Chapter 3: Bastard feudalism and the Beauchamps' affinity

 

 

In attempting to discern the local importance of the Beauchamp family in our period we have to look at those who were associated with them, and in attempting to discern the extent of their influence, it is necessary to venture into the well-trodden territory of bastard feudalism. We must firstly examine the work of historians who have undertaken similar studies. The modern term ‘bastard feudalism’, used to describe the nature of social relationships between a lord and his subjects, is far removed from the original meaning, as it was coined by Charles Plummer. For him, and many other historians up to the middle of this century, the phrase was a negative one; a term of abuse, used to put forward the notion that the ideal relationship between a lord and his tenants, bound to him by the noble principles of homage and service, had been contaminated by a corrupt level of retainers. The retainer supposedly was not bound to one lord, as of old, but allowed his service to be sold to the highest bidder. This perception of ‘bastard feudalism’ comes largely from the study of the Paston letters, but the term was redefined fifty years ago, by K.B.McFarlane in his seminal essay ‘Bastard Feudalism’. Although many of his assertions have been modified or disregarded by the tide of subsequent research, McFarlane's influence is still apparent in the output of the many historians who work in this particular field.

According to Crouch, the term ‘feudalism’ has been listed as having ten different ‘perceptions’, and in attempting to define ‘bastard feudalism’, we come up against a similar problem. Most of the influential historians working in this field have their own ‘perception’ of bastard feudalism, or at least emphasise what they see as its most important aspects. For some, the crucial feature of bastard feudalism is the introduction of the written contract and paid cash stipends, and a corresponding decline in tenurial land grants, whilst others see it as the mutual relationship between a lord and his affinity, with each helping to strengthen the other's position in society. Some, such as Crouch, object to the use of the term altogether saying that the differences between the ‘feudal’ and ‘bastard feudal’ eras are purely ‘matters of degrees and cosmetic’. Hicks perceives the bastard feudal system as enduring largely unchanged from the mid-twelfth century to 1650. Bean, whilst accepting that there are ‘fundamental weaknesses in the basic assumption underlying the classic interpretation of bastard feudalism’, perceives a change in the evolution in the concept of lordship between the time of the Conquest, and the later medieval period, with the role of lord being replaced by that of a patron. Coss is correct when he argues for ‘a more general application and utilisation’ of the term, for if we intend to understand the relationship between a lord and his clients and how it arose, then we should not look at one particular feature in particular isolation, but consider the system as a whole.

For our purposes, the two pivotal works which we must consider are Christine Carpenter's essay ‘The Beauchamp affinity: A study of bastard feudalism at work’ and the debate over Coss' essay ‘Bastard feudalism revised’, which deal with the nature of the affinity of Richard Beauchamp in the early fifteenth century, and the development of bastard feudalism in the thirteenth century respectively. Carpenter's work on the affinities of Richard Beauchamp in Warwickshire exposes ‘a riot of mutual back-scratching’, whereby both the earl and those in his affinity gained much from their association. Whereas McFarlane believes the key feature of the age was the introduction of a written indenture between master and servant, she proves convincingly that the monetary remuneration which those in the affinity obtained from the earl ‘did not constitute a large measure of their annual income’, at least of the more prominent members, and the annuities which Beauchamp dispensed never amounted to someone's primary income, even in the case of those men with a lesser social standing. It was also likely that much of the fee might be spent fulfilling their obligations. They did, however, gain much economic and social advantage once they were members of the ruling clique of Warwickshire. As members of the Beauchamp affinity, they had the local legal, military and bureaucratic might of the county behind them. Retainers used other members of the affinity as witnesses in risky, personal, financial transactions, as an attempt to insure themselves against default. If possible, transactions were kept within the affinity, especially in the case of purchase agreements, which Carpenter views as ‘perhaps the most risky method of acquiring land’. As a landholder's effectiveness was, in the last resort, implicitly linked to his ability to throw defaulters off his land, the lord and the affinity could provide him with the military muscle with which to do that. Neither can one ignore the many social and prestigious advantages which service brought to the individual landholder; the privilege of sitting on the council of a great magnate could bring many tangible rewards, additional fees, new patrons and career opportunities among them. The affinity also had a social function, with social interaction taking place in the households of the lord's men, or that of the lord himself, cementing the alliance by tying up the various parties' public and personal lives.

The benefit, however, was not one-sided. The importance of demesne farming put a strain on the central administration, and created a market for men of talent and ability who served as stewards, receivers, auditors or other posts in the lord's estates, where they were given liveries and were rewarded by the payment of modest cash stipends. Because the lord would reward the retainer with his patronage, instead of demising his own land, the lord benefited by establishing ‘lifetime relationships with limited rewards’. Carpenter shows how the lord would use the affinity as a means of building up support for himself where his presence was weakest, which he would need to do if he intended to keep the local administration under his control; Richard Beauchamp, whose estates were concentrated in the north and west of Warwickshire, actively sought support from the dukes of Norfolk who had a strong presence in the east of the county. Bastard feudalism, therefore, can be seen as an attempt by the higher aristocracy to preserve their primacy in a time of social upheaval, and it should be pointed out that the benefit was mutual with both parties gaining much from the association.

Carpenter's work shows bastard feudalism in its most sophisticated and highly developed form, as it existed in Warwickshire two generations after the end of our period. She is fortunate in that she is able to draw upon a great deal of documentation, such as receivers' accounts, which have not survived from the time of the first three Beauchamp earls. However, the Beauchamp Cartulary does contain witness lists which, in conjunction with other sources, can provide us with a very good idea of the nature of the Beauchamps' affinity in the century from 1268 to 1369. Much of what we shall see is relevant to the debate between Coss, Crouch and Carpenter over the origins and development of bastard feudalism in the thirteenth century. In particular we need to bear in mind David Crouch's views, that the ‘social order referred to as bastard feudalism can be dated back to the early thirteenth century’, and that it was firmly in place throughout the second half of that century. If Crouch is correct, then we would expect that Carpenter's depiction of Warwickshire society under Richard Beauchamp in the early fifteenth century would be similar to what we would find under Earl William a century and a half previously. As we shall see, the development of bastard feudalism in the west midlands was far from static, and much of what Carpenter identifies as being present in the workings of Beauchamp's affinity in the first two decades of the fifteenth century actually first came into place during the century before the death of Earl Thomas [I] in 1369.

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Most commentators now accept that the system of bastard feudalism was the result of the serious social changes at the beginning of the thirteenth century. The great aristocratic landowners of England were beginning to find their position in society gradually eroded; Henry II's legal reforms had introduced a measure of protection into rights of tenants, a development which greatly hampered the ‘lords' ability to manipulate things in his own interest’, and their ability to exploit their tenants, as had once been the case. An expansion in royal government created a lot of jobs, which in turn led to a growth in articulate, politically experienced and wealthy gentry in royal service. Meanwhile, the transfer of demesnes from short-term leasing to direct management occurred at this time largely as a response to a period of inflation which made leasehold rents uneconomical. The nobility were forced to turn to the gentry because they needed stewards, receivers, auditors and other officials to manage their estates directly, as well as skilled representatives to defend their interests in the new legal system. It was for this reason that the nobility began to try and attract the gentry into their own service, by providing largesse, influence and financial rewards.

By the time that Earl William became earl of Warwick in 1268, this social change had been developing for a couple of generations. However, Warwickshire and Worcestershire at this time were substantially different to the ‘bastard feudal’ society as described by Carpenter a century and a half later. What is certain is that the house of Warwick appears to have already adapted to the new form of administration which direct demesne cultivation required at the start of our period, as can be seen by the adoption of the lord's council, commonly used by noble households in the later middle ages. Holmes describes the magnate's council as ‘the centre and most elusive part of bastard feudalism’. It was here that the lord's most important knights, clerks and officials would discuss and advise on the management of the earl's estates and, if necessary, pass judgement on petitions from tenants and lesser officials. Holmes has been able to only pick up a handful of scattered references to the councils of various lords in the fourteenth century: the earl of Salisbury and the lady of Clare both had a council in the reign of Edward III, and the earl of Gloucester had one at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The earliest reference Holmes appears to have been able to uncover for the earl of Warwick's council is 1375. However, there is a reference as early as 1280, in an agreement between Earl William and Godfrey Giffard, bishop of Worcester, in which the bishop agrees ‘to cause an instrument to be made as the counsels of the earl and of himself shall ordain’. This is one of the earliest references we have to a lay English magnate possessing a council, and we can safely assume that a regular council of retainers and advisors formed a feature of the administration throughout our period. The presence of a council pre-supposes a sophisticated body over-seeing a complex administration, with officials made up of members of the gentry. Unfortunately, due to the absence of relevant material, we are forced to resort to conjecture when attempting to discover any more of the internal workings of the earl's households and estates at this point. Sometimes there is a reference which can illuminate part of his administration, but mostly we have to assume that he ran his household as most other lords did, with a household steward and a chamberlain, and with stewards, receivers, bailiffs and other officials running his estates.

So who were the sort of men who would have sat on Earl William's council in the later thirteenth century? Undoubtedly his senior officials would have made up an important majority, along with other lords with whom the earl was on friendly terms, as well as professional men, commonly lawyers. Judging by witness lists for the earliest years of Earl William's tenure, the strongest bonds which existed between him and those with whom he associated were those of family. Walter Beauchamp of Alcester, John Beauchamp of Holt, and James Beauchamp, whom Sinclair and Dugdale believe to have been the earl's uncle, but is more often referred to as his brother, are frequent witnesses to the earl's charters, particularly from 1268 up to the end of the 1270s. Walter and John both appear to have been hunting companions of the earl: Walter and the earl were accused of trespassing into Kinver forest in Staffordshire in 1268-9 and poaching two hinds, whilst John accompanied the earl into the same forest on a similar expedition in 1271. He appears on charters of the earl signed as far away as Southampton and Westminster, as well as charters concerning Worcestershire and Warwickshire, which would appear to suggest that he was not averse to travelling a great distance on his brother's business. Although there are a number of charters which he witnessed which are not dated, the last dated charter upon which he appears is 1282-3, and most of the undated charters he witnessed appear to have been signed before then. We should not forget that Walter was later to be one of the most notable courtiers of his day; later in life he pursued a successful career serving in the royal court where he was appointed steward of the household in 1289, becoming sole steward in 1292, and holding the post until his death in early 1303. As we shall see, it was not uncommon in the fourteenth century for some of the most prestigious Beauchamp retainers to be promoted to the royal court through the earl's patronage. It is possible that Walter was the first, and most prestigious of these, and it is tempting to hypothesise that he learned much of the art of running a large noble household in the service of his brother.

James Beauchamp, the most obscure member of the family, was present in Southampton, with Walter and William, when William leased his weighing rights in the town to the Le Neirs. He appears on over a dozen charters, the latest being as late as 1294-95. He accompanied William into Wales in 1277 and, whilst having been endowed with a modest landed income from his family, sold his Worcestershire manors of Sheriff's Lench and Church Lench in 1282-3 to the earl, probably due to his lack of an heir. Acton Beauchamp, which he also held, somehow found its way into the earl's estates between 1280 and 1298. John Beauchamp of Holt appears to have been a less frequent associate at this time, although he continued to witness charters into the time of Earl Guy, long after James and Walter had disappeared from the retinue of the earl. He even accompanied Earl Guy on a trip abroad in 1299, at a time when relations between the earl of Warwick, and his other uncle, Walter Beauchamp, had become extremely acrimonious.

Outside the immediate circle of the earl and his brothers, many other associates of the earl, in the first decade and a half of his tenure, were those with some connection to the family. Bartholomew de Sudley, lord of Burton Dasset, had married the earl's sister, Joan, in 1253, and in 1269 had acted, along with the new earl of Warwick and others, as executor of the will of the earl's father, William Beauchamp of Elmley. He appears on a number of charters in the late 1260s and the 1270s, concerning land purchases around Yardley in the north of Warwickshire and Comberton in South Worcestershire, and was a witness as late as 1277 for the earl's purchase of Berkswell from Richard de Amundeville. He was certainly one of the few local landowners who we can be sure were close to the earl on a personal basis. In 1269, both he and Earl William, along with John FitzGeoffrey, brother of countess Maud, stood surety for Theobald le Bottiler for a debt of 600 marks. Le Bottiler also enjoyed a family tie to the earl being the nephew of the Countess Maud. In 1276, when he was going to Ireland, he empowered William Beauchamp to nominate an attorney for him.

On the indication of one piece of evidence, it would appear that, on occasions, the administration of Earl William's estates could be a very haphazard affair. According to a local jury, between 1286 and 1291 John de Anste had been bailiff of the Gloucestershire manor of Lydney. When he was sued by the earl for failing to render any accounts for the five year period, John's defence was that he had never been bailiff, but had merely been farming the earl's wood there for 6s 8d a year. That an official could escape from rendering an account for up to five years in itself shows the earl's retainers were subject to a very relaxed form of administrative control at this time, and the confusion over Anste's office also demonstrates the problems with communication which lords faced and which were inherent in farming lands spread over a number of counties.

The picture of the affinity at the start of William Beauchamp's tenure as earl of Warwick, superficially, seems to be far removed from that depicted by Carpenter. It would appear that, throughout his first decade and a half as earl, William relied mainly upon his own officials and his immediate family circle. So what then of the cornerstone of bastard feudalism, the symbiotic relationship between a lord and the local gentry? Hilton dismisses the idea of the earl of Warwick possessing a bastard feudal affinity at this time, and describes the county community as being made up of men with no more than one or two manors. His own study of the witness lists of the Beauchamp cartulary reveal that the earl's signatories were mainly local personalities with extremely localised interests and connections, whose presence was invited by the lord because they knew about the local circumstances, including land boundaries. They would also make the local community aware of the change of ownership. Worcestershire and Warwickshire consisted of a patchwork of groupings of local knightly families which, superficially at least, appear far different from the seamless web of Beauchamp influence detected by Carpenter in the early fifteenth century.

However, Hilton makes the mistake of regarding the period of 1269 to 1315 as stable, and a period in which relations between the earl and the local gentry remained static, whereas it was actually a crucial period of change. Hilton's assumptions appear to hold true for the period from 1268 to the early 1280s, when contact with the local gentry does appear to have been limited. As time went on, however, the local gentry gradually became important figures in the Warwick administration, as is demonstrated in the figures of Sir John de Ladbroke and Sir Walter de Cooksey

Walter de Cooksey appears to have been a key member of the earl's affinity. His family had held the manor of Cooksey in Upton Warren of the Beauchamps since the mid-thirteenth century, and he had also inherited the manor of Great Witley. He was, perhaps, the only member of the local gentry in the earl's affinity before the late 1270s who was not, in some way, part of the earl's family, and appears on charters from William's first year as earl, when the earl was buying land in Comberton. He appears as witness on over twenty charters in the Beauchamp cartulary, including witnessing the earl's purchase of land in Inkberrow in 1274-5 alongside other Beauchamp stalwarts Bartholomew de Sudley, James Beauchamp and John Beauchamp. He witnessed the earl's loss of property at Ledcombe Bassett from debt, along with transactions between James Beauchamp and the earl in 1282-3. In 1294-5 he quitclaimed all his rent in Beoley to the earl, although his younger son was to build up the family patrimony in the mid-fourteenth century. Cooksey bequeathed his body to the Friars Minor of Worcester in 1295, three years before Earl William, showing a significant coincidence of religious affiliations. This might simply suggest that both men had an affinity for the less conventional religious houses in the county, but it is more likely that Cooksey shared his master's animosity toward the Benedictines; if he had acted as one of the earl's officials, it is quite possible that he might have personally been involved in the dispute with Bishop Giffard. The bond between Earl William and his most trusted associates apparently could affect their private and spiritual lives as well as their professional one.

Sir John de Ladbroke was a knight with interests in Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire. He was also, according to an undated charter, a ‘man of the earl of Warwick’, and his name appears with an excessive degree of frequency on Earl William's charters. The first reference we have to him is in 1282-3, although it is unclear how long he had been in the earl's service before that point. He witnessed charters between Earl William and the Countess Ela, Bordesley Abbey, and other retainers of the earl, such as Thomas Le Parker and John the Archer. In 1292-3 he did suit of court for the earl at the court of Edmund, earl of Cornwall, for which he was rewarded with one of the earl's tenements in Leicestershire. He was also justice of gaol delivery in Warwick in 1290 and 1308, a commissioner in Warwickshire regarding the reissue of the Magna Carta in 1300, and investigating prises in December 1309. It would appear that he occupied a pivotal role in the administration as a retainer. Ladbroke also provides evidence of the bond between earl and retainer at this time, which appears to have been a personal one and was not binding between Ladbroke and William's heir: even though he survived until 1310, he only appears on a single charter in Earl Guy's period.

Ladbroke and Cooksey illustrate that, after the first decade of Beauchamp rule, a network was gradually developing which included the earl and key figures from local gentry families; a network which resembles the relationship perceived by Carpenter between Richard Beauchamp and the Hugfords and Mountfords in the early fifteenth century. Carpenter points out, however, that the network sustained by Richard Beauchamp was very much dependent upon the strength and power of the earl himself. She shows that Beauchamp's affinity, without the gravitational centre of a powerful lord, soon dispersed into fragmented local networks of the local gentry, very similar to those Hilton describes. This comparison offers us a valuable insight to the development of the earl's affinity. In the previous chapter we have already discussed the precariousness of his financial situation in the late thirteenth century. For much of his early time as earl he was forced to endure the presence of three dowagers using up much of his resources, as well as a series of crippling debts. His financial problems would have put a curb on the extent he was able to bribe and distribute largesse and his limited land holdings would have reduced his visibility at a grass-roots level. Both of these were key attributes required for the attraction of a retinue. As a means of rectifying this, William engaged in a policy of small-scale land accumulation from the start of his tenure as earl; buying land in Worcestershire and Warwickshire, as well as whole manors such as Sheriff's Lench and Church Lench from James Beauchamp, Beoley and Yardley from the Comyn family. Midland manors, such as Little Inkberrow, which came back into the Beauchamp fold after having been let out, were kept and added to the patrimony. We have seen in the previous chapter that, in economic terms, the value of these manors was comparatively slight when compared to his outlying manors, but William's concentration of land in the midlands meant that the earl of Warwick was far better represented on a grass roots level in Worcestershire and Warwickshire at the end of the thirteenth century than he was in 1268. The increase in the earl's midlands manors would also have increased the need for experienced retainers to oversee his manors, thereby creating a greater need for members of the local gentry within the earl of Warwick's administration.

There is evidence that William's growing accumulation of land led to a direct increase in his political power. Coss views ‘the invasion and subversion of law courts and offices of administration’ as being the central feature of bastard feudalism, and we need to look at the relationship between the earl and the sheriffs of Worcestershire and the joint office of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, if we want to see how effective his control was over both of these areas. He was fortunate in that he held the shrievalty of Worcester from the time of his father's death in 1269, and was free to appoint whom he liked to the post if he did not wish to serve himself. What is striking is that, after holding it personally for two years between 1269 and 1271, William resumed the office of sheriff for the eleven years between 1275 and 1286. A sheriff's duties were tiresome, exacting, and quite often, could be financially damaging, as he was expected to reimburse the crown personally for any shortfall in income. William Bagot, the longest serving sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire in the thirteenth century, spent his final ten years in and out of prison, pursued by the debts he ran up in office. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the position of under-sheriff was often seen as something of a poisoned chalice and that, throughout our period, ‘dozens of Beauchamp men who held the post at one time or another did so as one of the conditions of their service to the earls’. Furthermore, candidates for the post were limited as they had to have the resources in order to enter such a financially risky position, and those who did serve, rarely did so for any longer than a couple of years. William's decision to hold the office personally may be put down to precedent; his father had held the office personally, as had most of his ancestors. However, it is unlikely that this was the primary reason; between 1271 and 1275 Simon Alein occupied the post of under-sheriff as nominated by William. Alein may have been one of the earl's Worcestershire retainers, but we know little more about him than the fact that he had the borough of Droitwich let to him and a certain Richard Fitz Joce to farm for a period of five years from 1271. It would not be an unreasonable supposition that William's decision to resume personal control of the shrievalty after 1275 indicates that he found the position too sensitive to be handed to a proxy, and that, at that time, the only way he could secure the control of the administrative and legal apparatus of the county was if he occupied the position of sheriff personally. It also indicates a distinct shortage of suitable candidates of a knightly class in the county who could be entrusted by the earl to oversee his interests. By the mid-1280s, however, circumstances had changed enough for the post to be handed over to one of the earl's supporters. The first of these, Simon de Greenhull, is an obscure figure, but Reginald le Porter or Pershore who held the post of under-sheriff nearly continuously from 1290 until 1306 was one of William's, and later Guy's, most trusted associates. Le Porter was a frequent witness on Beauchamp charters, including a quitclaim of Church Lench and Sheriff's Lench by James Beauchamp to William in 1282-3. Witness lists make it clear that he was not of knightly rank, and he was certainly an official who worked his way up through the earl's administration before being appointed under-sheriff. He was a contemporary of a certain William de la Porte, also known as ‘of Pershore’, and it is probable that the two men were related. William was the earl's nominee for one of the offices of chamberlain of the exchequer, the hereditary post which the Beauchamps had inherited from the Mauduits. This post was usually occupied by a cleric, who often ‘enjoyed ecclesiastical benefices in the Beauchamp gift’. William held the post from 1290 until 1309, contemporary to Reginald's tenure of the Worcestershire shrievalty. That the two men's background was similar is beyond doubt, but whether they were kinsmen, or whether the ‘of Pershore’ denotes a connection with the abbey is uncertain. Whatever, circumstances in Worcestershire, with Earl William building up his territory in that area, had improved dramatically by the end of the later thirteenth century, and it was possible for the earl to entrust the key post of under-sheriff to a loyal retainer in the 1290s whereas that had not been possible in the 1270s or the early 1280s.

At this time, the situation with the shrievalty of Warwick and Leicestershire was more complicated. Whereas Worcestershire was recognised as being under William's control by virtue of his hereditary right, the sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire was appointed by the king as his representative in those two counties. None of the many who held office in the last third of the thirteenth century were closely connected to the earl of Warwick. Some, such as William de Beville, who held the post from 1288 to 1290, or Stephen de Rabaz, who succeeded him and held the post until 1293, were officers of the crown, with no foothold or connections in the midlands. De Beville was a Northerner who, at other times, had held the shrievalties of Northamptonshire and Cumberland as well as Bedford and Buckingham. A career administrator of this sort was probably less susceptible than others to the earl's influence, although this cannot be discounted. More often than not, however, the sheriffs were prominent local landholders whom Templeman classifies as being ‘leading members of the local gentry’. These men should have been a soft target; they were local men who would be more interested in the fortunes of themselves and their peers than the king's. Some certainly did have a distant connection with the earl. Fulk de Lucy, who held the post from April 1287 until the following Easter, was an occasional charter witness for William Beauchamp and the Countess Maud. Balanced against this, he was also one of the crown's most active and loyal officials in the region, redeeming himself for backing the wrong side in De Montfort rebellion. William le Castello, sheriff in the early 1290s, appears on a charter in Sutton Coldfield in 1282-3. Robert de Verdon, sheriff from Christmas 1278 until May 1280, appears on a charter over a decade after his tenure as sheriff had ended. Other men, such as Osbert de Bereford, are conspicuous by their absence from William's witness lists. The sheriff of the later thirteenth century most associated with the earl, Thomas de Charlecote, or de Haseley, held the post for less than two months. He was clearly a long-standing associate of the Beauchamp family. He witnessed a charter in 1268, between the earl and his father, William Beauchamp of Elmley, shortly before the latter's death the following year. In 1288-9 he witnessed Countess Ela's quitclaim to the earl of Claverdon and Tanworth whilst also witnessing charters between the earl and prominent figures such as John de Clinton and Thomas de Arden of Ratley. It is his inclusion as a witness to charters between members of the Beauchamp family themselves which testifies to a close bond between him and the earl. At some point in the 1290s he witnessed a charter between William and his heir Guy; over 30 years he had witnessed land transactions between the head of three generations of the family. Another witness to the indenture between Earl William and Guy was Richard D'Amundeville, for whom de Haseley, listed as Thomas de Charlecote, was attorney when D'Amundeville quitclaimed Berkswell in 1277-8. Amundeville was unique in being the only person to hold the post of assistant sheriff of Warwickshire from July 1282 to help ‘in keeping the peace in these troubled times’. Amundeville was an independent figure in his own right, and no stranger to royal patronage. Prior to his appointment as under-sheriff he had been staying in Northampton Castle as the king's guest. He was not above extortion; on one occasion in Berkswell he held a view of frankpledge twice, making his tenants appear and pay a second time. Amundeville most certainly did have strong ties to the Beauchamps. He witnessed a charter between Earl William and his brother Walter Beauchamp, amongst others. Even Hilton, whilst denying the presence of a bastard feudal affinity at this time, has to admit that Amundeville ‘was more often with the earl than most local signatories’. Clearly he would have been open to influence, especially in favour of the earl of Warwick. We do not know for how long he served as under-sheriff, but the wording of his appointment does give the impression that it was only a temporary arrangement. Indeed, given the wholesale appropriation by the Beauchamps of the shrievalty in the fourteenth century, it is remarkable how little connection there appears to have been between Earl William and the sheriffs in the later thirteenth century.

We have some insight into the relationship between the gentry and the Beauchamps at the close of the thirteenth century. Earl William, through his hereditary right of the Worcestershire shrievalty, had succeeded in controlling the legal and administrative apparatus of that county, although his influence was tempered by the considerable privileges enjoyed by the bishop of Worcester, the Cathedral Priory and the other monasteries. He exercised limited influence over the sheriffs of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, but by the end of the thirteenth century he had nearly succeeded in accumulating the ‘critical mass’ of property which would ensure control over the county community of Warwickshire. He still lacked the resources to distribute largesse on a wide scale, a prerequisite of that virtue which Carpenter describes as ‘good lordship’.

William was probably also inhibited in his actions by the presence of rival lords. This could take the form of other members of the higher nobility with neighbouring territories, who were better off, and would undoubtedly be able to attract a larger number of followers. This affected William to a greater extent than either his son, or grandson. This was because the county of Warwick had its royal administration attached to that of Leicestershire, and there was an independent earl of Leicester up until 1308. One would expect that there would have been a degree of competition between the two earls over the control of the county administration up to this time, and after 1308 there would have been a similar rivalry between the Beauchamps, and the earls of Lancaster, once the earldom of Leicester had been incorporated into the Lancastrian estates. We should also not forget the concentration of Lancastrian lands which were present in the north midlands, as well as the relative proximity of the De Clare family, the very well-off earls of Gloucester. All of these lords would have been more attractive patrons to members of the gentry in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. We should also consider the importance the church, as land owners and as a source of competition to the earl's influence in the county, especially the figure of Godfrey Giffard, bishop of Worcester. Giffard represented the only credible figure capable of hampering the earl's control of Worcestershire, and dealings between the two men were bound to be strained. The problem was exacerbated by the pugnacious character of both men, and soon a dispute arose between the bishop and the earl over the earl's lands in the Hundred of Oswaldslow, with the bishop proclaiming overall supremacy despite the earl protesting that he could act independently of the bishop and his officers. The dispute between the two men was a struggle over who exercised the ultimate authority in areas where the earl and the bishop's interests crossed. A legal dispute between the two men went on for the rest of the earl's life, and the earl's decision to be buried with the Worcester minorites should be seen as a final rebuke to Worcester cathedral priory.

By 1298 all the ingredients required for the affinity of the earl of Warwick to dominate Worcestershire and Warwickshire were in place. The Fitz-Geoffrey inheritance in 1297 had added respectably to the earl's patrimony and the new earl, being shrewd, strong-willed and a man of consummate political ability, was of the right calibre to provide a focal point for the county community. George Holmes dubbed the ‘period of disordered politics which ended in 1330’, in which Earl Guy was a leading figure, as ‘the first turbulent age of bastard feudalism’, and certainly from the outset of Guy's tenure as earl we see the full flourishing of the system.

From 1300 onwards, the shrievalty of Warwickshire and Leicestershire seems finally to have come under the control of the earl of Warwick. Philip de Gayton, sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire from 1300 to 1302, was probably the earl's most important retainer. He appears to have come from a modest Northamptonshire knightly family; following his death Philip left 10 marks rent to William, parson of the church of Gayton in Northampton. De Gayton appears to have been a younger son; his brother Theobald inherited the manor of Gayton as well as other lands in Northamptonshire. Philip's position with the earl appears to have been well rewarded, for he set about buying property in Warwickshire with a vengeance. He purchased the manor of Norton Lindsey from the Neville family, along with The Grove in Budbrooke, a manor which subsequently passed to the Beauchamps in the mid-fourteenth century. He bought the manor of Shrewley-in-Hatton in 1312, without bothering to pay for a king's licence, and had to pay 10 marks for a pardon. Whilst most of the charters on which Philip appears are from the first decade of the fourteenth century, none of them seem to pre-date his appointment as sheriff, and it would appear that de Gayton was recruited to the earl's affinity following his period as sheriff, and had not been associated with the earl prior to his appointment. He appears to have become the most senior of the earl's retainers soon afterwards. A significant number of the charters on which de Gayton appears are concerned with the manor of Berkswell: around 1305, the earl appears to have embarked upon a policy of buying up peasant lands and common pasture, and enclosing them, and Gayton's presence as witness on most of these charters is a possible indication that he was responsible for the implementation of this policy. In 1305 he was nominated by the earl as his attorney, whilst Earl Guy was overseas on the king's business, and in 1307 was given exemption from being put on assizes, juries or inquisitions because he was the earl's steward. He appears to have retired from the earl's service c.1311 when the last reference to him as a witness for the earl appears, possibly to see to his own property which he had been able to purchase from the rewards of his office.

De Gayton was succeeded as sheriff by John de Dene, who held the post on no less than five occasions between 1302 and 1312. Although de Dene does not appear on any of the earl's surviving witness lists, he was clearly a staunch Beauchamp man. He served as the earl's attorney in 1304. In 1308, following the death of Henry de Lacy, earl of Leicester, a petition from Thomas de Meynil was examined in which he accused Sir John de Dene ‘who is a bachelor of the earl of Warwick’ of attempting to oust him from the office of coroner of Leicestershire. De Meynil had been coroner of Leicestershire for over twenty years, and, following the death of Edward I, was re-elected to the post only to find that de Dene ‘would put another in his place without assent of the whole county’. This petition is remarkable because it shows that, by the beginning of the fourteenth century, the earl of Warwick, already with Warwickshire under his effective control, was seeking to extend his influence, albeit unsuccessfully, over Leicestershire, soon after the lands of the earldom of Leicester had been assimilated into the Lancastrian inheritance. Furthermore, Maddicott supposes that it was de Dene, on the orders of the earl, who suppressed Gaveston's pardon in Warwickshire, which eventually provided the legal loophole under which the king's favourite was eventually tried and executed.

The furore over Gaveston's execution provides an illuminating snapshot of Warwickshire administration in 1312. Because Gaveston's pardon was not read out in Warwickshire, he was still technically outlawed in that county. Whilst Gaveston was in prison at Warwick jail, the Bridlington Chronicle records that Gaveston was tried and found guilty by the justices William Inge and Henry Spigurnel. Spigurnel had served as under-sheriff of Worcestershire, a position nominated by the earl of Warwick, for several months in 1306, and the two men were both experienced justices of the king's bench. Gaveston's detention and trial were carried out under Warwickshire administration by men whose loyalty was primarily to Guy Beauchamp. However, because Beauchamp's position was more assailable than the earl of Lancaster's, Lancaster ‘took upon himself the peril of the business’ and Gaveston was beheaded on Blacklow Hill, this being the area of Lancaster's land nearest to Warwick Castle. For our purposes the most interesting document connected with this case is surely the long list of pardons which Edward issued in October 1313 to ‘Thomas, earl of Lancaster, and his adherents, followers and confederates’. Given that the pardon not only included those who participated in Gaveston's death but also included those who had indulged in ‘forcible entries into any towns or castles, or any sieges of the same; or on account of having borne arms, or having taken any prisoners, or of having entered into any confederacies whatever... touching or concerning Gaveston’, the list is more remarkable for those who are not mentioned rather than those who are. Earl Guy himself is the second name on the pardon list, but for the most part the list is primarily of Lancaster's adherents, with only a very few individuals of Warwick's named. Dugdale picks out a group whom he claims were ‘servants and retainers to this earl’ including Peter de Limesey, Osbert de Clinton, Ralph de Grendon and others. However, none of these men were particularly associated with Beauchamp and, given the circumstances of Gaveston's detention at Warwick, the names who are absent are most apparent. Both Inge and Spigurnel, who reputedly sentenced Gaveston to death are absent, as is John de Dene, then sheriff, who must have been heavily implicated in the affair. Theobald de Gayton is included on the list whilst his brother Philip, more intimately connected with the earl, is absent. Walter de Cooksey is present; as we have seen, his father was very closely connected with Earl William's administration, but the younger Walter does not appear on a single charter of Earl Guy's. Quite possibly this was because his master was the earl of Lancaster. Lancaster needed to be well represented in the midlands. Maddicott writes, ‘his strength lay in the north midlands rather than in the north itself’ and he possessed many lands in Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. The list is an extensive summary of Lancaster's retainers, and tells us much about the nature of a lord's affinity in the time of Edward II; the affinity appears to have been much more defined and rigid than in the early fifteenth century, or even a generation later in the mid-fourteenth century. These are men who rarely appear as witnesses of the earl of Warwick, and given that Thomas of Lancaster and Guy of Warwick were close political allies, the split in the county community between their adherents as revealed by this list is striking. Whereas Cooksey's father was a Beauchamp adherent, and frequent witness, his son was a Lancastrian adherent and does not seem to have associated himself with the members of the Beauchamp affinity. That Lancaster's adherents assumed the total responsibility for Gaveston's death is also revealing. Beauchamp's role as mastermind of the affair was well known, both to Edward II and the populace at large. Following Gaveston's death, the king's wrath appears to have been directed at Beauchamp; Edward had vowed to ‘have the earl of Warwick's head, or deprive him of his goods and condemn him to perpetual exile’. And yet once the responsibility for the deed had been claimed by Lancaster it was his supporters who were deemed culpable, and required pardons, and not Warwick's. The bond between lord and affinity were strong, and, as the pardon list reveals, a lord's supporters were liable for the conduct of their master.

There are a handful of names on the pardon list who were associated with the earl of Warwick, but they are so few that we can deal with them individually. They are important because they are possible examples of men of talent whose ability made them sought after by many lords, and whose appearance was a crucial feature of bastard feudal society. What is more likely is that they are members of the affinity of the earl of Warwick who found their way into the pardon list; they had probably been implicated in Gaveston's murder and were pardoned for that reason. A man like John Hamelyn most probably did have some contact with the affinity and administration of Lancaster. His lands were concentrated in Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire, and given Lancaster's landed interest in these counties one would expect Hamelyn to have become assimilated in Lancaster's administration there. If Hamelyn's presence on the list of Lancaster's retainers does indicate that this occurred, it was probably only in a minor role; Lancaster was the largest lay landholder in England, holding a third of the land of the crown, and places in his administration must have been limited and highly sought after. All other evidence seems to point to Hamelyn as a staunch Beauchamp man. His first appearance on a Beauchamp charter was as early as 1302. His name appears as a witness on 14 charters in the Beauchamp cartulary, and all, except for one, were for Guy de Beauchamp. Mostly he appears to have witnessed charters in the town of Warwick, perhaps an indication that this was where he spent most of his time on the earl's business. He was with the earl, however, at Elmley in 1304, Evesham in 1305 and at Westminster in May 1315. John Hamelyn testified to the king's treasurer regarding the earl's enfeoffment of the manor of Chedworth in 1306, was one of Guy's executors in 1315, and appears to have been one of those charged by the earl to keep an eye on the affairs of his children after his death. He witnessed a feoffment from the earl to his infant son John of the manors of Beoley and Yardley, and as late as 1325-6 witnessed Thomas Beauchamp, then still a minor, buying land in Warwick.

Another important figure in the administration of Earl Guy, who appears in the pardon list, is William de Sutton. His name would suggest a north Warwickshire origin, presumably around the area of Sutton Coldfield. The property of New Hall, in Sutton Park, a moated house probably occupied in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, is said to have been conveyed by William to Robert of Sutton around 1327. His name occurs frequently; in particular he seems concerned with the numerous small land purchases made by the earl in the town of Warwick itself, and his career of service seems to have been a long one. He is listed as a burgess of Warwick in 1306, was witness, alongside John Hamelyn, to the young Thomas Beauchamp's land purchase in 1325-6, and is referred to as one of Earl Thomas' stewards in 1332. It was he who was asked, in 1327, to investigate the level of deterioration at Warwick Castle, which had occurred during the minority of Thomas Beauchamp. He married well; it would appear that his wife was Margery de Spineto, a rich widow, and he obtained guardianship of her son and her estate, including the manor of Coughton in Warwickshire, in 1318. He was still lord of Coughton in September 1338.

The third and last major Warwick figure on the list of pardons is that of the clerk Adam de Harvington. De Harvington was appointed by the earl to the post of Deputy Chamberlain of the exchequer in 1298. He was appointed by Edward I, at the request of Earl Guy, to the custody of the manor of Talton, Worcestershire. He too was an executor of Guy's will, witnessed the earl's feoffment of Beoley and Yardley to his younger son in 1315 and with other clerks was entrusted to farm with £100 worth of the earl's lands in Rutland, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire for 10 years from 1315. It had been Earl Guy who promoted him into royal service and, following the earl's death, he appears to have progressed through the ranks of the royal administration, becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer at Dublin in 1326 and Chancellor of the Exchequer at London in 1327. In 1342 he conveyed the reversion of the manor of Harvington to Earl Thomas.

It was a characteristic of Earl Guy that many of his most trusted associates were clerks, of whom de Harvington was one. This might simply have been the preference of a well-educated man wishing to surround himself with his intellectual peers, but it is more likely to show an increasing need for literate men in what was essentially a bureaucratic position. Many of the clerks Guy patronised were of a similar social position to Harvington, who, despite his career in holy orders, was still from a respectable knightly family. John de Neville, another clerk in the administration of Earl Guy, was briefly made sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire. It was he who had taken seisin of the manor of Haseley for the earl in 1302. For whatever reason, his appointment to the shrievalty in 1311 seems to have been a very temporary measure; he only served for a fortnight before the post was handed back to John de Dene. Peter Le Blount, another clerk, whom Guy appointed to the exchequer and served as executor of the earl's will along with Harvington, was in the prominent Blount family, and his brother Walter was a member of Lancaster's affinity. Blount was appointed parson of the earl's manor of Hanslope. William de Wellesbourne perhaps came from a lower class. He first appeared as a witness on an inspection of an old charter in 1310-11, but by 1314-5 was listed as being ‘rector of the church of Berkswell’ when he acted as feoffee between the earl and his infant son John. At around the same time he was made attorney by the earl in a property transaction, and like Harvington was also an executor of the earl's will. In 1315 the earl demised £100 worth of lands to Harvington, William de Wellesbourne and Simon de Sutton. De Sutton was another clergyman in the earl's retinue who had been appointed to the church of South Luffenham whilst Roger Caumpe, yet another of the earl's executors, was parson of the church of Kibworth Beauchamp in Leicestershire. Wellesbourne, Blount, Sutton and Caumpe's appointments show the earl rewarding his clerical retainers with ecclesiastical benefices. As a method of reward this was far more advantageous to the earl than demising land, for not only was the appointment subject to the earl's discretion, and was open to more manipulation than a life grant of land, but the clerks could be expected to oversee the earl's interests in the manor.

In the last six months of the life of Guy Beauchamp, the earl finally achieved his political ambitions. Following Edward II's humiliation at the Battle of Bannockburn, the Lancastrian faction gained the upper hand. Edward II was forced to capitulate to the demands of the ordainers and re-instate the ordinances. Earl Guy, widely regarded as the ‘brains behind the ordinances’, was almost permanently in the king's presence from January 1315 to his death six months later. By this time, Guy had become a senior member of the king's council, exercising such a degree of influence that at least one chronicle records that he actually held the post of chief councillor. During this period it would appear that many of Guy's key officials and associates followed him to London, and stayed with the earl for at least part of his time there. A charter signed in Westminster not only shows stalwarts such as Adam de Harvington, Simon de Sutton and William of Wellesbourne to have been present in Westminster alongside the earl, but also more independent figures such as John Hamelyn, Thomas de Clinton and Thomas de Pipe.

The years 1298 to 1315 were a decisive period for the development of bastard feudalism in Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The earl succeeded in staffing the local administrative system with his placemen, and the shrievalty of Warwickshire and Leicestershire was firmly under his control for the first time. The system which Carpenter perceives in the fifteenth century of an all-encompassing affinity had not yet developed, and only a relatively small number of knights loyal to the earl were needed to staff the county administration and legal system. The very attraction of the Beauchamp affinity at this point in time seems to have been its exclusiveness, and those who were not in the ruling clique could be very active in their opposition to it. In 1297 John de Clinton of Coleshill stood accused of harbouring trespassers who had broken into the earl's park at Claverdon. By 1300, Walter Beauchamp, once a stalwart of the administration of Earl William, was reportedly willing to plunge the area into civil war over a quarrel with his nephew, Earl Guy, and the matter was not settled until the king intervened personally. The earl was later to buy the overlordship of Walter Beauchamp's son and heir, as a means of reinforcing his control over the troublesome Alcester branch of the family. Later, in Edward II's reign, the earl's hostility to the king brought those members of the county community opposed to the ruling clique in sympathy with the crown's position. By the time of the earl's death in 1315, there was a ready supply of candidates who had been out of favour with the Beauchamp affinity, and who were to find jobs in the local administration during the minority of the earl's son. Walter de Beauchamp was appointed sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire in 1316, whilst William le Beauchamp, of the Holt branch of the family, was appointed as sheriff of Worcestershire in the same year. John Pecche, who had formerly been a close associate of the Beauchamps in the later years of Edward I, and had even witnessed a charter between Earl William and his heir Guy, does not appear on any witness lists after 1307, the year Edward II succeeded to the throne and the earl of Warwick became an outspoken critic of the royal court. His loyalty to the court was rewarded when he was made guardian of the earl's land and property in Warwick in the years 1321-25.

Whilst their rivals may have prospered in the years of Thomas' minority, a hard-core of the affinity appears to have survived intact throughout the wilderness years of 1315 to 1330. The earl's children might well have provided a focal point for some of them in this period. The wardship of Thomas, as the earl's heir, was fiercely sought after and awarded on the discretion of the king. The details of the childhood of John, the earl's younger son, are unknown, but William of Wellesbourne's role as feoffee when the earl provided the manors of Beoley and Yardley for the infant would suggest that the earl's executors, and Wellesbourne in particular, had accepted a moral obligation to oversee the affairs of the child. Certainly, in May 1316, someone was complaining on John's behalf over incursions into his park at Beoley. In 1325-26, John Hamelyn, William de Sutton, William de la Zouche, widower of Countess Alice and Thomas Beauchamp's stepfather, as well as Thomas de Brailes, a future steward of the earl, gathered to witness the young Thomas Beauchamp's purchase of land. A minor would have provided a suitable focus for the affinity; it was only a matter of time before he would come into his inheritance and would be able to reward those who had loyally taken care of his interests in his youth. The fact that an affinity does seem to have survived in these years also testifies to the fact that, even without the presence of a central dominant figure, a network of loyalty had grown up which those in it found too valuable to disregard. The principal benefit would have been that of land purchase; as Carpenter points out, a possible buyer would find out that a certain property was for sale by word of mouth, and the network provided an invaluable system of communication. The network also provided a guarantee in an age when land transaction was a very risky venture. The manor of Frankley is an example of how a property was repeatedly traded throughout the affinity. Adam de Harvington gained the manor in 1308, and sold the reversion to Edmund de Grafton, a frequent charter witness of Earl Guy's. The manor stayed with the Grafton family until John de Grafton conveyed the manor to Gilbert de Chasteleyn in 1350. Chasteleyn sold the manor in 1354 to John de Beauchamp. Between 1308 and 1354, the manor had passed through two generations of the Beauchamp's affinity, before it eventually passed to the earl on his brother's death in 1360.

Thomas Beauchamp's tenure as earl, between 1330 and 1369, in some ways marks the zenith of the Beauchamp's control over the county community. From 1344 to 1369 the earl held the shrievalty of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, as he did the shrievalty of Worcestershire, of the gift of the king. Whilst the importance of the sheriff was gradually being eroded he was still the most important figure in the county administration. With power being devolved to new commissions of the peace, the earl's position of dominance was not affected, for he frequently sat on the commissions himself, or else one of his key associates was always on the commission. Furthermore, the reign of Edward III was far less divisive than the troubled reign of Edward II, and, unlike his father, Thomas was one of the crown's most trusted supporters. The earl could therefore expect the king to reinforce his authority and those opposed to the earl were less likely to obtain a royal intervention in their favour. This sense of unity was apparently felt at a local level, with the earl of Warwick the undisputed master of the west midlands.

In some respects, Earl Thomas was more fortunate than his father or grandfather. Throughout much of their time as earl, they were unfortunate to have two major earldoms, those of Gloucester and Leicester, bordering their lands. Both of these houses dissolved in the early fourteenth century, with Henry de Lacy's inheritance becoming part of the holdings of the earl of Lancaster, and the Clare inheritance split up. The presence of the Earl of Lancaster's estate, the largest in England, in proximity to the earl might appear to be a distinct danger to the hegemony of the earl of Warwick in the midlands. However, because his estates were so great, and his central administration was concentrated in the north-west, it meant that the opportunities for preferment for those who sought it were severely limited in Leicestershire and the north midlands in general, and the earl of Warwick was able to draw on the gentry from this area for his own administration. By the end of our period, Goodman notes that very few of the Leicestershire gentry were retainers of the earl of Lancaster, and that John of Gaunt ‘did not pursue a policy of domination over the gentry through office holding’ in the county, although he did follow this policy elsewhere, even after control of the shrievelty came back to the crown in 1369. Simon Pakeman and Robert de Herle were two important Leicestershire figures who, if they had been born a generation earlier, would probably not have come into the earl of Warwick's administration because they would have gravitated toward the administration of an independent earl of Leicester.

Earl Thomas' full appropriation of the powers of the shrievalty of Warwickshire and Leicestershire came on 26 June 1344, when the king made the earl sheriff of those two counties for life. This reward from Edward III certainly testifies to the king's affection and gratitude to the earl, but it also shows his confidence in the earl and his affinity not to use their additional power to undermine the crown's interests. In the Beauchamp cartulary, there exists a remarkable charter which gives some idea of the personal control which the earl of Warwick was able to exercise over his under- sheriffs by the middle of the fourteenth century. The charter is between the earl and John Waleys, who had been sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire since October 1343, and who was Earl Thomas' first under-sheriff in June 1344. Before his appointment as under-sheriff, Waleys signed a document in which he recognised the earl's right to 40 librates of rent from his property in Leicestershire, on the understanding that the document would be annulled if he satisfied the earl in the performance of his office. Effectively this meant that the under-sheriff would have been totally under Beauchamp's control unless he wished to lose a substantial sum of money. Waleys does not appear to have been a Beauchamp man, he appears to have owed his appointment as sheriff to royal favour, hence the need for this agreement between him and the earl, and in a sense the charter can be interpreted as a sign of weakness on the part of the earl, who should not have needed to resort to such unusual measures. However, it does show that the earl realised that his control over the shrievalty had to be absolute. The fact that the charter between the earl and Waleys is the only one of these charters to have been included in the Beauchamp cartulary, coupled with the fact that Waleys only survived in his post of under-sheriff for three months before being replaced by Richard of Stonley, a key retainer of the earl, suggests that Waleys did not satisfy the earl in his duties as under-sheriff and had to forfeit both his office and the deposit he had made for his ‘good behaviour’. After Waleys, all of Beauchamp's choices for the office of sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire were staunchly dependable and tended to serve for lengthy periods.

The importance of the sheriff was gradually diminishing throughout the middle of the fourteenth century and replaced by commissioners of the peace. The earl was fully active in these commissions from his first appointment as a commissioner in February 1332. Often the other keepers, or commissioners as they were later called, were associates of the earl. Thomas de Astley was appointed with the earl as keeper of Warwick in March 1332, on a commission of oyer and terminer with the earl in 1361 and on a commission of array with the earl in 1367, and was married to the earl's sister Elizabeth. His family also had a long-standing connection to the Beauchamp family; they held the manor of Astley itself on condition of holding the earl's stirrup whenever he mounted a horse. Lord Peter de Montfort, whose heir Guy married Thomas' daughter Margaret, sat on a commission of oyer and terminer with the earl in 1344 and 1359, and served as justice of the peace with the earl in March 1351 and April 1352. If the earl was absent then there was always at least one of his close associates on the team of commissioners. This was especially true if there was any incursion into the earl's property. A commission of oyer and terminer into a break-in at the earl's park at Sutton Coldfield in 1346 included Peter de Montfort and John de Peyto, the younger, who was an occasional charter witness of the earl in the 1340s. A similar complaint by the earl, concerning incursions into his park at Warwick a year later, was investigated by a commission consisting of Simon Pakeman, John de Merynton and Richard de Stonley, alongside the judges Roger Hillary and William de Shareshull. As we have mentioned, de Stonley was one of the earl's key retainers. John de Merynton had served as a witness between the earl and John Waleys, in the charter where the latter gave the earl his security of loyal service. Simon Pakeman came from a modest background, and his father was a well-to-do freeholder in the Leicestershire village of Kirby Muxloe. His overlords were the Herle family, and it seems he owed his legal background to the attentions of William de Herle, whose ward he was. By 1337, Pakeman was appearing as an attorney at the Court of Common Pleas, where Herle was chief justice. Although primarily a man of the earl of Lancaster, Pakeman also distinguished himself by serving the earl of Warwick. Presumably he came to Beauchamp's attention by way of Herle's son, Robert, who was Pakeman's overlord at Kirby Muxloe as well as one of the earl of Warwick's most prominent retainers. Pakeman was described as Thomas Beauchamp's attorney in 1341 and was later to prove his legal skills as the earl's legal representative in the dispute over Gower in 1356, for which the grateful earl gave Pakeman all lands and rents he had in Upper Boddington in Northamptonshire. Curiously, Pakeman's work for Warwick was primarily concentrated between 1346 and 1362, at a time when Henry Grosmont was earl of Lancaster, and Pakeman was denied the patronage which he had received under Earl Henry of Lancaster, or which he would subsequently attain in the service of John of Gaunt. In the late 1360's he would serve as a justice of the peace alongside Beauchamp.

The earl's stranglehold over the county administration was all encompassing. All legal settlements were subject to his goodwill or that of his affinity, and those accused of wrongdoing against the earl or his property could expect to be judged by a highly prejudiced group of his henchmen. This situation seems to have resulted in a large number of people attempting to escape from the widescale control of the affinity, and appears to have reached its apogee in February 1345 when the king asked for a list of those fleeing Warwickshire because they were not ‘willing to be judged by’ the earl, Peter de Montfort, Robert de Herle, Richard de Stonley or John de Merynton.

As a leading soldier of his day, Earl Thomas was frequently on campaign. To maintain control over the West Midlands he was forced to rely on his retainers more than his predecessors, gradually devolving more and more autonomy to them in his absences. His request in his will that the church in each of his manors be ‘given his best beast to be found there, in satisfaction of tithes forgotten and not paid’ and that his executors ‘should make full satisfaction to every man, whom he had in any sort wronged’ implies an abuse of power by his officials of which the earl was fully aware. In 1345, he enfeoffed a large proportion of his Worcestershire and Gloucestershire manors, along with Haseley in Warwickshire, to Thomas de Ferrers, Robert de Herle, John de Melbourn, Roger de Ledbury, Hugh Cooksey, Richard de Stonley and Walter de Shakenhurst in order to provide marriage portions for his daughters. Bean sees this as an ‘expedient that was undoubtedly intended to secure the profits of the estates to the earl in his lifetime, despite the vesting of the legal title in the feoffees’. The arrangement appears to have been a successful one; at some point prior to 1363, the earl re-enfeoffed the same manors along with many additional properties, to Sir John de Buckingham, Sir Robert de Herle, Sir John de Beauchamp, Sir Ralph Bassett of Sapcote, Sir Richard de Pirton, Walter de Shakenhurst and John le Rous. Unlike the 1345 enfeoffment, this charter has not survived, and so we can only guess at the purpose of this enfeoffment. However, both of these agreements indicate a very strong dependence of the earl upon his most trusted retainers and associates; these men were undoubtedly those entrusted with the day-to-day running of these manors, and the fact that he had given them the legal title to these estates, regardless of the reason for the enfeoffment, demonstrates that the earl had total confidence in them. The earl was still able to exercise as much control over these lands as he wished; in 1363 he provided a gift of £40 rent from the Wiltshire manors of Stratford Tony and Newton Tony, to his cousin Sir Roger Beauchamp. The rent was officially given to Sir Roger by Buckingham, Herle, etc. ‘with the earl's assent’, although the earl was clearly the de facto, if not de jure, controller of the property and on his death the lands reverted automatically back into his estate.

At around the same time the earl appears to have deputised much of the decision-making regarding the extension of his patrimony to the discretion of his retainers. Two documents in the Beauchamp Cartulary reveal two of his retainers, Richard de Stonley in 1347 and John de Sandrested in 1351, ‘in the work of Earl Thomas’, to have bought property in their own name and then quitclaimed it to the earl. It is uncertain how common this practice was, but clearly it did present a risk; if the retainer had purchased a valuable property for a reasonable price it would be feasible for him to pass it on to the earl at a higher price, and thereby earn a hefty commission. Whether Stonley or Sandrested did receive commissions for this service is unrecorded, but it is still a clear indication that even matters as important as the purchase of property were being entrusted to the earl's retinue, and is a sign of the importance of the earl's foremost retainers in the middle of the fourteenth century.

The affinity of Earl Thomas was clearly the most influential group in the west midlands in the mid-fourteenth century, and it is necessary to find out of what sort of people it was made. Essentially the affinity of the earl can be broken down into two categories: existing local landholders, and retainers with clerical and administrative skills. On occasion the latter group also possessed a martial background, and not only served the earl at home but also served in his company on his frequent military campaigns. There was frequently an overlap between both groups and the boundaries between these two camps became very blurred when a member of a local knightly family rose through the earl's administrative ranks.

The first group is perhaps the easier to categorise; their association with the earl increased their own position in the region's social hierarchy and the affinity's subversion of the instruments of local power could be used for their own individual interests as well as that of the earl. Sir Hugh de Cooksey, one of those to whom the earl demised land for his daughters' dowries in 1345, was the younger son of Walter, Earl William's associate. Hugh Cooksey had succeeded in transforming the fortunes of his family from their modest knightly origins to being one of the most important Worcestershire knightly families by a persistent policy of land accumulation. His relationship with the earl appears to have been amicable, albeit at arm's length, and his inclusion as guardian of the earl's lands is one of only a few connections between him and Thomas Beauchamp on a personal level. He did act as a witness between the earl and a Beauchamp man, Thomas Cassy of Hadzor, but any role in the earl's administration would have been hindered by the needs of his own extensive patrimony. Nevertheless, he served frequently with the earl on judicial commissions in the 1340s and 1350s, and sat on a commission investigating an incursion into the earl's parks in Worcestershire in 1349. Cooksey himself owed some of his land to favourable court judgements; a suit of dower brought by Isabel, widow of Hugh's elder brother Walter, over a messuage and a carucate of land in Stockton on Teme, appears to have been ruled in Hugh's favour, and his relationship, along with that of other prominent local landowners, to the earl seems to have stemmed from a mutual need on the sides of both parties. Other prominent, independent, midland landholders were connected with the earl more intimately. As we have seen, Beauchamp had enfeoffed land to the Leicestershire based Ralph Bassett of Sapcote and others in the 1360s. Bassett appears to have served with Beauchamp at Calais in 1347, and received a general pardon there at the earl's request. He was joint holder of a debt along with the earl and Richard de Pirton in 1359 and their association appears to be an example of the earl cultivating support in Leicestershire. Beauchamp increased his connections in Staffordshire by the marriages of two of his daughters to Ralph Basset of Drayton and Ralph, earl of Stafford. The earl of Stafford had sat on a commission of oyer and terminer with Beauchamp in 1344 and, in 1351, a bond made between the two men was recorded in the close rolls. In July 1356, Ralph acted as feoffee when the earl re-granted his castle of Swansea and lands of Gower to himself and his heirs in tail male. This appears to be an example of a feature of bastard feudalism identified by Carpenter; the affinity being used as a means of extending influence into areas where the earl was less well represented, but it also goes further. By effectively incorporating a fellow peer such as the earl of Stafford into his circle of associates, the earl was linking his affinity with that of a neighbouring county, in such a way as did not occur between the affinities of Earl Guy and Thomas of Lancaster. To use Carpenter's words, bastard feudalism appears to have developed into more of a ‘seamless web of influence’ by the mid-fourteenth century, effectively extending the influence of Beauchamp into the north midlands, and Stafford into Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

Part of the standard definitions of a bastard feudal society is a specialisation in the work of a lord's retainers, and the distinction between the earl's wartime and peacetime retinues. Bean, however, perceives that there was a degree of crossover between the retinues of the higher nobility in times of peace war and, in the mid-fourteenth century, there does appear to have been some crossover between the earl's wartime and his peacetime revenues. A likely explanation for this is to be found in the earl's own character; just as his father, being an educated man, had patronised educated men of the church, so did his son apparently promote those whom he had served on military campaigns with. The first contact we have between Ralph Basset of Sapcote and the earl was in Calais in 1347. Two other of the earl's key retainers were also granted pardons for serving against the French; Gilbert de Chasteleyn, and Richard de Stonley.

Gilbert de Chasteleyn first appears with Thomas Beauchamp in Calais in September 1346 where he is described as being from "kengham", possibly Kingham in Oxfordshire. Before that time he had acted in Warwickshire as a feoffee between John de Segrave and Sir Fulk de Birmingham. Immediately after serving with the earl he appears to have been a very prominent member of the west midlands' county community. He was an occasional charter witness for the earl; witnessing charters in Warwick as well as at the earl's manor of Sutton Coldfield. He was present in 1350 when one of the earl's retainers quitclaimed all the property he had acquired in Warwick in the service of the earl, showing an involvement in the earl's internal administration. However, he appears to have been of most use to the earl in local affairs and was appointed as under-sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire in October 1351, holding the post until October 1354. Immediately prior to his appointment as sheriff, Chasteleyn appears to have attempted to build up a base for himself in the midlands; he acquired the Worcestershire manor of Frankley from John, son of John de Grafton in 1350, and in 1351 bought a messuage, two carucates of land, twelve acres of meadow and £8 rent from William Trussel in the Warwickshire manor of Loxley. He frequently served as justice of the peace with the earl, both in Warwickshire and Worcestershire throughout his time as sheriff, and was a commissioner into a break-in of the earl's parks of Elmley in 1349, and Sutton Coldfield in 1351. He appears to have used his experience in the administration of the earl of Warwick as a springboard for a career in the royal administration. Following his tenure as sheriff he sold the manor of Frankley in 1354, and thereafter appears to have travelled frequently in the service of the crown. In 1355, he was appointed by Edward to oversee the running of Titchfield Abbey in Hampshire, and in July of that year he was appointed steward of the household of the king's daughter Isabel. His last appointment appears to have been in 1358, when he was appointed as a commissioner in Northampton, whereafter he dramatically disappears from view. Chasteleyn's promotion into the royal household shows just how far an ambitious and talented household knight was able to progress at this time and is very similar to that of an even more senior retainer of the earl's, Robert Herle, who also became an important agent of the crown. Chasteleyn and Herle's example is perhaps a precedent to the findings of Bennett who perceives a connection between the importance of the duke of Lancaster in the declining years of Edward III's reign and the earldom of Chester to Richard II, and ‘a wholly unprecedented importance in the affairs of the realm’ of men from the north-west of England. Bennett concludes that ‘closeness to the royal family determined access to government patronage’, and in this respect the affinity of the earl of Warwick was well placed. The king and the earl were on very friendly terms, and both the earl, and his brother John, were founder members of the Order of the Knights of the Garter. Close associates of the earl would doubtless have come into contact with the king and his retinue. One of the advantages which the earl could offer those who had served him loyally, was the chance to further their careers in the king's administration, and it is highly likely that he exercised his influence upon the king for their benefit; the arrangement could have proved mutually beneficial, both for Beauchamp and the retainer concerned. The retainer, if he was ambitious, gained an invaluable elevation in status, and the earl would have benefited from a greater influence in the royal administration by having friends and people who owed their position to him in the service of the crown.

Sir Robert de Herle was probably the earl's most senior official from 1339 until the end of the 1340s. He came from a respectable Leicestershire family, and his sister married into a cadet branch of the family of the earl of Pembroke. He does, however, appear to have had an administrative and legal background; William de Herle, Robert's father, was chief justice of the court of common pleas intermittently between 1327 and 1337. Furthermore, he sat on the king's council up to his death in 1347. He also appears to have been close to the Bassetts of Drayton; in 1339 he was the Bassett's retainer in their manors of Moulton, Buckby, Olney and Walsall. In April of that year, the earl granted a life indenture to Sir Robert Herle at Wadborough. Herle was commissioned to serve the earl as one of the ‘bachelors’ of his household in peacetime, and to attend the earl in time of war and at tournaments. He was to receive adequate expenses for him and his squires, and in addition to this, the earl granted Herle the wardenship of Barnard Castle along with its forests and lands. Bean has pointed out that the Barnard Castle appointment in itself would have made Herle a pivotal figure in the running of the earl's estates. Herle's fee is not mentioned in the original indenture, but a separate letter patent shows that, at this time, the earl granted Herle a a lifetime lease on some lands and rents in the vicinity of Barnard Castle. Herle witnessed the earl re-granting his estate to his male heirs in 1344, and is listed as one of the retainers who nominally had to hand over the earl's lands to his feoffees. In September 1343, Herle obtained a pardon of the king's suit for homicides, felonies, robberies and larcenies perpetrated by him and any consequent outlawries, and it is noted that the pardon was sealed personally in front of Edward III and Thomas, earl of Warwick. In 1344, he and the earl are described as mainpernors to have a priest, William de Sharnebourn, ousted from the benefice of Stowemarket in the diocese of Norwich. In February 1345, he was required, along with other members of the earl of Warwick's clique, to submit the names of those who were refusing to be judged by him, and in July of that year he was one of the team to which Thomas entrusted some of his lands to provide marriage portions for his daughters. At some point in the late 1340s he appears to have progressed from the earl's service to that of the king. In November 1354, he is described as steward of the lands and castles of Edmund and John, the king's sons. By November of 1360 he is described as the ‘king's lieutenant in Brittany’, whilst a year later he was referred to as the ‘king's admiral’, and was constable of Dover Castle and warden of the Cinque ports. However he was clearly still on close terms with the earl of Warwick, and appears on several of the earl's crucial charters in the 1350s and early 1360s. In July 1356, he acted as feoffee for the earl when he entailed Gower and Swansea castle, and is listed as part of the team to whom the earl enfeoffed his lands in the 1360s. He and many others of the same men purchased the manor of Conesgrave in the same year. Herle is perhaps the finest example of a man using the bastard feudal system to his own uses. He had been rewarded by the earl for his services by a lifetime indenture, became an officer of the king's household whilst still aiding and working for his old lord when his skills were required. Herle's elevation could not have occurred without the help of the earl of Warwick. It was a sign of the cordial relations between the king and his magnates at this time that no conflict of interest occurred and it was seen as perfectly acceptable for a man of considerable talent, as Herle doubtlessly was, to serve both masters.

Coming from knightly families, Chasteleyn and Herle shared a similar background. The career of Richard de Pirton demonstrates how a man, of apparently humble origins, could progress equally as far. His name implies that his origins were in the Beauchamp's Worcestershire manor of the same name. Although, as a ‘clerk’, he is listed as one the earl's key retainers in 1344, he rose in prominence in the period after Chasteleyn and Herle left for the service of the king. In 1354 he was listed as the earl's steward at his manor of Bliston, Cornwall, and whilst, in 1356, his role as feoffee in the entail of Gower and Swansea shows his importance, his position is still described as that of ‘clerk’. That year he was acting as attorney in the name of the earl and overseeing transactions of land on the earl's behalf. At some point after May 1352, probably the late 1350s, he became the earl's ‘attorney-general’, a post which he still held in February 1362 when he co-owned a debt of £1,000 along with Thomas Beauchamp. Like most of Beauchamp's trusted retainers, he was enfeoffed of a large proportion of lands in 1361 by the earl. He appears to have remained the earl's attorney-general until the earl's death in 1369, and he subsequently sat in the same post for the earl's son, the second Thomas, earl of Warwick. In later years he rose to prominence as dean of Colchester, but still frequently sat on the earl's council up to his death in 1387. He was buried in St Paul's, London, next to John Beauchamp, Earl Guy's younger son, who had died in 1360.

Unlike Herle or Chasteleyn, Pirton does not seem to have played much of a role in the administration of the west midlands; his duties were apparently confined to the running of the earl's own estates and he did not seem to sit on any judicial commissions or act as a justice of the peace. He was, however, appointed by the earl to his hereditary office of Chamberlain of the Exchequer, a post which he held continuously from 1353 to 1365. The circumstances of his dismissal from the post were part of a royal scandal which shows the dangers and rivalries in royal service. Pirton and Ralph de Kestevan, the other clerk of the exchequer, were accused of framing Richard de Chesterfield, a deputy clerk, for the crime of embezzling over £1,000. Chesterfield was tried for the crime twice, and found to be innocent, whereupon the king's wrath turned against Pirton and Kestevan; Edward III passed a decree that if ‘those who prosecute false claims should be found false or bad, those making them should incur the same pain as the accused would have if convicted’ and invited Chesterfield to seek retribution under its terms, an offer which he declined. Nevertheless, Pirton was confined to the Tower of London until he should ‘make to the king fine and ransom according to the statute’. What is remarkable about the incident is that a member of the affinity of the earl of Warwick was accused along with Chesterfield, so that two key figures in the Warwick administration were on opposite sides of the dispute.

William de Wenlock had strong connections to Beauchamp's affinity. He is listed as a clerk making arrangements for the marriage of Isabel, daughter of the earl in 1359, and co-owned the manor of Conesgrave with other prominent members of the earl's affinity, including Pirton. Wenlock was accused of bribing Chesterfield with a jewel worth 24 marks ‘to suffer him to go in his company into the king's presence at Westminster with a bag with the money reserved for the king's chamber, to the scandal of the king’, a charge Wenlock described as ‘frivolous, fictitious, and of malice set forth’. This dispute between Pirton and Wenlock, both members of the same affinity, and joint-owners of a manor, shows that, in this case at least, the affinity was not necessarily a close bond of allegiance. All of this occurred whilst the earl was away on his Prussian crusade, and without his presence, the shared allegiance between Pirton and Wenlock appears to have fragmented. The whole Chesterfield incident shows the internecine rivalry that could occur in the administrative ranks, and, if the charges levelled against Pirton were true, gives some indicator of the ruthless character which would have been a pre-requisite for an ambitious retainer in the administration of the higher nobility.

Men like Wenlock would have provided the cohesive element upon which the earl's system of control was established. Whilst Herle and Chasteleyn appear to have served their apprenticeship with the earl before graduating onto the crown's affairs, and Pirton would have been absent from the seat of the earl's midland powerbase for long periods of time, it was the lesser retainers, usually from clerical or administrative backgrounds, who formed the backbone of the administration. Such a man was Robert Mile, who with Thomas Cassy of Hadzor and Thomas Stokke, acted as a feoffee when the earl bought the reversion of some lands on the outskirts of Droitwich in 1357; in the same year he gave £40 to Simon de Luscombe which the earl owed him, and, in 1361, he received £10 10s 0d from John Hastang in part payment of a debt which Hastang owed the earl. It would appear likely that he was the same Robert Mile who was appointed warden of Stratford-upon-Avon college in 1384. The brothers Thomas Robyne and William de Salwarp are further examples of this type of lesser figure. In 1351, Thomas was referred to as ‘our parker of Salwarp’, and is listed as holding a moiety of the manor of Potterspury in 1369. William appears to have been one of the earl's retainers in Droitwich in 1356, was one of the feoffees when the earl re-entailed his property in the 1360s, and was one of the team of Beauchamp men who purchased the manor of Conesgrave in 1363. The ambitions of these men appear to have been modest, and whilst their connection with the earl would have made them notable figures in their local region, they did not appear to share the career ambitions of men such as Herle or Pirton. Instead, Thomas and William's main long-term goal appears to have been to provide a chantry for the parish church of St Martin's in Salwarp. They originally obtained a licence for this in 1347, but were thwarted in their efforts for over twenty years, until the earl appears to have intervened personally in 1368. It was still these sort of men upon whom the earl was relying to ensure that his estates were well kept and looked after; men with very localised interests and aspirations, whose ambition was to be successful in their own part of the county.

The picture of the administration of Earl Thomas is therefore distinct from that of his father and grandfather. The period 1330 to 1369 appears to have been one in which the relationship between lord and retainer flourished. Earl Thomas could prove a generous master; Simon Pakeman was well rewarded for his legal expertise in the Gower suit, John Lenkenore, a household knight of Earl Thomas, was granted the Oxfordshire manor of Spelsbury for a time. Robert de Herle was given his lifetime indenture, tellingly, in 1339 which is when he appears to have begun his period in the earl's service. The earl of Warwick's reliance upon his retainers in this period can be attributed to two factors. The first of these was clearly the character of Earl Thomas himself. His interests were limited, and seem to have been merely confined to the battlefield, the life to which he was particularly suited. He did not take part in the internal politics of Edward III's reign, and, whilst the circumstances of his children's marriages, and the expansion of his estates prove he could fiercely pursue his own interests, he also appears to have been uninterested in the running of his estates; his retainers appear to have been left unhindered in their day-to-day tasks. The other reason for the increasing importance of the earl's retainers appears to have been a parallel rise in the earl's landed holdings. With the significant increase in his own wealth, which marked his tenure as earl, so did his own administration need to become more elaborate. Given that the lands which yielded the most revenue were situated some distance from the west midlands, those charged with their upkeep would have been granted a degree of autonomy not needed by those within one or two days travelling distance away from Warwick. In addition, the less profitable manors, particularly those in the old Beauchamp fief in Worcestershire, would have become gradually less important with properties such as Gower falling under the earl's control, and so they were entrusted to his retainers and supporters, even to the extent of being enfeoffed directly to them in order to provide marriage portions for his daughters. This, in turn, also served to augment the importance of those whom he chose to enfeoff.

Not only was the earl increasingly reliant upon his own paid retainers, but he was also increasingly reliant upon his affinity of neighbouring lords. The local royal administration in which the earl maintained control over the crown's offices in the county was always a co-operation between the earl's retainers and neighbouring lords who were on close terms with the earl. Whilst Beauchamp men such as Herle and Richard de Stonley frequently sat on judicial commissions, so did men such as Peter de Montfort, Astley and Cooksey, neighbouring lords who were friendly with the Beauchamp family and who, alongside Beauchamp's retainers, were able to work the system for their own benefit. The men to whom the earl chose to demise his lands in 1345, in order to provide dowries for his daughters, were mainly his retainers, but also include the names of Thomas de Ferrers and Hugh de Cooksey, showing that the earl was willing to entrust his lands to local landholders outside his own administration. The transitory nature of his own affinity is also a peculiar trait. Major players such as Herle or Chasteleyn were only an integral part of his administration for a number of years before going on into the service of the crown. Even a man such as Pirton, who appears to have remained in the service of the earl of Warwick for most of his professional life, spent time in the earl's Cornish manors, as well as at London; a natural result of the increase in the earl's landed estates.

The growth of the Beauchamps' administration and their affinity from 1269 to 1369 shows a very strong, linear development which changed with the fortunes of the Beauchamps themselves, and can be divided into three main stages. The first period lasted from 1269 to the mid 1280s, with the earl of Warwick indisputably the most powerful lay figure in the west midlands, but with only a limited amount of support from, and control of, the local gentry. By about the early 1290s, the death of most of the remaining dowagers, as well as gradual land accumulation in the region appears to have realised a ‘critical mass’, whereby the earl could attract sufficient prominent local knights and landholders to staff the local administration with his placemen. Those members of his family, on whom he had relied previously, saw their importance eclipsed by a new system based on the affinity, by which all forms of county administration were subject to the discretion of the earl and his followers. This appears to have been based upon a solid system of allegiance, with little crossover between the adherents of different lords. Given that it was a system based on its own exclusiveness, those outside the affinity were able to take their grievances to the king, who, nominally at least, did have power to sanction the earl and his associates. This system appears to have grown, until 1344, when the third stage of the development officially brought the shrievalty of Warwickshire and Leicestershire under the control of the earl and his affinity. As described above, this period saw a growing reliance upon the earl's retainers, although it would appear that this was entirely according to the wishes of the earl himself.

The years 1344-69 marked the zenith of Beauchamp control over Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the fourteenth century. The earl's heir, Thomas [II] was not a man of the calibre of his father, and succeeded in becoming embroiled in the troubled, factional politics of Richard II's reign with the consequence that, as in the reign of Edward II, those who were denied privilege by the lord's affinity were able to seek the protection of the king. Thomas II's problems would have been compounded by the fact that he had lost the control of the shrievalty of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, when the office reverted back to the king on the death of his father. The earl of Warwick would not enjoy the same level of control over the west midlands as Thomas I until the time of Richard Beauchamp at the beginning of the fifteenth century.

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