The Government of London and its relations with the Crown 1400 – 1450
By Caroline Barron
PhD Dissertation, Queen Mary, University of London, 1970
Abstract: The available sources have, to some extent, determined the form of this thesis, which was undertaken in the hope that a more detailed study of the relations between London and the Crown during the years 1400-1150 would place in perspective the crises with which it begins and ends. The most important source of material for this study has been the Journals of the Court of Aldermen and Common Council which survive from 1416 (the years 1429- 1436 are missing). Historians with the help of a nineteenth century index have quarried in these Journals, but they have never been read through systematically. Journals nos. 3 and 6, having been wrongly bound up, could not be used until their pages had been sorted into the correct order from the internal evidence of their contents. The scribes who compiled the Journals were both careless and cautious which increases the difficulty in interpreting their crabbed notes. From studying the Journals dominant themes emerged which were then followed up at the Public Record Office and elsewhere.
The conclusions from this study fall into three main categories. The Journals provided a great deal of material from which it was possible to draw a much more detailed picture of the machinery and business of the government of medieval London. The Aldermen and civic officials emerge as conservative, but conscientious, men who might press hardly upon minority interests, but had constantly before their eyes the needs of the City as a whole.
Secondly it has been possible to tidy up the chronology of the crises themselves. At such times as Bolingbroke’s usurpation and Cade’s revolt the civic scribes were least active and most cautious. But it seems clear that the London support for both these men has been exaggerated and that the fundamental conservatism of the City governors was not easily rocked, whether by royal scions or Kentish peasants.
But this study has proved most useful where the more mundane contact between the Crown and the citizens could be examined, In this way it has been possible to place the financial relations between the King and the City in perspective, and to realize that the King did not come as a beggar to the Londoners, since he had at his disposal all the chartered freedoms and privileges which were essential to the communal and economic life of the City. London, in spite of its great prestige and financial importance, still operated in the fifteenth century within a framework of royal privilege. ‘While the memory of Richard II’s action in 1392 was still, green, the Londoners were in no position to demand redress of grievances before supply. In understanding the delicate balance of the relationship between the Crown and the Londoners it is easier to understand the survival of the Lancastrian dynasty.