Archive for June, 2011

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 26 June to Saturday 2 July 1261

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Henry spent all this week in the Tower of London. He and his councillors were planning the next step in the bid to recover  power. This was to dismiss all the sheriffs and castellans of the baronial regime throughout the counties of England and replace them with king’s men. In contemplating this momentous step, Henry must have been re-assured by the common law business done this week and recorded on the fine rolls. This showed that throughout the land there was still a demand for the king’s justice. This was something on which he could build. Thus it was that this week, with the king in a central and known place, over fifty writs were purchased to initiate and further legal actions according to the common law. Running roughly north to south, these related to the following counties.

Cumberland 4

Northumberland 1

Lancaster 1

Yorkshire  12

Lincolnshire 4

Nottinghamshire 1

Leicestershire 1

Norfolk 1

Suffolk 3

Shropshire 1

Staffordshire 1

Worcestershire 1

Gloucestershire 1

Cambridgeshire 3

Essex 2

Buckinghamshire 1

Kent 2

Sussex 2

Wiltshire 1

Somerset 3

Dorset 2

Devon 4

This was encouraging.   Only the absence of offers from Warwickshire, where Montfort, with his great base at Kenilworth, was particularly strong, might be seen as ominous.


Monday, June 27th, 2011

The Conference was a triumphal success with a series of fascinating papers (see programme on the site). There was also a reception in KCL’s Library in Chancery Lane (the old Public Record Office Building) which was attended by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger,  the CEO and Keeper of The National Archives, Oliver Morley, and the Principal of King’s, Rick Trainer.

The proceedings of the Conference will appear on this site in the form of a podcast, as will photographs of the reception.

It is not actually the end of the Project which continues till the end of the year, but we thought this was the best time to hold the Conference.  We also plan to continue the Fine of the Month  beyond the end of 2011 as long as material is forthcoming.


Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Members of the project team are working flat out now on their papers for the End of Project Conference on 24, 25 June at King’s College London.


The venue is the Edmond Safra lecture theatre in KCL’s main building off the Strand. Start 9.30 both days. Of course, people are very welcome to drop in for part of the proceedings.

MA Students visit TNA

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Here are some photos of the visit by students from KCL’s MA in medieval history to TNA on Tuesday 14 June, when they were taken round by Dr Jessica Nelson; and these are some images they took from the Exchequer Memoranda roll of 1267-8 – of Nicholas of Ely, bishop of Worcester, the exchequer cloth and castle.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 June to Saturday 25 June 1261

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

We left Henry on Saturday 18 June at Guildford.  He had reached there on his sudden flight from Winchester, following the furore provoked by his publication of the papal bulls dissolving the Provisions of Oxford. On the Sunday, Henry moved on to Kingston, closer that is to London, where he remained for the Monday and the Tuesday. The fine rolls reveal one piece of routine business discharged at this time and also the jurisdiction of the court held by the king’s marshal. This imposed an amercement (in modern terminology a fine) of one mark for wine sold at Kingston ‘contrary to the assize’, contrary that is to the regulations on weights and measures.  Probably Henry was pausing at Kingston while he received intelligence as to just how serious the revolt against his démarche was. Doubtless he would have liked to have gone on to Westminster.  In the event, he could not.   The situation did not permit residence at this undefended palace. On Tuesday 22 June Henry was back at the Tower of London. He was in for another long stay.

The disturbance of these days is reflected in the fine rolls which record no business for 19-21 June. It was also left to a clerk checking the rolls, while drawing up the copies sent to the exchequer, to supply the date  (22 June at the Tower of London) for an otherwise undated entry.  Some of the other chancery rolls at this time are even more chaotic with writs slapped down in haphazard order.  Once the king reached the Tower, however, routine business resumed and by the end of the week twenty-two writs to initiate or further the common law legal procedures were recorded on the fine rolls.

None of those securing these writs would have seen the king personally. This was business dealt with by the chancery clerks. But one person who appears on the fine rolls this week certainly did reach the royal presence, and found a warm welcome. This was the Gloucestershire baron, Maurice of Berkeley. In March he had been one of those give an annual pension (in his case 40 marks) in order to sustain him in the king’s service.  Now he was pardoned an amercement of £5 imposed for allowing a thief to escape from his prison at Redcliffe in Somerset.  He also received (while the king was at Kingston) a gift of three oaks from the forest of Dean. This was the kind of personal concession (Henry authorised it himself) which meant so much to the recipient. Evidently the king was very keen to secure Maurice’s loyalty in the struggle, all the more so since the great earl of Gloucester, Richard de Clare, was with the opposition.

We are able to see who was with the king this week in the Tower, thanks to the witness lists of royal charters issued from there on 25 June.  There were three bishops, those of Salisbury, Norwich and London. The last two were trusted royal servants and Henry could be absolutely sure of them.  In the same category came John Mansel (in command of the Tower), Philip Basset (now justiciar), Alan la Zouche, Robert Walerand , the judge William of Wilton, and the clerk Walter of Merton who was soon to be given custody of the seal.   Then there was group of barons from the Welsh march, Maurice of Berkeley, as we have said, and also Thomas Corbet of Cause and Reginald fitzPeter.  These men supplied muscle. Finally there were two men from the Savoyard party of the queen, namely Imbert de Montferrand and the king’s steward, Imbert Pugeys. One of the charters issued on 25 June was for another Savoyard, Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury. He was granted the right to hold a weekly market at Petersfield in the great archiepiscopal property of Maidstone. The fine rolls show he paid nothing for the concession. It was pure favour. Henry was not best pleased with his wife’s uncle, following the independence he had displayed at the ecclesiastical synod at Lambeth in May. But it was vital to keep him now on side, given he was one of those to whom the pope had addressed the letters quashing the Provision.

Henry III Fine Rolls on TWITTER

Monday, June 13th, 2011

On Tuesday 8 June 2011 the Project Team had one of their regular meetings. This was held in the 8th floor seminar room of KCL’s School of Humanities with its magnificent views over the Thames.  At the meeting Sophie Ambler (who has just been appointed to a one year fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research) set the Project up on TWITTER – Henry3FineRolls –  so please follow the tweets.

In the afternoon a workshop was held with our sister Gascon Roll Project, likewise funded by the AHRC.  The way the technical work on Fine Rolls (the earlier project) and been built on by Gascon Rolls was discussed.  One lesson agreed  was the value of funding  pilot studies  to estimate how long work would take.  The meeting closed with  swapped examples of the royal sense of humour. A fine of the Month on Henry III’s sense of humour as revealed by the Fine Rolls is forthcoming

The ‘Revealing Records’ Symposium held at King’s College on Friday 27 May 2011

Monday, June 13th, 2011

On Friday 27 May, the fourth ‘Revealing Records’ symposium was held at King’s. This gives an opportunity to doctoral students  from many universities to give papers about the records on which their research is based. A link to the proceedings will shortly appear on the Fine Rolls website.  One paper by Johanna Dale of UEA showed how European rulers timed their coronations to coincide with great ecclesiastical festivals. In a comment afterwards, David Carpenter drew attention to a choice of date by King Henry III of England which so far seems to have escaped comment. This was the date on which he took the cross in 1250. The day selected was the fourth Sunday in Lent, the Sunday that is when ‘Rejoice Jerusalem’ was sung, with readings appropriate to the theme. What more fitting day on which to assume the cross.  Clearly Henry was thinking big. His crusade was to be no brief tour of the East. Jerusalem would rejoice.  Joanna Daly pointed out that Frederick Barbarossa also took the cross on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Does anyone know of other examples?

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 12 June to Saturday 18 June 1261

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Sunday 12 June at Winchester. At last Whitsunday had arrived. Henry III always celebrated the great feast magnificently, and now he had added reason for doing so.  As so often in the medieval period, a major political event was to be linked to a key  Christian festival. The event, of course, was the publication of the papal letters quashing the Provisions of Oxford.  Henry had chosen Whitsun in part because it was the first great feast on the calendar after the arrival of the papal letters.  But he must also have thought the choice deeply appropriate. At Whitsun the Holy Spirit had rushed in upon the apostles, the multitude of assembled Jews had spoken in tongues, and Peter had cried out to the throng ‘Let  all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ’.  In the service Henry would have used, the Office for the day  began  ‘For the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world’. The appointed psalm was 68: ‘Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him’.  And this was the Collect:

‘God, who at this time didst teach the hearts of the faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy holy spirit; grant us by the same spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his comfort’.

Henry, of course, would not quite have equated the papal letters with the coming of the Holy Spirit, let alone have equated himself with Christ. But nonetheless the parallels were obvious. How he must have hoped the letters would re-establish ‘right judgement’ in his own people, and make them once again respect him as their proper lord and  rejoice in his comfort and protection.

Whitsunday doubtless began with a mass for the king in the castle,  his  chapel, together with the almonry, being  filled with light from numerous candles.  At Westminster for Whitsun 1260, for which records survive,  200 pounds of wax were consumed in the chapel and the almonry on the vigil and the feast day, twenty times more than what was often the usual quota. After this private mass, Henry and his entourage would have gone down from the castle to the cathedral  for the great service. One can imagine the procession of monks which came out to meet them.  There was no bishop, for the see was vacant, but Henry had with him the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich. Quite probably his son Edward was there too, a vital sign of political strength. At any rate on this very day, the fine rolls show Henry making a major concession to his son.  After the service there was a huge feast either in the bishop’s palace or back in the great hall of the castle, which of course still survives. (See the photos on this blog.) On the vigil  and the day of Whitsun in 1260, Henry had spent over £125 on his court’s food and drink,  a sum equalling of  a whole year’s income of a minor baron, and the very rough equivalent of over half a million pounds today. This was a sum over twenty times larger than Henry might have spent on two ordinary days.

The service in 1261 was  accompanied by prolific alms giving, hence the lights in the almonry.  Henry distributed 171 pairs of shoes to paupers and probably fed many more. His usual daily quota, when the queen was with him, was 150. But at Whitsun 1260  he fed 464, and probably it was the same in 1261. Henry also knighted some of his followers and distributed  robes to the 100 or so household knights he had now retained.  Just when and how the papal letters were proclaimed we do not know, but clearly   the rituals of the day enhanced their impact, and emboldened  the king and his supporters to put them into effect. Henry acted decisively to do just that. Probably on Whitsunday itself he dismissed  the baronial justiciar, Hugh Despencer,  and replaced him with the trusty Philip Basset.  There was no clearer proof that the baronial regime was over.

After these dramatic moves, it is not clear what Henry planned to do next. In the event, the decision was  made for him.  John Mansel, perhaps the best of all his councillors, had come part of the way to Winchester, but had then turned back. Probably he returned to the Tower of London where he was in command.  In any case, there or elsewhere,  he learnt that major resistance was being plotted against Henry’s overthrow of the Provisions of Oxford. At Winchester, Henry might even be in danger. Mansel thus hurried to join the king and was with him by Tuesday 14 June. He counselled an immediate return to the safety of the Tower, and that very day Henry slipped out of Winchester castle with a small following to make his return. By the evening he had  reached Alton, and by the end of the week was at Guildford. It was a humiliating conclusion to the triumphant Whitsun celebrations.  For all the robes distributed to his knights, Henry clearly felt his forces were insufficient to meet the growing insurgency.

The dramatic events of this week are reflected in the fine rolls.  Some eighteen writs to further common law legal actions were issued, but nearly all of these were purchased on or around 13 June before the flight from Winchester.  No business was recorded at Alton on  14-15 June, nor at Guildford and Kingston between 17 and 21 June.  John Mansel, however, kept his nerve and on 17 June at Guildford saw through a striking concession  enrolled on the fine rolls. By this,  Hawise, widow of the marcher baron, Patrick de Chaworth, was given compensation for the money she was spending ‘on the  war that she wages in parts of Wales’.  A striking example of a woman in command of military actions.

Beyond these great  events, there are sharp reminders of the  fate of those outside the political process. On the back of the fine roll for this week, there is a schedule recording that the burgesses of Derby had fined with the king for 10 marks to have a charter that no Jew or Jewess should henceforth remain in their vill.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 5 June to Saturday 11 June 1261

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Henry spent this week at Winchester in preparation for holding the Whitsun feast there on Sunday 12 June. His celebrations of the festival  were always  on a grand scale, and this year they  had  an added significance. During their course, Henry intended to publish the papal bulls quashing the Provisions of Oxford. It was vital to have the strength to resist any resulting protests,  and Henry’s preparations  are reflected in a royal  order he issued on Monday 7 June. Robes were to be ready at the feast for around a hundred knights whom he had retained as members of his household. These included  fourteen knights brought from abroad  by two northern French nobles, Alard de Seningham and Gerard de Rodes, who were friends of Queen Eleanor. Eleanor had made her own way to Winchester, where she arrived during the course of this week.  In terms of fine roll business the week seems very much business as usual.  Around twenty-five writs were purchased to further common law litigation. These included five commissions to the judge, Peter de Percy, to hear cases in Yorkshire. One supposes that the litigants  had clubbed together to send someone south to get the writs. Significantly another group of Yorkshire litigants purchased a writ for a case to be heard by Hugh Despencer ‘justiciar of England’. Despencer, a confidant of Simon de Montfort, had been appointed by the baronial regime, much against the king’s wishes,  back in October 1260.  The Yorkshire litigants clearly had no  inkling that he was about to be dismissed. Nor  did the chancery clerks enlighten them.  Surprise was all.

The Round Table in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle