Tensions were running high in 1451. On 17th September, an argument in the South West threatened to break out into private war. Stemming from rivalries between the Bonville and Courtenay for regional dominance, the system of patronage saw other lords drawn into the feud, resulting in the arming of retainers and the threat of hostilities breaking out.
Standoff involving the Earl of Devon facing the Earl of Wiltshire and Lord Bonville.
Benet’s Chronicle describes the situation:
On 17th September the Earl of Devon, Lord Moleyns and Lord Cobham on one side, the Earl of Wiltshire and Lord Bonville on the other, with many men, threatened to do battle. The Duke of York, however, despatched 2000 men to prevent hostilities and harm. The King, nevertheless, much angered by these disturbances, sent for the participants, imprisoned the Earl of Wiltshire and Lord Bonville in Berkhamstead castle, and Lords Moleyns and Cobham in Wallingford castle, even if only for a month. York and Devon, despite several summonses, failed to respond…
Courtenay – Bonville Feud
The rivalry in the south west was part of the ongoing feud between the Courtenay and Bonville families. It illustrates the lack of authority that the crown had over the nobility in parts of the country. The Duke of Exeter too had been admonished for his behaviour in the region.
The Duke of York’s involvement was in support of his allies in the region, whose support he was to call on when he called for reform and made a challenge to the crown and Parliament at Dartford the following year.
Unrest across England in the early 1450’s
Unrest in the South West was becoming more common at the same time as the crown was faced with issues such as the plotting of William Oldhall, and disputes in the North East between the Percy and Neville families. The following year then saw the Duke of York face a royal army at Dartford in a similar, but more significant, standoff.