Ordinances of 1311

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The Ordinances of 1311 were a series of regulations imposed upon King Edward II by the peerage and clergy of the Kingdom of England to restrict the power of the king. [a] The twenty-one signatories of the Ordinances are referred to as the Lords Ordainers, or simply the Ordainers. [b] English setbacks in the Scottish war, combined with perceived extortionate royal fiscal policies, set the background for the writing of the Ordinances in which the administrative prerogatives of the king were largely appropriated by a baronial council. The Ordinances reflect the Provisions of Oxford and the Provisions of Westminster from the late 1250s, but unlike the Provisions, the Ordinances featured a new concern with fiscal reform, specifically redirecting revenues from the king's household to the exchequer.

Edward II of England 14th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Edward II, also called Edward of Carnarvon, was King of England from 1307 until he was deposed in January 1327. The fourth son of Edward I, Edward became the heir apparent to the throne following the death of his elder brother Alphonso. Beginning in 1300, Edward accompanied his father on campaigns to pacify Scotland, and in 1306 was knighted in a grand ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Following his father's death, Edward succeeded to the throne in 1307. He married Isabella of France, the daughter of the powerful King Philip IV, in 1308, as part of a long-running effort to resolve tensions between the English and French crowns.

A peerage is a legal system historically comprising hereditary titles in various countries, comprising various noble ranks.

Kingdom of England historic sovereign kingdom on the British Isles (927–1649; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.


Just as instrumental to their conception were other issues, particularly discontent with the king's favourite, Piers Gaveston, whom the barons subsequently banished from the realm. Edward II accepted the Ordinances only under coercion, and a long struggle for their repeal ensued that did not end until Thomas of Lancaster—the leader of the Ordainers—was executed in 1322.

Favourite intimate companion of a ruler or other important person

A favourite or favorite was the intimate companion of a ruler or other important person. In post-classical and early-modern Europe, among other times and places, the term was used of individuals delegated significant political power by a ruler. It was especially a phenomenon of the 16th and 17th centuries, when government had become too complex for many hereditary rulers with no great interest in or talent for it, and political institutions were still evolving. From 1600 to 1660 there were particular successions of all-powerful minister-favourites in much of Europe, particularly in Spain, England, France and Sweden.

Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall was an English nobleman of Gascon origin, and the favourite of King Edward II of England.

Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster 13th and 14th-century English nobleman

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and Leicester was an English nobleman. A member of the House of Plantagenet, he was one of the leaders of the baronial opposition to his first cousin, Edward II of England.


Early problems

Edward I blessing his son - the future Edward II - prince of Wales. Edward I & II Prince of Wales 1301.jpg
Edward I blessing his son the future Edward II prince of Wales.

When Edward II succeeded his father Edward I on 7 July 1307, the attitude of his subjects was generally one of goodwill towards their new king. [1] However, discontent was brewing beneath the surface. Some of this was due to existing problems left behind by the late king, while much was due to the new king's inadequacies. The problems were threefold. First there was discontent with the royal policy for financing wars. To finance the war in Scotland, Edward I had increasingly resorted to so-called prises or purveyance to provision the troops with victuals. Though a perfectly legitimate method of raising money, the peers felt that the purveyance had become far too burdensome and compensation was in many cases inadequate or missing entirely. [2] In addition, they did not like the fact that Edward II took prises for his household without continuing the war effort against Scotland, causing the second problem. While Edward I had spent the last decade of his reign relentlessly campaigning against the Scots, his son abandoned the war almost entirely. In this situation, the Scottish king Robert Bruce soon took the opportunity to regain what had been lost. This not only exposed the north of England to Scottish attacks, but also jeopardized the possessions of the English baronage in Scotland. [3]

Edward I of England 13th and 14th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. Before his accession to the throne, he was commonly referred to as The Lord Edward. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons. In 1259, he briefly sided with a baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford. After reconciliation with his father, however, he remained loyal throughout the subsequent armed conflict, known as the Second Barons' War. After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was hostage to the rebellious barons, but escaped after a few months and joined the fight against Simon de Montfort. Montfort was defeated at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, and within two years the rebellion was extinguished. With England pacified, Edward joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. The crusade accomplished little, and Edward was on his way home in 1272 when he was informed that his father had died. Making a slow return, he reached England in 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 19 August.

Purveyance is the right of the Crown to requisition goods and services for royal use, and was developed in England over the course of the late eleventh through the fourteenth centuries. In theory, the king's prerogative allowed him to collect goods needed for both household and military use, but the latter was discontinued in 1362. The primary problem with the system was that it was open to abuse from corrupt officials, who would often requisition goods and sell them for profit or use extortion and other means to obtain items or money that was not passed on or divulged to the king. Accordingly, English kings established numerous, though somewhat ineffectual, statutes in an attempt to limit the corruption.

Scotland Country in Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

The third and most serious problem concerned the king's favourite, Piers Gaveston. Gaveston was a Gascon of relatively humble origins, with whom the king had developed a particularly close relationship. [c] Among the honours Edward heaped upon Gaveston was the earldom of Cornwall, a title which had previously only been conferred on members of the royal family. [4] The preferential treatment of an upstart like Gaveston, in combination with his behaviour that was seen as arrogant, led to resentment among the established peers of the realm. This resentment first came to the surface in a declaration written in Boulogne by a group of magnates who were with the king when he was in France for his marriage ceremony to the French king's daughter. The so-called Boulogne agreement was vague, but it expressed clear concern over the state of the royal court. [5] On 25 February 1308, the new king was crowned. The oath he was made to take at the coronation differed from that of previous kings in the fourth clause; here Edward was required to promise to maintain the laws that the community "shall have chosen" ("aura eslu"). Though it is unclear what exactly was meant by this wording at the time, this oath was later used in the struggle between the king and his earls. [6]

Gascony former France territory

Gascony is an area of southwest France that was part of the "Province of Guyenne and Gascony" prior to the French Revolution. The region is vaguely defined, and the distinction between Guyenne and Gascony is unclear; by some they are seen to overlap, while others consider Gascony a part of Guyenne. Most definitions put Gascony east and south of Bordeaux.

The title of Earl of Cornwall was created several times in the Peerage of England before 1337, when it was superseded by the title Duke of Cornwall, which became attached to heirs-apparent to the throne.

Boulogne-sur-Mer Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Boulogne-sur-Mer, often called Boulogne, is a coastal city in Northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department of Pas-de-Calais. Boulogne lies on the Côte d'Opale, a touristic stretch of French coast on the English Channel between Calais and Normandy, and the most visited location in the region after Lille conurbation. Boulogne is its department's second-largest city after Calais, and the 60th-largest in France. It is also the country's largest fishing port, specialising in herring.

Gaveston’s exile

In the parliament of April 1308, it was decided that Gaveston should be banned from the realm upon threat of excommunication. The king had no choice but to comply, and on 24 June, Gaveston left the country on appointment as Lieutenant of Ireland. [7] The king immediately started plotting for his favourite's return. At the parliament of April 1309, he suggested a compromise in which certain of the earls' petitions would be met in exchange for Gaveston's return. The plan came to nothing, but Edward had strengthened his hand for the Stamford parliament in July later that year by receiving a papal annulment of the threat of excommunication. [8] The king agreed to the so-called "Statute of Stamford" (which in essence was a reissue of the Articuli super Cartas that his father had signed in 1300), and Gaveston was allowed to return. [9]

Excommunication censure used to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community

Excommunication is an institutional act of religious censure used to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community or to restrict certain rights within it, in particular receiving of the sacraments. The term is often historically used to refer specifically to excommunications from the Catholic Church, but it is also used more generally to refer to similar types of institutional religious exclusionary practices and shunning among other religious groups. For instance, many Protestant denominations, such as the Lutheran Churches, have similar practices of excusing congregants from church communities, while Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as the Churches of Christ, use the term "disfellowship" to refer to their form of excommunication. The Amish have also been known to excommunicate members that were either seen or known for breaking rules, or questioning the church.

Lord Lieutenant of Ireland title of the chief governor of Ireland from the Williamite Wars of 1690 till the Partition of Ireland in 1922

Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was the title of the chief governor of Ireland from the Williamite Wars of 1690 till the Partition of Ireland in 1922. This spanned the Kingdom of Ireland (1541–1800) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801–1922). The office, under its various names, was often more generally known as the viceroy, and his wife was known as the vicereine. The government of Ireland in practice was usually in the hands of the Lord Deputy up to the 17th century, and later of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Although in the Middle Ages some Lords Deputy were Irish noblemen, only men from Great Britain, usually peers, were appointed to the office of Lord Lieutenant.

Stamford, Lincolnshire town in Lincolnshire, England

Stamford is a town on the River Welland in Lincolnshire, England, 92 miles (148 km) north of London on the A1. The population at the 2011 census was 19,701. The town has 17th and 18th-century stone buildings, older timber-framed buildings and five medieval parish churches. In 2013, Stamford was rated the best place to live in a survey by The Sunday Times.

The earls who agreed to the compromise were hoping that Gaveston had learned his lesson. Yet upon his return, he behaved worse than ever, conferring insulting nicknames on some of the greater nobles. [d] When the king summoned a great council in October, several of the earls refused to meet due to Gaveston's presence. At the parliament of February in the following year, Gaveston was ordered not to attend. [10] The earls disobeyed a royal order not to carry arms to parliament, and in full military attire presented a demand to the king for the appointment of a commission of reform. On 16 March 1310, the king agreed to the appointment of Ordainers, who were to be in charge of the reform of the royal household. [11]

The Lords Ordainers

The Ordainers were elected by an assembly of magnates, without representation from the commons. [e] They were a diverse group, consisting of eight earls, seven bishops and six barons twenty-one in all. [f] There were faithful royalists represented as well as fierce opponents of the king. [11]

Among the Ordainers considered loyal to Edward II was John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond who was also by this time one of the older remaining earls. John had served Edward I, his uncle, and was Edward II's first cousin. The natural leader of the group was Henry Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. One of the wealthiest men in the country, he was also the oldest of the earls and had proved his loyalty and ableness through long service to Edward I. [12] Lincoln had a moderating influence on the more extreme members of the group, but with his death in February 1311, leadership passed to his son-in-law and heir Thomas of Lancaster. [13] Lancaster the king's cousin was now in possession of five earldoms which made him by far the wealthiest man in the country, save the king. [14] There is no evidence that Lancaster was in opposition to the king in the early years of the king's reign, [15] but by the time of the Ordinances it is clear that something had negatively affected his opinion of King Edward. [g]

Lancaster's main ally was Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. Warwick was the most fervently and consistently antagonistic of the earls, and remained so until his early death in 1315. [16] Other earls were more amenable. Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, was Gaveston's brother-in-law and stayed loyal to the king. [17] Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, would later be one of the king's most central supporters, yet at this point he found the most prudent course of action was to go along with the reformers. [18] Of the barons, at least Robert Clifford and William Marshall seemed to have royalist leanings. [11]

Among the bishops, only two stood out as significant political figures, the more prominent of whom was Robert Winchelsey, Archbishop of Canterbury. Long a formidable presence in English public life, Winchelsey had led the struggle against Edward I to uphold the autonomy of the church, and for this he had paid with suspension and exile. [19] One of Edward II's first acts as king had been to reinstate Winchelsey, but rather than responding with grateful loyalty, the archbishop soon reassumed a leadership role in the fight against the king. [20] Although he was trying to appease Winchelsey, the king carried an old grudge against another prelate, Walter Langton, Bishop of Lichfield. Edward had Langton dismissed from his position as treasurer of the Exchequer and had his temporal possessions confiscated. [21] Langton had been an opponent of Winchelsey during the previous reign, but Edward II's move against Langton drew the two Ordainers together. [22]

The Ordinances

Six preliminary ordinances were released immediately upon the appointment of the Ordainers on 19 March 1310 [h] but it was not until August 1311 that the committee had finished its work. [11] In the meanwhile Edward had been in Scotland on an aborted campaign, but on 16 August, Parliament met in London, and the king was presented with the Ordinances. [23]

The document containing the Ordinances is dated 5 October, and contains forty-one articles. [24] In the preamble, the Ordainers voiced their concern over what they perceived as the evil councilors of the king, the precariousness of the military situation abroad, and the danger of rebellion at home over the oppressive prises. The articles can be divided into different groups, the largest of which deals with limitations on the powers of the king and his officials, and the substitution of these powers with baronial control. [25] It was ordained that the king should appoint his officers only "by the counsel and assent of the baronage, and that in parliament." [26] Furthermore, the king could no longer go to war without the consent of the baronage, nor could he make reforms of the coinage. Additionally, it was decided that parliament should be held at least once a year. [27] Parallel to these decisions were reforms of the royal finances. The Ordinances banned what was seen as extortionate prises and customs, [28] and at the same time declared that revenues were to be paid directly into the Exchequer. [29] This was a reaction to the rising trend of receiving revenues directly into the royal household; making all royal finances accountable to the exchequer allowed greater public scrutiny. [30]

Other articles dealt with punishing specific persons, foremost among these, Piers Gaveston. Article 20 describes at length the offences committed by Gaveston; he was once more condemned to exile and was to abjure the realm by 1 November. The bankers of the Italian Frescobaldi company were arrested, and their goods seized. [31] It was held that the king's great financial dependence on the Italians was politically unfortunate. [30] The last individuals to be singled out for punishment were Henry de Beaumont and his sister, Isabella de Vesci, two foreigners associated with the king's household. [32] Though it is difficult to say why these two received particular mention, it could be related to the central position of their possessions in the Scottish war. [33]

The Ordainers also took care to confirm and elaborate on existing statutes, [34] and reforms were made to the criminal law. [35] The liberties of the church were confirmed as well. [36] To ensure that none of the Ordainers should be swayed in their decisions by bribes from the king, restrictions were made on what royal gifts and offices they were allowed to receive during their tenure. [37]


Scene from the Battle of Bannockburn in the Holkham Bible, 1327-35 Bannockburn.jpg
Scene from the Battle of Bannockburn in the Holkham Bible, 132735

The Ordinances were published widely on 11 October, with the intention of obtaining maximum popular support. [38] The decade following their publication saw a constant struggle over their repeal or continued existence. [39] Although they were not finally repealed until May 1322, the vigour with which they were enforced depended on who was in control of government. [40]

Before the end of the year, Gaveston had returned to England, and civil war appeared imminent. [41] In May 1312, Gaveston was taken captive by the Earl of Pembroke, but Warwick and Lancaster had him abducted and executed after a mock trial. [42] This affront to Pembroke's honour drove him irrevocably into the camp of the king, and thereby split the opposition. [43] The brutality of the act initially drove Lancaster and his adherents away from the centre of power, but the Battle of Bannockburn, in June 1314, returned the initiative. Edward was humiliated by his disastrous defeat, while Lancaster and Warwick had not taken part in the campaign, claiming that it was carried out without the consent of the baronage, and as such in defiance of the Ordinances. [44]

What followed was a period of virtual control of the government by Lancaster, yet increasingly particularly after the death of Warwick in 1315 he found himself isolated. [45] In August 1318, the so-called "Treaty of Leake" established a modus vivendi between the parties, whereby the king was restored to power while promising to uphold the Ordinances. [46] Lancaster still had differences with the king, though—particularly with the conduct of the new favourite, Hugh Despenser the younger, and Hugh's father. [47] In 1322, full rebellion broke out which ended with Lancaster's defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge and his execution shortly after during March 1322. [48] At the parliament of May in the same year, the Ordinances were repealed. [49] However, six clauses were retained that concerned such issues as household jurisdiction and appointment of sheriffs. Any restrictions on royal power were unequivocally annulled. [49]

The Ordinances were never again reissued, and therefore hold no permanent position in the legal history of England in the way that Magna Carta, for instance, does. The criticism has been against the conservative focus of the barons' role in national politics, ignoring the ascendancy of the commons. [50] Yet the document, and the movement behind it, reflected new political developments in its emphasis on how assent was to be obtained by the barons in parliament. [51] It was only a matter of time before it was generally acknowledged that the Commons were an integral part of that institution. [52]


a. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary defines an "ordinance" as of "narrower scope, less permanent nature, or less constitutional character than a law or statute." [53] The use of the word "new" ("novo") is not to be understood in the sense that the Ordinances replaced an earlier set of ordinances.

b. ^ The word "ordainer" was used by contemporaries simply as a descriptive noun, not as a title. "Lords Ordainers" is not found until the 19th century. [54]

c. ^ Much speculation has centred on whether Edward and Gaveston's relation was of a homosexual nature. An in-depth discussion of this issue and an alternative to the predominant view is presented by P. Chaplais. [55]

d. ^ According to contemporary sources, he called the Earl of Warwick "the black dog of Arden". [22]

e. ^ The Ordainers were chosen by indirect election; the barons elected two bishops while the bishops elected two barons. These four then elected two more barons, and these six finally co-opted the remaining fifteen. The process built on that behind the Provisions of Oxford of 1258. [11]

f. ^ The Ordainers were: the Earls of Lincoln, Pembroke, Gloucester, Lancaster, Hereford, Richmond, Warwick and Arundel; the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Chichester, London, Salisbury, Norwich, St. David's and Llandaff; and the barons Hugh de Vere, Hugh de Courtenay, Robert FitzRoger, John de Gray, William Marshall and William Martin, as well as Robert Clifford, who replaced FitzRoger on the latter's death. Neither McKisack or Prestwich supplies a complete list; while Prestwich omits the Bishops of Chichester and Norwich, McKisack fails to include Gray, and FitzRoger as the original appointee. [56]

g. ^ The traditional view is that the breach was caused by the ejection from court of one of Lancaster's dependants, on Gaveston's instigation. [22] Maddicott points out that even though this event took place, it happened later – after Lancaster's defection. [57]

h. ^ These preliminary Ordinances were concerned, among other things, with royal grants, payment of customs, and the maintenance of Magna Carta, reflected in the later paragraphs 3, 4 and 6; see below. [58]


  1. Maddicott, 67.
  2. Maddicott, 1068.
  3. Maddicott, 1089.
  4. Maddicott, 71.
  5. Prestwich, 1789; Maddicott, 723; Phillips, 268, with full text and translation: 3167.
  6. McKisack; 46, Prestwich, 179.
  7. McKisack, 67.
  8. McKisack, 8.
  9. Maddicott, 1035.
  10. Maddicott, 10910.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 McKisack, 10.
  12. Phillips, 9.
  13. Maddicott, 801.
  14. Maddicott, 9.
  15. Maddicott, 847.
  16. Maddicott, 158.
  17. Maddicott, 1023.
  18. Phillips, 301.
  19. Prestwich, Michael (1988). Edward I. London: Methuen. pp. 40–1. ISBN   0-413-28150-7.
  20. McKisack, 6.
  21. McKisack, 3.
  22. 1 2 3 McKisack, 9.
  23. Maddicott, 116.
  24. The full text of the Ordinances can be found in English Historical Documents III, pp. 527539.
  25. Prestwich, 1823, McKisack 127.
  26. Article 14. See also article 15, 16, 17, 26 and 27.
  27. Articles 9, 30 and 29.
  28. Articles 10, 11.
  29. Articles 4, 5 and 8.
  30. 1 2 McKisack, 15.
  31. Article 21.
  32. Articles 22 and 23.
  33. McKisack, 134.
  34. Articles 6, 18, 19, 31, 33, 38 and 41.
  35. Articles 3437.
  36. Articles 1 and 12.
  37. Articles 3 and 7.
  38. Maddicott, 117.
  39. Prestwich, 188205.
  40. McKisack, 71.
  41. Prestwich, 1889.
  42. McKisack, 257.
  43. Phillips, 3637.
  44. Prestwich, 190.
  45. Maddicott, 190.
  46. McKisack, 54.
  47. Prestwich, 1978.
  48. Maddicott, 3112.
  49. 1 2 Prestwich, 205.
  50. Stubbs, William (1877). The constitutional history of England, v. ii. Oxford: Clarendon. p. 346.
  51. Article 9.
  52. Prestwich, 1867.
  53. Simpson, J.A. and Weiner, E.S.C. (eds.) (1989). Oxford English Dictionary , 2nd edition, vol. X, p. 911. Oxford: Clarendon. ISBN   0-19-861186-2.
  54. Oxford English Dictionary, vol. X, p. 901.
  55. Chaplais, P. (1994). Piers Gaveston: Edward II’s Adoptive Brother. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN   0-19-820449-3. OCLC   180047702.
  56. McKisack, 10; Prestwich, 182.
  57. Maddicott, 924.
  58. Prestwich, 182; Maddicott, 1123.

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Events from the 1310s in England.

Boulogne agreement 14th century proclamation on the rights of the Crown and the kings honor

The Boulogne agreement was a document signed by a group of English magnates in 1308, concerning the government of Edward II. After the death of Edward I in 1307, discontent soon developed against the new king. This was partly due to lingering problems from the previous reign, but also related to issues with Edward II himself. Particularly his abandonment of the Scottish Wars and his patronage of the unpopular Piers Gaveston caused discontent. Drawn up in Boulogne-sur-Mer during the king's nuptials, the document vaguely asserted the signatories' duty to guard the rights of the Crown. Three months later, the agreement was the basis for another document, justifying opposition to the king. This latter document, the so-called Declaration of 1308, is notable for its use of the "doctrine of capacities": the distinction between the person of the King and the institution of the Crown.

The Treaty of Leake was an agreement between the "Middle Party", including courtier adherents of Edward II of England, and the king's cousin, the Earl Thomas of Lancaster and his followers. It was signed at Leake in Nottinghamshire on 9 August 1318. The treaty was meant to reconcile the King and his favourites with Lancaster and other baronial opponents. Central to the negotiations were Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and various prelates.

Parliament of 1327 English parliament

The Parliament of 1327, which sat at the Palace of Westminster between 7 January and 9 March 1327, was instrumental in the transfer of the English crown from King Edward II to his son, Edward III. Edward II had become increasingly unpopular with the English nobility, predominantly because of the excessive influence of unpopular court favourites, the patronage he devoted to them, and his perceived ill-treatment of the nobility. By 1325, even his wife, Queen Isabella, despised him. Towards the end of the year, she took the young Edward to her native France, where she joined and probably entered into a relationship with the powerful and wealthy nobleman Roger Mortimer, whom her husband had exiled. The following year, they invaded England to depose Edward II. Almost immediately, the King's resistance was beset by betrayal, and he eventually abandoned London and fled west, probably to raise an army in Wales or Ireland. He was soon captured and imprisoned.