Archive for May, 2011

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 29 May to Saturday 4 June 1261

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

From Guildford, where he was on Sunday 29 May, Henry moved to Chawton, later of course of Jane Austen fame. He left there on Tuesday 31 May and the same day reached Winchester. He now had plenty of time to prepare for the proclamation of the papal letters quashing  the Provisions of Oxford. The lives of medieval rulers revolved around the ecclesiastical calendar. They were deeply aware of how celebration of the  great religious festivals could give a sacral gloss to their rule before large gatherings of people.  Thus coronations and crown wearings, parliaments and proclamations were frequently time to coincide with the great feasts. [See the blog on the ‘Revealing Records’ symposium below.]  So it was in 1261 for Henry III intended to pronounce the papal letters on the feast on Pentecost. In 1261 as in 2011, this fell on Sunday 12 June.  Arriving at Winchester on 31 May, Henry thus had eleven days before  the papal balloon went up.

The journey to Winchester, not surprisingly, saw a sharp decline in the numbers of writs purchased in connection with  the common law legal procedures;  only nineteen  as opposed to sixty the week before when the king had been largely in London. The fine rolls for this week also have a fascinating order highlighting  various aspects of the king’s relations with the Jews. It was issued at the instance of Henry’s son, the Lord Edward, which reflected the fact that the Jews had been placed in some respects under his control.  The Jews owed the king 1000 marks (£666) as a penalty for an unspecified ‘trespass’. This they had been due to pay before Pentecost. Now, at Edward’s request, the payment was postponed till three weeks after the feast of John the Baptist, so to 15 July (another example of how the calendar was conceived in terms of the great ecclesiastical festivals).  Meanwhile the Jews were to recover their  chattels seized for the non payment of the debt. Henry then added a proviso. In the assessment of the  money to pay the debt, poor Jews were not to be ‘grieved’.  In intervening for the Jews, Edward was probably serving his own interests. There would be all the more of Jewish money for himself. Quite probably, he was also paid for his intervention.  But in Henry’s proviso one wonders if one sees his well known concern for the poor embracing even the poor of the Jewish community.  The importance attached to the proviso  is shown in the way  it was added to the initial record of the order on the fine rolls. Henry, however, was also casting an avaricious eye over Jewish wealth.  Before the chattels were returned,  there was to be an inquiry into what exactly was in the  ‘coffers’ or ‘chests’  of the Jews  in London and elsewhere. This was to be carried out secretly so the Jews were unaware of it, and the king was to be informed of the results.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 22 May to Saturday 28 May 1261

Friday, May 27th, 2011

From Saturday 21 May till Thursday 26 May, Henry III remained at the bishop of London’s palace at Saint Pauls. The flood of litigants seeking writs to initiate and further common law legal actions continued. The fine rolls show no less than sixty such writs were purchased in these days. On Tuesday 24 May, the chancery despatched to the exchequer  a copy of the fine roll down to that date so that it knew what monies to collect.  Alongside the note  recording  this despatch,  the clerk drew a grotesque head.  In the draft translation of the roll currently on line we suggested this was might have been a caricature of Mabel, daughter of Simon de Bere, who in an adjoining entry was recorded as giving half a mark for the hearing of an assize.  Closer inspection of the image  shows the imputation is false and we are pleased to withdraw it. The head, instead, was clearly intended to mark out the note about the despatch of the roll to the exchequer.

Head drawn on membrane 10 of roll C60/58

Under the cloak of this routine business, great matters were now afoot.  The king must certainly have received the papal letter of 13 April absolving his from his oath to observe the Provisions of Oxford.  Probably too the follow up letter of 29 April had also arrived in England. This was even more crucial because it was not personal to Henry but general to the realm.  The letter empowered the  archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Norwich, and John Mansel, to absolve everyone from their oaths. At St Paul’s,  there must have been earnest debate as to when, where and how to detonate this explosive weapon. One problem concerned the addressees. The bishop of Norwich, a former royal judge, was completely to be trusted. So, of course, was Henry’s loyal, wise and courageous clerk,  John Mansel. Indeed, in this week Mansel was made constable of the Tower of London.  He was at court and central to the direction of policy. The problem was the archbishop, Boniface of Savoy,  the uncle of the queen, who had incurred the king’s displeasure over the legislation, very critical of royal government, passed at the Lambeth ecclesiastical council earlier in the month.  (See Sophie Ambler’s contribution to this blog).  On Thursday 26 May, Henry sent a proctor to Rome to appeal against the ordinances made  ‘to the prejudice of the king’s right and dignity and the liberties,  laws and customs of the realm’. The phraseology reflects royal thinking on a wider front. The king was now to take action against another set of Ordinances, the Provisions of Oxford, which  were equally prejudicial to the king and the realm. Henry could only hope (probably rightly) that Boniface would be more co-operative in the secular sphere than he was in the ecclesiastical.

In other respects, what was in the making seems very much a foreign, Savoyard plot, in which doubtless the queen herself was deeply involved. At court were her uncle, Peter of Savoy, and a host other Savoyards or Savoyard connections, including  Imbert Pugeys,  Imbert de Montferrand, Eubule de Montibus and Ingram de Fiennes.  Also there, providing muscle, were a group of Welsh marcher barons, James of Audley, Thomas Corbet, and Reginald fitzPeter.  Behind this group stood  the king’s brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and king of Germany.  He received major concessions this week, as did Henry his son. And even more vital was the  support or at least acquiescence of Henry’s own son, Edward. On his return to England,  he had seemed to sympathise with Montfort. But he had appeared for his father at the Lambeth conference to protest against any violation of the rights of the crown, and this week a concession was made ‘at his instance’.

It was this grouping  which took the momentous decision. They would detonate the papal letters and publicly denounce the Provisions of Oxford. But they would not do it in London. For all the security of the Tower, there was danger of an explosion from the heaving  and volatile populace. Instead the coup would be launched  somewhere both safe and symbolic. This was Winchester, Henry’s birthplace, and ancient seat of royal government, where the great castle dominated the small town, and ensured the loyalty of its docile inhabitants. Henry, therefore, left London on Thursday 26 May. Covering over thirty miles, that evening he reached his palace castle at Guildford.  There he remained, gathering breath, on the Friday and Saturday. On the Saturday, despite the tension all around,  the fine rolls recorded a characteristic act of  charity.   Henry, so he said,  had heard that the resources of Ralph de Heppewrth’ (perhaps Hepworth in Suffolk),  were insufficient to pay his debts to the Jews. Therefore, ‘out of compassion for his poverty’, Henry  took steps to ensure Ralph had enough to live off and was not ‘forced to beg’.

Welcome to Dr Alice Taylor

Friday, May 20th, 2011

The Project welcomes to King’s College Dr Alice Taylor. Alice has just been appointed to the lectureship in Medieval British History 1100-1500 at King’s.  She is currently a junior research fellow at King’s College Cambridge. Alice is on the International Advisory Group of the AHRC funded project ‘The Breaking of Britain: cross border society and Scottish Independence 1216-1314’, with which the Department of History and DCH at King’s are both involved.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 May to Saturday 21 May 1261

Friday, May 20th, 2011

After his expedition to Kent, and recovery of Dover castle, Henry had got back to London on the evening of Saturday 14 May. He had hoped (or at least there are indications that he had hoped), to set up court at Westminster, but instead he had gone to the Tower. His stay  was brief, however,  for he left the fortress  on Sunday 15 May and spent the whole of this  week, doubtless in greater comfort,  at the bishop of London’s palace at St Paul’s. 

The return to London coincided with a large increase in the purchase of writs to initiate and further the common law legal actions. Clearly a backlog had built up during Henry’s Kentish foray, with litigants hesitating to follow  the king and waiting in London  for his return. Thus no less than 53 such writs were purchased this week, between two and three times the number usual since the start of this blog  back in March.

 The fine rolls also contain a writ in which Henry said how ‘moved’ he was ‘by the long service’ which Nicholas the Welshman, his messenger, had given him. As a result, Henry made Nicholas a life grant of a small holding in Brockton (near Sutton Maddock) in Shropshire.  Nicholas was to perform the service due from the holding, which, other evidence shows, was to find a man for Montgomery castle for fifteen days in time of war with a bow and four arrows.  Henry’s employment of Nicholas reflects, of course, how ready Welshmen were to serve the king of England, if necessary fighting against  their own people.  In Nicholas’s case one assumes that his man did not go home, or hang around idly,  once he had fired off his four arrows. One remembers, however, the case  of Hugo fizHeyr (discovered by Michael Prestwich.)  He was obliged to follow the king in war with a bow and arrow. In 1282, as soon as he saw the king’s enemies, he loosed off his arrow and went home.

In making his grant to Nicholas, Henry  stressed that he was acting within his rights and that an inquiry (which survives) had shown that the property was indeed his to give.  Henry’s assertions chimed with other statements this year. Struggling to re-assert his authority and overthrow the Provisions of Oxford, he was often at pains to stress the law abiding nature of his rule.

The need to do so was becoming more and more apparent, as the struggle intensified.  During this week, on Wednesday 18 May, Henry  warned the Cinque Ports that Simon de Montfort was ‘endeavouring to bring into the realm aliens with arms against the king to the disturbance of the peace and the grievous cost of the realm’.  This was to turn the tables on Montfort who complained vociferously  about Henry’s own attempt to bring foreign soldiers into the realm in 1260. In fact Henry was doing the same again now. On Saturday 21 May he promised a life pension to the count of  St Pol who was, or was hoped to be,  the leader of one such foreign contingent.

During this week, at the latest,  Henry must have received the papal bull issued from Rome on 13 April which absolved him from his oath to keep the Provisions of Oxford. Indeed, it may well have arrived  on or shortly before 12 May at Canterbury. On that day,  John Mansel junior, who had secured the bull from the pope and probably brought it to England, was setting off back to papal court.  The question for Henry and his advisers was when and how to detonate this explosive weapon.

William Bagot and the Hospital of St John, Oxford

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

On 9 May 1261, one week after the Exchequer’s Easter term had begun, the fine rolls noted an unusual arrangement for a sheriff’s debt to be paid by a hospital. William Bagot, the sheriff of Warwickshire, was recorded to have attended the Adventus at the beginning of term, and brought £100 for the farm of the county and the debts for which he had been summoned. In fact, he does not seem to have paid any cash into the Treasury until the following week. He paid £22 on Friday 13 May, then £11 for the remainder of his farm and £82 profit on 17 May. Leaving aside the profit, he had paid only £33 towards the farm and debts. The difference was made up by the arrangement set out in the fine roll on 9 May: brother Henry, the master of the hospital of St John in Oxford, had recently bought some land from Bagot for 100 marks (£67); rather than paying the money to the sheriff, the master would pay it into the Exchequer, to set against the sheriff’s debt there. The deal, also recorded in the Exchequer’s memoranda rolls, was for the master to pay 50 marks on 18 May, and the rest at the end of September.

The hospital was a wealthy insitution, with extensive land holdings (a list of its properties occupies nearly eight pages of the printed charter rolls). It was one of Henry III’s favoured institutions – he regarded himself as its founder, because he had given it the site outside the east gate of Oxford, where Magdalen College now stands. It often received royal gifts of timber, and had a wide range of liberties and privileges. Perhaps this favoured status led the master to take a rather casual attitude towards paying the debt he owed to the Exchequer. Despite agreeing to pay the 100 marks in full by the end of September 1261, the pipe roll shows that brother Henry had still paid nothing by the end of September 1262, although the 100 marks had been set against Bagot’s debts to the Exchequer.

Brother Henry did eventually pay the first instalment of 50 marks, due just nine days after the agreement was made. It is recorded in the 1265 pipe roll, which also notes that he had been pardoned the remaining 50 marks by writ of the king. And indeed the fine rolls record the pardon too, on 18 January 1266. Nearly five years after the arrangement had been made, Bagot still owed £65 from the farm for 1261, but at least his debt had been reduced by 100 marks; the hospital of St John had acquired a piece of land at half-price; and the Exchequer had indirectly paid for it, through Henry’s usual generosity.

Sources:

Calendar Fine Rolls 1260-61, 404; 1265-66, 120.

Memoranda roll E 159/34 m. 14.

Pipe rolls E 372/106; E 372/109 rot. 4.

Victoria County History, Oxfordshire, II, 158-9 (online)

Calendar of Charter Rolls, I, 296-304.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 May to Saturday 14 May 1261

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Having been at Romney on Saturday 7 May 1261, Henry moved north to Canterbury where he stayed from Monday 9 May to the following Friday. This pause enabled those seeking the writs to initiate and further the common law legal actions to catch up with him. In the previous week, only four  had been purchased. This week the number recovered to  a healthy twenty-one. It is noticeable that eight of these concerned litigation in Kent, and another three  cases in Sussex and Surrey. This shows how the king’s presence in an area encouraged litigants  to come forward to purchase writs.  On the other hand, people were still prepared to travel, even  in these troubled times,  and three writs were purchased for cases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.  The fine roll also has a writ (issued from Canterbury on Monday 9 May), in which the king pardoned  Reginald fitzPeter a debt of five marks. This was a timely reward for his support, for Reginald had come to court and on this very day attested a royal charter.  Since he was a lord with major interests both in Hampshire and the Welsh marches,  his was an important addition to royal strength.  It was needed for Henry’s anxieties in this week are palpable.  One way kings of England strengthened their position in  times of political tension was by the exaction of  oaths of loyalty from their subjects. In 1209, for example, King John had taken oaths and homages from a large assembly gathered at Marlborough. (This is the subject of a fascinating paper by John Maddicott in the April 2011 edition of English Historical Review.)  On Friday 6 May, Henry had, in similar fashion, taken the homages of the barons of the Cinque ports gathered at Lydd near Romney. But very far from all had come. There was also conspicuous absenteeism when Henry, around the same time, summoned the knights and freemen of Kent to swear oaths of fealty. Had Henry been a bold man, had his position warranted it, he might now have taken punitive action against the delinquents.  Instead, with Dover safe under Robert Walerand,  and the main aim of his expedition accomplished, he decided to return to the safety of the capital.  Another factor in his decision was probably  alarm at the rebellion against  the royal judges in Hertfordshire. This had taken place on 2 May, and on Friday 12 May, from Canterbury, Henry  withdrew the judges and proclaimed his desire to give everyone his ‘gracious justice and benevolent favour’. On the same day, Henry declared he could not go to Sussex to receive the fealty of the knights and freemen of the county. The sheriff would have to receive it instead. On Saturday 13 May, Henry left Canterbury and reached Faversham. There he told the sheriff of Kent and Robert Walerand to receive the fealty of those men of Kent and the Cinque Ports who had failed to turn up earlier. Next day, Saturday 14 May (the day on which the battle of Lewes was to be fought in 1264)  Henry reached Rochester and by the evening was back in the Tower of London.

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 1 May to Saturday 7 May 1261

Friday, May 6th, 2011

At the end of last week’s blog, we asked what Henry’s decision to leave London and advance on Dover (which he reached on  Monday 2 May) would have on the business recorded in the fine rolls. The answer is the business collapsed. Henry’s long residence at the Tower of London had meant that those wishing to purchase writs and other favours had a central and certain place to go. They were clearly not deterred by the surrounding political tension. The five weeks down to 30 April had seen the purchase of   20, 13, 17, 17 and 12 writs respectively to further the common legal actions. The week between 1-7 May saw the purchase of only four,   these at Dover on 3 and 4 May.   There were  only two other entries on the fine rolls.  In the one, Henry pardoned a one mark penalty  imposed on a Rochester vintner for selling his wares contrary to the weights and measures regulations. In the other, Henry accepted an offer of 100  marks from the convent of Much Wenlock in Shropshire to have custody of their house during the vacancy caused by the death of their prior.

The disappearance  of the usual fine roll business was of little moment, against this week’s triumphal political success. What happened at Dover was recorded on the patent rolls.

‘Memorandum that on 2 May the king came to Dover and on the morrow took into his hand the castle of Dover and the wardenship of the Cinque Ports, which Hugh Bigod held before of the king’s bail by counsel of the nobles of the council, and he committed these during his pleasure to Robert Walerand’.

 The phraseology here was deliberately chosen and deeply significant for it indicated that the authority of the 1258 Provisions of Oxford council was at end. Yes, in giving Dover to Bigod, Henry had acted ‘by counsel of the nobles of the council’, but there was no suggestion that he had done the same in transferring the castle to the trusty Robert Walerand. Walerand was to hold during his pleasure.  Henry was now acting free of restraint of his own free will.

Materially Henry had struck a mighty blow for Dover was ‘the key to England’.  He could now dominate the Cinque ports, control the channel and call in foreign help. Symbolically the blow was equally great. Hugh Bigod, with his appointment at justiciar in 1258, had been at the summit of the reform regime.  If he was now prepared to throw it over, that really seemed the end.  Bigod, moreover, put up no struggle. He supplied the king’s household with the castle’s wine, and immediately joined the circle of the court, witnessing a royal charter while the king was at Dover.

Later in the year Bigod may have regretted his conduct. In August, he refused to surrender Scarborough and Pickering castles to the king, on the grounds that he had received them from the council as well as the king, and was sworn to surrender them only with the council’s consent. Precisely the situation, one would have thought at Dover. At this moment,  however, his conduct was understandable. He had been close to the king before the revolution of 1258, and thereafter, as justiciar, had been careful treat him with respect, much more respect than some other members of the regime. In 1260,  he had obeyed the king, rather than Simon de Montfort, and refused to hold the Candlemas parliament laid down by the Provisions of Oxford.  Montfort had  threatened him with reprisals, and then in October 1260 secured his removal as justiciar, only failing to  remove him from Dover at the same time. Doubtless Bigod was now told by the king that a papal bull was on its way quashing the oath to the 1258 reforms. He believed  the baronial enterprise was at end.  It was only  subsequent events which showed he had miscalculated.

After his triumph at Dover, Henry  moved on to Romney near where, on 6 May, the barons of the Cinque Ports came to do him homage.  But there were signs it would not all  be plain sailing. On 2 May, the day he arrived at Dover, there was resistance to the king’s judges hearing pleas at Hertford, and complaints that they were acting in contravention of the Provisions of Oxford. Two day later, Henry summoned foreign soldiers to England. The struggle had only just begun.

Elias de Rabayn

Friday, May 6th, 2011

It is not surprising that Henry III sent for Elias Rabayn (see ‘Elyas de Rabayne’ in Henry III Fine Rolls Blog, Sunday 24 April to Saturday 30 April 1261).  Like all his fellow aliens, Rabayn, whilst much criticised by the English and their chroniclers, maintained a scrupulous loyalty to the King.  It is ironic that the only alien who betrayed him was the one to whom he had been most generous, Simon de Montfort.

The thirteenth century saw several waves of aliens coming to serve the English kings.  They came from Normandy, Touraine, Poitou, Savoy and even Germany.  The last wave, who arrived before the reform period, was that of the Poitevins.  They came to England in 1247, when the Lusignans arrived to be welcomed by their generous half-brother, Henry III.   Rabayn, probably from the Isle of Oléron, was first noted in English records in 1247.  He married an heiress and was Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1251 as well as Constable of Corfe and Sherborne.  Corfe was a vital castle which had once been the home of King John’s treasure and was still used for the imprisonment of important captives.  Rabayn retained Corfe when he was replaced as sheriff in 1255.  It was a gift of 500 marks’ worth of land to Rabayn that infuriated Matthew Paris in 1252.  He wrote that, whilst the King had refused to allow his own subjects to pay their debts in installments, he had nevertheless rewarded the Poitevin.

When the storm broke around the King’s head in 1258, the Barons in their Petition of that May asked that all royal castles including those adjoining harbours from which ships sailed, should be committed to the custody of men born in England and that no women should be disparaged by being married to ‘men who are not true-born Englishmen’.  As a result of the Provisions of Oxford of June/July, the Norman, John de Plessis, far from being removed, was appointed to the group of four who would chose the King’s Council, by a vote of the Barons.  In addition he was to hold Devizes castle.  Mathias Bezill was retained as Constable of Gloucester but Imbert Pugeys was removed from the Tower of London.  Rabayn lost the custody of Corfe castle.  The main casualties of 1258 were the Poitevins.  Their leaders, the Lusignans, who were perceived to have resisted the reformers, were driven out of England.  Their fall impacted on their associates; Rabayn also left England and his lands were taken into the King’s hands. 

1261 saw Henry III overthrowing the Provisions of Oxford and recovering his royal power. He replaced sheriffs with those he could trust.  With the recovery of royal power, some of the Poitevins returned; on 14 April, Rabayn was granted permission to return to England and was told to come at all speed.  Nine days later, he was remitted of the King’s rancour and his lands, which had been taken into the King’s hands on that account, were to be restored to him.

Serious concerns about disturbances in Wales and the March marked the beginning of 1263 and the King planned to go there with Rabayn as one of his party.  During June a petition of the Barons was produced which sought the restitution of the Provisions of Oxford but with a new demand that ‘aliens should depart from the kingdom never further to return, save those whose stay the faithful men of the realm might with unanimous assent accept’.  By July the King had agreed to the baronial demand and, following his consent  to  the Statute against the Aliens, the Lord Edward was forced to cede Windsor castle to the barons.  The alien knights had moved there when they were removed from London.   These knights were then escorted to the Channel coast and, according to one chronicler, ‘they returned to their native land’ and to another, they were allowed to ‘freely depart with their horses and arms after first swearing not to come back again without being sent for by the community‘. Was Rabayn among them?   But by November the Windsor castle was back in royal hands.

 As part of their submission to the arbitration of Louis IX of France, the Barons returned to the attack on the aliens, albeit linked to courtiers in general.  When, in January 1264, Louis announced his judgement at  Amiens, one knight with Henry III in France was Rabayn.  But perhaps he sensed that trouble was coming as, in February, he obtained a licence to crenellate his manor at Upway, near Lyme Regis in Dorset.

It is not certain whether Rabayn was at the Battles of Lewes or Evesham but he held rebel’s lands as early as October 1265.   Rabayn has been said to have joined the Lord Edward’s crusade but his presence as a royal charter witness during this period shows that he did not go.  However, he was Constable of Corfe again from 1272 until 1280 and for a short while he regained Sherborne castle.  When he died in 1285, some of his lands went to the alien Bezill family as his daughter married Mathias’s Bezill’s son, John.

A contribution by Dr Michael Ray