Archive for the ‘Henry III’s fine roll blog for 1261’ Category

Henry III’s End of Year

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Did Henry have a sense that a new year began on 1 January in accordance with Roman practice. The answer is  yes because we know he gave what he would have  regarded as new year’s presents on the feast of the  Circumcision, which is 1 January. See the fascinating article by Ben Wild in English Historical Review for 2010 (pp.529-69).  On the other hand, Henry would also have been aware that the Christian church began the year with one of its own festivals.  That used by Bede and  Matthew Paris, was Christmas Day. An alternative, followed by many chroniclers and sometimes by the royal chancery was 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation.

Henry III’s Last Blog for 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Over the Christmas of 1261, did Henry III think back over his tumultuous, triumphant year? Triumphant because he had, for all practical purposes, broken the shackles fastened  in 1258 and recovered unfettered power. His conduct, however, appears un-heroic. He spent much of the year, sheltering, some might say cowering,  behind the walls of the Tower of London. On only three occasions had he dared to leave the capital. He had gone to Dover in May to secure the castle. Next month he had gone to Winchester to proclaim the papal bull quashing the oath to observe the  reforms of 1258. And then he had spent part of August and September at Windsor whither he summoned knights from the counties to attend his parliament. Meanwhile throughout England the authority of his sheriffs was being challenged by the insurgents. It is difficult to believe that either Henry’s father or his son would have behaved in this passive fashion. John and Edward would surely have toured the country bolstering the power of their local agents and punishing their opponents. Yet to all criticism, one answer is sufficient. Henry’s softly softly tactics had brought him victory. By not provoking the opposition, he had in the end disarmed it. The consequences of more abrasive tactics might well have been civil war. Henry’s personal preferences, as a ‘rex pacificus’, went hand in hand with political sense.

Henry III’s Christmas Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 December to Saturday 31 December 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Westminster.  There is no fine roll business dated to it, but the other chancery rolls show something of how Henry celebrated Christmas. Thus  he ordered the custodians of various royal forests to catch, salt and carry to him for the feast  a total of 160 does. Henry issued this order on 4 December from the Tower of London, and was still unclear about his movements for  the game was simply to be sent to him it time for Christmas  wherever that might be.  Clearly Henry felt the political situation might still confine him to the Tower.  Fortunately, as we have seen, the storm clouds cleared, and on 10 December it was from Westminster that Henry issued orders for the purchase of 171 pairs of shoes, half at 5d a pair and half at 4½d, shoes with which, he, his queen and their children would  make their Christmas gifts to paupers. Doubtless numerous paupers were also fed. In 1259, when in Paris, Henry fed 450 paupers on the vigil and feast day, as well as burning 171 pounds of wax, 75 of them in the chapel and almonry.  We may be sure that on Christmas day 1261 Westminster Abbey was filled with light from Henry’s tapers. Henry also distributed robes to over sixty of the men, mostly nobles and household knights, to whom he had owed his victory. The costs of the celebrations stretched the royal budget. Henry  admitted that there was no money  for the purchases made in London against the feast, and told the mayor and sheriffs to promise payment from  the farms they owed at Easter and Michaelmas in 1262.  Still, Henry must have felt it was essential to put on a big celebration, both to proclaim his victory and thank God and man for it.

            It may be suggested that, as part of his thanks,  Henry now made a momentous decision about Westminster Abbey.  His return to Westminster in December 1261 had been after a long absence. Indeed, he  had not lived there since January 1261.  Now, having come to Westminster for Christmas, he  stayed there till 10 February. He was able once again to inspect the progress of the  great building. He was able once again to pray beside the shrine of Edward the Confessor, the patron saint to  whom above all, interceding at God’s right hand, he owed his triumph.  A long period of proximity to the Abbey and the Confessor, an overwhelming desire to thank the latter for his freedom, and by that very token  the power and the leisure to do so, all these things resulted in Henry’s decision to commission  from the Cosmati marblers in Italy  a magnificent shrine base to hold aloft the golden casket holding the Confessor’s body. The Italian reference  also thanked the pope for his support in the great struggle.  The shrine base, with its surrounding pavement, is thus the first of the Cosmati works in the Abbey. It is the product of a very precise moment in Henry’s career. It is his thank offering for his recovery of power in 1261.

Westminster Abbey and the Shrine of Edward the Confessor

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 December to Saturday 24 December 1261

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Henry began this week at Merton priory where he was doubtless sustained by both the alimentary and spiritual ministrations of the monks. On Friday 23 December he returned to Westminster to celebrate Christmas. The move is perfectly illustrated on the fine rolls where the last entry on membrane 18 ends ‘witnessed by the king at Merton on 23 December’  and the first on membrane 17 ‘witnessed by the king at Westminster on 23 December’. The Latin, with the abbreviations expanded and placed in square brackets,  is respectively T[este] R[ege] ap[ud] M[er]ton’ xxiii  die Dec[embris] and T[este R[ege] apud Westm[onasterium] xxiii die Dec[embris].

The chronological confusion which had overtaken the fine rolls during the political crisis is illustrated by the third entry on membrane 17 which concludes  ‘witnessed by the king at the Tower of London on 9 December’.  This confusion makes it hard to know how many writs associated with the common law legal actions were purchased between 18 and 24

December.  During the week Henry was busily preparing his Christmas festivities for which see next week’s blog.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 December to Saturday 17 December 1261

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Henry III began this week at Westminster.  After his long sojourn in the Tower, what a relief to be back at his great  palace. Once more he could pray beside the shrine of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, and survey the magnificent abbey he was rebuilding in his honour. Surprisingly, however, Henry’s stay only lasted a few days. On 14 December he left for Merton priory in Surrey, a religious house where he often stayed.  Conceivably, after his long absence, the palace of Westminster was not ready to receive him.  He would enjoy the hospitality of the Merton monks before returning to Westminster  for Christmas.

As we saw from last week’s blog, on 7 December Henry had  proclaimed the ‘form of peace’ agreed with his opponents.  But the agreement was far from universal. At Merton on Friday 16 December, Henry issued an appeal to those who had yet to seal the document, urging them  to do so. If they could not come in person, they could just send their seals.

The list of the recalcitrants  was  the same as it had been on 7 December. In the order given  it was as follows.

Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk

John de Warenne, earl of Surrey,

Simon de Montfort, earl of Leiecester

Roger Mortimer

Hugh Despencer

William Bardolph

John de Burgh

Henry de Hastings

John fitzJohn

Robert de Vipont

William de Munchensy

John fitzAlan

Nicholas of Seagrave

Geoffrey de Lucy

How many of these men actually responded to the call to  seal the agreement we do not know, but what we do know is that they never acted as a body to oppose it. That for Henry was enough.  Inaction amounted to acceptance, acceptance of his recovery of power and the effective abrogation of the Provisions of Oxford.  Just to hammer home the point, on 11 December Henry sent envoys to the new pope Urban IV, asking him to renew his predecessor’s absolution from the oath to obey the Provisions,  Provisions which had been issued ‘manifestly to the depression and diminution of royal power’.

Only one man stood out  against this feeble acquiescence: Simon de Montfort.  According to the friendly and well informed annals of Dunstable priory, having heard that his erstwhile allies  had capitulated, ‘he left England, saying that he preferred to die without land than be a perjurer and depart from the truth’.  This was the defining moment in Simon’s career, the moment when he showed he was not as other men.  Unlike everyone else, he would not abandon the Provisions.  He would only return to England if they were resurrected. When he did return in 1263 it was to lead a movement which aimed to do just that.

The fine rolls continue to reflect the uncertainty of this period. Things were far from back to normal.  The fine rolls, like the other rolls of the chancery, continue to record business in a jumbled chronological order. The dearth of those  seeking the writs to pursue the common law legal actions continued. Only four such writs were purchased between  dated entries on 12 and 23 December. In one writ on the fine rolls, issued on 12 December,  Henry rewarded a man who, morally and materially, had been crucial to his recovery of power.  This was Philip Basset. Basset was  a wealthy and respected magnate. In the subsequent  civil war he was as defiant in defeat as he was magnanimous in victory. He refused to surrender at the battle of Lewes, and was captured covered in wounds. After Evesham, he did all he could to alleviate the lot of the disinherited. It was immensely important for Henry’s cause in 1261, that he had a man of this calibre on his side, and indeed could appoint him as justiciar, in effect the chief minister of his regime.  What made Basset’s stance all the more significant, was that years before, in 1233 he and his older brother, Gilbert Basset,  had joined Richard Marshal, earl of Pembroke’s rebellion against the crown. Philip then was no pliant,  unthinking loyalist. Henry’s concession on 12 December itself reached back to the events of 1233, since when Philip had succeeded Gilbert as lord of the Basset estates. Henry now pardoned Philip the £9 4s 4d owed for the farm of High Wycombe (a chief Basset manor held from the crown)  for the first part of the financial year 1232-3. The concession appears 6th from the bottom on the fine roll. The reason was that Gilbert had been unable to receive the money ‘because the king had taken [High Wycombe] into his hand at the aforesaid time by reason of the war waged between the king and Richard earl Marshal’. So, for the king. Philip’s loyalty in 1261 wiped away the last stain  disloyalty of 1233.  Philip would not have looked at it like that.  Rebellion in 1233 had been justified. In 1261 it was not.

Would Henry get to his palace and abbey at Westminster for a happy and peaceful Christmas?  Read subsequent blogs to find out.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 December to Saturday 10 December 1261

Monday, December 5th, 2011

At last for Henry, victory, or at least an approach to victory.  On 21 November, at Kingston on Thames,  his envoys and those of the baronial insurgents had agreed the terms of peace. But would the barons, for whom the envoys were acting, actually accept them? Since 21 November Henry had waited anxiously in the Tower of London to find out, hoping for peace but still preparing for war. The answer came this week. In London, on Monday 5 December, according to the Oseney abbey chronicler, Henry and the barons put their seals to ‘the form of peace’. Two days later, on Wednesday 7 December, Henry proclaimed it in letters sent through the counties of England. The letters were in French, the vernacular language of the nobility and gentry, and thus were intended to be read out direct, without any need of translation from the Latin.  Henry declared that a conflict had arisen between himself and his barons and others ‘by reason of the covenants made between us and them’ in 1258. In order to bring the quarrels to an end, a ‘mise’ (meaning here a process or arbitration) had been agreed ‘by common accord between us and them’. The judgement  was to be pronounced by the following Pentecost, and meanwhile Henry had given ‘them’ his peace.  The proclamation did not go into details about the ‘mise’ and indeed no official text of it survives.  However, as we have seen in other blogs, it certainly involved  Henry making a major concession over how the sheriffs were to be chosen. But it also left him in control of central government. The cardinal and most obnoxious  feature of the 1258 reforms was thus  overthrown. Nor, given the form  of the arbitration, was there any likelihood  of it being revived.

Henry’s victory, however, was far from assured, as a second letter issued on 7 December showed.  Here he pardoned all the  trespasses of his opponents, but went on to name fourteen men who needed to put their seals to the mise by Epiphany (6 January) if they were to benefit from  it.  The fourteen, then, had so far resisted the terms of the peace, which  helps explains the long interval between its negotiation on 21 November and proclamation on 7 December.  The fourteen were formidable. The list began with Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, and Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, and also included John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, and  Roger de Mortimer.  The fine rolls themselves in this period still reflect an uncertain situation.  The dated entries a come in  haphazard order with one  from 9 December coming after one for 23 December. See (the first and third entries).

Yet Henry seemed confident.  On 8 December he took steps to pay off the foreign mercenaries whom he was  gathering across the Channel. And, on the same day,  he at last moved from the Tower to Westminster. Henry had not been to Westminster since his fleeting visit on 13 October to celebrate the translation of Edward the Confessor.  After the ceremony, he  had fled to the  Tower and remained there.  That he now could now leave the fortress for the  palace is a sure sign he felt the immediate crisis was at an end.  He doubted whether  the  recalcitrant barons would act together.  And they were only fourteen. Clearly a far larger group  had sealed the agreement. One of these was Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, to whom Henry made various concessions (including a gift of deer) on 3 and 4 December. The fine rolls themselves show Henry, around 10 December, alleviating the debts of the great northern baron, his ‘beloved and faithful’, Gilbert de Gant.  See (sixth entry from bottom).

Above all, Henry had won over Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford.  His desertion was seen as the crucial factor by all the contemporary commentators.  He too received a concession from the king on 11 December.  Henry, therefore, with his brother Richard of Cornwall, and  Richard de Clare on side had the support of the two most powerful English barons. He was also strengthened on 10 December  by the receipt from Louis IX of several thousand pounds due under the Treaty of Paris.

Would Henry’s confidence be justified? What was Simon de Montfort going to do? Read next week’s blog to find out.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 27 November to Saturday 3 December 1261

Monday, November 28th, 2011

A very tense week for Henry III, as he waited on peace or war in the Tower of London. At Kingston on  Thames on 21 November, his envoys and those of his opponents had negotiated a ‘form of peace’. But would it prove acceptable?  Simon de Montfort was now leading the fight to reject the terms, given they meant  relinquishing control of the king and thus the overthrow  (as Simon would have seen it) of the Provisions of Oxford. At Runnymede in 1215 it had taken three days for the terms of Magna Carta to be accepted by the barons assembled at Runnymede.  John issued the Charter on 15 June and it was only on the nineteenth that peace was declared. Now it was taking much longer for this week saw no formal ratification and announcement of the 21 November settlement. The fine rolls continue to reflect the turmoil.  Between 26 November and  10 December only seventeen writs to initiate and further  common law legal actions were purchased, a pretty paltry number for a fortnight. Would there then be war or peace. Would Henry III win or Simon de Montfort? Next week we really do find out!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 20 November to Saturday 26 November 1261

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Henry spent all this week at the Tower of London. The chaos of the time,  with civil war so close, is again reflected in the collapse of fine rolls business.  Between dated entries on 15 and 26 November, only four writs were purchased to initiate or further common law legal actions.  Clearly it was thought dangerous to come to court to get the writs. In any case would the king’s courts be functioning to hear the cases?

Henry, however, could at last hope the clouds were lifting.  For some time now, negotiations, had been on going  at Kingston on Thames for a settlement of  the quarrel.  On  Monday, 21 November,  a provisional agreement was reached.  Under this ‘form of peace’, both sides   appointed three arbitrators who were to pronounce their award on the Provisions of Oxford by the following June.  If they disagreed, then the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall and  the king of France, would be added to their number. For Henry this proposal must have seemed  like approaching victory. He was left in charge of central government, free  from the pernicious controls imposed on him in 1258.  Nor was there any likelihood of them ever being revived, given the presence of   Richard of Cornwall and the king of France amongst the potential arbitrators.  Nonetheless Henry paid a price. He agreed that each county could elect four candidates for the office of sheriff  from whom  he would choose one, very much the arrangement under the reforms of 1258-9.  This meant that the trusty  sheriffs, whom Henry had appointed in the summer of 1261,  would have to go out, and  Henry might  have to choose their successors  from the very men who had so violently  opposed them.   Henry had almost certainly been brought to this concession  by the demands of Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester.  It was his weakening resistance, which made the settlement at Kingston possible.   With a large following of knights to appease, the  compromise over the sheriffdoms was his price. Henry must have felt it was worth paying. It certainly shows the force of local opinion in the crisis of 1261, which both sides had recognised in summoning  knights from the shires to their rival parliaments.

The peace of Kingston was simply a draft proposal, which had still to be ratified by the opposition leaders.   It had the support of Richard de Clare, otherwise it would never have come into being, but what of the other insurgent barons?  Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, despite being put down as one of the arbitrators,  refused his agreement. So did many others. Most vociferous and passionate of all in his rejection was Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.   Would the Kingston compromise stick?  Read the blogs of the next few weeks to find out.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 13 November to Saturday 19 November 1261

Monday, November 14th, 2011

For Henry this was yet another week in the Tower of London. Negotiations with his opponents were continuing at Kingston on Thames. On Monday 14 November Henry issued yet another safe conduct, this one to run till Saturday 19 November, for the barons coming to Kingston  ‘to make peace with the king’. But, as before,  Henry was  keeping up his guard. The next day he ordered his castellan of Dover and sheriff of Kent, the doughty Robert Walerand,  to receive the knights and others called into the king’s service from beyond the seas.  The fine rolls this week contain two pieces of evidence which suggest that Henry was holding sway in northern Kent. On 16 November he placed Rochester under the control of John de Grey. John’s brother, Richard, was a leading Montfortian, but John, a former steward of the royal household  remained loyal to the king. Henry was acting, so he said, partly at the request of the citizens themselves, who were so riven by faction that they had asked the king several times to take the vill into his own hands. He was also, he said, motivated by ‘the disturbances which have arisen in the kingdom and the preservation of the security of those parts’.  Henry was equally in contact with the citizens of Faversham. It was in this week that the  barons of Faversham’, as they are called in recognition of their status, agreed to pay the king 10 marks for a royal charter.  The fine can be seen at the top of this image of membrane 18 of the roll. Details of this charter and others relating to Faversham are listed on Faversham’s own website.

The fine rolls also show that, in this week, Henry had a welcome windfall of money, although less than first appears.  The next entry to that for Faversham records how Belia, widow of Petitevin of Bedford, a Jew, had paid 400 marks cash down and promised 335 marks to come, for the chattels, lands and rents of her former husband in Bedford. In fact a later entry shows that she had already given  300 of the 400 marks when the king was at Windsor earlier in the year, and only 100 marks now came at the Tower. Still this was a useful subvention  at a critical time. The fine also shows, of course, that there remained  some very wealthy Jews despite the heavy taxation of the previous decades. Belia was also far from the only Jewish widow to take on her husband’s business.

The fine rolls  continue to reflect the chaotic times. Their material is jumbled in terms of chronology and it is difficult to know how many writs were purchased in this week to initiate and further common law legal actions. Between  12 and 23 November, the number appears to be a fairly modest eighteen.

Are the negotiations at Kingston going to have any result? Read next week’s instalment.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 6 November to Saturday 12 November 1261

Monday, November 7th, 2011

For King Henry, as the kingdom  balanced uncertainly between  war or peace, this was yet another week in the Tower of London. How he must have hated being confined there.  The continuing collapse of fine roll business testified to the uncertainty of the times.  Between 5 November and 12 November only seven writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased.  One membrane of the rolls was sufficient to cover everything on the rolls between 26 October and 15 November.

In this week there was one substantial piece of business.  The prior and convent of Hyde abbey in Winchester offered 100 marks to have custody of their properties during the vacancy which would be created by the death or resignation of their current abbot. They paid the money, the fine rolls noted, to a merchant of Genoa for the crossbows bought from him for the king’s use.  Henry, however, still hoped to avoid firing off his armoury. On 8 November yet another safe conduct (this one lasting till 12 November) was given to barons coming to Kingston for peace negotiations.

From the witness list of a royal charter, we know  who was with Henry in the Tower on Monday 7 November.[1] The Savoyard kinsmen of the Queen (who almost certainly there too)  were very apparent.   Peter of Savoy, Peter de Chauvent, and the king’s steward, Imbert Pugeys, sometimes  called Imbert of Savoy, all witnessed the charter.  Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury, was probably present as well since the charter was in his favour.   The official element was headed by John Mansel and Philip Basset. Also present  was the bishop of Salisbury, Giles of Bridport. He and Mansel we later find acting as envoys of the king in the negotiations and doubtless they were already filling that role.   Giles of Bridport’s splendid tomb still survives in Salisbury cathedral.

Another witness to the charter was  Hugh de Vere, earl of Oxford. He was the poorest earl and not a man of much political weight, but  his presence may well reflect a role in the negotiations.

Henry was surrounded by wise heads. Would they be able to broker peace?


[1] This charter was actually copied at the end of the final membrane of the charter roll for the previous regnal year, another indication of the chaos in the chancery for which see also the blog for 23-29 October.