Archive for November, 2011

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.

Peter de Chauvent (Champvent)

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Dr Michael Ray writes….

In the blog for the week of 6 November to 12 November 1261, David Carpenter mentions the presence of the Savoyard Peter de Champvent.  Champvent had only just moved into the premier league of curiales.  He had witnessed his first royal charter on 23 May.

First noted in England in June 1252, the King paid ten marks for his expenses when Peter, ‘his dear squire’, was sick in London during that October.  His brother, the cleric William, arrived at about the same time.  Peter built a career in royal service and received rewards in the form of marriages and wardships as well as annual fees.  William too moved up, becoming Dean of St Martin le Grand in 1262 and being used on papal missions.  Peter was a Keeper of the King’s Arms when violence broke out in 1263 and served with the Lord Edward in the garrison of Windsor.  Spoils of war came to him in the form of lands granted to him together with his cousin Otto de Grandson who made his first appearance in England in 1265.   Otto’s father, Peter, had received a royal pension from Henry III  since 1245.  He was the brother of Henry de Champvent, the father of Peter de Champvent.  Henry’s father, Ebal, had divided his lands in the Pays de Vaud, now Switzerland, between his sons.  Peter de Grandson obtained the castle of Grandson on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel, whilst Henry was given Champvent which lies on the edge of the Jura, and where he began the castle which was later substantially built by Peter de Champvent.

Champvent Chateau

Whilst Peter de Champvent stayed close to Henry III, Otto de Grandson became part of the Lord Edward’s circle.  William de Champvent returned to Vaud where he was Bishop of Lausanne from 1273 until 1301.  (Peter’s younger brother, Otto, a notorious absentee cleric in England, became Bishop in turn in 1309).   Peter was made Constable and later Sheriff of Gloucester.   He journeyed with the King during his last months.  When the new King, Edward I, returned to England, Peter suffered something of an eclipse.  He had lost his Gloucester posts in 1273 and, although he had witnessed 65 charters for Henry III, he did not witness another royal charter for seven years.  But, by 1286, he was Steward of the royal household and was promoted to be Chamberlain in 1291.  He saw military service in Wales and Scotland including fighting at the battle of Falkirk and, in 1295, he was recorded in one entry as the King’s secretary.  When parliament met in 1299, Peter was summoned as a baron.  The last record emanating from his lifetime refers to his Scottish lands in 1302 but he died in 1303.

The Grandsons or Grandisons have left a rich legacy in England being commemorated by peerage titles, rings, ivories, an annual carol service, a book of pedigrees, paintings in Westminster Abbey, place and street names, and armorials in embroidery and stained glass.  The Champvents have disappeared but, this summer, in the beautiful church of Norbury in Derbyshire, I found the arms of both Peter de Champvent and Otto de Grandson in a marvellous array of late thirteenth-century glass.

Arms of Peter de Champvent in Norbury Church

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.

Female Names (Further Thoughts)

Monday, November 7th, 2011

 Dr Michael Ray writes…

I was very interested to read Beth Hartland’s post of 20 December 2010 and 16 March 2011 about female names found in the Fine Rolls.  I noticed amongst them were Theopania and Basilia.  On a long trawl through the records of the Common Pleas from 1272 until 1300, I have been surprised to see these two names in 1299 and 1296.  In addition, I recorded Cassandra in 1284 and 1299, Anastasia in 1292, 1296 and 1298, Georgia in 1283 and Olympia in 1281.  Why should these names of Greek origin be used?  There seems not to be a similar pattern in men’s names.  We are told that the Greek culture was not widely appreciated until the Renaiscence.  I can not believe that the fashion was a side effect of the Fourth Crusade and the fall of Constantinople in 1204.  Has anyone any explanation?

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.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 30 October to Saturday 5 November 1261

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

For Henry this was another week within the walls of  the Tower of London.  The chaos of the time, in which the kingdom hovered between war and peace, is reflected in the fine rolls. Between dated items on 26 October and 5 November, there are just nine entries relating to the purchase of writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the forms of the common law. The total number is pathetically small for what would normally be a busy time of year. In 1260 some  thirty-seven writs of similar type were purchased between the same dates.  Of the nine writs, there were two apiece from Cumberland, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, plus one form Wiltshire.  The absence of people coming from the midlands and the south east is striking and must testify to conditions in those areas.

At the end of last week, Henry had given safe conduct to barons coming to Kingston to discuss terms of peace.  If negotiations took place, they had no immediate result, and the safe conduct was later renewed, as will be seen in subsequent blogs. Meanwhile Henry prepared for war. On Friday 4 November he asked for a list of the foreign soldiers retained at Witsand (near Boulogne), and arranged for them to receive eight days pay. He also promised that either he or Edward, his son, would come to Dover so that they could safely enter the kingdom.  Evidently, at this crucial time, Edward was very much on side. His presence at Dover would certainly have given me a lot more confidence than that of his father!

For hiring soldiers money was vital and Henry was short of it.  On 27 October  he had ordered the keepers of the  vacant bishopric of Winchester to send him cash ‘day by day’,  evidently thinking  of what they would shortly be receiving from the Michaelmas rents.  Money, however, was not just for soldiers.  God was more powerful than man, and Henry’s way to God was through Edward the Confessor. On Monday 1 November, he ordered the exchequer to assign 100 marks to the works on the Confessor’s abbey at Westminster.