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The Knights Hospitaller of the English Langue 1460-1565



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The Knights Hospitaller of the English Langue 1460-1565 by Gregory O'Malley
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The Knights of St John of Jerusalem, also known as the Hospitallers, were a military religious order, subject to monastic vows and discipline but devoted to the active defence of the Holy Land. After evacuating the Holy Land at the beginning of the fourteenth century, they occupied Rhodes, which they held into the sixteenth century, when their headquarters moved to Malta. Branches of the order existed throughout Europe, and it is the English branch in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that is examined here. Among the major subjects researched by O'Malley are the recruitment of members of the Hospital and their family ties; the operation of the order's career structure; the administration of its estates; its provision of spiritual and charitable services; and the publicity and logistical support it provided for the holy war carried on by its headquarters against the Ottoman Turks. It is argued that the English Hospitallers in particular took their military and financial duties to the order very seriously, making a major contribution to the Hospital's operations in the Mediterranean as a result. They were able to do so because they were wealthy, had close family and other ties with gentle and mercantile society, and above all because their activities had royal support. Where this was lacking or ineffective, as in Ireland, the Hospital might become the plaything of local interests eager to exploit its estates, and its wider functions might be neglected. Consequently the heart of the book lies in an extended discussion of the relationship between senior Hospitaller officers and the governing authorities of Britain and Ireland. It is concluded that rulers were generally supportive of the order's activities, but within strict limits, particularly in matters concerning appointments, the size of payments to the east, and the movement and foreign allegiances of senior brethren. When these limits were breached, or at times of political or religious sensitivity such as the 1460s and 1530s, the Hospital's personnel and estates would suffer. In addition, more general areas of historical debate are illuminated such as those concerning the relationship between late medieval societies and the religious orders; 'British' attitudes to Christendom and holy war, and the rights of rulers over their subjects. This is the first such book to be based on archival records in both Britain and Malta, and will make a major contribution to understanding the order's European network, its place in the ordering of Latin Christendom, and in particular its role in late medieval British and Irish society.
Release date NZ
December 1st, 2004
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
2 maps and 6 tables
Oxford University Press
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