Tag Archives: Elland

John of Gaunt’s retinue

john of gaunt.jpgThe Katherine Swynford Society runs two quarterly writing competitions – one biographical the other fictional.  Their website states that:

The main characters may be a mixture of the following: ancestors, contemporaries or descendants of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and his three wives; Blanche of Lancaster, Constance of Castile and Katherine Swynford. Minor characters may include any members of John of Gaunt’s entourage in the Duchy of Lancaster. The aim of the competitions is to promote and stimulate interest and research into the life of Katherine Swynford and the late Medieval period.

http://www.katherineswynfordsociety.org.uk/short-story-competition.html

There certainly isn’t a shortage of ancestors or descendants to write about.  I shall peruse them in due course.  In the meantime I’ve become intrigued by the “minor characters.” The English Historical Review Vol. 45, No. 180 (Oct., 1930) contains an article about the way that John of Gaunt packed the Good Parliament of 1376 with his supporters.  The writers goes on to make analysis of the number of paid Lancastrians in the twelve parliaments between 1372 and 1382 (pp. 623-625.)  It turns out that from the one hundred and twenty-five knights  he identifies on John of Gaunt’s payroll that thirty did a stint as a member of parliament during the decade identified.

The reason that the article could be written and the Katherine Swynford Society are able to include individuals from John’s retinue so specifically is that amongst Gaunt’s documents is a list of his retainers. He is the only medieval magnate where such a list exists (although of course it doesn’t mean that other lists won’t be discovered languishing in archives or being reused for backings to other documents).  The list covers the period 1379 to 1383 – although it appears to be an amalgamation of knights from a more wide ranging span that’s been collated and filed at this point.  It exists because  many of the knights and squires in John’s service were required to sign a contract or as it was then called an “indenture of service.”  The indenture identified behaviours, duties and rights for times of peace and for times of war. These documents were then enrolled in chancery where they were confirmed by the king: in this case Richard II.  Bean contains a detailed analysis of the list.  He notes that ten knights have “cancelled” by their name.  Three of them were dead so I’m left wondering about the other seven! In total there were eight-five knights and eighty-five squires – some of them were cancelled as well but rather more cheerfully this appears to have been because they were promoted.

Other sources of information about John’s retinue come from his account books which is the main source for identifying Philippa Chaucer and other women including Katherine Swynford who were in the pay of Lancaster at one time or another. By chance several of Gaunt’s accounts survived as backing to a cartulary belonging to the Waley family, The problem is that the various accounts from the household rolls have been rather badly damaged when they were reused. The National Archives explains that the accounts list members of the household and their daily allowance, expenses for various departments and cost of equine care.  Bean uses figures from Gaunt’s financial returns to calculate that at the time of his death there were approximately two hundred knights and squires in his retinue.  Apparently squires were paid 10 marks a year whilst a basic knight’s salary was £20.  Bean goes on to provide a handy appendices listing all of Gaunt’s knights. John Neville of Raby is the first one of the list as was Lord Welles and Sir John Marmion.  The Camden Society also have a list of Gaunt’s retainers written by Lodge and Sommerville and Walker’s Lancaster Affinity is a useful text.

The more I read though, the more it became clear that the indentures were a business arrangement and whilst a number of men are consistently in Gaunt’s household many of them appear for a brief time only.  This is best explained as a military arrangement rather than a matter of feudal duty.  The men who fought for John during one season might re-enlist  in another magnate’s retinue for the next season’s fighting in France.  The idea of the retinue is much more complicated than it first appears. It is not just about feudal links and tenure of land. There are political and financial considerations to be taken on board as well as gaining a foothold in the household of England’s wealthiest magnate.  Sir John Saville of West Yorkshire is a relatively straightforward example of fealty. He fought for Henry Duke of Lancaster (Blanche of Lancaster’s father) and then turns up in Gaunt’s retinue in Spain.  He’s also one of those parliamentarians with a Lancastrian affinity mentioned at the start of this post.  Saville’s loyalty to the house of Lancaster is confirmed by the fact that the chantry at Elland built at the end of the fourteenth century was for prayers not just for the Saville family but also for the dukes of Lancaster. However, just to throw a small spanner in the wheel, Sir John also turns up in the records as doing service in the retinue of the Black Prince in the mid 1350’s demonstrating that membership of a martial retinue was not always about feudal duty or loyalty to a particular family.

Walker demonstrates throughout his book that during the fourteenth century feudalism was not always what is taught in school – even taking the effects of the Black Death into consideration. Knights and lords were not necessarily obedient to the will of their overlords. Independent action occurs as demonstrated by the number of men shifting from one retinue to another during campaigns in France. Walker also gives examples of men at the heart of Lancastrian territories acting contrary to Gaunt’s will – suggesting that society was much more complicated in the fourteenth century than text books often credit.

Armitage-Smith, Sydney. (1937)  John of Gaunt’s Register Camden Society, 3rd series, LVI-LVII https://archive.org/details/gauntsregister01smituoft (accessed 22.00 16/07/2017)

Bean, John Malcolm William. (1989) From Lord to Patron: Lordship in Late Medieval England. Manchester: Manchester University Press

E.C. Lodge and R. Somerville (ed) John of Gaunt’s Register, 1372–1376

Walker, Simon. (1990) The Lancaster Affinity: 1361-1399. Oxford: Oxford Historical Monographs

SaveSave

2 Comments

Filed under Fourteenth Century, The Plantagenets

General Wade – Jacobites, walls and Yorkshire.

Fleece Inn Image sml.jpgI first heard of General George Wade as the man who built the Military Road from Newcastle to Carlisle by using some conveniently placed worked stone – Hadrian’s Wall.  It didn’t endear him to me.  Across on the Continent he’d served in the Nine Years War and the Wars of the Spanish Succession. In 1724 Wade was sent off to inspect Scotland having done a stint as an MP for Bath and having foiled various Jacobite plots in the SouthWest in 1719.  It was he who orchestrated barracks, bridges, roads and fortifications by which the north and Scotland could be controlled – he was made a field marshall for his pains. But it wasn’t until 1746 that he vandalised Hadrian’s Wall. His Military Road is the B6318.  It used masonry from the wall and near Brampton simply ploughs along its path.

Marshall Wade was in Newcastle in October 1745. Essentially he hung around in Newcastle in case his Princeliness and his Jacobites followed after Sir John Cope to Berwick and then down the east coast.  Meanwhile the east coast all the way down to Norfolk prepared to repel invading French-persons – unfortunately Louis XV hadn’t got his act together at that point.  There was supposed to have been a Jacobite uprising with shiploads of French the previous year – and it hadn’t happened due to a February storm that had scattered the French invasion fleet- in addition to which it wasn’t because Louis felt strongly about supporting the house of Stuart it was more to do with the War of Austrian Succession that saw Britain and France squaring off without actually declaring war.  The Jacobites were a handy method of disrupting the English.  Anyway, in 1745 Louis waited to see what would happen and left concrete support far too late but hindsight is a wonderful thing and in the autumn of 1745 everyone on the east coast was feeling decidedly nervous.

Meanwhile the inhabitants of the Cumbria and Lancashire were remembering that in 1715 the Jacobites had headed in their direction.  Letters were exchanged. Wade waited to see what the Jacobites would do.  George Murray was a canny lad and kept Wade guessing about which direction the Jacobites would choose. When it was finally clear which direction Charlie-boy and his cohorts were heading in it was too late for Wade’s forces to deploy in time. Wade discovered that bad weather and bad roads would prevent him from heading the Jacobites off before they made too much progress into England.

He and his men headed south after the Jacobites – using what we know as the A1 and what they thought of as the Great North Road. Meanwhile the duke of Cumberland was summoned from playing soldiers in Europe.  He and his men were based in Lichfield. A third army was hurriedly assembled to defend London although there were rumours that the Scottish contingent of the London based army would defect to the Jacobites if they got within twenty miles.  Realistically, Lord George Murray had every reason to be concerned about being out manoeuvred when Prince Charles held his meeting in Exeter House in Derby on the 5th December.

Wade and his troops had arrived in Ferrybridge on the 8th December. They made it to Wakefield by the 10th December.  Cumberland had sent a letter demanding that Wade’s men cut off the prince’s retreat. Wade realising that his men weren’t going to get to Preston or Manchester in time to cut off the Jacobites sent his cavalry commanded by Olgethorpe, on the 11th, to do what they could.  They hurried from Wakefield to Elland via Westgate where they stopped so that Lady Oglethorpe could admire the view. According to https://lowercalderlegends.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/the-fleece-inn-elland/ the tenant of the Fleece Inn, George Readyhough, provided ale for three thousand troops.

 

Wade, meanwhile turned his men around and head back to Newcastle. Oglethorpe arrived in Preston more or less at the same time as Cumberland – the 13th December.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Eighteenth Century, The Stuarts