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A matter of trust: the royal regulation of England’s French residents during wartime, 1294–1377

A matter of trust: the royal regulation of England’s French residents during wartime, 1294–1377

A matter of trust: the royal regulation of England’s French residents during wartime, 1294–1377

By Bart Lambert and W. Mark Ormrod

Historical Research, Vol. 89:244 (2016)

Abstract: This study focuses on how the English crown identified and categorized French-born people in the kingdom during the preliminaries and first stage of the Hundred Years War. Unlike the treatment of alien priories and nobles holding lands on both sides of the Channel, the attitude to laypeople became more positive as the period progressed. In particular, the crown was prepared to grant wartime protections to French-born residents based on evidence of local integration. Analysis of the process reveals the flexibility with which the government considered national status before the emergence of denization at the end of the fourteenth century.

Introduction: During the last quarter of the fourteenth century the English royal chancery introduced a legal process, known to historians as denization, by which trustworthy aliens resident within the realm could become the sworn lieges of the king of England. Denization was quickly offered to a wide range of high- and relatively high-status individuals – artisans, merchants, clergy, knights and nobles – from many different parts of Europe and was available, without apparent distinction, to those whose former rulers might at the time be allies or enemies of the English monarch.

In a recent study, the present authors have demonstrated that the crown’s actions against French people resident in England after 1377 inspired it to develop the distinctive process of denization as a solution to the perceived problem of security risks from hostile foreigners in times of war. Even though denization rapidly developed into a set of rights applied to a wide range of foreigners, then, the primum mobile of change was the endemic state of war that existed between England and France in the later middle ages.


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