In so far as the medieval aristocracy can be said to have had a profession, it was the profession of arms. In medieval social theory, and very considerably in practice also, all free men were potential combatants and could be summoned for military service; but it was the nobility who were the warrior class par excellence. They were the bellatores, the warrior protectors of society and its natural leaders in war. This was the self-image which they proclaimed to the world on their insignia. On their seals they presented themselves as warrior knights astride their warhorses; their effigies and monuments in death likewise perpetuated, and elaborated, their image as warriors in full military dress. Arms were among their most prized possessions and heirlooms, and as such were often individually itemized in their wills and their provenance indicated. The will of Edward, duke of York (d. 1415) may serve as an illustration: it itemized inter alia ‘the hauberk . . . which the late earl of Huntingdon gave me; my new brigandines covered with red velvet ..., my basinet and my best horse, my little coat of mail, a piece of plate which the Prince gave me . . . and my iron helmet’.1
From an early age the young aristocrat was inculcated in the ethos, conventions, and practices of military life. The advice of The Boke of Noblesse was clear on that score: ‘those that are descended of noble blood . . . (should be) drawn forth, nourished and exercised in the disciplines, doctrines and usage of school of arms, as in using jousts, run with speed, handle with axe’.2 Even the leisure activities of the aristocracy, notably tournaments and hunting, were little more than peacetime subsets of this culture of military prowess. Fame and honour in this aristocratic world sprang pre-eminently from deeds of arms. The conduct of war, it is true, was governed at aristocratic level by a host of laws and conventions (on issues such as ransoms and the treatment of prisoners of good birth) which greatly mitigated the brutality of the experience for the nobility; but in the melee of battle not even these conventions could save a man from capture and imprisonment (as happened to the earl of Pembroke in 1372), or indeed from death (as was the fate of Edward, duke of York, whose will has just been quoted, at Agincourt in 1415). In the rougher and bloodier worlds of warfare in Scotland
1 Reg. Chichele, II, 63—6.
2 William Worcester, The Boke of Noblesse, ed. J. Gough Nichols (Roxburgh Club, London, 1860), 76.
and Ireland, the chances of death in battle or in an ambush were even greater. Nor was this greater risk necessarily a feature to be deplored. On the contrary, a valorous death in battle could further enhance the prestige of a noble family. ‘God be praised’, such are the words ascribed to James, second earl of Douglas, killed at Otterburn in 1388, ‘not many of my ancestors have died in their beds.’ In this military world, the camaraderie born from campaigning together was one of the strongest bonds in aristocratic and knightly society. Such was often the theme of their tombs and commemorative windows. Thus when Reginald, Lord Cobham (d. 1361), had a tomb constructed in his memory in Lingfield church (Surrey), he had it decorated with coats of arms around the sides—including those of leading aristocrats (such as the earls of March, Oxford, and Northampton) in whose company he had fought in Edward Ill’s French wars, and especially at Crecy.3 This was the companionship of the officers’ mess; on the roll of honour of the mess the earls, the great aristocrats, occupied pride of place. They were the natural and acknowledged military leaders of a militarized elite.
The world of memories of this aristocracy was structured by vivid recollections of their campaigns and of their companions on such campaigns. The depositions made by the witnesses in the famous Scrope—Grosvenor dispute in 1386 as to which of the two families had the better claim to a particular coat of arms—azur a bend or—make this point vividly. One deponent recalled how he had seen the arms worn by Scrope on a banner ‘in the company of the earl of Northampton, when he rode by torchlight from Lochmaben as far as Peebles’; another swore that he had seen Scrope bearing those arms when ‘King Edward. . . was before Paris . . . and since then in all the expeditions undertaken by my Lord of Lancaster and our Lord the king’.4 Chivalry, heraldry, and acts of military prowess were central concerns for these men, both in life and in the imagination. They peopled the past with knightly heroes and habits which validated their own behaviour and self-image in the present. Nor indeed was the present short of heroes and episodes to be added to an already established repertoire of classical and medieval paragons. Within ten years of his death in 1376, the Black Prince was confirmed as a member of the pantheon of the immortals in the verse life of him composed by the herald of Sir John Chandos in 1386, quite possibly at John of Gaunt’s instigation.5 The wars with France and even occasionally campaigns and battles in Scotland and Spain provided an ample stock of deeds of arms which chroniclers, heralds, and minstrels sought to immortalize. So it was, for example, that the battle of Otterburn (1388) was commemorated in a variety of ballads as well as in the pages of Froissart as ‘the best fought and severest of all battles’.6Heroes were not lacking in this world and, more often than not, they were aristocratic
3 Brown, Black Douglases, 128; Saul, Death, Art and Memory, 152—60. See above, p. 12, for the windows at Etchingham.
4 The Scrope and Grosvenor Controversy, 1385—90, ed. N. H. Nicolas, 2 vols. (London, 1832).
5 J. J. N. Palmer, ‘Froissart et le herant Chandos’, Le Moyen Age, 88 (1982), 271 — 92.
6 War and Border Societies in the Middle Ages, ed. A. Tuck and A. Goodman (London, 1992).
heroes. After all, the pin-up hero of the fifteenth century was none other than Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1439), a man whose ‘notable actes of chevalry and knyghtly demenaunce’ were vividly and pictorially recalled several decades after his death.7
There is, of course, much that is idealized and conventionalized in the image of the aristocrat at war as it is presented in the literature, biographies, and monuments of the age. But the gap between image and reality was not as wide as it is sometimes supposed. Young aristocrats began their military careers at an early age. Roger Mortimer, second earl of March (d. 1360), redeemed the fortunes of his family and won the affection of Edward III by his exemplary military prowess. Already at the age of 15 he had distinguished himself—alongside some of the senior earls of the day—in a great tournament at Hereford in September 1344. Within less than two years he had crossed to France, been knighted by the Black Prince, and fought alongside Edward III at Crecy (26 August 1346). Much of the rest of his short career was preoccupied with further military enterprises—both in France and in Scotland. He raised large forces of troops from his own estates especially in Wales; and so impressed was Edward III with his qualities that he appointed him constable of the great army which he led to France in 1359—60. It was near Avallon that Earl Roger died in February 1360 at the age of 31. His short but dazzling military career underlined once more the claim of the greater aristocracy to be the natural military leaders of the country; it also demonstrated that there was no quicker route to re-establish an aristocratic family’s fortune or to win the trust of the king.
Earl Roger’s career of military service was by no means unusual, except possibly in its brevity. Whilst it was unusual for county knights to serve on more than three or four campaigns during their active careers,8 the service of dukes and earls sometimes extended over decades. Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster (d. 1361) was outstanding in this respect. Between 1334 and 1360 he served on fifteen military expeditions; on six of them he occupied the top command position. Nor does this exhaust his military record: he also took part in the siege of Algeciras in 1343 and on crusade to Prussia in 1351—2. Even when he was not on campaign he was an active participant in tournaments and jousts. Much as he loved the delights of his country estates, especially hunting in the forest near his favourite castle of Leicester, most of his career was in fact consumed by what one might term ‘public service’, both military and diplomatic (he headed six major diplomatic missions abroad and participated in twelve truce conferences).
Henry of Grosmont was, perhaps, exceptional in both the length and frequency of his record of military service; but his career was certainly not unique. It could
7 Pageant of the Birth, Life and Death of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, K.G. 1389—1439, ed. Viscount Dillon and W. H. St John Hope (London,1914).
8 Saul, Knights and Esquires, 36 — 59. The military careers of Mortimer and the other lords mentioned below are detailed in the relevant entries in ODNB.
be readily paralleled by that of his close contemporary, Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1369). His military career was even longer, stretching chronologically from 1334 until his death, and geographically from Scotland, through France, to Alexandria and Prussia. Because of the nature of the warfare, these military careers were, it is true, frequently spasmodic and interrupted by long periods of truce. Yet such was the military appetite of these men that such truces were often only an occasion to divert their martial ambitions elsewhere (such as the Iberian peninsula) or to indulge in a spot ofcrusading either in Prussia or in the eastern Mediterranean. Indeed towards the end of our period, Henry V’s war of conquest and settlement in northern France after 1417 transformed the character of English war-service and specifically that of its aristocratic leaders. The short-term expedition and seasonal chevauchee were now replaced by prolonged periods of service in the occupied lands in northern France. It has been pointed out that between 1417 and 1422 a substantial proportion of the English higher nobility was on extended service in France; this was reflected in the fact that only four dukes or earls and thirteen lords attended parliament.9 Such prolonged absence, it has to be conceded, was not the norm in the period as a whole; but even in its unusualness it is a reminder to us that war and participation in war filled the horizons of these men, much more so proportionately than it did the rest of contemporary society.
Their pre-eminence, socially and militarily, was reflected in the differential rates of pay which they commanded in the king’s service. Whereas a mere foot- archer was paid at the rate of 2d. or 3d., a mounted archer 6d., a man-at-arms 1s., and a knight 2s. a day, a duke’s wage in the mid fourteenth century was fixed at 13s. 4d. a day and that of an earl at 6s. 8d.—8s. a day. Whilst the king might call on help from some of the quasi-professional war captains of the day—such as Sir Walter Mauny or Sir Thomas Dagworth in Edward Ill’s heyday—as his recruiting officers, his natural first and major port of call in terms both of recruitment and of active leadership was the higher aristocracy. Indeed they would have been offended had he acted otherwise. They were, and regarded themselves as, his ‘natural’ war captains, just as they proclaimed themselves to be his ‘natural counsellors’ in respect of major political decisions. Thus when Richard II decided to inaugurate his military career by an expedition to Scotland in 1385, almost two-thirds of the total projected force (of 4,590 men at arms and 9,064 archers) was contributed by one duke (Gaunt) and ten English earls.10
Nor was the situation essentially different in Scotland and Ireland. Indeed in Scotland the earls were regarded as the natural leaders of provincial armies (such
9 G. L. Harriss, ‘The King and his Magnates’, in Henry V: The Practice of Kingship, ed. G. L. Harriss (Oxford, 1984), 31 — 52, esp. 43—4.
10 S. Armitage-Smith, John of Gaunt, King of Castile and Leon, Duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster, Earl of Derby, Lincoln and Leicester, Seneschal of England (London, 1904), 437—9.
as the ‘army of Moray’), be it in their own names or as part of the ‘common army’ or ‘Scottish army’ when it was summoned. Lordship in Scotland—as we shall see—was military lordship or it was no lordship at all. The dazzling rise of the Black Douglas family to pre-eminence, and the ways it wielded that pre-eminence, demonstrated that truism amply enough. The same was true of English Ireland. It was men such as the earls of Ulster and Desmond who led the large Irish contingents to Scotland in support of the English campaigns, and it was on their shoulders and those of a handful of other resident lords that the responsibility of upholding the English dispensation in Ireland relied. Throughout the British Isles, therefore, aristocratic power and military leadership went hand in hand.11
Given that this was so, it is pertinent to ask how, and how far, the military preoccupations and aspirations of the greater aristocracy affected their lordship, and the lives of their dependants, in general. One thing is clear: since military activity and military leadership were among the premier tests of aristocratic status and standing, the capacity to raise an army was a high priority for every leading magnate. He could fulfil that obligation in several ways. He could first turn to his own household, specifically to its military members. In Norman England and in much of contemporary Scotland and Ireland, the military household of the great lord was the fulcrum of the lord’s power—defending his person and family, imposing his will, escorting him on his travels, and forming the core of any expeditionary force that he assembled, either in his own service or that of the king. That is why the military retinue has been rightly regarded as ‘one of the basic social organisms of medieval Europe’.12 In the Highlands of Scotland and in the militarized and deeply unstable frontiers of medieval Ireland, such military households—living at the lord’s table, stabling their horses in his stables, and always militarily at the ready—were still a feature of aristocratic life. In England, on the other hand, where the making of war was a royal monopoly, such a world was already a distant memory. But this did not mean that the capacity to raise an effective military force did not remain a primary aristocratic obligation.
It could be, and was, discharged in a variety of ways. Except possibly on the borderlands of Wales and Scotland, it was no longer for the most part a case of a military household living at the lord’s table. Rather was it that a set of concentric circles of obligation were, formally or informally, formed which allowed a great lord to assemble a military force when it was needed. The innermost circle was composed of those who were formally retained to serve the lord for life in peace and war. These formal indentures of service—which begin to survive in considerable numbers from the late thirteenth century onwards—specify the 11 12
11 Brown, Black Douglases; Frame, Ireland and Britain, esp. chs. XII and XV.
12 R. Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change, 950—1350 (London, 1994), 45.
obligations and responsibilities of lord and retainer in considerable detail. They were contractually and legally enforceable and often specify the supporting forces which a retainer should bring to the service of his lord, the terms (including board and lodging) on which they should serve, compensation for horses lost on campaign, and associated issues. These indentured retainers have attracted a great deal of attention in historical writing because historians feel most comfortable about affiliations and obligations of service when they are formally documented.13
But the lord’s retinue (broadly defined) extended far beyond the ranks of those for whom a formal indenture of retinue survives. It should normally be extended to include, at least potentially, those who drew an annuity or received his livery or badge. Such men must have regarded themselves as beholden to him, and one obvious way of discharging their duty was to respond to his military summons. Beyond this second group lay a further, much less distinct, group of men who had no formal link with the lord nor necessarily received any regular reward from him but who nevertheless moved in the orbit of his power and were thereby amenable to his summons.
This latter group included the tenants and inhabitants of his estates. In England the king, theoretically, had access to the military services of all able-bodied men in the realm and he could, and did, exercise that claim through commissions of array, shire levies, and other recruitment procedures. But in the northern borderlands and in areas such as the palatinates of Chester and Lancaster or in the duchy of Cornwall, great lords took an almost proprietorial view of their own estates as their personal recruiting grounds. It was on this basis, for example, that the Black Prince in the 1340s and 1350s regularly mustered large numbers of troops from the county of Cheshire. The Prince served on the basis of a commission from the king, his father; but the recruitment lay in his own hands and that of his officials. Thus he ordered the deputy-justice of Chester (the head of the county palatine’s administration) to test and array 200 archers from all the hundreds of the county ‘in whosoever’s lordship they be’ and, in addition, to array 100 of the best archers that could be found.14 On this and other occasions the Prince also raised large squadrons of foot archers from his lands in Wales. Both the Principality shires of north and west Wales and the Marcher lordships were indeed among the major recruiting sources for the great aristocratic armies of the fourteenth century. It was the lord’s officers who summoned, arrayed, and equipped the troops so recruited and any attempt on the part of the king to recruit directly in these areas was fiercely resisted. Normally such aristocratic armies were ultimately in the pay of the king and served on his campaigns; but they
13 There is an excellent collection of such indentures, with a fine introduction, in ‘Private Indentures’. See also Holmes, Estates, chap. 3; J. M. W. Bean, From Lord to Patron: Lordship in Late Medieval England (Manchester, 1989).
14 Reg BP, I, 52, 55—6; III, 199; P. Morgan, War and Society in Late Medieval Cheshire, 1277-1403 (Manchester, 1989), 107-8.
could also be deployed for more sinister purposes. During the turbulent politics of Edward II’s reign, for example, such privately recruited forces furthered the ambitions of men such as the earls of Lancaster and Hereford and, most notably of all, Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, the first earl of March (d. 1330). Even a great prince such as John of Gaunt valued the security which his own ‘private’ force could provide for him in dangerous days. When he realized that his life was in danger from rampaging peasants in July 1381, he ordered a force of over 500 men to be assembled to escort him from Berwick to Knaresborough. The armies of fourteenth-century England were more aristocratic in recruitment and character than we sometimes concede. That they served in the name of the king, ultimately at his pay and generally in furtherance of his ambitions and policies, should not be allowed to conceal their significance as sources and manifestations of aristocratic power.15
What was true of England was a fortiori even more true of Scotland and Ireland. Both of them were, in different degrees, lands of war in as much as periodic forays and campaigns to assert authority and quell enemies could regularly be part of the cursus of a great aristocrat’s life. They were also societies in which leadership on campaign was a regular, and regularly tested, feature of a nobleman’s effectiveness. In Scotland the earls were the natural leaders of regional armies, and their position as such was sometimes formally recognized in charters. Thus when King Robert I (d. 1329) gave Thomas Randolph the most ample powers in Moray in 1312 he required the men of the region to perform their common army service to Thomas and his heirs, as should those who ‘used to follow the banner of Moray in times past’.16 What King Robert was doing was no more than recognizing the role of the aristocracy in raising and leading the military forces of regional Scotland. Lordship was measured in men, pre-eminently in military men. That explains the famous riposte of the Highlander when asked to assess the value of his lordship: ‘Five hundred men’ was the brisk answer.17
It was an answer which had greater applicability in northern and western Scotland or in Ireland or in the March of Wales than it did in England. But even in England the capacity to raise an army and to draw on a pool of military supporters were crucial facets of the arts of lordship. When Edmund Mortimer, earl of March (d. 1381), set out on a military-diplomatic mission to the Scottish frontier in 1378, one of his first actions was to dispatch a messenger with a letter of summons to the lord’s retinue (pro retinencia sua munienda).18 It is a reminder that the retinue was not just a paper army; it could be called on to serve and
15 Davies, Lordship and Society, 81-4 (and sources cited); Goodman, John of Gaunt, 83.
16 Regestra Regum Scottorum V: The Acts of Robert I, King of Scots, 1306—1329, ed. A. A. M. Duncan (Edinburgh, 1988), no. 389 (pp. 633-5).
17 M. Bloch, French Rural History: An Essay on its Basic Characteristics (English Translation, London, 1966), 72.
18 Household Accounts, I, 246.
to do so at short notice. When Earl Edmund’s son Roger (d. 1398) assembled an army to accompany Richard II on his campaign in Ireland in 1394—5 his force was gathered at speed and led by knights and bachelors (such as Sir Hugh Cheyney, Sir John Pauncefoot, and Leonard Hakeluyt) who were in receipt of retaining annuities from him.19 Likewise when the earl of Warwick faced a critical situation in Wales in 1403 his immediate response was to summon his retinue (ad muniendum diversos de retinencia domini) to assemble at Warwick.20 But it is from the ample official correspondence of John of Gaunt that we can catch the best-documented glimpse of recruiting military lordship in action. He certainly cast the net of his retinue widely. When he was assembling a large army for his great chevauchee in France in 1373 he ordered 650 men at arms ‘of our retinue’ (de nostre retenue) to be enlisted. Or, to take another example, in August 1383 he sent individual letters, via the local receiver, to his bachelors and squires in Lancashire and Cheshire to get themselves ready for military duty. He also appended twenty-four unendorsed letters in a similar vein to be dispatched by the receiver to those whom he (the receiver) thought were fit and sufficient to serve him.21
All in all, the life of a great aristocrat, at least during his years of active service, must have revolved considerably around the need to raise and lead an army. Campaigns themselves were generally seasonal and short; but the logistical problems of recruiting men, finding horses, assembling arms and uniforms, and arranging supplies took months of preparation. So did the outstanding claims—for unpaid wages, compensation for horses lost, reimbursement of goods commandeered, and the settlement of ransom demands—that came in the wake of every campaign. The whole exercise placed considerable strains on the stamina and administrative expertise of the aristocrat and his officials. An administrative cadre basically and normally geared to maximize income from estates and tenants and to provide the wherewithal for the lord’s luxurious lifestyle had to be transformed into a military commissariat. This was one of the major challenges of aristocratic lordship, a challenge which has been frequently overlooked, or underestimated, because of the nature of the surviving documentation and its overwhelming royal and royal exchequer orientation. How, in short, did men such as Henry of Grosmont (d. 1361), Edmund Mortimer (d. 1381), or Richard Beauchamp (d. 1439) cope with the demands of exercising military lordship?
The short answer is that they became military entrepreneurs, raising men and supplies where they could. They would certainly call—as we have seen—on the services of those who were beholden to them through a formal indenture of service or the receipt of a regular annuity or an undocumented but very
19 CPR 1391—6, 451 et seq.; Holmes, Estates, 62 — 3, 80.
20 BL Egerton Roll 8770 (account of receiver-general).
21 Reg. JG, I, nos. 1216, 1218; II, no. 909.
real sense of obligation and service. This was the lord’s ‘retinue’ in the full and quasi-permanent sense of the word. But it was very rare, particularly in England, for even the greatest lord to have sufficient men in these categories to enable him to raise a credible expeditionary force. Instead, or rather as well, he had to rely on an intensive campaign of ad hoc recruitment for a specific campaign. The contract which the councillors of Roger, earl of March (d. 1398), concluded with Walter Fitz Walter on 15 May 1398 illustrates this kind of recruitment arrangement well.22 It specified service in a particular theatre of war—Ireland—and for a clearly delimited period—six months. It stipulated in detail the body of troops—six esquires and twenty mounted archers—which Walter was to provide and entered carefully into details of services—on issues such as shipping, gains of war, and entitlement to sustenance (bouche de court) by the earl—and into other contingencies that might arise. There were many men like Walter Fitz Walter in fourteenth-century England—military free-floaters who in effect offered their services as major military subcontractors to the greater aristocracy. Their commitment lasted no longer than the term of their contracts; they might then move into the service of another lord. They generally in turn recruited the men whom they had pledged to provide by entering into sub-sub-contracts (in effect) with a pool of local military recruits, often contributing no more than a man-at-arms or an archer apiece. This process of grass-roots recruitment is normally hidden from documentary view because it was not of direct relevance to exchequer accounting processes; but in at least two cases—the subcontracts of Sir John Strother in preparation for the earl of March’s expedition to Brittany in 1374 and of Sir Hugh Hastings for Thomas of Woodstock’s expedition thither in 1380—these subcontracts have fortuitously survived. They reveal to us how deeply into the fabric of local society the military recruitment policies of the aristocracy reached, albeit indirectly.23
Assembling an expeditionary force posed daunting problems of negotiation and organization at all levels. The lord himself might bargain very hard with the king on the terms on which he would serve. Nowhere is this more vividly revealed than in a letter which Edward I dispatched, probably in April 1301, to Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster (d. 1326), in an attempt to persuade the earl to contribute a substantial force to the king’s army in Scotland.24 The mixture of cajolery, flattery, promise of remission of debt, commitment to the speedy payment of wages, and an almost desperate appeal to the earl’s sense of duty and honour reveals that there was far more to the process of recruitment than might at first appear in bland exchequer documents. Military expeditions were truly joint-stock enterprises between the king and his great magnates and by
22 CPR 1396—9, 338; printed in full in Holmes, Estates, 130—1.
23 A. Goodman, ‘The Military Sub-Contracts of Sir Hugh Hastings, 1380’, EHR, 95 (1980), 114—20.; S. Walker, ‘Profit and Loss in the Hundred Years War: The Subcontracts of Sir John Strother, 1374’, BIHR, 58 (1985), 100—6;Morgan, War and Society in Medieval Cheshire, 150—64.
24 Sweetman (ed.), Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland, IV, no. 849; ibid., V, no. 1302.
no means all the trump cards were in the king’s hand. The arts of negotiation and enticement had to be practised all the way down the line, even to the level of recruiting foot archers. Advance payment of wages could be made to archers to ensure that they set out in good time and arrive promptly at the port of embarkation; more important personnel were to be enticed by offers of two oaks from the local forest if they enlisted; ‘but if not, not’.25 Where blandishment did not work, strong-arm tactics could be pursued. The local tenantry might be assembled at the castle gate and those who were unwilling to serve might find their animals seized and their purses emptied by a compulsory war subsidy.26
These various recruitment strategies must have put a considerable strain on the lord’s officers, central and local. Nor did their problems end there. Selecting the captains for the local contingents and arranging a timetable and an itinerary for them likewise posed daunting problems. So did the commandeering of horses, so essential for the army’s success. Baggage horses were also essential: so it was that the Black Prince ordered thirty of the best and strongest baggage horses to be commandeered to meet his needs overseas.27 Even more impressive were the measures taken by John of Gaunt to ensure that he had sufficient horses for his great chevauchee in France in 1373. It was to his own estates that he turned in the first instance—buying horses at Pontefract fair, making pointed requests to men such as the abbot of Furness and Whalley to volunteer gifts of horses, and setting quotas of horses to be assembled from his various estates—twenty from Tutbury, thirty from Higham Ferrers, a further thirty from Norfolk and Suffolk, forty from Lincolnshire, and so forth.28 Arms likewise had to be bought in large quantities: when Thomas of Woodstock made preparations for his proposed expedition to Ireland in 1392 (to which we will return below) he spent £226 in advance on arms, including 700 bows and 1,900 arrows—for a very modest force.29 The provisioning of the army, both prior to its departure and subsequently, posed huge commissariat problems. The men of Devon, for example, had no option but to grant 2,000 quarter of oats to feed the horses of the Black Prince’s army; while the wardrobe account of the duke of Clarence (d. 1421) reveals that £1,030 was spent in purchasing victuals and provisions in England for dispatch to the lord’s household overseas.30 War engines had to be got ready; special craftsmen such as carpenters, masons, and iron-workers had to be recruited; and uniforms had sometimes to be bought so that the lord’s army could be distinctive and cultivate its own esprit de corps.31 Last, but by no means least, if the expedition was overseas, the securing of adequate shipping was a major headache. The
25 Reg. JG, I, nos. 1222, 1226—7, 1232 etc. 26 Davies, Lordship and Society, 82 — 3.
27 Reg. BP, II, 94. 28 Regt jg, I, nos. 1194-5, 1200, 1208, 1210, 1223-4, 1228, 1230.
29 BL Add. Roll 40859A (account of Thomas of Woodstock’s treasurer of war).
30 Reg B.P, II, 94; Household Accounts, II, 670.
32See, for example, Reg JG, I, nos. 1243-8; for examples of uniforms for lord’s archers, see Davies, Lordship and Society, 81, 84.
responsibility of finding and assembling the ships might have lain, in England, with the king and his officials; but the task of provisioning them and getting them ready for the voyage fell to the lord and his officers, as the account of the Earl Marshal’s expedition of 1422—3 demonstrates.32
This list by no means exhausts the multiple problems which confronted any great aristocrat anxious to discharge his duty of military leadership in the Middle Ages. The tendency of historians has been to underrate their complexity, concentrating largely on the size and composition of the aristocratic contract armies (where the exchequer accounts are an invaluable source of information), but underestimating the associated problems involved for lords in recruiting an army and preparing it for service, especially overseas. It was a task which taxed the administrative skills of the lord and his cadre of officials to the utmost. The lord’s household was put on a war footing. In the event of an expedition he would leave a skeletal administration, often under the control of his wife, at home while taking most of his key household officials and confidants with him in what was termed ‘the foreign household’. The two households would be kept in frequent contact with each other by the regular dispatch of messengers and messages. The fact that war altered the priorities and habits of aristocratic lords was also reflected in the fact that a special treasurer of war, with his own account, was sometimes established—as, for example, by Duke Thomas of Gloucester in 1392—to deal with the complex financial issues involved in major military enterprise.
Such enterprises taxed the resources and skills of lordship to their very limits. Ready cash to pay for supplies and to reward disaffected troops was always in desperately short supply. It took a messenger and two valets 147 days—admittedly an exceptionally slow journey—to take 1,500 marks to John of Gaunt in Gascony in 1372.33 The slowness of travel was more than matched by the slow payment habits of the English exchequer. Indeed delay in receiving full payment of war wages was a constant irritant in crown-magnate relations. It contributed mightily, so at least the Percies claimed, to the catastrophic breakdown in relations between Henry IV and the Percy family in 1403. The cash-strapped John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk (d. 1432), was kept waiting for eight years for the war wages due to him.34 Others were fobbed off with uncashable tallies. In these circumstances it is little wonder that greasing the palms of well-placed officials was a necessary art for war commanders anxious to recover their wages and to solve their cash-flow problems. John Mowbray certainly felt that it was essential for him to pay a ‘regard’ to the clerks of the royal exchequer and to lay on a meal in a tavern for the deputy treasurer and other crown officers ‘in order to win their
32 J. L. Kirby, ‘An Account of Robert Southwell, Receiver-General of John Mowbrary, Earl Marshal, 1422-3’, BIHR, 27 (1954), 192-8.
33 Reg. JG, I, no. 1038 (presumably the expense account is for the round journey).
34 J. M. W. Bean, ‘Henry IV and the Percies’, History, 44 (1959), 212-27; Kirby ‘Account of Robert Southwell’, 197.
good will’ (pro eorum benevolencia sua).35 In the event, these various ploys did him little good; but they are a reminder that for a militarily active great magnate, the demands of military lordship—from the moment of the initial summons to recruit for a campaign to the long-drawn-out efforts to recoup war wages and to settle claims to ransoms and the compensation for horses lost—must have cast very long shadows across his career. We see greater aristocrats primarily on their estates, in the turmoil of high politics, parading in their magnificence in parliament, in tournaments, and in the chase; we are also presented with their idealized self-images in accounts of their deeds of arms and in their splendid effigies, but we should not underestimate the degree to which preparation for, and participation in, war and campaigns consumed much of their time and energy, especially in the period from 1290 onwards. Furthermore warfare was, more especially in England, an activity where private prowess and ambition and public duty met. Successful war was one of the best ways of forging an effective relationship between crown and magnates; nowhere did the interests of both parties more closely coincide.
War was, literally and metaphorically, a noble enterprise. It was, at least in theory, the ultimate raison d’etre of the aristocracy as a status group and it also provided a theatre in which their feats of arms could redound across Europe and down the generations. Distaste for war and its consequences was not a sentiment which the aristocracy understood. On the contrary, they had developed a whole host of conventions and practices which immunized them—but not ordinary troops nor civilians—to a considerable degree from its worst effects. More than that, they approached campaigning not only in a spirit of adventure but also very considerably in a spirit of profit-making.
There were certainly fortunes to be made in war and, given the position of the magnates as war leaders, the greatest profits came their way. Contemporaries realized as much. The shrewd Sir John Fortescue observed that ‘the lords make profits, often very large, out of their contracts with the government, and enrich themselves with profit and plunder.’36 Modern scholarship, especially the seminal writings of K. B. McFarlane, have confirmed and elaborated such a claim. Money could certainly be made out of military contracts, as Fortescue claimed. The profit that William Heron, Lord Say (d. 1404) had made from overcharging on his war wages troubled his conscience sufficiently for him to instruct his executors to repay 120 marks!37 Ransoms and the prospect of ransom feature regularly in indentures of service and must have made the mouth of many a would-be warrior water in anticipation.38 So did the stories of the fortunes made by Henry of
35 *BL Add. Roll 17209 (accounts of bailiffs of Earl Marshal, 1422 — 3).
36 Sir John Fortescue, The Governance of England: Otherwise Called the Difference between an Absolute and a Limited Monarchy, ed. C. Plummer (Oxford, 1885).
37 McFarlane, Nobility, esp. chs. 7—9, republished in his collected essays, England in the Fifteenth Century; Test. Vet., I, 163.
38 See, for example, ‘Private Indentures’, no. 62.
Grosmont from the sacking of Bergerac in 1345,39 and similar tales of how the residences of English aristocrats were rebuilt and modernized from the fortunes of war in France. Neither in Scotland nor in Ireland were similar fortunes to be made; but the proceeds of booty, pillage, and ransom must likewise have enhanced the reputation and drawing power of men such as the earls of Douglas and Desmond.
Nowadays the appeal of war and the profits that could be made from war—especially in the century after 1330—is not likely to go by default as an argument, especially in respect of the aristocracy. Indeed the danger, paradoxically, is that the historiographical pendulum may have swung too far. War did involve risks, as well as profit, for the aristocracy. Fortescue notwithstanding, not all of them made a killing from charging extortionate pay for war service. As usual it was the least fortunate who lost out. The Earl Marshal tried to redeem his family’s reputation by spending, it has been estimated, c.£2,500 on the Agincourt campaign in 1415; but he appears to have recouped only £1,450 in wages. Nor was this a unique case: Sir Hugh Despenser (d. 1349), another member of a declasse family, was still owed £2,770 in wages from the exchequer at his death. Ransoms could indeed be a major windfall; but equally to be ransomed could destroy a family’s resources. Walter Fitz Walter (d. 1406) knew that to his cost: he had to mortgage his castle of Egremont and all his lands in England to meet the cost of his ransom.40 Even a rich family like the Percies could be embarrassed by the misfortunes of war: when the young Hotspur (d. 1403) was in danger of being ruined by the enormous ransom exacted from him after his capture at the battle of Otterburn (1388), it required a royal subsidy and virtually a national subscription campaign to help him out of his predicament.41 Even before the tide of the war began to turn in France, the price that some of the magnates had to pay escalated. The duke of York, the earl of Arundel and two de la Pole brothers were killed in 1415, Clarence in 1422; and Huntingdon and Somerset were captured the same year.
It would not make sense to attempt to draw up a balance account of the profits and losses of war on aristocratic fortunes and careers. The story would vary from family to family, from generation to generation, and even within the lifespan of an individual magnate. In general, the English aristocracy enjoyed what may be termed a favourable ‘balance of war’ in its prolonged, if spasmodic, warfare with the French in the period 1337-1429. They fought their campaigns for the most part on French territory, scored some notable victories, and enjoyed the profits, plunders, ransoms, and landed gains of successful war. But even in France, let alone in Scotland, Ireland, Flanders, and elsewhere, the sustained impact of campaigning, raising troops, border raids, and the levying of heavy
39 Knighton, Chron., 57.
40 Harriss, King and his Magnates’, 41-2; GEC sub Despenser; ODNB sub Fitzwalter family.
41 Goodman, Loyal Conspiracy, 29 n. 90.
taxation should be taken into account. In truth the aristocracy made no such calculations. Leadership in war—whether it be in the king’s campaigns or on individual forays—was their duty and their metier; it was also of course an opportunity to perform—or at least to claim to perform—those ‘deeds of arms’ and prowess which were of the very essence of the nobility which they flaunted. They were simultaneously lords of war and peace.
We normally see how English magnates discharged their military obligations through the formal contracts, indentures, and payment vouchers of the royal exchequer. But very occasionally we have evidence from the magnates themselves of how an army was raised and, thereby, what was involved in mounting an expedition. Such was the army that Edmund Mortimer, earl of March (d. 1381), assembled at Plymouth in the autumn of 1374 but which did not set out for Brittany until late spring 1375.42 Earl Edmund had good reason to be suspicious of the timetable and firmness of intention of the operation. In 1372 he had led an earlier ill-fated expedition to Brittany which had been called off after fifty-four days. This time Mortimer insisted that a substantial portion of the wages of his retinue be paid in advance; indeed the exchequer records make it clear that over £9,106 had been so paid even before the army left Plymouth.43 It was doubtless by such advance payment alone that the army could be kept intact in the Plymouth area during the winter of 1374—5 and, in any case, actual wages in hard cash were a far more reliable enticement than the promise of exchequer tallies for the future. Behind the bland accounting formulae of the exchequer lay concealed a great deal of negotiation and cajoling.
In the event, the Mortimer expedition of 1375 was no more successful than the one of 1372. The fault probably did not lie with Mortimer or with his fellow commanders. They had initially agreed to serve for one year in Brittany, being paid wages for six months only and recouping their expenses thereafter from ransoms, booty, and the other ‘profits of war’—in itself an eloquent comment on the English government’s view of how the costs of war were to be met. But the military campaign of 1375 ran parallel with peace negotiations at Bruges: they were twin aspects of a single policy of bringing the French king and his allies to the negotiating table. And when the time was right for such negotiations Edmund Mortimer and his fellow commanders found that any prospect of military glory and profits which they may have entertained was snatched from them. On 20 July 1375—less than three months after he and his army had landed in Brittany—Edmund Mortimer was peremptorily ordered to return with his retinue to England.44 His sense of disillusion with the handling of the whole enterprise may well have contributed to Mortimer’s role in the political
42 For details of this campaign see G. Holmes, The Good Parliament (Oxford, 1975), 39—45, 150-2.
43 The contract for the 1372 expedition is published in Lloyd and Stenton (eds.), Sir Christopher Hatton's Book of Seals,, 162; that for the 1375 expedition is in TNA E 101/34/6.
44 Holmes, Good Parliament, 45.
crisis of 1376, when his steward (Sir Peter de la Mare) acted as Speaker at the Good Parliament.
But perhaps even more interesting from our point of view are the shafts of light that the 1375 expedition throws on the question of how aristocratic armies were assembled. A document in the Mortimer archives shows that Earl Edmund raised his army in part from the ranks of his own retainers and tenants.45 Several of his leading Herefordshire tenants and retainers (now or prospective) turned out to serve him—including Sir John de la Bere, Sir John Bromwich, Sir Ralph Lingen, Sir Robert Tresgoz, and John Joce. Equally interesting is the way in which Mortimer scoured his own estates in Wales and the March for foot soldiers—eleven from Ludlow, eleven from Ewyas, six from Pembridge and Kingstone, twelve from Dinas, fourteen from Cedewain, three from Montgomery, and twenty-seven from Usk, each ofthem a Mortimer estate. But even a great lord such as Earl Edmund Mortimer could not assemble an expeditionary force from his own resources. He relied on other lords to raise contingents to swell the ranks of his army. One of these was Thomas Berkeley, who brought with him ‘many of his principal gentlemen, his neighbours’. But he also cast his recruiting net much further afield. One of the recruiting agents to whom Earl Edmund turned was Sir John Strother, whose fascinating subcontracts have been cited above. Strother was not a Mortimer tenant or retainer, nor did he move in Mortimer’s geographical orbit (he came from Northumberland). But he was a well-known military recruiting agent who offered his services and his men to any magnate seeking to assemble an army.46 Assembling, coordinating, and leading an army composed of such motley groups, and then over-wintering them in Plymouth for months, posed huge problems; but they were the sort of problems which medieval magnates regularly faced.
Another glimpse of the way an aristocratic expeditionary force was assembled is provided by the unusual survival of the account of the treasurer of war of Thomas, duke of Gloucester (d. 1397), for his proposed Irish expedition of 139 2.47 Once more what we glimpse beyond the formal contract is the hard bargaining, led on Gloucester’s side by members of his council and especially Sir Thomas Mortimer (who in effect headed the administration of the great Mortimer estates during the minority of Earl Roger (d. 1398)).48 Gloucester secured the payment of a bonus or ‘regard’ of 600 marks, payable in advance of the dates formally specified in the indenture of retinue, and 10,000 marks for
45 BL Egerton Rolls 8751. For details of Mortimer’s retainers, Holmes, Estates, esp. 61.
46 Smyth, Lives of the Berkeleys, II, 7; Walker, ‘Profit and Loss in the Hundred Years War’, 100-6.
47 BL Add. Roll 40859A. Royal documentation on the expedition may be found in J. F. Baldwin, The Kings Council in England during the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1913), 498, 503 and TNA E 101/74/1-3.
48 For Thomas Mortimer see the entry by R. R. Davies for Roger Mortimer, fourth earl of March, in ODNB 39, 403-4.
the actual period of service. He also extorted a stipulation that the number of troops to be taken on the expedition should be left to his discretion and that he was discharged of responsibility for any deterioration in the situation in Ireland pending his arrival. This was hard-headed bargaining, born of long experience. It paid off. The full sum promised was handed over and much of it was diverted to purposes not directly related to the proposed expedition.
Equally interesting is the list of squadron commanders to whom the duke turned to provide him with an army.49 He could obviously call on those who had in effect a professional, long-term link with his service—such as Sir Walter Clopton, a life retainer, or Sir John Clifton, who was in receipt of a regular annuity. Others were men who had already served under Gloucester in earlier campaigns—Lord Darcy in Brittany in 1381, Sir John Clifton in expeditions in 1377 and 1380, or Robert Turk in the aborted Prussian expedition of 1391. Some were quasi-professional war captains, always ready for adventure and for the windfalls of war. Such a one was Sir John Mascy of Puddington (Cheshire) who provided the largest contingent for Gloucester’s force. Many of them had seen service in many theatres of war and in the pay of different magnates—Clifton in Brittany and Lithuania, Darcy in Brittany and Scotland, Robert Turk with de la Pole and Arundel, Roger Drury with de Vere in Ireland and Arundel at sea. These men, therefore, were not regulars in Gloucester’s service but they could draw on a wide range of experience. The problem would be converting them into an effective and cohesive fighting force, especially in the challenging conditions which they would face in Ireland with its fragmented polities, difficult terrain, and faction-ridden English and Gaelic societies. In the event Gloucester’s modest Irish expedition of 1392 was aborted; but the documentary detritus it has left opens a welcome window on the recruitment practices of an aristocratic world.
Had the duke of Gloucester actually crossed to Ireland in 1392 he would have soon encountered a society where the experience of warfare was very different from the world he was familiar with in lowland and southern England. He would also have witnessed a military lordship which was a far cry from the routines and civilities of southern England. This chapter, indeed this whole book, is overwhelmingly based on that English experience. From this fact there is no escape: there is no documentary evidence remotely comparable for Scotland or Ireland with that available from the (overwhelmingly royal) archives for England. This is particularly ironic and regrettable with regard to military lordship, since there can be little doubt that society was more militarized and militaristic—and
49 I have assembled the information about the individuals discussed here from a variety of sources including Holmes, Estates; Goodman, Loyal Conspiracy; Walker, Lancastrian Affinity; Morgan, War and Society in Medieval Cheshire; and especially The House of Commons, 1386—1421, ed. J. S. Roskell, L. Clark and C. Rawcliffe, 4 vols. (Stroud, 1992).
thereby so also was lordship—in the outer zones of the British Isles than it was in the heartlands of England. So we should at the very least indicate, very roughly and inadequately, in what ways military lordship and the experience of war differed from one part of the British Isles to another.
Even within England itself there were zones—broadly speaking on the frontiers of the kingdom—where the military aspect of lordship and power was to the fore in a way which would have distressed the peoples of midland and southern England. The border counties of northern England were one such area. Here for much of our period raids and counter-raids, cattle rustling, booty taking, and the building of tower-houses indicate a society in recurrent preparation for campaign, if not for war. Cheshire was another area notorious for its militarism and for the disproportionate contribution it made to the recruitment of English armies. So, of course, were the March and Principality of Wales. The March of Wales was the most densely encastellated region of the British Isles, while Wales as a whole contributed huge forces (in proportion to is population) to English armies in Scotland and on the continent—such as the contingent of 6,200 for the Scottish campaign of 1322. Lordship and power in all of these areas lay considerably in the leadership of men and the assembling of armies.50
The same was even more true of much of Ireland and Scotland. Medieval Ireland, it has been said, was a society where warfare was ‘a routine part of life’.51 That was a reality to which the English lords and settlers in Ireland had to adjust; they did so quickly. They could, it is true, contribute contingents of troops to the king of England’s campaigns (especially in Scotland) and they could also provide the escort for the justiciar as he toured the country in order to impose a modicum of authority on it.52 But equally, and indeed more regularly, English lords and Gaelic chiefs alike used their troops to pursue their own ambitions and to further their quarrels. In the essentially decentralized and localized collection of societies that was medieval Ireland, the powers of military lordship and the resources of military might were of the essence of aristocratic power. The standing of men such as Maurice Fitz Thomas, earl of Desmond (d. 1356), or of the Butler earls of Ormond rested on a variety of sources, but far more obviously and regularly than in England did it rest on active military leadership, on the raising of troops (‘Macthomas’s rout’, as the earl of Desmond’s retainers were called) especially the kerne from among their dependants, and on the billeting and feeding of these troops. However much these great magnates turned in the outer circles of English court culture, the landscape of their lives and lordship was dominated by forces and circumstances far removed from those of aristocratic lordship in most of England.
50 For Cheshire see esp. Morgan, War and Society in Medieval Cheshire and for the March of Wales, Davies, Lordship and Society, ch. 3.
51 Frame, Ireland and Britain, 222.
52 Note the tables in Frame, English Lordship in Ireland, 40, 79.
The same was true of much of Highland and western Scotland. Indeed power and military leadership in most of Scotland was organized on regional and provincial lines in a way that was alien to the centralized, royal, tradition of the control of war and peace in England. In Scotland the earls retained their control of at least the mustering of the ‘common army’, the servicum Scoticanum.53 The imperatives of local warfare and competition were too immediate to be able to wait on coordinated royal direction. ‘Whereas,’ admitted Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick (d. 1304), ‘I have often vexed the abbey’s tenants ... by leading them all over the country in my (my italics) army, although there was no summons of the common army of the realm.’54 The truth was that in the highly competitive and militarized societies of upland Scotland the proprieties of constitutional power were regularly overtaken by the actual exercise of military power, especially in the world of ‘the highly militarized clan-lordships’ of the Highlands and the west.55
This was a world in which Gaelic lords hired the galloglass of Argyll and the Hebrides to reinforce their own kerne. Rival earls and local leaders hired their own mercenary bands of kerne (‘caterans’ as they were called), and deployed them ruthlessly in the pursuit of their ambitions. None more so than Alexander Stewart, earl of Buchan (d. 1405), the notorious ‘Wolf of Badenoch’, whose rumbustious flaunting of his power included the burning of Elgin cathedral by his caterans in 1390 and a massive raid by the same caterans into Angus in 1392. His ruthlessness could be paralleled by that of other regional magnates such as that of his son Alexander, earl of Mar (d. 1435), who waged ‘semi-permanent local warfare’ to extend the area of his authority in north-eastern Scotland, or the lordship of the Campbells in Argyll.56 Such an active and aggressive military lordship could only in exercised—in Scotland as in Ireland—by quartering these bands of hired followers on the countryside. It was a very different kind of lordship from that familiar to most English magnates and thereby to most English historians. ‘By the close of the fourteenth century’, so it has been argued, ‘it was clear that a substantial military following, which lifted its supplies and wages directly from tributary populations and estates, had become an essential element in the successful exercise of power across much of Gaelic Scotland.’57
Nor should we too readily dismiss such a phenomenon as one peculiar to backward, chieftain-dominated Highland societies. Scotland, especially from the
53 Duncan, Scotland, 167—8,381; Barrow, Anglo-Norman Era in Scottish History, 161.
54 Quoted in G. W. S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland (3rd edn., Edinburgh, 1988), 124.
55 S. Boardman, ‘Lordship in the North-East: The Badenoch Stewarts I, Alexander Earl of Buchan’, Northern Scotland 16 (1996), 1—30, at 3.
56 A. Grant, ‘The Wolf of Badenoch’, in Moray: Province and People, ed. W. D. H. Sellar (Edinburgh, 1993), 143—62; Brown, ‘Regional Lordship in North-East Scotland’.
57 Boardman, ‘Lordship in the North-East’, 7.
1290s, was a society habituated to war and invasion. In such a society power, including political power, naturally gravitated towards those who excelled in the arts of military leadership. Nowhere is this more self-evident than in the case of the Black Douglas family, the most powerful parvenu aristocratic family in fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century Scotland. It is not the details of the family’s astonishing rise to this premier position which interests us here. This has been amply analysed in Michael Brown’s book, and we have already very briefly characterized the nature of one of its architects, Archibald Douglas ‘the Grim’ (d. 1400).58 Rather what is particularly relevant is the way that a record of military leadership (duly mythologized by the family) laid the foundations for astonishing royal liberality, both in lands and in extensive judicial and fiscal liberties. The family’s lordship, especially in the Marches, was founded very considerably on war-leadership rather than on landed status and resources, though the latter might follow where the former had been asserted. ‘Alliances and submissions based on the tide of war’, it has been pointed out, ‘turned into more lasting bonds of lordship and landholding’. It is an observation which applies not only to the Douglas family or indeed to Scotland; it is a window to the way that the powers of lordship were often assembled in medieval society generally. We catch a glimpse of the process at work in the charter of 1354 to William, Lord Douglas, granting to him 'the leadership of the men (my italics) of the sheriffdoms of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles’. Such leadership had to be regularly and effectively exercised if it was to be converted into sustained lordship. It was a task at which Archibald the Grim excelled, especially in eastern Galloway. There, in the terms of the royal charter of 1369, he pacified the district and asserted his authority ‘forcefully in person’.59 The great tower which he built at Threave in the heart of the lordship stood as a visual and forbidding expression of the military power which lay at the root of his standing.
Military power was the original foundation and ultimate sanction of all lordship in medieval society. But the format and prominence of such power varied greatly from place to place and from period to period; so did the context within which it operated and/or was allowed to operate. This truism is brought home by even a cursory consideration of military lordship in different parts of the British Isles. It is from England with its exceptional archives of service in royally commissioned armies that far and away the best evidence survives. Paradoxically the very richness of that evidence may distort our picture of military lordship generally. From a broader perspective it is the unusualness of the English experience which is perhaps most striking. England enjoyed the luxury in our period of fighting its wars in other peoples’ backyards. It was a society where the making of war was clearly an exclusive royal right and where aristocratic armies were raised on an ad hoc basis, by royal command and paid by ‘national’ wages. To move from this relatively well-ordered and closely regulated society to the
58 Brown, Black Douglases'; see above, pp. 47—8.
59 Brown, Black Douglases, 48, 49, 63.
much rougher, unregulated, and fragmented worlds of much of Ireland and of parts of Scotland was to encounter a very different world. It was a world of raids and counter-raids, pillage, ‘private’ truces, groups of quasi-professional warriors (kerne/caterans, idlemen are some of the contemporary phrases), and billeting of such troops on the local population. Here lordship was military lordship or it was no lordship at all. Not the least of the attractions of attempting to study the nature of lordship across the face of the British Isles is that it serves to remind us of how lordship had to follow the contours of power, geography, and custom.60
A social elite which was trained from childhood for the prospect of war and whose imaginations were fed on a diet of ‘feats of arms’ and tales of prowess lived in dread of the tedium of peace. Particularly was such tedium profound in a country such as England. One solution to the tedium which became increasingly popular from the thirteenth century was to stage a joust (a combat between two mounted knights armed with lances) or a tournament (a contest between two teams using sharp weapons in a melee). Such occasion allowed the chivalric classes to let off steam, to socialize with their friends and peers, and to keep their military skills in good order. The tournament became so much part of the cursus of the aristocratic year that attendance at it was not infrequently mentioned as an obligation in indentures of retinue.61 There was clearly an agreed timetable of known tournaments and of venues—Blyth, Hereford, Coventry, Exeter, Bristol, Guildford, Kenilworth, Hertford, Kennington, and Dunstable among them. Nor were English magnates unwilling to travel abroad, especially to Calais, to indulge their passion for the sport.
Jousts and tournaments could certainly be risky occasions: at least three members of the Mortimer family are recorded in the Wigmore chronicle as being killed in tournaments, while the death of the seventeen-year-old heir of the earldom of Pembroke in a tournament in 1389 extinguished the male line of the Hastings family. But in spite of such tragedies, tournaments and round tables were superb displays of aristocratic theatre. They bonded the aristocracy in a common cult of chivalry and prowess and became high festivals of aristocratic sociability. The most lavish of such occasions became part of the collective memory of the nobility. Such, for example, according to contemporary chronicles, was the lavish three-day tournament held at Kenilworth in 1279 by Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, Edward I’s confidant. It was attended, so we are told, by 100 knights and as many ladies.62 The leading lady was none other than the queen of Navarre, Earl Edmund of Lancaster’s wife. Even
60 Cf. R. R. Davies, The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093—1343 (Oxford, 2000), 90-2.
61 For example ‘Private Indentures’, nos. 7, 11, 14-16, 28 etc.
62 Annales Monastici, ed. H. R. Luard, 5 vols. (London, 1864-9), IV, 281-2; Dugdale, Monasticon, VI, I, 349-50.
more impressive, though also politically sinister, was the famous tournament held at Dunstable in June 1309 at which 235 participants are recorded as being present, including six premier earls with their retinues.63 Tournaments were often held as part of the wedding festivities of the aristocracy: Henry of Grosmont (d. 1361), one of the great patrons of tournaments and, appropriately, a founder member of the Order of the Garter, held a splendid tournament at his castle at Leicester in 1344 to celebrate the marriage of his daughter, Maud, to Ralph, Lord Stafford.64
The lives of many young aristocrats must have been filled with talks of jousts and preparations for tournaments. The household accounts of the young Henry Bolingbroke (the future Henry IV) for 1391—2, for example, show him attending tournaments at Waltham, Hertford, Kennington, and elsewhere. He had by then an established reputation as one of the most gallant knights in Christendom in the wake of his performance at the magnificent and prolonged tournament held at St Inglevert in the marches of Calais in 1390.65 Bolingbroke would have been reared from childhood in these chivalric enterprises: his grandfather, the famous Henry of Grosmont (d. 1361), had left a reputation as a great jouster and as the captain for life of a group of knights who secured a licence to hold a yearly joust at Lincoln;66 Bolingbroke’s uncle was Thomas, duke of Gloucester (d. 1397), who composed a standard manual for devotees of the tournament—‘Ordinaunces and Fourme of fighting within Listes’. A whole service industry of followers and attendants, heralds and minstrels was engaged for the occasion. London merchants made a killing, supplying arms, tents, pavilions, banners, expensive liveries and collars and all the accoutrements of ‘power-dressing’ and ostentatious display. Theatrical performances would be staged to titillate the audience such as the procession of masked knights and esquires to the church of St Paul’s in London on the eve of the four-day tournament held at Stepney in 1331 or the company of knights, dressed as the pope and twelve cardinals, who took on all comers at the jousts at Smithfield in 1343. Such occasions were certainly a drain on noble incomes. Thomas, lord Berkeley (d. 1361), knew as much from experience: in 1327 he spent at least £53 on three tournaments, while in the following year his expense account on at least three further tournaments cost him at least £86 and a further £8 for armour for his body.67 Expenditure on this scale and with this regularity suggests that tournaments and jousts were not marginal or even optional activities for ambitious young aristocrats. Rather were they a key feature of their promotion of their self-image as a warrior elite and of their habits of sociability. 63 64 65 66
63 A. Tomkinson, ‘Retinues at the Tournament of Dunstable’, EHR, 74 (1959), 70 — 89; Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, 95 — 101.
64 Knighton, Chron., 50—1. See in general J. Barker, The Tournament in England 1100—1400 (Woodbridge, 1986); Vale, EdwardIII and Chivalry.
65 TNA DL 28/1/3, ff. 12, 15, 16, 18v; McFarlane, Lancastrian Kings, 37—8.
66 Fowler, King's Lieutenant, 144 — 5.
67 Smyth, Lives of the Berkeleys, I, 325.
Should the nobility feel that tournaments were too much like playing war games without incurring the real risks of war, they could opt instead to participate in a crusade.68 It was an opportunity for them to bring their military pretensions and their Christian convictions into practical alignment. The crusading enterprises of Henry Bolingbroke are a case in point; they also show the continuum from the world of the tournament through to that of the grand tour to participation in a crusade.69 In 1390 Henry was twenty-four years old and had already established a reputation for himself as one of the most formidable jousters in Europe. He had returned from the international competition at St Inglevert covered in glory, and he now searched for new worlds in which to boost his renown further. In this he was probably encouraged, and certainly financed, by his father, quite possibly to be out of England at a politically fraught time. Be that as it may, on 20 July 1390 he set out with a company of 150—200 for Prussia on ‘crusade’, returning to England in April 1391. But his wanderlust had not been satisfied. Three months later he set out again for Prussia from King’s Lynn. His proposed crusade had to be aborted; but Bolingbroke was not to be denied his chance to see the world and to enhance his reputation. He set out via Vienna and Prague for Venice and then travelled to Rhodes, Jerusalem, and Cyprus before heading back for England. He could hardly claim that he had covered himself with military glory; but he could join the long roster of English aristocrats who had extended the range of their military activities to include the lands of the infidels. Bolingbroke’s grandfather had distinguished himself at the siege of Algeciras in 1343 and went to Prussia in 1351—2 with the intention of leading a campaign against the Turks. His near contemporary Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford (d. 1373), campaigned in Prussia in 1363 and with Pierre de Lusignan in the Middle East in 1365, and the three sons of the earl of Devon campaigned in Prussia in 1368. And so the list could be easily lengthened. Indeed the prospect of being called upon to accompany one’s lord on a crusade was such an anticipated contingency that it could be formally stipulated as an obligation of service in an indenture of retinue.70
As we saw in the case of Henry Bolingbroke, it was not easy—nor indeed is it sensible—to draw a clear distinction between tournaments, crusades, pilgrimages, and travel in the cursus of the young aristocrat. They were activities which merged easily and naturally into one another. They were an occasion for these privileged young men and their entourages to see the world, to flaunt their power and wealth, to extend their horizons and contacts, to hone their military skills, and to do so in the name of faith. In short they were truly and distinctively
68 For general discussion of this theme see M. H. Keen, ‘Chaucer’s Knight: The English Aristocracy and the Crusade’, in Scattergood and Sherborne (eds.), English Court Culture, 45—61.
69 Toulmin Smith (ed.), Expeditions to Prussian F. R. H. Du Boulay, ‘Henry of Derby’s Expeditions to Prussia in 1390—1 and 1392’, in The Reign of Richard II: Essays in Honour of May McKisack, ed. F. R. H. Du Boulay and C. M. Barron (London, 1971), 153—73.
70 ‘Private Indentures’, nos. 14, 93.
the enterprises of a noble, military elite. We can perhaps best capture their character through the pictorial representation of the career of one of the great aristocratic military heroes of the early fifteenth century, Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1439). Earl Richard inaugurated his distinguished military career at the age of twenty in an unpromising theatre—in the wars in Wales. By 1408 the threat from Owain Glyn DWr had largely ebbed away. So Earl Richard felt free to travel abroad for two years, performing notable feats of arms at Verona and elsewhere, visiting Rome and the Holy Land, Russia and Poland. ‘And in this Jurney,’ comments his later biographer, ‘Earl Richard gate hym greet worschip at many turnaments and other faites of warre.’71 He returned, no doubt, with his horizons extended and his reputation enhanced. He had completed his military apprenticeship; ahead of him would lie exemplary years of service for Henry V and Henry VI in France. The career of Earl Richard was more rounded and more successful than that of most great aristocrats; but in the centrality that military prowess and activity—in the tournament, on campaign, on crusade, in his castle building, in his travels—he was at one with most of the noblemen of his day.72
For the commemoration of a particular warrior, D. Green, Edward the Black Prince: Power in Medieval Europe (Harlow, 2007), ch. 4. For individual battles and campaigns, C. J. Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp: English Strategy under Edward III, 1327—60 (Woodbridge, 2000); D. Green, The Battle of Poitiers, 1356 (Stroud, 2002); A. Ayton and Sir P. Preston, Bart., The Battle of Crecy, 1346 (Woodbridge, 2005); A. Curry, Agincourt: A New History (Stroud, 2005). The retinue roll of Lionel of Antwerp, earl of Ulster, for his Irish expedition of 1361—4 [TNA E 101/28/18] is published in Appendix 2 of Handbook and Select Calendar of Sources for Medieval Ireland in the National Archives of the United Kingdom, ed. P. Dryburgh and B. Smith (Dublin, 2005). For the earl of Arundel’s recruitment of troops in the reign of Richard II, A. R. Bell, War and the Soldier in the Fourteenth Century (Woodbridge, 2004). For the English aristocracy and warfare more generally, M. Prestwich, ‘The Enterprise of War’, in A Social History of England, 1200—1500, ed. R. Horrox and W. M. Ormrod (Cambridge, 2006), and D. Simpkin, The English Aristocracy at War: From the Welsh Wars of Edward I to the Battle of Bannockburn (Woodbridge, 2008). For the militarism of Cheshire, T. Thornton, ‘Cheshire: The Inner Citadel of Richard II’s Kingdom?’, in The Reign of Richard II, ed. G. Dodd (Stroud, 2000).
71 Dillon and St John Hope (eds.), Pageant of the Birth, Life etc. of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, 44.
72 ODNB sub ‘Beauchamp, Richard’.
For chivalry in the context of the Anglo-Scottish wars, A. King, ‘War and Peace: A Knight’s Tale. The Ethics of War in Sir Thomas Gray’s Scalacronica’, 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); A. J. Macdonald, Border Bloodshed: Scotland and England at War, 1369—1403 (Edinburgh, 2000). For Scotland more generally, K. Stevenson, ‘ ‘‘Thai War Callit Knychtis and Bere the Name and the Honour of that Hye Ordre’’: Scottish Knighthood in the Fifteenth Century’, in The Fifteenth Century VI: Identity and Insurgency in the Late Middle Ages, ed. L. Clark (Woodbridge, 2006), and K. Stevenson, Chivalry and Knighthood in Scotland, 1424—1513 (Woodbridge, 2006). For Gaelic Irish ideas of conduct in warfare, K. Simms, ‘Images of Warfare in Bardic Poetry’, Celtica, 21 (1990). For the galloglass, the essays in The World of the Galloglass: Kings, Warlords and Warriors in Ireland and Scotland, 1200—1600, ed. S. Duffy (Dublin, 2007), esp. K. Nicholls, ‘Scottish Mercenary Kindreds in Ireland, 1250—1600’.
For the tournament, D. Crouch, Tournament (London, 2005). For crusading, E. Matthew, ‘Henry V and the Proposal for an Irish Crusade’, in Ireland and the English World in the Late Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of Robin Frame, ed. B. Smith (Basingstoke, 2009).