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What did the Royal Almoner do in Britain and Ireland, c.1450-1700?

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The late medieval and early modern royal almoner for England and Wales was an important figure, a senior cleric best documented as a court preacher who was the crown’s religious and moral face; prominent holders included Wolsey and Lancelot Andrewes. The article begins by looking at the almoner’s appointment and functions at court, but it is mostly devoted to his interactions with Tudor and Stuart society at large. Indeed he had many public roles that are poorly understood. These included arbitrating, mediating, and directing the distribution of the forfeited goods of suicides found felo de se by coroners’ inquests, granted to successive almoners by the crown. The article looks at the almoner’s operations both in courts such as Star Chamber and outside them. It argues that he sought to create or repair communal bonds when survivors of suicide denied their obligations. Exploring what he did to re-establish charity between neighbours, his role as a benevolent giver, and the underlying religious imperatives that directed his actions, the article illuminates central issues of lordship, law and community in a period of profound social, legal, religious and political change. Focusing mainly on England, it also uncovers the significantly different roles of the separate royal almoners of Ireland and Scotland.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-313
Number of pages35
JournalEnglish Historical Review
Issue number513
StatePublished - Apr 2010

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