The Household Knights of King John

By S. D. Church | Go to book overview

1
INTRODUCTION

In 1901, J. E. Morris first drew attention to the importance of the royal military household in the armies of Edward I. In his work on Edward's campaigns in Wales, Morris described the king's military household as 'a small standing army' which 'must have been invaluable as a nucleus of resistance against the Welsh while others were being raised'.1 The knights of Edward's familia were singled out for particular attention by Morris. They performed the functions of a 'headquarters staff' and were given all manner of other duties. They garrisoned the king's castles and governed those parts of Wales which Edward had conquered. During times of war, Morris argued, King Edward's household knights were in charge of recruitment, transport, and escort duty in addition to their martial function as the nucleus of the king's army. While Morris did not extend his discussion to the problem of the functions of household knights in peacetime, he did describe the importance of the military household in times of crisis. In 1920, T. F. Tout brought out the second volume of his Chapters in the Administrative History of Medieval England in which he built upon the conclusions arrived at by Morris. He suggested that Edward's army 'was essentially the household in arms'.2 In effect he was saying that the king's military household was not just the nucleus of the army, but actually was the army. The king's household consisted of a small number of mounted warriors, he argued, made up of bannerets, knights, squires, and sergeants-at-arms. According to Tout, this core could be expanded rapidly at very short notice when circumstances required.3

If the military household was the royal army, then it followed that it was the household itself which made the preparations for, and organised the conduct of, the campaign. It was the king's stewards and the king's

____________________
1
J. E. Morris, The Welsh Wars of Edward I (Oxford, 1901), p. 84.
2
Tout, Chapters, ii, p. 133.
3
Ibid, p. 138; M. C. Prestwich, War, Politics and Finance under Edward I (London, 1972), ch. 2.

-1-

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