During the Middle Ages, the English upper classes and those in power over them used geographical movement as a key index by which they could register their respective concerns. We see this most clearly in those who were either forced to leave, or who left by choice, the English king's dominions during the later medieval period. From the earl of Norfolk fleeing England after the 1075 revolt to the duke of Exeter's escape to the Continent in the early 1460s, voluntary or forced foreign exile was a powerful statement either of the intent of the individual or of those in charge. However, there is an equally potent, though far less well examined, form of ‘geographical statement’ connected with the later medieval nobility and gentry: the situation arising when an individual fell out of favour with the king, court and/or those in power, but remained, or had to remain, in the area under the English king's control – either in England itself or in lands the king ruled elsewhere. After all, though a few high-profile nobles – most notably, Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV – successfully returned from foreign exile, most of those returning found their felicity transient at best. Whether Thomas Becket's return to Canterbury in 1170, or Henry VI's reappearance during the Adeption crisis in 1470–1, most such homecomings contained a rather obvious ‘worm in the bud’, which soon broke out. That said, if by the exercise of free will, by necessity or by force, those outside royal, governmental and/ or political favour remained within the king's dominions (if not always England itself), things could be quite different. While in some ways such individuals had publically ‘opted out’, or been forced out, of the right to help govern the kingdom, they were still on the stage, or at least in the wings, and therefore could never be entirely discounted.
The fourteenth century offers a useful case study of the idea of ‘internal exile’ in the later Middle Ages. During this period there were an unusually large number of cases of official and unofficial internal exile, often due to the changing fortunes of the various factions within the royal court (e.g. 1308, 1310, 1312, 1316, 1318, 1322, 1326–7, 1328, 1330, 1340–1, 1376–7, 1388, 1389, 1397, 1399);