The earls in Henry the Second’s reign
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Sheffield, June (1982)
The object of the thesis is to provide a total picture of the earls in Henry II’s reign. Chapter One looks at the history of earldoms in England, before and after the Norman conquerors brought with them Carolingian and Norman traditions of local government. Chapter Two examines the duties, rights and perquisites of the earls as local officials, how their position changed in the course of the eleventh and early twelfth centuries, and how, except in certain special cases, their practical role as local officials became insignificant early in Henry Ins reign. Chapter Three looks at various aspects of the lives of Henry II I s earls: their constant travelling; their residences; their military lifestyle and culture, and their religion. Chapter Four describes the complex structure of the earls’ honours, and the financial and administrative problems that the earls faced. Chapters Five and Six examine the relationship between the earls and royal government.
Chapter Five looks at the role of the earls in central government, both as individuals and as a group, the impact on the earls of royal justice and the increasing dependence of the earls on a favourable position at the royal court. Chapter Six deals specifically with taxation: the role of the earls in forming taxation policy; the impact of taxes on the earls, and the growing dependence of taxation on individual feudal and political relationships between king and subject. Chapter Seven examines the revolt against Henry II in 1173-4, the greatest crisis of the reign, in which many earls were involved, both for and against the king. Chapter Eight looks at the region comprising Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, showing the earls in their role as powerful local landlords and Henry II’s efforts to establish effective royal control in the area.