In fifteenth-century England, an affinity was a web of political and social connections constructed by a nobleman, either on the basis of royal favor and personal political standing or on the basis of family and territorial influence. A noble created an affinity by assembling a band of followers, known as RETAINERS, who were sworn to provide their lord with legal, political, or military service in return for money. Retainers also expected that the lord’s influence would be exercised on their behalf in legal proceedings and in pursuit of office and other rewards. Retainers signaled their attachment to a lord’s affinity by wearing his livery (i.e., uniform) or his BADGE or emblem. The dispersal of fees and wages by a magnate to the members of his affinity was the heart of the social system known as BASTARD FEUDALISM. Although individual retainers could be household servants or legal or financial advisors, a large affinity above all provided its lord with a military force that could be used both to support and threaten the Crown. Although not private armies because they were rarely kept under arms for long, noble affinities formed the core of royal forces sent to FRANCE or used to crush internal rebellion. During the WARS OF THE ROSES, such affinities constituted the bulk of the military forces raised by both parties. Although attempts were made through PARLIAMENT to limit retaining, the Crown, dependent on noble affinities for military strength, sought only to control such groupings. An example of an affinity created on the basis of personal influence was the one constructed by William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings, whose peerage and estates derived from his close friendship with EDWARD IV. Hastings’s influence with the king attracted many members of the GENTRY to his affinity, which was soon extensive and therefore a valuable resource for the house of YORK in military emergencies. During his 1471 campaign to regain the Crown, Edward’s initially thin forces were soon swollen by the arrival of loyal members of Hastings’s affinity (see Edward IV, Restoration of). In 1483, control of such military potential made Hastings a danger to Richard, duke of Gloucester (see Richard III, King of England); when he began to fear that Hastings might mobilize his affinity on behalf of EDWARD V, Gloucester ordered Hastings’s summary execution (see Council Meeting of 13 june 1483).
   A powerful and extensive connection based on family loyalty and landholding, as well as on personal political influence,was the Neville affinity, controlled after 1460 by Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick. The most influential subject in the realm during the early years of Edward IV, and possessing a mighty military reputation (see Generalship), Warwick could also draw on a deeply engrained loyalty to his family among the gentry of the north, where the Neville lands were concentrated. When Warwick brought this affinity into alliance with the house of LANCASTER in 1470, he was able to restore HENRY VI to the throne. After Warwick’s death in 1471, Edward IV ensured that his brother Gloucester, the husband of Warwick’s daughter Anne NEVILLE, became heir to the family loyalty and territorial power upon which the Neville affinity was based.
   Further Reading: Hicks, Michael, Bastard Feudalism (London: Longman, 1995);Walker, S., The Lancastrian Affinity, 1361-1399 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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