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Title: The law enforcement policy of Edward IV and its impact, with special reference to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, Hertfordshire and Essex 1461-83
Author: Coates, N. J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2005
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The thesis examines the central judicial institutions that served to carry Edward IV’s governmental agenda into the kingdom - the common law courts, the chancery and the council - and the impact that the King’s use of them had upon the enforcement of order within local society. The work traces the course of judicial administration in the joint shrievalties of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, and assesses the nature and levels of disorder in these four counties with different patterns of landholding and private lordship. In addition to examining issues of law enforcement and the provision of justice, the thesis also addresses questions concerning the nature of public authority and private power and their respective roles in late medieval English politics and law. Recent studies have emphasized that the public authority of the crown and the private power of the nobility and gentry were not in competition, but rather worked together to ensure good order. In seeking to build upon this revisionist interpretation, the thesis looks at the way that central royal institutions interacted with local political conditions from a ‘top down’ perspective, for the first time emphasizing the crown’s public agenda and the way it was promulgated by means of institutions. The thesis will therefore be the first systematic study dedicated to explaining the institutions of law and order under Edward IV for their own sake, and not just as part of the framework for politics and governance. The greater part of the evidence for this study is drawn from the records of the central government, particularly the courts and the royal sealing offices, supplemented by private papers and the contemporary gentry correspondence. Through giving equal weight to the methodology of both political and legal historians the thesis allows instances of disorder to be explored within the context not only of the personal relationships between the people involved, but also of the complex technical procedures of the common law. This serves as the basis for a detailed account of four different phases of Edward’s rule; the period of anxiety before Henry VI’s capture in 1465, the slide into disorder in 1468-71, the cautious period of recovery after the collapse of the readeption and the triumph of Edward’s kingship in the later 1470s and early 1480s. Though these boundaries are in some cases familiar, the thesis suggests new ways of looking at their causes and consequences. The temporary military victory of the Yorkists in 1464-5, for example, was not an unequivocal ‘high point’ of Edward’s first reign, as the evidence suggests that victory was accompanied by increased disorder as ambitious Yorkists attempted to convert national dynastic success into local influence. The drift into chaos in 1468-70 also reveals a more complex relationship between increasing disorder, the treachery of the earl of Warwick and Edward’s loss of political confidence than has hitherto been advanced, revealing Edward’s efforts to pacify the kingdom to have been a much graver factor in the collapse of his regime than has been supposed. Finally, the consequences of the gradual rise of the ‘royal affinity’ after 1471 is examined for the first time from an institutional perspective, and it is suggested that the further evolution of the English side of chancery and the increased use of the council as a forum for disciplining the nobility that are visible under the early Tudors have their origins in Edward’s need to manage an affinity that was based on private relationships between the king and his leading subjects, yet which had a large role in public governance and good order.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available