is impossible to reach firm conclusions about individual motives, we can see that in both cases these men’s words had a particular social context, bound up in wider notions of honour and respectability linked to their status and to the physical space in which they spoke. The response of the community indicates that their disloyalty aroused suspicion, but ultimately there was enough tolerance of dissent to save them from more severe punishment.30 As John Watts has convincingly argued for the fifteenth century, these types of cases allude to an integrated political community with a shared political rhetoric. Rather than fitting the model of the subaltern ‘hidden transcripts’ devised by James Scott, these minor office holders were confident enough to engage openly in shared political debate.31 Whilst it could be claimed that Edward II’s justices had not overreacted to these cases, the tense political atmosphere of the 1320s saw further attempts by the crown to restrict dissenting speech. On 18 November 1321 letters close were issued to all the sheriffs of England with orders to arrest anyone ‘bearing or publishing by writing or otherwise anything to the king’s shame or opprobrium, and to send those thus arrested to the king for punishment … as the king learns that certain of his subjects have fabricated certain things to his shame and opprobrium’.32 Under these circumstances, there is evidence that cases of critical speech were escalated to the powerful court of king’s bench. Men like Nicholas de Wymbyssh of Normanton were brought before the court for slandering Edward II’s favourites, the Despensers. Nicholas had apparently obstructed the keeper of the king’s horses in his duties when he had arrived to requisition provisions of hay in the summer of 1326. Nicholas ‘created a scandal before a large number of people’ by declaring that the horses did not belong to the lord king but to a certain Hugh Despenser, ‘a traitor

30 31


J. Masschaele, Jury, State, and Society in Medieval England (New York, 2008), p. 210. J. Watts, ‘Popular Voices in England’s Wars of the Roses, c.1445–c.1485’, in Voices of the People, ed. Dumolyn, et al., p. 116; J. C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven and London, 1990); Scott, Weapons of the Weak, pp. 28–47.

CCR 1318–23, pp. 505–8; Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London (E), ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 1907), p. 152 (hereafter cited as CLB).

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and enemy of the king and the realm’.33 Nicholas was accused by a jury of his peers before the sheriff in a judicial inquiry held at Leicester, but the case was sequestered to king’s bench. In this case, the reference to the audience is important: establishing that derogatory words had been spoken before an audience was integral to defamation cases. Sometimes, although not in this case, it was emphasised that the audience were made up of people of good fame. Damage to reputation or even physical violence could follow if words were spoken before an audience made up of respectable people. In this case Nicholas was obstructing a royal officer in his duties. It is also significant that Nicholas’s disparaging words were aimed at the Despensers: the extent of the influence they had over Edward and their willingness to mete out rough justice is well-attested. In the febrile atmosphere leading up to Edward II’s deposition, Nicholas’s condemnation of Hugh Despenser was treated as disloyalty to the king. Simon Harris has shown how, only a few months later, the downfall of the Despensers meant they became a common target for petitioners who wanted to bolster their chances of success by criticising the old regime.34 Nicholas was clearly ahead of the charge. Similarly, in a civic context, authorities were alert to the danger of disloyal speech and the unrest it might provoke. In the summer of 1322, a sergeant of the city of London was charged with sowing discord and false reports, expressing his opposition to a tax to fund the war in Scotland. In this case the mayor and civic officials were explicit in their concerns, arguing that the sergeant had ‘spread abroad’ so much discord that unless he was removed from the counsel of the city, ‘no small strife and contumely’ would arise, ‘among great as well as small’, and the ‘undoing of the City itself would ensue.’35 Further proclamations against slander of the ‘great men of the land’ were ordered by the civic authorities early in Edward III’s regime before the young king’s departure for France on 19 May 1329. Londoners were warned ‘not to be so bold as to menace, malign, or slander, the great men of the land, or any other person, or to carry lies or bad news among the people’.36 Civic authorities were clearly concerned not to allow their citizens to overstep the boundaries of acceptable political speech and provoke unrest. However, they also recognised 33


35 36

KB 27/265 rex m. 30; C. Valente, The Theory and Practice of Revolt in Medieval England (Aldershot, 2003), p. 47; Lacey, ‘Voices’, p. 259.

S. J. Harris, ‘Taking your Chances: Petitioning in the Last Years of Edward II and the first years of Edward III’, in Medieval Petitions, ed. Ormrod, et al., pp. 173–92. CLB (E), p. 31.

Ibid., p. 236; Memorials of London Life In the 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries, ed. H. T. Riley (London, 1868), pp. 172–4; CCR 1327–30, p. 588.

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that false charges might be equally destabilising. In August 1364 one such case came before the mayor and alderman: John de Hakford accused Richard Hay, fuller, of approaching him in the street and asking him if he was among those who had congregated at Havering-atte-Bower ‘when the people of the city were there with our lord the king’.37 When Hakford affirmed that he was, Richard asked if he was a tailor, and whether he knew of the ‘design’ that was ‘entertained’. John answered that he was a tailor, but as to any design, he knew nothing about it, whereupon, the same Richard said to him that there were ten thousand men in the said city, all of one alliance and of one agreement, that, at a certain time, such as should seem to them the best, they would all be ready and prepared with their arms, those who have arms, and those who have none of their own, with such arms as they may get, to slay all the best people, and the great folks and officers of the said city: and that as he had not been warned before, he now gave him warning to be ready and prepared, whensoever the cry should be raised.38

Richard pled not guilty and a jury of local men from Cornhill endorsed his claim. Hakford was then in the firing line, since ‘the king himself commanded with his own lips’ that, if the information was found to be false, Hakford should be punished, as an example to other liars. The mayor judged that Hakford was guilty and should remain in prison for one year and a day, and that one day in each quarter of the year he would have ‘judgement of the pillory’. This involved being led out of Newgate, without hood or girdle, barefoot and unshod, with a whetstone (agupiere) hung by a chain from his neck, and lying on his breast, as a sign that he is a liar (ensigne dun faux mentour); and there shall be a pair of trumpets trumpeting before him on his way to the pillory; and there the cause of his punishment shall be solemnly proclaimed. And the said John shall remain on the pillory for three hours of the day, and from thence shall be taken back to Newgate in the same manner, there to remain until his punishment shall be completed….39

37 38 39

CLB (G), fol. 139; Memorials, ed. Riley, p. 315–16. Memorials, ed. Riley, p. 315–16.

I have used Riley’s translation here, except for his translation of ‘ensigne dun faux mentour’. Riley translated this as ‘it being marked with the words,–“A false liar”’, but Rexroth has more recently argued that it is better translated: ‘as a sign that he is a liar.’ F. Rexroth, Deviance and Power in Late Medieval London (Cambridge, 2007),

8 4    H e l e n L ace y

The two men involved in this case had a clear vested interest in upholding their good name before their neighbours. For Hakford in particular, as a tailor and also a bedel, the humiliation of his punishment might well have been profound. Historians have written elsewhere about these ‘shaming’ rituals and the social function they played, a visible performance of the boundaries of defamation and slander.40 How far they acted as a deterrent is unclear; certainly cases continued to appear before civic authorities in London and at least one case has been identified in the consistory courts of York.41 These cases were clearly aligned with wider cultural attitudes to various kinds of speech crimes between neighbours or against local officials, attitudes which had long been exemplified in the customary and church courts. Where such cases involved criticism of the king or of royal government, they were in danger of prosecution under the 1352 Statute of Treasons.42 This statute provided for the possibility that novel forms of treason might arise in the future, in which cases the evidence would be presented to the king in parliament.


Parliament was to become the venue for discussion of disloyal subjects in the autumn of 1378, when Bishop Houghton aired the subject for the first time. At the opening of the October 1378 session, Houghton, the chancellor, chose




p. 115, n. 204. On 8th April 1365 Hakford was released from prison, and on 12th April he gave a bond of 100l. for his future good behaviour.

J. Haemers, ‘Filthy and Indecent Words. Insults, Defamation, and Urban Politics in the Southern Low Countries, 1300–1550’, in Voices of the People, ed. Dumolyn, et al., pp. 252–3; Hanawalt, ‘Of Good and Ill Repute’, pp. 18–34.

Goldberg notes a case from 1356 in which a witness for the prosecution allegedly said he ‘would be willing to offer a halfpenny to St Mary of Lincoln if the saint would ensure the king had ill fortune in his activities’: P. J. P. Goldberg, ‘John Rykener, Richard II and the Governance of London’, Leeds Studies in English, New Series, 45 (2014), 49–70, p. 65, n.95. In London, on 14 October 1372, Richard Donmowe, a poulterer, was accused of ‘opprobrious words spoken openly in contempt of the Earl of Arundel’ and was subsequently committed to prison: Calendar of the Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, ed. A. H. Thomas (London, 1926), II, 149 (hereafter cited as CPMR). On 8 November 1378, Thomas Knapet, clerk of the church of St Peter the Less near Pouleswharf, was arrested ‘for having used abusive words touching the Duke of Lancaster in the house of John Shepeye and in the presence of Thomas Hiltone and other servants of the said John’: CLB (H), pp. 107–8. SR, I, 319–20.

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to focus directly on the dangerous speech of certain of the king’s subjects.43 He had begun his address in traditional fashion, by reminding the assembly of the ‘costs and expenses’ incurred by the crown in the defence of the realm; an alliance between the Scots and the French meant that their enemies threatened to break the fragile truce in place since Richard II’s accession. But then, when he moved on to discuss the troubles within the king’s realm, he described how ‘evil people’ had been secretly spreading ‘false and dangerous lies about the lords, officers and other good people of the realm’ amongst ‘the commons and others’. These people were so bold that they sought to tell these lies ‘openly’, but also disseminated them ‘secretly’ among the commons. As a consequence, the chancellor warned that discord and riot were a very real danger unless a remedy could be implemented. Warming to his theme, he elaborated further: These liars and gossips, who are called back-biters, resemble dogs who chew raw meat. For the said false back-biters do this when, with their evil words, they devour raw good and loyal people, who do not dare to protest at anything or adopt an angry countenance before the aforesaid good people.

Houghton’s theme is surprising; rarely had representatives of the crown openly paid attention to the spread of rumours and linked them to the possible destruction of the realm. The chancellor even reached for the language of the street, as the Anglo-Norman of the parliamentary record breaks into Middle English with the reference to ‘bacbyters’.44 This seems to indicate a level of interest in the voice of its subjects that the crown had rarely shown before. In parliamentary speeches, ‘lesser’ subjects might be referred to as taxpayers or soldiers, or those who suffered most from harvest failure, disease in cattle, famines, and French or Scottish raids. But they had not previously been individuals whose speech was so powerful that it had the potential to threaten the stability of the realm. But who were the backbiters the chancellor was referring to in the 1378 parliament, and why had they caught the attention of the crown? The immediate context was the antagonism directed at John of Gaunt in the early months of Richard II’s reign. In the first parliament of his reign, convened in October 1377, Gaunt had complained about ‘rumour-mongers’ circulating gossip against him, including suggestions that he sought to usurp his nephew 43 44

PROME, parliament of October 1378, item 9.

‘Les queux \controvours/ et contours, qi sont appellez bacbyters, sont auxi come chiens qi mangeont les chars crues. Qar auxint font les ditz fauxes bacbyters par lours malx paroles, ils mangent les bons et loialx gentz tout cruez a deriere eulx, qi n’osent rienz latrer ne faire contenance de mal par devant les bones gentz avantdites.’ PROME, parliament of October 1378, item 9.

8 6    H e l e n L ace y

and claim the throne himself.45 Londoners had spread rumours about Gaunt’s illegitimate birth, and reversed his coat of arms on the Savoy palace as a sign of their disrespect. This discord had clearly not abated by the time of the parliament of 1378, with rumours that Gaunt had been misappropriating funds from the king’s household. Thus, Bishop Houghton’s speech was delivered with a particular audience in mind, and it resulted in a reissue of the laws known as scandalum magnatum (literally, slander of great men), which targeted those who ‘devised false news and lies about the king, nobles, lords, prelates and officers, whereby debates and discords might arise betwixt the said Lords, or between the Lords and the Commons… whereof great peril and mischief might come to all the realm’.46 Houghton’s use of ‘backbiter’, rather than the straightforward label traitor, had connotations of sinfulness, and secretive, perhaps even heretical, overtones.47 If he had been speaking in the aftermath of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, historians would link it to the insecurity felt by a government which had experienced rebellion on a scale never seen before. But even before the Peasants’ Revolt, it is clear that there were existing insecurities about illicit speech. The way in which these backbiters were said to spread their lies secretly rather than confess them openly, and the way in which they were said to resemble ‘dogs who chew raw meat’ aligns very closely with the rhetoric surrounding heretics who were crafty and secretive and often depicted as animals, particularly dogs, wolves and foxes.48 Heretics were well-known hate-figures for medieval rulers. Several of those questioned as suspected Lollards in the early fifteenth century confessed to beliefs that directly impinged on the authority of royal governments, for example by denying that it was lawful to fight for one’s realm or to sentence anyone to death (reserving all vengeance to God alone). Given the possible association between ‘backbiter’ and heretic, it is 45 46



PROME, parliament of October 1377, item 14.

SR, II, 9. Reissued in 1388: SR, II, 59. Despite parliamentary attention, Londoners continued to appear before the civic authorities, accused of ‘devising’ such ‘false news and lies’: Lacey, ‘Voices’, p. 253. In 1378 a member of the king’s household came to Oxford, and was serenaded by some of the students with a song in English ‘containing words against the honour of the king’; the affair ended with a general discharge of arrows through the window of his room. The chancellor was made to resign and the vice-chancellor was imprisoned. Eulogium Historiarum, ed. F. S. Haydon (London, 1863), III, 348–9. Also used by Chaucer in The Parson’s Tale: Bardsley, ‘Speech’, p. 149; Oxford English Dictionary:

L. Sackville, Heresy and Heretics in the Thirteenth Century: The Textual Representations, Heresy and Inquisition in the Middle Ages 1 (York, 2011), pp. 156–61.

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interesting that one suspected Lollard, Hawisia Moon, was reported to have made a reference to backbiting in her confession, when she stated her belief that ‘sufficient penance for all maner of synne is every persone to abstyne hym fro lyyng, bakbytyng and yuel doing, and no man is bounde to do noon other penance’.49 Hawisia Moon’s confession dates from 1430, but it is clear that she was making the same association between backbiting and sin that Bishop Houghton had in 1378. The spectre of the ‘backbiter’ (or the ‘jangler’, ‘prater’ or of course ‘loller’) could be conjured in both the secular and the religious sphere as a destabilising and morally transgressive character. However, singling out these backbiters might be dangerous; it could be argued that in people’s minds, heretics could be set apart more easily as a clearly transgressive category of people, whereas secretive backbiters and rumour-mongers amidst the general populace were less well-defined in the popular imagination and therefore, possibly, more insidious.

Destroying the Party of the King

If this represented a new phase in attitudes to rumours among the lower orders, then the events of the summer of 1381 were to confirm the fears of those in authority. In the context of the Peasants’ Revolt there are actually very few references to the speech of the rebels, presumably the result of official attempts to de-politicise their words and refer instead to the shrill animalistic noise of the mob.50 However, there are two approvers’ appeals that survive, one from John Cote and one from William Delton, who were both connected with a conspiracy that was alleged to have taken place in Kent in September 1381, led by a man called Thomas Harding of Linton.51 These appeals purported to represent the testimony of the two men, voicing their confessions to involvement in the conspiracy and implicating others. John Cote had broken first, turning approver after he had been arrested in Dartford. He was awaiting trial before chief justice Tresilian’s specially convened session of king’s bench in early October.52 Cote ‘acknowledged’ (presumably under questioning) that the conspirators had plotted to make John of Gaunt king of England after they heard rumours that Gaunt had freed his ‘natives’. Cote said that they 49 50



Selections from English Wycliffite writings, ed. A. Hudson (Cambridge, 1978), p. 34.

Steven Justice discusses the poems that circulated among the rebels in S. Justice, Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 (Berkeley, 1994). W. E. Flaherty, ‘Sequel to the Great Rebellion in Kent of 1381’, Archaeologia Cantiana 4 (1861), 67–86. For one other case, see R. Hanna, ‘Pilate’s voice/Shirley’s case’, South Atlantic Quarterly 91 (1992), 793–812, pp. 794–5. KB 27/482, rex m. 1.

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had decided to send messages to Gaunt to see if it was true. He then accused two others of treason, one of whom was a man called William Delton. Delton was taken into the custody of the steward and marshal of the household and brought to court at Westminster on 23 October. He denied his guilt and requested trial by battle against Cote, ‘as a faithful man against a felon and traitor of our lord the king’. The combat took place at Tothill Fields on 25 October and Delton was beaten but not killed.53 He was sent back to the Marshalsea prison to await execution. However, before his execution, Delton appears to have attempted to turn approver too, in a bid to save his life. His confession was made before the steward and coroner of the Marshalsea on 16 November. The transcript of Delton’s examination was preserved in the king’s bench recorda file as a supporting document to the case and identified by Andrew Prescott.54 Delton described a discussion among a group of rebels who gathered together at Linton Heath in Kent on 30 September. He said they had agreed among themselves to capture and kill three local members of the gentry. It was then intended that another conspirator would arrive from Romney Marsh with 32 armed men and 60 archers, and another man from Charing [near Ashford in Kent] with eighteen fighting men. William said the conspirators met together in a great wood called ‘Deperfeld’ and made plans for a revolt. They intended to send two of their number into the courts of various nobles (ad curiam diuersorum) to act as spies. If these men detected any disloyalty from the nobles they were to remain where they were with a plan to create dissension between the king and his lords so that the conspirators could join one party ‘in order to resist and destroy the other party and especially to destroy the party of the king.’ Delton also said that they sent another man to Essex to incite the people to ‘overthrow and destroy the kingdom.’ Finally, he named a number of other men involved in the conspiracy. Clearly, the document that records Delton’s confession is not a verbatim account of his words, but rather the product of a specific moment, when Delton was brought before the steward and coroner of the Marshalsea in a bid to save himself from execution. It was written up in Latin by the scribe who was aware of the appropriate form for an approver’s appeal. The names of the other people he was implicating are prominent in the text, and the language of the Statute of Treasons is used throughout. However, unless it was entirely 53


Cote made a number of other accusations and the trials went on until 1383 when all the prisoners were acquitted (some already having obtained pardon). Cote himself was eventually pardoned.

KB 145/3/5/1 (unnumbered membranes); A. J. Prescott, ‘Writing about Rebellion: Using the Records of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381’, History Workshop Journal 45 (1998), 1–27.

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fabricated, Delton’s testimony (and Cote’s confession) demonstrates the capacity of some rebels at least to conceive of an attack on the king himself, after plotting to send spies into various noble households. This clearly undermines the argument that some historians have presented about the populist or naive loyalism of the lower social orders in their conservative support for the king.55 Instead, as Forrest and Challet argue, ‘the idea of conservative rebels should be abandoned.’56 The act of rebellion itself was clearly radical and any declarations of loyalty have to be viewed within the wider strategic context. The fear of disloyalty among the king’s ‘lesser’ subjects had been realised in 1381 and in the aftermath of the revolt Richard’s government expanded the definition of treason to include anyone ‘making riot or rumour’.57 In 1387 a proclamation issued to Londoners and written up in Middle English, warned the king’s ‘trewe liges’ not to ‘speak or publish anything, in private or openly, that was evil or dishonest, about the king, the queen, or any of the lords dwelling with the king, now or in the future.’58 Again, in 1388 another reissue of the law known as scandalum magnatum was ordered.59 This legislative context signalled a new level of engagement with the speech of subjects, and in publicising these laws the crown raised awareness of this interest in the wider populace. These laws operated to the extent that people were willing to act as informers and the cases that were brought to court because of them show people’s level of engagement as informers, witnesses and jurors. If this signalled a new, more sensitive stance on the part of medieval government towards disloyalty voiced by the ‘common’ people, it is not a stance that should be isolated from the broader context of attitudes that were evolving earlier in the fourteenth century. Further cases arose in London in the 1380s and 1390s, initiated by accusations from informers. Several men and one woman were arrested on suspicion of uttering disparaging words against the king. Their words tended to focus on the unsettled nature of Richard’s reign; one man remarked that ‘things would never be well in England while Richard II was king’, another man said that 55

56 57 58 59

Dunn uses the term ‘populist royalism’ to describe the passwords used by the rebels. A. Dunn, The Great Rising of 1381: The Peasants’ Revolt and England’s Failed Revolution (Stroud, 2002), p. 58. According to the Anonimalle Chronicle, when asked who they were with, the rebels were meant to reply, ‘Wyth kynge Richarde and wyth the trew communes’: V. H. Galbraith, The Anonimalle chronicle, 1333 to 1381 (Manchester, 1927), p. 139. Forrest and Challet, ‘Masses’, p. 305. SR, II, 20.

CLB (H), p. 321. SR, II, 59.

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there had been ‘no peace or love in England’ since he became king. The one woman who was arrested cast aspersions on Richard’s parentage, saying that he was not the true son of the Black Prince and that his mother, Joan of Kent, was ‘nothing but a whore’.60 People were also arrested for defaming members of the king’s inner circle; one man criticised the king’s favourite, Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, and another man was imprisoned for spreading false news about Henry Despenser, bishop of Norwich, and his ‘crusade’ in Flanders.61 People were even encouraged to testify against family members. In December 1391 one Londoner, William Mildenhall, acknowledged before chancery ‘freely and without compulsion’ that he had heard his father say that the king was not able to govern any realm, wishing that he were in his gong (latrine), where he might stay for ever without further governing any; that he said likewise that it were easy, if he would, with twelve men to take the king and carry him whither he chose, and the easier because he often rides from his manor of Shene to London with a few men of little resistance in his company, and spake many other disrespectful words disparaging the king’s person.62

His father, Peter Mildenhall, had died in Nottingham prison several years earlier, after falling under suspicion for plotting with the king’s opponents, the Appellants. On 4 February 1389 a licence had been issued to the executors of his will to ‘dispose freely of his possessions according to his will, notwithstanding that he was accused by Joan de Laton of divers treasons and 60



The accused were: Reginald Neuport alias Reginald de la Chambre, CPMR, III, 28; Thomas Austin and his wife,C 258/24/9; A. J. Prescott, ‘The Accusations against Thomas Austin’, in P. Strohm, Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth Century Texts (Princeton, 1992), pp. 161–77; John Sewale of Isledon, CPMR, III, 248.

On 29 April 1387 Walter Sibille of London was released from the Tower of London where he had been imprisoned for defaming Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford. Sibille had gone before John of Gaunt in order to accuse de Vere of maintenance in the law courts: CCR 1385–89, p. 234. In May 1383 Thomas Depham was accused of spreading rumours that ‘the news of the war which the lord bishop of Norwich began in Flanders and other previous news from those parts were false’: CPMR, III, 36. M. Hanrahan, ‘Defamation as Political Contest during the reign of Richard II’, Medium Ævum 72 (2003), 259–76; Lacey, ‘Voices’, pp. 253–4. CCR 1389–92, p. 527; C. M. Barron, ‘The Quarrel of Richard II with London 1392–7’, in The Reign of Richard II: Essays in Honour of May McKisack, ed. F. R. H. Du Boulay and C. M. Barron (London, 1971), pp. 179–80; Goldberg, ‘Rykener’, pp. 64–5.

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misprisons and under pretext thereof committed to the prison of Nottingham castle, where he died’.63 By the early 1390s, Peter’s son William Mildenhall had fallen under suspicion for concealing his father’s words. After testifying in chancery William was rewarded for his honesty and allowed to go free ‘by the king’s kindness’ (and after finding four men to stand surety for him). He also gave an undertaking that thenceforward he should so far as reasonably he may speak respectfully of the king’s person and, if he shall hear unlawful words or abuse thereof by any person of the realm, shall declare it as speedily as may be to the king or to one of his counsel…64

William’s revelations might well have fed paranoia among the elite that their own subjects were plotting against them.65


The existence of these cases in the records demonstrates that some of the king’s subjects conceived of themselves as capable of articulating political ideas that would be taken seriously by the royal courts. Even if in every case the words were complete fabrications on the part of the accuser (which seems unlikely), then the accusers themselves were still demonstrating awareness of political sensitivities and were successfully initiating cases that piqued the interest of those in authority. Elsewhere in Europe, similar cases have been identified through the extensive research of Dumolyn, Haemers and others, although 63



CPR 1389–92, p. 5. Peter had been in prison since at least 23 August 1387, when a writ was issued ordering the mayor of London to bring him to the king at Nottingham Castle. The mayor responded on 26 August, ‘praying that the production of the body of the above Peter at Nottingham pursuant to the writ may not be prejudicial to the City’s liberties’: CLB (H), p. 312. In January 1389, Peter was in trouble with his debtors: Robert de Whiteby, clerk, servant of John of Gaunt, had entrusted him with a counterpane of ermine for a bed belonging to Gaunt, which Peter then pledged as security for a debt. On 16 January 1389 the king sent letters under his privy seal to the mayor and sheriffs demanding that they return the counterpane: CPMR, III, 151. William Mildenhall had dealings with the authorities in 1382, when his servant was imprisoned for wandering about at night in a suspicious manner. He was later released with a warning ‘not to make any covin or assembly nor to wander about in a suspicious fashion…’: CPMR, III, 1. When Richard Alkebarow, vicar of Sibsey, Lincolnshire, died in 1398 his goods were forfeited ‘because he spoke ill of the king’s person’. He had been sentenced to reside within Lincoln close for the term of his life. CPR 1396–99, pp. 321–22.

9 2    H e l e n L ace y

almost all of this material dates from the fifteenth century and earlier cases seem relatively sparse.66 The revolt of coastal Flanders (1323–8) provides one interesting context in which comparable political speech can be identified: on one occasion a man said in public that he hoped that the castle of the count of Flanders would burn down, wishing that a spark of the fire started by the count’s troops in a local village ‘should fly to the castle of Wijnendale,… so that he [the count] would suffer enough’.67 Clearly, across Europe different governmental structures affected the way in which people articulated political ideas. In the Low Countries the patchwork of jurisdictions meant that ‘popular’ political speech was often factional, targeting the French monarch or the Burgundian duke, or other regional rulers. Similarly, in fifteenth-century England the factional conflicts of the Wars of the Roses created comparable tensions and reports of political speech became more numerous. John Watts argues that these cases reveal ordinary individuals ‘performing the role of the common people, by voicing concerns that were plausibly universal and doing so in ways that resembled the practice of representatives.’68 They engaged with ideas of the common weal and voiced criticism of royal counsellors. Some facets of their speech were not shared with the elite: the blunt and crude insults that were intended to shock, and the mythical, idealised settings in the ‘wylde fforrest’, for instance. However, Watts argues that these features of their speech were also strategic and calculated to engage other social groups. They were not ‘hidden transcripts’ of the lower order, but instead confident attempts to engage in a shared political dialogue.69 Whilst these ideas were more fully articulated in the fifteenth-century cases, when factional tensions 66

67 68 69

Voices of the People, ed. Dumolyn, et al. For related material, see also: J. Hoareau-­ Dodinau, ‘Les fondements des preferences dynastiques au XIVe siècle d’aprés quelques lettres de rémission’, in La France Anglaise au moyen âge: Actes du IIIe Congrès National des Sociétés Savantes (Poitiers, 1986) (Paris, 1988), pp. 113–21; C. Gauvard, ‘L’image du roi justicier en France à la fin du moyen âge d’après les lettres de rémission’, in La faute, la répression et le pardon: Actes du 107e congrès national des sociétés savantes, vol. 1, ed. P. Braun (Paris, 1984), pp. 165–92; J. Hoareau-Dodinau and P. Texier, ‘Loyauté et trahison dans les actes Poitevins du Trésor des Chartes (1356–1380)’, in La France Anglaise au moyen âge, pp. 139–58; P. J. Arnade and W. Prevenier, Honor, Vengeance, and Social Trouble: Pardon Letters in the Burgundian Low Countries (Ithaca and London, 2015), pp. 52–80. Dumolyn and Haemers, ‘Subversive Speech’, p. 82. Watts, ‘Voices’, p. 116.

Watts notes one man who was less than keen to see Edward IV’s coronation, saying ‘Twat and turd for him: I would as readily see the hunting of a duck as him’. He also notes mythical references to the ‘King and Queen of the Fairies’, and the hermit ‘Blewbeard’: Watts, ‘Voices’, pp. 119–20.

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in England and in continental Europe prompted people to speak out, they had an important longer-term context in the earlier fourteenth-century cases discussed above. Men like Thomas de Tynwelle, John de Bedwynd and Robert of Newington articulated their frustration with Edward II and his government, demonstrating their knowledge of royal policies and their willingness to enter into the same political discussion as the elite critics of the king, the Lords Ordainers. In Richard II’s reign, Peter Mildenhall was apparently incensed enough to deploy crude insults about the king belonging in the latrine. So too, references to mythical, idealised settings were articulated in the context of the Peasants’ Revolt, and in the confessions of John Cote and William Delton. In all likelihood, political speech of this kind was not new to the fourteenth century, but what was novel was the reporting of this speech by neighbours and the recording of it in official archives. It is important to emphasise that criticism of royal governance was part of the dynamic of local politics too, at the level of the town or the parish or the manor. Nor should we ignore alternatives to royal governance, outside, or overlapping with, regnal power: appeals to the papacy, for example, or local relations of lordship and friendship. The cases outlined in this study demonstrate that the ideal of the loyal subject was a powerful one that was gaining currency in society, but it was not one that went uncontested. In locations that included an Oxford street, a Cornish county court, a private house in London and the church of St Martin le Grand (London), people took risks in speaking out against those in power. Accusations came from their peers: neighbours of the accused who acted as jurors, witnesses and approvers and cases revolved around wider social norms of permissible speech. In response, the crown did not always levy harsh punishments. On occasion instructions were given to investigate the circumstances of the case more thoroughly, and even to prosecute informers who were guilty of fabricating their accusations. But non-elite subjects were engaging in political discourse. For them, the crown might resort to the moral language of the backbiter, the transgressive character who could ultimately threaten the stability of the realm, but in doing so they acknowledged the potential power of their voice.

5 Law and Arms: The Politics of Chivalry in Late Medieval England Ant hony Musson



he monarch’s responsibilities were eloquently symbolised in the two images on the obverse and reverse respectively of the great seal: the sovereign enthroned in majesty bearing the sword of justice; and as a knightly warrior on horseback with shield in one hand and outstretched sword in the other.1 This image highlights the monarch’s constitutional proprieties, which were set out in his coronation oath and embodied his personal obligations to the realm. He undertook to the best of his ability to preserve peace and concord for the sake of God’s church, clergy and people, maintain, defend and uphold ‘the just laws and customs which the people shall have chosen’ and ‘in all your judgments see that right and impartial justice is done in mercy and truth’.2 It was a potent image that accompanied the putting into effect of royal commands and was reflected in illuminated miniatures portraying the opening words of Bracton’s De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Regni, which in turn echoed the Roman Emperor Justinian’s maxim: ‘Clothed with arms, armed with laws’.3 The historiography of late medieval England and in particular the ‘long fourteenth century’ has benefitted considerably from renewed focus on constitutional, legal and administrative history. Through his revisionist work on the fifty-year reign of Edward III and a wider concern to foreground and understand contemporary political culture, Mark Ormrod has done much to 1 2


W. M. Ormrod, Edward III (New Haven and London, 2013), Pl. 13.

H. G. Richardson, ‘The English Coronation Oath’, Speculum 24 (1949), 43–75; A. M. Spencer, ‘The Coronation Oath in English Politics, 1272–1399’, in Political Society in Later Medieval England: A Festschrift for Christine Carpenter, ed. B. Thompson and J. Watts (Woodbridge, 2015), pp. 38–54.

A. Musson, ‘Ruling “Virtually”? Royal Images in Medieval English Law Books’, in Every Inch a King: Comparative Studies on Kings and Kingship in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, ed. L. Mitchell and C. Melville (Leiden, 2013), pp. 162–4.

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restore to the picture the significance of the person (and personality) of the king. He has also sharpened focus on the intricate workings of royal government, especially the judicial and financial institutions (and their personnel) that underpinned its operations.4 His examination of kingship and what it meant to be king has stimulated a growing body of scholarship reappraising the reigns of monarchs and the role played by royal consorts in maintaining or destabilising the body politic and determining attitudes towards the crown.5 As Ormrod himself concludes in his influential biography, whatever Edward III’s personal shortcomings, he was revered as a model ruler. Even a century after his death he was perceived to have conformed to the ideal of chivalric kingship, balancing valour with upholding the law: ‘this noble prince, this princely knight, this knightly conqueror so loved’, in whose days ‘God [was] obeyed, the course and recourse of merchandise justly kept and the order of the law [was] duly observed’.6 This symbolic fusion of law and arms was reflected judicially in the Court of Chivalry. A legacy of the legal problems arising out of the ‘state of war’ occasioned by the early campaigns of the Hundred Years War,7 the Court was a forum that primarily entertained complaints ‘having their commencement and cause in deeds of chivalry and arms’.8 As one of the prerogative courts, it See, for example: W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Origins of the sub pena Writ’, Historical Research 61 (1988), 11–20; W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Personal Religion of Edward III’, Speculum 64 (1989), 849–77; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Accountability and Collegiality: The English Royal Secretariat in the Mid-Fourteenth Century’, in Écrit et pouvoir dans les chancelleries médiévales: espace français, espace anglais, ed. K. Fianu and D. J. Guth (Louvain, 1997), pp. 55–85; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Coming to Kingship: Boy Kings and the Passage to Power in Fourteenth-Century England’, in Rites of Passage: Cultures of Transition in the Fourteenth Century, ed. N. F. McDonald and W. M. Ormrod (York, 2004), pp. 31–49; W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Sexualities of Edward II’, in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, ed. G. Dodd and A. Musson (York, 2006), pp. 22–47; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Parliamentary Scrutiny of Royal Ministers and Courtiers in Fourteenth-Century England: The Disgrace of Sir John ate Lee (1368)’, in Law, Governance and Justice: New Views on Medieval Constitutionalism, ed. R. Kaeuper (Leiden, 2013), pp. 161–88.


See for example: The Reign of Edward II, ed. Dodd and Musson; Henry V: New Interpretations, ed. G. Dodd (Woodbridge, 2013); Edward I: New Interpretations, ed. A. King and A. M. Spencer (York, 2020).


D. Morgan, ‘The Political After-life of Edward III: the Apotheosis of a Warmonger’, EHR 112 (1997), 856–81; Ormrod, Edward III, p. 590.


M. Keen, Nobles, Knights and Men at Arms in the Middle Ages (London, 1996), pp. 145–6.


A. Rogers, ‘Hoton v Shakell: A Ransom Case in the Court of Chivalry, 1390–95’, Nottingham Medieval Studies 7 (1963), 53–78 [hereafter (pt2)] (p. 62).


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was an extension of the king’s council and emerged in the 1340s alongside the Court of Chancery (itself slowly evolving as a ‘court of conscience’) and a duo of closely related bedfellows that had a more specialised jurisdictional remit, the Court of Admiralty and the Court of Exchequer Chamber.9 The Court of Chivalry or curia militaris was presided over by the Constable of England and the Earl Marshal and was responsible for matters of military organisation and discipline arising not only at home but, uniquely for any English tribunal, overseas.10 Unlike ordinary martial law, the jurisdiction of the Court of Chivalry was live and on-going, in peace as well as war.11 Its remit included disputes over military contracts and complaints concerning the spoils of war (such as prisoners and their ransom), some of which were couched in terms of delicate matters of honour. The Court increasingly presided over appeals of treason, which invariably involved trial by combat, and also became the prime venue for disputes over armorial bearings.12 Political concern over the Court’s operation surfaced in petitions to the crown early in Richard II’s reign.13 Further complaints resulted in legislation in 1384 and 1390, which limited the Court’s cognizance of contractual matters to military ones outside the realm and restricted its jurisdiction within the realm to disputes which could not be otherwise determined or discussed by the common law.14 The Court’s reputation was particularly affected by its close connection with the treason trials of the late fourteenth and early A. L. Brown, The Governance of Late Medieval England, 1272–1461 (Stanford, CA, 1989), pp. 38–9, 132–4; A. Musson and W. M. Ormrod, The Evolution of English Justice: Law, Politics and Society in the Fourteenth Century (Basingstoke, 1999), pp. 20–23.







For a comparative view see Courts of Chivalry and Admiralty in Later Medieval Europe, ed. A. Musson and N. Ramsay (Woodbridge, 2018). J. V. Capua, ‘The Early History of Martial Law in England from the Fourteenth Century to the Petition of Right’, Cambridge Law Journal 36 (1977), 152–73 (p. 158).

A. Ayton, ‘Knights, Esquires and Military Service: The Evidence of the Armorial Cases Before the Court of Chivalry’, in The Medieval Military Revolution: State, Society and Military Change in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. A. Ayton and J. L. Price (London, 1995), pp. 81–104; N. Saul, For Honour and Fame: Chivalry in England, 1066–1500 (London, 2012); P. J. Caudrey, Military Society and the Court of Chivalry in the Age of the Hundred Years War (Woodbridge, 2019).

PROME, parliament of April 1379, item 47; parliament of November 1384, item 31; Early Common Petitions in the English Parliament, c.1290–c.1420, ed. W. M. Ormrod, H. Killick and P. Bradford, Camden Society, 5th series, 52 (Cambridge, 2017), pp. 267–8. SR, II, 37 (v), 62–3 (ii).

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fifteenth centuries and the accusation of royal manipulation in the Articles of Deposition brought against Richard II in 1399. Perceptions of the Court of Chivalry both for contemporaries and historians have largely been dictated by its high-profile cases and controversy surrounding its jurisdiction and role in the late medieval polity.15 To some extent this has been tinged by the experiences of the early modern Court of Chivalry and, in particular, the views expressed by Sir Edward Coke, whose championing of the common law, parliament and the courts in the age of the Stuarts pitted these bastions of English liberty against unbridled exercise of the royal prerogative and the doctrines of Roman civil law.16 This discussion explores the controversy in the late fourteenth century over the Court’s powers and procedures by examining the legal and political contexts of its jurisdiction. Re-appraising the parliamentary debates and the litigation of the period, it questions the notion that the challenges to the Court’s jurisdiction indicate a straightforward antithesis between the common law and the ius commune. Instead, it argues that the Court should be viewed within the wider context of operation of the prerogative courts and a legacy of concern for good governance under Magna Carta pursued by the parliamentary Commons in the troubled years of Richard II’s reign. The surviving legal material demonstrates strategic decision-making on the part of litigants and a pushing of the conceptual boundaries of the Court’s remit. It also highlights the dilemmas faced by the royal government as a result of the popularity of the Court’s procedures and its own failure to find a definitive answer.

Jurisdictional Distinctiveness

The controversy that engulfed the Court of Chivalry in late medieval England can perhaps be better understood by examining the legal context of the Court’s operation. The Court differed from the well-established centrally based courts of king’s bench and common pleas both in its international reach and in the fact that the procedures employed were predominantly those of the continental ius commune rather than the common law. Its distinctiveness was due in part, too, to the international body of customs and practices found in the ‘law of arms’ which underpinned the substantive principles applied in the



A general account of the entire history of the English Court of Chivalry was published by G. D. Squibb, The High Court of Chivalry: A Study of the Civil Law in England (Oxford, 1959), but its focus is primarily on the post-medieval period.

J. Baker, The Reinvention of Magna Carta 1216–1616 (Cambridge, 2017), pp. 14– 16, 113, 442–8.

9 8    An t hony Mu sson

Court.17 Its own proceedings and documents relating to cases heard by it refer to ‘the laws of the Court of Chivalry’ or ‘the law and custom’ of the Court or its ‘customs and usages’,18 which strongly implies that there was a recognised body of principles and procedures by which it was understood to operate that set it apart from the other royal courts.19 Its business, it was argued in one case, was appurtenant to the civil law (a la loy naturelle et civile usage d’armes et custome du court de chivalrie) and matters that involved English common law doctrine (de droit statuts et costomes de roy d’Engleterre en mesme le royalme) ought to be rejected and be inadmissible in the Court of Chivalry.20 Indeed, the legal personnel of the Court seem to have been demarcated by their familiarity with Roman civil law and, in particular, the canon law of Western Christendom.21 It was thus perceived as standing outside the prevailing law and custom of the realm. The Court of Chivalry was not alone amongst English tribunals in operating under Roman law procedures, yet it has been the prime subject of criticism in this respect. The king’s council, from which the more specialist prerogative courts evolved, itself stood outside the normal common law processes. By their very nature, petitions/bills directed to the king and his council were submitted in expectation of a remedy for matters which the common 17

M. Keen, The Laws of War in the Late Middle Ages (London, 1965); R. Ambühl, Prisoners of War in the Hundred Years War: Ransom Culture in the Late Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 20–28; J. Collins, Martial Law and English Laws, c.1500–c.1700 (Cambridge, 2016), pp. 22–4. Ordinances of War were issued in 1385: M. H. Keen, ‘Richard II’s Ordinances of War of 1385’, in Rulers and Ruled in Late Medieval England: Essays Presented to Gerald Harriss, ed. R. E. Archer and S. Walker (London, 1995), pp. 33–48; and in 1419: A. Curry, ‘The Military Ordinances of Henry V: Texts and Contexts’, in War, Government and Aristocracy in the British Isles, c.1150–1500: Essays in Honour of Michael Prestwich, ed. C. Given-­ Wilson, A. Kettle, and L. Scales (Woodbridge, 2008), pp. 364–88. For discussion of continental treatises on the law of arms, see C. Taylor, Chivalry and the Ideals of Knighthood in France during the Hundred Years War (Cambridge, 2013). SC 8/231/11550 (droit et la custume de vostre court de chivalrie); /224/11168 (par les leys et usages); see also CPR 1385–9, p. 68 (‘by the laws of the Court of Chivalry’).


It is not clear, however, whether the references variously to ‘leys’, ‘droit’, ‘custume’, ‘usages’, are drawing a distinction between the substantive ‘law of arms’ and the procedural mechanisms of the Court or simply eliding them under somewhat nebulous terms for convenience.


Rogers, ‘Hoton versus Shakell’(pt2), pp. 60–1.


A. Musson, ‘Networks and Influences: Contextualising Personnel and Procedures in the Court of Chivalry’, in Networks and Connections in Legal History, ed. M. Lobban and I. Williams (Cambridge, 2020), pp. 12–32.


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law courts could not adequately deal with themselves, or concerned instances where suitors felt unduly intimidated, were unable to get justice or the cases themselves were those for which there was no obvious solution. From at least the mid-fourteenth century petitions were being directed to the chancellor or, in some instances, sent to him direct, thereby shifting the scope and emphasis of the court from being a secretariat issuing judicial commissions to a distinct judicial entity in its own right.22 Historians disagree, however, on the level of influence exerted by the Romano-canonical tradition on the concurrently emerging Court of Chancery.23 However, like the Court of Chivalry, the use of bills, replications and interrogatories signalled its debt to Roman law procedures, while its borrowing of substantive concepts such as ‘good faith’ and its adaptation of ecclesiastical forms such as the denunciatio evangelica,24 coupled with its university trained presidents (usually bishops) and clerks, makes a highly persuasive case for its Romano-canonical hybridity even if it operated in a very English context.25 The Court of Admiralty, which dealt primarily with maritime matters both civil and criminal, as with the Court of Chivalry, attracted substantial criticism from the 1340s onwards for its rapidly expanding jurisdiction and employment of ‘novel procedures’.26 Complaints centred on the conduct of the 22





T. Haskett, ‘The Medieval English Court of Chancery’, Law and History Review 14 (1996), 245–313.

M. Beilby, ‘The Profits of Expertise: The Rise of the Civil Lawyers and Chancery Equity’, in Profit, Piety and the Professions in Later Medieval England, ed. M. Hicks (Gloucester, 1990), pp. 72–92; The Oxford History of the Laws of England Volume VI: 1483–1558, J. Baker (Oxford, 2003), pp. 179–81. H. Coing, ‘English Equity and the Denunciatio Evangelica of the Canon Law’, Law Quarterly Review 71 (1955), 223–41.

Select Cases in the Court of Chancery, 1364–1471, ed. W. P. Baildon, Selden Society 10 (London, 1896); A. Musson, ‘The Influence of the Canon Law on the Administration of Justice in Late Medieval England’, in Der Einfluss der Kanonistik und die europaische Rechtskultur, ed. Y. Mausen, O. Condorelli, F. Roumy and M. Schmoeckel (Cologne, 2014), pp. 325–43; G. Dodd, ‘The Clerical Chancellors of Late Medieval England’, in The Prelate in England and Europe, 1300–1560, ed. M. Heale (York, 2014), pp. 17–49.

Select Pleas in the Court of Admiralty, ed. R. G. Marsden, Selden Society (London, 1894–7), I, xliii–l; R. Ward, The World of the Medieval Shipmaster (Woodbridge, 2007), pp. 15–17, 34–43. Heebøll-Holm separates the practice of jurisdiction from the right of jurisdiction arguing that although the Admirals exercised increasing jurisdictional powers during Edward III’s reign, a royal declaration of 1361 issued in the wake of the Treaty of Brétigny signed the previous year, represents the defining moment in the creation of the formal Court of Admiralty: T. Heebøll-Holm,

1 0 0    An t h ony Mu sson

courts and the delays to hearings that resulted. The Admirals apparently were not undertaking all their judicial work personally, but frequently placed their cases in the hands of deputies. It was said that suitors were inconvenienced by not having sessions in a fixed place and these were held solely in ports rather than inland towns. Further, it was alleged that litigation was unduly prolonged as there were numerous adjournments either as a result of legal technicalities or because adjudicators were away at sea or elsewhere in the country.27 In jurisdictional terms there was considerable confusion over the extent of the Court’s reach and the legal status of offences committed at sea. Arguably the Admiralty’s authority covered the coastal waters of all the English king’s territories, but the cases themselves, particularly piracy, wreck and prize, encompassed maritime law, the law merchant and common law and were both civil and criminal in nature.28 The Court of Admiralty was subjected to legislation under Richard II (re-issued under Henry IV), which limited the Admirals’ jurisdiction purely to maritime cases.29 It, too, suffered from appeals to the king’s council from parties complaining that the Court of Admiralty was operating in contravention of the statutes or was exceeding its authority. Its judgments were questioned, and it was also declared to be adjudicating ‘contrary to the law and the form of the court’.30 Perceptions of the Court of Chivalry were also influenced by the lack of differentiation between the king’s council/parliament and the Court of Chivalry as a venue for treason trials. While its jurisdiction was theoretically distinct, cases heard by the Court sometimes overlapped with those voiced in parliament or brought before the king’s council.31 This was not assisted by the lack of specific trial venue or procedure stated in the provisions of the statute of Treasons of 1352, nor by the fact that sessions of the Court of Chivalry frequently took place in the Painted Chamber or in the more intimate setting of the White Chamber, where the parliamentary Lords and king’s


28 29 30 31

‘The Origins and Jurisdiction of the English Court of Admiralty in the Fourteenth Century’, in Courts of Chivalry, ed. Musson and Ramsay, pp. 149–70 (pp. 163–5).

Select Cases before the King’s Council, 1243–1482, ed. I. S. Leadam and J. F. Baldwin, Selden Society 26 (London, 1918), xxviii–xxix. Court of Admiralty, ed. Marsden, Selden Society, I, xxxvii–xli. SR, II, 62 (v), 78 (iii), 124 (xi).

Court of Admiralty, ed. Marsden, I, xliv–xlv, 16–17.

For example: Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council, ed. N. H. Nicolas, 7 vols (London, 1834–7), I, 65, 77–8.

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council usually met (en le chaumbre du Parlement).32 Another issue was that of trial by combat, itself a lawful procedure within the Court of Chivalry,33 but one which sometimes resulted in what have been referred to as ‘slippages between knighthood and treason’ in the treatment of persons of high status accused of treasonous behaviour.34 A blurring of the lines occurred noticeably in the Merciless Parliament of 1388, where not only the Constable, Thomas of Woodstock, one of the presiding peers, but also knights of the Order of the Garter, such as Sir Simon Burley, were tried for treason.35 This was also the case with the challenge to armed combat between Henry, duke of Hereford, and Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, which was proffered in full parliament at Shrewsbury in 1398, but deemed to be resolvable ‘according to the law of chivalry’.36 In 1399, at the start of Henry IV’s reign, in the wake of continued use of its procedures for accusations of treason occurring within the realm, the Court of Chivalry, as opposed to parliament, was confirmed as the proper venue for treason trials.37 Even after the 1399 statute ought to have made things more distinct, there was clearly some overlap. For example, peers in parliament heard the tenor of the case against Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland and Thomas, Lord Bardolf, for their part in the uprising of May–June 1405 – even though it was already in progress in the Court of Chivalry. Since it was declared to be treason and that the correct procedure should be followed, the Court of Chivalry’s procedure was then resumed and both peers were

32 33



Brown, Governance, pp. 210–11.

According to the treatise (or ordinances) presented to Richard II by Thomas, duke of Gloucester in the 1390s concerning the manner of fighting armed in the lists in the king’s presence, the form and manner of how to plead in court before the Constable and the Marshal is such that for quant ilz ne pourront prouver par tesmoings ne par autre maniere leur cause mais determiner leurs quereles par force (Oxford Bodleian Library, MS Douce 271, fols. 27v–28). E. A. McVitty, ‘False Knights and True Men: Contesting Chivalric Masculinity in English Treason Trials, 1388–1415’, JMH 40 (2014), 458–77.

T. F. T. Plucknett, ‘State Trials under Richard II’, TRHS, 5th series, 2 (1952), 159– 71 (p. 159), and ‘State Trials under Richard II’, TRHS, 5 series, 3 (1953), 145–58 (p. 145). See also M. V. Clarke, ‘Forfeitures and Treason in 1388’, TRHS, 4th series, 14 (1932), 65–94 (p. 65).

Chronicles of the Revolution, 1397–1400: The Reign of Richard II, ed. and trans. C. Given-Wilson (Manchester, 1993), p. 89.


SR, II, 116 (xiv); Chronicles of the Revolution, ed. Given-Wilson, pp. 180–1.


1 0 2    An t h ony Mu sson

summoned to appear to answer the charges. Since neither appeared, they were later judged to be traitors in absentia in the parliament of 1406.38

The Politics of Jurisdiction

Richard II’s advisers on the ‘Continual Council’ were not unaware of the complexities and overlaps between the different areas of jurisdiction and the need to address the problem. The period between 1378 and 1384 merits special attention owing to the deliberate consultative approach adopted in the Gloucester parliament of October 1378 and the lack of a definitive policy exhibited until 1384. Indeed, Gloucester Abbey’s chronicler specifically noted that the monks’ refectory was assigned for ‘discussing the law of arms’ (de armorum legibus tractabatur).39 The chancellor, in a surprisingly enlightened way, explicitly called for an acknowledgement of the mutual relationship between the common law and the law of arms and an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of both, so that they might dovetail and operate as a force for good: And for another thing, lords and sirs, with regard to the troubles currently afoot within the kingdom which require a solution, I have in mind one considerable trouble which I wish to bring to your attention. Namely, that the laws of the land and the laws of arms should bear a relation to each other, the one law always assisting the other wherever necessary. So that in each case where the law of the land is unable to punish a crime, the law and authority of arms should support and complement it. And likewise conversely, in each case where the law of arms is ill-suited or unable to perform that which pertains to it, the law of the land should be a help and support, so that the one law cannot exist or endure for long without the other.40

This spirit of rapprochement and the importance of seeing both sides may have been influenced by Wyclif ’s urging that the universities teach Magna Carta and the common law. Wyclif advocated good government and reform of the Church, but his insistence in this respect may have antagonised the Romano-canonical fraternity, as in doing so he roundly criticised the ius commune, declaring that:

38 39


PROME, parliament of 1406, part 1, item 111; part 2, items 1 and 15.

Historia et Cartularum Monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae, ed. W. H. Hart, 3 vols (London, 1863–7), I, 53. PROME, parliament of October 1378, item 7.

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Much treasure and much time of many hundred clerks in universities is foul wasted about books of the emperor’s law and study about them…It seemeth the curates should rather learn and teach the king’s statutes, and namely the great charter, than the emperor’s law or much part of the pope’s; for men in our realm are bound to obey the king and his rightful laws and not so the emperor’s, and they might wondrous well be saved though many laws of the pope had never been spoken…41

It is surely no coincidence, though, that the chancellor at the time was Richard Scrope, who had enjoyed a highly active career as a soldier in campaigns in France, Spain and Scotland and whose father and uncle had been chief justice of common pleas and king’s bench respectively.42 Scrope’s speeches have been described as ‘models of their kind’ combining ‘firmness with flexibility, and frankness with the occasional but necessary half-truth’.43 Given that it was he who launched the suit in 1385 against Sir Robert Grosvenor in the Court of Chivalry over his right to bear the arms Azure a bend or, he may well have been considering the nature of the two areas of law himself. Although he was only appointed chancellor in 1378 and would not yet at this stage have had experience as president of that Court, he nevertheless had been treasurer (1371–5) and a trier of petitions during the 1370s and so was familiar with the processes of parliament and the king’s council.44 The idea for linking the common law and the law of arms was a natural corollary of the international nature of the Court of Chivalry. Its role in dealing with prisoners and ransoms set it within a diplomatic dimension that necessarily traversed different nationalities and legal systems.45 Indeed, this was not lost on English knights, who embraced the possibilities of the international language of the law of arms to bring suits before other chivalric tribunals including France’s supreme court, the Parlement of Paris.46 The

41 42 43 44



Cited in Baker, Magna Carta, p. 66.

B. Vale, ‘Scrope, Richard, first Baron Scrope of Bolton (c.1327–1403)’, ODNB. Saul, Richard II, p. 50.

B. Wilkinson, The Chancery under Edward III (Manchester, 1929), pp. 124–5; De Controversia in Curia Militari inter Ricardum Le Scrope et Robertum Grosvenor Milites, ed. N. H. Nicolas, 2 vols (London, 1832), II, 117–18. Its place on the parliamentary agenda may have arisen directly from recent events such as the Hawley-Shakell debacle: Saul, Richard II, pp. 30–8.

Taylor, Chivalry, pp. 201–2; Ambühl, Prisoners of War; for some later cases, see: English Suits before the Parlement de Paris, 1420–1436, ed. C. T. Allmand and C. A. J. Armstrong, Camden Society, 4 series 26 (London, 1982).

1 0 4    An t h ony Mu sson

Court of Chivalry may thus have seemed advantageous to many as a forum in that it could accommodate complex disputes with an international dimension. While it was at least acknowledged at a governmental level that the jurisdiction of the Court of Chivalry was not a simple issue, particularly as it was deemed to affect the crown, it was sidestepped in the next parliament held in April 1379. A variety of excuses were given, including the fact that the holder of the hereditary office of Constable (who would have been best placed to inform on the law of arms) was under age, although this was at best somewhat disingenuous as Thomas of Woodstock had in fact assumed the role in 1377 (and held it for the next twenty years). The seriousness of the matter and the need for a lengthy debate was underlined by the council but adjournment was rationalised on the grounds that it was unlikely discussions would be concluded within the allotted session.47 It may not simply have been the expansion of jurisdiction in terms of the areas of law within its ambit (‘novelx faitz’) that was concerning, but the manner in which the procedures of the Court of Chivalry appeared to operate. Of particular worry in this respect (and the import of some of the petitions and statutes) was the potential for false or malicious accusations to gain traction, as a result of which without the benefit of the common law’s legal safeguards individuals could face incarceration, ruin or death. Although those using the Court of Chivalry tended to be nobles and knights (or at least esquires) rather than the ‘ordinary’ person, the petition of 1379 broadened the scope of its complaint, providing a general warning that: ‘all the people of the kingdom, of whatever status or condition they may be, may be thus impeached and ruined by the fraudulent machinations of their enemies’.48 Accusations of treason were particularly troubling in this respect. Indeed, the high profile case of Annesley v Caterton49 drew attention to such behaviour and the arcane rules of trial by battle, so that in the words of the chronicler, 47

48 49

PROME, parliament of April 1379, item 47. The discrepancy either implies that Thomas of Woodstock’s position was considered to be temporary (even though he had asserted the right through his wife, Eleanor de Bohun, the elder daughter of the late earl of Hereford, at Richard II’s coronation and had been formally granted the office: CPR 1374–7, p. 279) or that the petition had been presented and answered at an earlier parliament and subsequently included here. PROME, parliament of April 1379, item 47.

An appeal of treason was made in parliament by Sir John Annesley against Thomas Caterton (referred to in some versions as ‘Katrington’), who had surrendered the fortress of Saint Sauveur-le-Victomte to the French, which had belonged to Sir John Chandos (d.1369), whose daughter (Isabel) Annesley had married and who had a proprietary interest in the fort. See J. Bellamy, ‘Sir John Annesley and the Chandos Inheritance’, Nottingham Medieval Studies 10 (1966), 94–105 (pp. 94–7).

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Thomas Walsingham: ‘Those who feared to be overthrown on a similar charge opposed it strongly’.50 A challenge was issued against Thomas Caterton by Annesley in May 1376 during the Good Parliament and was one he had every intention of pursuing by combat.51 Although the case was referred to as on-going in the Court of Chivalry, the appeal appears to have stalled for about four years and was clearly the subject of lengthy discussion at council level, partly because it also had a bearing on diplomatic negotiations with the Aragonese over the capture and ransom of the count of Denia.52 Moreover, Caterton was not the only captain to surrender his town to the French and in 1377 the parliamentary commons urged punishment on ‘all those who have surrendered and lost castles or towns overseas by some real fault of the captains’. Indeed, the trial of Jean de Jauche, lord of Gommegnies, and William Weston in the parliament of 1377 for the surrender of Ardres and Adrouicq respectively, a matter of weeks before parliament met, fuelled accusations that these men had committed crimes against the community and the crown.53 The charges made against Weston and Gommegnies demonstrated that ‘principles of law governing the conduct of garrison commanders were ill-defined and open to interpretation and debate’, yet the moral and political dimensions of their conduct remained a live issue. The response to the petition from the Commons was that with the advice of the Lords the king would ‘inflict such punishment as shall seem best to him for his honour and the benefit of the kingdom’.54 The issue of how to deal justly with cases of treasonous behaviour, therefore, was deliberated by the king’s council and expert opinion was sought on the 50





Thomas Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, ed. H. T. Riley, 2 vols (London, 1863–4), I, 431.

The Anonimalle Chronicle, 1333–81, ed. V. H. Galbraith (Manchester, 1927), pp. 91–3. In his defence, Caterton tried to pin the surrender on Latimer, a charge which was taken up by the Commons: PROME, parliament of April 1376, item 25. SC 8/107/5307; Taylor, Chivalry, p. 134; Saul, Richard II, pp. 36–8. This also spilled over into domestic politics since one of the esquires who captured the count, Robert Hawley, was killed in front of the high altar in Westminster Abbey having sought sanctuary.

PROME, parliament of October 1377, item 40; R. Ambühl and G. Dodd, ‘The Politics of Surrender: Treason Trials and Recrimination in the 1370s’, in Ruling Fourteenth-Century England: Essays in Honour of Christopher Given-Wilson, ed. R. Ambühl, J. Bothwell and L. Tompkins (Woodbridge, 2019), pp. 227–61. PROME, parliament of 1377, item 53. Although Weston and Gommegnies were condemned to be hanged and drawn (Weston) and beheaded (Gommegnies), their sentences were deferred and they were eventually pardoned: Ambühl and Dodd, ‘Politics of Surrender’, pp. 232–4 (quotation at p. 259).

1 0 6    An t h ony Mu sson

legal grounds that would justify trial by combat, a procedure initiated if there were no witnesses capable of providing testimony.55 Annesley was eventually allowed to fight the duel after the judges and important knights had been persuaded that it was legitimate in a case such as the present one ‘which had not arisen within the boundaries of the kingdom for someone to wage battle’ provided the contest was overseen by the Constable and Marshal in the Court of Chivalry.56 The parties only engaged in the fight, however, following the political intervention of John of Gaunt. Erroneously citing the law of arms, Gaunt said Caterton could not add anything else to his case at this stage and threatened that unless he affirmed his denial of Annesley’s accusations, he would be deemed to have admitted them and be hanged as a traitor.57 The novelty (res novae) and public spectacle of the duel held at the palace of Westminster, which according to Walsingham drew crowds from all over the kingdom,58 accorded prominence to the jurisdiction of the Court of Chivalry in respect of accusations of treason during a period when its operations were clearly under review. The extent to which the Annesley case prompted others to use parliament and the Court of Chivalry procedures is perhaps hinted at in the case of Clevedon v Cogan. In 1381 Richard Clevedon laid a bill before parliament accusing Sir William Cogan of having intimidated the master of St John’s Hospital in Bridgewater, obtained concessions from him and then ridden with banner raised followed by the commons of the town. It was later pointed out by the king’s serjeants present in parliament that the matter raised the question of treason. Clevedon reinforced the claim in his petition to the 55


57 58

The chronicles and judicial records both provide an insight into the formal challenge to combat, including the proffering of the gage, a visual representation of which is in Jean Froissart’s Croniques, vol IV, pt 2 (London, British Library, MS Harley 4380 f.141). For royal armourer, John Hill’s treatise describing the arming process for a ‘bataille of Treason sworne withinne Listes before his Souverain Lorde’ see R. Moffat, ‘Armed and redy to come to the felde’: Arming for the Judicial Duel in Fifteenth-Century England’ , in Courts of Chivalry, ed. Musson and Ramsay, pp. 121–33.

Historia, ed. Riley, I, 431; Chronicles of London, ed. C. L. Kingsford (Oxford, 1905), p. 267; The St Albans Chronicle, Volume I 1376–1394: The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, ed. J. Taylor, W. R. Childs and L. Watkiss (Oxford, 2003), pp. 356–64; M. J. Russell, ‘Trial by Battle in the Court of Chivalry, Journal of Legal History 29 (2008), 335–57; R. Firth Green, ‘Palamon’s Appeal of Treason in the Knight’s Tale’, in The Letter of the Law: Legal Practice and Literary Production in Medieval England, ed. E. Steiner and C. Barrington (Ithaca and London, 2002), pp. 105–114 (pp. 109–10). Bellamy, ‘Sir John Annesley’, pp. 101–5. Historia, ed. Riley, I, 433–4.

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king by affirming in his own words that he sought to prove the truth of the bill with his own body according to la loy d’armes or in any way that ‘la court’ might order.59 Moreover, he strongly urged that the matter should not be put before jurors, since he feared, given the disparity in wealth between him and Sir William, that the latter could easily influence the inquest.60 It would appear from this that the advantage for some litigants of using the law of arms was the opportunity of proving the truth of the matter by trial by battle, effectively God’s judgment, thereby avoiding the possibility of human influence or interference. The absence of a jury was therefore not felt by some to be a denial of due process. In spite of Clevedon’s invocation of the law of arms, however, the matter was adjourned before the justices of the common law, ‘so far as it pertained to the law’, as they deemed it not to have occurred in time of war.61 The Annesley case was clearly one of several involving the Court that probably influenced the council’s opinion. The response to the 1379 petition mentions that the king’s advisers had taken into account ‘the action which has recently begun before the said constable and marshal touching an appeal of treason made in Cornwall’. This was probably the accusation of treason made in 1378–9 against John Trevarthian of Cornwall by William Ayre before Thomas of Woodstock, the Constable of England, and John de Arundel, the Marshal (‘as fully appears by record’). It was alleged that Trevarthian had plotted William’s death, for which purpose he hired henchmen who waited in ambush near the door of the palace of Westminster and there (in the presence of the king), attacked William and struck him on the head such that ‘he despaired of life’. His brother Richard then petitioned John of Gaunt, complaining that Trevarthian maliciously took reprisal against William whilst he was in Spain on the king’s service. Taking advantage of other disturbances occurring at the time, Trevarthian stole beasts from the manor of Trembethow, which Richard was then holding, and tried to ambush and kill him hoping that he would be intimidated enough not to pursue matters further.62 It is not wholly clear why the case was initiated in the Court of Chivalry other than that this may have been a way of side-stepping Trevarthian’s intimidation. The location of the episode at the palace of Westminster when the king was in residence may have accorded it the attention of the royal government, though it is not alleged that the king himself was in danger or that 59 60 61


SC 8/102/5051.

PROME, parliament of November 1381, item 43, 44.

Ibid. See also J. G. Bellamy, ‘Appeal and Impeachment in the Good Parliament’, BIHR 39 (1966), 35–46 (p. 45). Bellamy erroneously refers to ‘Robert’ Clevedon. SC 8/103/5108.

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the plot to kill William Ayre was treasonous in itself.63 One of the problems was the portmanteau nature of ‘treason’ and the ease with which battle could be offered and engaged. Indeed, it is apparent from other cases arising during this period that appeals of treason were sometimes used as a mask for other motives and were not legitimately framed accusations of treasonous words or conduct. John Walsh, for example, in 1384 was obliged to fight a duel against a native of Navarre, Martyletto de Vynclef, who had accused him of betrayal of the king and the realm (de prodicione regis et regni). Walsh was vindicated as he vanquished his opponent, though it transpired, following a reluctant confession made by the Navarese when facing imminent death, that Walsh was not actually a traitor. Rather, the accusation of treason had been made out of revenge: Walsh was the victim of an act of reprisal for allegedly assaulting Vynclef ’s wife when he was under-captain at Cherbourg.64 While factors arising from the cases outlined above may have informed the eventual decision on legislation in the November parliament of 1384, the resulting ‘separate spheres’ policy nevertheless was very much the opposite of what the reforming minds of 1378 had seemingly envisaged. In hindsight, concentrating on the location of the event triggering legal action and the type of evidence required brought some clarity. But at the heart of the problem was the ambiguity of the notion of time of war (when it could include internal civil strife), the framing of accusations or suits themselves where the edges between the legal areas were blurred, and the perceived advantages of employing the procedures of the Court of Chivalry over those of the common law courts. Politically, however, the concern over the jurisdiction of the Court of Chivalry was part of a wider campaign amongst the parliamentary Commons about conciliar processes and the powers of the royal prerogative, which stretched back to the statute of 1331 and was subsequently re-iterated in statutes of 1341 (later annulled), 1352, 1354, 1362, 1363, 1365 and 1368.65 It included complaint raised in the parliament of 1372 that the judicial authority of the council was eroding the rights of individuals at common law.66 The apprehension of the petitions focussed predominantly on the method of accusation (e.g. ‘petition or suggestion’, or ‘special warrant without an indictment’ or ‘matter 63


65 66

It may be related to the fact that William Ayre was at some point in Spain with the earl of Cambridge, but this seems tangential.

St Albans Chronicle, ed. Taylor, Childs and Watkiss, I, 732; Henry Knighton, Knighton’s Chronicle, 1337-1396, ed. G. H. Martin (Oxford, 1995), p. 334. Walsh’s victory was rewarded by Richard II with knighthood ( J. Gillespie, ‘Richard II’s Knights: Chivalry and Patronage’, JMH 13 (1987), 143–59 (p. 146). SR, II, 267 (ix), 296 (iii), 321 (iv), 345, (iii), 371 (i), 382 (xviii), 383 (i), 388 (iii). PROME, parliament of 1372, item 16, no.11.

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of record’) to the king or his council, and the need for the appropriate process of the law at all stages in order to avoid arrest, impeachment, imprisonment, condemnation or disinheriting of persons that contravened ‘the form of the Great Charter and the Law of the Land’. It was conceded, however, that the prerogative courts might be the right forum if ‘the suit is of such a nature, and against so great a person, that one might not expect to have justice elsewhere’.67 The petition of 1379 cited clause 29 of Magna Carta verbatim and so explicitly linked the Court of Chivalry with issues of due process and the discourse of good governance.68 Claiming that an action in the Court of Chivalry was encontre la ley de la terre, therefore, formed a deliberate rhetorical strategy on the part of individuals (or their lawyers) to ensure weight was given to a bill because it chimed with broader notions of the common good as well as a desire for the due process of the law (i.e. the common law) to be upheld in the face of arbitrary proceedings existing outside the law.69 Consciousness of the need to broaden matters from what might otherwise be deemed a personal quarrel is also observable – in an interesting twist in the framing of acts as treasonous – in the case of Morley v. Montagu. Here the treason is not merely directed against the king’s person or even encroaching upon his power, but against the public office of the crown, the common profit and the community of the realm.70 The particular legal complaint is accorded a degree of rhetorical power and the private dispute achieves a public dimension by employing overtly ‘political’ language. The discourse of official constructs frequently asserted by the crown and by extension parliamentary petitions, therefore, identified it with the king and the realm as a whole.71 The contrast between the values of the common law and the Court of Chivalry is often overdrawn. Just because a matter fell outside the common 67 68 69



PROME, parliament of 1381, item 96. PROME, parliament of 1379, item 47.

C. Donahue Jnr, ‘Magna Carta in the Fourteenth Century: From Law to Symbol?: Reflections on the Six Statutes’, William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 25 (2016), 591–628; A. Musson, ‘The Legacy of Magna Carta: Law and Justice in the Fourteenth Century’, William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 25 (2016), 629–64 (pp. 649–54, 660–2). ‘Morley vs. Montagu (1399): A Case in the Court of Chivalry’, ed. M. Keen and M. Warner, in Camden Miscellany 34, Camden Society, 5th series 10 (Cambridge, 1993), p. 190; E. A. McVitty, ‘Traitor to the Chose Publique: Negotiating Constitutional Conflict through the Law of Treason, 1399–1402’, in FCE IX, ed. J. Bothwell and G. Dodd (Woodbridge, 2016), pp. 149–68 (at p. 155). W. M. Ormrod, ‘“Common Profit” and “The Profit of the King and the Kingdom”: Parliament and the Development of Political Language in England, 1250–1450’, Viator 46 (2015), 219–52; Musson, ‘Legacy of Magna Carta’, pp. 656–61.

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law did not mean the Court of Chivalry was by definition ‘arbitrary’. Its procedures were not those of the common law, but it still endeavoured to administer ‘justice and equity’ according to ‘reason and right’, principles that were derived from the Roman civil law yet infused Magna Carta itself. Indeed, the Court’s proceedings, particularly in armorial cases, were governed by ‘ancient custom’ and the essential element of long usage, backed up by common memory. These were akin to discourses that invoked antiquity regarding property rights brought by peasants and civic communities alike.72 The parties in a ‘plea of arms’ were required to prove using all suitable and authoritative forms of evidence (par touz proves honorables et autentikes) how and on what legal basis they could rightfully claim the disputed heraldic device. They thus needed to show that they could prove right to bear the disputed coat of arms by ‘lineage and lawful inheritance’ (par descent line et par drotuele heritage) or ‘through arms borne in uninterrupted possession beyond legal memory’ (usez lour armez en continuel possession dount memoire ne court).73 On this basis, the statements from witnesses recount the specific battles, places or occasions on which they have observed the coat of arms in question, situating it chronologically with reference to particular kings.74 These monarchs included both William the Conqueror and King Arthur,75 not only highlighting a continuing heritage linking past and present, but also demonstrating a fusion of both literary and legal fictions.76 In the absence of other acceptable forms of proof, some relied on the notion of a ‘lost grant’, but accorded it credibility by pinning it down to the apparently distinct, if distant, time-frame A. Musson, ‘Patterns of Supplication and Litigation Strategies: Petitioning in the Fourteenth Century’, in Petitions and Strategies of Persuasion in the Middle Ages: The English Crown and the Church, c.1200–c.1550, ed. T. Smith and H. Killick (York, 2018), pp. 88–109.


Nicolas, Scrope and Grosvenor, I, 71, 127. The evidence sought not only focussed on a variety of instances and occasions on which badges or insignia were displayed, but also included artefacts of material culture, in the windows of churches and the memorial brasses overlaid on tombs. See J. Luxford, ‘Art, Objects and Ideas in the Records of the Medieval Court of Chivalry’, in Courts of Chivalry, ed. Musson and Ramsay, pp. 47–74.


In the depositions many a seasoned veteran recalls details from their own past military service alongside one of the parties or their forbears. See A. Ayton, ‘From Brittany to the Black Sea: Nicholas Sabraham and English Military Experience in the Fourteenth Century’, in Courts of Chivalry, ed. Musson and Ramsay, pp. 95–120.


For example: Nicolas, Scrope and Grosvenor, I, 50, 62.


M. Keen, ‘Chivalry and English Kingship in the Later Middle Ages’, in War, Government and Aristocracy, ed. Given-Wilson, Kettle, and Scales, pp. 250–66.


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of ‘the [Norman] Conquest’ – rather like claims that the authority is found in Domesday Book,77 but without the ability to check the record. Alternatively, witnesses employ the phrase ‘outre memoire’ (beyond memory) or refer to a time ‘dont memoire de homme ne court’ (whence human memory does not run), by which an almost mythical time period is evoked.78 As justification for their position, therefore, they underline the antiquity of their user in a way that in fact links a very English experience to the otherwise Continental forms of the Court.

Jurisdictional Challenges

To what extent did the legal context alter after 1384? From the mid-1380s there appears to have been a flurry of actions invoking, or else tactically refuting, the jurisdiction of the Court of Chivalry. Complaints were also made about the judges and their judgments. In or around 1384/5 as part of a dispute between the earl of Salisbury and his brother, Sir John Montagu, for example, the earl called into question the acceptability of a document drawn up by a papal notary public as evidence appropriate to the custom and usage of the Court, in spite of the fact that the Court operated under civil law procedures for which notarised documents were commonplace.79 Careful repetition of the forum and the jurisdiction under which the dispute should be determined founded the basis of a counter petition by Sir John. Suggesting that due process was not being followed, he requested that his brother’s petition, submitted at the last parliament concerning the dispute between them in the Court of Chivalry, be refused, on the grounds that it was ‘against the law of the land’ (encontre la ley de la terre).80 Instructions issued from the chancery confirmed, however, that the Court of Chivalry hearings were to go ahead notwithstanding the delays or an appeal by Sir John Montagu against the validity of proceedings.81 The questioning of the judicial process and even the judgment given in the Court of Chivalry was not restricted to this particular case and continued well beyond the 1384 legislation. In 1385 Roger Doget complained 77 78

79 80 81

For example: SC 8/63/3142; SC 8/167/8334; SC 8/61/3007.

What is meant in fact in legal terms is ‘time immemorial’. See P. Brand, ‘“Time out of Mind”: The Knowledge and Use of the Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Past in Thirteenth-Century England’, Anglo-Norman Studies XVI (Woodbridge, 1994), pp. 37–54. SC 8/231/11550. SC 8/125/6228.

CPR 1381–85, pp. 587–8.

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about the investigation carried out by the Constable and Marshal’s deputies, Matthew Gourney and John de Roches, in the dispute between him and Philip Gilbert. This case concerned the ransom of a prisoner taken during the Flanders campaign. Doget maintained that the ‘definitive sentence’ had been given against him unjustly ‘against good faith and in annulment of law’ and requested the correction of certain errors in it.82 Similarly in 1389 William Hastorp cast doubt on the proper constitution of the Court and the conduct of one of its officials, asking that new first instance justices (usually a mixture of knights and men of law) be assigned to the suit between him and John Dyneham (the various knights were unable to attend owing to royal business elsewhere), and stating that he believed Master Roger Page, clerk and doctor of law, ‘for divers and reasonable causes’ (not specifically mentioned) to be suspect.83 The jurisdictional and procedural challenges seem to echo the arguments and phraseology of the parliamentary petitions and corresponding legislation and so may have been fed by the discourse critiquing the Court’s operation. Rather than signalling that the Court was objectively operating ultra vires, therefore, such challenges were legal arguments or specific points of pleading invoked by parties to try to secure a strategic advantage and were all part and parcel of the litigation process. Indeed, denying that the Court had jurisdiction in the matter before them may have become a standard retort as a means of delaying or securing an adjournment for a dispute. The Scrope v. Grosvenor case initiated in 1385 yielded petitions to the crown in which the parties made claims about their opponents by which they hoped tactically to gain advantage in their suit. Scrope stated that Grosvenor, who had appealed against the decision of the Court, had then refused to plead in his appeal, claiming that Scrope had obtained the commission by fraud, and that it had subsequently been revoked by the king. Scrope, refuting this, requested that the king order the commissioners to get on and try the case to prevent further delays from his opponent.84 Scrope then followed this up with another petition asking the king to order Grosvenor to appear or otherwise forfeit the case.85 82

83 84 85

SC 8/224/11159; SC 8/224/11199. Commissioners were appointed to hear Doget’s complaint on 5 March 1385 (CPR 1381–85, p. 592) and also to hear his appeal (‘a appelle a vostre royalle persone’) against judgment in the ransom case (CPR 1381–85, p. 598). SC 8/225/11243. SC 8/185/9219.

SC 8/185/9218. See also the subsequent commissioned issued: CPR, 1388–1392, p. 40.

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This is exemplified further in a series of cases. In Hoton v. Shakell, the latter protested in 1390 against the jurisdiction of the Court, refusing to accept the Constable and Marshal as his judges in this or any other matter and appealing directly to King Richard.86 He also contested that certain issues were antithetical and damaging to the law and custom of the realm (inenervacion et destruction des leys et customes de dit royalme [d’Engleterre]).87 Similarly, in the less well documented Morley v. Montagu (the son of John Montagu who succeeded his uncle as earl of Salisbury) the former denied the Court’s jurisdiction over the point in issue, protesting that his opponent’s argument ought not to be accepted by the law and custom of arms.88 In another attempt to refute the legitimacy of the chivalric forum, three men ( John Dyne, Richard French and William Pilkington) accused of slandering the king in December 1398, appeared before the Constable and Marshal, claimed the Court had no jurisdiction and secured not only delay, but eventually remission, as the case was still in progress when Richard II was deposed and had to be abandoned.89 As with Hoton v. Shakell, the opening salvo by Reginald, Lord Grey of Ruthin in his suit against Sir Edward Hastings, initiated in 1401, was immediately countered by the latter with the ‘standard’ refusal to be judged by the Constable and Marshal in the proceedings or ‘depart from any benefit afforded him by law’. He also said that his appearance in the Court did not mean he consented to being judged and revoked by anything prejudicial he might previously have said. Additionally, he argued that the laws and customs of the realm of England had no place, nor were they admissible, in the Court of Chivalry.90 From an examination of the surviving cases and linked petitions, clear patterns are discernible indicating that litigants or their legal representatives were aware of the logistics of bringing a suit in the Court and used challenges to its jurisdiction for tactical means. This can be corroborated by an analysis of the experience of legal personnel connected with the Court, men who were probably engaged by litigants as advocates and proctors precisely because they had vital knowledge and experience of how the Court worked. Robert Northlode, for example, was a veteran proctor of at least five cases for which we have 86

A. Rogers, ‘Hoton versus Shakell: A Ransom Case in the Court of Chivalry’, Nottingham Medieval Studies 6 (1962), 74–108 [hereafter (pt1)] (pp. 89, 91). Rogers, ‘Hoton versus Shakell’ (pt 2), p. 69.


Printed in Keen and Warner, ‘Morley vs. Montagu’.


A. Tuck, Richard II and the English Nobility (London, 1973), p. 198.


Norwich, Norfolk Record Office, Le Strange of Hunstanton Archive, LEST/ NA/52a, fol. 36 [in modern numbering].


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records (several of them long-running): from Scrope v. Grosvenor in the 1380s, Hoton v. Shakell, Gerard v. Chamberlain, and Morley v. Montagu in the 1390s to Grey v. Hastings in the early 1400s. Thomas Stowe similarly appeared as an advocate in at least four for which proceedings survive: Hoton v. Shakell, Morley v. Montagu, Hert v. Hert and Lovell v. Morley.91 Depending on their perspective and the strength of their opponent’s case, adjournments or delays in engaging with the proceedings could be advantageous to a party. There was also the possibility for dissatisfied litigants or those who felt they had been wrongly accused to take their disputes to a higher level by invoking particular procedures. In 1390, for example, provision was made for appeal by writ of privy seal to the king’s council against its jurisdiction in cases triable at common law.92 In the example of the Hoton v. Shakell case, appeals against delays did not necessarily result in expedited justice. Hoton alleged in 1396 that the constable’s lieutenant had unduly delayed the case and refused him a hearing (a complaint that echoed chapter 40 of Magna Carta ‘to no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice’). Quite extraordinarily, in spite of this plea and the king’s confirmation of the judgment in 1410 against Shakell’s executors, further drawbacks and complexities meant it was not definitively sealed in the full Court of Chivalry by the then Constable, the duke of Bedford, until 1432.93


The Court of Chivalry has garnered a reputation as a controversial judicial agency. Owing to its association with Roman civil law and ius naturale, the Court was regarded with suspicion as a potential vehicle for tyranny as it theoretically operated outside the common law and the due process safeguards enshrined in Magna Carta. Much depended therefore upon the role played by the monarch. The king, as befitting his position at the apex of both the military order and the legal system, retained authority over the Court of Chivalry irrespective of the presidency being held by the Constable and Marshal. Indeed, the Ordinances of War referred to those condemned to death by king, Constable, Marshal, ‘judge ordinary or other officer lawful’.94

91 92 93 94

Musson, ‘Networks and Influences’, pp. 24–26. SR, II, 62–3 (ii).

Rogers, ‘Hoton vs. Shakell’ (pt2), 78–81.

Curry, ‘Military Ordinances’, in War, Government and Aristocracy, ed. Given-­W ilson, Kettle and Scales, p. 235.

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As is well known, one of the accusations that framed Richard II’s deposition articles specifically linked the operation of the Court of Chivalry under his personal oversight with breach of his coronation oath and erosion of freedom from arbitrary imprisonment and judgment by one’s peers, as protected by the Great Charter.95 As this discussion has demonstrated, concern for Magna Carta in relation to its operation was already highlighted by the parliamentary Commons in 1379 at the very start of Richard’s reign when he was still a minor and under the supervision of the regency council. While Edward III and Richard II both took an active interest in trying to manage and resolve disputes both within and outside the institution,96 there is no evidence that either used the Court for their own ends. Given the high status of many of those seeking remedy in the Court, monarchs were obliged both constitutionally and personally to be actively engaged. Indeed, reconciling members of the nobility whose honour and reputations were at stake was often a difficult task, especially once judgment had been given.97 Richard II’s last minute intervention and banishment of Henry, duke of Hereford and Thomas, duke of Norfolk in 1398 was to prevent bloodshed in a duel, which was otherwise sanctioned under the laws of chivalry.98 Much of the concern in terms of the actual operation of the Court and its proceedings was illusory. It inspired pleading strategies in Court of Chivalry litigation and a desire (usually on the part of the respondent) to achieve delay or adjournment of the case. It is possible that personal experience of the Court or the high profile nature of the litigation influenced the thinking of MPs, though the concerns about erosion of the common law seem misplaced and hard to understand other than as part of a continuing desire to rein in the king’s council. The ambiguity and fluidity of the Court of Chivalry’s jurisdiction nevertheless persisted. Indeed, in spite of specific legislative provisions, the Court’s jurisdiction still appeared to be a bone of contention. Scrutiny by the Commons continued into the early fifteenth century with requests for confirmation of previous statutes and further assurance (reiterated in 1401, 1410 and 1429, but significantly not during Henry V’s reign) that the Court’s ambit be limited to international affairs and that all appeals 95 96 97


PROME, parliament of October 1399, part 1, item 44.

Ormrod, Edward III, pp. 290–1; Musson, ‘Petitions and Strategies’, pp. 105–6.

This was particularly the case in Montagu v. Montagu and Grey v. Hastings. The Scrope v. Grosvenor decision was also subject to lengthy appeal.

T. Rymer, Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae et Cujuscunque Generis Acta Publica, 20 vols (London, 1704–35), VIII, 32, 34–6, 47; Rogers, ‘Hoton v. Shakell’ (pt2), 56; Russell, ‘Trial by Battle’, 346–7.

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relating to domestic matters be tried and determined by the common law.99 The Court of Chivalry continued to be a political matter into the later fifteenth century and beyond.100


PROME, parliaments of January 1401, item 78; January 1410, item 24, September 1429 item 38. These parliaments also witnessed complaints against the Court of Admiralty (see ibid, parliament of January 1401, item 75; January 1410, items 24, 61). A. F. Sutton, ‘The Admiralty and Constableship of England in the Later Fifteenth Century: the Operation and Development of these Offices, 1462–85, under Richard, Duke of Gloucester and King of England’, in Courts of Chivalry, ed. Musson and Ramsay, pp. 187–214. For the later history of the Court, see Cases in the High Court of Chivalry, 1634–1640, ed. R. P. Cust and A. J. Hopper, Harleian Society, new series 18 (2006).


6 ‘Nother by addicions, nother by diminucions’: The Parliament of April 1414 and the Drafting of Late Medieval English Legislation Gw ily m Dodd



he relationship between the parliamentary Commons and the crown has long fascinated scholars of late medieval England: a huge corpus of work now exists, published over the past hundred years or so, which explores the many different facets of this political dynamic. But in one important area – legislation – our understanding of the principles which shaped the interactions between MPs and the royal executive remains, arguably, underdeveloped. While particular statutes or programmes of legislation, especially those dating to the fourteenth century, have attracted the attention of more modern scholars,1 we continue to rely for the most part on older work, and older assumptions, for our understanding of the legislative process in more general terms.2 This present discussion revisits some of these earlier themes For example, J. B. Post, ‘Sir Thomas West and the Statute of Rapes, 1382’, HR 53 (1980), 24–30; C. Given-Wilson, ‘The Bishop of Chichester and the Second Statute of Praemunire, 1365’, HR 63 (1990), 128–42; A. D. M. Barrell, ‘The Ordinance of Provisors of 1343’, HR 64 (1991), 264–77; C. Given-Wilson, ‘Service, Serfdom and English Labour Legislation, 1350–1500’, in Concepts and Patterns of Service in the Later Middle Ages, ed. A. Curry and E. Matthew (Woodbridge, 2000), pp. 21–37; A. Musson, ‘Second “English Justinian” or Pragmatic Opportunist? A Re-Examination of the Legal Legislation of Edward III’s Reign’, in The Age of Edward III, ed. J. S. Bothwell (York, 2001), pp. 69–88; D. Martin, ‘Prosecution of the Statutes of Provisors and Premunire in the King’s Bench, 1377–1394’, in FCE IV, ed. J. S. Hamilton (Woodbridge, 2006), pp. 109–123.


See, in particular, T. F. T. Plucknett, Statutes and their Interpretation in the First Half of the Fourteenth Century (Cambridge, 1922); H. L. Gray, The Influence of the Commons on Early Legislation: A Study of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (Cambridge, 1932); T. F. T. Plucknett, Legislation of Edward I (Oxford, 1949); H.


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and reassesses the principles which underpinned negotiations between the crown and political community over new legislation. My particular concern is to establish the rules which governed the relationship between common petitions and statutes: that is, between the suggestions for legislation put forward by the Commons in the form of written supplications, on the one hand, and the formal, solemn declarations of new statutory law issued by the crown, often in response to these supplications, on the other hand. It is an inquiry which combines a close reading of the parliamentary records (i.e. the parliament roll and statute roll) with a consideration of the broader constitutional principles which demarcated how legislative power came to be shared between the king and the wider political community. At the heart of my investigation is the question of whether we see the late medieval legislative process as a competitive or cooperative (indeed corporative) undertaking between all those who had a part to play in forging new statutory law. This is a subject inspired by Mark Ormrod’s huge contribution to the study of the late medieval English parliament, and my own special debt to his work in this field. Mark Ormrod’s contributions have been instrumental not only in enhancing the accessibility of the records of the medieval parliament – notably in his work on the PROME and ‘Medieval Petitions’ projects3 – but also, with the publication of numerous incisive essays on taxation, legislation, common petitions and parliamentary record-keeping (amongst other subjects), in helping us better understand how parliament worked.4 Ormrod’s research has been



G. Richardson and G. O. Sayles, ‘The Early Statutes’, Law Quarterly Review 50 (1954), 201–23, 540–71, repr. in idem, The English Parliament in the Middle Ages (London, 1981), chpt. xxv.

PROME; ‘Medieval Petitions: A Catalogue of the “Ancient Petitions” in the National Archives’, Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2003–7, directed by W. Mark Ormrod.

W. M. Ormrod, ‘An Experiment in Taxation: the English Parish Subsidy of 1371’, Speculum 63 (1988), 58–82; W. M. Ormrod, ‘State-Building and State Finance in the Reign of Edward I’, in England in the Thirteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1989 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. W. M. Ormrod (Stamford, 1991), pp. 15–35; W. M. Ormrod, ‘England in the Middle Ages’, in The Rise of the Fiscal State in Europe, c.1200–1815, ed. R. Bonney (Oxford, 1999), pp. 19–52; W. M. Ormrod, ‘The English State and the Plantagenet Empire, 1259–1360: A Fiscal Perspective’, in The Medieval State: Essays Presented to James Campbell, ed. J. R. Maddicott and D. M. Palliser (London, 2000), pp. 197–214; W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Rebellion of Archbishop Scrope and the Tradition of Opposition to Royal Taxation’, in The Reign of Henry IV: Rebellion and Survival, 1403–1413, ed. G. Dodd and D. Biggs (York, 2008), pp. 162–79; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Poverty and Privilege: the Fiscal Burden in England (XIIIth–XVth centuries)’, in La fiscalità nell’economia europea secc. XIII–XVIII: atti della ‘Trentanovesima Settimana di Studi’, 22–26 aprile 2007, ed. S.

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pivotal in driving a renaissance in late medieval English parliamentary studies over the past two decades. For the purposes of this discussion, I want to draw particular attention to his research on the parliamentary records. Ormrod’s investigations into how the events of, and decisions taken in, parliament were recorded is especially important in reminding us that these records were not the passive creation of medieval officialdom, but were the products of dynamic human interaction shaped by a multiplicity of different agendas.5 Underlying this work has been the basic premise that we cannot hope to comprehend what happened in parliament unless we understand the nature of the documents recording its business. Mark Ormrod’s work demonstrates the rewards to be gained by those who combine close textual reading of the parliamentary records with broader institutional and political contextualisation. Much of the present discussion offers a reinterpretation of a notable constitutional clash between the Commons and Henry V in the parliament which met at Leicester between 30 April and 29 May 1414 – the second assembly of Henry V’s reign. The nature of this disagreement was outlined in a common petition recorded in the parliament roll,6 which is reproduced for convenience



Cavaciocchi (Florence, 2008), pp. 637–56; W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Origins of Tunnage and Poundage: Parliament and the Estate of Merchants in the Fourteenth Century’, Parliamentary History 28 (2009), 209–27; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Parliament, Political Economy and State Formation in Later Medieval England’, in Power and Persuasion: Essays on the Art of State Building in Honour of W. P. Blockmans, ed. P. Hoppenbrouwers, A. Janse and R. Stein (Turnhout, 2010), pp. 123–39; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Henry V and the English Taxpayer’, in Henry V: New Interpretations, ed. G. Dodd (York, 2013), pp. 187–216; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Pardon, Parliament and Political Performance in Later Medieval England’, in Prowess, Piety and Public Order in Medieval Society - Studies in Honor of Richard W. Kaeuper, ed. C. M. Nakashian and D. P. Franke (Leiden, 2017), pp. 301–20; Early Common Petitions in the English Parliament, c.1290–c.1420, ed. W. M. Ormrod, H. K. S. Killick and P. Bradford, Camden Series, 5th series, 52 (Cambridge, 2017).

W. M. Ormrod, ‘On – and Off – the Record: The Rolls of Parliament, 1337–1377’, in Parchment and People: Parliament in the Middle Ages, ed. L. Clark (Edinburgh, 2004), pp. 39–56; W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Good Parliament of 1376: Commons, Communes, and “Common Profit” in Fourteenth-Century English Politics’, in Comparative Perspectives on History and Historians: Essays in Memory of Bryce Lyon (1920– 2007), ed. D. Nicholas, B. S. Bachrach and J. M. Murray (Kalamazoo MI, 2012), pp. 169–88; W. M. Ormrod, ‘“Common Profit” and “The Profit of the King and Kingdom”: Parliament and the Development of Political Language in England, 1250 – 1450’, Viator 46 (2015), 219–52. PROME, parliament of April 1414, item 22 (x).

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in Appendix 1.7 Here, it can be seen that the crux of the MPs’ grievance lay in their demand ‘that no law should ever be made … and engrossed as [a] statute and law which changes the sense or meaning of what is requested by the common speaker or [their] petitions [without assent], either through additions or omissions (‘Nother by addicions, nother by diminucions’).’ In essence, the Commons were taking the king to task over the changes that he and his advisors had made to their requests, such that the legislation that was subsequently enacted did not – in the opinion of MPs – accurately or faithfully convey the original purpose or meaning of their requests. The implication was that the crown was violating an important point of constitutional principle by failing to involve the political community at every stage in the legislative process. Historians have regarded this petition as an important early declaration by MPs of their constitutional right to shape the legislative programme of the late medieval parliament.8 It certainly appears to have been an impressive assertion of popular control over the making of new laws. The fact that the petition was written and recorded in the parliament roll in English, when all other common petitions at this time were written in French, adds an important linguistic element to the constitutional framework, and raises further questions about how the parliamentary record was created and how much control the Commons were able to exert over the process. The main line of inquiry, however, undoubtedly lies in the presumption of the Commons to have the right to assent to all legislation passed by the crown. On what basis did they make this claim? Was it legitimate? What led to the complaint in the first place? We will turn to these questions shortly, when I will argue that a misreading of the circumstances which underpinned the Commons’ complaint of 1414 has led to an exaggerated estimate of both its political and constitutional significance. Before that, it is necessary to establish a wider context for the issues raised by the Commons.

t To the question of how legislation was made in the late medieval English parliament, the answer seems reasonably straightforward. The Commons proposed new legislation by presenting common petitions; the king either accepted or rejected their suggestions; and those which were accepted were 7


The Appendix provides the original Middle English text; I have rendered this into modern English when quotations are used in the discussion.

‘The petition of 1414, if it be a landmark at all, is a landmark, not in the history of parliamentary procedure, but in that of constitutional ideas’: S. B. Chrimes, English Constitutional Ideas in the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge, 1936), p. 164.

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duly converted into statutes, often closely reproducing much of the text of the originating petition. The majority of statutes enacted in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries followed this classic model, but a significant minority did not. Some statutes were wholly official in origin, and constituted what may best be described as ‘executive commands’; others may have been prompted by a Commons’ complaint but were entirely drafted by the king and his advisors; whilst others again might have been based on common petitions but had significant input from the royal executive – perhaps if the king’s advisors wished to modify the suggested remedy or reword some of the petitionary narrative. It is this last category that is of special interest, since it applies directly to the circumstances of the Commons’ complaint of 1414. But it is necessary to be very clear about what was at issue. When the king answered common petitions it was quite usual for these responses to offer remedies which diverged, to a greater or lesser degree, from the terms of the original petition. There was no expectation on the part of MPs that the crown would simply acquiesce, word-for-word, to everything that had been asked for. Indeed, in 1414 they explicitly acknowledged the king’s right, in preservation of the ‘prerogative of [his] high regality’, to refuse those petitions which did not meet with his approval (i.e ‘…to graunte whiche of thoo that you luste, et to werune the remanent…’). The key requirement, as far as the Commons in 1414 were concerned, was that whatever form the final legislation took was agreed to in parliament, before its final promulgation. In this regard, it is reasonably safe to assume that anything recorded on the parliament roll – including the crown’s responses to common petitions – fulfilled this expectation, since the parliament roll was supposed to be a record of what had been discussed, and agreed to, in parliament. What was at issue, then, was when the wording or purpose of legislation, as recorded on the statute roll, differed markedly from what had been discussed and agreed in parliament and recorded on the parliament roll. Of particular importance was whether the final wording of a statute correlated with the response given by the crown to the originating common petition. Where there were significant discrepancies, we might describe these as ‘unauthorised amendments’. Mark Ormrod’s seminal work on the Statute of Pleading of 1362 offers a useful case in point.9 Ormrod offered a detailed reappraisal of the importance and impact of this legislation, in the course of which he noted the changes which had been made to the final text of the statute; that is, once parliament had ended and MPs had returned home to their constituencies. He suggested that these additions indicated an attempt W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Use of English: Language, Law, and Political Culture in Fourteenth-Century England’, Speculum 78 (2003), 740–87.


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by royal justices to ‘create caveats in ... [the statute’s] final formulation and loopholes in its subsequent interpretation’.10 This, it seems to me, is precisely the sort of thing the Commons were complaining about in 1414. In their petition, the Commons declared that ‘it has always been their liberty and prerogative that no statute of law should be made without their consent, considering that the commons of your land, who are and have always been a member of your parliament, are as much assenters as petitioners’. It was thus on the basis of firmly established political custom that the Commons claimed in 1414 that the crown had deviated from the accepted procedural norms and demanded a reaffirmation of their right to accede to all legislation promulgated to the wider realm. They were not asking for something new, but the restoration of a long held constitutional modus operandi. This is what gave their demand its authority. Was this claim accurate? In the long term it was not, since most of the legislation of the thirteenth century had been enacted by the crown in – and outside – parliament, without the input, and often without the presence, of parliamentary representatives.11 The fact that the Commons chose to ignore this and portray themselves as a vital component of the assembly, present from its very inception, provides an interesting insight into the limits of their collective memory, or else it showed them consciously playing fast and loose with historical truth. Their claim becomes more plausible, however, if it is taken to mean since the time when the Commons had become fully integrated into the assembly and active petitioners of the crown. A survey of the parliament rolls and statute rolls after c.1340 (when common petitions began to be recorded on a consistent basis) indicates that the Commons’ assertion in 1414 that they had always given their consent to what was enacted as legislation was substantially true. But there were exceptions, like the Statute of Pleading, and these exceptions, though small in number, carry significance, for they show that the right of the Commons to approve legislation written into the statute roll was not absolute and that exceptions had occurred in the past without raising any serious opposition. One of the best examples is the Statute of Praemunire of 1353.12 This was one of a series of important anti-papal statutes to be enacted by parliament 10 11


Ibid., p. 758.

Plucknett, Legislation of Edward I, ch. 1; M. Prestwich, Edward I (New Haven and London, 1988), ch. 10 (esp. pp. 269–70); P. Brand, Kings, Barons and Justices: The Making and Enforcement of Legislation in Thirteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 2009), esp. ch. 1; and J. R. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament, 924–1327 (Oxford, 2010), pp. 282–4. For the statute, see SR, I, 329 (i). For the originating common petition, see PROME, parliament of 1353, item 33. For discussion, see E. B. Grave, ‘The Legal

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in the second half of the fourteenth century. In this instance, the legislation aimed to close a loophole left by the Statute of Provisors of 1351, by preventing situations in which ‘those presented by bishops or provided by popes to ecclesiastical benefices within England might, in the event of being ousted by a royal nominee, appeal for assistance and judgment to the papal curia’.13 Appendix 2 sets out the text of the final statute and indicates that very little of the wording of this legislation ultimately derived from what had been recorded in the parliament roll, either from the text of the originating common petition or (crucially) the text of the crown’s response to this petition. The first part of the statute – the preamble – is a comprehensive overhaul and rationalisation of the rather tortured justification which the Commons had offered for the legislation in their petition. Further on, once the terms of the statute were set out drawing on the crown’s response, there are more significant modifications. It is evident that the king’s advisors gave careful thought to the mechanics of how the legislation was to work, and particularly how it was going to be enforced, once parliament had ended and the terms of the statute had entered its final phase of scrutiny before dissemination. In the crown’s response recorded in the parliament roll it had been specified that those who transgressed the statute would automatically be put outside the king’s protection and have their lands, goods and possessions, seized; but in its final iteration, the statute set out a much clearer legal process. Transgressors were to be given two months from the point of being issued with a writ of praemunire facias to answer for their contumacy before the justices of common pleas or king’s bench. Failure to respond in time meant being outlawed; but those who presented themselves within the two month deadline, it was emphasised, could be assured that they would be properly received in the king’s courts. Some other fine-tuning is evident: procurators and executors were added to the list of those associated with the primary offenders who were to face the sanction of the law. Whereas in the crown’s initial response to the petition offenders were described rather vaguely as those who dealt ‘with anything outside the realm in a plea’, in the final version of the statute they were noted as those who ‘shall draw any out of the realm in a plea’. Not all the changes seem to have been necessary: in their desire to specify the use of the praemunire facias writ to imprison offenders and have their possession seized, the drafters of the statute left in the original clause outlining the punishment to befall offenders, so the point was effectively made twice.


Significance of the Statute of Praemunire of 1353’, in Anniversary Essays in Medieval History by Students of C. H. Haskins, ed. C. H. Taylor (Boston, 1929), pp. 57–80.

W. M. Ormrod, ‘Introduction’, PROME, parliament of 1353.

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It will be clear that the unauthorised amendments to the Statute of Praemunire did nothing to undermine the original terms of the legislation. On the contrary, the modifications were aimed to strengthen it by making it more enforceable. Not surprisingly, there is no indication that the Commons objected to these changes, nor, significantly, did they call the king out on the principle that the final text of the statute ought to have received their consent. Of the small number of unauthorised amendments made to other fourteenth-century statutes much the same can be said. Modifications were generally restricted to refinement and amplification, and the Commons showed little interest in challenging these changes once they came to light after the legislation had been published. Only in 1341, with levels of trust between the political community and Edward III seriously depleted, were suspicions explicitly raised about the king’s good intentions, when the specification that ‘the petitions declared by the great men and commons shall be affirmed, according as they were granted by the king’ was made a condition of the taxation granted in that assembly; however, this stipulation was concerned more with the king’s commitment (or otherwise) to enact the content of petitions rather than a suspicion that he might amend their general purport.14 In fact, the situation was even more marked than the cases I have discussed indicate. We have considered the ‘legality’ of unauthorised amendments, on the pretext that changes made to legislation after parliament had ended might be deemed to have been in breach of an important constitutional principle. But in the fourteenth century it was not uncommon for whole statutes to be enacted outside parliament altogether. The Ordinance of Justices – described as an ordinance, but enrolled on the statute roll – was enacted by Edward III on 5 March 1346 shortly before his departure for the continent and during an extended period of time in which no parliament had been called.15 In 1363, legislation concerning those who stole hawks from lords was reinforced so that offenders were henceforth to be treated as felons.16 In May 1390, the king and council enacted the famous Ordinance of Livery and Maintainance, two months after parliament had ended in March of that year.17 And in January 1390 and 1394 legislation was enacted against those who damaged fish stocks 14 15



PROME, parliament of 1341, item 61.

SR, I, 303–4 (i). Parliament had previously met in June 1344, and was next assembled in September 1346.

SR, I, 382–3 (xix). The original legislation was enacted in 1361: SR, I, 369 (xxii). Since no parliament roll exists for the parliament of 1361 it is not clear whether this earlier statute originated from a request presented by the Commons. SR, I, 74–5.

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by placing obstructions in rivers.18 None of these enactments left any trace on the parliament roll.19 But equally, none attracted adverse comment from MPs. Thus, when parliament finally met in September 1346, six months after the Ordinance of Justices had been enacted by the king and his council, the Commons did indeed present a petition about this legislation, but only to request that its terms be extended to all those who exercised judicial authority on behalf of the crown.20 In November 1390 the Commons presented a petition which, though it did not directly allude to the statute passed by the king earlier in the year, nevertheless sought – like the Ordinance of Justices – to extend its scope and reach.21 In 1393 the Commons complained to the king that men of low social status were ignoring the terms of the Ordinance of Livery and Maintainance, and demanded more effective enforcement, notably by justices of the peace and of the assize.22 Evidently, on each these occasions, what the king and his advisors had done legislatively met with the Commons’ approval. This, I would suggest, was the critical factor common to all these cases, including the unauthorised amendments made to the Statute of Praemunire. MPs accepted the constitutional principle that the crown was entitled, on occasion, 18 19




SR, II, 67–8 (xix), 89–90 (ix).

Though it was stated in the legislation passed in 1394 against obstructions in rivers that the matter was discussed in parliament: ibid. I have not included the Ordinance of Labourers in this list because, although enacted by the king and his council in June 1349 (SR, I, 307–8), the legislation was later revised, supplemented and recorded on the parliament roll when parliament met in 1351: PROME, parliament of 1351, item 47; SR, I, 311–13.

PROME, parliament of 1346, item 25 (xiiii). For discussion of this legislation, see J. R. Maddicott, ‘Law and Lordship: Royal Justices as Retainers in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century England’, Past and Present Supplement 4 (1978), 40–51 (pp. 40–8).

The statute of January 1390 upheld earlier legislation against the fishing of young salmon between mid-April and late June, adding that this might not also be done at mill dams. It further outlawed the use of nets called ‘stalkers’ which caught fry, and made special provision for rivers in the north-west. In November 1390, the Commons requested the permanent removal of all weirs, fish-traps and kiddles. PROME, parliament of 1393, item 31; SR, II, 84 (iv). See also PROME, parliament of January 1397, items 13 & 38. The Ordinance of May 1390 was enacted directly in response to pressure brought to bear on the king by the Commons in the assemblies of September 1388 and January 1390, though the legislation only partially addressed their concerns: R. L. Storey, ‘Liveries and Commissions of the Peace, 1388–90’, in The Reign of Richard II, ed. C. Barron and F. R. H. Du Boulay (London, 1971), pp. 131–52 (esp. pp. 144–5); N. Saul, ‘The Commons and the Abolition of Badges’, Parliamentary History 9 (1990), 302–15; N. Saul, Richard II (London and New Haven, 1997), pp. 263–4 (esp. note 104).

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to generate legislation on its own initiative because historically these statutes had been genuine attempts by the crown to respond to issues which aligned closely with the interests and priorities of the broader political community.

t What, then, had changed in 1414? The explanation may be found by following two distinct lines of inquiry. First, how legislation came to be enacted and in whose interest it was deemed to serve had become a major point of contention at the time of Richard II’s deposition in 1399. Henry IV made great play of the unconstitutional nature of Richard II’s rule, placing particular emphasis on his apparent abuse of the legislative process. By castigating these transgressions, Henry’s primary purpose was to promote his own political credentials, but the effect – whether intended or not – was to throw into much sharper relief the line to be drawn between what was deemed to be an acceptable way of making new statutes and what was considered to be improper and intolerable. Richard’s decision to convene an extra-parliamentary committee to conclude all the business which had not been dealt with in the Shrewsbury parliamentary session of January 1398 attracted particular censure.23 In the eighth deposition article levelled against him, the committee was declared to have been set up to ‘the detriment of the estate of parliament, and to the great disadvantage of the whole realm, and [as]… a pernicious example’.24 The king was also said to have tampered with the parliament roll in order to give ‘pretext and authority’ to the committee’s decisions. In the tenth article Richard stood accused of seeking the pope’s approval for the ‘wrongful statutes’ he had made in his final parliament, an accusation that implied that these statutes had not been passed with the genuine assent of the political community.25 In article sixteen, the king was said to have ridden roughshod over legal custom and, when challenged, had declared that ‘his laws were in his mouth, or sometimes in his breast: and that he alone could alter and create the laws of his realm’. Finally, in the seventeenth article, it was stated that Richard had ‘subtly arranged for a petition to be delivered into his parliament on the part of the commons of his realm’ to provide himself with a pretext to circumvent or revoke legislation. This was stated to be contrary to established principle which held that statutes were 23 24


J. G. Edwards, ‘The Parliamentary Committee of 1398’, EHR 40 (1925), 321–33.

For this and what follows, see Chronicles of the Revolution, 1397–1400: the Reign of Richard II, ed. and trans. C. Given-Wilson (Manchester, 1993), pp. 169–89.

The wrongful statutes were presumably particularly those passed in 1397–8 which promoted the king’s political agenda: SR, II, 94–110 (ii–viii, xii–xiii, xx). See also Chronicles of the Revolution, ed. Given-Wilson, p. 176, note 8.

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binding unless ‘specially revoked by the authority of some other parliament’. Significantly, this seventeenth charge ended by stating that Richard’s actions were contrary to his coronation oath, almost certainly a reference to the fourth clause which specified that the king should maintain ‘the just laws … which the people shall justly and reasonably have chosen’.26 Taken together these charges comprised an impressive statement of popular control over the legislative process, but they also articulated an extension of the powers which the political community had traditionally exercised in such matters. Throughout the fourteenth century the right of the crown to generate legislation on its own initiative had been a matter of pragmatism and political consensus, but in 1399 the right of the crown to legislate in this way came to be cast as a violation of constitutional norms. Preserving the integrity of the parliament roll as an accurate record of what had been decided upon in parliament also became a notable feature of the political agenda of the Commons, and was a further reaction to perceptions of impropriety under Richard II.27 In 1401, in an episode which closely anticipated the complaint of the Commons in 1414, MPs chastised the king for his ‘moderation’ of the Statute of Provisors, which had been agreed to in the parliament of 1399, pointing out that these modifications ‘had been enacted and entered on the roll of parliament in a style that had not been agreed upon in this same parliament’.28 When Henry V came to power in 1412, important precedents were thus firmly established, not just in respect to the collaborative nature of the statute-making process, but also to the need to preserve the fidelity of the parliamentary record. The second explanation lies with the particular circumstances and exact purpose of the Commons’ complaint of 1414. It is here, however, that we confront an explanation long accepted as orthodoxy on the subject, but which is fundamentally flawed in its reasoning. In his publication of 1934, H. L. Gray suggested that the Commons were unhappy in 1414 because ‘the answers given to common petitions may so far have departed from the implied or expressed wishes of the petitioners that the resultant statutes were virtually




English Historical Documents, Volume 4: 1327–1485, ed. A. R. Myers (London, 1969), pp. 399–400.

C. Given-Wilson, ‘The Rolls of Parliament, 1399–1421’, in Parchment and People, ed. Clark, pp. 57–72 (pp. 58–9). PROME, parliament of 1401, item 45. The offending clause was presumably that which allowed the king to ‘quash, repeal, invalidate and completely annul the same statute’ as he saw fit: PROME, parliament of 1399, item 85. Significantly, the lords and justices questioned on the matter in 1401 denied that any such irregularity had occurred.

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official statutes rather than popular ones’.29 Having compared the common petitions with their endorsements and resulting statutes for the previous five parliaments, Gray concluded that the Commons’ complaint of April 1414 had been prompted specifically by what had happened in the previous parliament of 1413 (15 May – 9 June) where, he noted, there was a significant divergence ‘between petition and statute’ in six cases. What he actually meant by ‘statute’, however, was the endorsement or answer given to the common petition by the crown and the resulting statute.30 The discrepancies involved the crown either omitting parts of what the Commons had requested or modifying the penalties which the Commons had suggested for non-compliance. These changes Gray termed ‘amendments’ and were immediately typecast as significant erosions of constitutional principle: ‘the irritation of the commons revealed in their petition of 1414’, Gray remarked, ‘had, therefore, considerable justification’.31 But on closer scrutiny it is clear that Gray, and those scholars who subsequently accepted his approach, misunderstood the accepted norms of the legislative process.32 The right of the king to respond to common petitions as he saw fit, as has already been remarked, was never in doubt. Gray’s insistence on labelling these changes ‘amendments’, and his characterisation of them as interference with, or obstruction of, the populist legislative agenda, misses the fundamental point that statutes were the product of political dialogue and the joint input of both the crown and political community. To measure the integrity of legislation on the basis of how far it conformed to the original terms and wording of an antecedent common petition ignores this important reality. There is, furthermore, a significant difficulty in attributing any procedural irregularity to the way the king dealt with the common petitions of 1413. The whole thrust of the Commons’ complaint in April 1414 was that they should have the right to assent to the final terms of any statute which 29 30 31 32

Gray, Influence of Commons, p. 261. Ibid., pp. 264–5. Ibid., p. 266.

For subsequent support of Gray’s interpretation, see Chrimes, English Constitutional Ideas, pp. 159–64 (though Chrimes has much else to criticise about the book, at pp. 236–49); A. L. Brown, ‘Parliament, c.1377 – 1422’, in The English Parliament in the Middle Ages, ed. R. G. Davies and J. H. Denton (Manchester, 1981, repr. 1999), pp. 109–40 (at p. 128); G. L. Harriss, ‘The Management of Parliament’, in Henry V: The Practice of Kingship, ed. G. L. Harriss (Oxford, 1985, repr. 1993), pp. 144–5; C. Allmand, Henry V (London, 1992, repr. 1997), pp. 372–3; J. S. Roskell, et al., The House of Commons, 1386–1421, 4 vols (Stroud, 1992), I, 101–2; PROME, parliament of April 1414, ‘Introduction’; M. Giancarlo, Parliament and Literature in Late Medieval England (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 219–21.

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the crown enacted. The implication was that this had not happened recently. But this could hardly be the case with the common petitions of 1413, for the very fact that the crown’s responses to these requests had been written in the parliament roll suggests that the Commons were fully aware of the fate of their common petitions before that parliament had ended. In other words, there is nothing to suppose that in 1413 MPs had not been fully consulted on the outcomes – legislative or otherwise – to their written petitions. We return, then, to the question of what could have prompted the complaint of April 1414. Here, it is important to note the broad nature of the processes outlined by the Commons. Their concern was to prevent a situation in which the crown altered the sense or meaning of what they had requested either in the form of a conventional written common petition or through the oral representations of their Speaker. In fact, what seems especially to have vexed MPs in 1414 was the manipulation of requests which were articulated by their Speaker: complaints voiced ‘by mouth of their speaker’ appears to have taken precedence over complaints ‘by written petition’. In scrutinising common petitions and the answers given to them, Gray therefore seems to have misidentified what really underlay the Commons’ disquiet. What was the source of this disquiet? The obvious place to look is the parliament of April 1414, but nothing can be found on the parliament roll to suggest impropriety on the part of the crown; and of the Speaker himself, Sir Walter Hungerford, nothing is mentioned apart from his appointment by the Commons and the approval by the king, both of which were recorded in the parliament roll in an entirely conventional way.33 But if we return once again to the assembly of 1413, the situation is rather different. At the start of that assembly the Commons had elected William Stourton as their Speaker. Stourton was a pillar of county society: a trained lawyer who, from the accession of Henry IV, frequently sat on royal commissions, was appointed as justice of the peace in Wiltshire and elsewhere, and represented that county in parliament on six occasions before 1413.34 He was also not afraid to hold the king to account: this probably explains his nomination as Speaker. Towards the start of parliament, on 22 May, he reminded Henry V how, under his father, the Commons ‘had requested good governance on many occasions, and their request had been granted’, but, he added caustically, ‘our lord the king [i.e. Henry V] was well aware of how this was subsequently fulfilled and carried out’ (Mes coment y feust tenuz et perfourne enapres, mesme nostre seignur le roy en 33


PROME, parliament of April 1414, item 6. For details of Hungerford’s career, see Roskell et al., House of Commons, III, 446–53. For details of Stourton’s career, see Roskell et al., House of Commons, IV, 496–99.

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ad bone cognisance).35 He then got to the point, by demanding of the king that ‘henceforth he might practise and maintain good governance: in particular in the Scottish marches, and for the safeguard of the sea, and for the town and march of Calais, and for the land of Guyenne, and for the land of Ireland, and in resisting the Welsh rebels, and ending the riots and fighting in the Welsh marches.’ All this appears to have been communicated to the king orally, for Henry’s response was to ask that Stourton should ‘put these specific things in writing’, a request to which Stourton readily agreed. Before this could be done, however, on 25 May a delegation from the Commons, led by John Doreward, MP for Essex, disavowed the actions of their Speaker and insisted instead that their grievances be outlined only very briefly in writing, in the form of a schedule (pleust au roy nostre seignur d’accepter une cedule briefment appoyntez de les articles dessuisditz).36 As recorded in the parliament roll, this schedule amounted to little more than a list of general areas of concern. It included those areas outlined by Stourton, but incorporated other concerns, including ‘the establishment of good governance, with due obedience to the laws of the realm’. It was extremely rare for the Commons to challenge the actions of their Speaker in this way, and almost unheard of for the Speaker to be changed in the course of a parliament, as happened to Stourton a week later on 3 June 1413 (when it was recorded that he had been replaced by Doreward).37 The official reason given for his replacement was his infirmity, for he was evidently confined to bed in early June (when parliament was still in session), and just a few months later, in September, he died. However, there is sufficient ambiguity in the record to suggest the possibility that Stourton may have been forcibly removed from office by his parliamentary colleagues: the chronology suggested by the clerk of parliament has Doreward acting as de facto Speaker from 25 May, when he evidently requested that the customary protestation made by Stourton as Speaker ought now, in effect, apply to him.38 In any 35 36


PROME, parliament of 1413, item 8.

Ibid., item 9. The implication is that Stourton had agreed to set out the written articles in some detail. For details of Doreward’s career, see Roskell et al., House of Commons, II, 790–2.

The only previous recorded occasion was when Sir John Cheyne resigned from the office of Speakership in 1399, probably as a result of pressure brought to bear by Archbishop Arundel: Roskell et al., House of Commons, II, 549–52. Somewhat bizarrely, it was John Doreward who replaced Cheyne in 1399. For discussion, see J. S. Roskell, The Commons and their Speakers in English Parliament 1376–1523 (Manchester, 1965), pp. 68–70. PROME, parliament of 1413, item 10.


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case, it is clear that Stourton had seriously upset his colleagues, and that this directly concerned his failure to consult them on how their grievances were to be communicated to the king. On the face of it, the king’s request to have the Commons’ complaints presented in writing, and Stourton’s unilateral decision to agree to the demand, were perfectly reasonable positions to take. Having them set out in writing avoided misunderstanding and/or miscommunication.39 The intention was probably for the complaints to be added to the list of common petitions which were already in the course of being considered by the king and his council. But Doreward asked for the Commons to be excused from doing the king’s bidding ‘for certain reasons which might, by chance, cause delay and hindrance to the said parliament’ (pur certeines causes qe par aventure purroient estre delaie et retardacioun du parlement). The wording is awkward, but the meaning appears to be that having the Commons present their complaints in writing, in the way requested by the king, might unduly prolong the proceedings of parliament. It is not immediately clear why the Commons might have taken such an unhelpful position. On the one hand, through Stourton, they had forcibly expressed their dissatisfaction with the state of the realm and the many problems which the legacy of Henry IV’s reign now confronted the new king; on the other hand, when invited by the king to set out the detail of these complaints, presumably in order to help him understand exactly what they wanted, the Commons were not interested. The point to emphasise, however, is that at the close of the proceedings of the parliament of 1413 some major issues 39

As demonstrated in January 1404 when the Speaker of the Commons, Sir Arnold Savage, attempted to set the record straight by denying that when he had come before the king ‘on another occasion’ he had requested ‘on his own authority and without the assent of his companions’ that all liveries should be abolished. In fact, Savage stated that he had merely asked that the king and Prince Henry should distribute their liveries in accordance with the tenor of the statute made in 1399 (SR, II, 113–4 (vii)). Savage’s fellow MPs duly corroborated his account: PROME, parliament of January 1404, item 9. This episode has traditionally been regarded as a reference to Savage’s role in the parliament of 1401, when the Commons had requested action to be taken against liveries (C. Given-Wilson, The Royal Household and the King’s Affinity: Service, Politics and Finance in England 1360–1413 (New Haven and London, 1986), p. 240; Saul, ‘Commons and the Abolition of Badges’, p. 303), but the parliament roll of January 1404 suggests that the matter was of some importance to MPs in the later assembly too, and that what might have caused misunderstanding was unrecorded dialogue between Savage and the king and Lords earlier in that session: ten days had passed between Savage’s appointment as Speaker on 15 January 1404 and his attempt to set the record straight on 25 January, so there was plenty of opportunity for this unrecorded dialogue to have taken place.

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concerning the state of the realm had been conveyed to the crown only – as the complaint of 1414 put it – ‘by mouthe of their speker for the commune’. There were precedents for MPs favouring oral communication over the written word to convey their requests. In October 1377, in a situation which appeared to mirror very closely the circumstances of 1413, it was recorded in the parliament roll, as a separate memorandum, that MPs had submitted petitions ‘for the good and benefit of the kingdom, some of which they desire to declare there [i.e. in parliament] orally’.40 Following this a number of additional matters were noted in the memorandum. These may well have been the items which the Commons intended to note separately from their common petitions. They included a demand for the censure of individuals who too easily surrendered castles and towns to the enemy; a request for the unsparing punishment of Alice Perrers; similar retribution for royal ministers who misspent the proceeds of taxation; and a demand for the appointment of war treasurers to ensure that lay subsidy income was only to be spent on defence. These matters were highly politicised, controversial and sensitive, and it is possible that the Commons’ preference to have them articulated orally, if my interpretation of these proceedings is correct, stemmed from their desire to have the issues aired and discussed openly and in full parliament. From the point of view of MPs, common petitions were highly effective in bringing to the crown’s attention deep-seated, historical matters of concern, but for ‘live’ issues, which invited discussion and dialogue, they had limitations: there was, in particular, a danger, that once the petition had been handed in, the matter would be closed down until the Commons received a formal response from the crown, and this could be especially problematic given that responses to common petitions were usually not provided until the very of end parliament when little opportunity remained for revisiting the subject.41 Articulating requests orally may therefore have preserved for the Commons a degree of control over how and when issues came to be dealt with and it allowed them to gauge the reception by the crown to their most pressing concerns well before parliament ended and, crucially, before they had made their grant of taxation.42 40 41


PROME, parliament of October 1377, item 43.

See G. L. Harriss, King, Parliament, and Public Finance in Medieval England to 1369 (Oxford, 1975), pp. 358–70, 502–5.

For useful discussion on the question of orality in parliament, see Roskell et al., House of Commons, I, 83–103; Given-Wilson, ‘Rolls of Parliament, 1399–1421’, pp. 65–8; and W. M. Ormrod, ‘Murmur, Clamour and Noise: Voicing Complaint and Remedy in Petitions to the English Crown, c.1300–c.1460’, in Medieval Petitions: Grace and Grievance, ed. W. M. Ormrod, G. Dodd and A. Musson (York, 2009), pp. 135–55.

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This probably explains why the crown was less keen on such practice. In 1401 the parliament roll notes that on January 31, twelve days after parliament had started, but over five weeks before it ended, ‘the Commons came before the king and Lords and made various oral requests’.43 But the king would have none of it. They were told to ‘place their said requests, and their other petitions made at this time, in their common petitions whereupon the king, with the advice of the lords spiritual and temporal, would give them a reasonable response’. Not all of these considerations necessarily apply to the circumstances of 1413, but in one important respect there may be a common link. Insofar as the matters outlined in their schedule concerned broad areas of royal policy and the general state of the kingdom, it was probably the case that the MPs in 1413, as in October 1377 and 1401, felt that their concerns were not suited to the rigid format of a common petition. They wished to engage the crown in discussion about these matters, not consign them to a formalised petitionary process as their first Speaker, William Stourton, appeared willing to do. But the issue in 1413 was above all one of timing. Doreward did not feel there was sufficient time for the matters outlined in his schedule to be committed to detailed written exposition and was anxious lest parliament was delayed unduly. What did he mean by this? There is nothing else in the parliament roll to suggest that the assembly of 1413 was operating under time restraints, but once parliament had ended it is noticeable that Henry V and the court promptly departed London (Kennington) to travel to Canterbury for the occasion of Henry IV’s public funeral.44 Parliament ended on 9 June and on 13 June the king and his entourage were on the road to Dartford: they had reached Canterbury by Friday 16 June. On Trinity Sunday, 18 June, the funeral of the former king took place in the cathedral. It had been a tightly timed affair. None of this need necessarily have had an impact on the duration of parliament, but for one key factor: holding the service on this Holy Day, in the Trinity Chapel of Canterbury Cathedral, may have been regarded as inviolable. Henry IV had been a notable devotee of the Holy Trinity; it is possible that the timing of this event had been specified by Henry IV himself in his 43 44

PROME, parliament of 1401, item 13.

It is commonly thought that this was the occasion of Henry IV’s burial, but this had almost certainly already taken place in late March. What happened on 18 June was more akin to a memorial service, and was much more a public occasion than the burial itself: J. Wylie, History of England under Henry the Fourth, 4 vols (London, 1884–98), IV. 113–4; J. Wylie and W. Waugh, The Reign of Henry the Fifth, 3 vols (Cambridge, 1914–29), I. 47–8; C. Given-Wilson, Henry IV (New Haven and London, 2016), p. 520.

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final instructions,45 or else that it had long been planned by Henry V who was himself known to have been devoted to the Trinity.46 There are indications, in fact, that preparations were already in full swing during parliament itself, for on 25 May instructions were issued to the mayor and sheriffs of London to have craftsmen prepare a hearse for use at Canterbury during the ceremonies planned for the late king.47 This being the case, it would have placed an inflexible time constraint upon the duration of Henry V’s first parliament. To enable the funeral of Henry IV to take place on the Trinity, the assembly had to finish at least a week before 18 June. If these were all connected factors, then it would seem that the Commons were more concerned about keeping parliament to schedule than the king. But the Commons had been noticeably busy in this parliament, presenting no fewer than twenty-four common petitions, many of which were highly complex and detailed. Possibly they did not want the king’s attention to be diverted from these more specific grievances. They had also made a comprehensive grant of taxation (the wool subsidy for four years, tunnage and poundage for one year, and a fifteenth and tenth), and had been directly engaged with the king on the difficult subject of the efficiencies to be made to facilitate the repayment of royal debts.48 That parliamentary time was constrained appears to be confirmed by the fact that none of the matters raised by Doreward in his schedule made any further imprint on the parliamentary record of this assembly.

t That no legislation or policy decisions were forthcoming on some of the significant issues raised by the Commons’ Speaker in 1413 brings us closer towards an understanding of what lay behind the complaint of April 1414. In the parliament roll of the later assembly a number of royal ordinances were enacted which appear to have picked up directly on the agenda set out in 1413. In fact, it was clear from the outset that in April 1414 the king wanted to address, in broad terms, some of the unfinished business of the previous parliament.49 In 45 46

47 48 49

As suggested by I. Mortimer, The Fears of Henry IV (London, 2007), p. 350.

Ibid., pp. 196–7; Given-Wilson, Henry IV, p. 381. For Henry V, see Allmand, Henry V, p. 180. CPR 1413–16, p. 64.

PROME, parliament of 1413, items 12, 17, 20–42.

It is worth noting that the parliament of April 1414 had originally been called to meet at the end of January, just seven months after the end of the parliament of 1413, but had been postponed because of Oldcastle’s Rebellion. The short interval may be explained by the business left over from the earlier parliament.

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his opening speech Henry Beaufort set out the crown’s legislative programme: there were to be new laws against Lollards (not mentioned in 1413), to protect the high seas, and to preserve the governance and peace of the realm. In the preamble to this legislation, it was noted that ‘that our most sovereign lord the king … by the advice and assent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and at the request of his aforesaid commons, has made certain statutes, declarations and ordinances in this present parliament of the following nature; which he understands to be necessary and beneficial, and which he wills to be firmly upheld and preserved in all points’.50 Within the text of the individual statutes the involvement of the Commons was again stressed. But exactly what this input was is not at all clear. Other than these rather hackneyed phrases, there is nothing in the parliament roll of April 1414 to suggest that MPs had been directly responsible for the content of any of this legislation, though this is not to discount the possibility that some discussion had taken place.51 One suspects that the words were meant to imply that the crown was responding in broad, rather than specific, terms to (unrecorded) concerns raised by the political community, both in this parliament and more generally, since the start of the reign. There is no reason to suppose that the Commons would have objected to the measures contained in the two statutes enacted against lawlessness, though the replacement of outlawry with summary conviction and the extension of the powers of the chancellor may have caused some nervousness amongst less law abiding MPs.52 Nor is there any reason to suppose, in light of Oldcastle’s rebellion earlier in the year and the continuing threat which his evasion of the law posed, that the harsh terms of the Statute of Lollards will have caused much dissension.53 The Statute of Truces was an entirely different matter, however. Ostensibly, it provided what the Commons desired: protection for overseas trade. In 1413 the Commons had sponsored a private petition on the subject,54 in addition to the generic item ‘Concerning the safeguard of 50 51




PROME, parliament of April 1414, item 22.

See the comments of E. Powell on the ‘legal’ statutes: ‘The Restoration of Law and Order’, in Henry V, ed. Harriss, pp. 53–74 (p. 64).

PROME, parliament of April 1414, items 25 (xiii) and 26 (xiv); SR, II, 184–7 (viii– ix). For discussion, see E. Powell, Kingship, Law, and Society: Criminal Justice in the Reign of Henry V (Oxford, 1989), pp. 171–2.

PROME, parliament of April 1414, item 24 (xii); SR, II, 181–4 (vii). For discussion, see T. B. Pugh, Henry V and the Southampton Plot (Southampton, 1988); and M. Jurkowski, ‘Henry V’s Suppression of the Oldcastle Revolt’, in Henry V: New Interpretations, ed. G. Dodd (York, 2013), pp. 103–29. PROME, parliament of 1413, item 36 (xviii).

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the sea’ that had been included in Doreward’s schedule. But if, in 1413 and in April 1414, the Commons had hoped to secure the support of the crown against unscrupulous foreign sailors their hopes were to be cruelly dashed. Instead of outlining measures to be taken against foreigners, the Statute of Truces of 1414 decreed that all the king’s lieges who broke the safe conducts of the king or violated the truces he had made with his enemies, and who killed, robbed or plundered men who were travelling under such protections, were to be judged for high treason.55 This was a drastic and draconian reaction to the perennial problem of piracy on the high seas, and while it is possible that MPs understood the difficulties which the unscrupulous actions of English sailors were causing the king, it is much less likely that they would have called for such crimes to be classified as treason.56 This is suggested by the fact that they sponsored a private petition on behalf of the people of Northumberland in 1415 which requested exemption from the terms of the statute for the coastlines of the northern counties because direct punitive action against the Scots was for the supplicants their ‘the chief means of redress’ (principale remedy).57 Moreover, in October 1416 new legislation was enacted which licensed reprisal where peaceful attempts to secure compensation had failed.58 This responded directly to a complaint of the Commons which stated that the Statute of Truces had effectively allowed the king’s enemies to violate the truces with impunity because the king’s subjects now did not dare take action themselves.59 Significantly, a general pardon was issued in this same parliament which was extended to all those who had violated the statute.60 What the Commons had wished for, and what they got in the Statute of Truces, were thus entirely different things. The Statute of Truces thus lay at the heart of the Commons’ complaint of April 1414. It was not the fact that the king had made the legislation on his own initiative which proved contentious, but that he had enacted legislation 55


57 58 59


PROME, parliament of April 1414, item 23 (XI). For discussion, see Powell, Kingship, Law, and Society, pp. 170–1; M. H. Keen, The Laws of War in the Late Middle Ages (repr. Aldershot, 1993), pp. 204–6; J. G. Bellamy, The Law of Treason in England in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1970, repr. 2004), pp. 128–9. I thus diverge from Christopher Allmand’s interpretation of this legislation: he sees it springing from the initiative of the Commons: Henry V, pp. 329–32. PROME, parliament of 1415, item 10. SR, II, 198–9 (vii).

PROME, parliament of October 1416, item 31. It is to be noted that the parliament roll specifies that the amendment had been ‘requested’ by the Commons, but that assent to its final text was given only by the lords spiritual and temporal. PROME, parliament of October 1416, item 30.

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that was hugely unpopular with a significant segment of the polity, and that he had done this without apparently seeking general assent in parliament. In this, Henry’s response to the Commons’ complaint is significant. Taken on its own the complaint suggests a bold, assertive and politically empowered Lower House; but close scrutiny of the king’s reply suggests a rather different situation. The king agreed to the principle that nothing henceforth would be enacted ‘relating to the petitions of his commons which is contrary to what they have requested’ (‘no thyng be enacted to the peticions of his comune, that be contrarie of hir askyng’). What appears to have been an important concession, however, masked a vital loophole, for the qualification specifying ‘petitions of his commons’ still allowed for the possibility that the king might enact legislation on his own initiative, without gaining the explicit assent of MPs.61 This was not necessarily subterfuge, for the Commons themselves, having initially upheld the idea that ‘no statute of law should be made without their consent’ proceeded to define their complaint more narrowly, in terms of only those laws for which they had specifically petitioned (i.e. ‘…by compleynte of the commune of eny myschief axkynge remedie…’). More importantly, the very nature of their complaint was in itself an admission by the Commons of their own weakness, for although they were unhappy about the recent turn of events they made no attempt to reverse or revise any of the particular statutes which had caused them disquiet.62 By presenting a petition which sought to establish a vague constitutional principle for future application, MPs seemed resigned to the fact that nothing was to change in the present. The real significance of the Commons’ complaint in 1414 therefore lay not in the challenge it posed to the crown’s legislative freedom, but in its inability to affect concrete changes to the status quo, and in the obduracy shown by the king in persisting with legislation in face of clear opposition from the political community. If I am correct in identifying the Statute of Truces as the underlying cause of this discord it is evident that the king placed much greater emphasis on his own diplomatic priorities, and in particular the need to win Burgundian support by clamping down on the illicit seafaring activities of his own subjects,63 than in meeting the demands of the mercantile 61



Historians have long recognised that the king’s response fell well short of what the Commons had requested, but the focus has generally been on the specious issue of amendments: Chrimes, English Constitutional Ideas, p. 162.

It is to be noted, however, that the means of enforcing the legislation through the appointment of locally appointed conservators of truces was not, apparently, put into effect: Powell, Kingship, Law and Society, p. 171, n. 20. Allmand, Henry V, p. 331.

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and maritime communities of England.64 It is a moot point as to which agenda had better claim to be serving the common interest. Finally, then, to the language of the petition. The fact that it was articulated in English has rightly attracted the attention of scholars, for this was an unprecedented linguistic event.65 But we should be careful before attributing to the Commons an enlightened, even revolutionary, approach to the use of the English vernacular. As Mark Ormrod and others have demonstrated, the parliament roll was a royal record and what went into it, and how these items were recorded, were decisions which ultimately rested with the chancery clerks who were assigned to compile it.66 On this basis, then, it seems entirely reasonable to suppose that the choice of English lay with a royal clerk, and that his decision was in part influenced by the subject-matter of the petition itself, which concerned the faithful and accurate communication of legislative intent and purpose. Lest there should be any misrepresentation of the Commons’ concerns, the clerk probably calculated that even the translation of the petition into Anglo-Norman French, as convention dictated, was too risky an undertaking and therefore he opted to play safe by copying the original ‘word-for-word’ into the final record.67 Perhaps it was also an ironic gesture, especially as the response to the petition was also, very unusually, noted in English.68 It is to be noted that the preamble to the petition was written in French, so the use of English in the response to the petition was evidently a very clear case of conscious language code-switching. But there may also have been, in addition to these linguistic considerations, an important procedural dimension. If my hypothesis is correct – that the 64

65 66 67


Throughout Henry VI’s reign the crown steadfastly maintained the statute in the face of repeated calls by MPs to have it annulled: PROME, parliament of 1429, item 43 (xii); parliament of 1433, item 58 (xvii); parliament of 1437, item 24: SR, II, 296 (iii); parliament of 1447, item 21 (iii); parliament of 1450, item 20: SR, II, 358–9 (ii). In 1435, however, the Commons did manage to secure a seven year suspension (PROME, parliament of 1435, item 28 (xi); SR, II, 294, (viii)), and in 1442, a further extension until the following parliament – MPs had asked for a twenty year extension (PROME, parliament of 1442, item 37 (xx); SR, II, 323–4 (xi)). Giancarlo, Parliament and Literature, pp. 218–21. Ormrod, ‘On – and Off – the Record’, passim.

W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Language of Complaint: Multilingualism and Petitioning in Later Medieval England’, in Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England c.1100 – c.1500, ed. J. Wogan-Browne et al. (York, 2009), pp. 31–43, esp. pp. 40–1. Given-Wilson, ‘Rolls of Parliament, 1399–1421’, p. 68, note 45 suggests that humour might have had a part to play.

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petition was presented in response to legislation that had been announced in the same parliament – it must have been produced part way through the parliament, and perhaps even towards the end of the session, once the terms of the legislation had been publicised. Almost certainly therefore the complaint was not included amongst the other common petitions which would normally have been submitted as a consolidated schedule within the first week or so of the beginning of parliament. Significantly, the complaint was recorded at the end of the list of common petitions and with its own preamble, which strengthens the hypothesis that it was, in some way distinct, or separated, from the other common petitions. What I am suggesting, then, is that this petition was not singled out by the clerk of parliament and given special linguistic treatment because of the nature of its contents, but was from the outset a special case because it had been presented by MPs in reaction to what was happening in parliament itself. Its production in English thus reflected the fact that the petition had circumvented some, and perhaps all, of the usual bureaucratic interventions which saw conventional common petitions collated, translated into French and written up into fair copy. When the parliament roll came to be written up, the clerk simply reproduced what he had in front of him: the unmediated, self-standing text of the original petition, with its answer. This new theory need not necessarily replace older linguistic explanations, but it does suggest that issues surrounding the choice of language may have been less central to the process than previously argued.

t This essay has suggested new ways of explaining the perplexing petition presented by the Commons in April 1414. The common petition was highly unusual not only because it was the first to be written in English, but because its precise meaning and purpose is nowhere explicitly stated: it was a declaration of constitutional principle rather than a proposal for concrete reform. This opaqueness has led to confusion over the issues that were at stake. I have argued that the crown’s right to modify or amend the terms of commons petitions, in the answers it gave to these petitions, was never in contention. Nor was the crown’s right to propose legislation on its own initiative in question. What vexed the Commons, and what ultimately prompted their complaint in April 1414, was the question of whether the crown had the right to enact legislation which did not meet with their approval. The controversial Statute of Truces almost certainly lay behind this complaint. The highly unusual circumstances of the legislation, in which the crown and political community pointed in different directions on the matters it concerned, brought to the

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surface difficult and complex questions about how legislation should be generated and whose interests it should ultimately serve. One of the cornerstones of my new approach has been to think of the parliament of April 1414, in part, as a continuation of the assembly which met in 1413. In the earlier assembly the Commons, through their Speaker, raised a number of concerns which included the ‘safeguard of the sea’. This provided the crown with the pretext to ordain a remedy ‘at the request of the Commons’ in 1414; but what the king enacted was far from what the Commons had wanted. Perhaps this was in part a consequence of the MPs’ refusal to set out in writing what they desired, for this gave the crown the opportunity to ordain a remedy entirely on its own terms. As such, the Commons’ obduracy over the actions of their Speaker in 1413 backfired with spectacular effect. The episode ultimately exposed the underlying difficulties in judging when best to restrict political dialogue to unrecorded speech: oral proceedings offered efficiency and flexibility but required good faith and cooperation by all parties involved. Almost certainly the crown’s manipulation of the situation left the Commons feeling deceived and manipulated. Henry V had not acted unconstitutionally, but he had broken the Commons’ trust, and it was to express their grave misgivings at this turn of events which above all prompted their compliant in 1414. What underlay the whole episode was the undeniable truth that royal legislation worked best when it was founded on common interest and political cooperation.

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Appendix 1 – The Common Petition of April 1414

Item, fait a remembrer, qe les communes baillerent a roi nostre seignur tressoverain en cest present parlement une peticion, dont le tenure ensuyt de mote a mote. Oure soverain lord, youre humble and trewe lieges that ben come for the commune of youre lond by sechyn on to youre rizt riztwesnesse, that so as hit hath evere be thair liberte et fredom, that thar sholde no statut no lawe be made of lasse than they yaf ther to their assent: consideringe that the commune of youre lond, the whiche that is, et evere hath be, a membre of youre parlement, ben as well assentirs as peticioners, that fro this tyme foreward, by compleynte of the commune of eny myschief axkynge remedie by mouthe of their speker for the commune, other ellys by peticione writen, that ther never be no lawe made theruppon, et engrosed as statut et lawe, nother by addicions, nother by diminucions, by no maner of terme ne termes, the whiche that sholde chaunge the sentence, et the entente axked by the speker mouthe, or the peticions biforesaid yeven up yn writyng by the manere forsaid, withoute assent of the forsaid commune. Consideringe oure soverain lord, that it is not in no wyse the entente of youre communes, zif hit be so that they axke you by spekyng, or by writyng, too thynges or three, or as manye as theym lust: but that evere it stande in the fredom of your hie regalie, to graunte whiche of thoo that you luste, et to werune the remanent. Responsio: The kyng of his grace especial, graunteth that fro hens forth no thyng be enacted to the peticions of his comune, that be contrarie of hir askyng, wharby they shuld be bounde withoute their assent. Savyng alwey to our liege lord his real prerogatif, to graunte and denye what him lust of their peticions and askynges a foresaide. Source: PROME, parliament of April 1414, item 22 (x).

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Appendix 2 – The Statute of Praemunire, 1353 (translation)

Italics: new text of statute Normal font: text taken from the parliament roll Text struck through: text from parliament roll omitted Preamble to the statute – entirely replaces the wording of the original common petition

Because it is shewed to our lord the king by the grievous and clamorous complaints of the great men and Commons aforesaid, how that divers of the people be, and have been drawn out of the realm to answer of things wherof the cognisance pertaineth to the king’s court; and also that the judgements given in the same court be impeached in [another court] in prejudice and disherison of our lord the king, and of his crown, and of all the people of his said realm and to the undoing and destruction of the common law of the same realm at all times used. Whereupon, with good deliberation had with the great men and other of his council

Terms of statute – based on crown’s response to the petition, but now greatly expanded.

It is assented and accorded by our lord the king, and the great men and Commons aforesaid agreed that all people of the king’s allegiance, of whatever condition they may be, who deal with anything outside the realm in a plea which shall draw any out of the Realm in Plea of which the cognisance belongs to the king’s court, or of things whereof judgements be given in the king’s court, or sues in another’s court to undo or impeach the judgments returned in the king’s court, shall have a day containing the space of two months by warning to be made to them in the place where the possessions be which be in debate or otherwise where they have their lands or other possessions by the sheriffs or other of the king’s ministers to appear before the king and his council, or in his chancery, or before the king’s Justices in his places of the one bench or the other or before other the king’s justices which to the same shall be deputed to answer in their proper persons to the king of the contempt done in this behalf; and if they come not at the said day in their proper person to be at the law they, their procurators, attornies, executors, notaries and maintainers shall from that day forth be put out of the king’s protection and their lands, goods and

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chattels shall be forfeited to the king; and they shall be taken where they are found and imprisoned and ransomed at the king’s will; and upon the same a writ shall be made to take them by their bodies and to seize their lands, goods and possessions into the king’s hands; and in the event that they may not be found, then they shall be put in exigent and outlawed by due process. Provided always, that at what time they come before they be outlawed, and will yield them to the king’s prison to be justified by the law, and to receive that which the court shall award in this behalf, that they shall be thereto received; the forfeiture of the lands, goods and chattels abiding in their force, if they do not yield them within the said two months, as afore said. Source: PROME, parliament of 1353, item 33; SR, I, 329 (i).

7 The Medieval ‘Side-hustler’: Thomas Hoccleve’s Career in, and out of, the Privy Seal1 Hel en Kil l ic k



n a 2012 article, Andrew Prescott bemoaned ‘the failure [of scholars] to consider such administrative documents as pipe rolls, petitions, charters or even tallies as scribal products, whose codicology (if this is the appropriate word here) and script are just as worthy of close investigation and analysis as such celebrated scribal achievements as the Ellesmere manuscript of the Canterbury Tales or the Luttrell Psalter.’2 Since the publication of this article, there have been further advances in this area of scholarship. It remains the case, however, that there have been relatively few studies of medieval administrative documents with an explicit focus on their scribal production.3 The discussion 1



Much of the material for this chapter is drawn from my doctoral thesis: H. Killick, ‘Thomas Hoccleve as Poet and Clerk’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of York, 2011). I would like to thank my supervisors Mark Ormrod and Linne Mooney for their unfailing support and expert advice, and the AHRC for funding my doctorate as part of the project, ‘Identification of the Scribes Responsible for Copying Major Works of Middle English Literature’, which ran from 2007 to 2011. A. Prescott, ‘Administrative Records and the Scribal Achievement of Medieval England’, in English Manuscript Studies 1100–1700 v. 17: English Manuscripts before 1400, ed. A. S. G. Edwards and O. Da Rold (London, 2012), pp. 173–99 (p. 189).

For recent work in this area see L. R. Mooney and E. Stubbs, Scribes and the City: London Guildhall Clerks and the Dissemination of Middle English Literature, 1375– 1425 (York, 2013); H. Killick, ‘The Scribes of Petitions in Late Medieval England’, in Petitions and Strategies of Persuasion in the Middle Ages: The English Crown and the Church, c.1200–c.1550, ed. T. W. Smith and H. Killick (York, 2018), pp. 64–87. Mark Ormrod’s work has made an important contribution to this topic in highlighting the roles of the clerks and bureaucrats responsible for the production of government records: see, in particular, W. M. Ormrod, ‘Accountability and Collegiality: The English Royal Secretariat in the Mid-Fourteenth Century’, in Écrit et

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in this chapter makes a contribution to this subject through a close study of the career of a single clerk, Thomas Hoccleve. Hoccleve is uniquely suited to such a study since, through his poetry, we have access to an unprecedented level of autobiographical detail; this has made him one of the key sources for those who have studied the daily life of the late medieval clerk.4 In addition, others have attempted to piece together the chronology of Hoccleve’s life using the various grants and payments made to him out of the exchequer, which were recorded in the issue rolls.5 However, there has been surprisingly little scholarship focussing on the documents produced by Hoccleve during the course of his career at the privy seal. In an important study, Linne Mooney identified a number of documents sent from the privy seal to the exchequer in Hoccleve’s hand.6 This work revealed many new insights into Hoccleve’s life and the possible motives behind the composition of his poetry; however, there is a substantial number of documents written by him that were not considered in Mooney’s analysis. The present discussion presents a more rounded picture of Hoccleve’s career as a clerk through examination of documents sent from the privy seal not only to the exchequer (the focus of Mooney’s analysis), but also to the chancery. This brings to the fore a total of over 900 new documents which have been identified in Hoccleve’s hand. These records contribute towards a greater knowledge of Hoccleve’s life and that of late medieval clerks in general; in particular, they pouvoir dans les chancelleries médiévales: Espace Français, espace Anglais, ed. K. Fianu and D. J. Guth (Louvain-le Neuve, 1997), pp. 55–86; and ‘On – and Off – the Record: the Rolls of Parliament, 1337–1377’, in Parchment and People: Parliament in the Later Middle Ages, ed. L. Clark (Edinburgh, 2004), pp. 39–56.

See for example: A. L. Brown, ‘The Privy Seal Clerks in the Early Fifteenth Century’, in The Study of Medieval Records: Essays in Honour of Kathleen Major, ed. D. A. Bullough and R. L. Storey (Oxford, 1971), pp. 260–81; J. I. Catto, ‘The King’s Servants’, in Henry V: The Practice of Kingship, ed. G. L. Harriss (Oxford, 1985), pp. 75–96; E. Knapp, The Bureaucratic Muse: Thomas Hoccleve and the Literature of Late Medieval England (University Park, 2001); M. Richardson, ‘Hoccleve in his Social Context’, Chaucer Review 20 (1986), 313–22; A. C. Reeves, ‘Thomas Hoccleve, Bureaucrat’, Mediaevalia et Humanistica n. s. 5 (1974), 201–14; T. F. Tout, ‘Literature and Learning in the English Civil Service in the Fourteenth Century’, Speculum 4 (1929), 365–89.


E 403, Exchequer of Receipt: Issue Rolls and Registers; see Hoccleve’s Works: The Minor Poems, ed. F. J. Furnivall, EETS e. s. 61 (1892), Appendix compiled by R. E. G. Kirk, pp. li–lxx; J. A. Burrow, Thomas Hoccleve (Aldershot, 1994), Appendix, pp. 33–49.


L. R. Mooney, ‘Some New Light on Thomas Hoccleve’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer 29 (2007), 293–340.


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can be used to establish his working patterns and ascertain whether there were any gaps which might be explained by his absence from the office due to ill health, political factors, or engagements elsewhere. The evidence suggests that, whilst Hoccleve wrote a substantial number of documents for the privy seal, his workload declined over the course of his life, supporting Mooney’s theory that he increasingly took on a supervisory role within that office.7 In addition, my discussion presents new evidence to suggest that Hoccleve was active in a number of other areas outside the privy seal.

t As Hoccleve is one of the few Middle English poets who has left surviving holograph manuscripts of his work, his hand has been described by a number of scholars, and these descriptions can be used as the basis for palaeographical identification in other manuscripts and documents.8 In 1978, A. I. Doyle and M. B. Parkes first noted that documents written by Hoccleve were likely to survive in the government archives, and identified two examples.9 More recently, Linne Mooney continued the search for Hoccleve’s hand in the records of the privy seal now residing in The National Archives. She identified and described 145 documents written by Hoccleve in several series relating

Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, pp. 298–301.


The three holograph manuscripts (California, San Marino, Henry E. Huntington Library, MSS HM 111 and HM 744, and Durham University Library MS Cosin V. iii. 9) contain all of Hoccleve’s known works with the exception of the Regiment of Princes. They are reproduced in facsimile in Thomas Hoccleve: A Facsimile of the Autograph Verse Manuscripts, ed. J. A. Burrow and A. I. Doyle (Oxford, 2002). For the most comprehensive description of Hoccleve’s literary hand, see ibid., pp. xxxiv–xxxvi. In addition to the literary holographs, Hoccleve also wrote a formulary, British Library MS Additional 24062; for an edition see E.-J. Y. Bentley, ‘The Formulary of Thomas Hoccleve’ (unpublished PhD dissertation, Emory University, 1965).


E 28/29, piece 30 (temp. Henry IV–V) and E 404/31/322 (27 May, 3 Henry V [1415]); A. I. Doyle and M. B. Parkes, ‘The Production of Copies of the Canterbury Tales and the Confessio Amantis in the Early Fifteenth Century’, in Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts, and Libraries: Essays Presented to N. R. Ker, ed. M. B. Parkes and A. G. Watson (London, 1978), pp. 163–210 (p. 182); reprinted in Scribes, Scripts and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation and Dissemination of Medieval Texts, ed. M. B. Parkes (London, 1991), pp. 201–48. The second of these documents is printed in English Royal Documents: King John – Henry VI, 1199–1461, ed. P. Chaplais (Oxford, 1971), p. 74, pl. 22a.


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to the exchequer.10 The descriptions of Hoccleve’s hand in his literary manuscripts, in conjunction with Mooney’s description of Hoccleve’s documentary hand, have been used as the basis for the palaeographical identifications made in this discussion; this includes several distinctive letter-forms, most notably an ornate capital ‘A’ with an exaggerated downwards stroke and sometimes a flattened top.11 It should be noted that Hoccleve’s hand differed substantially according to the context and language in which he was writing; however, on several occasions the lines between his literary and documentary hands appear to have become less distinct.12 The majority of the documents identified by Mooney are in TNA series E 404, which contains writs and warrants ordering payments out of the exchequer on the king’s authority. However, the privy seal documents sent to the exchequer constituted only part of the work of that office. By the late fourteenth century, the privy seal’s primary function was, as A. L. Brown describes, a ‘clearing house’; it received commands from the king (either directly or via the signet) or from the council, and sent out warrants of authorisation to the other government offices of the chancery and exchequer.13 In fact, warrants sent to the chancery constituted the bulk of the documents produced by the privy seal; these are now in C 81, Chancery: Warrants for the Great Seal, Series I, in two separate sections: writs and bills. The former were sealed close, included a full address and dating clause, and were predominantly written in French, while the latter were sealed open on the face, did not include a formal protocol and address, and were mainly written in Latin; they were sent as warrants to the chancery for the issue of routine documents such as protections and safe-conducts.14 A search for Hoccleve’s hand in these chancery warrants has resulted in the identification of a further 913 documents written under the privy seal, in addition to the 145 exchequer documents already identified by 10

11 12

13 14

Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, Appendix B, pp. 322–40. The exchequer series are: E 404 (Exchequer of Receipt: Warrants for Issues); E 208 (Exchequer: King’s Remembrancer: Brevia Baronibus files); E 28 (Exchequer: Treasury of the Receipt: Council and Privy Seal Records), and E 43 (Exchequer: Treasury of Receipt: Ancient Deeds). Mooney, ‘Some New light’, Appendix A, pp. 318–22.

See for example some of the petitions in Hoccleve’s hand, which bear greater resemblance to his literary manuscripts: see Killick, ‘The Scribes of Petitions’, p. 71. Brown, ‘Privy Seal Clerks’, p. 261.

A. L. Brown, ‘The Privy Seal in the Early Fifteenth Century’ (unpublished D.Phil. thesis, Oxford, 1955), Appendix C; Chaplais, English Royal Documents, pp. 30–2.

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Mooney.15 They demonstrate the range of documents that Hoccleve was required to produce for the privy seal, including grants, licences, pardons and commissions to a variety of individuals and institutions, from members of the royal family to household servants. In addition, seventeen further documents have been found in Hoccleve’s hand written on behalf of institutions or individuals other than the privy seal, such as the king’s council, the chancery, and various private petitioners.16 As will be demonstrated, these constitute an important new source of information regarding Hoccleve’s life, and enable us to utilise him as a case study in order to examine the role of the late medieval government clerk. However, it is first necessary to place this material in the context of the larger surviving privy seal archive. In this way, we can establish whether the number of extant documents in Hoccleve’s hand provides an accurate indication of his working patterns, or whether fluctuations should be attributed to gaps in the archive as a whole. The lack of a systematic process for the preservation of documents within the privy seal, coupled with losses resulting from a fire at Whitehall in 1619, has meant that the majority of surviving documents issued by the office are those sent to and preserved by other departments. The records thus give a slightly misleading picture of the function of the privy seal; its activities were not limited to internal administrative communication, but also extended to the use of its seal as a diplomatic instrument in its own right, for sending out missives from the king to provincial officials, religious houses and foreign rulers. There are very few surviving examples of these, the majority of them dating from before the start of Hoccleve’s career, and a large number surviving as copies in formularies.17 The shortage of original examples of these documents means that it is difficult to assess the extent to which they contributed to the overall output of the privy seal; however, it has been suggested that by the period in question communication between the government offices constituted the greater part of the privy seal’s workload, which to an extent mitigates these losses.18 The degree of completeness of surviving privy seal warrants for the chancery and exchequer can be estimated through a comparison with corresponding 15

16 17


These are in files C 81/486–686 and 1018–1098. They are listed and described in Killick, ‘Thomas Hoccleve as Poet and Clerk’, Appendix I, pp. 187–230. See ibid., Appendix II, p. 231; Killick, ‘The Scribes of Petitions’, pp. 83–5.

Examples survive in Hoccleve’s formulary (see Bentley, ‘The Formulary of Thomas Hoccleve’). In addition, a number of privy seal letters are printed in E. Perroy, The Diplomatic Correspondence of Richard II, Camden 3 series, v. 48 (London, 1933). Brown, ‘Privy Seal Clerks’, p. 261.

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entries on the rolls; this supports the idea that losses were relatively low.19 Figure 1 shows the estimated number of extant documents dating from between 1383 and 1425, the period of Hoccleve’s known career (the black series, measured on the left-hand axis), in comparison with the number of documents found in Hoccleve’s hand (the grey series, measured on the righthand axis).20 Fluctuations in the productivity of the privy seal can be explained by a number of factors, such as the accession of a new monarch, war or political crises, or changes in the administrative process. A slight decline in the number of privy seal documents is visible over the period, perhaps as a result of the increased use of the signet by Henry V and Henry VI.21 The first year of a new king’s reign generally precipitated a marked increase in activity; this is most notable on the accession of Henry IV. Figure 1 suggests that, in general, Hoccleve’s workload appears to bear some relationship to the productivity of the privy seal office as a whole. Overall, however, the number of chancery and exchequer documents produced by Hoccleve is surprisingly low; the highest number he produced in any one year 19



Loss rates in E 404, warrants sent from the privy seal to authorise payments out of the exchequer, can be estimated from looking at the corresponding entries in the issue rolls (E 403); on this basis the series is considered to be relatively complete for the first half of the fifteenth century (see Catalogue of the National Archives, E 404, Exchequer of Receipt: Warrants for Issues, Introductory Note, p. 3). Loss rates in C 81 (warrants from the privy seal to the chancery) are more difficult to assess, as there are a number of different types of chancery enrolment. In A. L. Brown’s study of the authorisation of chancery letters, he notes that for the sixth year of the reign of Henry IV (1404 – 1405), privy seal writs survive for all but 20 of the 471 letters in the chancery rolls: see A. L. Brown, ‘The Authorisation of Letters under the Great Seal’, BIHR 37 (1964), 125–56 (p. 131). A similar level of completeness to that of the exchequer warrants may therefore be assumed (see Catalogue of the National Archives, C 81, Chancery: Warrants for the Great Seal, Series I, Introductory note, p. 2). The number of surviving privy seal warrants is an estimate, as the number of documents per file varies between series, and some documents are only approximately dated. In the series C 81, each file of writs contains 100 documents, and each file of bills contains approximately sixty documents. In the series E 404, the matter is complicated by the fact that the privy seal warrants are filed together with those given under the great seal; they constitute roughly a quarter of documents in each file. Furthermore, the number of documents per booklet, and the number of booklets per file, vary dramatically; an E 404 file may contain anywhere between 200 and 600 documents, divided into 20–30 booklets. After samples were taken from files throughout the period in question, an average of 400 documents per file was estimated, of which roughly a quarter are privy seal warrants.

A. L. Brown, The Governance of Late Medieval England 1272–1461 (London, 1989), p. 51.

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Approx. total no. of documents produced by the privy seal

No. of documents in Hoccleve’s hand

Figure 1: Estimated number of extant documents produced by the privy seal and number in Hoccleve’s hand 1383–1425

was ninety-three, which amounts to approximately one document every four days. There are also several years in which hardly any extant documents in his hand have been found. This is surprising; taking into account the size of the staff of the privy seal during this period (between six and twelve clerks), we would expect Hoccleve to be carrying approximately ten per cent of the workload of the office for most of his career.22 Basing herself on the evidence of the exchequer warrants, Mooney drew connections between these fluctuations in Hoccleve’s working patterns with the known events of his life, including his illness, the dates of composition of his poetry, regime change and his good standing with the ruling monarch, as well as external factors such as preparations for war.23 In the following section I will re-examine some of these theories in light of the new evidence presented by the additional warrants for the chancery, and other documents, identified in Hoccleve’s hand, and in 22


A. L. Brown states that between 1399 and 1425, twenty-six clerks are recorded as associated with the privy seal, fluctuating between six in 1400 and twelve in 1422. However, he notes that this may be influenced by uneven survival of sources; as privy seal clerks were unwaged, records of service can only be obtained from issues of cloth made to them in the Wardrobe Account books, many of which have since been lost: ‘Privy Seal Clerks’, p. 262; ‘Privy Seal’, p. 296. Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, pp. 301–14.

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doing so attempt to offer some explanation as to why the number of privy seal documents he produced appears to have been relatively low.

t During the period 1383–1390, the number of letters issued under the privy seal fluctuated a great deal but was on occasion very high. Hoccleve’s productivity, however, does not reflect this, only picking up towards the end of this period. The beginning of his career has previously been approximately dated to 1387, based on lines in the Regiment of Princes, presumed to have been composed in 1411, which state that he has been writing for the privy seal for twenty-four years.24 The TNA documents may indicate that he had been working in the office, presumably as an apprentice, for several years before this date; Linne Mooney has identified a warrant for the exchequer in a hand that resembles Hoccleve’s that is dated to April 1383.25 There are two possible explanations for the relative scarcity of documents written by Hoccleve before 1390. Firstly, it may be attributable to his position as an apprentice, during which time he was still learning his trade under the supervision of his mentor Guy de Rouclif, a senior clerk who retired from the privy seal in 1389, and therefore was given minimal duties.26 Secondly, it is possible that more documents written by Hoccleve dating from this period do actually survive; a number of documents dating from 1384 to 1391 have been identified written in a hand that resembles his.27 The addition of these documents would make Hoccleve’s workload during this period comparable to the rest of his career under Richard II.28 The years between 1390 and 1395 were the most productive of Hoccleve’s career; during this period he accounted for seven to ten per cent of the total output of the privy seal, which, given the number of clerks working at any one time, makes it the only point when he seems to be doing anything 24 25


27 28

Burrow, Thomas Hoccleve, pp. 2, 18.

E 404/13/84, see Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, pp. 310–11, n. 45. There is evidence for a system of apprenticeship at the privy seal from the late fourteenth century; see G. Dodd, ‘Trilingualism in the Medieval English Bureaucracy: the Use – and Disuse – of Languages in the Fifteenth Century Privy Seal Office’, JBS 51 (2012), 253–83 (pp. 265–6).

T. F. Tout, Chapters in the Administrative History of England, 6 vols (Manchester, 1920–33), V, 112. Killick, ‘Thomas Hoccleve as Poet and Clerk’, Appendix III, pp. 233–5.

There are 115 of these documents in total. If these could be firmly identified as being in Hoccleve’s hand, during this period he wrote on average forty to fifty documents per year, which is plausible given the number of privy seal clerks at the time.

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approaching an equal share of the work of that office. Figure 1 shows that, upon the accession of Henry IV, the productivity of the privy seal increased to an unprecedented high; over two thousand documents survive from the first year of his reign. However, to some degree Hoccleve’s own workload does not appear to reflect this. Whilst it is true that in November 1399 Hoccleve accounted for twenty-seven of the documents produced by the privy seal, his productivity drops off after this point; in the first years of Henry IV’s reign he appears to write on average less than five documents a month, and in some months nothing at all (see Table 1).29 This raises the possibility that Hoccleve’s career suffered as a result of his association with the old monarch; however, this seems highly unlikely. During the fourteenth century, the court, the royal council and the three main administrative offices of the chancery, exchequer and privy seal had gradually moved out of the king’s household to become formal institutions, and clerks of those offices had begun to form a new, secular class of professional bureaucrats; for this reason, they were unlikely to be adversely affected by a change in regime, and Nigel Saul has described the transition from Richard II to Henry IV as occurring with remarkably little upheaval.30 Hoccleve’s own continued good favour is indicated by the annuity of £10 a year he and three other privy seal clerks received from the new king on 12 November 1399. The wording of the grant makes clear that Henry valued his clerks and relied on their support; Hoccleve was rewarded ‘on account of the good and laudable service [that he] has performed for a long time in the said office and will perform in future’, this grant being maintained ‘until he is promoted by us to an ecclesiastical benefice’.31 29



Nevertheless Hoccleve and seven other clerks petitioned successfully for a reward of £40 due to increased workload since the beginning of Henry’s reign (E 28/9 (23 July 1401): see Brown, ‘Privy Seal Clerks’, p. 267.

See Brown, Governance of Late Medieval England, pp. 43–60; Tout, Chapters, I, 22– 31; N. Saul, Richard II (New Haven and London, 1997), p. 423. It should be noted that, whilst the ordinary personnel of the government offices tended to remain constant, senior administrative staff did sometimes fall out of favour as a result of political turmoil; see D. Biggs, ‘The Appellant and the Clerk; the Assault on Richard II’s Friends in Government, 1387–89’, in The Reign of Richard II: Politics, Personalities and Perceptions, ed. G. Dodd (Stroud, 2000), pp. 57–70; A. McHardy, ‘John Scarle: Ambition and Politics in the Late Medieval Church’, in Image, Text and Church, 1380 – 1600: Essays for Margaret Aston, ed. L. S. Clark, M. Jurkowski and C. F. Richmond (Toronto, 2009), pp. 68–93; Ormrod, ‘Accountability and Collegiality’, pp. 57–60. For exceptions, see the clerks of the king’s signet office and the chancery clerk Robert Ragenhill ( J. Otway-Ruthven, The King’s Secretary and the Signet Office in the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge, 1939), p. 180; and M. Richardson, The Medieval Chancery under Henry V (London, 1999), p. 103). Burrow, Thomas Hoccleve, p. 11.

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Table 1. Number of extant privy seal documents sent to the chancery and exchequer in Hoccleve’s hand 1399–1401 January

February March April May June July









1 1



2 0































Table 2. Number of extant privy seal documents sent to the chancery and exchequer in Hoccleve’s hand 1415–1416 January

February March April





1 0 1







September October

November December

8 1 2 0 0 0

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

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It remains the case, however, that the number of chancery and exchequer documents found in Hoccleve’s hand dating from the reign of Henry IV is surprisingly small; overall, he accounts for only 2.5 per cent of the total number produced by that office during this period. With the exception of the years 1404–5, Hoccleve’s productivity as a clerk appears to tail off over the course of Henry IV’s reign and the first years of Henry V, culminating in the period between October 1415 and November 1416 when he was entirely absent from the privy seal archives (see Table 2). The reasons for this absence most probably relate to Hoccleve’s mental breakdown, described in his poem the Complaint and Dialogue as: the wyld infirmytie Which that I had, as many a man well knewe, And whiche me owt of my selfe cast and threw.32

This period of illness aside, there remains the question of why, with the exception of a brief period of productivity during the first year of Henry VI’s reign, Hoccleve’s work-rate at the privy seal never appears to return to the level it had been in the final decade of the fourteenth century. In the remainder of this discussion, I wish to explore two possible explanations for this. The first is that, as Hoccleve’s career progressed, he took on a supervisory role at the privy seal, which meant that more junior clerks did the bulk of the actual writing. In the latter half of his career, his seniority meant that he was able to pick and choose his work for that office, and therefore tended towards writing only those privy seal documents which would garner the highest fees or in which he had a personal interest. The second possibility is that, during the fifteenth century, Hoccleve elected to take on less work at the privy seal because he became increasingly occupied with other pursuits, most obviously his poetry, but also other scribal activities. I will examine each of these hypotheses in turn, before discussing their implications.

t Hoccleve never attained one of the two positions of seniority at the privy seal, that of keeper or secondary; the fact that his contemporary, Robert Frye, was promoted to the latter role suggests in some way that he was ‘passed over’ 32

Thomas Hoccleve’s Complaint and Dialogue, ed. J. A. Burrow, EETS o. s. 313 (Oxford, 1999), ll. 40–42. The new documents therefore support the dating of Hoccleve’s mental breakdown to 1415–16 as argued by Seymour and Mooney, rather than the earlier dating of 1414 suggested by Burrow; see Selections from Hoccleve, ed. M. C. Seymour (Oxford, 1981), p. 133; Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, pp. 305–8; Burrow, Thomas Hoccleve, pp. 26–8.

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for promotion.33 He is generally described in humble terms; in his study of the privy seal clerks, Brown describes Hoccleve’s career as exemplifying ‘the fairly rough, only modestly rewarded, money-grubbing world of the average clerk.’34 However, he was sufficiently senior by 1414 to have an under-clerk, John Welde, suggesting that he had become one of the five or six established clerks of the privy seal office.35 In this capacity a substantial part of Hoccleve’s role would have been to supervise the work of Welde and other more junior clerks. From the 1430s onwards privy seal writs exhibit the signature of the clerk responsible for checking the document in the bottom right-hand corner, in emulation of similar practices in the other government offices.36 Although these signatures are not in evidence for the period of Hoccleve’s career, it is reasonable to assume that similar practices existed; we know at least that a system of apprenticeship was in operation during this period, as Hoccleve and several of his contemporaries are described as having had clerks working under them.37 It is therefore likely that Hoccleve was employed in checking and ‘signing off ’ the work of his subordinates, writing only a small number of select documents himself. Several scholars have remarked on the fact that over the course of his career, Hoccleve is recorded as having received numerous payments out of the exchequer for the purchase of parchment, wax and ink for the privy seal office.38 Mooney has identified a considerable number of privy seal warrants for the exchequer ordering these payments, either in Hoccleve’s hand or naming him as the recipient, beginning in the first year of Henry IV’s reign and continuing until 1426.39 Until 1414, he is recorded as being reimbursed for parchment, 33 34 35 36




Ibid., p. 6.

Brown, ‘Privy Seal Clerks’, p. 281. Ibid., p. 262.

H. C. Maxwell-Lyte, Historical Notes on the Use of the Great Seal of England (London, 1926), p. 34; Tout, Chapters, V, 114. For a similar development in the signet see Otway-Ruthven, The King’s Secretary and the Signet Office, pp. 26–7. This practice had for a short period in the mid-fourteenth century been adopted in the privy seal in emulation of the movement towards greater accountability in the chancery resulting from the Walton Ordinances: see Ormrod, ‘Accountability and Collegiality’, pp. 66, 70.

There is evidence for a formal system of apprenticeship at the privy seal from the 1440s; see Dodd, ‘Trilingualism in the Medieval English Bureaucracy’, pp. 265–6.

See Brown, ‘Privy Seal’, p. 321; Burrow, Thomas Hoccleve, pp. 4–5; 29–30; Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, pp. 297–8. Burrow lists the eleven entries in the Issue Rolls pertaining to this in his Appendix: nos. 19, 22, 24, 31, 35, 39, 43, 50, 56, 62 and 68. Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, p. 297, n. 12.

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wax and ink, but after this date only for wax and ink; this is because prior to 1414, the office had been accustomed to purchasing parchment directly, but subsequently, it was bought in bulk from merchants in London and Lincoln for the privy seal and exchequer.40 This led Brown to suggest that Hoccleve may have been performing the role of Filacer, a kind of office-manager, for the privy seal, which is not recorded as being formally recognised until 1431.41 The title Filacer comes from the Anglo-Norman word filace (file); this implies that the Filacer, as well as purchasing office supplies, may also have been responsible for keeping the records of the privy seal. The possible identification of Hoccleve as the Filacer of the privy seal may throw some light on the circumstances of the compilation of his formulary (now BL MS Additional 24062). This document was written towards the end of his life, and includes copies of the different types of documents issued under the privy seal; these are systematically organized into sections, listed in a table of contents.42 The documents included in the formulary typically omit the dating clause, but most have been assigned dates by Bentley, the manuscript’s editor, according to their content; she finds that the first half of the formulary consists of documents from Richard II onwards, but the later diplomatic sections contain items mainly from the reign of Edward III. 43 This suggests that Hoccleve compiled the work over several years, during which time he had access to the archives of the privy seal. His decision to include documents dating from the reign of the previous monarch may be interpreted as an act of linguistic conservativism; in other words, an attempt to preserve examples of those documents in French which by the second quarter of the fifteenth century were beginning to be written in English.44 As already noted, the privy seal did not have a systematic process for record-keeping comparable to that of the chancery or exchequer. There is some indication that privy seal rolls and registers were kept in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, but by Hoccleve’s period it is assumed that this practice had died out.45 However, evidence from Hoccleve’s formu40 41 42

43 44


Brown, ‘Privy Seal’, p. 321, n. 134. Ibid., p. 321.

Bentley, ‘The Formulary of Thomas Hoccleve’; several of the diplomatic letters are edited in Perroy, The Diplomatic Correspondence of Richard II, pp. xi–xvii. Bentley, ‘The Formulary of Thomas Hoccleve’, p. viii.

Dodd, ‘Trilingualism’, pp. 259–63. I am grateful to Gwilym Dodd for this suggestion.

Tout, Chapters, V, 12; II, 80–1; Maxwell-Lyte, The Great Seal, pp. 26–7; P. Chaplais, ‘Privy Seal Drafts, Rolls and Registers (Edward I – Edward II)’, EHR 73 (1958),

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lary may contradict this. In the early part of the manuscript, the marginal annotation ‘rr’ occurs next to a number of items; this is taken to be an abbreviation of irrotolatur, meaning that particular document had been enrolled.46 It is therefore possible that the privy seal had some system for preserving examples of its documents in the early fifteenth century, even if this was less regular and organised than the process used in the chancery; the absence of any surviving copies of these could be explained by the exceptionally high loss rates associated with the office. In the role of Filacer, Hoccleve would have had responsibility for maintaining this archive, which would have taken him away from much of the day-to-day business of the privy seal. It has generally been assumed that Hoccleve’s decision to write a privy seal formulary was prompted by his own desire to organise and record the procedures of the office for posterity, in much the same way as he compiled his own poetry around the same time.47 However, if he was indeed the Filacer, it could also have been one of the duties attached to this role.48 The documentary evidence suggests therefore that Hoccleve’s role at the privy seal is likely to have been less that of the ‘average clerk’ than, variously, that of supervisor, office-manager, and archivist. In this view, the actual drafting of writs for the chancery or exchequer was, increasingly as he rose in seniority, only one aspect of his job.49 Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that, in the latter part of his career, he was able to be selective with those





270–3, reprinted in P. Chaplais, Essays in Medieval Diplomacy and Administration, (London, 1981).

Bentley, ‘The Formulary of Thomas Hoccleve’, p. ix. Note that Brown has read this to be ‘irr’, indicating an error (see Brown, ‘Privy Seal’, p. 183 n. 15); having examined the manuscript I agree with Bentley’s interpretation: see Killick, ‘Thomas Hoccleve as Poet and Clerk’, pp. 61–2. See J. M. Bowers, ‘Hoccleve’s Huntington Holographs: The First “Collected Poems” in English’, Fifteenth Century Studies 15 (1989), pp. 27–51.

Hoccleve’s formulary is not unique; several contemporary examples exist, including Edinburgh University Library MS Laing 351a, a collection largely composed of diplomatic letters made by Hoccleve’s fellow privy seal clerk Robert Frye, and Cambridge University Library MS Dd.3.53, Part I, a compilation of documents issued under the great seal, privy seal and signet made by several scribes (see Brown, ‘Privy Seal’, Appendix B, pp. 170–87). Linne Mooney argues that Hoccleve’s hand can also be found in the Cambridge formulary in a section dated by Brown to the late fourteenth century; this would indicate that Hoccleve had some role in the organisation and preservation of the privy seal archive from early on in his career (private conversation with Linne Mooney; Brown, ‘Privy Seal’, pp. 176–9, 184). This is supported by the grant made to Hoccleve by Henry IV of an increased annuity in May 1409 (see Burrow, Thomas Hoccleve, pp. 16–17). This was a period

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documents that he did write. Hoccleve, like his fellow-clerks, relied financially for the most part on his annuity; however, this was supplemented by another important source of income, the fees due to clerks for writing documents for important and influential patrons.50 Linne Mooney has argued that, towards the end his career, ‘[Hoccleve’s] supervisory role, or his seniority in the privy seal, is … demonstrated by his capacity to choose to write the documents for the highest-ranking people who were to be remunerated by the exchequer, thus ensuring for himself the best rewards.’51 This is particularly noticeable in the 1420s, when Hoccleve wrote comparatively few documents, but those that he did write included such noble and wealthy beneficiaries as Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, John, duke of Bedford and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester.52 These fees were potentially very lucrative, as illustrated by the two marks paid to Hoccleve for writing a petition to the council and the ensuing warrant for John Mowbray in 1423.53 There is also evidence to suggest that Hoccleve increasingly only chose to write privy seal warrants in those cases where he had a personal interest, the most obvious examples being those cases in which he himself was the beneficiary. These include the numerous warrants for the exchequer in Hoccleve’s hand granting himself reimbursement for the purchase of wax, ink and parchment for the office of the privy seal, and more significantly, one case in which Hoccleve wrote a warrant guaranteeing himself a substantial source of income, the grant of the corrody of the priory of Southwick in 1424.54 Aside from his increasing seniority at the privy seal, the most obvious explanation for the relatively low number of documents in Hoccleve’s hand during the latter part of his career is that he was occupied in writing poetry.

50 51 52



when Hoccleve’s productivity was particularly low, suggesting that he was being rewarded for other services to the privy seal.

Burrow, Thomas Hoccleve, pp. 8–9.

Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, pp. 298–9.

Between 1420 and 1425 Hoccleve is found writing grants for the following individuals: Henry Percy (E 404/37/103; E 404/41/158); Louis, duke of Bavarre (E 404/37/102); John Radclyf, seneschal of Guyenne (E 404/39/268); Edmund Mortimer, earl of March (E 404/39/285); John, duke of Bedford (E 404/35/273; E 404/39/269) and Humfrey, duke of Gloucester (C 81/671/185; C 81/676/678). See J. L. Kirby, ‘An account of Robert Southwell, Receiver-General of John Mowbray, Earl Marshal, 1422–3’, BIHR 27 (1954), 192–7 (pp. 196–7).

Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, p. 297, n. 12; C 81/682/1201a. This document was the direct result of a petition from Hoccleve: see Killick, ‘The Scribes of Petitions’, p. 72. For the ability of royal clerks to use their position to their own advantage, see Tout, Chapters, V, 88; Brown, ‘Privy Seal Clerks’, p. 268; Brown, ‘Privy Seal’, p. 306.

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All of Hoccleve’s known poems date from the fifteenth century; the earliest is the Letter of Cupid (1402).55 Mooney has argued that the dates of composition of Hoccleve’s two major works, the Regiment of Princes and the Series, coincide with periods of inactivity at the privy seal, and this is to a large extent supported by the newly-identified documents.56 In addition to his own work, Hoccleve was also active as the scribe of other literary manuscripts. A number of scholars have posited the existence of a network of scribes producing literary manuscripts for copying in London bookshops in the fifteenth century, and there is evidence to suggest that Hoccleve was involved in this network.57 He has been identified by Doyle and Parkes as one of the five scribes (labelled by them as A-E) responsible for a copy of Gower’s Confessio Amantis, Trinity College Cambridge MS R. 3. 2.58 The production of this manuscript, which they date to between Gower’s death in 1408 and Hoccleve’s in 1426, is important for our understanding of the working relationships between scribes in the later medieval period. Doyle and Parkes argue that the frequency with which the end of scribal stints correspond with the ends of quires within the manuscript suggests that the exemplar was distributed in sections for copying; furthermore, they claim that the awkward transitions between sections suggests that the scribes were not working in the same location, but were ‘independent craftsmen who were employed on a particular commission, not as members of a scriptorium or workshop.’59 There appears to have been little communication between the scribes or overall supervision, with each making corrections to their own section; however, there is a slight indication that Hoccleve as Scribe E had some supervisory role in that he can be seen writing the catchword (a word inscribed at the foot 55 56




Burrow, Thomas Hoccleve, p. 32.

Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, pp. 313–14. This is particularly evident in relation to the Regiment, which was composed between 1410 and 1413 (L. R. Mooney, ‘A Holograph Copy of Thomas Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer 33 (2011), 263–96 (p. 281). Only twenty-three documents are identified in Hoccleve’s hand dating from these years, making it the least productive period in his career.

E. Hammond, ‘A Scribe of Chaucer’, Modern Philology 27 (1929), 27–33; L. R. Mooney, ‘Scribes and Booklets of Trinity College, Cambridge, MSS R.3.19 and R.3.21’, in Middle English Poetry: Texts and Traditions: Essays in Honour of Derek Pearsall, ed. A. Minnis (York, 2001), pp. 241–66. Doyle and Parkes, ‘The Production of Copies’, p. 182; for a more recent assessment of Hoccleve’s contribution to this manuscript, see Mooney and Stubbs, Scribes and the City, pp. 123–7. Doyle and Parkes, ‘The Production of Copies’, p. 167.

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of a page which anticipates the first word of the following page as an aid to collation) on folio 33v, and therefore must have had access to at least one other section of the manuscript.60 Furthermore, Hoccleve’s fellow-scribes in this manuscript have been identified in a number of other important manuscripts of vernacular literary works, including most notably Adam Pinkhurst, the scribe of the Hengwrt and Ellesmere manuscripts, the earliest surviving copies of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.61 Consequently, Hoccleve’s involvement in the production of the Trinity Gower suggests that he (figuratively if not literally) worked alongside the scribes most closely connected with the major vernacular authors of the period.62 Recently, Hoccleve’s hand has also been identified in British Library MS Harley 219, a trilingual miscellany copied by various scribes, in which he also may have had a supervisory role.63 Further indication of Hoccleve’s links to those involved in London book production comes from the dedication of one of his short poems to ‘T. Marleburgh’; this name has been identified as Thomas Marleburgh, ‘a prominent member of an active community of textwriters, scriveners, stationers and limners in Chaucer’s London’.64 Like Adam Pinkhurst, Hoccleve is also found to have written petitions from various individuals to the king and council in addition to his literary 60 61




Ibid., p. 166.

Ibid., pp. 170–7; for the identification of Scribe B of the Trinity Gower as Pinkhurst see L. R. Mooney, ‘Chaucer’s Scribe’, Speculum 81 (2006), 97–138.

In addition to this manuscript, Doyle and Parkes have suggested that Hoccleve may also be found making some corrections in the Hengwrt manuscript of the Canterbury Tales, and they draw attention to a hand ‘of the same school as Hoccleve’s and other privy seal clerks’ in the first portion of British Library MS Cotton Vespasian B.XXII, a collection of Admiralty ordinances. See A. I. Doyle and M. B. Parkes, ‘Palaeographical Introduction’, in The Canterbury Tales: A Facsimile and Transcription of the Hengwrt Manuscript, with Variants from the Ellesmere Manuscript, ed. P. G. Ruggiers (Norman OK, 1979), p. xlvi. Folio 10 of Cotton Vespasian B.XXII is reproduced in Schools of Illumination: Reproductions of Manuscripts in the British Museum, ed. J. A. Herbert (London, 1915), Part 4, pl. 10. Recently Simon Horobin has argued that Hoccleve was in fact the supervisor responsible for the production of the Hengwrt and Ellesmere manuscripts: see S. Horobin, ‘Thomas Hoccleve: Chaucer’s First Editor?’, The Chaucer Review 50 (2015), 228–50.

M. Schieberle, ‘A New Hoccleve Literary Manuscript: The Trilingual Miscellany in London, British Library, MS Harley 219’, The Review of English Studies (2019), Advance online publication: J. J. Thompson, ‘A Poet’s Contacts with the Great and the Good: Further Consideration of Thomas Hoccleve’s Texts and Manuscripts’, in Prestige, Authority and Power in Late-Medieval Manuscripts and Texts, ed. F. Riddy (York, 2000), pp. 77–101 (p. 94).

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scribal activity.65 The number of these documents identified in Hoccleve’s hand is relatively small (twelve in total), and they date from throughout Hoccleve’s career, suggesting that this was an occasional occupation rather than a substantial source of income.66 On one occasion in 1424, Hoccleve was the scribe of his own petition for the corrody of Southwick, for which (as noted above) he also drafted the resulting warrant, demonstrating the ability of a government clerk to use the administrative system to further his own interests.67 There is also evidence to suggest that on occasion Hoccleve carried out government work for offices or institutions other than the privy seal. There are three examples of council warrants for the chancery in Hoccleve’s hand, dating from 1402, 1404 and 1418.68 They order certain persons to appear before the king and council, and record the presence of the chancellor, treasurer, and keeper of the privy seal. That a privy seal clerk is found to have written council warrants is in many ways unsurprising; during the fourteenth century, the privy seal had increasingly become the main instrument by which the actions of the council were authorised, and the keeper was one of its key ministers.69 Correspondingly, privy seal clerks were used to keep a record of its meetings, becoming in effect, as Tout describes, a ‘council secretariat’; Hoccleve’s colleagues John Prophete and Robert Frye were appointed the first clerks of the council in 1392 and 1406 respectively.70



67 68



Killick, ‘The Scribes of Petitions’, pp. 70–2. These are listed in the Appendix, Table I, pp. 83–5.

One other example is the petition written by Hoccleve for John Mowbray in 1423 (see n. 52 above); this document appears not to have survived. It is probable that Hoccleve wrote other petitions in addition to these documents, but a systematic search for these is difficult owing to the complex nature of the archive and the fact that petitions were undated: see G. Dodd, ‘Parliamentary Petitions? The Origins and Provenance of the “Ancient Petitions” (SC 8) in the National Archives’, in Medieval Petitions: Grace and Grievance, ed. W. M. Ormrod, G. Dodd and A. Musson (York, 2009), pp. 12–46 (pp. 15–16). E 28/45 (4 July 1424); Killick, ‘The Scribes of Petitions’, pp. 72, 84.

C 81/1540/11, C 81/1541/77 and C 81/1542/45. More examples may survive; however, a thorough search is hampered by the fact that the archives of the council were not systematically kept and are now fragmented; see A. L. Brown, The Early History of the Clerkship of the Council (Glasgow, 1969).

J. F. Baldwin, The King’s Council in England during the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1913), pp. 257–9. Tout, Chapters, V, 13; Brown, ‘Privy Seal Clerks’, pp. 272, 276.

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More surprisingly, there are two chancery warrants in Hoccleve’s hand, both dated 27 April 1402.71 The idea that clerks might sometimes carry out work for more than one of the government offices is not impossible, but it is more likely to have occurred in some offices than others. There was a natural relationship between the privy seal and the signet as these were the most similar in function. Otway-Ruthven describes how, as a new office in the late fourteenth century, the signet drew largely on the privy seal for recruitment of its staff. This process worked both ways, as in subsequent years Hoccleve’s colleagues Robert Frye and John Offorde were both originally signet clerks before moving to the privy seal.72 The chancery, however, had a rigidly hierarchical structure, being divided into three grades through which a clerk had to pass in order to reach the highest level; for this reason chancery clerks rarely transferred from one office to another.73 The existence of chancery warrants in Hoccleve’s hand therefore indicates a greater mobility of clerks between government offices than might hitherto have been expected. However, without further investigation of the chancery archives, it is impossible to see whether this was a regular occurrence; the fact that both warrants are written on the same day might suggest it was a one-off commission prompted by unusual circumstances.

t This study of the extant documents written by Hoccleve for the privy seal suggests that his working life at that office was perhaps not as arduous as has been previously thought, and that it is unfair to describe him as occupying a position, in A. L. Brown’s words, ‘at the bottom of the administrative ladder’.74 In contrast to those of the chancery or exchequer, the clerks of the privy seal had limited opportunities for promotion; however, Hoccleve’s failure to secure one of the formal positions of seniority within that office did not mean that his career there was without advancement.75 He had substantial responsibilities regarding the day-to-day management of the office, including the procurement of supplies, the supervision of junior clerks, and the keeping of the office records, and it therefore seems that Hoccleve made the most 71

72 73

74 75

C 81/1540/21 and 22. These occur in the C 81 subseries ‘Warrants of the Council’, which indicates that they are probably misplaced. Otway-Ruthven, The King’s Secretary and the Signet Office, pp. 107–8.

Wilkinson, The Chancery under Edward III, pp. 65, 214–23; Richardson, The Medieval Chancery under Henry V, pp. 9–18. Brown, ‘Privy Seal Clerks’, p. 271. Tout, Chapters, V, 101.

T hom a s H o cc l e ve ’s C are e r i n, and o u t of, the Pr ivy S eal    163

of the opportunities that were available to him. It is even possible to argue that in this respect the background of the privy seal shaped Hoccleve as a writer, as the comparative lack of opportunity therein forced its clerks to make contacts and seek work outside the office, in Hoccleve’s case resulting in the formation of a number of connections which furthered his literary career. A comparison may be drawn with his colleague Robert Frye, who used his government connections to develop substantial land and business interests. In the case of Hoccleve, his skills as a poet, editor and scribe lent themselves to other pursuits.76 In her analysis of Hoccleve’s career Mooney connects periods of inactivity at the privy seal with his greatest literary productivity, arguing that this ‘fits a pattern we see in other writers of this and later centuries who take advantage of a period of enforced rest from their normal labors (imprisonment or dismissal from a job because of political alliances) to gain patronage and financial reward (or release) through their writings.’77 I would go further along these lines by suggesting that, over the course of his career, Hoccleve actually elected to take time off from the normal business of the privy seal in order to devote himself to other interests, including his poetry but also other scribal activities. In this sense, whilst Hoccleve always identified as a clerk of the privy seal, he was never restricted to this role.

76 77

Brown, ‘Privy Seal Clerks’, pp. 271–5. Mooney, ‘Some New Light’, p. 314.

8 The Order, Rules and Constructions of the House of the Most Excellent Princess Cecily, Duchess of York1 Joanna Lay ne smit h



ecily, duchess of York (1415–95), was one of fifteenth-century England’s great landholders, and consequently the head of a substantial household. The surviving description and rules drawn up for her household open a fascinating window onto the priorities, ideals and expectations of this institution, while also illuminating the late medieval great household more generally. However, our understanding of Cecily’s household ordinances is hindered by the angle of our gaze; the original purpose and audience of the text is by no means transparent. The text begins with an ‘order’ of Cecily’s day that self-consciously depicts the duchess as an ideal of virtuous living and has convinced generations of historians that she spent her long widowhood in pious contemplation, avoiding the political dramas of her sons’ reigns.2 Like any magnate, Cecily headed a household that was a major economic and political centre in its locality, and occasionally was the site of negotiations and events of national political import. Many of those who served Cecily also served successive kings, thereby anchoring her administration close to the centre of political



This article revisits the topic of my 1994 MA dissertation which was supervised by Mark Ormrod and Felicity Riddy, for whose guidance in this and subsequently I am hugely grateful. I would like to thank Mark Laynesmith for his advice and comments on this article and to our sons for putting up with a mother who spent more time behind the computer during the Christmas holidays than they did, especially to Matthew for finding me a recipe for leyched beef. I would also like to thank the Masters of the Bench of the Inner Temple for allowing me to consult Petyt MS 538 vol. 39 and the staff of TNA as well as Gwilym Dodd for his helpful comments in editing this. For a summary of these historians, see J. L. Laynesmith, Cecily Duchess of York (London, 2017), pp. 4–5.

T he O rder, R u l es and C onst r u ct i on s of Cecil y of York   165

power.3 This chapter presents a new edition of her household ordinances in the context of recent scholarship on late medieval England’s great households.4 It begins with a brief overview of this household’s place in the political events of the fifteenth century. It then discusses the surviving manuscripts of Cecily’s ordinances, examining the text’s place within the wider genre of household ordinances, especially those drawn up for other members of the House of York. Within this framework, it explores the evidence the ordinances provide for understanding daily life at Cecily’s household in Berkhamsted. Cecily, duchess of York, was the wife of the most powerful, and one of the richest, lords in fifteenth-century England, Richard, duke of York. Following his death in 1460, and the subsequent accession of her eldest son as Edward IV in March 1461, she was probably the wealthiest widow in England. She was granted estates that were calculated to be worth just over £2,500 (in addition to £789 from customs revenues).5 In the year of her death, 1495, the gross receipts from her lands amounted to £2,768 6s. 5½d.6 Although she owned estates in more than twenty English counties, Cecily spent most of her time in the south east. She did occasionally stay for months at a time in East Anglia, but before 1471 she was usually in London, Westminster or the vicinity. Thereafter, her principal residence was at Berkhamsted Castle in Hertfordshire, and it was during her residence there that the surviving version of her ordinances was drawn up.7 It was generally at crisis points that Cecily’s household became a significant political centre. For instance, in the spring of 1461, while Edward IV was fighting for the throne in the north of England, her household at Baynard’s Castle, on the Thames near St Paul’s Wharf, became the Yorkist headquarters in the south.8 Over the space of three months she spent more than £1,720 on hospitality and gifts on the king’s behalf.9 Nine years later, Cecily attempted to mend relations between her eldest sons with a meeting at Baynard’s Castle in the aftermath of George, duke of Clarence’s first rebellion alongside the earl of Ibid., pp. 104, 107, 109, 122, 166–8.


Strictly speaking ordinances are documents with some legal status, but it has become commonplace for historians to use the term to cover any document setting out the running of a particular household: K. Mertes, The English Noble Household 1250–1600 (Oxford, 1988), pp. 6–7.


5 6 7 8 9

CPR 1461–67, pp. 131–2. WAM 12171.

Laynesmith, Cecily, pp. 87, 91–2, 97–9, 121–3, 148, 171. Ibid., pp. 84–6. E 101/411/11.

1 6 6    J o a n n a L ay nesmi t h

Warwick.10 Her efforts failed, but during Henry VI’s readeption, later that year, Cecily’s continued good relations with her son George put her in a unique, but also complicated, position. Sir Henry Stafford and his wife, Lady Margaret Beaufort, stayed at Baynard’s Castle on three occasions in late 1470, probably while they were negotiating with the new regime to improve the fortunes of Lady Margaret’s son, Henry Tudor.11 Yet Cecily was also striving to undermine that regime. Her name heads the list of ‘mediators, and mediatricis’, described in the Arrival of King Edward IV, who were passing messages between the English court, Edward IV in exile, and Margaret, duchess of Burgundy, trying to persuade Clarence to abandon Henry VI’s cause. Whether the ‘certayne priests and othar well disposyd parsouns’ who carried these messages set foot in Cecily’s household, or were met at more secretive locations by her servants, is not recorded.12 Given the complex careers and continental connections of some of her chaplains, it is not impossible that some of them were among these messengers.13 As soon as Edward returned to London, he collected his queen and children from sanctuary and took them to ‘the lodgynge of my lady his mothar’, where his council joined him next morning to plan their assault on the earl of Warwick.14 Cecily’s decision to relocate her household to Berkhamsted in 1471 may in part have been a response to the strains of those years. Yet she continued to play an active role in her sons’ affairs and was visited there by both Edward IV and Richard III as king.15 A decade after Richard III’s death, the dean of her chapel, Richard Lessy, found himself accused of misprision of treason in connection with the Perkin Warbeck conspiracy. After a month in the Tower, Lessy was pardoned in return for a heavy fine. All nine of the men who stood surety for him were from Berkhamsted, most, if not all, in Cecily’s service.16 The dramatic changes in political fortune through which Cecily lived inevitably affected the personnel of her household, and may also have shaped 10


12 13 14 15


Great Chronicle of London, ed. A. H. Thomas and I. D. Thornley (London, 1938), p. 210.

WAM 12183 ff. 14, 15, 24, 32; M. K. Jones and M. G. Underwood, The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (Cambridge, 1992), p. 52. Three Chronicles of the Reign of Edward IV, ed. K. Dockray (Gloucester, 1988), p. 156. Laynesmith, Cecily, pp. 107, 111–12, 133, 152. Three Chronicles, ed. Dockray, p. 163.

Essex Record Office D/DQ 14/124/3/41; R. Edwards, The Itinerary of King Richard III, 1483–85 (London, 1983), p. 36. Laynesmith, Cecily, p. 174.

T he O rder, R u l es and C onst r u ct i on s of Cecil y of York   167

its structure and public image. The ordinances suggest a desire to present a decorous, pious and efficient household which was, perhaps consciously, at odds with narratives about the decadence of Edward IV’s court that circulated shortly after his death, yet very similar to some of the household documents produced on Edward’s behalf. Their present format appears to have been drawn up in the last decade of Cecily’s life, after Henry VII’s accession, since the heading indicates that Edward IV is dead and makes no mention of Richard III. Some sections may of course have originated long before. The ordinances survive in two seventeenth-century manuscripts. One of these (C) is now in The National Archives: TNA LS13/280 ff. 284r–285v. It was transcribed for Sir Julius Caesar, a civil lawyer who was chancellor of the exchequer from 1604 to 1614. It appears that Caesar had preserved them for the potentially useful precedents they provided in the management of royal households, being bound in a book that is primarily concerned with the contemporary royal household and particularly with the finances of the younger members of James I’s family. The text of Cecily’s ordinances is preceded by a copy of Edward IV’s ordinances for the household of his son, Edward, prince of Wales, which were originally drawn up in 1473 (ff. 277–279v), and by three sets of articles relating to the oversight of Henry VI’s upbringing, drawn up in 1428, 1433 and 1435 respectively (ff. 279v–283).17 Together with Cecily’s ordinances, these share a heading in the book’s contents page: ‘Ancient Ordinances in Edward the 3ths [sic] time, & since, for the good Government of the Princes Household’. It seems likely that C was the manuscript copied by the Society of Antiquaries when they published the ordinances for both the prince of Wales and Duchess Cecily in A Collection of Ordinances and Regulations for the Government of the Royal Household in 1790.18 The discrepancies between the manuscript and published version are relatively few except that the final two sections of Cecily’s ordinances were erroneously printed under the heading of the prince’s ordinances. The second manuscript of the ordinances (P) is now in the Library of the Inner Temple: Petyt MS 538 vol. 39, ff. 200r–201v. It was copied for William Petyt, another lawyer, who was famed for his constitutionalist propaganda 17


Edward prince of Wales’s ordinances have most recently been published in N. Orme, ‘The Education of Edward V’, BIHR 57 (1984), 119–30. No source is cited for the prince’s ordinances, but Cecily’s are ‘From a Collection of Papers, which formerly belonged to Sir Julius Caesar’: A Collection of Ordinances for the Government of the Royal Household (London, 1790), p. 37. English Historical Documents IV c.1327–1485, ed. A. R. Myers (London, 1969), p. 837 reproduces the first part of the ordinances from the Society of Antiquaries’ edition and modernizes the spelling.

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which helped to justify the political settlement following the Glorious Revolution of 1688.19 He had already amassed a considerable collection of transcripts from public records and private libraries by this date, and was then provided with an opportunity to improve his collections when appointed Keeper of the Records of the Tower in 1689.20 His transcript of Cecily’s ordinances is immediately preceded by the ordinances for Edward, prince of Wales. They are the only two texts in Liber Septimus of a volume whose contents range from a list of Elizabeth I’s household officers to coronation records for James I and the post-Reformation statutes of the London Charterhouse. Petyt marshalled many of his ancient transcripts as precedents for his political arguments, but at this distance we can only guess at his motives in gathering these particular records of the royal household. Manuscript P looks unlikely to have been a direct copy of C, although they must both be derived from a manuscript significantly later than the lost original: P and C both include a misleading punctuation mark in the list of Cecily’s books which can only have been added by a scribe unfamiliar with the works he was naming.21 Nonetheless there are a great many differences in spelling between the two texts.22 Both manuscripts also include a small number of words not found in the other and in each case these seem to improve the sense of the sentences they are found in. They may both have copied an earlier single transcript of the fifteenth-century document or are perhaps even less closely related. The manuscript(s) they used presumably included Edward, prince of Wales’s ordinances as well, since both are now bound with copies of these.23 In this context, it seems that through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Cecily, duchess of York’s household ordinances were not merely a record of how one elderly lady managed her house decades earlier, but were a model of 19 20




J. Greenberg, ‘Petyt [Petit], William (1640/41–1707)’, ODNB.

Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, ed. J. Conway Davies, 3 vols (Oxford, 1972), I, 14, 32–4, 47. ‘Bonaventure de infancia, Salvatoris Legenda Aurea’ instead of ‘Bonaventure, de infancia salvatoris, legenda aurea’.

For instance, P includes more abbreviations and more often uses roman numerals rather than writing numbers out in full. C includes very many more words with a terminal letter ‘e’ and more often uses the letter ‘y’ where P uses ‘i’. This might at first suggest that the scribe of P was modernising the more medieval spelling in C, except that just occasionally additional ‘e’s or ‘y’s appear in P that are not in C.

It seems most likely that Julius Caesar (or his clerk) mistook Edward, prince of Wales’s ordinance for a document relating to his fourteenth-century predecessor, Edward of Woodstock (hence the heading), and consequently inserted the texts relating to Henry VI between this and Cecily’s ordinances.

T he O rder, R u l es and C onst r u ct i on s of Cecil y of York   169

good household governance worth emulating. It is highly likely that they were first written in their present format with this purpose in mind. Members of the House of York are connected with a large number of the household ordinances that survive from the Middle Ages, but the genre had originated some three centuries earlier. The Constitutio Domus Regis of 1136, surviving in early thirteenth-century manuscripts, is the earliest such document that exists for an English king’s household. Its origins apparently lie in a text of about 1108 commissioned by Henry I. The Constitutio gives the titles of over 150 royal servants, indicating their dining arrangements, and the wages and livery to be provided.24 In the fifteenth century it was recalled that Henry I berithe the fame of an excellent mete geuer, and that he ordeynyd his groundes for houshold so sure that his greete hospitalitie dayly stode wurshuypfully without decay xxxiij yeres, his dettes and all purueaunces truly proued.25

This description occurs in the Liber Niger Domus Regis Angliae, an ambitious unfinished description of household financial arrangements and responsibilities composed for Edward IV’s court in 1472, reputedly drawing on the advice of his brothers, the dukes of Clarence and Gloucester. The Liber Niger’s introduction set out the precedents of earlier great kings whose household ordinances had helped to ensure good governance. Unsurprisingly the author made no mention of Henry VI, for whom ordinances had been drawn up in 1445 and again in 1454 by those attempting to steer the king out of his significant debts.26 The second of these was produced at the instigation of Richard, duke of York, during his first protectorate, but is utterly unlike the duchess’s ordinances; it simply determines the maximum numbers of servants required for the king’s household, naming those currently employed in each department.27 By contrast, the Liber Niger for Edward IV’s household, which is much the longest such description of the English royal household, does bear some similarities to Cecily’s ordinances and so could 24




Dialogus de Scaccario and Constitutio Domus Regis, ed. E. Amt and S. D. Church (Oxford, 2007), pp. lix–xli, xxxviii, 195–215.

The Household of Edward IV: the Black Book and the Ordinance of 1478, ed. A. R. Myers (Manchester, 1959), p. 83. R. A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry the Sixth: the Exercise of Royal Authority, 1422–1461 (London, 1981), pp. 312–14, 729; Household of Edward IV, ed. Myers, pp. 5–10, 63–75. Collection of Ordinances, pp. 15–24.

1 7 0    J o a n n a L ay nesmi t h

have been among the inspirations for them.28 In 1478 a much briefer official ordinance was drawn up for Edward IV’s household, again focussed on economy and attempting to achieve this by strict regulation of responsibilities as well as more rigorous allocation of resources.29 Given the number of men who divided their service between Cecily and the king, it is reasonable to assume that some of them were able to advise her household officers about these texts. There were also related documents drawn up at Edward IV’s court that provided advice on conduct at royal ceremonial occasions and mealtimes. These now survive only in a form revised in the 1490s, known as The Ryalle Book.30 One short section of this Ryalle Book was composed specifically for Cecily’s household as the king’s mother, setting out appropriate seating arrangements at mealtimes ‘if she be in hir own house’, and noting that all should be served ‘like as they be serued in the Kings presence’. The king’s mother herself should not share her ‘mess’ (serving) with any other, unless it was one of her younger sons.31 Moreover, in 1474 Edward IV’s chamberlain, Lord Hastings, had acquired on the king’s behalf a lengthy manuscript from Olivier de La Marche, master of the duke of Burgundy’s household, describing the running of that duke’s household, detailing all his servants and their duties, and depicting a highly ritualised and theatrical daily routine.32 Cecily thus inhabited a culture in which it was understood that written records of appropriate household management and conduct might be indicators of, or conducive to, effective lordship. Such regulations were usually the preserve of royal households, but a very small number survive for other named nobles. The oldest of these were drawn up for the twice-widowed Margaret de Quincy, countess of Lincoln, in the mid-thirteenth century. They were compiled for her by Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, based on the regulations for estate and household management already in use for his own establishment.33 Whereas the royal ordinances 28 29 30


Household of Edward IV, ed. Myers, pp. 76–197 Ibid., pp. 211–28.

K. Staniland, ‘Royal Entry into the World’, in England in the Fifteenth Century, ed. D. Williams (Woodbridge, 1987), pp. 297–313 (p. 299); D. Starkey, ‘Henry VI’s Old Blue Gown: The English Court Under the Lancastrians and Yorkists,’ The Court Historian 4 (1999), 1–28 (pp. 6–12).

The Antiquarian Repertory, ed. F. Grose and T. Astle, 4 vols (London, 1807–9), I, 300.

Mémoires d’Olivier de la Marche, ed. H. Beaune and J. D’Arbaumont, 4 vols (Paris, 1888), IV, 1–94.


L. J. Wilkinson, ‘The Rules of Robert Grosseteste Reconsidered: The Lady as Estate and Household Manager in Thirteenth-Century England’, in The Medieval


T he O rder, R u l es and C onst r u ct i on s of Cecil y of York   171

were principally concerned with financial management, Grosseteste’s ‘rules’ for the household prioritised injunctions about the importance of instilling godliness and obedience in servants and only retaining those of good character. Additionally, they advised on the distribution of alms, the appropriate reception of guests and restricting the time servants spent away from the household. This was followed by the appropriate formalities in serving dinner, encouragement to provide generous helpings ‘to increase the alms’, the value of eating in public in the dining hall and of good relations with bailiffs and servants on her estates. Only the final injunction was quite explicitly about efficiency, recommending that servants all ate in the hall rather than in their offices which led to waste.34 This much broader concern with good order and the lord or lady’s moral responsibility for her servants’ behaviour is much more evident in Cecily’s ordinances than the economic concerns of the royal ordinances. Grosseteste’s regulations were widely circulated over the next three centuries as general advice on running estates and households. In the fifteenth century, the section dedicated to the household was translated from French into English.35 This translation coincided with a flourishing of vernacular courtesy books in England which provided elaborate detail about how a great household should be run. Among the most extensive of these was The Booke of Nurture, apparently written or adapted by John Russell, usher and marshal to Cecily’s cousin, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester.36 Very few other ordinances for named nobles survive and, before the late fifteenth century, none are as extensive as the countess of Lincoln’s. A rare late thirteenth or early fourteenth-century ordinance for Lord and Lady Willoughby of Eresby consists of single sentence job descriptions for four household officers and concludes with an instruction that household expenses


35 36

Household in Christian Europe c.850 – c.1550: Managing Power, Wealth and the Body, ed. C. Beattie, A. Maslakovic and S. Rees Jones (Turnhout, 2003), pp. 293–306.

Walter of Henley and Other Treatises on Estate Management and Accounting, ed. D. Oschinsky (Oxford, 1971), pp. 399–407. Ibid., p. 6.

Early English Meals and Manners, ed. F. J. Furnivall, EETS o.s. 32 (1868), pp. 1–123. Cecily’s youngest son, Richard, owned a collection of romances and Old Testament stories into which a very much shorter text of this genre was written. It describes a gentleman usher’s duties in serving his master during the afternoon and when the lord and lady retired for the night: Longleat MS 257 fol. 109. It is, however, impossible to be certain whether these ‘orders’ were added during or after Richard’s lifetime. It is transcribed in C. Meale, ‘The Middle English Romance of Ipomedon: a Late Medieval “Mirror” for Princes and Merchants’, Reading Medieval Studies 10 (1984), 136–191 (pp. 180–2).

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should be examined four times a year.37 Usually surviving ordinances for identifiable individuals were in some way connected with the royal household, most often minors.38 The earliest of these were John of Brabant and John de Warenne, who were both in Edward I’s care in the late thirteenth century. Their ordinances indicated the numbers of servants required and the livery appropriate to them, as well as the horses needed and expectations of diet for John de Warenne.39 Their focus seems to have been on ensuring service appropriate to the status of each young man. 150 years later, the ordinances for Cecily’s nephew, John, duke of Norfolk, were more interested in ensuring his good behaviour and were apparently drawn up as a consequence of the teenage duke’s riotous activities while he was a ward in the household of the young king, Henry VI. These ordinances indicated the daily routine that the duke should follow, and, like the countess of Lincoln’s rules, they dwelt at length on the importance of well-behaved servants.40 The ordinances for Edward, prince of Wales (1473) are in a similar vein, although much more detailed, including instruction about mealtimes, punishment for brawlers, and efficient accounting, all of which are interwoven with a sense of the importance of ensuring that the prince received service appropriate to his station.41




40 41

Printed in J. C. Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II (Cambridge, 1918), p. 569. There are two sixteenth-century copies of what looks to be a fifteenth-century ordinance for ‘the state of an Earles houshold’ which may originally have been composed for a specific individual. Kim Phillips has suggested that this might have been Richard Neville, earl of Warwick. Phillips notes strong similarities between this text and Olivier de La Marche’s account of the Burgundian ducal household. If Phillips’s suggestion is correct, this ordinance would predate the ordinances of the house of York although it seems to have had no discernible impact on them (the missing portions of Clarence’s ordinances might, of course, have indicated otherwise). It could be closer in date to the early sixteenth-century Northumberland household books. BL MS Harley 6815 ff. 25r–41v, 16r and 42v–56v; K. Phillips, ‘The Invisible Man: Body and Ritual in a Fifteenth-Century Noble Household’, Journal of Medieval History 31 (2005), 143–62. The only ordinances for named individuals of which I am aware that are not referred to elsewhere in this article are E 101/370/19: an ordinance for the establishment of John de Warenne in the household, Edward I’s reign (a single membrane); and E101/10/11: an order of the council in reference to the custody of the earl of Ross 1301/2 (again a single membrane). M. G. A. Vale, The Princely Court: Medieval Courts and Culture in North-West Europe (Oxford, 2001), pp. 49–51, 347–50. Orme, ‘Education of Edward V’, pp. 122–3, 125–6. Ibid., pp. 126–30.

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Nicholas Orme has drawn attention to the significance of these documents in highlighting the growth, in the fifteenth century, of ‘a more precise system of measuring time and a more sophisticated concept of using it’.42 This concern with regulating the day according to specific times is manifested both in the Liber Niger and in Cecily’s own ordinances, as well as those drawn up for the household of Cecily’s younger son, George, duke of Clarence.43 Clarence’s ordinances are far more extensive than those for the prince, or indeed for Cecily, as was appropriate to a much larger household. Like the ordinances for the prince of Wales or the countess of Lincoln, they cover many of the issues found in Cecily, duchess of York’s ordinances and they are sufficiently similar to suggest Cecily’s household officers are likely to have been aware of them. Yet there are also striking differences. Clarence’s ordinances were completed on 9 December 1469, five months after his marriage to his cousin, Isabel Neville. Given the absence of evidence of any comparable ordinances outside the royal household at this period, it may be no coincidence that Clarence’s ordinances were drawn up midway between his two rebellions against Edward IV and while he was still Edward’s closest male heir. Unfortunately, the first part of this document has not survived, so we do not know what explanatory preamble was offered for the composition of this text. It exists only in a very late fifteenth-century copy, roughly contemporaneous with the composition of Cecily’s own ordinances.44 The first surviving section details the responsibilities of Clarence’s household servants with a heavy emphasis on careful use of resources, followed by a description of ‘fees’ (leftovers not required in the household such as ‘garbages of swannes’ for the officers of the scullery and saucery) and rules for the stable. There is then a list of the 188 servants required for the duke’s ‘ridinge housholde’ and the 144 persons expected to remain with the duchess in the ‘standing housholde’, concluding with estimated costs for running the household for a year, totalling almost £4506.45 Whatever practical function these might have been intended to serve, no reader could fail to be impressed by the resources at the duke’s command. Clarence’s public commitment to the ordinances was witnessed by Richard, earl of Warwick and John, earl of Shrewsbury, who appended their signatures.46 42 43


45 46

Ibid., pp. 120.

Household of Edward IV, ed. Myers, pp. 201–4, 208, 214, 218–20; Collection of Ordinances, pp. 89, 94.

This is Society of Antiquaries of London MS 211 which also contains the Liber Niger: Household of Edward IV, ed. Myers, pp. 53 n. 2. Collection of Ordinances, pp. 89–105. Ibid., p. 98.

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Cecily’s far more modest ordinances are divided into four sections. The first is the ‘order’ noting the times of her rising and going to bed, the religious services she attended, the books read at dinner and discussed at supper, an hour spent on business after dinner, a period of private prayer and time for ‘honest mirth’ with her ladies. The second section is entitled ‘the rules of the house’ and begins with times for meals, stating who should dine when, appointing the main dishes on ordinary and fast days, and providing instructions about the distribution of livery and wages. This is followed by a list of officers’ ‘fees’ and, finally, the ‘constructions’ of the house, that is, a list of regulations for good behaviour with appropriate penalties for transgressors. The opening line of the ‘order’, ‘Me semeth yt is requisyte to understande the order of her owne person …’, suggests that this account of the duchess’s daily routine was drawn up by way of an introduction to provide a context for the texts that follow. It could have been produced to advise a new member of staff on the way that the household was run, but it seems rather to be aimed at someone beyond the household. There would scarcely be any need to list the titles of the books read aloud at mealtimes if this was merely an internal document. Moreover, the final line suggests an author who is trying to impress: ‘I trust to our lordes mercy that this noble Princesse thus devideth the howers to his highe pleasure’. The ‘order’ of Cecily’s day is the only section of the ordinances that has so far attracted significant scholarly interest, and it has been an important source for many studies of women’s book ownership.47 As early as 1796, Mark Noble cited the order as evidence of Cecily’s ‘honourable’ lifestyle in the course of a paper that was later published in Archaeologia.48 In 1942 the order was one of the two principal sources upon which C. A. J. Armstrong constructed his detailed and influential study of Cecily’s piety, the other source being her will.49 Cecily thereafter became a frequent exemplar of medieval piety. Arm47



S. Groag Bell, ‘Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture’, in Women and Power in the Middle Ages, ed. M. Erler and M. Kowaleski (Athens Ga., 1988), pp. 149–98 (p. 60); F. J. Riddy, ‘“Women Talking About the Things of God”: A Late Medieval Subculture’, in Women and Literature in Britain 1150–1500, ed. C. Meale (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 104–26 (p. 111); M. Dzon, ‘Cecily Neville and the Apocryphal “Infantia Salvatoris” in the Middle Ages’, Mediaeval Studies 71 (2009), 235–300. M. Noble, ‘Some Observations upon the Life of Cecily Duchess of York’, Archaeologia 13 (1800), 7–19.

C. A. J. Armstrong, ‘The Piety of Cicely, Duchess of York: A Study in Late Medieval Culture’, in England, France and Burgundy in the Fifteenth-Century, ed. C. A. J. Armstrong (London, 1983), pp. 135–56 (originally published in For Hilaire Belloc; Essays in Honor of His 71st Birthday, ed. D. Woodruff (New York, 1942), pp. 68–91).

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strong himself noted both an ‘economy of detail’ in the ‘order’ and the fact that there was nothing unusual in hearing several religious services each day. Nonetheless, it has only been this century that scholars have reconsidered the perception conveyed by the ‘order’ that Cecily’s life in widowhood was dominated by her religious interests.50 It is instructive to compare the routine that Cecily apparently followed with that recommended almost a century earlier by Christine de Pizan, whose work was well known to the English royal family. In her Treasure of the City of Ladies, Christine advised the ‘wise princess’ to rise ‘quite early every day’ and to make her first words a series of prayers. She should then ‘hear her Masses, as many as accord with her devotion and as time and leisure will permit her’. As she left chapel, she should distribute alms and hear petitioners before meeting with her council. Over the midday meal ‘according to the fine old custom of queens and princesses’ a gentleman should speak ‘on some excellent moral subject or tell stories of exemplary lives’. After a more peaceful afternoon she should attend Evensong ‘if no weighty business prevents her’.51 The differences between this routine and that followed by Cecily are slight. Cecily did spend additional time in private prayer in the afternoon, but her day was not dramatically more religious. Christine de Pizan’s suggested routine was itself an ideal, explicitly rooted in the concepts of mixing the active and contemplative life expressed by Walter Hilton in one of the books that Cecily listened to at her mealtimes. But this does not mean that Christine did not also think it a realistic possibility. At the conclusion of the routine, Christine throws in the observation that pleasurable activities like hunting and hawking may still be woven into this regime, ‘even by very virtuous ladies’, if pursued with moderation.52 Edward, prince of Wales’s timetable also bears similarities to these routines: his day would begin with Matins in his chamber, followed by Mass in the chapel and then breakfast followed by ‘vertuous learninge’. Over dinner he should listen to ‘such noble storyes as behoveth to a prynce to understande and knowe’. He too would attend Evensong before supper. Consequently, it 50



R. E. Archer, ‘Piety in Question: Noblewomen and Religion in the Later Middle Ages’, in Women and Religion in Medieval England, ed. D. Wood (Oxford, 2003), pp. 118–40 (pp. 124–6); M. K. Jones, Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle (Stroud, 2002), pp. 67–71; J. L. Laynesmith, ‘The Piety of Cecily, Duchess of York: A Reputation Reconsidered’, in The Yorkist Age, ed. H. Kleineke and C. Steer (Donington, 2013), pp. 27–43.

C. de Pisan, The Treasure of the City of Ladies or The Book of the Three Virtues, tr. S. Lawson (London, 1985), pp. 61–2. Ibid., p. 62.

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appears that Cecily’s schedule might fairly be assumed to be not untypical for ladies of her age and status. Whereas the prince’s schedule, like the rules for the countess of Lincoln or duke of Clarence, is written from the perspective of what should be done, Cecily’s order is very firmly presented as what is done. The message is that Cecily herself is the author and source of this style of living and the narrative structure owes as much to the moral treatises of Christine de Pizan or Walter Hilton as it does to the Liber Niger. By contrast, the later sections of Cecily’s ordinances are rather more like the practical instructions found in Clarence’s household ordinance and may well have originated as internal documents, only later conscripted into this outward facing text. The ‘rules’ for Cecily’s household cover dining arrangements, including variations for fasting days, as well as accounting, payments for goods and services, and livery. Surprisingly, there is absolutely no reference to almsgiving.53 It was not just the idealistic Christine de Pizan or Bishop Robert Grosseteste who prioritised such charity in their household advice. Alms are also mentioned in the household instructions given for Edward, prince of Wales; and George, duke of Clarence’s officers were particularly instructed to ensure that the food was kept from the ‘devouringe of dogges’ and distributed ‘at the gate, to poore people, fower or five dayes in the week’.54 This absence from Cecily’s rules suggests that this section of the text was not originally drawn up to impress others with her household management but as a working document for a particular servant other than the almoner. I would suggest that for Cecily’s household this broad remit was probably the purview of her marshal. Expectations of different officers vary somewhat in ordinances and courtesy books, so that in some the marshal’s only role is organising meal times (and in particular precedence in seating) while broader responsibility for running the household fell to the steward.55 However, Cecily’s ordinances do not mention a steward at any point, and according to her will the steward of her household was Sir Henry Heydon, a gentleman with estates of his own in Kent and Norfolk and a career as a lawyer which he combined with service to Cecily not only in this role but also as steward of many of her estates.56 Consequently, Heydon must have been one of the ‘head officers’ who are frequently mentioned in the ordinances as men who were 53 54 55 56

An equally surprising omission is any reference to guests. Collection of Ordinances, p. 90.

Mertes, English Noble Household, pp. 17, 22, 39.

A. J. Spedding, ‘“At the King’s Pleasure”: the Testament of Cecily Neville’, Midland History 35 (2010), 256–72 (p. 271); C. E. Moreton, ‘Sir Henry Heydon’, ODNB; WAM 12179.

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not expected to be present at all times. By contrast, her marshal was clearly a permanent member of the household. Precedent for such an arrangement can be found in several fifteenth-century courtesy books.57 Cecily’s household adopted the common policy in large households of eating dinner and supper in two shifts; those who were going to serve her ate at the first sitting. In Edward IV’s household the first dinner on flesh days was at the strikingly early time of 9am, compared with 11am on fasting days, whereas Cecily’s first dinner was usually at 11am (during High Mass), but at 12 noon on fasting days.58 The timing in the king’s household may have been intended to reduce the need for breakfasts.59 The distribution of breakfasts in Cecily’s household was more generous and occurred after the first Mass which seems to have been standard timing in any household.60 For some of her officers, the need to be present at the daily accounting apparently took priority over eating, which was why they were permitted to share a less formal breakfast in the counting house once that task was done. The ‘rules’ mention that food was served both in the chamber and the hall, indicating that, at least sometimes, Cecily chose the relative peace and exclusivity of eating away from most of her household. This arrangement presumably made it easier to discuss readings over supper but was against the advice Robert Grosseteste had given to the countess of Lincoln. It perhaps reflected changed perceptions of the appropriate use of space in projecting authority by the fifteenth century. It was commonplace for households to abstain from meat on Friday and Saturday, and often Wednesday too, but I have not found evidence elsewhere of Cecily’s curious compromise arrangement, in which meat was avoided on Friday and Saturday but merely reduced on Monday and Wednesday.61 ‘Leyched beef ’, eaten at supper at Berkhamsted, was thickly sliced meat and so was very likely from the beef that had been cooked at dinner time, although fifteenth-century recipes did include instructions for steaks: ‘Take 57

58 59

Early English Meals and Manners, ed. Furnivall, pp. 188–90; R. W. Chambers, A Fifteenth-Century Courtesy Book, EETS o.s. 148 (1914), pp. 11–17. See also C. M. Woolgar, The Culture of Food in England 1200–1500 (New Haven, 2016), p. 22. Household of Edward IV, ed. Myers, p. 214.

The king and queen were to be served with a large breakfast which those serving them might share, but no other breakfasts were to be provided except by special commandment of the steward, treasurer or comptroller: Household of Edward IV, ed. Myers, p. 204. Woolgar, The Culture of Food, pp. 12–13.


Mertes, English Noble Household, p. 109.


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Venyson or Bef, & leche & gredyl it vp broun’.62 The length of the instructions for the ‘fees’ and responsibilities of the Berkhamsted purveyor of cattle and sheep is indicative of the great importance to the household of these supplies. He was responsible for buying in live animals, butchering them and then selling on those hides, skins and tallow not required by the household. Bearing in mind the quantities of cattle and sheep consumed, the purveyor must have found himself in possession of a very large number of animal heads and entrails which he presumably sold on to his own advantage to those who could not afford choicer meats. The ox feet retained for the household’s use during winter were perhaps boiled in soup, although calves’ feet were often used to make jellies or, like udders, could be minced up with currants and spices into forcemeat. This was not the only flesh served in Cecily’s household. It was common practice in medieval great households to begin dinner with pottage followed by roast or boiled beef or mutton with bread and ale for the entire household. The higher status diners were then offered further courses.63 These might include pork, boar or a wide range of birds. Cecily’s ordinances make specific mention of rabbits, which she was most likely able to source from the warren that had been maintained for her great uncle, Edward of Woodstock, who frequently resided at Berkhamsted Castle a century earlier. In January 1358 he had arranged for the warren and dells around it to be enclosed with a hedge.64 This warren was located within his great deer-park, which probably also provided meat for the household at Berkhamsted in Cecily’s day. The other most important food sourced directly from great estates in the later Middle Ages was fresh fish for eating on fast days. A nineteenth-century survey identified traces of fish ponds to the west of Berkhamsted Castle.65 The River Bulbourne, which runs through the town, must have supplemented these.66 Fish cultivation occurred at all elite properties, and Christopher Dyer has argued that it was a part of ‘the assertion of the social exclusiveness of the aristocracy’.67 Those without access to fish ponds could only rarely eat fresh62 63


65 66


T. Austin, ed., Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery Books, EETS o.s. 91 (1888), p. 40.

M. Carlin, ‘Catering for Great Households: Practical Matters’, in The Elite Household in England, 1100–1550, ed. C. M. Woolgar (Donington, 2018), pp. 336–54 (p. 344).

Register of Edward the Black Prince, 4 vols (London, 1930–33), IV, 178, 190, 238, 536. (accessed 2 January 2019).

For fish taken from the river at Berkhamsted in Edward of Woodstock’s day, see Register of Edward the Black Prince, IV, 190. C. Dyer, Everyday Life in Medieval England (London, 1994), p. 110.

T he O rder, R u l es and C onst r u ct i on s of Cecil y of York   179

water fish. Surviving accounts indicate that even the great households still generally consumed more salt-fish than fresh as a result of the huge quantities that were needed.68 The menus for Saturdays in Cecily’s household seem to support this. The balance between salt and fresh fish looks to have been more even on Fridays and other fast days, perhaps because on those occasions butter and eggs were also avoided. Even more significant than meat and fish was the provision of bread which had to be baked daily in huge quantities. Wheat heads the list of supplies to be accounted for in the duke of Clarence’s ordinance and the estimated cost of £205 is not very much less than the £225 to be spent on beef.69 When Robert Grosseteste drew up ordinances for the countess of Lincoln, major householders expected to be gathering much of the wheat they used from their own estates, and planned where to spend different parts of the year accordingly.70 But by the fifteenth century the nobility preferred to move their households less and became more reliant on local markets or ‘private treaty sales’.71 This last looks to have been the preferred source for Cecily’s wheat, brought in ‘freshe from under the flayle’. The provision of livery of firewood and candles for servants in households is commonly included in ordinances, but Cecily’s are unusually complex. In the households of Edward IV and George, duke of Clarence, the same quantity of candles and firewood was provided for servants throughout the winter, from All Hallows until Easter, whereas Cecily’s ordinances reduce the allowance between Candlemas and Easter.72 Much of this firewood may have come from the beech woodland on the Berkhamsted estate which certainly provided Edward of Woodstock’s fuel.73 Despite this evidence of careful husbandry, Cecily’s ordinances give no indication of the quantities of wood or candles due to each household member, unlike her sons’ ordinances. This reflects a general lack of interest in quantities throughout the ordinances. Because royal household ordinances throughout the fifteenth century had always been motivated by a concern that the king was living too extravagantly, it was necessary to stipulate numbers of servants and quantities of food and drink that could be provided for them. George, duke of Clarence’s ordinances were drawn up just as he was embarking upon proper adult life as a married man, 68 69 70 71 72 73

Ibid., p. 104.

Collection of Ordinances, p. 101.

Walter of Henley, ed. Oschinsky, p. 397. Dyer, Everyday Life, pp. 107, 278.

Household of Edward IV, ed. Myers, p. 143; Collection of Ordinances, p. 91. Register of Edward the Black Prince, IV, 218.

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establishing a new system for himself, and perhaps attempting to emulate the royal ordinances more closely. By contrast, Cecily’s household was experienced and seems to have been confident of living within its means. The steps taken to ensure efficiency here focussed on monitoring finances and paying debts promptly. Cecily’s policy of enquiry about debts in local towns every quarter naturally had a positive side effect in helping to demonstrate the duchess of York’s responsible ladyship in public. Daily accounting seems to have been standard practice in noble households, but payment for goods could vary and most seem to have provided livery of clothing twice a year.74 Cecily’s arrangement in providing cloth only once a year may be evidence of either confidence in her cashflow or a preference for purchasing all her cloth from a particular annual market. It seems that Cecily’s policies for keeping debts to a minimum were successful because in her will she thanked God that ‘to the knolege of my conscience I am not muche in dett’.75 The details of ‘fees’ in Cecily’s ordinances are also sometimes less precise than is found elsewhere. George, duke of Clarence’s ordinances considered the fat skimmed off the pots, the ‘fleetinge of the leade’, to be ‘feeable’, but only after enough had been set aside for the household’s requirements for frying and for greasing the carts. Moreover, his butcher is given similar permission to take ox heads, but reminded to leave the tongues for the household.76 It is difficult to know why the compiler of Cecily’s ordinances felt it unnecessary to ‘rehearse’ most of the kitchen fees unless it was assumed that the clerk of the kitchen would oversee this so no other officer needed to take note. There is a broad similarity between the instructions for fees in this household and Clarence’s and in the financial records of other contemporary households which suggests that these were fairly standard fees.77 Indeed, the note in Cecily’s ordinances that ‘whete is never garnerd here’ seems curiously redundant and might just indicate that whoever composed this list was adapting one from another household.78 74

75 76 77


C. Dunn, ‘“If There Be Any Goodly Young Woman”: Experiences of Elite Female Servants in Great Households’, in Elite Household, ed. Woolgar, pp. 317–35 (p. 334). Spedding, ‘Testament of Cecily Neville’, p. 266. Collection of Ordinances, p. 95.

C. M. Woolgar, ‘The Development of Accounts for Private Households to c.1500 AD’ (unpublished PhD dissertation, Durham University, 1986), pp. 141–2. Available at Durham E-Theses Online: Clarence’s ordinances have blanks under a number of the headings for fees and refer to fees in the spicery yet there are no specific officers for this in the lists of his servants. Collection of Ordinances, pp. 95–6.

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The final section of Cecily’s ordinances deals with discipline. In the ordinances for Prince Edward and the duke of Clarence, such matters are woven in with the topics covered by Cecily’s ‘rules’ and they are much more limited. Clarence’s household members were instructed not to break doors or pick locks, not to leave servants, horses or dogs behind ‘to the seid Dukes charge’ while they were absent, and not to gamble except during the twelve days of Christmas. None of these seem to have been matters of concern in Cecily’s household. Clarence’s ordinances also threatened those who swear ‘of God, and his moste reverente membres’ with losing their service. It is interesting to note that in Cecily’s household it is those who swear ‘by the masse’ who are most at fault. Reverence for the Mass runs through these ordinances, from the frequent attendance in the ‘order’ to arrangements that seem to emphasise the opportunity for more of the household to attend on fast days. More generally, her ‘constructions’ combine a sense of the head of the household’s moral responsibility to safeguard the spiritual welfare of those in her employ with a concern to ensure that they did not bring any disgrace upon her or her wider affinity by their behaviour in or out of the household. This practical concern about reputation was, I have argued, a key motivation in the composition of the ordinances as they currently stand. As a mother of kings yet never herself a queen, Cecily’s was an anomalous and potentially vulnerable status, even before her youngest son was killed in battle, accused of usurpation and murder. Mark Ormrod’s work has frequently touched on the situations of similarly vulnerable quasi-queens.79 Most pertinently, his analysis of Joan of Kent’s reported encounter with the 1381 rebels in her bedchamber (or the king’s) drew attention to the ideological significance of reported aberrant behaviour within her private apartments and to the manipulation of textual images of Joan in constructing the king’s identity, both of which provide a telling context for understanding Cecily’s ordinances.80 Cecily’s administration was more successful in promoting an enduring image of her exceptionally high status and noble character than Joan of Kent’s. Yet these 79


For example, Katharine Mortimer, assassinated for her perceived influence over David II, and Alice Perrers, a ‘self-made woman’ brought down by an anxious patriarchy after her royal lover’s death: W. M. Ormrod, ‘Katharine Mortimer’s death at Soutra’, Sharp Practice. 4. Fourth Report on Researches into the Medieval Hospital at Soutra, Lothian/Borders Region, Scotland, ed. B. Moffat (Edinburgh, 1992), pp. 100–20; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Who was Alice Perrers?’, The Chaucer Review 40 (2006), 219–29; W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Trials of Alice Perrers’, Speculum 83 (2008), 336–96.

W. M. Ormrod, ‘In Bed with Joan of Kent: the King’s Mother and the Peasants’ Revolt’, in Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain. Essays for Felicity Riddy, ed. J. Wogan-Browne et al. (Turnhout, 2000), pp. 277–92.

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ordinances are much more than an exercise in image management drawing on other Yorkist ordinances. Their overlap with general texts on household management and contemporary financial records reinforce the impression that much of this text is a practical formula for running a household. Moreover, the very late fifteenth-century copies of Liber Niger and Clarence’s ordinances indicate a genuine early Tudor interest in the operations of Yorkist households which the ‘Compendous recytacion’ was very likely created to serve. The seventeenth-century manuscripts that survive are indicators of the enduring value placed on Cecily duchess of York’s model. They are also among the richest sources we have for the life of this exceptional political survivor of the Wars of the Roses.

The Ordinances

This transcript is based on C (TNA LS13/280) because it is the oldest surviving manuscript. Insertions from P (Inner Temple Library, Petyt MS 538 vol. 39) are indicated with square brackets. Expansions are indicated with italics and punctuation has been modernised. f. 284 A Compendous recytacion compiled of the order, rules & constructions of the house of the righte excellent Princesse Cecill, Late mother unto the right noble Prince, Kinge Edward the fourthe. Me semeth yt is requisyte to understande the order of her owne person concerninge god and the worlde. She useth to aryse at seven of the clocke and hath readye her Chapleyne to say with her mattins of the daye and mattins of our lady, and, when she is fully readye, she hath a lowe masse in her chamber, and after masse she taketh somethinge to recreate nature, and soe goeth to the Chappell, hearinge the devine service and twoo lowe masses, from thence to dynner duringe the tyme whereof she hath a lecture of holy matter, either Hilton of contemplative and active life, Bonaventure, de infancia Salvatoris, legenda aurea, St Maude, St Katherin of Sonys or the Revelacons of St Bridgett.81 81

Probably versions of Walter Hilton, On the Mixed Life; Pseudo-Bonaventure, Meditationes de Vita Christi; De Infantia Salvatoris; The Golden Legend; Mechtild of Hackeborn, Liber Specialis Gratie; a Life of St Catherine of Siena; and Bridget of Sweden, Revelations. Armstrong, ‘Piety of Cicely’, pp. 144–51; S. Horobin, ‘A Manuscript Found in the Library of Abbotsford House and the Lost Legendary of Osbern Bokenham’, English Manuscript Studies 1100–1700 14 (2007), 132–64.

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After dinner she giveth audyence to all such as hath any matter to shewe unto her by the space of one hower, and then sleepeth one quarter of an hower, and after she hath slepte she contynueth in prayer unto the first peale of evensonge, then she drinketh wyne or ale at her pleasure. Forthwith her Chapleyne is readye to saye with her both evensonges, and after the laste peale she goeth to her Chappell, and heareth evensonge by note; from thence to supper, and in the tyme of supper she recyteth the lecture that was had at dynner to those that be in her presence. After supper she disposeth her self to be famyliare with her gentlewomen to the [uccasion]82 of honest myrthe, and one howre after afore her goeinge to bed she taketh a cuppe of wyne and after that goeth to her pryvie closette and taketh her leave of god for all nighte, making ende of her prayers for that daye, and by eighte of the clocke is in bedde. I trust to our lordes mercy that this noble Princesse thus devideth the howers to his highe pleasure. fol. 284v.

The Rules of the house.

Upon eatinge dayes at dynner by eleven of the clocke, a first dynner in the tyme of highe masse for carvers, cupbearers, sewers83 and offycers. Upon fastinge dayes [at dinner] by xij of the clocke, and a later dynner for carvers and for wayters. At supper upon eatinge dayes for carvers and offycers, at fowre of the clocke; my lady and the houshould at five of the clocke, at supper. When my lady is served of the seconde course, at dynner [and] at supper, the chamber is rewarded and the hall with breade and ale, after the discretyon of the usher. Rewardes84 from the kytchin is there none, saving to ladyes and gentlewomen85, to the heade offycers if they be present, To the Deane of the

82 83 84


C reads ‘secacon’. Waiters.

Rewards are extra helpings, and this most likely refers to food provided for overnight.

In 1495 her ladies and gentlewomen were probably Lady Margaret Verney, Jane Talbot, Grasild Boyvile, Jane Brocas, and Alice Metcalfe (whose husbands were

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Chappell86, to the Almoner, to the gentlemen ushers,87 to the Carvers, Cupbearers & Sewers, to the Cofferer, to the Clerke of the kytchin88, and to the Marshall. There is none that dyneth in their offyces, savinge onely the cookes, the Scullery, the sawcerye, the Porters, the Baker if they be occupyed with bakeinge. Uppon sondaye, tuesdaye and thursdaye, the househoulde at dynner is served with boyled beefe and mutton, and one roste; at supper, leyched beefe and mutton roste. Uppon mondaye and wensday at dynner, one boyled beefe and mutton; at supper ut supra. Upon fastinge dayes, saltfyshe and twoe dishes of fresh fishe; if there come a principall feaste, it is served like unto the feaste honorablye. If monday or wendsdaye be hollidaye, then is the houshold served with one roste as in other dayes. Upon satterdaye at dynner, saltfyshe, one freshfishe, and butter; at supper saltfishe and egges. Wyne daylie to the heade offycers when they be presente, to the ladyes and gentlewomen, to the Deane of the Chappell, to the Almoner, to the gentlemen ushers, to the Cofferer, to the Clerke of the kytchin, and to the marshall.

also in her service), Jane Lessy, niece of the dean of her chapel, and Anne Lownde. Spedding, ‘Testament of Cecily Neville’, pp. 268–9.

The dean of her chapel in 1495 was Richard Lessy, one of the executors of her will, who had been a member of her household, on and off, since childhood. Laynesmith, Cecily, pp. 133, 169–71, 173–6.


The only gentlemen ushers in her will named as such were Richard Cressy and Robert Lichingham. Lichingham was also her bailiff in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and Cressy was possibly a kinsman of Gervase Cressy who was evidently a more senior member of Cecily’s administration but whose title was not recorded. Spedding, ‘Testament of Cecily Neville’, pp. 270, 271; WAM 12179.


The clerk of her kitchen in 1495 was Richard Brocas, one of the witnesses to her will and the husband of Jane Brocas. He was also Cecily’s bailiff and parker at Standon. Spedding, ‘Testament of Cecily Neville’, pp. 269, 271; WAM 12179.


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Upon frydaye is made paymente for all manner of freshe cates; at every moneth ende is made paymente for all manner other thinges; [at]89 every quarter ende the chappell is payde of their wages. At every half yeare[s end] the wages is payde to the houshoulde, and livery clothe once a yeare. Paymente fol. 285 Payment of fees out of houshoulde is made once a yeare. Proclamacon is made foure times a yeare about Berkhamsted90 in market townes to understand whither the Purveyors, Cators and other make true paymente of my ladyes money or not, and alsoe to understande by the same whither my ladyes servantes make true payment for theyre owne debts or not, and, if any defaulte be founde, a remedy to be had forthwith for a recompence. Breakfastes be there none, saving onely the head officers, when they be present, to the ladyes and gentlewomen, to the Deane and to the Chappell, to the Almoner, to the gentlemen Ushers, to the Cofferer, to the Clerke of the Kitchin, and to the Marshall. All other offycers that must be at the brevement have their breakfaste together in the comptinghouse, after the breavementes be made. The remayne of every offyce be taken at every monethes ende to understande whither the offycers be in arrearadge or not. Livery of breade, ale, and fyre and candle is assigned to the heade offycers, if they be presente, to the ladyes and gentlewomen, as many as be maryed, to the Deane and to the Chappell, to the Almoner, to the Chapleynes, to the gentlemen Ushers, to the Cofferer, to the Clerke of the Kitchin, to the marshall and to all the gentlemen within the house, if they lye not in the towne. That is to saye, whole lyverie of all such thinges as is above specyfied from the feaste of Alehallowe unto the feaste of the purifycation of our Ladye, and after the purificatyon, half lyverie of fyres and candles unto good Frydaye, for then expireth the tyme of fyre and candle alsoe. 89


C has ‘one every quarter’, which The Society of Antiquaries transcribed as ‘on every quarter’. A line and a half of dittography is deleted here.

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To all sicke men is given a lybertye to have all such things as may be to theire ease, if he be a gentleman and wilbe at his owne dyett, he hath for his boarde weeklye xvj d and ix d for his servant, and nothinge out of the house. If any man fall impotente, he hath styll the same wages that he had when he might doe best service, during my ladyes lyfe, and xvj d for his boarde weekly and ix d for his servant. If he be a yeoman xij d, a groome or a page ten pence. fol. 285v

Officers hath theire fees as heareafter followeth.

The Pantryes: Chippinges and broken breade. The Cellor: the voyde vessells of wyne. The Butlers: worne cuppes and broken ale, and therefore be they bounde to fynde yeaste to season bread in the bakehouse. The maister cooke hath the fleetinge of the leade and conniskinnes. The remnante of the kytchin need not to be rehearsed touchinge theyre fees. The larders hath to theire fees the neckes of mutton – twoe fingers from the heade, the legges two fingers from the houghe, and the paringes of the flankes of beifes and muttons. The purveyors of beeves and muttons, of calves & lambes, the which alsoe occupye the butcherye, hath to his fees the oxe heades, muttons heades, the rumpes of every beefe, and the intrayles of every beaste excepte the oxe feete, and the uthers91, the which be served in the house in tyme of winter upon mondaye and wensdaye at supper, that is to saye, from the feaste of Alhallowes unto the puryficatyon of our ladye, and he is bounde to answere to my ladyes advantage the valewe of all the hydes of oxen, veale skynnes, sheepe fells, lambe skynnes and the tallowe of all theise at the ende of every moneth. Also, he is bounde to give a due accomptt every yeare, once, of all the beeves and muttons that be delivered into his hands, and if any dye of the murryon, he must bring in the hydes or the fells for his discharge; if any straye awaye in his defaulte, then is he bounde to make a recompence.



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Whete is never garnerd here for the bargaine is made that the sellor hath his tyme assigned to bringe yt in freshe from under the flayle. The Constitucons of the house If any man comes to late to mattyns upon the hollyday, that is to say, after the thirde lesson, he shall sytt at the water boarde, and have nothinge unto his dynner but breade and water, and if he absente himself fol. 285v. himself wilfully, he shall thus be punished whensoever he comes to dynner or supper. If any man be a customable swearer, or spetyally by the masse, he falleth into perdycon after his degree; if he be one of my Ladyes Councell or a grete officer, he looseth xij d, a gentleman iiij d, a yeoman ij d, a groome j d, a page ob. Alsoe that noe man misintreate any man,92 his wife, his daughter or his servante, in payne of leesinge his service. Alsoe that noe man make debate in the house, for if he doe, and drawe a weapon withall, he leseth his servyce without redemptyon, and if yt be with in the house or without, he shall have admonityon to be ware, and at the seconde tyme to be excluded out of his service. Alsoe that every man knowe other in his degree: a yeoman, a gentleman etc. Alsoe that noe man presume to mayntaine any man’s matter without the advise of my Ladyes Councell, in payne of loosing their service. Alsoe that noe man presume to goe to sessyons or assises, neither for his owne matter, his freinds, or any man’s without the knowledge and advise of my Ladyes Councell in payne of looosinge his service. Alsoe that every man at tyme of Easter bringe suffycient wrytinge or witnesse where he was shryven, and when he receaved the holy sacrament, in payne of losinge his service.


C appears to have a comma here, but P does not so that the original sense could have been ‘any man’s wife’.

9 Archbishops’ Registers Revealed: Church, State and Society in the Registers of the Archbishops of York, 1225–c.16501 Hel en Wat t



n 2014, Mark Ormrod received the generous award of just under $300,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for an ambitious and innovative new project, building on his enormous success in funding and managing similar initiatives such as the ‘Medieval Petitions’ project,2 and, more



This article draws on the following unpublished papers given by the present author, having worked on pilots for the ‘Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ and ‘The Northern Way’ projects, and subsequently as Marc Fitch Fund Project Archivist, University of York, BIA, and now as Research Fellow on ‘The Northern Way’ project, Department of History/BIA, University of York: ‘The Archbishop’s Tale: Edward Lee and the Dissolution of the Monasteries in Yorkshire’, Reformation on the Record Conference, TNA, November 2017 (with Gary Brannan, Access Archivist, ‘Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ project and Marc Fitch Fund Project Supervisor, BIA); ‘The Registers of the Archbishops of York in the Fifteenth Century’, Fifteenth Century Conference, University of Essex, September 2017; ‘Evidence for Material Culture in the York Archbishops’ Registers’, The Material Culture of Religious Change and Continuity Conference, University of Huddersfield, April 2017, and ‘Index Nomine Amen: Enabling Free Online Access to the York Archbishops’ Registers 1576–1650’, Archaeological Information in the Digital Society (ARKDIS) Conference, University of Uppsala, Sweden, June 2016 (both with Gary Brannan); ‘The Archbishops of York Registers Revealed Pilot Project’, Archbishops’ Registers Revealed International Summer School, University of York, July 2015 (with Dr Paul Dryburgh, then Access Archivist, BIA, and Supervisor, ‘Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ pilot project). Thanks to both Gary Brannan and Paul Dryburgh for all their help with those papers and this article. ‘Medieval Petitions: A Catalogue of the “Ancient Petitions” in The National Archives’, see [accessed 9 December 2018].

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recently, the ‘England’s Immigrants’ project,3 to say nothing of his involvement in ‘The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England’ (i.e. PROME) and the ‘Records of English and Welsh Lay and Clerical Taxation’ projects.4 This new grant was to enable digitisation of the extant registers of the archbishops of York, 1225–c.1650, held in the University of York’s Borthwick Institute for Archives, and launch them online with a searchable index, making them freely available worldwide. Mark devised this project through his belief in the intrinsic value of this source and what it could reveal of the interaction between church, state and society during four hundred years and more of English history. As well as giving an outline of the project and how it has radically increased availability and facilitated access to the registers for a much wider audience than before, the discussion in this chapter demonstrates the possibilities for future research using examples mainly drawn from the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century registers.

The Registers

The registers of the archbishops of York – whether in roll format, such as the register of Walter de Gray, archbishop from 1215 to 1255,5 or as codices, like the register of William Melton, archbishop from 1317 to 13406 – all record the various types of business carried out by the archbishop or his officials within the province and diocese of York.7 Many entries found in the ‘England’s Immigrants 1330–1550: Resident Aliens in the Late Middle Ages’, see [accessed 9 December 2018].


See the E 179 database, records relating to lay and clerical taxation, http://www. [accessed 9 December 2018].


BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 1, consisting of two parchment rolls, printed in The Register, or Rolls, of Walter Gray, Lord Archbishop of York: with Appendices of Illustrative Documents, ed. J. Raine, Surtees Society 56 (1872), and currently being thoroughly revised and further researched by Dr Sethina Watson, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History, University of York, and Dr Maureen Jurkowski, for future publication.


BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 9A and 9B.


For an introduction to the nature and contents of archbishops’ and bishops’ registers, see: C. J. Offer, The Bishop’s Register (London, 1929); A. Hamilton Thompson, ‘The Registers of the Archbishops of York’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 32 (1936), 245–63; J. S. Purvis, An Introduction to Ecclesiastical Records (London, 1953); D. M. Owen, The Records of the Established Church in England, British Records Association, Archives and the User, No. 1, British Records Association (1970); D. Robinson, ‘Bishops’ Registers’, in Short Guides to Records, 2nd series: Guides 25–48, ed. K. M. Thompson, The Historical Association (London, 1997), pp. 44–49; D. M. Smith, A Guide to Bishops’ Registers in England and Wales: a Survey from the Middle Ages to the Abolition of the Episcopacy in 1646, Royal Historical Society, Guides and


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registers contain copies of documents issued in the name of the archbishop or received by him, including for instance those that throw light on relations with the monarchy. These include significations of excommunication, requests for invocation of the secular arm of the law in certain cases of contravention of ecclesiastical law and failure to come to that law, or simply prayers for the king’s undertakings, particularly in wartime.8 Other entries highlight the intersection of the secular and spiritual worlds, most obviously in the matter of the taxation of the clergy which, although carried out separately from that of the laity until the mid-seventeenth century, nevertheless indicated the reach and power of the state.9 Depending on date, the registers also show interaction with the papacy, for instance in recording the various types of papal dispensation, such as that granted to couples wishing to marry within the proscribed bounds of consanguinity.10 They also record the business of the archbishop, such as carrying out visitations in the various areas under his jurisdiction, including the five archdeaconries of Cleveland, the East Riding, Nottingham, Richmond and York, as well as other peculiar jurisdictions located geographically within his diocese such as Howden and Howdenshire, and Allerton and Allertonshire. Other matters in the registers relate to the clergy and include records of their ordinations, institutions to benefices, inductions, collations and commissions to offices, as well as probate of wills and information relating to the administration of estates of those dying intestate, both of clergy and their parishioners. Whatever the format of the registers, in the past, various factors may have led their contents to have been considered the domain of the specialist in ecclesiastical history. As with the majority of medieval ecclesiastical documents, most entries are written in highly abbreviated Latin, with some in French or English, using many technical terms, and requiring knowledge, for example, of such ecclesiastical legal procedures as acts for the confirmation of the election of a bishop. These factors have militated against easy



Handbooks series, 11 (London, 1981) and Supplement to the ‘Guide to Bishops’ Registers…, CYS (York, 2004).

For example, BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 12, f. 24, prayers for Edward III during the wars with France, 1377.

For example, BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 12, f. 25v, documents concerning collection of the two clerical tenths granted in York Province in 1378, with details of corresponding documents surviving in the archive of the Exchequer available in the E 179 Database, in this case, simply: E 179/63/8, a schedule of defaulters.


For example, BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 16, f. 127, dispensation for John Plompton and his wife Alice Gyllyng, related in the fourth degree, 1404.

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interrogation of the original documents. Moreover, although the registers were usually divided into sections for different types of business, their arrangement can sometimes be chaotic. For example, Archbishop John Kempe’s register, for the period 1426–1452, has been described as indigesta moles,11 a confused mass, and although David Smith’s Guide to Bishops’ Registers now gives an outline of its contents, much further work would be needed to bring full order to the chaos.

The ‘Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ Project: Problems and Methodology

Although all the early archbishops’ registers from 1225 to 1299 have been published,12 not all those dating from the fourteenth century have appeared in print,13 whereas only around twenty-five years of the fifteenth century reg11



BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 19; Smith, Guide to Bishops’ Registers, p. 243, citing ‘Documents relating to the visitations of the diocese and province of York, [1407–1452]’, ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, in Miscellanea ii, Surtees Society, 127 (1916), 152–201. The Register, or Rolls, of Walter Grey, Lord Archbishop of York: with Appendices of Illustrative Documents, ed. J. Raine, Surtees Society 56 (1872); The Register of Walter Giffard, Lord Archbishop of York, 1266–1279, ed. W. Brown, Surtees Society 109 (1904); The Register of William Wickwane, Lord Archbishop of York, 1279–1285, ed. W. Brown, Surtees Society 114 (1907); The Register of John le Romayn, Lord Archbishop of York, 1286–1296, part 1, ed. W. Brown, Surtees Society 123 (1913); The Register of John le Romayn, Lord Archbishop of York, 1286–1296, part II, and of Henry of Newark, Lord Archbishop of York, 1296–1299 (including a register for the vacancy of the see, 1299–1300), ed. W. Brown, Surtees Society 128 (1917).

The Register of Thomas of Corbridge, Lord Archbishop of York, 1300–1304, part I, ed. W. Brown, Surtees Society 138 (1925); The Register of Thomas of Corbridge, Lord Archbishop of York, 1300–1304, Part II (including the vacancy register, 1304–1306), ed. W. Brown and A. Hamilton Thompson, Surtees Society 141 (1928); The Register of William Greenfield, Lord Archbishop of York, 1306–1315, part I, Surtees Society 145 (1931); part II, Surtees Society 149 (1934); part III, Surtees Society 151 (1936); part IV, Surtees Society 152 (1938); part V (including a vacancy register, 1315–1317), Surtees Society 153 (1940), all ed. W. Brown and A. Hamilton Thompson; The Register of William Melton, Archbishop of York, 1317–1340, volume I, ed. R. M. T. Hill, CYS, 70 (1977), (ff. 555–621); The Register of William Melton, Archbishop of York, 1317–1340, volume II, ed. D. B. Robinson, CYS 71 (1978) (ff. 269–320v); The Register of William Melton, Archbishop of York, 1317–1340, volume III, ed. R. M. T. Hill, CYS 76 (1988) (ff. 622–688v); The Register of William Melton, Archbishop of York, 1317–1340, volume IV, ed. R. Brocklesby, CYS 85 (1997) (ff. 400–477); The Register of William Melton, Archbishop of York, 1317–1340, volume V, ed. T. C. B. Timmins, CYS 93 (2002) (ff. 83–151); The Register of William Melton, Archbishop of York, 1317–1340, volume VI, ed. D. B. Robinson, CYS 101 (2011) (ff. 321–399).

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isters have been calendared and none for the sixteenth century.14 Therefore, the ‘Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ project has as its central aim enhanced access through digitization to all the registers produced between 1225 and 1650. It is hoped that making high-quality digital images and indexed entries freely available online will showcase the richness and variety of their contents and their applicability to a wide range of research interests. Such an undertaking has created some important methodological problems, not least the need to establish authority lists, that is, lists of standardised personal and place-names, as well as a compilation of subject-index terms suitable to be applied consistently to registers spanning four hundred years, written in a variety of languages and covering a very wide variety of subject-matter. A further consideration was to create a set of tools and resources which would facilitate indexing the registers, but which would not encroach upon the programme of the Canterbury and York Society in their endeavours to publish full scholarly editions of selected medieval or early modern archbishops’ registers. To explore some of these methodological challenges, a pilot was proposed to make an initial examination of the registers, both in terms of their physical state and in terms of the periods covered. It was agreed that the pilot should focus on one register dating from the thirteenth century, and one each from the late medieval and early modern periods, to look at contrasting periods in church history. The selected register from the thirteenth century was that of William Wickwane, archbishop 1279–1285, chosen in part because it is particularly problematic from the point of view of conservation and imaging; the two later registers chosen were those of Alexander Neville, archbishop 1374–1388, and Edward Lee, archbishop 1531–1544.15 Conservation work carried out during the pilot was undertaken by the Borthwick’s conservators and consisted of a comprehensive assessment of each register, reviewing the condition of the registers, the nature of the binding and their immediate fitness for digitisation.16 This survey was required because several of the volumes to be included for study during the editorial work of the pilot, including that of Wickwane, proved to contain features such as tight bindings, deep gutters, 14

15 16

A Calendar of the Register of Robert Waldby, Archbishop of York, 1397, ed. D. M. Smith, Borthwick Texts and Calendars 2 (1974); A Calendar of the Register of Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, 1398–1405, ed. R. N. Swanson, Borthwick Texts and Calendars 8 (1981); 11 (1985); The Register of Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York, 1480–1500, vol. 1, ed. E. E. Barker, CYS 69 (1976) (ff. 1–289). BIA/YDA/2/Abp Regs 3, 12, 28.

An initial survey and subsequent work on the registers were carried out by Alison Fairburn, Senior Archive Conservator, and Catherine Firth, Archive Conservator, BIA.

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areas of damage and many inserts, which would present problems for both imagers and potential users. A key task during the pilot project was to examine the contents of the registers in order to support the creation of a database containing metadata taken from entries found within them. The aim was to devise a set of standardised descriptive metadata not only to enable identification of the component parts of any register, such as sections containing different types of business, but also of each entry type, as well as to provide essential details for each individual entry, such as date, place of dating, and details of people, organisations and places mentioned, and a summary if desired. All these fields are now present in the resulting database, giving great flexibility to the interrogation of register entries. The pilot focussed particularly on the sections containing ‘Diverse Letters’ of Neville’s register and the corresponding ‘Miscellaneous’ section of Lee’s register, in an attempt to discover exactly what kind of material users might expect to find there. Neville’s ‘Diverse Letters’ was found to include such entries as communications with the papacy, documents relating to Convocation (for example, lists of office-holders to be invited), lists of those licensed to say masses in private chapels and oratories, as well as documents relating to a new bishop, in this case, of Durham ( John Fordham, provided 1381, and consecrated 1382). There was also a widow’s vow of chastity, with the vow itself written in French, together with a record of the relevant ceremony in Latin,17 and orders to enquire into the miracles of the late prior of Bridlington, who was subsequently canonised as St John of Bridlington,18 as well as the strange case of the man who was given absolution for having castrated a chaplain because he found him in flagrante delicto with his wife and because, as he said, ‘the pain of this discovery was too much to bear’.19 Besides regular business, the ‘Miscellaneous’ section of Lee’s register was found to contain documents concerning the implementation of Reformation policy in the archdiocese, as well as those relating to visitation of religious houses prior to their dissolution. There are also licences to preach and records of examinations of those accused of heresy, including two well-known Lutherans from Worksop in Nottinghamshire.20 Other entries include orders issued 17 18

19 20

BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 12, f. 88.

BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 12, f. 97; see M. J. Curley, ‘John of Bridlington [St John of Bridlington, John Thwing] (c.1320–1379)’, ODNB. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 12, f. 43v.

BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 28, ff. 82v–83r, 89v–90r; see A. G. Dickens, Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York, 1509–1558, 2nd edn (London, 1982), pp. 19–21, 23.

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for processions and prayers for the safe delivery from childbirth of Queen Jane in 1537,21 and there is a record of the permission given in 1534 to the prioress and convent of Sinningthwaite to pledge a silver vessel on account of the convent’s poverty,22 the full context of which will be explored below. The value of examining each of these sections of the registers was further demonstrated not only by the diversity of entries (‘Diverse Letters’ and ‘Miscellaneous’ indeed) but also by the discovery of information which would potentially add fresh detail to existing studies. Examples here include one or two taxes in Neville’s register which were apparently either not found, or barely mentioned, in TNA’s E 179 Records of Lay and Clerical Taxation database,23 and a prebendary of Strensall apparently not noticed in the Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae.24 In Lee’s register, there is a matrimonial cause not appearing in the Cause Papers Database,25 and some marriage licences entered at a date before these documents were generally registered; although such licences are known to have existed from around 1567, the surviving series of those issued by the archbishops of York does not start until 1660.26 Another major feature of the pilot study was the creation of a hierarchy of keywords with which to search the database. The list of subject-headings under which the keywords were to be grouped had to be wide-ranging enough to be applicable to material covering the entire period under consideration. The keywords were to allow identification not only of themes and types of business contained in each register entry, but also objects described, including, for example, types of possessions left in wills as legacies, some of which were generic (for example, furniture and household equipment), and some of which 21 22 23

24 25


BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 28, ff. 108r–v. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 28, f. 89v.

BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 12, f. 88, one clerical tenth, 1377; f. 101, papal tax of 100,000 florins in lieu of tithes from Canterbury and York Provinces, 1375. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 12, f. 9v, John, cardinal priest, admitted in 1379.

BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 28, f. 140, retraction of witness statements, 1539, see ‘Cause Papers in the Diocesan Courts of the Archbishopric of York, 1300–1858’, a project managed by BIA and generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; database available via [accessed 24 November 2018]. Details of some marriage licences extracted by William Paver from original records whose whereabouts are now mostly unknown are indexed in: A Consolidated Index to Paver’s Marriage Licences (1567–1630), Printed in the “ Yorkshire Archaeological Journal”, ed. E. W. Crossley, YAS Extra Series II (Wakefield, 1912); and see the BIA Guide for Genealogists: ‘Marriage Bonds and Allegations’, available at [accessed 27 March 2019].

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were specific (for example, different types of household equipment, including cradles, mirrors and pictures). Dictionaries of ecclesiastical terms and subject indices of printed editions of registers, as well as material found in the registers themselves, were used for references in this process. This work ultimately resulted in a master list of subject headings, consisting of broad subjects (such as ‘Dues and Offerings, Ecclesiastical’) and sub-headings within those subjects (such as ‘Tithes’), the latter to be used as the keywords with which to search the database. The current list is not finite; amendments and additions are being made as work on the registers progresses. It is nevertheless also tightly controlled to maintain its structure and integrity. This feature of the database now allows consistent searching across the registers and assists evaluation of material of potential interest both to researchers in an academic context and to those with interest in family and local history. There is now scope to search for very particular points of interest: for example, how many nunneries were keeping chickens in the chancel of their church, or how many vicars had become so deranged that they needed an assistant. During the pilot, the feasibility of a larger project was successfully tested and proved, so that the subsequent project itself could be fully supported by all aspects of the work carried out previously. The project consisted of a fifteen-month programme split into four areas: conservation, imaging, development and training (including an international summer institute for postgraduate students held in York in 2015). Conservation work focussed particularly on registers such as that of Wickwane, which is characterised by many of the challenging aspects noted above. Disbinding that and two other registers and re-shooting the images was considered appropriate; in the case of Wickwane’s register this was justifiable from an archival perspective because the register was not in its original state. It had come to consist of two volumes bound together, a working register preceded by an incomplete later copy, neither identical to the other. Imaging work included all photography, image checking and processing, and technical metadata creation, resulting in a total of nearly 22,000 digital images of the registers in fully interoperable format. These images have been added to the York Digital Library and are now online free of charge to researchers.27 The technical development area of the project involved the creation of the database and an interface to support the indexing of the registers, as well as the creation of the web application.28 The resulting new resource 27 28

Photographic work was carried out by Frances Cooper, Project Imager, BIA.

IT development work was carried out by the late Julie Allinson, Digital Library Manager, University of York, without whose work the online database would not exist.

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comprises high-quality images of the full series of registers extant between 1225 and 1650, covering around 10,000 folios contained in a database which allows detailed descriptive metadata to be added for each entry in each folio. In the online database there is a tool which, in addition to enabling indexed entries to be searched, allows images of the registers and details of people, groups, places and subjects to be browsed. The database, interface and website were all created from Open Source materials, easy to replicate and suitable for use with any register, cartulary or other volume.29

Further Project Work

Following the ‘Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ project, a subsequent project generously supported by the Marc Fitch Fund was carried out to examine in their entirety the registers dating between 1576 and 1650 and to index them in detail. During this project, several discoveries were made among entries in the registers; these will be highlighted below, to show the richness and variety of subject matter they contain. Amongst these entries, for example, in the register covering the period 1629 to 1650, was a plan of the pews in the chapel of Holmfirth of 1635, the earliest surviving plan of its kind relating to a faculty in the archdiocese.30 This plan is similar to that discussed by Richard Gough in his History of Myddle;31 it names at least 400 individuals, and is now being examined in more detail to inform a study of the area in the mid-­ seventeenth century.32

Wills in the Registers

Besides entries such as these, many others recorded in the registers between 1576 and 1650 were found to comprise testamentary business, mostly wills of the clergy. Wills had appeared in the registers of the archbishops of Canterbury and in those of bishops from the early to mid-fourteenth 29




Details are given under ‘Technology’ in the ‘About’ section of the ‘Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ website, see [accessed 9 December 2018]. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 32, f. 94; see also ‘Faculties and other records concerning the fabric of church buildings’, BIA, Guides for Church Records, available via https:// church%20fabric.pdf [accessed 10 November 2018]. R. Gough, Human Nature displayed in the history of Myddle (also known as The Antiquities & Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle, County of Salop) (1834); for a modern edition, see, for example, R. Gough, The History of Myddle, ed. D. Hey (Harmondsworth, 1981).

Work on the plan is being carried out by the Huddersfield Family History Society.

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century;33 and although it is not uncommon to find wills of both clergy and laity in the registers of the archbishops of York from around the same period onwards,34 the quantity of clergy wills found in the Elizabethan and early Stuart registers seemed much larger than expected. However, this phenomenon may be explained by the fact that such wills, as well as wills of clergy and laity during an archbishops’ visitation, were normally proved in the Chancery Court of York, one of five ecclesiastical courts at York. This was the personal court of the archbishop, but was presided over by the vicar-general of the archbishop.35 The appearance of so many Chancery Court wills in the later archbishops’ registers may simply reflect a change in the way such matters were recorded in the registers, which had moved many other types of business out of these registers. By the mid-sixteenth century, institutions and ordinations of the clergy and records of benefices, patronage and church land and property, among other subjects, began to be registered in separate series.36 Whatever the cause, the inclusion of so many wills of the clergy in the later registers allows fresh light to be thrown on these men in the archdiocese. As might be expected, the wills of these Yorkshire clergymen to some extent reflect their economic and social status, a subject that has been explored in the past.37 However, at first sight they also seem to show some variation in the nature of their possessions, their lifestyle and even their fitness for the job. Whereas some wills mention few possessions, others seem to have been very well endowed with luxury goods, furnishings, fixtures and fittings around their houses, and equipment and livestock in their lands. Noteworthy belongings include music and musical instruments, such as virginals, theorbos, lutes and citterns. For some reason this is especially evident in the West Riding of Yorkshire and the archdeaconry of Nottingham. Although such items are found 33





For example, Smith, Guide to Bishops’ Registers, pp. 2 (Canterbury), 80, 82 (Exeter), 106 (Lincoln), 137 (London), 188 (Salisbury), 203–4 (Winchester).

Indexed in Index of Wills and Administrations Entered in the Registers of the Archbishops at York, Being Consistory Wills, etc. A. D. 1316 to A. D. 1822, Known as Archbishops’ Wills, ed. J. Charlesworth and A. V. Hudson, YAS Record Series 93 (1937), with many printed in Testamenta Eboracensia, ed. J. Raine senior, J. Raine junior and J. W. Clay, Surtees Society 4, 30, 45, 53, 79 and 106 (1836–1902).

C. I. A. Ritchie, The Ecclesiastical Courts of York (Arbroath, 1956), pp. 23–3; R. A. Marchant, The Church under the Law (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 66–82; K. Webb, ‘YDA/5 - Archiepiscopal Courts’, Borthwick Catalogue, BIA. https://borthcat.york. [accessed 16 February 2019]. K. Webb, ‘YDA/2 – York Diocesan Registry’, Borthwick Catalogue, BIA. https:// [accessed 16 February 2019]. F. W. Brooks, ‘The Social Position of the Parson in the Sixteenth Century’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3rd series, 10 (1945–7), 23–37.

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in only eight of the 253 clergy wills registered between 1576 and 1600, they provide clear evidence of music-making in the home rather than in church. David Harris has shown how interest in music and musical education was especially prevalent amongst the clergy in the period 1485–1603.38 The clergy of York Province would clearly have been exposed to church music in ‘public’ places such as York Minster and their parish churches, but Harris stresses that proficiency in playing musical instruments in private was also a mark of cultural standing. Wills illuminate the importance of domestic music making to the clergy, as exemplified by the will of Timothy Bright, rector of Barwick in Elmet (d. 1615), who specifically mentioned the ‘Irish harp which I most usually played upon’.39 The clerical wills of the York Province therefore provide additional material to enrich our understanding of domestic music playing in and around York through the ages.40 Some of the possessions found in the wills might seem unusual in the homes of the clergy (for instance clocks, sundials, armour and weapons), but others are perhaps more common, such as cushions, ranging from cushions of cloth of gold to Spanish cushions and even cushions bought at Doncaster.41 Items of farming equipment and livestock are common, and there are several instances of named animals, such as cows called Daisy and Marigold, a yoke of oxen called Leeming and Lyon, and horses called Whitefoot and Andrew.42 Apart from these, perhaps one of the most noticeable features of the wills was the number that mention books, either in general or specific terms. Studying references to books in the wills of the Yorkshire clergy is not a new subject, but details taken from register entries can now illuminate this subject further. Two historians in particular have published on the subject, A. G. Dickens and J. S. Purvis.43 Dickens focussed on clergy in the deanery of Doncaster in the West Riding in the mid to late sixteenth century, noting the increase in references to books in wills of the clergy towards the end of the century, which he considered 38

39 40

41 42 43

D. G. T. Harris, ‘Musical Education in Tudor Times (1485–1603)’, Proceedings of the Musical Association, 65th Session (1938–1939), 109–39. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 31, f. 185.

D. Griffiths, A Musical Place of the First Quality: A History of Institutional Music-Making in York c.1550–1990 (York, 1990); J. Merryweather, York Music: The Story of a City’s Music from 1304–1896 (York, 1988); Music in the British Provinces 1690–1914, ed. R. Cowgill and P. Holman (London, 2017). BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 31, ff. 9, 219 and 84v respectively.

BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 31, ff. 249 and 94; Reg. 32, ff. 96v and 29v respectively.

A. G. Dickens, ‘Aspects of Intellectual Transition among the English Parish Clergy of the Reformation Period: A Regional Example’, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 43 (1952), 51–70.

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to reflect a general rise in book production and book ownership in society as a whole.44 The database of the registers mirrors Dickens’s suppositions, but can now facilitate further studies covering the whole of Yorkshire. After the examination of the wills of clergymen found in the register covering the years 1576 and 1600, three further registers for the earlier years of the sixteenth century were studied to widen the search for references to books. The results are shown in Table 1, together with additional information about references to books in clergy wills found in other published work. The results clearly show the high proportion of such references in the wills overall, and the increase in numbers of such references towards the end of the century. Table 1. Results of analysis of a 10% sample of clergy wills found in the Archbishops’ Registers, c.1500–1600 containing references to books. Register


Date range of sample

No. of wills in register

No. of wills in sample




No. of wills No. of Total in sample wills noted containing elsewhere references containing to books references to books45 4

















30 Total:


102 571

10 56







The second historian to have studied the wills of the Yorkshire clergy, J. S. Purvis, used the wills as evidence of clerical literacy.46 He noted that books owned in the pre-Reformation period before about 1540 were mainly liturgical and devotional, including the very popular Legenda Aurea, containing writings about the saints. After about 1560, in the post-Reformation period, the rise in references to works of Calvin, Erasmus, Luther and the Church Fathers 44 45


Ibid., p. 61.

This column relates to references to books mentioned in wills by Dickens and also in J. S. Purvis, ‘The Literacy of the Later Tudor Clergy in Yorkshire’, Studies in Church History 5 (1969), 147–65; C. Cross, York Clergy Wills 1520–1600: I Minster Clergy, Borthwick Texts and Calendars: Records of the Northern Province 10 (York, 1984) and C. Cross, York Clergy Wills 1520–1600: II City Clergy, Borthwick Texts and Calendars 15 (York, 1989), but not found in the sample. See the previous note.

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is very evident, including Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is mentioned in many wills.47 Among the examples cited, Purvis included wills in which clergy simply mentioned ‘all my books’ and provided thirteen examples dating from between 1580 and 1600, to which the database can now add at least twelve more. As demonstrated in Table 1, the increase in numbers of references to books in clergy wills found using the database, particularly for the period 1576–1600, may confirm Purvis’s suppositions about the increase of clerical literacy towards the end of the sixteenth century. A further thirty-five wills in the registers of Archbishops Sandys, Piers, Hutton and Matthew (i.e. in the period 1576–1628) were examined,48 which showed that out of a total of sixty wills for that period, fifty-six contained references to books. Finally, a list has been compiled which now contains a total of 540 references to books in the wills of Yorkshire clergy dating from between 1500 and 1650. These are either blanket references to ‘all my books’ or individually named works, of which there might be several in one will. Works specifically mentioned before the Reformation include Bibles and Missals, as well as such titles as Ludolph of Saxony’s Vita Christi (available in print from around 1474), and the Legenda Aurea (printed in English by William Caxton in 1483). After the Reformation, in addition to the Book of Common Prayer and service books, titles specified include Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and the works of reformers, such as Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion mentioned above. It is hoped that knowledge of these sources will assist future research on the works owned by clergy. One way to do so might be to identify previously unidentified works mentioned in the wills. For example, Purvis noted one such book with the opening line Absolon suspenditur, but this work has now been proved to be a northern version of the Legenda Aurea, with two copies in American libraries.49 Examples of two contrasting wills identified from the database can be examined in more detail. They highlight the different nature and type of bequests, as well as the concerns of the testators; but the impressions of each man given in the wills alone, taken together with other sources, produces an even more nuanced picture. The first of these wills is that of Simon Thirkleby, rector of Slingsby (d. 1582), whose legacies included: 18s. 6d. in cash (of which 11s. was left to the poor); fifty old sheep; twenty-nine ewes; twenty-seven lambs; two cows; three heifers; one calf; three oxen; three items of clothing; 47 48 49

Ibid., p. 149.

BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 31.

Purvis, ‘Literacy of the Later Tudor Clergy’, p. 154; see, for example, Yale University, Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library, New Haven, CT, USA: MS 27.

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six items of household goods, comprising a mazer, farming equipment, a cupboard and his ‘Great Communion Book’.50 Although most of Thirkleby’s goods went to family members and a network of relations, we also see pious and charitable giving. From 1529 testators were obliged by law to include in their wills, among other things, ‘charitable Deeds … for the Health of their Souls’.51 Purely financial bequests are few and bequests of livestock are many, but there is a notable lack of bequests of possessions such as household objects and furniture. This will therefore appears more to be that of a local farmer and, like that of other clergy, one concerned with the produce of his glebe.52 In this case, his concern is perhaps explained by the large size of the glebe attached to the benefice, stated in the nineteenth century to have comprised 100 acres.53 Nevertheless, Thirkleby still owned a few treasured possessions, including his communion book. From this, we might imagine that he was learned as well as skilled in husbandry. However, evidence from a visitation carried out in 1575 recording the competence or otherwise of the clergy shows that a Simon Thirkleby, then curate of Danby, did ‘not know Latin, [was] poorly or barely aware of the Scriptures, read English poorly’,54 and had only preached a sermon three times that year.55 This description suggests that Thirkleby may have been a better farmer than he was a cleric. In complete contrast to the will of Thirkleby, that of the very learned Robert Clay, Puritan vicar of Halifax (d. 1628),56 shows that Clay was himself an author, although unpublished, and had a network of friends and relations among the Yorkshire gentry and Oxford academy. John Crabtree, in his work on the parish of Halifax, states that, unusually, Clay was buried in the library

50 51






BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 31, f. 93v.

See J. and N. Cox, ‘Probate 1500–1800: a System in Transition’, in When Death Us Do Part, ed. T. Arkell, N. Evans and N. Goose (Oxford, 2000), pp. 14–37 (p. 24), citing an Act of 1529: SR, III, 285 (xiv).

P. Heath, The English Parish Clergy on the Eve of the Reformation (London, 1969), pp. 160–1. T. Whellan & Co., History and Topography of the City of York, and The North Riding of Yorkshire, 2 vols. (Beverley, 1859), II, 884.

Purvis, ‘Literacy of the Later Tudor Clergy’, p. 161, citing Archbishop Grindal’s examination of the clergy of 1575.

Archbishop Grindal’s Visitation, 1575, Comperta et Detecta Book, ed. W. J. Sheils, Borthwick Texts and Calendars: Records of the Northern Province 4 (York, 1977), p. 54. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 31, f. 273.

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of the church at Halifax, which he was said to have built up,57 having converted the charnel house in the crypt to a chained library.58 The books from Clay’s library, with many later additions, now survive in the library of the University of York as the Halifax Parish Collection.59 In contrast to the will of Simon Thirkleby, Clay’s will mentions more than just one book; four, in fact: two of his own commentaries, one on the epistle to Titus and one on the Ten Commandments, which he desired to be printed; his copy of a book which may be identified as Tomas de Trujillo, Thesaurus concionatorum (Lyon, 1584, 1596), which he bequeathed to Merton College, Oxford, where he himself had studied; and his copy of the works of Jerome in three volumes (possibly in the edition by Erasmus as found in the parish collection),60 bequeathed to Magdalen College. His books were to be bequeathed to his sons if they were academically inclined, or sold if not, but to be catalogued in either eventuality: this suggests he possessed many more. Also, after making provisions for his second wife and daughters of his first and second marriages, thinking of his sons’ education, he showed his concerns for the future of his books by stipulating that they should be laid up securely for future use by the boys: ‘Whereas I have many paper books, note books and some penned by me, my will is that all shalbee safely Locked up in some Chist or trunke till it shall please God my sonne Robert or John shall have discretion to make use of them’. William Bentley, an earlier historian of Halifax, has noted contemporary allegations made against Clay which suggest that, like Thirkleby, he appears to have neglected his duties through his various faults, and also that he had a prickly personality.61 Most of these charges relate to his duties as a parish J. Crabtree, A Concise History of the Parish and Vicarage of Halifax (Halifax, 1836), p. 128.


J. A. Hargreaves, ‘Century of Revolution’, Halifax Minster, History, https://www. [accessed 10 February 2019].


See the catalogue of the Library of the University of York. library/collections/named-collections/halifaxcollection/ [accessed 13 February 2019], also L. J. Parr, ‘The History of Libraries in Halifax and Huddersfield from the mid-sixteenth century to the coming of the public libraries’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of London, 2003).


D. Erasmus, Divi Eusebii Hieronymi Stridonensis opera omnia quae extant … in novem tomos digesta … per Des. Erasmus Roterodamum nunc postremum emendata, etc. (Paris, 1546).


W. Bentley, The History of the Town and Parish of Halifax (Halifax, 1789), pp. 538–40, citing J. Godolphin, Repertorium canonicum (London, 1687), a text book of ecclesiastical legal precedents, which, in the chapter relating to parsons and parsonages, lists the many complaints about Clay’s behaviour. These complaints were ultimately dismissed by the High Court of Commission as unrelated to a given charge, such as


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priest, such as reading the Bible irreverently, neglecting to preach on Sunday mornings, failing to catechise his flock correctly, and selling them catechisms for a penny more than the price he had paid for each copy.62 Other charges relate to activities more suited to a farmer than a cleric, that is to say that he ‘discharged his Function by divers base Labours, viz. He made Mortar, having a Leathern-Apron before him, and he himself took a Tithe-Pigg out of the Pigsty, and afterwards he himself gelded it’.63 So, for all his learning and perhaps because of his Puritan leanings or simply his personality, this particular cleric behaved in a way which his parishioners found unconventional and unbefitting, a subject on which his will, suggestive of that of an academic, gives no indication. Ultimately, as perhaps might be expected, he was concerned less with his sons’ worldly inheritance than with their spiritual inheritance, exhorting them: ‘… but above all things as a Father, I leave this last Chardge unto them, to avoide drunkenness, Tobaccho, and swearing, and profaneing of the Saboth, if ever they expect a blessing from the Lord’.

The Register of Edward Lee and the Dissolution of the Monasteries Another example of the richness and diversity of the ‘Diverse Letters’ sections of various registers, Archbishop Edward Lee’s permission for the poor nuns of Sinningthwaite to pledge a silvered chalice in 1534 is found in that section of his register and was indexed during the pilot project.64 To show just how such entries can help to throw more light on various topics, this entry was taken in conjunction with other sources and used as a starting point for a brief study of Lee’s involvement in the dissolution of the monasteries in the archdiocese of York, and the interaction between central government and the Northern Province during the events of the 1530s and 1540s. As with most of the medieval and early modern archbishops of York, there is no full study of the life of Edward Lee, but Claire Cross has shown how close Lee was to Henry VIII in the early part of his career.65 Lee was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520 when Henry VIII met Emperor Charles V, and actively worked on the king’s behalf to help secure his divorce from the Emperor’s aunt, Katherine of Aragon, including undertaking heresy (pp. 189–90). Clay’s case is further discussed in R. A. Marchant, The Church under the Law (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 67, 69, where it is stated that the unpopular Clay himself obtained the prohibition from the High Court of Commission.

Godolphin, Repertorium canonicum, pp. 189–90.


Ibid., p. 190.


BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 28, f. 89v.


C. Cross, ‘Lee, Edward (1481/2–1544), archbishop of York’, ODNB.


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embassies to Spain and Italy during the process and at various other times. Even before being consecrated archbishop in 1531, Lee had been rewarded for his work with high office in the church. After Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, Lee, with other bishops, had declared the king to be supreme head of the Church of England in 1532, but despite his close relationship with his royal master and this display of loyalty, it is thought that he was not altogether comfortable with the changes that were taking place in the old order of religion in the country. In 1534, Lee started a series of visitations of monasteries in Yorkshire, and Claire Cross has suggested that he did so because he could foresee their coming dissolution and wished to postpone the evil hour. He gave forewarning and visited some of the smaller religious houses in the diocese of York, one of them being the very impoverished Cistercian nunnery of Sinningthwaite. Following the visitation, Lee then issued a series of orders and injunctions to all houses visited, including Sinningthwaite, to correct any faults in behaviour or in the running of the house that he had detected.66 Lee commanded the nuns at Sinningthwaite to obey the prioress and the rule of St Benedict, also ordering them to keep the cloister and dorter doors locked each night, which may indicate that the nuns had been out and about when they should have been in their cells. He then went on to touch on such matters as prohibiting contact by the nuns with secular or religious persons, unless they were relatives, and generally ordering a stricter adherence to the rule: keeping silence, eating together in one room unless a nun was sick. He also pronounced on other practical matters such as ordering the appointment of an infirmaress and ensuring that the prioress did not assign corrodies and pensions or grant leases of granges or demesnes without the approval of the archbishop.67 Following these visitation injunctions, there is further evidence of the state of the priory revealed in Lee’s register. In February 1535, because the house was so heavily burdened by debt and reduced to poverty, Lee gave the prioress permission to pledge the silvered vessel mentioned above to a maximum of £15. Although there may have been some problems in houses such as Sinningthwaite, it has been suggested that Lee held his visitations to show that those houses were not in such a bad moral state as was thought 66


BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 28, ff. 95–96, forewarning of visitation on 1 September 1534 and injunctions dated 14 October 1534, printed in Visitations in the Diocese of York, Holden by Archbishop Edward Lee (A. D. 1534–5), Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 16 (1902), 424–58 (pp. 439–43).

See also Monks, Friars and Nuns in Sixteenth Century Yorkshire, ed. C. Cross and N. Vickers, YAS Record Series, 150 (1991–1992), pp. 586–7.

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to be the case, and that by his authority and through his injunctions they might have been reformed rather than dissolved altogether.68 However, while Lee was carrying out this course of action, his intentions were thwarted, as the king issued an inhibition to halt the archbishop’s visitations, since royal visitations, carried out by Richard Layton and Thomas Legh, the king’s commissioners, were shortly to take place instead.69 The commissioners then journeyed to Yorkshire early in 1536 and apparently made a lightning tour of the monasteries in the county and sent their report, the comperta, back to the king.70 The commissioners’ findings informed the king that there was great corruption among the religious in Yorkshire, describing all the wicked practices the nuns and monks were supposed to be carrying out together. Lee’s own visitation may have hinted at laxity of behaviour in the monasteries, but the report of the commissioners painted a picture that was far worse. A very large number of religious appeared to be carrying out sexual misdemeanours of all kinds, such as nuns having borne children or monks having committed sodomy, even down to alleging that their sexual relationships involved using various types of birth control. For instance, even at the smaller houses, such as Helaugh Park, one monk was supposed to have been having a relationship with a married woman, another, with three women, and at Sinningthwaite, two of the very few nuns of the house were stated to have given birth to children, one by a married man.71 These allegations are supposed to have been exaggerated to provide extra weight to the arguments for the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and whether true or not, the priory was dissolved in 1536. However, one last fact remains to show the sorry state of the house at dissolution: the only thing of any real value left there was a gilt chalice with a paten, perhaps the very item that they had previously tried to use to help them in times of dire need, ultimately to no effect.72

68 69


71 72

Visitations in the Diocese of York, pp. 424–58 (pp. 424–5).

BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 28, f. 101v; see Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Period of the Reformation, ed. W. H. Frere, Alcuin Club Collections 14–16, 3 vols (1910), I, 117–18.

SP 1/102, f. 105r (Sinningthwaite), printed in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, ed. J. S. Brewer, J. Gairdner and R. H. Brodie, 21 vols (1862– 1932), X, 141, and partly in J. W. Clay, Yorkshire Monasteries. Suppression Papers, YAS Record Series 48 (1912), p. 18. Ibid.

See ‘Houses of Cistercians Nuns: Priory of Sinningthwaite’, in A History of the County of York, Vol. 3, ed. W. Page (London, 1974), pp. 176–8.

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The Fifteenth-Century Registers Although a similarly detailed study of the fifteenth-century York archbishops’ registers has not yet been carried out, a preliminary survey has revealed several topics which illuminate important aspects of ecclesiastical authority and life. The first of these topics is heresy and heretics, including Lollards. In his study of The Later Lollards 1414–1520, John A. F. Thomson suggested that there were no cases involving Lollards in the York archbishops’ registers before about 1508, so he had to rely on information from other sources.73 Nevertheless, there appears to have been some activity in detecting and dealing with Lollards in the registers in 1411 and then again between 1458 and 1468.74 In March 1411, one William Cooke, a tailor of Blyth in Nottinghamshire, who had not made confession or taken communion for two years, was identified as a Lollard and was interrogated and tested by Archbishop Henry Bowet in the chapel at his manor or castle of Cawood.75 Cooke was compelled to make his confession, and before taking communion, on being asked what the sacrament was, gave the ‘correct’ answer that it was the body of Christ in the form of bread, so presumably avoiding any other penalties. Charles Kightly in his 1975 doctoral thesis on the early Lollards, mentions Lollard activity in Nottinghamshire in the late fourteenth century, but apart from one Derbyshire congregation, suggested that no other such congregations existed north of the Trent before the Oldcastle rising in 1414.76 However, it may be significant that several general commissions against Lollards were held very shortly after the examination of Cooke, and may even have been issued as a direct consequence of it. At the very least they are suggestive of broader concerns that other Lollards were active in Yorkshire as well as in Nottinghamshire at that time.77 Although these concerns do not seem to be linked to the statute against Lollards of 1406 and emerged after the end of the chancellorship of Archbishop Arundel, who had been vigorous in his pursuit of Lollards, they do follow closely Archbishop Bowet’s role as assistant to Arundel at the trial for heresy of John Badby in 1410. They therefore appear to indicate a hitherto 73 74

75 76


J. A. F. Thomson, The Later Lollards 1414–1520 (Oxford, 1965), p. 194.

BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 18, f. 299v, acts against a certain Lollard; f. 305, commission against Lollards; BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 20, f. 201r–v; order to arrest heretics; BIA/ YDA/2/Abp Reg 22, f. 62v–63r, commission to enquire into heresy. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 18, f. 299v, acts against a certain Lollard.

C. Kightly, ‘The Early Lollards: A Survey of Popular Lollard Activity in England, 1382–1428’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of York, 1975), p. 12. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 18, f. 305, commissions against Lollards; I am most grateful to Dr Maureen Jurkowski for her suggestions on this point.

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unknown manifestation of Bowet’s awareness of Lollard heresy in the diocese and vigilance against it during that period.78 The register entry containing an order to arrest the prior, sub-prior and two monks of St Mary’s Abbey, York in 1458, under the terms of De Heretico Comburendo, is also of considerable interest.79 This warrant may suggest that underlying problems at the house in the mid-fifteenth century (dealt with under the cover of heresy, but not necessarily relating to it) are yet to be fully revealed. Orders or commissions to arrest heretics were sometimes followed by a signification of excommunication. Another feature of the fifteenth-century registers is the growing number of such significations found copied into them, particularly from around 1480 to the end of the century, during which period twelve survive. Files of significations in their original ‘out-letter’ form, covering the same period, are held in TNA,80 but although there is some overlap between the two sources, both contain documents exclusive to each. Therefore, combining the two sources increases our knowledge of problems occurring in various locations during that period. Most of the documents are formulaic, but at least one in TNA sheds a little more light on the underlying reason for the signification, revealing another tithe dispute, this time between a north Yorkshireman, John Proktour [Proctor] of Birkwith in the parish of Horton, and the prioress and convent of St Clements, York, to whom his parish church of Horton in Ribblesdale was appropriated.81 Yet another parish dispute, this time concerning the advowson of the church of Warton in north Lancashire in 1485, is reflected in a further signification in the register requesting the imprisonment of a group of twelve other individuals excommunicated for persistent contumacy.82 Although the dispute is documented in the Victoria County History for Lancashire, this particular signification is not cited, but other documents reveal some very riotous behaviour in the parish, including the burning of the rectory in 1473. These sources taken together suggest that troubles there may have lasted on and off for around twelve years.83 78

79 80 81 82 83

J. Hughes, ‘Arundel [Fitzalan], Thomas (1353–1414), administrator and archbishop of Canterbury’, ODNB; T. F. Tout, rev. J. J. N. Palmer, ‘Bowet, Henry (d. 1423), archbishop of York’, ODNB. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 20, f. 201r–v. C 85/187.

C 85/187/7, dated in December 1480. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 23, fol. 221r.

‘The Parish of Warton’, in A History of the County of Lancaster, Vol. 8, ed. W. Farrer and J. Brownbill (London, 1914), pp. 151–61.

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Apart from violent and lawless men definitely lacking in piety, the fifteenth-­century registers appear to give much evidence of some very pious women, including anchorites. Entries relating to the latter include commissions for their enclosure, one in particular for a probationary period, and another containing an enquiry into the character of a woman proposing to be so enclosed.84 Between 1481 and 1500 alone, there are fifteen commissions to veil widows, two of them with vows of chastity.85 This is a subject that Susan Steuer has already examined, but it could be further developed in conjunction with the registers.86 Other entries in the registers are noteworthy. Although there are many dispensations for bastardy, super defectum natalium (for defect of birth), relating most often to clergy, similar dispensations were also given to nuns. For example, one such dispensation was granted in 1419 to Sister Alice de Ravenswath, a nun of the Benedictine priory of Marrick in North Yorkshire, named as prioress in 1433 and 1449.87 From this, the conclusion might be that Alice, born of a single man and a single woman, wished to regularise her situation, thinking that she might one day be in a position to be raised to the head of the house. Another entry, from 1472, spells out that Sister Joan Ward received her dispensation, so removing all impediments to her carrying out any office in her priory of Esholt, even prioress, and indeed she gained that position soon afterwards or at least by 1476.88


Besides sixteenth-century wills giving details of musical instruments and books, as well as impoverished nuns on the eve of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and heretics, excommunicates and anchorites found in those for the fifteenth century, there are also references in the registers to sorcerers, warlocks, wife-beaters, knights’ sons (who may or may not have been illegitimate), pilgrimages, celebrations of feast days and dispensations for clergy for 84

85 86



For example, BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 19, f. 24v, ?1442; BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 23, f. 218v, 1484; BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 18, f. 290v, 1409. For example, BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 23, f. 204 v, 1481.

S. Steuer, ‘Identifying Chaste Widows: Documenting a Religious Vocation’, in The Ties that Bind: Essays in Medieval British History in Honor of Barbara Hanawalt, ed. L. E. Mitchell, K. L. French and D. L. Biggs (Farnham, 2011), pp. 87–103.

‘Houses of Benedictine nuns: Priory of Marrick’, in A History of the County of York, Vol. 3, ed. William Page (London, 1913), pp. 117–18. BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 22, f. 150r; The Heads of Religious Houses: England and Wales, III. 1377–1540, ed. D. M. Smith (Cambridge, 2008), p. 644.

Arc h bi sh o ps’ Registers Re vealed   209

defects of the body, and, in the fourteenth century, the well-known story of Joan of Leeds, the nun who was ordered to return to the convent after escaping by faking her own death and burial.89 It is hoped that these examples, all drawn from the registers of the archbishops of York, go towards revising the perception that their contents might be dry, and to show that they can be used to illuminate many branches of history; not only political and ecclesiastical history, but also such topics as social history and history of emotions. It is also very much to be hoped that the examples from these and the other registers given here might inspire use of the new online resource. Given all these discoveries, future work on the registers (not restricted to those mentioned above) may unearth similar treasures and promote further studies, particularly through examination of existing sections of the registers entitled ‘diverse letters’ or ‘miscellaneous letters’, as suggested. Now that Mark Ormrod’s second pilot for an ambitious project entitled ‘The Northern Way’, to examine all the fourteenth-century registers, has borne fruit with a generous grant for the wider project recently awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is underway,90 it might be possible to plan other studies covering similarly broad periods. All these possibilities ultimately exist thanks to Mark Ormrod; and it is also thanks to Mark, his enduring scholarship and desire to improve accessibility to the original records, that this resource may now be consulted freely by all, providing such huge potential for further study and giving just one more example of the rich legacy of his work.



BIA/YDA/2/Abp Reg 9A, f. 326v; details of this entry attracted much media attention at the launch of the new project, ‘The Northern Way’, including pieces in the national press, for example, The Times, 12 February 2019, and The Guardian, 11 February 2019, and on the radio, both in the UK and abroad, for example, BBC Radio 4, 17 February 2019, and Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), 14 February 2019, as well as many pieces online on, for example, Reddit; Huffington Post; The History Channel, and many others. ‘The Northern Way: The Archbishops of York and the North of England, 1304– 1405’, Grant Reference: AH/S001565/1, a project managed by the Department of History, University of York, under Professor Sarah Rees Jones as Principal Investigator and at TNA, under Dr Paul Dryburgh as Co-Investigator, generously funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council in 2018.

List of PhD Supervisees Name

Title of Thesis


Lesley A. Coote

Prophecy and Public Affairs in Later Medi­eval England

Felicity Riddy

Joanna Chamberlayne [Laynesmith]

English Queenship, 1445– 1503

Felicity Riddy

Gwilym Dodd

Christian Liddy

Crown, Magnates and Gentry: The English Parliament, 1369–1421

Year of Completion 1997 1998 1999

Urban Communities and the Sarah Rees Jones 1999 Crown: Relations between Bristol, York, and the Royal Government, 1350–1400

Monika Simon The Lovells of Titchmarsh: an English Baronial Family, 1297–148?


Ralph Kaner


Joel Burden

Jonathan Mackman

Rituals of Royalty: Prescrip- Richard Marks tion, Politics and Practice in English Coronation and Royal Funeral Rituals, c.1327 to c.1485


The Lincolnshire Gentry and the Wars of the Roses


The Management of the Mobilization of English Armies: Edward I to Edward III

Mark Punshon Government and Political Society in the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1399–1461 Danielle Westerhof

Aristocratic Executions and Burials in England c.1150–c.1330: Cultures of Fragmentation

2002 Nicola McDonald


L i st of P hD S up er visees   211

Helen Lacey Martyn Lawrence Mark Honeywell

Phil Bradford Antonio Castro Henriques Lisa Benz

Catherine Casson

Keith Fildes Robert Kinsey

Helen Killick R. Thom Richardson

The Politics of Mercy: The Nicholas Havely use of the Royal Pardon in Fourteenth-century England Power, Ambition and Political Rehabilitation: The Despensers, c.1281–1400

Chivalry as Community and Culture: The Military Elite of Late Thirteenthand Fourteenth-Century England

Richard Marks

2005 2005 2006

Parliament and Political Culture in Early Fourteenth-­ Century England


Queen Consort, Queen Mother: The Power and Authority of Fourteenth-­ Century Plantagenet Queens


State Finance, War and Redistribution in Portugal, 1249–1527


A Comparative Study of Prosecutions for Forgery in Trade and Manufacturing in Six English towns, 1250 to 1400

Sarah Rees Jones 2009

Legal Service, Careerism and Social Advancement in Late Medieval England: The Thorpes of Northamptonshire, c.1200–1391


The Baronage in the Reign of Richard II, 1377–1399*

Thomas Hoccleve as Poet and Clerk

The Medieval Inventories of the Tower Armouries 1320–1410

* PhD completed at the University of Sheffield


Linne Mooney


Philippa Hoskin 2012

2 1 2    L i st o f P h D S u per v i se e s

Alex Brayson Victoria E. Flood Rhian McLaughlin Jennifer Bartlett Anna Duch

Elizabeth Biggs Christopher Bovis

The Fiscal Constitution of Later Medieval England: The Reign of Henry VI

Exile and Return: The Development of Political Prophecy on the Borders of England, c.1136–1450s

2013 Helen Fulton


Gentry Perceptions of Violence in Fourteenth-Century England


The Royal Funerary and Burial Ceremonies of Medieval English Kings, 1216–1509


Looking at t’other: Robert Nicola Thornton’s Yorkshire Oryent, McDonald c.1400–1473


The College and Canons of St Stephen’s, Westminster, 1348–1548

John Cooper


Jonathan Finch and Adam White


The Gascoigne Family, c.1309–1592: Gentry and Identity

List of Grants Over the course of his career, Mark Ormrod has been Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on a range of projects that have generated well over £4 million in research income. He also led the team from the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York that secured £19 million from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to fund the collaborative doctoral training centre, the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities, for the period 2014–19. The grants listed below (which exclude a range of smaller awards, chiefly from the British Academy and various charitable trusts) are collected under the principal themes to which they relate, and particularly represent Mark Ormrod’s commitment to working in partnership with two major archives: The National Archives of the United Kingdom, and the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York. Mark Ormrod has also been instrumental in launching a number of other major projects for which colleagues subsequently became Principal Investigators, including three major Arts and Humanities Research Council awards: ‘Records of Central Government Taxation in England and Wales: Clerical Taxes’ (2006–9; PI, Prof Bill Sheils); ‘St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster’ (2013–17; PI, Dr John Cooper); and ‘The Northern Way’ (2019–21; PI, Prof Sarah Rees Jones).

The Reign of Edward III • 2007–10: ‘Edward III: A Biographical History of Edward III of England (1327–1377)’, Major Research Fellowship, Leverhulme Trust, £134,888. This award made possible the completion of Mark Ormrod’s major biographical work, Edward III, in the Yale University Press ‘English Monarchs’ series (New Haven and London, 2011).

Petitioning in Medieval England • 2003–6: (with Gwilym Dodd, University of Nottingham) ‘Medieval Petitions: A Catalogue of the “Ancient Petitions” in the National Archives’, Arts and Humanities Research Board, £291,984.

2 1 4    L i st o f G r ant s

• 2006–7: (with Gwilym Dodd, University of Nottingham): ‘Medieval Petitions: A Catalogue of the Gascon, Chancery and Exchequer Petitions in the National Archives’, Arts and Humanities Research Council, £120,747. • 2011 (with Linne Mooney, University of York, and Gwilym Dodd, University of Nottingham): ‘Writing Petitions in Later Medieval England’: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, under a sub-grant from University of Toronto in an international cluster ‘Making Medieval English Manuscripts’, £31,400. • 2013: ‘Common Petitions in the Early English Parliament’, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, under a sub-grant from St Louis University, £46,468. The first two of these awards, which funded the research assistants Simon Harris, Jonathan Mackman and Shelagh Sneddon, made possible the delivery of approximately 18,000 fully-searchable entries in The National Archives on-line catalogue, Discovery, for the entire contents of the TNA series SC 8 (Ancient Petitions): The later awards, employing Helen Killick, used medieval petitions to address a range of technological developments and research questions in medieval studies; the last made possible the publication of Early Common Petitions in the English Parliament, c.1290–c.1420, ed. W. Mark Ormrod, Helen Killick and Phil Bradford, Camden 5th series, 52 (Cambridge, 2017).

Immigration to Medieval England • 2012–15 (with Nicola McDonald and Craig Taylor, University of York): ‘England’s Immigrants, 1330–1550’: Arts amd Humanities Research Council, £784,545. • 2016 (with Andrew Payne, The National Archives): ‘England’s Medieval Immigrants: Migration History Resources for Schools’, Arts and Humanities Research Council Follow-on Funding for Impact, £69,165. • 2016–19 (with Hannes Schroeder, University of Copenhagen; Daniel Bradley, Trinity College, Dublin; Gisli Palsson, Reykjavik University; and Sarah Rees Jones, University of York): ‘CitiGen: Identity, Citizenship and Nationhood in the Post-Genome Era’, Humanities in the European Research Area, €1,191,961. The major award in 2012–15 allowed the employment of Bart Lambert, Jessica Lutkin and Jonathan Mackman to create the online database, www. (supported by the Digital Humanities Institute, University of Sheffield), which contains approximately 66,000 fully searchable entries on immigrants to England in the later Middle Ages. Launched in 2015, the database has facilitated a wide range of publications on related

List of Gr a n ts   215

themes, including W. Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman, Immigrant England, 1300–1550 (Manchester, 2019). The subsequent grants, employing Jonathan Hanley, Jessica Lutkin, Bart Lambert and Stefania Perring, have made possible the development of teaching resources for the use of the England’s Immigrants Database in schools, and of innovative work on the relationship between history, genealogy and genetics in modern perceptions of lineage and heritage.

Records of the Archbishopric of York • 2008–10 (with Christopher Webb and Philippa Hoskin, University of York): ‘Cause Papers in the Archdiocese of York’, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, US $744,000. • 2011 (with Paul Dryburgh and Christopher Webb, University of York): ‘The Archbishops’ Registers of the Diocese of York’: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, US $50,000. • 2014–15 (with Paul Dryburgh, Gary Brannan and Christopher Webb, University of York): ‘The Archbishops’ Registers of the Diocese of York, 1225–1646’, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, US $299,000. These awards from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, funding the researchers Helen Carrell, David Gent, Simon Harris, Bronach Kane, Robert Kinsey, Jonathan Mackman, Simon Sandall, Emma Watson and Helen Watt, were used to establish two major online facilities, ‘Cause Papers in the Diocesan Courts of the Archbishopric of York, 1300–1858’ ( and ‘York’s Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ ( resources/archbishops-registers), which deliver images of originals, summaries of content and/or indexes of two major series held in the Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York. Further work on the archbishops’ registers is ongoing.

Christianity and Culture • 2002–4 (with Dee Dyas, University of York): ‘Christianity and Culture: Images of Salvation’, various charitable trusts, £135,058. • 2004–7 (with Dee Dyas, University of York): ‘Christianity and Culture: Pilgrims and Pilgrimage’, various charitable trusts, £205,000. • 2007–9 (with Dee Dyas, University of York): ‘Christianity and Culture: The Church in England’, various charitable trusts, £75,000. This cluster of awards allowed for the early development of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture, a research centre of the Department of

2 1 6    L i st o f G r ant s

History, University of York ( Christianity and Culture represents a major collaboration between academics, charities, research bodies and religious organizations to develop research and practice in the public understanding of the Christian heritage.

Index Abingdon, Benedictine priory of  61 Absolon suspenditur see Legenda Aurea Admiralty, Court of  96, 99–100 Adrouicq 105 Alfonso XI see Castile, king of Allerton/Allertonshire 190 Alnwick 7 baron of see Percy, Henry Anglo Norman French  138–9, 147, 156, 190, 193 Angoulême, Edward of  62, 64 Anne Boleyn see England, queen of Annesley 104–7 Antwerp, Lionel of see Clarence, duke of Appellant, Lords  90 Appleton le Street  8 Aragon 105 Ardres 105 Armstrong, C. A. J.  174–5 Arthur, King  110 Arts and Humanities Research Council 209 Arundel, earl of Richard Fitzalan  40 Arundel, John de  107 Arundel, Thomas see Canterbury, archbishop of Ashford 88 Aston, T. H.  26 Atwick 13 Auld Alliance  56, 85 Ayre, Richard  107 Ayre, William  107–8 Badby, John  206 Bailey, Merridee  40 Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhailovich  80 Balliol, Edward see Scotland, king of Balliol, John de  27 Balliol College see Oxford University Bannockburn, battle of  79 Barber, Edmund le  77

Bardolf, Thomas  101 Bardsley, Sandy  73 Barwick in Elmet  198 Baynard’s Castle  165 Beaufort, Henry 134 Lady Margaret  166 Beauneveu, Andre  47 Becket, St Thomas  54–5 Bedford, duke of John of Lancaster  114, 158 Bedwynd, John de  79–81, 93 Benedict XII see pope Bentley, E.–J. Y.  156 Bentley, William  202 Berkhamsted  165, 166, 177, 178, 179 Berwick–upon–Tweed 11 Beswick 14 Beverley 14 Bigod, Roger see Norfolk, earl of Birkwith 207 Bisham, Augustinian priory of  65 Black Death see plague Black Prince see Woodstock, Edward of Blanche of the Tower  51, 56, 68 blasphemy 78 Blyth 206 Bohemia, Anne of see England, queen of Bohun, William see Northampton, earl of Bonaventure, John  78 Book of Common Prayer 200 Book of Martyrs see Foxe, John Booke of Nurture, The see Russell, John Bordeaux 60 Bordeaux, Richard of see England, king of, Richard II Borthwick Institute for Archives  189, 192 Boulton, Thomas  7–20 Bourdieu, Pierre  80 Brabant 47 John of  172

2 1 8    I n d e x Bracton, Henry de  94 Brayton, Thomas de  9 Bridgewater, St John’s Hospital  106 Bridlington, prior of  193 Bright, Timothy, rector of Barwick in Elmet 198 British Academy  2 Brittany, duchess of Mary of Waltham  39, 47, 60–1, 63, 68, 70 Brittany, duke of John of Montfort  61 Brown, A. L.  147, 155, 156, 162 Bubwith 17 Buckingham, John  34 Bulbourne, River  178 Bure, Johannes de  77 Burgundy 137 Margaret, duchess of  166 Burley, Simon  101 Calabre, Adam  77 Calais 130 Calvin, John  199, 200 Cambridge, University  22, 26–8 Gonville and Caius College  28 Cambridgeshire 8 Camerington, John de  15, 20 Camerton  13–15, 18, 20 Campsey Ash, Augustinian priory of  67 Canterbury  133, 134 Canterbury Cathedral  54–5, 64, 133 Canterbury and York Society  192 Canterbury, archbishop of  49, 51, 196 Thomas Arundel  206 Walter Reynolds  80 Canterbury Tales, the  144, 160 Carlisle, bishop of John Kirkby  60 Castile  47, 68 Castile, Eleanor of see England, queen of Castile, king of Alfonso XI  58, 60 Peter 60–1 Castile, queen of Maria of Portugal  60

Caterton, Thomas  104–6 Catfoss 13 cathedrals  21, 24 see Canterbury; Exeter; Gloucester; Norwich; St Paul’s; Worcester; York Minster Catwick 13 Caesar, Sir Julius  167 Cawood 206 Caxton, William  200 Centre for Hearth Tax Research  2 Challet, Vincent  89 chancery  37, 90, 91, 96, 99, 111, 138, 142, 145, 147, 148, 149, 150, 152, 153, 154, 156, 157, 161, 162 chantry  7–8, 21, 24 Charing 88 Charles V see France, king of Charles V, Emperor  203 Charterhouse see London Chaumbre, John de la  15, 18 Cherbourg 108 Cheshire 6 Chivalry, Court of  94–116 Christchurch Greyfriars see London Church Fathers  199 Clare, Elizabeth de  63 Clare Priory  63 Clarence, duke of George  165–6, 169, 173, 176, 179, 180, 181, 182 Lionel of Antwerp  39, 47, 62–3, 68, 70 Clay, Robert  201–2 Clevedon, Richard  106–7 Cleveland, archdeaconry of  190 Clinton, William see Huntingdon, earl of Cogan, William  106–7 Coke, Edward  97 colleges 21–38 common pleas, court of  97, 103, 123, 142 Complaint and Dialogue see Hoccleve, Thomas Confessio Amantis see Gower, John constable of England see Gloucester, duke of, Thomas Woodstock

In dex   219 Constitutio Domus Regis 169 Cooke, William  206 Cornhill 83 Cornwall  79–80, 107 Cornwall, earl of John of Eltham  39, 44, 48–52, 55, 67, 69 Cote, John  87–9, 93 Cottingham  15, 17 council, king’s  10, 18, 79, 96, 98, 99, 100–1, 102, 103, 104, 105, 107, 108, 109, 114, 115, 125, 131, 142, 147, 148, 152, 158, 160, 161 Crabtree, John  201 Crécy, battle of  56 Cromwell, Ralph, Lord  33 Crook, David  2 Cross, Claire  203, 204 Danby 201 Danthorpe 13 Dartford  87, 133 Dominican nunnery  63 David II see Scotland, king of De Heretico Comburendo 207 De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Regni see Bracton, Henry de defamation see slander Delton, William  87–9, 93 Denia, count of  105 Derbyshire  10, 206 Dervorguilla, charter of  27 Despenser, Henry see Norwich, bishop of Despenser the younger, Hugh  40, 81–2 Deventer Abbey  53 Dickens, A. G.  198, 199 Dimlington 13 Dissolution of the Monasteries, the  21, 65, 193, 203–5, 208 Doget, Roger  112 Domesday Book  111 Doncaster 198 deanery of  198 Doreward, John  130, 131, 133, 134, 136 Doyle, A. I.  146, 159 Dumolyn, Jan  80–1, 91

Durham 6 bishop of, John Fordham  193 Dyer, Christopher  178 Dyne, John  113 Dyneham, John  112 Easington 13 East Anglia  165 East Riding, archdeaconry of  190 Edington, William see Winchester, bishop of Edward I see England, king of Edward II see England, king of Edward III see England, king of Edward IV see England, king of Edward V see England, king of Edward the Confessor see England, king of Elizabeth I see England, queen of period of rule  197 Elizabeth II see England, queen of Ellesmere manuscript  144, 160 Elstronwick 13 Eltham, John of see Cornwall, earl of emotions  40–1, 68–9 England, king of Edward I  9, 40–1, 76–7 Edward II  9, 39–40, 67, 69, 77–9, 81, 93 Edward III  5–6, 8, 16, 28, 31, 34, 38–70, 82, 94, 115, 156 Edward IV  165, 166, 167, 169, 170, 173, 177, 179 Edward V (as prince of Wales)  167–8, 172, 173, 175–6, 181 Edward the Confessor  43 George III  39 Henry I  169 Henry II  40 Henry IV  100–1, 115, 126, 129, 131, 133–4, 149, 152, 154, 155 Henry V  115, 119, 127, 129–30, 133–4, 137, 140, 149, 154 Henry VI  149, 154, 166, 169, 172 Henry VII (Henry Tudor)  166, 167 Henry VIII  203–4

2 2 0    I n d e x James I  167, 168 Richard II  40–1, 62, 64, 68, 85–6, 89–90, 93, 96–7, 100, 102, 113, 115, 126–7, 152, 156 Richard III  166, 167; (as duke of Gloucester), 169 William I  110 England, queen of Anne Boleyn  204 Anne of Bohemia  41–1 Eleanor of Castile  41 Eleanor of Provence  41 Elizabeth I  168 Elizabeth II  39 Isabella of France  9, 40, 48–9, 51, 53–4, 64, 67, 69–70, 80 Jane 194 Katherine of Aragon  203–4 Philippa of Hainault  39, 42–5, 47–8, 51, 55, 61, 67–8, 70 Victoria 39 England’s Immigrants project  3 Erasmus, Desiderius  199, 202 Esholt, priory of  208 Eske 12–13 Essex  88, 130 exchequer  2, 5–6, 8, 9, 10–12, 14–17, 19–20, 37, 78–9, 145, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 162, 167, Exeter cathedral  24, 32 Exeter college see Oxford University Exeter, bishop of Edmund Lacey  35 John Grandisson  31–2 William Warelwast  35 Faith, Rosamund  26 Farlington 7 Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 194 Fenwick, Carolyn  2 Field of the Cloth of Gold  203 Filacer  156, 157 Fitzalan, Richard see Arundel, earl of Flanders  53, 90, 92, 112 See Guelders

Fleet prison  11 Fletcher, Chris  73 Fordham, John see Durham, bishop of Forrest, Ian  75, 89 Fotheringhay 33 Foxe, John  200 France  40, 47, 82, 103 France, king of Charles V  47 French, Richard  113 Frere, Stephen  16 Froissart, Jean  47 Frye, Robert  154, 161, 162, 163 Fulford  15, 17 funeral 41–3 Galtres, forest of  7 Garton 12–13 Gaunt, John of see Lancaster, duke of Gauvard, Claude  74 Gaveston, Piers  7, 40, 61, 68 George III see England, king of Gerard v Chamberlain 114 Gilbert, Philip  112 Glassock, Robin  2 Glorious Revolution, 1688  168 Gloucester 102 Gloucester abbey  102 Gloucester cathedral  69 Gloucester, Amy de  54 Gloucester, duke of Humphrey  158, 171 Thomas of Woodstock  101, 104, 107 goldsmith 78 Gommegnies, lord of see Jauche, Jean de Gonville, Edward  28 Gonville and Caius College see Cambridge University Good Parliament of 1376 see Parliament Gough, Richard  196 Gourney, Matthew  112 Gower, John  159 Goxhill 13 Grandisson, John see Exeter, bishop of Gray, H. L.  127–9 Great Cowden  13

In dex   221 Grey v Hastings 114 Grey, Reginald, lord of Ruthin  113–14 Grimston 13 Grosmont, Henry see Lancaster, duke of Grosseteste, Robert see Lincoln, bishop of Grosvenor, Robert  103, 112, 114 Guelders, count of Reginald II  52–3 Guelders, countess of Eleanor of Woodstock  39, 47, 52–4 Gunby, John de  17 Guyenne 130 Gynewell, John see Lincoln, bishop of Haemers, Jelle  80–1, 91 Hainault 47 Hainault, Philippa of see England, queen of Hakford, John de  83–4 Halifax  201, 202 Parish Collection, University of York 202 Halsham 13 Hampshire Record Society  2 Harby 41 Harding, Thomas  87 Harris, David  198 Harris, Simon  82 Hastings, Edward  113–14 Hastings, John see Pembroke, earl of Hastings, William, Lord  170 Hastorp, William  112 Hatfield 13 Hatfield, William of  54–6, 68 Harvey, Paul  2 Havering–atte–Bower 83 Hay, Richard  83 Heale, Martin  28 Hedon 15 Helaugh Park  205 Hengwrt manuscript  160 Henry I see England, king of Henry II see England, king of Henry IV see England, king of Henry V see England, king of

Henry VI see England, king of Henry VII see England, king of Henry VIII see England, king of Hereford, duke of see England, king of, Henry IV heresy Lollards  86–7, 134–5, 206–7 Hert v Hert 114 Hertford castle  53 Hertfordshire  8, 165 Heydon, Henry  176 Hilton, Walter  175–6 History of Myddle see Gough, Richard Hoccleve, Thomas  145–63 Complaint and Dialogue 154 Letter of Cupid 159 Regement of Princes  151, 159 Series 159 Holderness 12–13 Holmfirth, chapel of  196 Holy Roman Empire  47 Hornsea Burton  13 Hoton v Shakell 113–14 Hoton, John  113–14 Horton in Ribblesdale  207 Houghton, Adam see St David’s, bishop of Howden/Howdenshire 190 Hudson, John  40 Humbleton 13 Hundred Years War  42, 51–2, 55, 62–3, 68, 95 Hungerford, Walter  129 Hunmanby 16 Huntingdon, earl of William Clinton  66 Huntingdonshire 8 Inner Temple, Library of  167 Institutes of the Christian Religion see Calvin, John Ireland  40, 130 Iremonger, Adam le  77 Isabella of France see England, queen of Italy  62, 204

2 2 2    I n d e x James I, see England, kings of Jauche, Jean de  105 Jenks, Stuart  10 Joan of the Tower (d.1348)  58–61, 68 Joan of the Tower (d.1362) see Scotland, queen of Justinian 94 Katherine of Aragon, see England, queen of Kent  63–4, 87–8, 176 Kent, earl of Edmund of Woodstock  67 Kent, Joan of  90, 181–2 Kennington 133 Keyingham 16 Kightly, Charles  206 Kilnsea 12–13 king’s bench  76 n19, 82, 88, 97, 103, 123, 142 Kings Langley  62 Dominican priory  61–3, 68–70 Knight, Kimberley–Joy  40 La Marche, Olivier de   170 Lacey, Edmund see Exeter, bishop of Lancashire  10, 207 Lancaster, duke of Henry Grosmont  39, 65–6, 68 John of Gaunt  63–5, 85–8, 106–7 Lancaster, earl of  36–7 Henry  32–3, 35 Thomas 7 Lancaster, John of see Bedford, duke of Langley, Edmund of see York, duke of Latin  147, 190, 193, 201 Laton, Joan de  90 Leader, Damien Riehl  27 Leeds, Joan of  209 Leicester  82, 119 St Mary’s in the Newarke  32–3, 35–6, 65 Leicester, bishop of  35 Leicestershire 10 Legenda Aurea  199, 200 Lessy, Richard  166

Letter of Cupid see Hoccleve, Thomas Liber Niger Domus Regis Angliae 169, 173, 176, 182 Liddy, Christian  73 Liège, Jean of  47 Lincoln 156 bishop of, John Gynewell  35 Robert Grosseteste  170–1, 176, 177, 179 Lincoln, John of  78–9 Lincolnshire 10 Linton 87 Linton Heath  88 Little Cowden  13 liturgy 29 Lollardy see heresy London  41, 66, 78–9, 82–4, 86, 89–90, 93, 133, 134, 156, 159, 160, 165, 166 Charterhouse  66, 168 Christchurch Greyfriars  53, 62, 69 Marshalsea prison  88 Newgate prison  83 St Martin le Grand  32, 93 St Paul’s Cathedral  65 Savoy palace  86 Tower of London  166 Long Riston  13 Lostwithiel 79 Lovell v. Morley 114 Ludolph of Saxony  200 Luther, Martin  199 Lutherans 193 Luttrell Psalter  144 Magna Carta  97, 102, 109–10, 114 Malton 78 Malton, Robert de  77 Manners, William  7 Manning, Simon  15, 20 Mappleton 13 Marc Fitch Fund  196 March, earl of Roger Mortimer  9, 40, 49, 61, 64 Market Weighton  15, 17 Marleburgh, Thomas  160

In dex   223 Marrick, priory of  208 Marshalsea prison see London Mauny, Walter  39, 65–6, 68 Maxstoke 66 Augustinian priory  66 McHardy, Alison  36 Mellon, Andrew W., Foundation  188 Merton, Walter de  27, 38 Merton College see Oxford University Mildenhall, Peter  90–1, 93 Mildenhall, William  90–1 monastic orders  22–3, 28 Montagu, John (d.1390)  111 Montagu, John (d.1400) see Salisbury, earl of Montagu, William see Salisbury, earl of Moon, Hawisia  87 Mooney, Linne  145–7, 148, 150, 151, 155, 158, 159, 163 Morley v. Montagu  109, 113–14 Morley, Thomas de  109, 113 Mortimer, Roger see March, earl of Mowbray, John  158 Mowbray, Thomas see Norfolk, duke of Najéra, battle of  63 National Archives, The  2, 4–6, 10, 16, 146, 167, 207 C 81  147 E 179  2–20, 194 E 404  147 Navarre 108 Necton 78 Necton, Johannes de  77 Neville, Alexander see York, archbishop of Isabel 173 Richard see Warwick, earl of Newarke see Leicester, St Mary’s in the Newarke Newgate prison see London Newington 79–80 Newington, Robert of  79–81, 93 Noble, Mark  174 Norfolk  28, 176 Norfolk, duke of

Thomas Mowbray  101, 115 Norfolk, duke of, John  172 earl of, Roger Bigod  40 Norman Conquest  111 Normanton 81 Northampton, earl of Bohun, William  66–7 Northern Province  203 Northlode, Robert  113–14 Northumberland, earl of, Henry Percy  101, 158 people of  136 Norwich, bishop of  28 Henry Despenser  90 Thomas Percy  30 Norwich cathedral  35 Nottingham  65, 90–1 archdeaconry of  190, 197 Nottinghamshire  8, 10, 193, 206 Offorde, John  162 Oldcastle, John, rebellion of  135, 206 Oriel College see Oxford University Ordainers  80, 93 Order of the Garter  66–7, 69, 101 Orme, Nicholas  173 Ormrod, Mark W.  22, 39, 42, 67, 72, 94–5, 118–17, 121, 138, 181, 188–9, 209 Ottery St Mary  31–2, 35 Otway–Ruthven, J,  162 Oxford  77–8, 93 Oxford, earl of Robert de Vere  90 Oxford 201 University  22, 26–8, 78 Balliol College  27 Exeter College  27 Magdalen College  202 Merton College  27, 202 Oriel College  27 University College  27 Page, Roger  112 pardon  7, 10–12, Paris

2 2 4    I n d e x Parlement of  103 Sainte–Chapelle 30 Parkes, M. B.  146, 159 parliament  5–6, 9–10, 25, 58, 63–6, 84–6, 95, 97, 100–2, 104–5, 108, 105, 115, 117–43 statutes of: Labourers (1351)  6 n14 Lollards (1406)  206 Lollards (1414)  135 Pleading (1362)  121–22 Praemunire (1353)  122, 124, 125, 142–3 Provisors (1351)  123 Provisors (1399)  127 Treasons (1352)  74, 76, 84, 88, 100 Truces (1414)  135–7, 139 Westminster (1275)  76 Peasants’ Revolt  86–9, 93 Pembroke, countess of Margaret of Windsor  39, 47, 60–1, 63, 68, 70 Pembroke, earl of John Hastings  61 Pensthorpe 13 Percy, Henry  7 Percy, Henry see Northumberland, earl of Percy, Thomas see Norwich, bishop of Perth 49 Perrers, Alice  42, 68, 132 Pessagno, Anthony  79–80 Peter see Castile, king of Petyt, William   167–8 Pilkington, William  113 Pinkhurst, Adam  160 Pizan, Christine de  175–6 plague  43, 56, 58, 60–3, 68 Pleshy 52 Pocklington 17 pope  28–9, 31, 37, 103 Benedict XII  32 Portugal, Maria of see Castile, queen of Prescott, Andrew  88, 144 privy seal  114, 144–63 Proktour, John  207 Prophete, John  161 Provence, Eleanor see England, queen of

Purgatory 23 Purvis, J. S.  198, 199, 200 Quincy, Margaret, countess of Lincoln  170, 171, 173, 176, 177, 179 Ravenswath, Alice de  208 Reformation, the  193, 199, 200 Regement of Princes see Hoccleve, Thomas Reynolds, Walter see Canterbury, archbishop of Richard II see England, king of Richard III see England, king of Richmond, archdeaconry of  190 Rimswell 12–13 Robert son of Stephen  15, 18 Robert II see Scotland, king of Roches, John de  112 Rome 31 Romney Marsh  88 Roses, Wars of the  76–7, 92 Rouclif, Guy de  151 Ruddick, Andrea  72 Rushworth College  28 Russell, John  171 Ryalle Book, The 170 Ryhill  13–15, 18–20 St Benedict  204 St Clements see York St David’s bishop of Adam Houghton  29, 84–7 St Edmund’s Chapel see Westminster St George’s Chapel see Windsor St John of Bridlington  193 St John’s Hospital see Bridgewater St Martin le Grand see London St Mary’s see Warwick St Mary’s Abbey see York St Mary and Holy Angels see York St Mary’s in the Newarke see Leicester St Paul’s Cathedral see London St Paul’s Wharf  165 St Quintin, Geoffry de  7 St Stephen’s College see Westminster St William’s College see York

In dex   225 Sainte–Chapelle see Paris Salisbury, earl of John Montagu  109, 113–14 William Montagu  39, 65–6, 68–9, 111 Salvayn, Anketin  7, 10–11 Saul, Nigel  152 Savoy palace see London Saxony, Ludolph of  200 Scotland  16, 40, 48, 56, 69, 82, 103 people of  136 Scotland, king of David II  53 Edward Balliol  8 Robert II  56 Scotland, queen of Joan of the Tower  39, 48, 52–4, 62, 67 Scott, James  81 Scottish marches  130 Scrope v Grosvenor  103, 112, 114 Scrope, Richard  103, 112, 114 Series see Hoccleve, Thomas Setford, Radulphus de  77 Settrington 16 Shakell, John  113–14 Sheen  41, 90 Shrewsbury 101 John, earl of  173 Sinningthwaite, prioress and convent of  194, 203–5 slander  71–93, 113 Slingsby 200 Smith, David  191 Society of Antiquaries  167 Southwick, priory of  158, 161 South Skirlaugh  13 Spain 204 Stafford, Henry  166 Stanhope Park  49 statutes (named), see parliament Stephen son of William  17 Steuer, Susan  208 Stirling 16 Stittenham 7 Stourton William  129–31, 133 Stowe, Thomas  114 Stuart, period of rule  197

Suffolk  30, 35 Suffolk, earl of Robert Ufford  67 Sumption, Jonathan  66 Surrey 27 tailor 83–4 Tanner, Thomas le  77 Tattershall  29, 33 taxation 1–20 alien subsidies  3–4, 19 poll tax  2 wool 11 Thames, River  165 Thesaurus concionatorum see Trujillo, Tomas de Thirkleby, Simon, rector of Slingsby  200–1, 202 Thompson, Alexander Hamilton  21, 24 Thomson, A. F.  206 Thorpe 13 Tickton 13 tin mining  79–80 Tinwell 78 Tothill Fields see Westminster tournament  56, 65, 69 Tout, T. F.  161 Tower of London see London treason  88, 90, 96, 100–2, 104–10 Treasure of the City of Ladies see Pizan, Christine de Trembethow 107 Trent, River  206 Tresilion, Robert  87 Trevarthian John  107 trial by combat  88, 96, 101, 104–8, 115 Trujillo, Tomas de  202 Tudor, Henry see England, king of, Henry VII Tynwelle, Thomas de  77–8, 93 Ufford, Robert see Suffolk, earl of University College see Oxford University Vere, Robert de see Oxford, earl of Victoria County History 207

2 2 6    I n d e x Vincennes, treaty of  56 Virgin Mary  32 Viroler, Philip le  80 Vita Christi see Saxony, Ludolph of Vynclef, Martyletto de  108 Walden, Benedictine Abbey of  67 Walsh, John  108 Walsingham, Thomas  106 Waltham, Mary see Brittany, countess of Warbeck, Perkin, conspiracy of  166 Ward, Joan, Sister  208 Warelwast, William see Exeter, bishop of Warenne, John de  172 Warter Priory, prior of  9, 17 Warton 207 Warwick, St Mary’s  26, 32, 34–6, 38 Warwick, earls of  36 Richard Neville  165–6 Watts, John  81, 92 Weel 13 Welde, John  155 Welsh marches  130 Westminster  12, 24, 88, 106–7, 165 St Edmund’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey 51 St Margaret’s  37 St Stephen’s College  22, 24, 28–9, 31, 33–4, 37–8, 70 Tothill Fields  88 Westminster Abbey  31, 34–5, 37, 39, 42–7, 50–1, 54, 56–7, 62, 64, 69 Weston, William  105 Whitehall, fire of  148 Wijnendale 92 Willard, J. F.  6, 17, 19 William I the Conqueror see England, king of Willoughby of Eresby, Lord and lady 171 Wiltshire  8, 129 Winchester, bishop of  27 William Edington  28, 30–1, 35–7 Windsor 42 St George’s Chapel  24, 28, 30–1, 33–4, 36–8

Windsor, Margaret of see Pembroke, countess of Windsor, William of  51, 56, 68 Wingfield, Alienor  30 Wingfield, Sir John  30 Wingfield College  30, 35 Woodstock, Edmund of see Kent, earl of Woodstock, Edward of, the Black Prince  39, 58, 62–5, 68, 90, 178, 179 Woodstock, Eleanor of see Guelders, countess of Woodstock, Thomas of see Gloucester, duke of Worcester cathedral  35 Worcester, bishop of William Whittlesey  35 Worksop 193 Wyclif, John  102 Wymbyssh, Nicholas de  81–2 Wyton 13 York  7, 10, 18, 32, 56, 84, 195, 198 archdeaconry of  190 Chancery Court of  197 clergy of  198 Digital Library  195 province and diocese of  189, 203, 204 St Clements  207 St Mary and Holy Angels  32, 36 St Mary’s Abbey  207 St William’s College  23 York Minster  23, 55, 198 York, archbishop of  36, 194, 197 Alexander Neville  56, 68, 192, 193, 194 Edward Lee  192, 193, 194, 203–5 Edwin Sandys  200 Henry Bowet  206–7 John Kempe  191 John Piers  200 Matthew Hutton  200 Tobias Matthew  200 Walter de Gray  189 William Melton  189 William Wickwane  192, 195 vicar–general of  197 York, duchess of, Cecily  164–87

In dex   227 York, duke of, Edmund of Langley  65 Richard  165, 169 York, house of  165, 169 Yorkshire  55, 197, 199, 206 clergy of  200, 205

East Riding  5–20 gentry of  201 monasteries of  204 North 208 North Riding  7, 10 West Riding  10, 197, 198

Tabula Gratulatoria P.V. Addyman Adrian Ailes Rowena E. Archer Jackson W. Armstrong Mark Arvanigian Tim Ayers Andrew Ayton Caroline M. Barron Michael Bennett Lisa Benz Douglas L. Biggs Elizabeth Biggs Pete Biller Julia Boffey Michael Boon James Bothwell Phil Bradford Alex Brayson John W. Briggs Michael Brown Joel Burden Jen Caddick Catherine Casson Linda Clark Claire Cross Anne Curry Gwilym Dodd Paul Dryburgh Charles Farris

Peter Fleming Helen Fulton Jean-Philippe Genet David Green Barbara Gribling Ralph A. Griffiths Louise Hampson Simon J. Harris Rosemary Hayes Matthew Hefferan Michael Hicks Rosemary Horrox R.W. Hoyle Michael Jones Sarah Rees Jones Maureen Jurkowski Helen Killick Andy King Robert Kinsey Hannes Kleineke Helen Lacey Bart Lambert Joanna Laynesmith Katherine J. Lewis Christian D. Liddy Jessica Lutkin Jonathan Mackman Richard Marks Alison K. McHardy

E. Amanda McVitty Alastair Minnis Shelagh Mitchell Linne Mooney Philip Morgan Anthony Musson Kathleen B. Neal Elizabeth A. New Caroline Palmer Seymour Phillips Michael Prestwich Matt Raven Joel T. Rosenthal James Ross Phillipp R. Schofield Ed Shine Monika E. Simon Laura Slater Brendan Smith Andrew M. Spencer Christian Steer Jenny Stratford Craig Taylor Laura Tompkins Elizabeth M. Tyler Hanna Vorholt E.H. Watt Jocelyn Wogan-Browne