Archive for December, 2011

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.

Battle of Lewes Conference Saturday 14 April 2012

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The Battle of Lewes: the beginnings of parliamentary democracy?


A conference to be held in the Assembly Room of Lewes Town Hall, will take place on Saturday 14 April 2012.  Starting with registration at 9.30, the speakers will be David Carpenter, Huw Ridgeway, Adrian Jobson, John Maddicott, Louise Wilkinson, Andrew Spencer and Tim Sutherland.  The conference as been organised by the HLF-funded Battle of Lewes Group (Sussex Archaeological Society) which is working to promote understanding of the battle whose 750th anniversary take place in 2014.

More details can be found and and  bookings made online here. The cost is £30 with students able to have a reduced fee of £20.

Posted on behalf of Dr Michael Ray.

Henry III’s Sense of Humour

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Lesley Boatwright has supplied the following comment and suggested translation of the the letter patent in which Henry III’s empowers William de Peterot to cut the hair of the king’s clerks (fine of the month for November 2011)

She writes:

This piece is great fun. I think there is some word play in the Latin letter re haircuts which is difficult to reproduce, but here goes:

Know that we have granted and given you full power of cutting the hair of the clerks under our roof and in our household who have long hair and grow/cherish their locks [I think an added sense of nutrientium would be that they put stuff on their hair to feed it – hair-cream (like those Brylcreem ads)] and to shave off/tonsure their curls [fascicules say comam deponere is to accept tonsure]. And so we instruct you that you diligently pursue this power we have granted you in this due manner concerning cutting the aforesaid locks and tonsuring their curls, so that we do not have to apply the scissors to your own locks.

Which comes down to

Know that we have granted and given you full power to cut the hair of the clerks of our household under our roof who have grown their hair long and cherish it, and to shave off their fancy curls, and if you don’t do it properly then we shall have to apply the scissors to your own locks.

For crocus = curl of hair, the fascicules quote this passage.

Is the assumption that William de Peretot was a bit too vain about his own head of curly hair?

The Latin is

Rex Willelmo de Peretot salutem. Sciatis quod concessimus et plenam potestatem vobis dedimus scindendi capillos clericorum nostrorum qui sunt de hospitio nostro et familia nostra longos crines habentium et comas nutrientium et ad crocos capillorum suorum deponendos. Et ideo vobis mandamus quatinus ad hoc modo debito diligenter intendatis hujusmodi potestatem vestram vobis concessam taliter exequentes circa predictos capillos scindendos et crocos deponendos ne ad capillos vestros scindendos forpices apponere debeamus. Teste me ipso apud Clyve, ii.die Septembris.