We are command of gentilmen : service and support among the lesser nobility of Lothian during the Wars of Independence, 1296-1341
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This thesis examines the political, social and, in particular, military conditions that influenced the allegiance of the men and women of the political community of Lothian, that is to say those people with personal landholding, legal and military obligations whose services were crucial to the efficient administration of the sheriffdom and whose support was courted by kings and magnates alike. The key issue is the high degree of survival among these minor landed families. The upper strata of Scottish political society underwent considerable changes in the early to middle fourteenth century through the fortunes of war, in particular through the disinheritance of the Comyn family and their allies early in the reign of Robert I. Some families lost their Scottish properties, such as the Balliols and the Comyns. Others grew in stature; notably the Douglases and, in Lothian specifically, the Setons and the Lauders. Most landholders would probably have been content to retain their inheritances, and indeed, virtually all of the Lothian landed families of the late thirteenth century would seem to have managed to do just that. A high rate of success is not necessarily evidence that something is easily achieved; the retention of family properties was a complex business in wartime. In the period 1296-1314 the political community had to discharge their financial, legal and military burdens to the party currently in charge, but without permanently compromising themselves with the opposition, who might, after all, be in a position to exert lordship themselves at some point in the future. The military burdens are central to this thesis. Army service was a very obvious indication of allegiance. Given the nature of the normal practice of war in thirteenth and fourteenth century Europe, it is inevitable that this study examines the nature and incidence of armoured cavalry service in Lothian. The overwhelming majority of that service was performed by minor landholders. Records of their service in garrisons or their forfeiture as rebels provide us with a guide to the rate and incidence of defections from one party to another and therefore some guide to the degree to which a particular party was able to impose their lordship. The thesis explores the various challenges that faced the lesser landholders and more prosperous tenants and burgesses who lived through the Wars of Independence from the campaign of 1296 which ended the reign of King John and imposed the rule of Edward I, until 1341 when Edinburgh castle was recovered by the Scots from the forces of Edward III. It also questions the extent to which Edward III was able to impose his lordship in Lothian, considers the nature of the forces ranged against him and challenges the perception that only the outbreak of the Hundred Years War prevented the operational defeat of the Bruce party. The siege of Edinburgh castle in 1341 marked the end of the last attempt by an English medieval king to provide Lothian with a government. Naturally this would not have been abundantly apparent at the time; however subsequent English invasions, though they might attack Edinburgh, were not designed to bring about the conquest of Lothian. The political environment of Lothian landholders therefore differed substantially in 1296-41 compared to the century either side of the Wars of Independence in that the minor nobility faced difficult decisions which had to be made on assessments of the likely eventual success of the Balliol, Plantagenet and Bruce parties.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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