This thorough examination of the feudal powers of English kings in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries is the only study to analyze the actual pattern of royal grants and the grantees' use of their rights, and to place them in the social context of marriage, kinship, and landholding within the English elite. The royal rights, known as feudal incidents, included custody of a tenant's lands when he died leaving minor heirs, the arrangement of the heir's marriage, and consent to the widow's remarriage. Scott Waugh shows how the king exercised those rights and how his use of feudal incidents affected his relations with the tenants-in-chief. He concludes that royal lordship was of fundamental importance in reinforcing the power and prestige of the monarchy and in offering the king a valuable source of patronage.
English kings, therefore, devoted considerable effort to defining and institutionalizing their feudal authority in the thirteenth century. It is also clear that families living under royal lordship were profoundly concerned about these rights, especially since marriage was of such critical importance in providing for the smooth transfer of lands from one generation to another. Given the hazards of life in the Middle Ages, inheritance by minors was a frequent occurrence, and the king's distribution of feudal incidents was therefore a delicate political problem. It raised issues not only about royal finances and favoritism but also about the fate of families.
Originally published in 1988.
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