IV. The Composition of the House of Lords
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Before ever the ‘representative Parliament’ came into being, awareness of social and political realities had always ensured that English kings would have recourse, whenever they deemed it necessary, to a national assembly from which to obtain, by counsel and consent, support for both domestic and external policies. Called, with the passage of time, by different names—witenagemot in the Anglo-Saxon period, curia regis under the Norman and Angevin kings, and parliamentum from the reign of Henry III onwards—such an assembly always included prelates (the archbishops and bishops, and, until the dissolution of the monasteries, a number of abbots and priors), secular magnates of divers degrees and, as another essential element, members of the judiciary. Together they embodied such an impressive concentration of experience, knowledge and expertise of various kinds as could reasonably be expected to provide sound advice upon which social, political and other decisions might be reached by the King and his government. By the end of the 14th century their two main categories were being described as ‘the lords spiritual’ and ‘the lords temporal’; and, even if they happened to be high officials of state or members of the King’s continual Council, these lords were summoned by individual writs, issued by the Chancery under the great seal, attendance being owed as a directly personal obligation (unless it was formally excused). In certain respects, however, the criteria observed by the Chancery in determining whom to summon in this way were affected by changing circumstances.
The prelates attending Parliament themselves fell into two distinct groups, made up, respectively, of the episcopate and the heads of monastic houses. The archbishops of Canterbury and York and all the other 19 bishops of England and Wales were always summoned, unless they were abroad (in remotis agens), in which case the writ was addressed to the vicar-general of the diocese. If a see was vacant, the writ went to the keeper of the spiritualities.1 Only eventually, however, did the list of abbots and priors summoned attain stability. At first, in the reign of Edward I, it was very long indeed, comprising the heads of some six score monasteries of various orders (as in 1295), only for the number to fall by the beginning of Edward III’s reign in 1327 to barely two dozen, mostly Benedictine.2 This was roughly how things still stood at Richard II’s accession in 1377 and, indeed, at the time of Henry VI’s in 1422. On both these occasions, the lists of 25 abbots were virtually identical. Given the chronic reluctance of the regulars to attend Parliament, and considering the administrative burden of preparing and delivering the writs, there seemed little point in summoning these dignitaries on the large scale once practised.
The establishment of the criteria by which secular magnates were summoned to the national assembly had a somewhat longer, and certainly more complicated, history behind it. Earls and, eventually, lay peers of higher rank (such as dukes) were always summoned as of right; and by the end of the 14th century the principle of hereditary succession to a place in Parliament had become so firmly established that the list of ‘lords of Parliament’ hardly changed at all from one assembly to the next. But this had by no means always been the case. In the 12th century, when the terms ‘barons’ and ‘baronage’, however elastic in their application, came to be used to describe all the lay nobles summoned to provide ‘common counsel’, the basic criterion of selection was possession of lands held of the King in chief by barony (as set out in the Constitutions of Clarendon in 1164). When, in the Great Charter of 1215, an admission of the right to be summoned was exacted from King John, the definition was still couched in feudal terms: earls and ‘greater barons’ were to be summoned individually, and all other tenants-in-chief generally, through the sheriffs.3 However, the nature and role of the ‘general parliament’ changed so much in the latter half of the 13th century (when the lesser tenants-in-chief were coming virtually to be represented by the shire knights), that by 1300 many men who held their lands in chief by barony were not being summoned individually, whereas some who did not were. The Crown could, moreover, always summon men whose ancestors had never received the writ; and, indeed, the hereditary principle was never so rigidly applied as to preclude the elevation of commoners to the parliamentary peerage by royal prerogative. (Its use was exemplified, exceptionally, by means of royal letters patent, following a precedent set in 1387 in favour of Sir John Beauchamp† of Holt, steward of the King’s household, who was created baron of Kidderminster by Richard II, and given a seat in Parliament.)4 Even so, it had become customary for individual writs of summons to be issued, continuously, to ‘barons’ and ‘bannerets’ below the rank of earl, and, by succession, to the heirs male of their bodies; so customary, indeed, that by the end of the 14th century the distinction between the two had itself become ‘blurred and irrelevant’, and passed out of use.5 Because of this hereditary principle, the Chancery lists of the temporal lords individually summoned tended to become stereotyped, at least as within a series of Parliaments; and, accordingly, the number of such lords then for the most part remained fairly uniform and constant.
However, a combination of unusual circumstances (such as the extinction of lines, forfeitures, the amalgamation of lands and titles, minorities, and the absence of individual peers on foreign service or special royal duties, not to mention the political situation at any given moment), could affect the identity and, of course, the number of lay magnates summoned. And the number sometimes fluctuated a great deal, especially in the earlier years of the 14th century. Whereas 11 earls and 53 barons had been summoned to one or other of the two Parliaments of 1295, the prince of Wales, 11 earls and no fewer than 86 barons were called upon to attend Edward I’s last Parliament, at Carlisle in 1307 (when an expedition into Scotland was in prospect). Writs of summons for the first Parliament of Edward II’s reign, which met at Northampton in 1307, were dispatched to a total of nine earls and 71 barons. Thereafter, the general tendency was towards a reduction in numbers: to Edward III’s first proper Parliament, at Lincoln in 1327, six earls and 46 barons were summoned; to Richard II’s first, in 1377, the duke of Lancaster, 12 earls and 47 other secular lords; to Henry IV’s first, in 1399, the dukes of York, Aumâle, Surrey and Exeter, the marquess of Dorset, ten earls and 34 other lords; and to Henry V’s first, in 1413, six earls (the duke of Clarence was in France) and 32 others.6 These cardinal points apart, casual variations inevitably occurred, mainly because of military expeditions overseas led by the King, which involved lay peers of all ranks in significant numbers. Thirteen earls and 41 barons had been summoned to the Parliament of 1344, but only five earls and a mere 11 barons were required to attend its successor in 1346, when Edward III was on campaign in France. In a similar situation in 1360, the earls numbered four, and the barons 20; and when, in 1372, Edward was proposing to lead another expedition in person, only two earls and 17 other lords were available.7 Obviously, even under Edward III, such occasions were rare, partly no doubt because of a general reluctance to hold Parliament without the King. The only Parliament thus affected in Richard II’s reign was that which met in January 1395, when he was campaigning in Ireland: whereas the dukes of Lancaster, York and Gloucester, 11 earls and 40 barons had been summoned to the previous Parliament, the writs, as now issued under the teste of the duke of York (acting as Custos), went out to no more than eight earls and 29 barons.8 No such reduction in numbers occurred under Henry IV who, with the sole exception of Richard III, was the only post-Conquest medieval King never to leave English shores as a reigning monarch. Henry V’s renewal of the war with France, of course, brought about a dramatic change, since the expedition of 1415 and the long campaigns of 1417-21 and 1421-2 were well supported by the nobility, and as few lay peers received writs of summons as had sometimes been the case in Edward III’s reign. When, on 12 Aug. 1415 (the day after the King’s armada left the Solent for the river Seine), Parliament was summoned to meet on 21 Oct., only the earls of Westmorland and Devon were sent writs, while the other lay lords numbered a mere 16. At Michaelmas fresh writs announcing a prorogation until 4 Nov. were sent in addition to the earl of Arundel and Peter, Lord Mauley, although Arundel, who had been invalided home from Harfleur, actually died before Parliament met. The dukes of Clarence, Bedford and Gloucester, nine earls and 24 other lords temporal were summoned to one or other of the next two Parliaments (March and October 1416); but to that of 1417, by which time the King was again in France, the duke of Bedford (Custos Angliae) summoned the duke of Exeter, the earls of Westmorland, Devon and Northumberland, and only 14 barons. When Parliament met again, in October 1419, the same three earls and as few as 13 others received writs; and an identical list served when the duke of Gloucester (now Custos ) called Parliament to meet in December 1420. King Henry was himself able to preside over the next assembly, in May 1421, but as he had left many nobles on active service in France, only the dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, six earls and 20 other lay peers were then required to appear. Henry did not attend another Parliament; and when the last of his reign was convened for the following December only the earls of Westmorland, Northumberland and Devon and 12 individuals of baronial rank were on hand to be called up by the duke of Bedford (once again Custos ): a low water-mark, indeed, mainly because of the heavy involvement of the nobility in the war in France.9
To go no further back in time than Edward III’s accession, it will have become clear that, unless the list of lay magnates was greatly reduced for special reasons, the number of bishops, abbots, priors and lay peers summoned to Parliament came to a large total. In 1327, this stood at 89; in 1377 at 106; in 1399 at 97; and in 1413 at 85 (but in 1414 at 98). Besides being composed of men of distinction, high social standing and considerable, sometimes immense, personal wealth, the Upper House constituted a formidably large assembly, at least potentially. But how many of those summoned actually came to Parliament?10 Unquestionably, the Crown intended them to do so: the writs of summons, which invariably commanded personal attendance (sometimes, in the 14th century, in the most emphatic terms), were meant to be obeyed. There were, of course, individual peers, who, for one reason or another, found it quite impossible to attend. The odd prelate or lay magnate might need to secure immunity on grounds of old age or illness; or he might, on a particular occasion, be formally excused, or even ordered to stay away because engaged in matters of national importance, such as diplomacy or military service, including the protection of his own region. In particular, the need for defensive measures against the Scots caused absenteeism among the bishops and noblemen of northern England.11 This had notably been the case under Edward II, when the north was imperilled by Scottish invasion; in the 1330s, because Edward III was actively supporting Edward Balliol’s claim to the crown of Scotland; and yet again in 1346 and 1372. And in Richard II’s reign the situation on the northern border affected parliamentary attendance at least once, in July 1388, when the bishops of Durham and Carlisle, the earl of Northumberland and seven other temporal peers were ordered to help defend the border in person. Admittedly, such occasions, even all told, were few; and only a small minority stayed away from Parliament on this account. There were, however, times when general absenteeism was serious enough to affect the official conduct of parliamentary business. Nor was it just that the failure of many lords to arrive in time for the beginning of a session temporarily delayed the start, and so caused nothing more than a tiresome obstruction. In the 1330s and 1340s the sparse attendance of both prelates and lay peers was occasionally little short of scandalous, and, in cases where it was clearly due to culpable negligence, actually earned an official rebuke. In 1332, for example, the session was already a week old when those who had appeared, considering themselves too few to counsel the King, advised a six weeks’ prorogation. In 1340 roughly only half the bishops and earls turned up. And in 1344 Edward III was so humiliated and distressed by the way the writs of summons had been disobeyed that promptly, on the second day of the session, it was decided to draw up a written list of absentees for his benefit, so that penalties might be imposed as he saw fit (‘pur ordeigner tieu punissement come lui plerra’).12 The threat of fines, however, apparently carried little weight. So far as bishops and abbots were concerned, from 1362 to 1371 the writs themselves expressly prohibited recourse either to letters excusing attendance or the appointment of personal proxies. Likewise, the writs sent to all the lords spiritual and temporal from 1372 to 1379 continued to insist on personal attendance, warning that absence would not be tolerated; and from 1379 to 1399 they stated that only such infirmity as did not allow them to travel would excuse it.13
All the same, this problem continued throughout Richard II’s Parliaments, and dogged those of Henry IV as well. Some bishops and many abbots seldom attended Parliament, and a few never came at all, while most of the lords, both spiritual and temporal, could sometimes prove remiss.14 Even when they did attend, their unpunctuality often embarrassed the government by forcing it to adjourn Parliament, thus obstructing and even jeopardizing the proper conduct of business. The poor initial turn-out which necessitated an immediate adjournment at Northampton in 1380 was blamed by the clerk of the Parliaments on the dangerous roads and heavy floods caused by continuous rain and storms. However, on recording the formal opening three days later, he was obliged to note that there were still very few temporal lords present (‘moelt petite nombre’), this time because the duke of Lancaster had remained on the Scottish march ‘avec grant partie des Contes et Barons del Roialme’.15 According to the Parliament roll, the earls of Warwick and Suffolk were at Berwick-upon-Tweed; and other lords, too, such as Archbishop Neville of York, Richard, Lord Scrope, and the prior of the hospital of St. John, were active on the border as commissioners for dealing with breaches of a truce with the Scots.16 Obviously, none of these men could be accused of personal negligence; but in point of fact, when the next Parliament assembled on Monday, 30 Nov. 1381, so many peers (‘grant partie des Prelatz et Seigneurs’) were once again absent at the outset that it had to be adjourned from day to day until, on Saturday, the session could be properly opened. Despite the fact that this was the first Parliament to meet after the Peasants’ Revolt, the postponement is again understandable, as it had been necessary to settle in advance a serious quarrel which had broken out between the duke of Lancaster and the earl of Northumberland while the uprising was in progress. However, the roll of the next Parliament (May 1382) reports yet another thin attendance of prelates and lay peers at the beginning of the session, and, moreover, provides clear evidence that many were not simply late, but failed to turn up at all. The deplorable attendance on this occasion, which was evidently not confined to the peers, led to one of several ‘ordinances et establissementz’. Having stated that ‘toutes singulers Persones et Communaltees’ summoned to future Parliaments should fulfil this obligation (‘par manere come ils sont tenuz de faire’), it decreed that, unless he could provide the King with a valid excuse, anyone who failed to put in an appearance in future should be fined (‘amerciez’) or otherwise punished, according to the former usage in such cases.17 No doubt the rolls of the autumn Parliament of the same year and the Lenten Parliament which followed (February 1383) were both correct in noting that, although on the first day of the session ‘la greindre partie’ of the lords and others had still not arrived, the majority was present two days later. It is, however, questionable whether this apparent improvement was maintained when Parliament met at Salisbury on 29 Apr. 1384. The absence of the duke of Lancaster and other commissioners for redressing breaches of the truce with Scotland (the earl of Northumberland and the Lords Neville, Clifford, Scrope and Fitzwalter) was formally recorded as a cause of two adjournments and the postponement of the chancellor’s opening speech for a whole week; but various prelates and lords who, for different reasons, had excused themselves to the King were also said to have stayed away. Evidently, not until after 9 May (by which time Parliament had been sitting for 11 days) did the duke of Lancaster and other ‘grantz Seigneurs’ arrive, his two younger brothers, Edmund, earl of Cambridge, and Thomas, earl of Buckingham, among them. Not surprisingly under the circumstances, once Parliament had properly got under way the chancellor announced that King Richard forbade anybody to leave before the end without special licence, doing so at his peril. We do not know whether the November session of the same year, held at Westminster, was better attended or not, but no fewer than nine out of the 21 bishops summoned had sent letters excusing themselves, and there is good reason to believe that at least seven of the nine actually failed to appear. This Parliament, too, had witnessed a brief preliminary adjournment (‘certis de causis’), and so did the next one, in 1385.18
No such problems conspired to delay the Wonderful Parliament of 1386, which was opened by the chancellor (Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk) on the very day prescribed in the writs of summons. More bishops (13) attended on this occasion than had done so since the Northampton Parliament of November 1380;19 and since the opposition both to Richard II himself and the system of curial government he had been imposing with the help of his chancellor and other ministers was now so virulent, the attendance of more lords temporal than usual may reasonably be assumed. The even greater political excitement generated in the run-up to the next assembly, the Merciless Parliament of 1388, apparently had the same effect, at least in the first of its two sessions (3 Feb. to 20 Mar.). There were present all but four bishops (Archbishop Neville of York, who had fled to the north of his province after being appealed of treason by the Lords Appellant, Bishop Buckingham of Lincoln, who had a standing exemption, and Bishops Houghton of St. David’s and Child of St. Asaph, both of whom appointed proxies);20 and it looks, too, as if the attendance of the lay peers at this time was just as full. Certainly, when, at the Easter adjournment, fresh writs of summons were issued, doubtless at the instigation of the Lords Appellant, ordering all the prelates and lords temporal to attend the next session promptly in person (the prelates were not allowed proxies), and warning that absenteeism or early departure without special licence would involve heavy penalties fixed by the King and those lords then present, some lay peers were singled out from the rest and each sent writs pointedly drawing attention to their absence from the first session (in nostri contemptum manifestum), as well as informing them that they now faced disciplinary action. Yet there were only seven such peers, and all were baronial in rank: Lords Dacre, Welles, Grey of Codnor, Botreaux, de la Warre, Montagu and Despenser.21 Unfortunately, the general level of attendance in the second session of this important Parliament cannot now be established, although only 11 of the 17 bishops present in the first are known to have put in an appearance.22 Judging from later evidence, at least some of the lay lords who did perform their duty in this respect must have heartily wished themselves elsewhere: in the second session of the Parliament of 1397-8 John, Lord Cobham, was impeached by the Commons for having been party in the Merciless Parliament to the condemnation for treason of Sir Simon Burley and Sir James Berners*, his conduct at that time being viewed with particular severity because ‘plusours autres Piers du Parlement qi soy, leverent et ne voloient mye seer en Jugement’ had stayed away.23 Perhaps they had a wary eye for the future and a possible improvement in Richard II’s fortunes, which, of course, was exactly what happened in the 1390s.
For the years following the great crisis of 1388, when meetings of Parliament were, if not all of them peaceful, certainly less stressful occasions, little evidence is available about the lords’ attendance in general, although we do know how the bishops fared. Their record seems to have deteriorated: in each of the Parliaments of 1393 and 1394 only nine put in an appearance, with no more than 12 all told coming to one or the other, and as few as six to both.24 Furthermore, the need for continued insistence in the writs of summons that only infirmity would serve as an excuse for absence excites the suspicion that an unsatisfactory turn-out by noblemen as well as prelates was not at all unusual. This was certainly the case when Parliament met in January 1397. On the second day of the session, the chancellor, having told the lords to assemble every day at nine o’clock at the latest, warned that nobody was to absent himself without King Richard’s special leave. Even so, on the third day, the Commons came before the King and Lords specifically to ask that all those lords, both spiritual and temporal, who had so far failed to appear should be sent for. That they were not simply referring to lords who were already up at Westminster and merely negligent, is evident from Richard’s answer, for the chancellor informed them that, although such a move would hold up proceedings (‘tre long delaie du Parlement’), Richard was ready to expedite matters by sending again for individual lords who lived nearby (‘bien pres’).25 In fact, Parliament was to be dissolved less than three weeks later, and if a short session had already been anticipated (which, with no official demand for direct taxation on the agenda, was quite possible), it would have been pointless to send new writs to any but those who were close at hand. However, the royal answer assumes particular significance because it not only confirmed the Commons’ complaint, but also revealed that certain lords were reluctant to play any part in parliamentary proceedings even though they were within easy reach. No less suggestive is the fact that this particular criticism emanated from the Commons.
So far as the vexed question of the lords’ attendance was concerned, the next Parliament, held in the following September, provided a contrast which, in the circumstances, can only have been expected. Richard II, who had recently been demonstrating once again his high and wide-ranging personal conception of the royal prerogative, was now bent upon the annulment of the principal acts of the two Parliaments (that of 1386 and the Merciless Parliament of 1388) which had not only brought it into contempt, but had, effectively, set it at naught. He was also determined, using Parliament as his instrument, to reactivate the procedures used in the Merciless Parliament (appeals of treason and impeachments resulting in trials before the lay peers) to revenge himself against those magnates who, in the course of the long constitutional and political crisis of 1386-9, had been mainly responsible for his humiliation. It was not until the second session of the Parliament, at Shrewsbury in January 1398, that all the acts of the Merciless Parliament were annulled; but the first had seen the invalidation of the parliamentary commission of 1386, and also, successfully from the King’s point of view, the trials for treason of the duke of Gloucester and the earls of Arundel and Warwick (the leading Lords Appellant of 1387-8) and Archbishop Arundel (chancellor in 1386-9).26 Quite clearly, the lords spiritual and temporal can have been in no doubt that they were about to witness some of the most momentous events of the reign. And they had all received ample warning: the writs summoning Parliament for 17 Sept. were issued two months in advance, on 18 July, by which time the three chief culprits had already been arrested. Not long afterwards, at Nottingham on 5 Aug., arrangements were made for their trial by the six earls and two other friends and supporters of the King who, themselves acting as Lords Appellant, were prepared to frame charges.27
Under these circumstances, and especially in view of Richard’s highly volatile temper, any absentee from the Upper House would have been running a grave personal risk; and, in fact, there is clear evidence that, in the first session at least, attendance was good, probably even far better than on any occasion since the Merciless Parliament itself. For one thing, the turn-out of the bishops was a distinct improvement upon anything since 1388: out of the 21 summoned, as many as 16 came to Parliament (St. David’s had died before it met, Lincoln and also Bath and Wells had exemptions, and Coventry and Lichfield was at the Roman Curia, leaving only Rochester unaccounted for). Indeed, no less than 14 bishops were present at the ceremony in Westminster abbey with which the first session ended on 30 Sept., when, following a mass, and before the altar of the Confessor’s shrine, the lords spiritual and temporal swore to maintain all the enactments of the session. Only Archbishop Arundel, who had just been impeached and condemned to forfeiture and exile, and Bishop Despenser of Norwich were then absent. It is possible that a royal writ of 14 Aug., ordering the Convocation of Canterbury to meet in London on 1 Oct. had encouraged the bishops of the province to attend Parliament by providing them with an additional incentive to make the journey, although a similar writ, instructing the northern Convocation to meet at York on 10 Oct., had not deterred Archbishop Waldby and his two suffragans of Durham and Carlisle from coming to Parliament, and all three were on hand to take the oath in Westminster abbey.28 Conversely, the attendance of the monastic prelates in the Upper House was very different from that of the bishops. The fact that the York Convocation was due to meet barely three weeks after Parliament opened is not likely to have affected the attitude of the only two abbots summoned to Westminster from the northern province (the abbots of St. Mary’s, York, and Selby); but despite the meeting of the Canterbury Convocation, it seems that the regulars of the southern province were just as reluctant to attend Parliament as ever. At all events, of the 23 summoned, a mere four are recorded in the Parliament roll as present: the abbots of Westminster, St. Albans, Evesham and Waltham, all of whom figure in the lists of triers of petitions appointed when Parliament began. Moreover, only the first two were named, along with the prior of the hospital of St. John and the prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, among those who took the above-mentioned oath.29 The attendance of the temporal lords had been almost as remarkably full as the bishops’: of those included in the Chancery list of persons formally summoned, both dukes (Lancaster and York), nine earls (all save Devon) and 26 of the 37 barons are known to have attended, all being present at the ceremony in the abbey. Thus, at least 37 lay peers out of 49 attended Parliament; and, of those who did not, the earl of Devon was soon (from 1401) to become a permanent absentee represented by proxy, John, Lord de la Warre, had been exonerated by royal letters patent as long ago as 1382, and six other barons from the north of England were perhaps excusable.30 The lords spiritual and temporal present at the first session of what was to be Richard II’s last proper Parliament totalled no less than 57 out of a possible 97; and to their number should be added the two newly-created peers (Thomas Percy, earl of Worcester, and William le Scrope, earl of Wiltshire), who, although not initially summoned, appear in the Westminster abbey list.31 The absentees among the monastics were mostly responsible for the short-fall in numbers; and doubtless even fewer of them attended the second session at Shrewsbury, which lasted only five days (27-31 Jan. 1398). The ranks of the bishops were now dramatically depleted: only St. David’s and Bangor are known for sure to have been present in Parliament, and even if five more (witnesses to charters dated at Shrewsbury on 6 Feb.) may be assumed to have participated in the proceedings, this still leaves a maximum potential turn-out of no more than seven. So far as the lords temporal are concerned, it is important to note that on 15 Oct., early in the parliamentary recess, the earl of March (who, as the King’s lieutenant in Ireland, had not been summoned to the first session) was ordered to come to Shrewsbury; and that all the other lay peers (except Lord Cobham, whose impeachment was impending) were specially summoned again, on 5 Nov., to attend the second session.32 It was possibly felt that with two men recently raised to the peerage, and no less than eight others elevated in rank, fresh summonses were advisable, simply to take account of these changes of title. Yet Richard’s principal requirement, which was clearly set out in these new writs, was that the lords temporal should come to Shrewsbury with no more members of their households and other retainers than were appropriate to their status, and that, having come, they should not leave before the end of the session without his special licence. But how many actually came, is not known.
Parliament was next summoned, to meet at Westminster on 30 Sept. 1399, by writs dated at Chester on 19 August. Richard II, in whose name they were issued, had by then been taken prisoner; and he was still in Henry of Bolingbroke’s custody (having been moved to the Tower of London) when those who responded to the summons arrived on the appointed day to accept his abdication, sanction his deposition, and recognize Henry’s claim to succeed him. Since the writs were deemed to have been automatically invalidated by Richard’s abdication, this assembly could not, however, be regarded as a Parliament; and, in any case, if the Lords and Commons then present were to constitute the new King’s first Parliament, strict legality required them to be summoned again, in his name. Consequently, new writs were issued on the same day (30 Sept.), summoning Parliament to meet on 6 Oct., when the session was formally opened, only to be instantly prorogued until 14 Oct., the day after Henry’s coronation.33 All these stirring events were of such crucial constitutional and political importance that they inevitably attracted a large attendance of the lords spiritual and temporal. A collation of the evidence derived from the names of triers of petitions, the deputation visiting Richard II in the Tower on 29 Sept., the record of the arraignment of the Lords Appellant of 1397, and the long list of all those lords who, on 23 Oct., were individually asked their advice about arrangements for Richard’s future custody, shows that of the 20 bishops summoned (Bangor being vacant), only Bath and Wells (excused for life in 1395) failed to put in an appearance;34 that the attendance of the regular clergy was less incomplete than usual, with nine abbots out of a possible 25 in the House (neither the prior of the hospital of St. John nor the prior of Coventry being mentioned at all); that of the 16 members of the higher ranks of the lay peerage only the earls of Devon and Oxford were absent; and that less than one third (11) of the 34 barons stayed away. In other words, 65 of the 97 lords summoned actually attended Parliament, the absentees being almost wholly accounted for by abbots and noblemen of lesser degree.
Although the evidence for attendance at Henry IV’s subsequent Parliaments is scanty, it at least supports the conclusion that deficiencies were mostly attributable to the regular clergy and barons. Certainly, the episcopal bench was rarely at fault. No fewer than 16 of the 19 bishops summoned to Henry’s second Parliament, in January 1401, were present at some time or other; and an attendance at the next, in September 1402, of two out of every three bishops (14 out of 21) was again quite satisfactory. Admittedly, a decline then set in, and at Westminster in January 1404 and at Coventry in October following those bishops who came were in a minority (only eight for sure on the first occasion, as few as seven on the second). For the rest of Henry’s reign, however, episcopal attendance followed a generally upward trend. In the long Parliament of 1406 as many as 14 out of the 17 bishops originally summoned put in an appearance during one or other of the three sessions, with only Norwich, Salisbury, and Coventry and Lichfield figuring as persistent absentees. Whereas a mere nine of the 15 summoned travelled to Gloucester in 1407, 15 out of 20 attended the first session of the Parliament of January 1410 (barely half of them, however, turning out for the second session after Easter); the Parliament of November 1411 saw a combined presence of 13; and Henry’s last Parliament, terminated by his death in March 1413, attracted at least 15 (with four bishops unaccounted for, but only one definitely absent).35
Evidence for the attendance of the temporal peers between 1401 and 1413 is, unfortunately, largely confined to the Parliaments of 1401 and 1406. At the start of the first, Chief Justice William Thirning declared the causes of summons and then proceeded to warn both Lords and Commons that nobody should absent themselves, or even leave town at all, at any point in the session, and that they should all, moreover, put in a prompt appearance every day. Of course, Thirning may simply have been eager for Parliament to do its work efficiently, rather than being concerned about any initial absenteeism as such. And, as we have seen, the attendance of the bishops in 1401 gave no cause for anxiety. Nor did that of the higher nobility. For when, early in March, towards the end of the Parliament, all the lords temporal present were party to a judgement of treason against the pro-Ricardian magnates who had either been killed during the futile revolt of January 1400 or executed soon afterwards, they comprised the prince of Wales, Edmund, duke of York, and no fewer than eight out of the ten earls summoned (the aged Warwick, who died a month later, and Devon, who had gone blind, being the only absentees). Conversely, of the remaining 36 members of the baronage, no more than 14 were on hand, although another two (Lords Roos and Cobham), who figure in the lists of triers of petitions, should no doubt also be added, thus bringing the total number of lay peers known to have attended the Parliament to 26: that is barely half of the 48 summoned. Our other useful source of information derives from the second session of the long Parliament of 1406, when, on 7 June, the lords spiritual and temporal sealed an exemplification of the statute entailing the Crown on Henry IV’s sons and their heirs male.36 And just as the pattern of attendance reflected in the list was characteristic of the bishops (12 of whom, headed by Archbishop Arundel, affixed their seals), as well as of the monastic prelates (only five of whom did likewise), it was also typical of the lords temporal.37 Of the latter, Edward, duke of York, and five of the seven earls (with the exception of Devon and Westmorland), but only 19 of the 32 barons summoned, attested the Act. In all, 25 lay peers were present out of a possible 42, once again not many more than half. It is thus hardly surprising that, on the last day of the session (19 June), they themselves, wishing to defer until Parliament re-assembled their decision as to whether or not the northern insurrection of 1405 had been treasonable, should have requested the King ‘de comander toutz les Seigneurs temporelx, peres de Roialme, d’estre presentz pur la cause suisdite, et qe null d’eux soit absent a icell fait’.38 Evidently, however, such an injunction, if actually issued, was not obeyed. For when, at the end of the third and final session of the Parliament, on 22 Dec., it was decided to rescind the statute of the previous June touching the royal succession and revert to the previous parliamentary arrangement of 1404 in favour of the King’s sons and the heirs of their bodies, and the Act had, once again, to be sealed by all the lords spiritual and temporal, it was clearly stipulated that not only those present, but also absentees (‘si bien presentz come absentz’) should be included. Clearly, the number of available witnesses was regarded as insufficient, although we do not know how many of the lords temporal had in fact stayed away.39
Little is known about the attendance of the lords as a whole in Henry V’s Parliaments, although the bishops maintained a respectable turn-out, being never less than a majority of those actually summoned. Eight was the lowest number ever present (in 1417 when, however, the bishops of Winchester, London, Norwich, Bath and Wells, and Coventry and Lichfield were attending the General Council at Constance, and the sees of Salisbury and Chichester were vacant); and the highest was in the Parliament of May 1421, where Henry V was present for the first time in nearly five years, a factor bound to encourage attendance generally. On this occasion, as many as 14 bishops came to Parliament and, had not one of the bench (Hereford) been at the Papal Curia, another (Rochester) probably in France, and the see of Chichester again vacant, there might well have been more.40 The Parliament rolls themselves provide just two items of evidence about attendance in the House of Lords in this period, both being lists of those who, as had occasionally been the case in the two previous reigns, were recorded as parties to particular items of business. The first relates to the Parliament of October 1416, which granted two tenths and fifteenths, one-and-a-half payable at Candlemas (2 Feb.) 1417, the rest not until the following Martinmas (11 Nov.). To offset this postponement, the Lords agreed that, on the security of the deferred half-subsidy, loans might be raised in the meantime. The chancellor was authorized to issue, free of charge, letters patent or other warrants providing for repayment: and, further to encourage lenders, ‘toutz les Seigneurs Espirituelx et Temporelx esteantz presentes, des quelx les nons sont desoubz escriptz’, promised, in the King’s presence, that they would never sanction any proposals for the cancellation of these guarantees.41 The prelates who subscribed this document comprised Archbishop Chichele of Canterbury, eight bishops (including Henry Beaufort, the chancellor) out of the 13 then free to attend Parliament, three abbots (St. Albans, Waltham and Battle) and the prior of the hospital of St. John. In addition, each of the three dukes summoned, seven of the nine earls (neither Devon nor Oxford put in an appearance, the latter having only a short while to live), but only seven of the 24 other lay peers did so.42 The lords spiritual and temporal then present numbered no more than 30 out of the 77 summoned, with the regular clergy and the barons chiefly responsible for the deficiency. The second of the two lists followed a similar undertaking by the Lords in the Parliament of October 1419, although this time the grant constituted a single tenth and fifteenth, leviable at Candlemas 1420, together with an additional third, to be raised at the following Martinmas.43 Again, as in 1416, it was agreed that, in the meantime, loans should be raised on the security of the deferred portion of the grant, only this time clerical creditors were to have the option of repayment from whatever tenths or half-tenths might be voted by their respective Convocations. The lords solemnly promised repayment in both cases, the names of all those present and party to the assurance being listed in the Parliament roll. Of the 18 bishops summoned, Archbishop Chichele and ten of his 14 suffragans were available, along with Bishop Langley of Durham, the chancellor; and the attendance of the heads of monastic houses, too, whether or not helped by a coincidental meeting of the Convocation of Canterbury, was better than usual. Out of a possible 26 regulars, as many as 11 abbots (including Selby from the northern province) subscribed the undertaking, as also did the prior of Coventry (whose bishop was at the Roman Curia). So, there were present in all no fewer than 24 lords spiritual. The attendance of the lay peers seems to have been far less commendable, even allowing for the paucity of those summoned. Of the three earls not then serving in France, Northumberland and Devon were absent, only Westmorland being named in the list, along with a mere six of the 13 available barons. Roughly only half of the 60 lords spiritual and temporal actually attended.
Another question, arising from the general problem of attendance in the medieval House of Lords, concerns the extent to which the sworn members of the King’s Council (who were under a particular obligation to take part in proceedings) managed either to swell the ranks when the turn-out was already quite good, or make up for the lack of numbers when it was poor. Admittedly, the surviving evidence is defective, since the full constitution of the Council is not always known, and only on special occasions (as we have seen) were individual lords attending Parliament listed. These two types of information, moreover, seldom coincide in point of time, so there are relatively few opportunities for direct comparison. When, however, this is possible, the conclusions are revealing. For instance, of the 14 bishops, including Archbishop Waldby of York, who swore oaths in Westminster abbey on 30 Sept. 1397 to uphold the Acts passed during the session, four were royal councillors; so were five of the seven dukes; and of the eight earls then present Worcester (Thomas Percy, steward of the Household) and Wiltshire (William le Scrope, chief chamberlain) also sat on the Council.44 All told, no fewer than 11 royal councillors were listed on this occasion; and, if the names of John Beaufort, marquess of Dorset, John Montagu, earl of Salisbury, and Thomas Despenser, earl of Gloucester (all three of whom were among the Lords Appellant of this Parliament), are also included, the number rises accordingly.45 In any event, whether there were 11 or 14 councillors, they formed a notable proportion of the 57 lords spiritual and temporal who attended that day’s ceremony in the abbey: roughly either a fifth or a quarter. With no evidence available of the full membership of the Council during Henry IV’s first Parliament, the only possible comparison of a list of those 65 lords known to have attended the Upper House is with the names of councillors present at a meeting of 4 Dec. 1399 (about a fortnight after the dissolution).46 Of the Council’s ex officio members, the chancellor, the treasurer, and the keeper of the privy seal were in attendance, but none of them was a peer.47 Clearly, however, the lords, both spiritual and temporal, were well represented on the new Council: on this single occasion the councillors comprised Archbishop Arundel and five other bishops, the duke of York, seven earls and two barons (Lovell and Despenser), who together totalled 16 peers, again roughly a quarter of the lords known to have attended the previous Parliament. A similar comparison for the Parliament of 1401 shows no appreciable change in the proportion of royal councillors present in the Upper House.48 For, out of the 40 (or perhaps 42) lords in attendance, the councillors then included Archbishop Arundel and four other bishops, four earls and two barons (Berkeley and Lovell), thus providing a contingent of 11 in all. Thereafter, it is not possible systematically to identify the royal councillors among the lords spiritual and temporal until evidence again becomes available in the record of the second session of the Parliament of 1406. Then, not only was the Council reconstituted (in response to a petition made by the Commons on 22 May), but also, on 7 June, the 42 lords present sealed the statute which dictated the change in the royal succession. When Parliament had first met, in March, the Council was still composed of men nominated in Parliament two years before, including (of the peers) Archbishop Arundel and four other bishops (Rochester, Worcester, Bath and Wells, and, ex officio as chancellor, Bishop Beaufort of Lincoln), the duke of York, the earls of Somerset (ex officio as chamberlain) and Westmorland, and five barons (Berkeley, Willoughby, Furnival, Lovell and the treasurer, Lord Roos).49 Ten of these 13 councillors definitely attended the second session of the 1406 Parliament, being party to the sealing of the statute of 7 June, and they most probably put in an appearance at the first as well. As noted above, the second session had already witnessed a reconstruction, or rather a modification, of the membership of the Council, the change in personnel being mainly brought about by reducing to three the seven commoners who had formed such an unusually large component in 1404. But some peers, too, were dismissed in May 1406. Three bishops (Rochester, Worcester, and Bath and Wells) were removed, although Stafford of Exeter took one of these vacant seats; and Thomas Langley, who had been an ex officio member in 1404 (as keeper of the privy seal), continued to sit by virtue of his new appointment as chancellor, having recently become bishop of Durham. So, with Archbishop Arundel and Bishop Beaufort of Winchester (formerly Lincoln) both retained, episcopal councillors still numbered four. Of the lords temporal selected in 1404, the earl of Westmorland and Lords Berkeley and Lovell now departed, the only other effective change among them resulting from the introduction of Lord Burnell. (Although Lord Roos, treasurer and ex officio councillor in 1404, had in the meantime been replaced in office by Lord Furnival, he was none the less re-appointed to the Council, as, of course, was Furnival, because of his treasurership.) Six lay peers now sat as councillors, while the total number of lords spiritual and temporal on the Council, which had stood at 14 in 1404, was still no fewer than ten in 1406. All of them, save Bishop Langley, who, as chancellor, must have been present, sealed the royal succession statute on 7 June; and yet again they constituted roughly a quarter of the lords in attendance.
Converted in May 1406 into an almost exclusively aristocratic body, the Council was to retain this character for the rest of Henry IV’s reign and a major part of Henry V’s. Only once again before 1422, however, was it actually nominated in Parliament, on 2 May 1410, when Henry IV, after a first, unsuccessful attempt to compose a Council of his own personal preference, nominated advisors acceptable to the prince of Wales. Besides the prince, who was to be its head, this Council comprised Bishops Beaufort of Winchester, Langley of Durham and Bubwith of Bath and Wells, the earls of Arundel and Westmorland, Lord Burnell and, among the ex officio councillors, another peer, Lord Scrope, the treasurer. A week later (on the day of Parliament’s dissolution), the bishop of Durham and the earl of Westmorland were needed on the Scottish border and thus ceased to be available, so Bishop Chichele of St. David’s and the earl of Warwick were recruited instead.50 Consequently, despite changes in personnel, the peers, all told, still numbered ten. But during the Parliament of 1411, the prince was dismissed and the Council reconstituted, and the peers, although still preponderant, were reduced in number. Of ex officio members, Archbishop Arundel returned as chancellor, replacing Sir Thomas Beaufort, although a commoner, (Sir) John Pelham, superseded Lord Scrope as treasurer. As for the rest, Archbishop Bowet of York took Bishop Beaufort’s seat, Lord Roos supplanted Lord Burnell, and the bishops of Durham and Bath and Wells continued to serve.51 As a result of these changes, there were at least six peers on the Council when Henry IV’s last Parliament met in February 1413. However, neither the Parliament of 1410 nor that of 1411 had transacted any business requiring a list of lords spiritual and temporal present to be entered on the official record; and, of course, no record survives of the doings of the Parliament of February-March 1413 which was deemed to have been annulled by Henry IV’s death. In none of these assemblies, therefore, can we estimate exactly what proportion of peers in attendance were serving as royal councillors. Nor is any such information forthcoming for Henry V’s Parliaments, although for the opposite reason. Lists of lords present are available, as we have seen, for the Parliaments of October 1416 and 1419, but the only formal list of councillors to hand is of those who were publicly nominated on 16 Apr. 1415 (albeit in a great council, not in Parliament) to assist the duke of Bedford in governing the country as Custos during the King’s then impending absence in France. Some of these councillors, like Archbishop Chichele of Canterbury, Bishop Beaufort (ex officio as chancellor) and Bishop Langley of Durham, were already regular members of the Council; but others, perhaps even all the rest (the earl of Westmorland, the prior of the hospital of St. John, and the Lords Grey of Ruthin, Berkeley, Charlton of Powis and Morley) may have been drafted in as temporary replacements for men like the dukes of Clarence, Gloucester and York, Bishop Courtenay of Norwich, the earl of Arundel (ex officio as treasurer) and the earls of Dorset and Warwick, who were all to accompany the King to Normandy.52 However this may be, Bedford’s council numbered no fewer than nine; and all of them were, as peers, naturally summoned to the Parliament which (after a postponement caused by the long-deferred surrender of Harfleur) the Custos ordered to meet on 4 Nov.53 Obviously, of the 17 bishops among the lords spiritual who were summoned, the three councillors constituted only a small minority; but their six lay colleagues were nearly a third of the 20 lords temporal currently available to attend Parliament. Taken together, Bedford’s advisors must have made up a notable group in the Upper House. Whether all of them remained on the Council after Henry V’s return to Westminster 11 days after the dissolution of Parliament on 12 Nov. is not known. But certainly Archbishop Chichele, Bishop Beaufort and Bishop Langley did so, besides, of course, Bedford himself, and, very probably, the earl of Westmorland also. They were now joined by councillors who had survived the expedition to France and come home with the King, notably the dukes of Clarence and Gloucester.54 When, a year later, at the end of the autumn Parliament of 1416, 30 lords spiritual and temporal sealed the undertaking to abide by the promise to repay loans raised on the security of a subsidy, they included Bedford and all his six councillors, along with three other peers known to have been members of the royal council before the expedition of 1415.55 These were the duke of Exeter (formerly earl of Dorset), the earl of Warwick and Lord Fitzhugh, the King’s chamberlain since the beginning of the reign and soon (6 Dec.) to be appointed treasurer. On that occasion the councillors comprised at least a third of the lords present. It is impossible to tell how prominent, as a group, councillors were in the five later Parliaments of Henry V’s reign, only one of which (May 1421) was presided over by the King in person, for neither before he returned to France in July 1417, nor again in June 1421, was a Council formally nominated to assist his lieutenant in England.56 Moreover, judging from the attendance records, meetings of the Council at home in the meantime were so habitually restricted to ex officio members that the total composition remains obscure.57
The above survey of the composition of the Upper House in the Parliaments of the 14th and early 15th centuries reveals that, although the writs of summons individually addressed to the lords spiritual and temporal persistently emphasized the need for personal attendance, this was often far from complete. Indeed, there were times when almost as many lords failed to attend Parliament as those who came; and, at least occasionally, the turn-out was so poor that the government had to resort to threats of fines. Evidence of absenteeism points to the reluctance of all but a few of the parliamentary abbots ever to attend in person (it being easier to appoint proxies), and also to the indifference shown by many lesser nobles of baronial rank. Not surprisingly, great political crises (such as those of 1388, 1397 and 1399) proved a spur to all save the monastic prelates, but whenever, on other occasions, attendance was at all satisfactory, this was mainly to the credit of the episcopate and higher nobility, a clear majority of whom did discharge their duty at most times in an exemplary fashion. It is also clear that whether or not the lords spiritual and temporal in general were conscientious, those who put in a regular appearance invariably included, as a matter of practical, governmental necessity, bishops and lay magnates on the royal council; and, being specially obliged to attend, they might well be roughly a quarter of all the lords present. Obviously, the peers who were councillors constituted a minority, but at least they guaranteed a basic presence in the Upper House. Indeed, without them, attendance in the Lords would have been even more unsatisfactory than, demonstrably, it so often was. In the Lower House on the other hand, attendance seems to have been less irregular, even though the Commons did not have to be present in their entirety to outnumber all the lords spiritual and temporal. There was always a far greater number, collectively, of commoners, most of whom, individually, counted for less than members of the peerage.
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: J. S. Roskell
- 1. None of the lists of lords in the Parliament rolls names a vicar-general or keeper of the spiritualities, and in the lists of addressees of writs of summons such officials are always anonymous.
- 2. For such lists see J.E. Powell and K. Wallis, House of Lords.
- 3. W. Stubbs, Sel. Chs. (9th edn. revised Davis), 166 cap. xiv, 295 cap. xiv.
- 4. CP, ii. 45-46.
- 5. Powell and Wallis, 437.
- 6. Reps. Lords’ Cttees. iii. 64-69, 168-9, 173-4; iv. 377, 674, 769, 817. Under Henry VI the number of lay magnates summoned was eventually to pick up, so that in 1453 there were 64. But only 37 were summoned to Edward IV’s first Parliament, in 1461, and 45 to his last, 22 years later.
- 7. Ibid. iv. 552, 559, 623, 654-5.
- 8. Ibid. 750-1, 753-4. There was no point in issuing a summons to the duke of Lancaster, who was in Guyenne (a fact which accounted for the choice of York as Custos). Evidence from royal letters of protection and of attorney (CPR, 1391-6, passim) suggests that, except for Lancaster, all the lords temporal omitted from the Chancery list of those now summoned had either already accompanied Richard II to Ireland or soon joined him there. They included, in addition, Roger, earl of March, the King's lieutenant in Ireland, and Lord Ferrers of Groby, neither of whom had been summoned to the previous Parliament. Incidentally, it appears that the duke of Gloucester, who received no summons to the 1395 Parliament because he was in Ireland, did in fact attend it, having been sent back to England early in the year with instructions to press for a further grant of taxation (T. Walsingham, Hist. Ang. ed. Riley, ii. 216).
- 9. Reps. Lords’ Cttees. iv. 828, 831, 833-4, 836-7, 839, 843, 846, 849, 852.
- 10. For a fuller discussion of this question see J.S. Roskell, ‘Problem of Attendance of Lords in Med. Parls.’, Bull. IHR, xxix. 153-204, reprinted in his Parl. and Pol. in Late Med. Eng. i.
- 11. Bull. IHR, xxix. 157-8.
- 12. Ibid. 165-7.
- 13. Reps. Lords’ Cttees. iv. 631-5, 679-80.
- 14. R.G. Davies, ‘Attendance of Episcopate in Eng. Parls.’, Procs. American Phil. Soc. cxxix. 79-81; Bull. IHR, xxix. 173-5.
- 15. RP, iii. 88.
- 16. Rot. Scot. ed. Macpherson etc. ii. 27, 29.
- 17. RP, iii. 98, 122, 124.
- 18. Ibid. 132, 144, 166-7, 184, 203; Davies, 57.
- 19. Davies, 57.
- 20. Ibid.
- 21. Reps. Lords' Cttees. iv. 727-9. These fresh writs of summons issued on 20 Mar. 1388, ordered all prelates and lay lords to arrive for the second session on the day before is was due to begin. Such a re-issue of the writs in the course if a Parliament was an extraordinary occurrence, and may possibly be taken to suggest one of both of two things. Either the main political purpose of the Parliament-to mete our condign punishment for treason to so many of Richard II's closest friends and supporters-was repugnant to at least some members of the Upper House who might have been tempted not to return once they has gone home for the Easter recess, or else (and perhaps as well) the earlier self-confidence of the Lords Appellant had begun to waver. The only occasion in the medieval period on which, following a petition drawing attention to the absence of 'dyvers and mony Lordes of this Lande as well Spirtuell as Temporell' and proposing that they should be penalized (RP, v. 248), fines are recorded as having been actually imposed by parliamentary authority, fixed at the direction of the King's Council and levied by the Exchequer, was in 1454. Then, the amounts to be paid were determined according to dignity or rank: £100 for an archbishop or duke, 100 marks for a bishop or earl and £40 for an abbot or baron. (For details of the fines actually levied see Bull. IHR, xxix. 190.) The English version of the treatise Modus Tenendi Parliamentum, when proposing fines for absentee lords, had suggested £100 for an archbishop or earl and 100 marks for a bishop or baron. Its omission of any references to the rank of duke is one reason why, although the earliest extant manuscript dates from Ricard II's reign, the origin of the treatise should be attributed to a time preceding the institution of this rank in 1337 (Parl. Texts ed. Pronay and Taylor, 70-71).
- 22. Davies, 57-58.
- 23. RP, iii. 381.
- 24. Davies, 58.
- 25. RP, iii. 338.
- 26. Ibid. 349-50, 357.
- 27. Reps. Lords’ Cttees. iv. 758-60; RP, iii. 374.
- 28. Davies, 58-59; RP, iii. 355-6; Reps. Lords’ Cttees. iv. 761.
- 29. RP, iii 348, 355.
- 30. Reps. Lords’ Cttees. iv. 759-60; RP, iii. 356; Bull. IHR, xxix. 173, 202.
- 31. When considering the list of nobles who took the Westminster abbey oath, it should be noted that, on 29 Sept., the day before the ceremony, not only were two men created earls who previously had not been barons (Thomas Percy and William le Scrope), but eight existing lay lords had been elevated in rank. Five earls (Derby, Rutland‡, Kent‡, Huntingdon‡, and Nottingham‡) were promoted to dukedoms (respectively of Hereford, Aumâle, Surrey, Exeter and Norfolk): the earl of Somerset‡ was made marquess of Dorset; and barons (Neville and Despenser‡) were created earls (respectively of Westmorland and Gloucester). (Those marked with a ‡ had acted as Lords Appellant at Notttingham castle and in Parliament: RP, iii. 374.)
- 32. Davies, 70; Reps. Lords’ Cttees. iv. 761-2.
- 33. Reps. Lords’ Cttees. iv. 765-6, 768.
- 34. RP, iii. 416, 426-7, 449.
- 35. Davies, 59-61.
- 36. RP, iii. 454-5, 459, 576.
- 37. No fewer than 19 abbatial letters of proxy survive for this Parliament: SC10/43/1, 3, 6-8, 10, 12-17, 20-22, 24, 25, 28, 29.
- 38. RP, iii. 606.
- 39. Ibid. 581.
- 40. Davies, 62.
- 41. RP, iv. 95-96.
- 42. Thomas Beaufort, summoned as earl of Dorset to the Parliament of October 1416, was created duke of Exeter at the end of it, and subscribed the Lords’ assurance as duke.
- 43. RP, iv. 117-18.
- 44. Ibid. iii. 355-6; J.F. Baldwin, King’s Council, 140-1.
- 45. RP, iii. 374.
- 46. J.L. Kirby, ‘Councils and Councillors of Hen. IV’, TRHS, 5th ser. xiv. 61-65 (these lists are of councillors who served in the course of successive chancellorships, some continuously, others for short periods, and the precise date of attendance is not recorded); PPC, i. 100.
- 47. For details of such officials and their tenure of office, see Handbook of British Chronology ed. Fryde etc. (3rd edn.).
- 48. PPC, i. 126; A.L. Brown, ‘Commons and Council in Reign of Hen. IV’, EHR, lxxix. 878.
- 49. RP, iii. 530, 572, 576.
- 50. Ibid. 632, 634.
- 51. PPC, ii. 31; Baldwin, 164.
- 52. PPC, ii. 145, 153, 157, 169.
- 53. Reps. Lords’ Cttees. iv. 827, 830.
- 54. Of other previous councillors who had served abroad, Bishop Courtenay of Norwich had died during the siege of Harfleur; the earl of Arundel, the treasurer, had died soon after being invalided home from Harfleur; the earl of Dorset had stayed in command there; the earl of Warwick had moved to Calais; and the duke of York had been killed at Agincourt.
- 55. RP, iv. 96.
- 56. A public, formal nomination of members of the King’s Council, like that of April 1415, did not recur until the Parliament of 1422. Then, following the appointment of the duke of Gloucester as Protector in the duke of Bedford’s absence, ‘at the request’ of the Commons and ‘with the advice and assent’ of the lords spiritual and temporal, there were ‘nominated and elected’ 16 councillors: the archbishop of Canterbury and four bishops of his province, the duke of Exeter, five earls, two barons and three commoners (ibid. 175). Including Gloucester, the head of the Council, and Bishop Langley of Durham, chancellor and an ex officio member, the peers on the Council now numbered 15.
- 57. PPC, ii. 182 et seq.