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A regal asset or a right royal disaster? King's knights, royal influence and local administration in the Midlands, 1377-1399

By Colin Jonathan Dowse

Abstract

This research is a prosopographical study of 24 milites regis, or king's knights, aiming to investigate royal retaining and its influence on local communities during the reign of Richard II. Numbering around 150, between 1377 and 1399, the knights were often paid annuities at the exchequer, and were described as being retained for service to the king. My selection of 24 knights has been made by limiting the study to eight midland counties stretching from Staffordshire to Lincolnshire. \ud First, the background, connections, and wealth, of the knights are detailed in order to determine their status in the social hierarchy. A high degree of variation is evident; however, many can be identified as substantial gentry landowners. Secondly, the activity of the knights is described. Although involvement in central politics is apparent, local affairs dominate. It is asserted that these local activities were generally separate from service to the king, being instead part of a normal involvement in society. Finally, an investigation of connections within the group is included. Again, associations between knights can be seen as part of normal societal networks not a result of the royal will. In most cases it is hard to find evidence linking rise in status to direct action from the crown. \ud This research demonstrates Richard's retaining policy was designed neither to raise men to positions above their standing, nor to hold the shires to ransom; rather, it was largely military in origin. This military function can be seen continuing in the 1390s. However, the continuing connection between king and knight was seemingly driven more by the competition within gentry communities and the absence of solid noble leadership, than positive royal policy

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/4789

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