Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Richard v Henry Fan Clubs

Dr Given-Wilson provides the following interesting details of the dukes, marquises and earls of England in 1399:

Richard II's supporters

Exeter (John Holland, the King's half-brother)
Surrey (Thomas Holland the King's half-nephew.)
Oxford (Aubrey de Vere)
Worcester (Thomas Percy)
Aumale (Edward of York)
Dorset (Henry's half-brother, John Beaufort)
Gloucester (York's son-in-law.)

Neutral or not influential

Norfolk (In exile, later dead.)
March (Minor)
Richmond (Abroad.)
Devon (Ill health)
Stafford (Thomas Woodstock's son-in-law)

Henry's supporters

Westmorland (Ralph Neville, Henry's brother-in-law)
Henry himself.

Not quite the analysis of voting intentions one might have expected! The obvious conclusions are a) That if you are a medieval king of England you should not piss off the Percies and the Nevilles at the same time. b) That Henry himself was enormously powerful, and had an exceptional level of support among the English gentry and the lower levels of the peerage.

Henry had of course inherited the enormous Lancastrian following of retainers and officials. Many of these had originally been recruited to put Gaunt on the throne of Castile, and so the total number was far greater than would normally have been expected. Although many/most of these men had had their pension rights stamped by Richard, they not unnaturally preferred Henry, who was certain to keep them in the fees they had grown to know and love.

Henry was also able to secure the support of a number of barons who were not usually particularly active in politics. The names of Grey de Ruthin, Willoughby, Fitzwalter and Morley spring to mind. The latter two were attached to Thomas of Woodstock, and gave a great deal of stick to Edward of York in Henry's first parliament, blaming him for the duke's murder. After which they sank back into the political obscurity from which they had briefly emerged.

Despite that, when you look at Dr Given-Wilson's analysis, it does beg the question whether Richard had really cheesed off his nobles to the extent that is usually painted. Or whether Henry was simply the most over-mighty of over-mighty subjects.

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