Archive for August, 2011

Sir Maurice Powicke

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

David Carpenter writes…

On Sunday 28 August, I visited Maurice Powicke’s grave in the church yard of St Catherine’s  Eskdale in the Lake District. Since I was last there a few years ago, the stone has become much discoloured and is largely illegible without close examination.  However one can still read ‘The Truth Shall Set Thee Free’  at the top and ‘HISTORIAN’. The adjoining stone of Richard Pares is in an even  worse state. Was Pares, Powicke’s son in law?  Both stones are by the church yard wall overlooking the river Esk. Into the wall is set a little tablet to Powicke’s son who was killed in a car accident in Oxford in the 1930s.

We went on to discover for the first time Powicke’s house, Christcliffe cottage, which is in a very isolated setting up the valley though with few adjoining houses making a little settlement. The cottage is fairly small and remained in the hands of Powicke’s decendants till purchased by the present owner. I gather that very little has been done to modernise it in inside and it may be much as in Powicke’s time. I hope a photograph will follow.

The August Fine of the Month

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Since finishing the August Fine of the Month, David Carpenter writes that he has now found on the fine rolls two more instances of Robert Grosseteste being amerced £100 for failing to produce clerks before the king’s justices. Both sums were pardoned. See CFR 1247-8, no.584; CFR 1248-9, no.522.  In due course a revived version of the paper will be mounted on the website together with a Latin transcription of Henry’s letter of February 1253 which is its centre piece. 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 August to Saturday 3 September 1261

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Henry spent all this week at Windsor.  Bad news kept pouring in.  We have seen from last week’s blog, that the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire was losing control of his counties.  A letter arrived from  the stalwart, James of Audley, revealing a similar situation  in Shropshire and Staffordshire.  In the north, Hugh Bigod, having tamely surrendered Dover to the king earlier in the year, now refused to give up Scarborough. He was, he declared, under oath not to surrendered it ‘without the will  and express order of the king and his magnates’. This showed he was still recognising the authority of the council of magnates imposed on the king in 1258.  And then intelligence arrived that Simon de Montfort had gone to France.  Henry said he did not know why, but must have feared that the earl’s aim was to replace the military force Henry hoped to raise abroad with one of his own. On Friday 2 September, Henry wrote accordingly to King Louis: please don’t  believe what Montfort tells you, and please  prevent him from acting to my prejudice ‘in the affair between us and our barons’. 

The fine rolls themselves shed an interesting light on the situation. In this week no less than thirty-six writs were purchased to commence or expedite the common law legal actions.  None, however,  were purchased from Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, which may well reflect the situation in those counties. Equally there were none from Audley’s Shropshire and Staffordshire, and Matthias Bezill’s Gloucestershire (for which see last week’s blog.) On the other hand, thirty-six writs purchased in all was not a bad total. People were still willing and able to come to Windsor, and had confidence that the legal actions they were pursuing were not going to be engulfed in  a civil war. This may help explain why Henry had felt able to return to Windsor, and why he continued to put his trust in conciliation as much as confrontation.  He thus counselled James of Audley to behave with caution and pass over mere verbal resistance. He should only act otherwise if there was violent resistance to the king’s officers.  Henry also sent an envoy to Norfolk and Suffolk to explain the affection and benevolence he felt for everyone in the two counties. The claims of malevolent people that he intended to subvert their rights and liberties were completely false.   See next week’s instalment.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Saturday 20 August to Saturday 27 August 1261

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

This week was chiefly remarkable for Henry III’s extraordinary move from Windsor to the Tower of London and back.  According to the fine rolls, Henry witnessed letters at Windsor on Saturday 20 August. Yet a letter on the close rolls has him attesting on the same day at the Tower of London. Indeed it was from there that he sent ten foot archers to Matthias Bezill at Gloucester castle. Evidently he had heard of Bezill’s violent quarrel with  the rival sheriff, William de Tracy, and felt he needed reinforcements. (See the blog for 24-30 July).  Henry seems, therefore, to have travelled from Windsor to the Tower in the course of 20 August. Most  probably he made the journey by boat.  Just how long he stayed at the Tower is unclear because the dating clauses of royal letters become contradictory, testimony perhaps to the general confusion. A letter on the fine rolls has Henry still at the Tower on 23 August. Yet one on the close rolls places him back at Windsor on the  twenty-second.  Certainly he was at Windsor from the twenty-fourth onwards.

Just why Henry made this dash to the Tower is unclear. Perhaps the most likely explanation is that he felt the growth of the insurgency around Windsor made it unsafe. The last thing he wanted was to face a siege there. This then  was a flight rather like that from from Winchester  to the Tower back in June (see the blog for 12-18 June).  After a few days, Henry  returned to Windsor having been  re-assured of the situation. He was  more comfortable there than in his confined quarters at the Tower. He could also assert more of a presence than bottled up in the capital.  The hypothesis that Henry was losing control of the area near Windsor is supported by some strands  of evidence. It was from 24 August that his sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Alexander of Hampden,  received nothing from the issues of the county ‘because of the disturbance’, according to his later testimony.  The fine rolls are also interesting.  Below the letter attested on 20 August come twelve fines for writs to initiate or further the common law legal proceedings.  The fine rolls record, as was usual, omits the date of the writs, but they were presumably issued around 20 August.  Not one concerned counties in the circle around Windsor. Henry was now girding himself for war, although he still hoped to avoid it.  On 22 August, he sent letters to various foreign lords asking them to be ready to send him a total of 300 knights and  the same number of serjeants or archers. These were  to be despatched  once Henry  sent a further request. As he explained, ‘certain of our magnates have for sometime been rebels, and unless they speedily think again, we will have to take appropriate measures’.

Henry III Fine Rolls Conference: Podcasts Online!

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

If you missed the end of project conference in June, then the talks can be listened to as podcasts online through iKings. The photos from the reception have also been placed on Facebook.

Meeting of the Fine Rolls Project Team

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

We had a useful meeting of the Project team on Wednesday 10 August, although several of us were away on holiday. One possibility discussed was to continue the Fines of the Month and indeed the blog beyond the official end of the project next year. Which years in Henry’s reign had the same Easter as 2012?!

New Discovery

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Maureen Jurkowski has been in touch about the discovery of a pardon issued by the Lord Edward to Geoffrey de Chedle  (of Cheadle, Cheshire apparently) on 10 March 1266 for adhering to the king’s enemies.  More details to follow.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 14 August – Saturday 20 August 1261

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Henry spent the bulk of this week at Windsor.  It was from there, on Tuesday 14 August, that he issued perhaps the most eloquent proclamation of his reign.  With his authority being challenged throughout the realm, he sent a letter to all his sheriffs,  justifying his rule and rebutting the accusations of his enemies.

 Henry announced that he had

heard with bitterness of attempts to wrest people from  their fidelity and love by false and malicious suggestions. This is all the more grievous  when we have  ruled for forty-five years, by the will and grace of God, and have not ceased in that time, with all our desire and strength,  to  study and labour for the peace and tranquillity of each and everyone.

When previously [in the reign of John]  the  kingdom was destroyed by war and hostility, in our time,  blessed be  God, by whose grace we are what we are and through whom all kings reign, neither in spiritual things through a general interdict or the withdrawal of the sacraments, nor in temporal things through hostilities and general war, has the kingdom of England been depressed or impoverished.

Instead, everyone has been able to enjoy their possessions in peace, everyone has been able to retain or obtain their rights, according to what is just, nor have we taken  rights from anyone by force or will, Blessed be God, nor have we exiled anyone unjustly.

You ought, therefore, to disbelieve suggestions of this kind, made by those who impose servitude and oppressions on you by their will, when we are prepared and always will be prepared to come to your defence and relief.

Henry then went on to counter rumours that he was bringing foreign soldiers  into the country to harm his native subjects. He also defended the sheriffs he had recently appointed. They would be far more able to preserve the rights of the king and defend the king’s subjects from oppression than the previous sheriffs who had been in the pockets of the magnates. Therefore,  he continued,

Remain faithful to us as we are always prepared to give justice to all, great and small, and preserve all good laws and customs.

And the letter concluded with a statement making clear the king was now speaking for himself and was no longer controlled by a baronial council 

 We have caused these letters patent to be made of our own will and free power.

One would love to know how this magnificent justification for Henry’s rule was put together. What was Henry’s own input and what of that of ministers?  Was it perhaps the work of the chancellor, Walter of Merton?  And  how too was the letter actually proclaimed in the counties, if indeed it was?  That Henry desperately needed to make his case was shown at the end of the week for he then felt compelled to return to the Tower of London. See his next blog!

None of this was reflected in the fine rolls.  There was an increase in the number of writs being purchased to initiate or further common law legal actions – up  to nineteen of these as opposed to only eight the week before. However, some seven of the nineteen related to Somerset and were perhaps the  result of one representative arriving at court and purchasing the whole lot.

Originalia Roll Jottings

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Users of the website will be aware that the Project Team decided to collate the surviving Originalia Rolls (copies of the Fine Rolls sent to the Exchequer) to the Fine Rolls. This usually includes noting marginal annotations and any significant differences to entries between the two sets of rolls. However, sometimes more puzzling things pop up. Take this, for instance:

What could ‘P. m. R. d. m.’ mean?

The answer, we suspect, is ‘p[ost] m[ortem] R[icardi] d[e] M[iddleton]’. The scribe who created the originalia roll has left a gap sufficient to copy the entry contained in the Fine Roll describing death of Richard de Middleton, the chancellor. This entry reads:

‘On Sunday next before St. Laurence Richard de Middleton, sometime king’s chancellor, died and the king’s seal was delivered into the king’s Wardrobe under the seal of J. de Kirkby, to whom the same king had committed the custody of that seal at the king’s goodwill and — the same John saw writs to be sealed and folded them, as is custom, and in this he associated to himself Sir P. de Winton, then keeper of the king’s aforesaid Wardrobe.’

What was the scribe thinking when he left this gap? Perhaps he was undecided whether to record this information or not. To a Chancery clerk, the death of the chancellor was a momentous event, but, then again, this wasn’t an entry concerning money and therefore didn’t need to be communicated to the Exchequer. In the end, as a compromise, he may have just gone back and made the note ‘P. m. R. d. m.’. In any case, it certainly acts as a useful marker in the Originalia roll between those fines made under the aegis of Richard de Middleton, and those made under his successor.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 7 August – Saturday 13 August 1261

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

King Henry spent the whole of this week at Windsor castle. His isolation there, as his sheriffs  throughout the country were challenged  by the insurgents, is graphically revealed by the fine rolls. In this week only eight writs to initiate and further common law legal actions were purchased,  far fewer than in normal times. Clearly very few people were coming to court  both because of the dangers of travel, and the fear that in any case the common law writs might be useless, given the likely collapse of the king’s courts in a civil war.  The fine rolls reveal one measure to strengthen the king’s position in the localities. On 11 August Henry gave custody of the manor of Rowde and the adjoining  vill of Devizes in Wiltshire to  his castellan of Devizes, John de Plessis.   Plessis’s family origins were in Normandy. His extraordinary career at Henry’s court had culminated  in becoming earl of Warwick through marriage. Yet, blessed with a plausible and congenial personality, he had never been unpopular, unlike some other of Henry’s foreign favourites. Indeed, in 1258 he had been appointed to the governing council and left in control of Devizes castle.  Plessis, however, was a king’s man through and through and was full square behind the attempt to overthrow the 1258 reforms.  In giving him control over Rowde manor and the Devizes vill, Henry was  strengthening his position in the battle for local control, in the process reversing  previous policies   which had separated the control of vill and castle. With a  sensitivity, which reveals the danger of his situation, Henry was, however, keen to prevent the appointment arousing antagonism.  The grant was qualified.  The previous holder of Rowde and Devizes, John de Vernon,  an influential local knight and former sheriff,  need  surrender them to Plessis only if the term under which he held them from the king had expired.

John de Plessis was at court when the grant to him was made, and doubtless urged it on the king.  The witness lists of royal charters issued on 8 and 12 August give a fascinating  picture of who was with Henry at Windsor in this week. Most striking is the presence of  Walter de Cantilupe, bishop of Worcester. Since Cantilupe was completely in the camp of the insurgents, he can only have been there on a mission from them, presumably to see if any kind of settlement was possible.  The lists also show how strong was Savoyard influence at court, and thus how strong was the influence of the Queen.  Her uncle Peter of Savoy, was there, as were Peter de Champvent, Imbert de Montferrant, and the king’s steward Imbert Pugeys, sometimes called Imbert of Savoy.  Another witness was the queen’s friend, the Flemish lord, Gerard de Rodes, who had come to England earlier in the year with a force of paid knights.

The English ministers were headed by Philip Basset and John Mansel.  Basset was soon to leave court to uphold the king’s cause in the localities, or at least that seems to have been  the intention. His appointment as justiciar back in June, in place of the baronial nominee, Hugh Despencer had been a conciliatory gesture.  The office, symbol of the reforms of 1258, was to continue. But it was only in this week that the appointment was put on a proper footing. Basset was given a salary of 1000 marks a year, and writs were issued proclaiming his appointment ‘for the preservation of the king, the tranquillity of the realm and the giving of justice to everyone’.   The castellans of  castles  ‘when he passes their way’ were ordered to receive the prisoners and disturbers of the peace whom he had arrested.

John Mansel too left court, soon after he witnessed  on 12 August. Courageous and loyal,  he was determined, unlike his king,  to get out and engage in the battle for local control.  A few days before 19 August he was at the castle he was building at Sedgewick in Sussex.  The work on the moat was proceeding so well, he reported in a letter to friends at court, that it would soon be able to hold water.  He also observed that

‘if the king had preachers for him as the contrary party has, it would be good for him. We certainly, in the parts where we are, are  succeeding in bringing  the hearts of men over to his side.’

There has been some debate about the year to which Mansel’s letter belongs.  It has no dating clause but that it was written in August is shown  by its reference to the feast of the Assumption, which falls, of course,  on 15 August. Mansel told his addressees,  that Richard, the king’s brother, wished someone to be sent to him on  Friday after the Assumption (19 August in 1261) in order to give him the news of the king’s affairs.  Mansel then offered  counsel as to who should be sent.  The letter clearly fits the political situation in 1261. Equally significant (a point I think not noticed before) are the names of the people to whom Mansel refers. The letter is addressed to Robert of Thweng (Thwing in Yorkshire), a northern knight, who was to be one of Mansel’s executors, and Imbert de Montferrand. Thweng attested a royal charter on 24 July 1261 at the Tower. On 12 August at Windsor, he was the beneficiary of a royal charter, witnessed by both Mansel and Montferrand.  At the end of the letter, Mansel asks Thweng and Montferrand to salute on his behalf both Gerard de Rodes and Alard de Seningham. Rodes too witnessed to Thweng’s charter of 12 August. Seningham, often linked to Rodes, was another northern French lord and friend of the queen who had come to England in 1261 with a contingent of paid troops. (See the blog for 5-11 June.)

Robert of Thweng belonged to a junior branch of the famous Yorkshire family. His namesake,  Robert of Thweng, had led the violent protests in 1232  against the foreign clerks provided by the pope to English livings. Yet here now  was Robert co-operating very happily with the king’s Savoyard favourites and the Flemish lords brought to England with their contingents of paid troops.