The Soldier in Later Medieval England
Introduction Military Pardons Database for 1345 and 1359
by Dr Nicholas A Gribit
On this webpage we have provided access to two datasets collected by Dr Nicholas A. Gribit in support of his PhD and post-doctoral research at the University of Leeds. These are accessible here as downloadable PDF files. In addition there is a further link to some editorial principles followed in the collection phase.
These datasets contain records of royal pardons granted to men (and one woman ) who served on English military expeditions in the duchy of Aquitaine (1345-46) and in northern France (1359) during the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War (1337-59).
Both expeditions were significant in England’s war with France. In 1345 Henry of Lancaster, earl of Derby (later earl, and then duke, of Lancaster), led an English army to south-western France (Aquitaine) and achieved unprecedented victories against royal French forces. The English successes at Bergerac and Auberoche were the first decisive victories of the war for either side, and a forerunner of England’s dominance in the following decade. The Reims campaign in northern France in 1359 represented Edward III’s last overseas expedition which, despite the absence of a decisive battle, forced the French to accept the ignominious terms of Treaty of Brétigny.
The pardons were produced by the English chancery and are written in Latin. They are mostly enrolled on the Patent Rolls, which are kept today at The National Archives (TNA) at Kew in class C 66. A small number of pardons relating to service in Aquitaine are enrolled on the Gascon Rolls, TNA in class C 61, and a summary translation of both these series of enrolments is available via the published Calendars of Patent Rolls and the Gascon Rolls website (http://www.gasconrolls.org/en/).
These documents are rich sources of evidence containing a wealth of information relating to different aspects of the pardoning process, and to the individuals whom it involved. The pardons, for example, can often elucidate the relationships between the perpetrators and recipients, as well as their occupations and status, and of the retinue captains under whom they served. It is possible to identify recidivists, those soldiers who were granted multiple pardons over several decades, as well as hardened criminals such as Sir John Darcy who, with a band of gangsters, terrorised the Lincolnshire town of Louth for more than a year. More trivial crimes, such as the theft of wax and candle-sticks from churches, appear in the pardon records, which also reveal the identities of corrupt officials. Occasionally the activities of more obscure individuals over the course of a military campaign are outlined. For example, Thomas Hankokson of Oldham, who attended the carriages on the army’s march to Reims in 1359, would probably have remained an anonymous figure of the past were he not pardoned for killing Thomas Walker of Salford.
The evidence contained in the database, therefore, will be of interest to academic researchers, family historians, students and, of course, anybody who simply wishes to know about crime, criminality and warfare in the fourteenth century.
The database is a research tool which has been developed over the course of research undertaken during my doctoral research at Leeds University (2008-13), followed by a short-term fellowship at the Leeds Humanities Research Institute (2013) and, more recently, during a project funded by a British Academy Small Research Grant (2014-15). To all these institutions I am warmly grateful.
A study of how the pardoning process fitted into the recruitment of a medieval army forms part of my recently published book, Henry of Lancaster’s Expedition to Aquitaine, 1345-46: Military Service and Professionalism in the Hundred Years’ War (2016) (https://boydellandbrewer.com/henry-of-lancaster-s-expedition-to-aquitaine-1345-1346.html). This monograph is the first full-length study of the campaigns led by Henry of Lancaster in Aquitaine, and includes a detailed biographical study of the individuals involved
An in-depth study of the pardon evidence contained in the database will be presented in a forthcoming article.
Dr Nicholas A. Gribit