Edward III's government of England, c. 1346-1356
This thesis examines the administrative history of the middle decade of Edward Ill's reign, between the victories of Crecy and Poitiers, It is often assumed that, after the crisis of 1340-1, the king was only able to maintain domestic peace at the cost of his own power. But the administrative records reveal that this political stability was the result not of a renunciation, but a restoration of royal authority. The king annulled the statute of 1341 limiting his control over appointment of ministers, removed from power the Stratford party which had dominated the government in the 1330's, and gave control of the departments of state to the members of his earlier household administration of 1338-40. These men, enjoying long tenure of office, then put into effect the administrative system planned in the Walton Ordinances of 1338. Bureaucratic reforms in the Chancery, the privy seal, the Exchequer and the household created a more efficient, and therefore more effective administration. These changes were co-ordinated in the king's council, which used its legislative and judicial authority to increase central control. In parliament, the king's ministers were able to direct business, obliging the Commons to grant taxes in return for remarkably few statutory concessions. And the best-enforced legislation of the period was that which accorded with government policy, implemented in the provincial sessions of the King's Bench. The greatest success of the regime however was to transform the financial disasters of the late 1330's into the financial security of the mid 1350's. This was the work of treasurer Edington, the most influential and long-lived of the ministers of this period. The success of the government, however, depended not on one man, but on the co-operation and inter-dependence of the whole administration, united in its common determination to restore the authority of the Crown.