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  • Political Society in Later Medieval England: A Festschrift for Christine Carpenter ed. by Benjamin Thompson and John Watts
  • Rosemary Horrox
Political Society in Later Medieval England: A Festschrift for Christine Carpenter. Edited by Benjamin Thompson and John Watts. (Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press, an imprint of Boydell & Brewer. 2015. Pp. 280. $99.00. ISBN 978-1-7832-7030-9.)

The theme taken for this collection is one which has been central to the honorand's work over the years, broadly defined here as the interface between the state and the upper levels of society: primarily, but not quite exclusively, taken to mean the landed nobility and gentry. This, as the introduction by John Watts spells out, locates her within what has been regarded by late medievalists as the apostolic succession from K. B. McFarlane to Gerald Harriss, to her, and now to her students. It is a theme which, especially if interpreted more generally as the relationship of center to locality (or of private to public), can embrace a wide range of manifestations, and the eleven essays, with a couple of exceptions, possess an underlying unity of purpose not always attained by Festschriften. The chronological range is broadly from Henry III to the early Tudors, although one of the outliers (by Jenny Wormald) takes as its starting point the death of the Scottish fifth earl of Huntley in 1576. This apart, the emphasis is firmly on England. Tony Moore explores how gentry and free tenants came to look to the royal courts, rather than county courts, in the first part of the thirteenth century and the impact this had on the development of the common law. At the other end of the period, John Watts's paper "'New Men,' 'New Learning,' and 'New Monarchy'" (all three elements are thus problematized), [End Page 572] fruitfully and pragmatically revisits the questions contested now for well over a century about their chronology and inter-connection. Medieval law, which is a strand within several of papers, is foregrounded in the paper by Ted Powell on the legal position of the duchy of Lancaster which discusses its shifting public/private status across the fifteenth century and its implications.

Andrew Spencer takes as his subject the royal coronation oath and in particular the implications of the requirement that the king should uphold the laws that the community of the realm shall have chosen as this played out across the later Middle Ages. The clause was deployed both by kings and their critics, and royal critics are also the focus of Theron Westervelt's paper on manifestos for rebellion, although this covers more well-trodden ground. The relationship of medieval kings with their subjects is developed in two other papers, each largely confined to a single reign but offering interesting cross-references. Caroline Burt considers local government in Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the reign of Edward II, offering a study of the connections (or, increasingly, the lack of them) between king, magnates, and local gentry. A different (but complementary) emphasis is provided by Richard Partington's study of noble service to Edward III, which stresses the extent to which the leading aristocracy should be seen as hard-working servants of the Crown rather than as the recipients of (unearned) royal favor to "buy" their support. The stated ability of Edward III (along with Edward I and Henry V) to command this level of service here becomes a tacit condemnation of all the other late-medieval kings, although this is not developed.

Two papers turn to ecclesiastical issues. Andrea Ruddick deploys the published fifteenth-century letter collections to consider the ecclesiastical patronage deployed by gentry families, with the Pastons' well-documented dispute with the duke of Suffolk at its heart. Advowsons, the right to present to a living, were classed as property, and the right to them was thus worth defending to maintain local influence. Benjamin Thompson's paper makes a related, but broader, point in exploring various facets of the integration of the late-medieval Church into secular society, specifically the jurisdictional overlap whereby both secular and clerical litigants might deploy either lay or spiritual courts as best suited their case, offered here as the...


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