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Medieval Petitions

Medieval Petitions: Grace and Grievance

W. Mark Ormrod
Gwilym Dodd
Anthony Musson
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 266
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  • Book Info
    Medieval Petitions
    Book Description:

    The mechanics, politics and culture of petitioning in the middle ages are examined in this innovative collection. In addition to important and wide-ranging examinations of the ancient world and the medieval papacy, it focuses particularly on petitions to the English crown in the later middle ages, drawing on a major collection of documents made newly accessible to research in the National Archives. A series of studies explores the political contexts of petitioning, the broad geographical and social range of petitioners, and the fascinating 'worm's-eye' view of medieval life that are uniquely offered by petitions themselves, and particular attention is given to the performative qualities of petitioning and its place in the culture of royal intercession. With their vivid new insights into judicial conventions and the legal creativity spawned by political crisis, these papers provide a closely integrated assessment of current scholarship and new research on these most fascinating and revealing of medieval social texts. CONTRIBUTORS: W. MARK ORMROD, GWILYM DODD, SERENA CONNOLLY, BARBARA BOMBI, PATRICK ZUTSHI, PAUL BRAND, GUILHEM PEPIN, ANTHONY MUSSON, SIMON J. HARRIS, SHELAGH A. SNEDDON, DAVID CROOK

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-745-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. ix-ix)
    W. Mark Ormrod
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  7. 1 Introduction: Medieval Petitions in Context
    (pp. 1-11)
    W. Mark Ormrod

    In 2006 the inhabitants of the United Kingdom were given their first chance to ‘e-petition’ the Prime Minister. The website announcing this new facility declares that ‘ petitions have long been sent to the Prime Minister by post or delivered to the Number 10 door in person. You can now both create and sign petitions on this website too, giving you the opportunity to reach a potentially wider audience and to deliver your petition directly to Downing Street.’ Among the e-petitions open in the summer of 2007 were one ‘to prevent changes to the current regulations on scuba cylinder valves’,...

  8. 2 Parliamentary Petitions? The Origins and Provenance of the ‘Ancient Petitions’ (SC 8) in the National Archives
    (pp. 12-46)
    Gwilym Dodd

    The series Ancient Petitions (SC 8) is one of the most important, but also one of the most enigmatic, series of late medieval documents currently held by TNA. Numbering over 17,000 documents, it comprises, for the most part, petitions drafted by individuals or corporations (towns, religious houses, county communities, etc) wishing to mobilise the crown into providing redress. The petitions are a mixture of complaints and requests. The complaints tend to relate to injustices that could not be readily resolved through common law process; the requests were usually prompted by the supplicant’s desire to obtain some form of royal favour,...

  9. 3 Petitioning in the Ancient World
    (pp. 47-63)
    Serena Connolly

    In AD 238, the residents of Skaptopara, a village in Thrace, in modern Bulgaria, petitioned the emperor Gordian III. They had the petition and Gordian’s response recorded in an inscription that survives today. The problem of the Skaptopareans was this:

    A famous market takes place two miles from our village. Those who stay there to attend the market do not [however] remain at the marketplace for all the fifteen days – they leave it and turn up in our village and compel us to provide them with quartering and most of the other things for their entertainment without offering payment. In...

  10. 4 Petitioning between England and Avignon in the First Half of the Fourteenth Century
    (pp. 64-81)
    Barbara Bombi

    The account of Gerald of Wales concerning his trip to the papal curia in 1198 epitomises the procedures that any petitioner had to follow at the end of the twelfth century in order to obtain a grace from the pope:

    And so passing the Alps and passing hastily through Italy and Tuscany, he [Gerald] came to Rome about the Feast of St Andrew and, approaching the feet of Pope Innocent III, who was then in the second year of his papacy, he presented him with six books, which he had composed with much study, saying among other things, ‘Others give...

  11. 5 Petitions to the Pope in the Fourteenth Century
    (pp. 82-98)
    Patrick Zutshi

    The pope did not differ from other rulers in being the recipient of numerous petitions and in devoting a substantial amount of his time to hearing petitions and to reaching decisions about them. The earliest period for which abundant evidence survives concerning the practice of submitting petitions to the pope and the treatment of those petitions in the papal curia is that of the papal residence at Avignon in the fourteenth century (John XXII to Gregory XI). This chapter will accordingly concentrate on this period, while paying some attention to the Great Schism (where the fullest evidence is again from...

  12. 6 Understanding Early Petitions: An Analysis of the Content of Petitions to Parliament in the Reign of Edward I
    (pp. 99-119)
    Paul Brand

    The reign of Edward I is the earliest period for which there survive original petitions submitted to Parliament. Our evidence suggests that it is also the first period when the king’s subjects submitted petitions for consideration at sessions of the king’s Parliament on anything like a regular basis, and that the beginnings of this practice go back to the very first Parliament of Edward’s reign, that of Easter 1275.¹ A substantial number of surviving original petitions belonging to the reign can be identified as having been submitted to particular Parliaments either on the basis of their enrolment, generally only in...

  13. 7 Petitions from Gascony: Testimonies of a Special Relationship
    (pp. 120-134)
    Guilhem Pépin

    Throughout the nineteenth and a part of the twentieth centuries the history of the inhabitants of the Anglo-Gascon duchy of Aquitaine was written almost exclusively from the point of view of the sovereign: the king of England in his role as duke of Aquitaine. The documents issued by the king and his Chancery, recorded in the Gascon rolls, enable us to write an almost complete political history of the duchy of Aquitaine, and it is also possible to describe the economic and commercial history of the period based on the accounts of the constables and controllers of Bordeaux, and the...

  14. 8 Murmur, Clamour and Noise: Voicing Complaint and Remedy in Petitions to the English Crown, c. 1300–c. 1460
    (pp. 135-155)
    W. Mark Ormrod

    Whispering, murmuring, talking, speaking, chattering, shouting, clamouring, heckling, jeering, crying, screaming: vocalisation is a theme familiar to cultural historians, and a rich vein of scholarship has pursued the significance of human noise in medieval life.¹ For obvious reasons, political historians have given rather less consideration to the use of the voice in interactions between the individual and the state. Here, ironically enough, it is the very richness of the written record that leads us so often to imagine and consider Plantagenet government very largely as a matter of written forms.² This is not to say that the performative elements of...

  15. 9 Queenship, Lordship and Petitioning in Late Medieval England
    (pp. 156-172)
    Anthony Musson

    Late medieval kings were considered to be the fount of justice and accepted, indeed welcomed complaints and requests from people of all social backgrounds seeking grace and remedy either for specific problems requiring royal attention or in matters that arose in relation to the interests of the crown. Research on petitioning has concentrated largely on the parliamentary petitions addressed to the king and the role of the king and his council in responding to them.¹ The king, however, was not the sole recipient of petitions. Some were addressed to the chancellor and accordingly have received a significant amount of interest...

  16. 10 Taking Your Chances: Petitioning in the Last Years of Edward II and the First Years of Edward III
    (pp. 173-192)
    Simon J. Harris

    The emergence of petitioning as a means of presenting complaints to the crown both in and outside Parliament in the hope of the provision of a remedy has been well rehearsed in modern scholarship and elsewhere in this volume.¹ Under normal circumstances a steady stream of petitions was probably presented by petitioners seeking remedy, and at times of Parliament there was a particular and accepted opportunity for a wide range of individuals from the most powerful to the humble to seek remedy on a diverse range of issues in the knowledge that there was an administrative system to receive and...

  17. 11 Words and Realities: The Language and Dating of Petitions, 1326–7
    (pp. 193-205)
    Shelagh A. Sneddon

    The Parliament of 1327 began at Westminster on 7 January. It had originally been scheduled for 14 December 1326, and was officially called by writs of 28 October in the name of Edward II.¹ These stated that the king would be out of the country, and that the business of Parliament would therefore be conducted before the queen and his eldest son, Edward, duke of Aquitaine, in his capacity as keeper of the realm. In reality, Edward II was on the run, and it was the queen, her lover and ally Roger Mortimer, and the prince, who had invaded England...

  18. 12 A Petition from the Prisoners in Nottingham Gaol, c. 1330
    (pp. 206-221)
    David Crook

    Early in the reign of Edward III the king’s ‘poor prisoners of the gaol of Nottingham’ composed a petition to the king and his council, asking, in the name of God and for the soul of the king’s father, Edward II, for the appointment of justices to deliver them from the gaol by the common law. They claimed that there were more than eighty of them, all of whom were dying because of hunger and privation. They complained that ‘in the whole of this eyre no common delivery has been made for more than half a year’. Apparently as an...

  19. 13 Thomas Paunfield, the ‘heye Court of rightwisnesse’ and the Language of Petitioning in the Fifteenth Century
    (pp. 222-242)
    Gwilym Dodd

    It is a rare thing for a single document to shed light on a large number of historical themes, but such a claim can be made with some justification for the request presented by Thomas Paunfield in the Parliament of November 1414.¹ The special characteristics of this complaint have not passed unnoticed by modern scholars: the petition was one of a selection chosen by John and Jane Fisher and Malcolm Richardson in theirAnthology of Chancery English;² and more recently, Matthew Giancarlo has offered a penetrating analysis of its linguistic forms in his monograph on Parliament and literature.³ The document...

  20. Index
    (pp. 243-254)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-257)