WILLIAM OF WINDSOR (c. 1330-1386) (Medieval Ireland)

William of Windsor was born sometime around 1330 in Westmoreland. He was chief governor of Ireland from1369 to 1372 and from 1373 to 1376. Windsor’s appointment as king’s lieutenant in 1369 was a continuation of the policy of large-scale military intervention, funded from England, that began with Lionel of Clarence in 1361. Unlike Lionel, Windsor was not a great prince of royal blood, but a mere knight. Yet his experience of frontier conditions in the north of England, where he had repeatedly demonstrated military and administrative skill, and his service in Ireland under Lionel from 1363, made him an obvious choice to govern the lordship of Ireland.

Windsor’s tenure as chief governor was hampered by acrimonious relations with the Anglo-Irish community over the question of taxation. Whereas Lionel had been appointed in the wake of a peace treaty of 1360 with France, Windsor’s appointment coincided with the renewal of hostilities. It was feared that France would attempt an invasion of Ireland as a "back door" into England, and part of Windsor’s mandate was to secure the southern coast. Windsor was heavily subsidized from England, receiving some £22,300. This figure was, however, modest compared to the sums invested against France, and it was inadequate to maintain Windsor’s large army. Furthermore, the strain that the Anglo-French war put on the English exchequer meant that money was often slow in arriving. Windsor therefore repeatedly summoned the Irish parliament and demanded that it contribute to the cost of the lordship’s defense.

The frequency and extent of Windsor’s demands were unprecedented, and he resorted to coercion to gain the funds he required. This breached the principle that taxation had to be voted by parliament of its free will and caused great antagonism. Lists of grievances against him were sent to England, and in 1372 he was recalled. He was reappointed, however, in 1373 and continued as before. The policy reached a climax when Irish representatives were summoned to England, presumably in the hope that they could be browbeaten into voting funds. Representatives were duly elected, but the communities specifically withheld the power to grant a subsidy.

The opposition may in part have stemmed from discontentment with Windsor’s record. He did succeed in gaining some submissions from Irish lords, notably capturing and executing the king of Leinster, Diarmait Laimhderg Mac Murchada. But these submissions lasted only as long as they were directly enforced. This dissatisfaction was mirrored in England, where parliament found it difficult to justify continued investment in Ireland when there was little sign of a return to self-sufficiency, let alone profitability. Renewed complaints sent to England found a ready audience in the growing opposition to Edward III. Windsor was vulnerable because he was the husband of Alice Perrers, Edward III’s influential and despised mistress. Windsor was recalled to England in 1376 to coincide with the "Good Parliament," where the accusations against his administration in Ireland may have been used to attack Perrers.

Several of Windsor’s appointees in the Irish administration were dismissed, but the charges directed at Windsor himself were subsequently dropped. Modern historians have depicted him as a victim of circumstance and his own excessive zeal, rather than a corrupt official. He went on to have a highly successful career and died at Haversham in 1386. The Anglo-Irish community continued to demand aid from England while simultaneously resenting the intrusion of English officials, and the policy of military intervention was to culminate in the two expeditions under King Richard II of 1394 and 1399.

Next post:

Previous post: