Serving the man that ruled: aspects of the domestic arrangements of the household of King John, 1199-1216
By Henrietta Kaye
PhD Dissertation, University of East Anglia (2013)
Abstract: King John played a direct role in the domestic arrangements of his household. He shifted the function of officials, moulded the structure of household offices and took personal control over the purveyance of food, wine and luxuries. During his reign, John adapted his household to suit his circumstances and personal method of ruling. These findings reveal that a medieval king could be directly involved in the minutiae of his domestic establishment; this is an aspect of kingship not previously noticed by historians. It is upon these findings that this thesis makes its greatest original contribution to our understanding of the period.
To reach these conclusions, this thesis examines the officials at court and in the localities who enabled the domestic side of the household to function effectively. Hitherto, the medieval royal household of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries has been studied as part of the wider system of Angevin government. The political, administrative and financial elements of court are, however, entirely outside my remit. This thesis interrogates the evidence of the household ordinances from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, by using a corpus of record sources extant from 1199 onwards, which break through the façade of departmentalism to reveal the complexity of the royal household.
The king’s chamber and his stewards are the focus of the first two chapters. These chapters show the changing nature of the household; they reveal the expansion of the chamber’s sphere of function and the decline of the stewards’ domestic role. The purveyance of household victuals is the focus of the final three chapters. These chapters demonstrate how the peripatetic nature of John’s household was enabled through a network of local and court officials. By serving King John in his domestic needs, these officials were a vital tool in the facilitation of his rule.