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‘A mission he bore – to Duke William he came’: Harold Godwineson’s Commentum and his covert ambitions. Ad F. J. van Kempen

Harold Godwineson’s journey to France, depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, is nowadays mostly regarded as rather reckless attempt to free two hostages in Normandy. It is a curious incident, interrupting Harold’s ascent to power in his homeland. William of Malmesbury’s description of it as a fishing party has always been dismissed as a silly explanation. This article connects Malmesbury’s phrase ‘commentum’ (‘pretext’) with other sources on the expedition. This comparison shows that Harold’s boat trip and his intended diplomacy in France were not an interlude in his policy, but formed a continuation of his cautious, calculated manoeuvres towards possession of the English throne.

The English parishes and knights’ fees tax of 1428: a study in fiscal politics and administrationAlex Brayson

This article is the first detailed examination of the English parishes and knights’ fees tax of 1428, based upon parliamentary and exchequer material. It demonstrates that the house of commons insisted upon granting this novel tax, in place of a more financially burdensome fifteenth and tenth, during the financial crisis of 1427–8. The parishes and knights’ fees tax was efficiently administered, notwithstanding some local complications, although its yield was not commensurate with the scale of the crown’s financial needs by the late fourteen-twenties. This provides a unique insight into the origins of the well-documented late Lancastrian fiscal crisis.

This article argues that the church’s strenuous efforts to publicize Magna Carta can only be fully understood when viewed in the context of canon law and pastoral care. The automatic sentence of excommunication that fell on anyone who infringed Magna Carta meant that every Christian in medieval England needed to know not just the general principles of the charter, but the contents of every clause. Clergymen had a duty to ensure that their parishioners did not unwittingly incur the sanction, thereby endangering their souls. Thus the threat of excommunication had a profound effect on the political awareness of English society, as a result of the church’s obligation to look out for the spiritual welfare of its members.

Magna Carta and the honour of Wallingford. Christopher Tilley

Magna Carta mentions the honour of Wallingford twice. Exploring the context of this shows how a tenurial relationship predating John’s accession to the throne led to minor ‘gentry’ landholders experiencing the king’s manipulation of marriages, wardships and escheats directly, and resulted in many serving in John’s military expeditions. All this was in addition to the increasingly onerous demands of royal government also felt by many of their neighbours in the localities. This combination of networks, tenurial and local, helps explain the politicization of minor landholders such as William fitz Ellis of Waterperry, who was present at Runnymede in 1215, and the nature of political society in the early thirteenth century.

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