Speakers at war in the late 14th and 15th centuries
Parliamentary History, 29, (1), . (doi:10.1111/j.1750-0206.2009.00127.x).
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The significance of war in the development of the medieval English parliament is well known. The origins of the speakership are located in the context of the Hundred Years War, which began in 1337 and in which the English were still embroiled at the time of the Good Parliament of 1376. It was at this parliament that the Commons first chose a spokesperson, Sir Peter de la Mare, knight of the shire for Herefordshire. This article considers the military careers of de la Mare and his successors to the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453. Did the war have an impact on the choice of Speaker? Was a military man chosen for parliaments where military matters were to be discussed? We know the identity of the Speaker in 53 of the 64 parliaments between 1376 and 1453. Several served more than once, so that we are left with a group of 33 individuals to analyse. An overall trend is discernable. Up to 1407 all known Speakers were belted knights, and most had extensive military experience before they took up office. Only five of the 19 parliaments between 1422 and 1453 had Speakers of knightly rank: otherwise, Speakers with legal and administrative, rather than military, experience were chosen. In the years from 1407 to 1422 the speakership was occupied by a mixture of soldiers and administrators many of whom were closely connected to the royal duchy of Lancaster and to revival of English aggression towards France from 1415 onwards
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