As part of my research for the novel Hell has its Demons, I have been doing some further research on the English Royal Family in 1376, and in particular the Black Prince. I have just added a page Key Retainers of the Black Prince in 1376.
Hell has its Demons features a plot against the life of the Black Prince and his son Richard of Bordeaux (the future Richard II), so gaining more knowledge of the Prince’s household is a key part of the research process for me!
Were English soldiers primarily motivated by profit in the Hundred Years War? John of Gaunt, although accused by his nephew, Richard II, of only being interested in money, according to the The Lancastrian Affinity 1361-1399 by Simon Walker he probably lost money overall.
Gaunt gets paid
However, Gaunt was able, because of his position, to get the money owed to him by the exchequer, a lot quicker than other war captains. Debts owed to him were usually paid in cash rather than promises on future revenue, and if promissary notes were required then they tended to be against secure income, such as farms owed to the crown controlled by Gaunt or his own retainers. Walker estimates that of the £170,000 owed by the crown to Gaunt for military and diplomatic expenses, only about £9,000 never reached him.
Financial or Political Motivation?
So did Gaunt gain? Probably not as he had to pay his soldiers, and if he didn’t pay them he wouldn’t have troops for the next campaign. Walker believes that what he did gain was political – Gaunt was the most important magnate of his day after his elder brother, the Black Prince. His status was increased by being the principal war-captain during this period.
Chivalry and Noble Identity
But Gaunt was also one for chivalry as well. He, apparently rushed off after his wedding to Blanche of Lancaster to go jousting, and was very involved in the rules of the tournament. He cuts a very military stance at times – for instance rather than imitating the decorous dress of the French diplomats during negotiations at Bruges during the mid-1370s, Gaunt and his retinue of soldiers arrive mounted in dark green attire, ready for serious work rather than frippery.
I suspect for Gaunt, war/chivalry was for him a way of defining his own noble identity. Although a growing number of the aristocracy and gentry were becoming involved in administration, law and parliament, many still held to war as being the main function of the class of miles.