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The Politics of Counsel in England and Scotland, 1286-1707$
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Jacqueline Rose

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266038

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266038.001.0001

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Counsel and Conscience in Lancastrian England

Counsel and Conscience in Lancastrian England

(p.87) 4 Counsel and Conscience in Lancastrian England
The Politics of Counsel in England and Scotland, 1286-1707

Jeremy Catto

British Academy

The minority of Henry VI compelled the English governing cadre, faced with the heavy burden of his predecessor’s foreign conquests and unfinished wars, to clarify its notion of ministerial responsibility, a process which can be observed through the internal council memoranda which have occasionally survived. This new genre of documentation, terse and practical in tone and usually in the vernacular, is common to most European polities from the second decade of the fifteenth century, and seems to replicate closely the rhythm of the spoken word; it can therefore expose the underlying values of councillors which more artfully confected documents keep hidden. Councillors’ memoranda reveal a sense of obligation sharpened by recently articulated notions of equity and of private conscience, in the wake of Henry V’s vigorous stimulus to lay religion, and show that the notions of public duty learnt in his service survived through the reign of his successor.

Keywords:   memoranda, councillors, conscience, fiduciary duty, ministerial responsibility

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