Edward Powell's splendid study of Henry V's strategy for keeping peace among magnate and gentry factions represents an important contribution to the history of criminal justice. After providing a panoramic view of the machinery of criminal justice, Powell analyzes the extent to which that machinery was effective as between the Crown, at the center, and the upper echelons of society in the provinces. His conclusion, not surprisingly, is that the regular processes of common-law criminal administration could not easily be deployed at those levels. But Powell does not let the matter drop there. Kingship, Law, and Society presents a lucid and persuasive demonstration that some elements of that process were combined with a program of quasi-coerced arbitrations between warring camps. Henry employed the superior eyre to make systematic inquiries regarding serious offenses, and the information thus gathered provided the basis for closely targeted and well-prepared campaigns to achieve settlements that ended or, more typically, substantially reduced strife. Moreover, Powell details many other ad hoc means by which the Crown achieved order, including the cooptation of powerful individuals, who found preferment at the center preferable to treasonous or merely disruptive behavior. The politics of late-medieval English criminal-justice administration have seldom been better researched and described. Powell intends his study of kingship as a contribution to the history of law and justice, and not merely to the history of politics where law and justice have failed. The arbitrations that the Crown achieved were, indeed, a part of the law. They represented an artful example of Henry's keeping the peace, which was, of course, one of the chief duties of the Crown. In the opening chapter Powell briefly sets forth the "Concepts of Law, Justice, and Kingship" that virtually all Englishmen took for granted and thus prepares the ground for his book-length argument that Henry's flexible use (and sometimes creative adaptation) of criminal-justice administration was understood by contemporaries as fulfilling the king's coronation oath.
Green, Thomas A. Review of Kingship, Law and Society: Criminal Justice in the Reign of Henry V, by E. Powell. Speculum 67, no. 4 (1992): 1032-4.