This study examines the crown's approach to government in South-West England during the later fifteenth century: it investigates Edward IV's policy towards the English regions, and explores the feasibility of a regional approach by examining the politics, government, and ruling elites of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset from 1450 to 1500. Consideration of the wider concept of regions and their definition informs the detailed survey of how the four shires might be delineated by geography, economy, culture, and political structures. The author's definition of the region's political elites leads onto looking at whether they identified more with their locality, county, or region: this is evaluated by examining the degree to which their offices, estates, marriages, interactions, and associations were regional in extent. Exposition of the principles of clientelism (patron-client relationships) and the evidence that can be used to reconstruct lordship and socio-political alliances form a basis for the author's methodological approach to the categorization of clients in 'affinities' (following a widely accepted method in medieval Scottish historiography).
This book reflects on the duchy of Cornwall's estates, regalities, and administration and reveals its prime role in contemporaneous regional politics, which has, until now, remained largely unstudied. The crown's use of its servants in local government - a topic which has also been unduly neglected - is also examined. Both these important themes are silhouetted against an analysis of the politics and government of the counties and region as a whole on a chronological basis. The tumults of Bonville-Courtenay rivalry, the regional roles of the Beauforts, James, Earl of Wiltshire, and Humphrey, Lord Stafford of Southwick, and the re-structuring of regional politics during Edward IV's second reign are examples of specific issues that are examined. This study also contributes to the ongoing discourses concerning the October Rebellion of 1483 and Richard III's 'northern plantations', and Henry VII's governance - which remains largely unexplored with regard to local and regional politics.
This regional study offers a perspective of the Wars of the Roses that is firmly placed within the broader context of longer-term trends in governance and institutional evolution in late-medieval England. The author concludes that the regional trend in governance that is discernible during the period may have been a significant factor in the continuance of the Wars of the Roses: but the twin policies of 'regional governance' and 'household governance' ended with Henry VII's distinct change in approach. Whilst focussing on particularly pertinent individuals and themes, this study aims to integrate local, regional, and national perspectives, by examining each, in order to achieve a greater understanding of royal authority and the issue of governance in south-western England during the later Middle Ages.