Post-classical history

Appendix 2

The Great Council, 15–18 April

In the published Acts of the Privy Council there are two sets of minutes which relate to the great council of April 1415. The first is dated by the editor to ‘March or April 1415’.1 The second is dated within the text to 16, 17 and 18 April 1415.2 This appendix is presented to explain why both sets of minutes have been regarded as relating to the same great council, and why the date of the 16th has been regarded as erroneous.

The two sets of minutes appear quite different. The first set begins with the comment that, at the parliament held in late 1414, the king was urged to send negotiators to his adversary and they had now returned with nothing further to report. As a result, the king proposed to go through with his voyage, praying that ‘the temporal lords named below’ would serve him as far as they had promised in the said parliament. However, although there had been a promise to pay the lords for the second and third quarters at the end of the second quarter, the late collection of the subsidy would not allow this. It was proposed that they be paid for the second and third quarters at the end of each period. Presumably the king withdrew temporarily while they discussed this, for a marginal note records that the earl of Dorset reported to the king that they agreed, subject to receiving sufficient security. Upon hearing this, the king thanked them and asked them to reassemble ‘in the same place on the next Wednesday coming’ to establish what sort of security they would require. As for the spiritual lords, the king thanked them for their offerings in their convocations and asked them to discuss what other loans they might make for his forthcoming voyage.

The second set of minutes begins with a formal preamble concerning the lords and prelates who attended the council meeting in the Palace of Westminster on the 16th, and notes the king’s thanks to them all for responding to the summons. It then lists the lords present. It notes how the king directed the chancellor to remind them all of the matters discussed in the great council at Westminster, when the king had declared his ‘firm purpose’ to make a voyage to reclaim his inheritance, and how certain sums had been granted by the convocation and by the commonalty of the realm. Nothing more is said about the meeting held on this day. The minutes continue to relate the business of the 17th, in particular the appointment of the duke of Bedford as keeper of the realm in the king’s absence, the naming of the royal council, and the provisions for the safekeeping of the kingdom. The minutes for the 18th lay down the rates for wages on the forthcoming expedition.

It is not immediately obvious that these two sets of minutes refer to the same great council. That they do is revealed by the dating of the first set of minutes. As this set refers to the second parliament of 1414 and the return of the subsequent embassy, it must relate to a meeting after 29 March 1415. The decision in principle to accept securities in lieu of unpaid wages indicates that it describes a meeting held before 29 April 1415, for certain indentures dated that day refer to jewels being accepted in lieu of wages for the second and subsequent quarters.3 The reference to appearing ‘in this same place’ to agree what securities would be required rules out the meeting in question being held in the week of Wednesday 24 April, as the king and many of the lords would have been at Windsor for the Garter feast the previous day. Thus we may be confident that the first set of minutes relates to a meeting held in one of three weeks in April: that beginning on the 1st, the 8th or the 15th. As the only known great council meeting at this time is the one scheduled for the 15th, for which summons went out in February (see entry under 20 February), there is no doubt that the week starting Monday 15th is correct. This is supported by the minutes of a council meeting held on the 12th which refer to the forthcoming great council on the 15th.4 Finally, as the text refers to the lords reassembling on ‘the next Wednesday coming’, it must relate to discussions held on Monday 15th itself – otherwise it would refer to them reassembling ‘tomorrow’.

This conclusion seems to contradict the dating of the great council in the second set of minutes to the three days 16-18 April. At first sight it seems possible that the first set of minutes relate to the 15th and the second set to discussions over the three subsequent days. However, the meeting noted as taking place on the 16th cannot have simply been a second day of the great council as the king would not have left it until then to thank the lords for responding to the summons. Furthermore, the first set of minutes – which has many deletions and is clearly a draft – refer to ‘the temporal lords named below’ but no such list is attached. Instead the list appears in relation to the meeting held on the 16th, which is a neat set with no deletions. Also we should note that the business described as happening on the 16th partly repeats the formal preliminaries described in the first set of minutes, now firmly dated to the 15th. Although the minutes for the 16th refer to a great council in the autumn of 1414, not the parliament (as the first set states), this was in fact a correction. It seems that the minutes dated 16–18 April are a revised set relating to the whole three-day meeting, and that in abstracting data from the first set the reference to ‘parliament’ had been corrected to ‘great council’ but the date had been mistakenly copied as the 16th.

Whether this means that the entries for the 17th and 18th have also been misdated is not possible to say for certain. In this book it has been presumed that the request on Monday 15th for the lords to reassemble on Wednesday 17th implies they did not meet on Tuesday 16th. It seems Henry allowed them a day’s grace to discuss what form of security they would require. Probably the reason for the misdating of the second set of minutes is the copyist’s assumption that all three days were consecutive: he relocated the 15th to the 16th in the neat, final set of minutes to make his document tally with this assumption.

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