"Bastard feudalism" is a somewhat controversial term invented by 19th century historians to characterise the form feudalism took in the Late Middle Ages, primarily in England in the Late Middle Ages. Its distinctive feature is that middle-ranking figures rendered military, political, legal, or domestic service in return for money, office, or influence. As a result, the gentry began to think of themselves as the men of their lord rather than of the king. Individually, they are known as retainers, and collectively as the "affinity" of the lord, among other terms.
This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably.(November 2019)
The historian Charles Plummer coined the term "bastard feudalism" in 1885. Plummer blamed bastard feudalism for the disorder and instability of the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century. However, "bastard feudalism" as a concept is primarily associated with Plummer's contemporary William Stubbs (1825–1901).
According to Stubbs, a shift in English history took place under Edward I (reigned 1272–1307) when the feudal levy was replaced with royal payment in return for military service by the great magnates who willingly served the king. Thus, instead of vassals rendering military service when required by the lord, they paid a portion of their income into the lord's treasury. In turn the lord would supplement the owed military service with hired retainers, a sort of private army in full-time service to the lord.
In the 1940s K. B. McFarlane presented a strong challenge to the ideas of Stubbs.McFarlane stripped the term "bastard feudalism" of any negative connotation. To him, bastard feudalism centred not on the financial aspect (the sums involved were mostly negligible) but on the concept of service in exchange for good favour. In a society governed on a personal basis, service to a lord was the best way to obtain favour in the form of offices, grants, etc. Lords would retain administrators and lawyers, as well as recruiting local gentry into their affinities. By offering money instead of land, lords could afford to retain more followers.
In return for becoming retainers, the gentry would expect to rely on their lord's influence in local and national politics. This practice was known as "maintenance". The retainer might wear his lord's livery badge or the grander form, a livery collar, which could be very useful[ citation needed ] in a courtroom. Under a weak king, such as Henry VI (reigned 1422–1461 and 1470–1471), the rivalries of magnates might spill over from the courtroom to armed confrontations, thereby perverting justice.
Because they were rarely kept under arms for long periods, noble retinues were not private armies. Lacking standing armies, kings relied on noble retinues for the military forces they required to conduct wars or to crush internal rebellions. Under an inadequate king like Henry VI, ambitious or disaffected magnates such as Richard Duke of York (1411–1460) or Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (1428–1471) could use their network of servants and retainers to defy or even control the crown. Groups of gentry, already coming to blows over local issues, inevitably attached themselves to different patrons. Their private feuds continued under their leaders' banners and transferred to the battlefields of the Wars of the Roses; for example, the tenants and retainers who fought for Richard, Earl of Salisbury during his feud with the Percy family in the early 1450s were raised by him again to march against their King in 1459.
Although Edward IV (reigned 1461–1470 and 1471–1483) attempted to limit "retaining", he generally did not succeed. However, Henry VII (reigned 1485–1509) managed to largely overcome bastard feudalism by imposing financial sanctions on unruly nobles. Furthermore, Henry passed a statute in 1504 that allowed only the King to have retainers – nobles had to apply and pay for a licence. Overall, bastard feudalism had vanished by the early seventeenth century.
Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, known as Warwick the Kingmaker, was an English nobleman, administrator, and military commander. The eldest son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, he became Earl of Warwick through marriage, and was the wealthiest and most powerful English peer of his age, with political connections that went beyond the country's borders. One of the leaders in the Wars of the Roses, originally on the Yorkist side but later switching to the Lancastrian side, he was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, which led to his epithet of "Kingmaker".
Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, 6th Earl of Stafford, 7th Baron Stafford, of Stafford Castle in Staffordshire, was an English nobleman and a military commander in the Hundred Years' War and the Wars of the Roses. Through his mother he had royal descent from King Edward III, his great-grandfather, and from his father, he inherited, at an early age, the earldom of Stafford. By his marriage to a daughter of Ralph, Earl of Westmorland, Humphrey was related to the powerful Neville family and to many of the leading aristocratic houses of the time. He joined the English campaign in France with King Henry V in 1420 and following Henry V's death two years later he became a councillor for the new king, the nine-month-old Henry VI. Stafford acted as a peacemaker during the partisan, factional politics of the 1430s, when Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, vied with Cardinal Beaufort for political supremacy. Stafford also took part in the eventual arrest of Gloucester in 1447.
Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury was an English nobleman and magnate based in northern England who became a key supporter of the House of York during the early years of the Wars of the Roses. He was the father of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, the "Kingmaker".
John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu was a major magnate of fifteenth-century England. He was a younger son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, and the younger brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the "Kingmaker".
A retinue is a body of persons "retained" in the service of a noble, royal personage, or dignitary; a suite of retainers.
In medieval and early modern Europe, the term tenant-in-chief denoted a person who held his lands under various forms of feudal land tenure directly from the king or territorial prince to whom he did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy. The tenure was one which denoted great honour, but also carried heavy responsibilities. The tenants-in-chief were originally responsible for providing knights and soldiers for the king's feudal army.
John Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, KG, Earl Marshal was a fifteenth-century English magnate who, despite having a relatively short political career, played a significant role in the early years of the Wars of the Roses. Mowbray was born in 1415, the only son and heir of John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and Katherine Neville. He inherited his titles upon his father's death in 1432. As a minor he became a ward of King Henry VI and was placed under the protection of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, alongside whom Mowbray would later campaign in France. He seems to have had an unruly and rebellious youth. Although the details of his misconducts are unknown, they were severe enough for the King to place strictures upon him and separate him from his followers. Mowbray's early career was spent in the military, where he held the wartime office of Earl Marshal. Later he led the defence of England's possessions in Normandy during the Hundred Years' War. He fought in Calais in 1436, and during 1437–38 served as warden of the east march on the Anglo-Scottish border, before returning to Calais.
A heraldic badge, emblem, impresa, device, or personal device worn as a badge indicates allegiance to, or the property of, an individual, family or corporate body. Medieval forms are usually called a livery badge, and also a cognizance. They are para-heraldic, not necessarily using elements from the coat of arms of the person or family they represent, though many do, often taking the crest or supporters. Their use is more flexible than that of arms proper.
Michael A. Hicks is an English historian, specialising on the history of late medieval England, in particular the Wars of the Roses, the nature of late medieval society, and the kings and nobility of the period.
William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville, was an English nobleman and an important, powerful landowner in south-west England during the Late Middle Ages. Bonville's father died before Bonville reached adulthood. As a result, he grew up in the household of his grandfather and namesake, who was a prominent member of the Devon gentry. Both Bonville's father and grandfather had been successful in politics and land acquisition, and when Bonville came of age, he gained control of a large estate. He augmented this further by a series of lawsuits against his stepfather, Richard Stucley. Bonville undertook royal service, which then meant fighting in France in the later years of the Hundred Years' War. In 1415, he joined the English invasion of France in the retinue of Thomas, Duke of Clarence, Henry V's brother, and fought in the Agincourt campaign. Throughout his life, Bonville was despatched on further operations in France, but increasingly events in the south-west of England took up more of his time and energy, as he became involved in a feud with his powerful neighbour Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon.
The Dunstable Swan Jewel is a gold and enamel brooch in the form of a swan made in England or France in about 1400 and now in the British Museum, where it is on display in Room 40. It was excavated in 1965 on the site of Dunstable Friary, and is presumed to have been intended as a livery badge given by an important figure to his supporters; the most likely candidate is probably the future Henry V of England, who was Prince of Wales from 1399.
Thomas Courtenay, 6th/14th Earl of Devon, was the eldest son of Thomas de Courtenay, 5th/13th Earl of Devon, by his wife Margaret Beaufort, the daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, and Margaret Holland, daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent. Through his mother he was a great-great-grandson of King Edward III. The ordinal number given to the early Courtenay Earls of Devon depends on whether the earldom is deemed a new creation by the letters patent granted 22 February 1334/5 or whether it is deemed a restitution of the old dignity of the de Redvers family. Authorities differ in their opinions, and thus alternative ordinal numbers exist, given here.
The Readeption was the restoration of Henry VI of England to the throne of England in 1470. Edward, Duke of York, had taken the throne as Edward IV in 1461. Henry had fled with some Lancastrian supporters and spent much of the next few years in hiding in the north of England or in Scotland, where there was still some Lancastrian support. Henry was captured in 1465 and was held as a prisoner in the Tower of London. Following dissent with his former key supporter, Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, Edward was forced to flee in 1470. Henry was then restored to the throne, although he was deposed again the following year.
The Wars of the Roses, known at the time and for more than a century after as the Civil Wars, were a series of civil wars fought over control of the English throne in the mid-to-late fifteenth century, fought between supporters of two rival cadet branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: Lancaster and York. The wars extinguished the male lines of the two dynasties, leading to the Tudor family inheriting the Lancastrian claim. Following the war, the Houses of Lancaster and York were united, creating a new royal dynasty, thereby resolving the rival claims. The conflict lasted for approximately thirty years, from 1455 to 1487, with various periods of greater and lesser levels of violent conflict during that period, between various rival contenders for the monarchy of England.
Feudalism as practiced in the Kingdoms of England during the medieval period was a state of human society that organized political and military leadership and force around a stratified formal structure based on land tenure. As a military defense and socio-economic paradigm designed to direct the wealth of the land to the king while it levied military troops to his causes, feudal society was ordered around relationships derived from the holding of land. Such landholdings are termed fiefdoms, traders, fiefs, or fees.
Thomas de la More was a fifteenth-century Sheriff of Cumberland. Little is known of his early life, but he was a loyal royal official in Cumberland and Westmorland for all his adult life, serving as Member of Parliament, Escheator and Justice of the Peace on multiple occasions. A man of social and political significance in the area, he eventually became involved in the struggle for local supremacy in the 1450s between the Neville and Percy families. This led to him and his men being beaten and threatened by Thomas Percy, Lord Egremont, over which he petitioned the royal council in 1455. De la More played no active part in the Wars of the Roses which broke out the same year. He is known to have married twice. His first wife, called either Idione or Maud, died first, but his second, Margaret, survived him.
Sir John Conyers, one of twenty-five children of Christopher Conyers, was a pre-eminent member of the gentry of Yorkshire, northern England, during the fifteenth century Wars of the Roses.
In post-classical history, an affinity was a collective name for the group (retinue) of (usually) men whom a lord gathered around himself in his service; it has been described by one modern historian as "the servants, retainers, and other followers of a lord", and as "part of the normal fabric of society". It is considered a fundamental aspect of bastard feudalism, and acted as a means of tying magnates to the lower nobility, just as feudalism had done in a different way.
The Loveday of 1458 was a ritualistic reconciliation between warring factions of the English nobility that took place at St Paul's Cathedral on 25 March 1458. Following the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses in 1455, it was the culmination of lengthy negotiations initiated by King Henry VI to resolve the lords' rivalries. English politics had become increasingly factional during his reign, and was exacerbated in 1453 when he became catatonic. This effectively left the government leaderless, and eventually the King's cousin, and at the time heir to the throne, Richard, Duke of York, was appointed Protector during the King's illness. Alongside York were his allies from the politically and militarily powerful Neville family, led by Richard, Earl of Salisbury, and his eldest son, Richard, Earl of Warwick. When the King returned to health a year later, the protectorship ended but partisanship within the government did not.
Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury was a fifteenth-century English northern magnate. He was the eldest son by the second wife of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, from whom he inherited vast estates in Yorkshire and the North West of England. He was a loyal Lancastrian for most of his life, serving the king, Henry VI, in France, on the border with Scotland, and in many of the periodic crises of the reign. He finally joined York in his last rebellion in the late 1450s and became a Yorkist leader during the early parts of the Wars of the Roses. This led directly to his death following the Battle of Wakefield in December 1460, when he was captured and subsequently put to death in Pontefract Castle.