Middle English romance, attitudes to kingship and political crisis, c.l272-c.l350
This study used mostly printed sources to investigate wider attitudes to kingship than those of the political philosophers and to consider their implications for the understanding of the political crises of 1297, 1326 and 1340-41.Middle English romances are suitable for determining more 'popular' attitudes to kingship because of their subject matter, the length of texts, their dissemination and their receptivity to contemporary opinion. These 'popular' attitudes were those belonging to the audience of the romances, being the large and increasingly politically influential group comprising knights and gentry. The romances contain substantial images and concepts of kingship, revealing strong expectations of the king in the areas of justice, good government and defence. They reveal an understanding of questions such as the nature of royal power and the king’s position with regard to will and law. The perception of kingship which animated the relationship between king and people was shown to be that of familiar social bonds. The images of kingship found in the romances are supported by those in a second type of popular literature, the legendary histories of Britain. The romance images provide legitimate evidence for the attitudes to kingship of knights and gentry. They are both representative of the opinions of this social group and capable of influencing the opinions of the people who had contact with the romances. Edward 1 was familiar with the attitudes of his people towards kingship and he appealed to these extensively to gain support for his requests for military service, money and supplies in 1297. The deposition of Edward II in 1326 showed royal opposition to be equally at ease in appealing to 'popular' attitudes to generate public support for the rebellion. The attitudes also created a receptive background for the removal of the king. In 1340-41 Edward III and his opponent Archbishop Stratford appealed to royal subjects' attitudes on kingship in order to try to achieve their practical and political aims. 'Popular' attitudes towards kingship became strengthened by association with particular kings and events.