Noble warriors: the military elite and Henry VIII’s expeditions of 1513 and 1544

Noble warriors: the military elite and Henry VIII’s expeditions of 1513 and 1544

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Noble warriors: the military elite and Henry VIII’s expeditions of 1513 and 1544

By Graham McLennan

MA Thesis, Australian National University, 1979

Abstract: This thesis is concerned with identifying and understanding the typical behaviour of the early Tudor nobility, particularly in relation to military activity. It is also an attempt to describe that behaviour without following the usual practice of categorising it as declining chivalry and the emergence of modern attitudes.

Instead, I suggest that insofar as there was a shared area of ideas and behaviour amongst the nobles, that behaviour was in large part an outcome of their position in society as a military elite. Because the nobles formed a military elite, the behaviour of individuals in both military and civilian life was, to a major degree, shaped by the expectation that their typical actions would be the same as those of the leaders of the army. Their peacetime behaviour was, therefore, often related to the position occupied in the army by nobles, and, at the same time, behavioural characteristics associated with the noble in his civilian life frequently intruded into war situations.

An outcome of the identity between the noble as a civilian and as a soldier was that the noble tended to regard the army as the proper sphere in which to display his select status, rather than seeing the army merely as an instrument of the nation or the government. Nobles were often concerned to be seen to be acting in a manner befitting their rank, even in times of great stress and danger. Because these typical activities associated with the noble might emphasise somewhat resource wasting actions, their presence helped make warfare seem even less efficient than it already was.

At the same time, there were numerous traditionally based types of behaviour associated with the military elite, which many writers have been content to label as chivalry. These were adopted by the nobles as aspects of the typical behaviour of their group. But it would be incorrect to claim that these characteristics alone made up the main influence on the ideas and actions of the early Tudor nobility.

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