“ .. Keep then the sea that is the wall of England, and then is England kept by God’s hand .
Libel of English Policy ca.1436 (spelling modernised)
The author is an established academic who has published on various aspects of life, trade and maritime affairs in the mediaeval period, here defined as from the Danish Raids to the accession of the Tudors. She now turns her attention to the story of the navy Royal. The area involved is almost entirely the North Sea, the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay.
Throughout the period the monarch was able to call at will on ports and shipowners to provide craft and their crews for his needs, with little account taken of consequential losses to owners or the disruption of trade generally. Some of the time the monarch maintained his own ships and, these, although used for trading when not required for war, are the main focus of this study. It is clear that some kings showed more interest than others - Henry III, Edward III, Henry V, Edward IV, Henry VII for instance - others like the sublimely wet Henry VI had no personal navy at all. Most monarchs had little real sea-sense; the first sign of a deliberate maritime policy comes from the Earl of Warwick in 1455. It much depended on the strategic situation including whether the French coast was in our hands or the enemy’s. Merchantmen were pretty much left to shift for themselves in the matter of piracy and privateering. Many masters must have been cast in the mould of Chaucer’s shipman who “if he fought and got the upper hand, by water he sent them home to every land
”, who may have been modelled on the John Hawley discussed in this book.