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The plan of these volumes is similar to that described on pp. xi-xv of volume I of The House of Commons 1558-1603, any modifications being due to the limitations of the sources. Members are styled according to their status at the assembly of the first Parliament of the period 1386-1421 to which they are known to have been elected: the subsequent award of a knighthood is indicated in the text by the use of ‘(Sir)’ to denote the new rank. The device of Roman numerals after surnames distinguishes between namesakes, whether or not they were related; the numerical order being determined by the order of entry to the Commons. Generally speaking, the prefixes ‘atte’, ‘de’, ‘de la’ to Members’ surnames have been omitted, unless, as for example in the case of Sir Peter de la Mare, the person concerned is usually referred to in that way by historians of the period. No estimations of birth dates have been attempted; only when the evidence is reasonably reliable (e.g. that provided at inquests to establish proof of age) have such dates been given. The use of ‘?’ before a date implies reservation about the source, while ‘c.’ indicates an approximation of a year or so either side of the date printed. The limitations of the sources allow for no more than an occasional glimpse of a Member’s education (unlike in volumes of the History of Parliament covering later periods), and the complexities of the law relating to land-tenure frequently make it difficult to determine precisely when he succeeded to an inheritance. For these reasons the insertions ‘educ.’ and ‘suc. fa.’ are rarely supplied. Conversely, since the comparatively ample and specific evidence about offices and royal commissions held at the centre of government or in the localities often establishes a career structure for otherwise obscure individuals, full details of all such appointments are provided. Similar offices are grouped together and arranged in chronological order, not in order of their importance.
In the text of biographies other than his own, a man who sat in Parliament during the period under review is marked on his first appearance with a raised asterisks*; one who sat only outside the period with a raised dagger†. Where appointments to offices and commissions may be readily traced in the Calendars of Close, Fine and Patent Rolls, or in the PRO Lists of Sheriffs and Escheators, they are not cited in the footnotes.