The English Umpire and Disputes of Honor: Mediterranean Contacts at the Lancastrian Court in the Early Fifteenth Century
Lorraine Attreed (College of the Holy Cross)
In 1438, Catalan author Joan Martorell, not yet famous for his chivalric romance Tirant lo Blanc, announced that none other than the king of England had agreed to arbitrate Joan’s challenge to a man who had insulted his sister’s honour. While it was eventually revealed that the dispute had been settled without royal intervention, the case points to broader diplomatic and cultural relations between the Mediterranean and the North in the early-fifteenth century. Martorell’s request did not come from nowhere: earlier in the century, Aragon’s King Fernando I had sought England’s help in his dispute with Jaume of Urgell over possession of the throne, and the close relationship between the two realms continued into the reign of Alfonso V. Throughout the reigns of the first Lancastrian kings, envoys to their courts brought offers of marriages, mutual defence treaties, and trade agreements from the peninsula. Iberian knights competed to perform chivalric deeds in English tournaments, while their royal masters received the diplomatic accolades granted by membership in England’s exclusive heraldic order. Although France’s intentions remained an important factor in international relations, ties between England and the Mediterranean were actively pursued for advantages especially valued by monarchs new to the throne like the Lancastrians, and Iberian rulers seeking support in their disputes with their peninsular rivals. Based on archival materials from The National Archives, El Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, and La Real Academia de la Historia, the paper proposes a broad view of diplomacy by acknowledging the extensive relations pursued in this period between England and the Iberian realms. Special attention will be paid to their pursuit of dispute settlement and trade contracts involving La Corona de Aragón.