Since I am writing my paper on the royal affinity under Richard II, I thought I would use this blog post to provide an overview of this body, based on the most comprehensive study available – Chris Given-Wilson’s The Royal Household and the King’s Affinity. In my previous blog posts on bastard feudalism (x x), I discussed the practice of retaining lower-ranking members of the gentry which emerged among the nobility in the 14th century. Continue reading
In the time since my last blog post on McFarlanian bastard feudalism, I have been able to get access to McFarlane’s seminal 1945 essay on the subject (a big thank you to the librarians). Additionally, I managed to finish P. R. Coss’s lengthy 1989 essay “Bastard Feudalism Revised”, in which Coss provides a thorough critique of McFarlane’s ideas and offers a new framework for understanding the bastard feudal system. Thus, I plan to use this blog post to discuss McFarlane’s ideas a bit more and present some criticisms that have been made of them. Continue reading
When we think of medieval politics, we think of feudalism, the hierarchical system of obligations by which men of lower status are bound to serve men above them in the so-called “feudal pyramid” made up of peasants, knights, lords, and king. Feudal obligations were rendered by tenants in exchange for hereditary grants of land from the lord of the manor. Ultimately, the king owned all of the kingdom’s land and the highest class of the nobility were those who held their land directly from him.
Because no historical person or event can be accurately examined outside of its wider context, I thought it would be a good idea to use this blog post to provide some basic information regarding society during the reign of Richard II, with particular emphasis on the world of politics. At the time that Richard became king, England was shaped by two defining events in its recent history: the Black Death and the Hundred Years War. Continue reading
So far this semester, I have been dedicating most of my time to primary sources. To begin with, I researched the nature of medieval chronicle sources, which provide the most abundant material for the reign of Richard II, and then examined some of the principle chroniclers in more depth. My analyses can be found in my last few blog posts (here, here, and here). Over spring break, I worked on reading many of the sources complied in A. K McHardy’s The Reign of Richard II: From Minority to Tyranny, 1377-97. This book has been something of a godsend for my project, since it offers an extensive collection of the most important primary sources from the reign translated from the original Latin, French, and Middle English into modern English. Needless to say, McHardy’s efforts have made my work significantly easier.
Reading the many chronicle excerpts, correspondences, parliamentary petitions, etc. included in the book could certainly be tedious at times. My purpose in this task was to identify any mention of Richard’s royal affinity, since this is the focus of my research. However, since these sources tend to bounce between many different goings-on in the political world, it is quite difficult to tell if any given source will mention the affinity or not. Therefore, my only option was to examine them all. This task was made less daunting by concentrating on the period after 1387, when it is likely that Richard first began directly seeking out the loyalty of prominent men in the localities. In the future, I may need to go back to some earlier sources in order to obtain a reference for the nature of the king’s affinity at the beginning of the reign.
Digging into the primary sources made me realize that I need to obtain some more information about political society in general at the time of Richard’s reign. For the most part, I have only looked at the medieval concept of the affinity in the context of the king, when it was in fact of great importance to the magnates as well and was a crucial component of feudal society in the localities. Interestingly, it is often pointed out that while completely novel for a king, the locally focused approach to retaining pursued by Richard in the 1390s was very similar to that typically used by magnates. Therefore, I feel that in order to understand the significance and logic of Richard’s policy, it is important to familiarize myself with the way in which magnate affinities were organized and operated during this time. Thus, my next task will be to step back momentarily from the lens of Richard II and focus on some readings pertaining to local political structures in the late medieval period more generally. After doing this and perhaps examining some more primary sources, it is my hope that I will have gained enough direction to begin drafting my final paper.
In this blog post, I will be providing a brief overview of some of the chronicle sources used to supplement the three major sources discussed in my previous post. One such source is the Historia Vitae et Regni Ricardi Secundi, which was composed by two monks at Evesham Abbey, the first writing from 1377 to 1390 and the second from 1390 to 1402. Since we already have plentiful information pertaining to the period covered by the first author, the second author is of much greater interest. However, the usefulness of the second monk is diminished by his brevity, frequent errors, clear hostility to the king, and tendency to focus on local rather than national politics (McHardy 13). While the second portion of the chronicle, composed under Richard’s usurper Henry IV, the first king of the house of Lancaster, is often accused of being “a vehicle for Lancastrian propaganda”, Given-Wilson refutes this claim by citing the fact that the chronicle does not use the ‘Record and Process’, the official Lancastrian account of the deposition. Given-Wilson goes on to praise the Vita, claiming that it is “a largely independent source, and as such has great value” (Given-WIlson 5). Nonetheless, it is difficult to believe that the second monk’s critical attitude towards Richard was not influenced by the Lancastrian regime under which he was writing. Continue reading
As promised in my previous blog post, this week I will be discussing some of the most principle chroniclers active during the reign of Richard II. Of these, one of the most important and frequently cited is Thomas Walsingham (c. 1340 – c. 1422), a monk at the prominent Hertfordshire monastery of St. Albans. Although Walsingham is widely recognized as having been a prolific author, there remains scholarly debate as to exactly which of the numerous chronicles produced at St. Albans he contributed (Stow 69-70). Stow attributes the Chronicon Angliae, the Annales Ricardi Secundi, the Ypodigma Neustriae, and the Historia Anglicana to Walsingham. Although none of the books I have read cite the Ypodigma Neustriae, each of the other three sources are cited and attributed to Walsingham in at least two of my books, with the Historia Anglicana cited in all three books (Gundy; Fletcher; Saul). Thus it seems to me that these three texts can be said to have been definitively attributed to Walsingham by scholars. Continue reading
In my previous blog post, I mentioned that the next step in my research project is to look at primary source material. Therefore, I thought it would be useful to talk about primary sources a bit more specifically in this blog post. In regard to the different types of written sources from the medieval period, Joel T. Rosenthal, editor of Understanding Medieval Primary Sources, provides a useful breakdown of the material into three major categories: narrative histories, government records, and private or personal records (Rosenthal 1-2). Since the first category – that of narrative history – has arguably been the most influential in shaping analyses of Richard’s reign, as well as the most easily accessible to amateur historians such as myself (there is even a Medieval Chronicle Society!), it is here that I will focus my post. Continue reading
For my demonstration of learning last semester, I produced a review of literature pertaining to several important topics within Richard II’s reign (an overview of which can be found here) in the period between 1389-97. This period is not arbitrarily defined, but is marked by the two crisis which form its boundaries. Continue reading
Since I am planning to continue my independent project next semester, during which time I will write my final paper, there was not a natural answer to the question of exactly what I will produce as my demonstration of learning for this semester. While meeting with T. Margaret a few weeks ago, we decided that I should create an extensive annotated bibliography to turn in at the end of the semester. Continue reading