The conclusions to be drawn from a study of this kind must necessarily be limited in scope, if not in substance, partly because the results are based on fragmentary and disparate forms of evidence, and partly because an examination of the gentry in one county cannot reasonably be advanced as anything more than a guide to possible trends in the country as a whole. Late thirteenth century Essex was highly manorialised and very close to London. Economic and social conditions there might be considered idiosyncratic by comparison, for example, with the East Midlands or North Yorkshire. Wider judgments must await further prosopographical studies of other counties.

So far as the present study is concerned many detailed observations on the character and activities of the Essex gentry are embodied in the text as a whole, and need not be further reiterated here. The forensic methodology adopted in the study and the problems inherent in the sources have also been discussed at some length. In science it is taken for granted that negative or inconclusive results have their own value. Professional historians often value the appearance of confident authority more than the honest and cautious admission that the picture is really drastically incomplete. This is especially the case where studies on exceptionally well documented subjects raise expectations that all such cases will be equally well documented. There are, as Professor Coss and others have shown, knights about whom a great deal may be discovered. But in many cases, including this one, the picture that does emerge is in the form of an incomplete jigsaw for which no guiding pattern is available, most of the pieces are missing, and those that do survive are scattered in the boxes of other jigsaws. Such general conclusions as may be safely advanced are of three kinds. Firstly there is the purely technical problem of concluding this analysis of a sample of the Essex gentry into its apparent constituent parts and identifying those knights who may rightly be called buzones according to the objectives established in the introduction. Secondly it may be possible to offer some general conclusions on the nature and characteristics of the buzones as a class and on the overall structure of the knightly classes in late thirteenth century Essex. Lastly it is important to identify those questions which remain unanswered for want of acceptable evidence.

Firstly, the identity of the buzones. Potential lists of possible buzones have been advanced at various stages in the development of the study and it is not difficult to show that a small group of familiar names recurs with some regularity. These names may be plotted into a table which brings together the observable characteristics of the sample as a whole and presents them in a comparable form. The table consists of a hierarchical list of the knights in the sample plotted against sixteen general characteristics in which all of the knights in the sample might in principle participate. These sixteen characteristics are further divided into primary and secondary factors which allow for a distinction between those knights who were more active and those who were merely average. The sixteen characteristics are as follows, with key factors highlighted in red:
Knights with more than 7 estates in Essex and elsewhere
Knights holding estates within ten miles of Chelmsford
Knights holding estates in adjacent parishes
Knights holding estates greater than 500 acres.
Knights with possibly sub baronial characteristics
Knights acting on Grand Assizes or as Jurors for the County
Knights on judicial and executive functions
Knights acting as Executors of Wills
Knights acting as Witnesses.
Knights acting as Sureties
Knights with debts exceeding £100
Knights active on more than Five occasions in Public Administration
Knights active on more than Ten occasions in Private Business
Knights serving for more than Five notional years in Public Service
Knights summoned for or performing Military Service more than Four times.

Taking first of all the widest extension of this analysis, approximately twenty one out of the forty two knights in the sample appear in the range from five to twelve general characteristics. These men, starting with Tany at the top to Gernon at the halfway point, probably constitute the more active and substantial knights in the sample. The remainder, from St Clare to Beauchamp, were generally less active or substantial, though several of them to do not fit into any neat pattern. These 'anomalies' will be considered in due course.

Within the upper group of twenty one 'weighty' or 'strenuous' knights ten also attended parliament, eleven if we include Haningfield in the reign of Edward II, and three were involved in collecting taxes, The parliamentary and tax collecting knights were thus overwhelmingly drawn from the more active half of the county knights. From any general standpoint they were amongst the most significant knights in the county, and obvious candidates for parliamentary representation.

On the other hand, the parliamentary knights alone did not constitute the county caucus. Whilst all parliamentary knights may have been buzones, not all buzones went to parliament. In order to distinguish the key administrators it is necessary to eliminate those secondary characteristics which are common to most of the knights in the sample. The key and primary characteristics would then be reduced to categories A, D, F, H, M, N, O and P, covering only the most significant public and private factors. From this ore limited viewpoint the 'weighty' knights subdivide into two groups. Firstly, those having primarily administrative characteristics augmented by a significant economic base, either a substantial number of estates or an known acreage total exceeding five hundred acres. Secondly, those having status orientated characteristics, weighted in terms of economic standing and private or military interests, The former group may be said to constitute the buzones, the latter represent an alternative local elite, comparable or superior in social or economic status, but less involved in local government. These may be tabulated as `follows:

Buzone Caucus 

Alternative Elite

Parliament Blount  Parliament Bigod
Parliament Breton  Parliament Duresme
Parliament Grapinel  Parliament Sutton
Parliament Lee  Parliament Tany J.
Parliament Wauton   
Parliament Fillol
Assessors Gros  Assessors Brianzon
Assessors Baud
Residents Tany R.  Residents Pratellis
Non Resident Haningfield  Non Resident Mare
Non Resident Lambourne  Non Resident Coggeshall
Non Resident Monteny.

The general characteristics of the two groups are roughly comparable, but certain differences do emerge. Apart from the specific distinction between administrative and non administrative knights there appears to be a significant difference in the liability to military service. Only three of the buzones were summoned for service more than four times, compared with five out of nine knights in the alternative group. On the other hand the parliamentary knights came more or less equally from both elites, though most of the parliamentary knights in the alternative group also took some part in local government. In general both groups were roughly comparable in terms of wealth and status, with a slight bias in favour of the alternative elite. This kind of crude counting of nominal characteristics is unlikely to reveal the true nature of these men which must rest rather on the imponderables of interest, aptitude and opportunity. What is true for the emerging gentry class of the late thirteenth century is probably equally true for the gentry and middle classes at all times. There is no precisely defined social stratification, only overlapping circles of interest and a general trend. In this case it can be argued that those labelled as buzones used the freedom afforded by their relative wealth and status to take part, more or less voluntarily, in the duties and interests of local and central government whilst an alternative group broadly similar in status apparently chose to pursue more grandiose or traditionally knightly activities which in the chivalric and militaristic environment of the fourteenth century were to become the defining characteristics of knighthood, though as Coss points out these were characteristics which could be assumed, or even faked, by aspiring gentry who wished to be accepted as 'genuine' knights according to the criteria of the times [1]

The remaining knights in the sample fall into a rag bag of apparent apathy, obscurity and relative poverty. There are, however, several 'anomalies' which serve to further illuminate the dominant groups. For example Alan de Goldingham who appears only twice in the general range of possible characteristics, was in fact a sheriff and served for five years as a tax collector but beyond this he has left very little trace in the surviving records. Others, like Ralph de Boxted, were also occasionally active in local government, though apparently lacking the economic status of main buzone groups. The men were probably on the fringes of the county caucus, law worthy and discreet men, who, like other freeholders, could be called on to serve the king and the county when required.,. On the other side were knights like Gernon, Beauchamp of Fifield, Crepping, John de Merk and John de Rochford, who seemed to share similar economic and military characteristics with the other knights in the alternative elite, but were generally less active in other spheres. With the exception of Crepping these were men of substance, presumably well above average in social and economic standing, who seem to have devoted themselves more to military service.

Seen in these terms the typical buzone emerges as a man at the top of the middle range of gentry, not the wealthiest of the knights in the county, but by no means amongst the poorest. He was probably, though not invariable, a tenant in chief who family had been established in the county for several generations. His estates would be substantial without being excessive, usually consisting of demesne lands in the 400-500 acres range, located either in a fairly compact group in adjacent parishes, or spread over other counties, usually, but not always, contiguous with Essex. These estates would be large enough to provide the holder with sufficient income and free time to engage in local government duties, but were probably insufficient to support a sustained military career or more chivalric knightly activities.

Such a man would necessarily make frequent use of the courts in order to safeguard the disposition of his estates, to arrange for the settlement of estates on his heirs and, perhaps, for more predatory or defensive actions. with his neighbours. The increasingly restrictive economic climate of the late thirteenth century found him carefully adjusting his resources by consolidating his localised interests and pruning more remote estates which could be let out to rent, demised to relatives or sold off. The more fortunate buzone might be able to afford a little expansion, but the general theme was one of retrenchment.

During his active lifetime, which for most of these men can be estimated at about forty years, the typical buzone could apply his skills and abilities to the service of the king and of his community through a range of activities in local government, as sheriff or coroner, or in judicial commissions where he would be associated with professional justices and royal officials who could introduce him to the ways of the central government. The interests of his county might take him to parliament as a representatives elected by the approbation of his fellows, the interests of the king might involve him in the collection of taxes. The amount of time he might spend in the service of government would not be negligible, by comparison with modern jury service for example, but it was probably not excessive, and the effort involved could bring its own rewards, through royal recognition and favour and the less tangible advantages of networking. On the other hand the penalties for failure could be stringent, though failure to render accounts probably arose more often from incompetence or inexperience than from deliberate malversation.

In times of war or civil stress the duties of the buzone might become more onerous and could include a variety of military duties, both practical and administrative, and special judicial commissions for the keeping of the peace or for the enforcement of the Charters. Lastly, the blend of status , wealth, experience and respect which apparently marked out the buzones as best fitted for the duties of local government also commended them to their colleagues and the lesser gentry, on whose behalf they might act as securities, witnesses or executors of wills. These men were the natural and self selecting leaders of the county community, they constituted a stable core within the more fluid structure of the knight class as a whole. But, at the same time, they did not constitute a closed class since it was clearly possible for families like the Blounts to move into county circles from the parallel structures of urban government, and it is also clear that there was a substantial body of freeholders who were not knights but who also attended the county court and associated with its leaders in the administration of the county either from a sense of public service and obligation or through a desire to advance themselves by mixing with their natural leaders. By comparison with the rest of the knights in the shire the buzones were undoubtedly more discreet, more diligent and more 'apt for work' in the king's service.

The very commitment of the buzones to their counties probably prevented them from achieving an individual national importance, though within the microcosm of local politics they were men to be reckoned with. In general, then, the buzones of the late thirteenth century have characteristics which in other periods are normally associated with the concept of a gentry class.

Within the upper echelon of the 'gentry' class, however, there were also men like John de la Mare, Ernauf de Monteny, William Gernon and Richard de Tany who inherited a long standing alignment with the baronial nobility. These men appear to have followed a more strictly military style of life on the fringes of the baronial nobility and closer to the chivalric concept of knighthood which was to prevail in the later middle ages. Their interests and traditions appear to have brought them into the realm of national politics either through service as professional knights and bannerets in the Royal Household, or as followers and associates of local barons who were themselves actively involved in the great business of the king and the kingdom. Such men were exceptional by comparison with the bulk of the gentry. They pursued their ambitions on a wider field and by so doing placed their lives and interests at greater risk, both economically and physically. They underscore the developing distinction between gentry and knighthood where the former might be said to owe its primary loyalty to the county whilst the latter was linked more closely to the baronial nobility to which it may have aspired.

The overall structure of the Essex gentry thus appears to have consisted of two basic circles with the upper circle divided between administrative and military knights or roughly comparable economic standing. Within the military wing there were a number of knights who did devote some of their time to governmental duties, including attending parliament, and a smaller elite group, superior in wealth, social status and feudal obligations, who pursued a purely military style of life. The boundaries between these circles are necessarily blurred and imprecise. In both categories one might expect to find individuals rising into the dominant groups, other declining from them, and yet others merely standing still. At the bottom of the heap there remained a variety of men who, though ostensibly knights by virtue of feudal or armigerous status, were relatively obscure, waiting upon the vicissitudes of fortune and avoiding most kinds of public duties or military obligations.

Lastly, there remain certain obvious and significant questions for which no clear answers have emerged because the Essex evidence is insufficient, and other questions which may be in principle unanswerable. In the first category it would be interesting to known what formal links might have existed between the local knights and the local baronage. There have been hints of this, for example the relationship between Wascoil and Bouser and the de Ver family, and the case of William de Wauton serving for the Berkeleys in a retinue clearly contracted to the Earl of Pembroke. Retaining, however, was rare and unusual in the reign of Edward I, and evidence of individual examples of retaining are hard to find without first knowing by which lords they might have been retained. The situation changes rapidly in the fourteenth century when retaining contracts become a regular feature of baronial accounts, but such evidence is not routinely available for the period of military transition in the reign of Edward I.

Secondly it would be helpful to know something of the incidence of intermarriage between gentry families, who their wives were and who their children married. Again this information is more routinely available in the fourteenth century as the knights and gentry themselves began to keep records of their lives and estates. It must be assumed that intermarriage was common both within and without the county, but the evidence is very slippery. Whereas the abduction of heiresses, as in the case of John de la Mare and Pernel de Montfort, might be expected to attract the attention of the central government, the wives of lesser men escaped notice. Escheator's records, Inquisitions Post Mortem, where they exist, rarely identify wives by maiden names. It is sometimes possible to infer family relationship from the often tortuous syntax of deeds of gift conveyed in Final Concords, but this evidence is rare and inconclusive. It is apparent that some men remarried more than once where wives died in childbirth or by illness or accident and this also confuses the social provenance of wives and obscures family relationships.

The question of individual political attitudes has already attracted attention from historians, and the results of the present study do nothing to advance essentially negative conclusions. The silence of the knights in parliament is at first sight a resounding testimony to their apparent quiescence but we know from various protests in 1297 and Keighley's petition 1301 that the knights did have views. On the other hand they did not attend the early parliaments in order to debate politics but 'to hear and do what shall be agreed by the king and his council'. Political attitudes might only become discernible in times of constitutional crisis when the knights might be expected to take sides. The only such crisis in the reign of Edward I was the row over the confirmation of the Charters, which lingered on until 1301, but did not collapse into a civil war which might have forced the knights to choose. In practice it is clear that there were considerable grievances in the counties, but these were articulated more through baronial opposition in which the knights of the shire were merely pawns and only Keighley emerges by name as an active protagonist. Some of the Essex knights in the sample, or their ancestors, were actively involved in the Barons' Wars against Henry III, and having taken sides for their beliefs suffered penalties which marked them down in government records. For example Robert de Merk was certainly a Montfortian, [2]and various members of the Monteny family fought on both sides. [3]William Gernon's father, Ralph, fought at Kenilworth, but was thought to have been on the side of the king, [4]whereas William de Goldingham was a rebel and was not pardoned until 1270. [5] Richard de Tany, opposing his father, supported the king and was appointed to receive the disinherited into the king's peace in 1266. [6] Lastly, Walter, father of Hugh Crepping, was actively involved in the baronial reform movement and held office in the baronial administration as one of the stewards of the Household. [7]Other Essex knights were merely victims. Ralph de Arderne, Andrew, father of Hugh le Blount, and John le Breton, all suffered seizure of their estates during the course of the war, [8] either through forfeiture, which implies that they had taken sides, or through the opportunism of unscrupulous neighbours for whom an allegation of partiality could be used as a pretext for expropriation. With the possible exception of Crepping and Robert de Merk, both of whom were less active in the reign of Edward I, the political adventures of Henry III's reign do not appear to have affected the lives and careers of the gentry under the firmer rule of Edward. It may be worth noting that, with the exception of Goldingham, all of the Essex knights who are known to have played some part in the baronial rebellion were men of above average wealth and status, and therefore perhaps more likely to take sides, either in defence of their own interests, or in support of the barons with whose interests they may have identified.

Solutions to questions of this kind are immediately relevant to a better understanding of the structure and interests of the late thirteenth century gentry class. Other questions might throw light on different problems. For example the social and economic backgrounds of the knights who served in the Royal Household might reveal closer links with the gentry and, perhaps, the higher nobility. Similar questions might be asked about the social, economic and tenurial backgrounds of those who served in late thirteenth century retinues, assuming that their identities might be determined. The parliamentary mainpernors, already discussed in relation to the mechanism for parliamentary elections, deserved more attention. Who were they, what were their links with their apparently socially superior principals, how do they fit into the scheme of local government and society ? Such investigations lead straight into an examination of the men in the circles just below the bottom level of knighthood, the less easily identifiable men of 'law and lineage', who also aspired to gentle lives and later came to constitute the squirearchy. The obscurity in which these men are shrouded is not totally impenetrable and further research on them might augment our understanding of the county community, assuming that they may be identified as individuals in the first place.

Two fundamental and linked questions remain unanswered, and may be unanswerable, namely the motivation of the buzones in agreeing to perform their duties in local and central government, and the extent to which such duties might be considered a burden. Some suggestions have been made in the course of this study and the overall impression is that while a majority of the knights available for service in a county managed to avoid public office, and were allowed to do so, there remained a small and conscientious minority which was regularly active in the king's service. The willingness of this small group to undertake such duties is thrown into sharper relief by two further factors. Firstly, the existence of an alternative elite, at least comparable in economic and social status to the buzones, who tended to devote themselves to military service, suggests that the buzones assumed their duties from choice rather than compulsion. On the other hand, since they were not the only knights capable of performing such duties, it is equally possible that the more powerful military knights were better equipped, or better connected, to avoid or resist local government duties.

In practice it is doubtful whether these alternative paths could be freely chose. At least half of the knights in the Essex sample may have been prevented from taking a significant part in either military campaigns or local government simply because they lacked sufficient resources to make contributions in either field. This would be especially true where government duties assumed a property qualification and military duties required a prescribed level of expensive equipment. Similarly those who were wealthy enough to be able to fight with the requisite equipment may well have seen the capacity for military service as an outward demonstration of their status and dignity, whilst those who were qualified to serve in local government may have been unwilling to invest in risky and probably profitless military activities. To some extent, therefore, the selection of roles by individual groups of knights or gentry may have been determined by economic resources tempered by individual interest and ambitions, and family traditions of service to the king. Genuine choice may have been possible only for those on the borderlines between the administrative and military groups who were able to move in both circles.

Secondly, within the class of buzones themselves there apparently existed an inner core of perhaps only one or two individuals whose names persistently recur in the performance of certain specific duties, especially in attending parliament, collecting taxes, and holding judicial commissions. It can scarcely be doubted that these individuals found some advantage in the frequent performance of such duties and undertook them by choice rather than by compulsion. If this was not the case these men were genuinely put upon but more probably the attractions of power, influence and respect outweighed the risks and responsibilities expected of them. Against this group may be set the apathetic majority who may have resented local government obligations and sought exemption from them.

Whilst local duties may have been considered a nuisance by some, the burden of military service was probably considered oppressive by most, especially when it extended to the £20 freeholders, many of whom were not knights of any kind. Continued pressure of military demands very quickly provoked a sharp reaction from the gentry as a whole, and this reaction throws into sharper relief the borderline between those duties which were considered acceptable and were willingly performed, and those which were considered both burdensome and dangerous because they impinged on the majority. Ironically it was the knightly reaction to the arbitrary imposition of military service and its associated burdens which gave the first impetus to a political identity for the knights who attended parliament, by contrast with the administrative identity they enjoyed through the community of the county court. Opposition to military service thus underlines the real interests and objectives of the gentry class as a whole.

Finally, as we have seen, the whole trend of royal policy towards local government, from the reign of Henry I onwards, had been to increase the independence, authority and self reliance of the local knights in order to bring the counties more directly under royal control, both as a cheap and effective means of ruling the country by non feudal agencies, and as a political counterweight to the baronage. By the reign of Henry III these habits were deeply ingrained with in the ruling groups in the counties and were well understood by the barons who opposed Henry when he attempted to replace locally appointed officials with royal favourites and ministeriales. This was sufficient to swing the gentry behind the baronage in their struggle for reform. Demand for local control of local government was thus a significant issue in the constitutional struggles of the mid thirteenth century. By the reign of Edward I local self government was a privilege which was well worth maintaining, even if it was only to be exercise under the king's stringent command. Thereafter the Provisions of Oxford were more consistently observed and the counties were increasingly ruled by 'loyal people, and substantial men, and holders or land, who shall treat the people of the shire well, loyally and rightfully'.