English History/The Middle Ages

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Domestic Kingship During the Reign of Henry V

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One of the biggest problem during Henry IV's reign had been a narrow noble support base. Henry IV had to rely on Lancastrian retainer because there was no noble bedrock to uphold royal authority and do local government. The other consequence was that he was perhaps over reliant on certain individuals. The only great noble families were the Percies, Nevilles, and Beauforts. This reliance was restrictive. A number of the great noble families were heirs in their minority and were thus too young. Among the other noble families, some were Ricardian, or rebels, and therefore not trusted by Henry IV.

When Henry V inherited the throne, he was lucky that several of these minorities had come to an end. Further, there was less of a question about legitimacy - unlike his father, Henry V was not a usurper. His accession was remarkably stable, since Henry IV had successfully established his regime.

As a result, Henry V was the one who was able to bury the wrongs of the previous generation and move on. With the nobility, what Henry did remarkably well is that he brought everyone back into the fold and recreated a sense of noble unity.

His initial allies were the Earl of Westmorland, who remained vital in the North until his death in 1425, and Thomas Beaufort, Earl of Dorset, who was promoted in 1416 and became the duke of Exeter, a title previously held by the Hollands. He also remained a crucial figure in Henry V's regime throughout. For a sizeable chunk, Dorset is sent to Aquitaine. The new Earl of Warwick, Henry Beecham, reached his majority and was a crucial figure for a long time until his death in 1459. He became hugely important because he helped bring up Henry's son, Henry VI. He was put in charge of Calais. Prince John, duke of Bedford in 1414, was initially in the north with Westmorland later sent to France. Humphrey, made duke of Gloucester in 1414, obtained military experience in France, and was promising figure serving alongside his brothers. They were now all reaching full adulthood and able to become pillars of the regime. There was a well-established strong noble core.

Heirs of rebels and nobles who had dropped out the picture, the ones who had fallen out with Henry IV were being brought back into the picture by Henry V. Henry Percy, heir to earldom of Northumberland, was restored to his title in 1416, so they could become a loyal Lancastrian family again. John Holland was restored as earl of Huntingdon in 1417. John Mowbray, whose father was executed with Scrope, didn't need to be restored to Earl of Nottingham, but was brought back into the fold. He was restored as the duke of Norfolk in 1425. Thomas Montague, whose father was involved in the Epiphany Plot, was restored as Earl of Salisbury in 1421. All of these were young heirs of families who had lost lands and titles due to rebelling against Henry IV. Henry V affirmed that with loyal service they can earn it back. Especially Salisbury, they served the crown loyally.

The retainers don't disappear but become less significant as a mechanism of keeping control. The noble picture was about this unity of nobles supporting him in France, rather than the noble unity playing out in government in England.

Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, was still implicitly known to have a claim to the throne. He was a weak figure, not actively disloyal, died in 1425 without an heir, so the Mortimer lands passed through Anne to Richard, duke of York. Edmund Mortimer is a problem because he is representative of a potential risk. Therefore, Henry gives him fines and doesn't allow him to become an active threat.

Henry V is reconstructing the sort of nobility that Edward III would have had, offering stability and royal service. This is a very conservative form of kingship, bringing in all the heirs, and then offering them support and advancement if they show loyal service.

After Henry dies, it is extraordinary how long that noble unity holds so firmly behind his 9-month-old son and heir; Henry isn't just charismatic - he makes them believe in Lancastrian kingship It could be said that he's very lucky to be the beneficiary of good generation of nobility. The interesting thing about Henry VI's reign is how long it does take to fall apart.

Ultimately, bringing in the heirs, young inexperienced men given the chance to prove their loyalty, and in doing so, Henry consigns the problems of faction to the past. This is arguably a great achievement.

In this respect, Henry is not unlike Edward III, who held the nobility together because there was camaraderie whilst fighting together in France. Henry V shares the campaigning spirt, and understands the rigours of campaign, inspires by example.

Law and Order

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The ideal late medieval king was a law-giver, and did not allow crimes to go punish but was able to temper justice with mercy. Henry V has a lasting military reputation as a warrior king. However, it was Henry V's greatest achievement that he was seen as paragon of justice, and fulfilled expectations as a law-giver.

There is a sense of a contrast argument: it may be there is an element of contrast with what had gone on before, as in, it was seen as better under Henry V than it had been before. This must be regarded as a personal achievement, since Henry didn't do things differently, he just made things work. Changes were impermanent, there was no institutional innovation, and no new legal system put in place. There were no changes in relations between king and local authority. Instead, Henry fulfilled contemporary expectations of how the existing machinery could work best.

The most indicative bit of evidence was in 1414, where Henry sent out judicial commissions of the court of king's bench, who were judges based in Westminster. They were staffed by his own appointees and he sent them out to the country to do justice and to hear cases and complaints. In a sense, it was a form of "mobile" justice. They were particularly active in counties where there were significant Duchy of Lancaster estates: Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire. Henry needed to check up on corruption and abuses in his duchy lands. There had been abuses of justice, which suggests that Henry IV's local government had resulted in abuses which Henry V wanted to straighten out.

In Shropshire and Staffordshire alone, there were nearly 1800 cases sent to the Commission, and they took action against 1600 people. Henry was not merely punishing crime, he was setting out to create feeling of restored order, because he was about to go to war. This set the tone for the new reign - a king who was confident, authoritative, active. Furthermore, something Henry V had learnt in Wales was how to handle local communities.

John Hardyng, a Percy retainer, believed that domestic peace was linked to successful foreign war. England was at peace during the late middle ages when kings were launching conquests in France. The Battle of Bosworth was the result of Edward not restarting Hundred Years War on time. Military recruitment campaigns are a vital safety valve, because it meant that potentially dodgy people could redeem themselves by fighting in France.

It was true that whatever the court of the king's bench did, local communities had to cooperate. In 1414, when the commission goes to Devon, there was very little cooperation. You can't directly control local areas. King therefore needs to be using local authority as much as he can. He also is able to use greater number of local nobles unlike H4. Allowing these nobles to bring men, who would otherwise commit petty offences, to the battlefield. It becomes harder to recruit like this because relies on nobles having credibility and war having popular support and enthusiasm.

It is worth noting that this is one of Henry's greatest successes, appearing to be paragon of justice. As Prince of Wales, he was concerned with military matters and finance. When he does become king, this new concern with law and order is great for his reputation