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The Lordship of England

The Lordship of England: Royal Wardships and Marriages in English Society and Politics, 1217-1327

SCOTT L. WAUGH
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvrzp
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    The Lordship of England
    Book Description:

    This thorough examination of the feudal powers of English kings in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries is the only study to analyze the actual pattern of royal grants and the grantees' use of their rights, and to place them in the social context of marriage, kinship, and landholding within the English elite. The royal rights, known as feudal incidents, included custody of a tenant's lands when he died leaving minor heirs, the arrangement of the heir's marriage, and consent to the widow's remarriage. Scott Waugh shows how the king exercised those rights and how his use of feudal incidents affected his relations with the tenants-in-chief. He concludes that royal lordship was of fundamental importance in reinforcing the power and prestige of the monarchy and in offering the king a valuable source of patronage.

    English kings, therefore, devoted considerable effort to defining and institutionalizing their feudal authority in the thirteenth century. It is also clear that families living under royal lordship were profoundly concerned about these rights, especially since marriage was of such critical importance in providing for the smooth transfer of lands from one generation to another. Given the hazards of life in the Middle Ages, inheritance by minors was a frequent occurrence, and the king's distribution of feudal incidents was therefore a delicate political problem. It raised issues not only about royal finances and favoritism but also about the fate of families.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5947-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. TABLES
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. FIGURES
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-2)
  7. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-14)

    Medieval kings of England derived power from two sources. They were sovereign monarchs—heads of a powerful administrative apparatus that enabled them to command armies, dispense justice, and fill their coffers. At the same time, however, they were suze-rains—feudal overlords whose immediate tenants were the most powerful families in the kingdom. Kings exercised royal lordship, as it will be called, personally. It gave them sweeping powers over the lands, marriages, and families of the elite and opportunities to show favor through patronage. This is a study of the exercise of that power and its effect on political relations in...

  8. 1 MARRIAGE, KINSHIP, AND PROPERTY
    (pp. 15-63)

    The acquisition, preservation, and cultivation of property absorbed the energies of families at all levels of society in medieval England. For members of the elite, this preoccupation meant devoting as much care to the marriage of children as to the management of lands and tenants. Family obligations caused economic difficulties as real as those brought on through indebtedness, bad management, forfeiture, or economic change and led to the loss of land or revenue. Thus, however great their desire to consolidate wealth in the hands of the eldest son, landholders did not hesitate to support younger sons, daughters, and widows. They...

  9. 2 ROYAL LORDSHIP IN THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY
    (pp. 64-104)

    The king’s rights over wards, widows, and marriage grew out of the feudal customs of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Their purpose was the maintenance of the king’s control over his land and feudal assets. Yet they posed a threat to families that became evident under the Angevins, whose arbitrary exercise of lordship provoked the tenants-in-chief to rebellion in 1215. The rebels sought to reduce those dangers by restricting the king’s seigniorial authority in Magna Carta. To understand how royal lordship developed in the thirteenth century, it is essential to begin with an understanding of its customary origins and the...

  10. 3 ADMINISTERING ROYAL LORDSHIP
    (pp. 105-143)

    Both Henry III and Edward I incorporated institutional changes in their program of strengthening royal lordship. As a result, in the century after Magna Carta the Crown searched out and exercised its feudal rights with greater energy than it ever had before. It replaced the ad hoc measures hitherto employed for the management of those rights with permanent institutions to administer the lands and heirs that came into its custody, to enforce its authority over marriages and alienations, to investigate and settle contested claims, and to distribute the resources of lordship according to the king’s will. The changes deepened the...

  11. 4 THE USES OF ROYAL LORDSHIP
    (pp. 144-193)

    Law and administration preserved the king’s feudal incidents and placed them at his disposal. He then used them in two ways: as revenue and as patronage. The latter proved to be more compelling, and financial considerations usually gave way to the desire to reward friends, support the royal family, or reciprocate service and loyalty. The king, in fact, turned virtually all of these assets over to others, keeping only a few in his own hands. Nevertheless, he tried to reap some financial benefit from his lordship. The government collected whatever profits it could while lands were in its custody, sold...

  12. 5 GUARDIANS AND WARDS
    (pp. 194-231)

    Guardians used royal wardships to arrange marriages, to reward their clients, or to supplement their income by leasing or selling their rights to others. Since the king channeled most wardships to a privileged group around his court, outsiders often had to apply to courtiers for particular lands, wards, or widows. There was thus a secondary distribution of wardships and marriages, and some passed through several hands before a marriage was arranged or the custody settled. While this secondary distribution offered guardians the opportunity to profit, it did not necessarily harm the wards or their families, for the matches set up...

  13. 6 INCENTIVE AND DISCIPLINE: THE POLITICS OF ROYAL LORDSHIP
    (pp. 232-272)

    Although royal lordship usually served the needs of tenants-in-chief, it could nonetheless be abused, posing a threat to their lands and families. The king might authorize unacceptable marriages for wards, guardians could deplete the resources of estates, while an unequal distribution of the king’s feudal rights could fracture the elite into competing factions. Furthermore, various aspects of royal lordship, like prerogative wardship and primer seisin, proved to be irritating. The problem confronting the nobility was how to minimize the dangers or annoyances of royal lordship while maintaining its advantages. In the coronation charter of Henry I and Magna Carta, the...

  14. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 273-280)

    Until the early fourteenth century, the feudal authority of the king of England was neither anachronistic nor inconsequential. Thomas Bisson has stated that the “problem of feudal monarchy is to explain how the rulers of the later feudal age adapted vassalic and feudal principles to their residua] structures of higher authority, to analyze the mix of feudal and regalian resources in those critical generations when the precedents for effective royal power were hardening into law.”¹ In England, sovereignty and suzereinty reinforced one another. Strong lordship was an impetus behind bureaucratic development, while the increasing sophistication of institutions, routines, and record...

  15. APPENDIX: RECEIPTS OF THE ESCHEATORS
    (pp. 281-286)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 287-306)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 307-327)