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The English Aristocracy at War

The English Aristocracy at War: From the Welsh Wars of Edward I to the Battle of Bannockburn

David Simpkin
Volume: 26
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 246
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  • Book Info
    The English Aristocracy at War
    Book Description:

    In 1277 the recently crowned king of England, Edward I, invaded Wales; his army, large for the time, was none the less modest by his later standards. Most of his countrymen had not been on active service outside the realm for twenty years and more, if at all, yet over the course of the following four decades, up to the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, they would be called upon to fight in four different theatres of war: in Wales, Gascony, Flanders and Scotland. Although the identities of many of the men who fought in these wars, particularly those of the thousands of peasant foot soldiers, will never be known, the names of a large proportion of the men-at-arms can be located in the records of central government. This book utilises these sources - pay-rolls, horse inventories, wardrobe books and others - to examine the military careers and activities of these men-at-arms, focusing on five main themes: mobilisation; military command; service patterns among the gentry; retinues and their composition; and 'feudal' service. Dr DAVID SIMPKIN is Research Associate at the University of Reading.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-633-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. General Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Matthew Bennett
  5. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The military campaigns of Edward I, king of England between 1272 and 1307, were a turning-point in the history of warfare within northwestern Europe during the Middle Ages. Edward’s reign did not witness any radical departures in the way that warfare was conducted and battles fought, nor were there major changes (though there were some significant innovations) in the methods employed to recruit mounted and foot soldiers. The era of major reform, perhaps even revolution, in the recruitment, structure and composition of English medieval armies came later, during the 1330s and 1340s, at the beginning of Edward III’s French war....

  8. 1 Mobilisation
    (pp. 7-31)

    In medieval England the beginning of a new reign often furnished the occasion for a shift in the direction and fortunes of the realm, and the events following upon the death of King Henry III in 1272 were certainly a case in point. The accession of Henry’s son, the ambitious Edward I, paved the way for an era of conflict, both within the British Isles and in France, on a scale that had never previously been witnessed during the Middle Ages. For the administrative historian T.F. Tout, writing shortly after the defeat of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s armies in the First...

  9. 2 Captains, Retinue Leaders and Command
    (pp. 32-67)

    Edward I’s achievement in recruiting large numbers of the gentry for his wars should not obscure the fact that the responsibility for conducting the king’s campaigns still lay primarily with the upper ranks of the aristocracy. The scale of the Crown’s ambitions led to the enlistment of many families that had never previously seen active service; but it was the traditional warrior elite who provided the human and financial resources that made this mobilisation programme possible. The earls, barons and bannerets of the realm were Edward’s chief henchmen in his attempts to conquer and colonise Wales and Scotland; and it...

  10. 3 The Military Community
    (pp. 68-111)

    Although of central importance to the Edwardian war effort and to the organisation of English hosts in this period, captains, wardens and retinue leaders were in a minority when set against the total number of landowners and non-landed gentry who took up arms in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Attempts to calculate the size of this pool of men-at-arms, consisting of both regular and occasional campaigners, have hitherto been hindered by the sheer bulk of the source materials and the interpretative problems associated with their use. However, such a quantitative approach is necessary if we are to gauge...

  11. 4 Recruitment Networks
    (pp. 112-150)

    A cautionary note must always be struck when attempting to apply abstract concepts and phrases to complex historical phenomena. Nevertheless, if we understand the term to mean a large society of frequent campaigners who were connected to one another through an extensive web of personal relationships, it does not seem inappropriate to suggest that there was a military community in late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century England. Given its scale and the variety in rank and social status of its members, a full comprehension of the dynamics of that community is probably beyond the capacity of any historian working independently. Yet...

  12. 5 Feudal Service and the Pre-Contract Army
    (pp. 151-185)

    A prosopographical analysis of the military service given by the English gentry and nobility during the wars of Edward I and his son can add a great deal to our knowledge of the mounted armoured forces of this period. The foregoing chapters have demonstrated the frequency with which members of the aristocracy gave military service, their connections to other members of the military community and the methods by which they were recruited. If, as is commonly perceived, Edward I inherited a far from glorious military legacy from his father, then by the end of his reign he would appear to...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 186-190)

    In the years between the accession of Edward I and the battle of Bannockburn, the English aristocracy served in expeditionary forces to Wales (1277–95), Gascony (1294–8), Flanders (1297–8) and Scotland (1296–1314). Moreover, during part of the same period, garrisons were maintained, at the expense of the exchequer, throughout the newly conquered territories within the British Isles as well as in the Crown’s threatened enclaves in southwestern France. Fortunately, the names of thousands of men-at-arms who served on these campaigns and in these garrisons have survived. The aim of this book has been to reconstruct the military...

  14. Appendix
    (pp. 191-192)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-208)
  16. Index
    (pp. 209-228)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-231)