By Mark Arvanigian
PhD Dissertation, Durham University, 1999
Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to uncover the nature of landed society in the NorthEast, and the creation of a new political matrix there from c.1377-1413. It will trace the development of a Lancastrian North-East, and the role played by the Neville family and other members of the region’s elite in it. The Nevilles were instrumental in Henry IV’s rise to power, and became the focal point of his subsequent efforts to stabilise the North. Much of their influence in later generations was the result of the political successes of Ralph Neville, first earl of Westmorland, and his rise to prominence in this period was the direct result of his Lancastrian associations. His career will therefore be closely considered.
However, other members of the North-east’s political community also rose to prominence in this period. Most notable among these was Sir Ralph Eure, a Durham knight of considerable ability who became perhaps the most important political figure below comital rank in the region. In overseeing the running of the palatinate of Durham, and holding the office of sheriff and numerous other commissions in the counties of Yorkshire and Northumberland, Eure ensured great continuity and competence in the northern administration, and eased the transition from Ricardian to Lancastrian regimes in this most unstable of regions.
The thesis will therefore investigate the careers of many members of the northeastern gentry, and place them within the local and national political framework. This was a diverse and dynamic group, with a range of interests and abilities; this is reflected in their office holding and financial choices. By studying especially the most important of these figures, and by using the excellent records of the palatinate of Durham – one of the finest sets of surviving medieval provincial records in the country – the thesis will thereby illustrate the nature of secular political society in Durham ad the North-East, in the context of the national political scene.