Archive for January, 2012

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 January to Saturday 3 February 1257

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Windsor.  There was some really joyful news. On Sunday 28 January, Henry announced (in a letter to the bishop of Hereford),  the certain intelligence that his brother, Richard, had been elected as king of the Romans.  (The election, following Richard’s acceptance of the offer in December had in fact taken place on 13 January outside Frankfurt.)  Henry ordered a robe to be given to the messenger of the bishop of Cambray who had brought the glad tidings. On the following Tuesday, after dinner at his castle of Wallingford, Richard himself heard details, which made things even better. King Ottakar of Bohemia, hitherto sitting on the fence, had given his assent to the election. Henry now entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of the occasion  and declared his intention of accompanying Richard out to Germany, obviously with the aim of attending  the coronation. This was just the kind of  pageantry Henry loved. But there was more to it than  that. His presence would  help establish Richard in Germany, thus transforming the political shape of Europe and helping forward the Sicilian enterprise; or at least so Henry might hope. In and around this week, the fine rolls show the gold  to finance Henry’s Sicilian campaign was still rolling in. Between 1 February and 7 February there were twelve fines of gold, nine of them from men seeking exemption from knighthood. One of the fines suggests that it was not always easy to acquire the gold required for the Yorkshire lord, Simon of Lowthorpe, actually paid half his fine in silver. This is thirty seven entries down (if I have counted correctly) in the image and no.400 in the Calendar.

Would Henry go to Germany? Would Richard’s  Germany kingship help the Sicilian enterprise. Read future blogs to find out.

Some further thoughts on the ‘Apple of Eve’

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Marcus Roberts, founder of the Anglo-Jewish heritage organisation J Trails (http://www.jtrails.org.uk/about/the-founders), offers his thoughts on the ‘Apple of Eve’ referred to in a writ copied onto the Fine Rolls in January 1252 (see also CFR, 1251-2, no. 173) and discussed in the Fine of the Month for December 2011)…

The identification of the ‘apple of eve’ as an etrog is interesting.  However, the identification of the apple of Eve in the Torah has taxed rabbinical  scholars, who tend to agree that the tree in the Garden was not an apple tree, but that the ‘beautiful fruit’ may well have been the quince, which many considered the fairest of all fruit.

Jews in the Mediterranean and Middle East have always regarded the quince very highly in cooking and the highly perfumed fruit has always been regarded as of ornamental utility.  It is not known when quinces were introduced into England, but Chaucer mentions them in the 14th century, so it is not impossible that such a tree may have been a rare early import growing in the Curia of the synagogue, or that the fruit was in the synagogue Sukkah at Succot as a decoration, or in the synagogue itself at Shavuot?  It is also interesting that the earliest reference to the cherry in England  occurs in a 13th century Hebrew text regarding benedictions, so this would not be the first time that medieval Jews were associated with the first appearance of a particular fruit, though the text indicated that this apple was of great value, whatever it was.

However, this speculation aside, it may well also be the case that whatever the apple in the synagogue was, it could have been a disputed benefaction to the synagogue.  There are many cases across the centuries, when Jews have been accused of theft of items from synagogues, when it turns out that they had originally donated it and were seizing it back, due to a dispute with the synagogue, or a synagogue was dissolving.  Jewish Law allows the original owners to take a benefaction back in certain circumstances, which leads to a rather grey area where accusations can be made.  Given that the allegation was reported in January, some months after the festivals of Sukkot and Shavuot, it makes it a little less likely to be a piece of fruit, though it was traditional to dry out the etrog, or to turn it to marmalade.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Monday 22 January to Saturday 27 January 1257

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Perspicacious readers will already have appreciated  why this week’s blog needs to run  from Monday not Sunday. Last week’s blog mistakenly followed the calendar for 2012 not 1257 and so ran from Sunday 15 January to Saturday 21 January instead of Sunday 14 January to Saturday 20 January. In this blog we are now back on the true 1257 course.

Henry III began this week at Westminster and then, between 24 and 27 January  moved to Windsor.  Once there, he took steps to see the five chaplains  serving the castle’s chapels and the four serjeants in the garrison received their pay.

The fine rolls show the raising of the gold treasure in full swing. In these six days no less than eleven men offered the king half a mark of gold apiece for exemption from knighthood.  How effectively the sheriffs were putting pressure throughout the country on men to assume the title  or (which was preferable)  pay not to do so, is shown by the fact that these fines came from a wide sweep of counties:  Devon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire,   Hampshire, Sussex,  Cambridgeshire,   Suffolk, Leicestershire,  Rutland, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  The gold was intended to  finance an expedition to Sicily, and this week Henry, the brother of the king of Castile, who was being mooted as the possible commander of the army, was allowed to hunt at the royal manor of Havering in Essex.

Other fines of gold came from Robert of Canterbury for a die in the king’s mint at Canterbury and from  Walter de la More of Buckinghamshire to  have a pardon for a homicide. This second concession (no.383 in the Calendar)  was made at the instance of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.  (For the entry see twenty items down in the image of the membrane: http://frh3.org.uk/content/fimages/C60_54/m08.html.).  Montfort also secured in this week a charter from the king allowing him to set up a new park at his manor of Shipley in Northumberland.  Since there is no reference to a fine for this on the fine rolls, he got the concession free of charge. These favours are useful reminders of how far Montfort was back on good terms with the king before the revolution of 1258.  He was not at court this week,  but his close associate (although no relation),  Peter de Montfort,  a member of the king’s council, witnesses the Shipley charter  and it was probably  through Peter that the concessions were obtained. Other witnesses were Peter of Savoy, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence which shows how very prominent the king’s foreign relatives were at court. In 1258 that court was to break apart.

One small point of chancery practice or mispractice. No 380 in the Calendar (seventeen items down in the image) is an interesting example of an  entry being enrolled late and out of sequence.  It is a concession to Philip Basset, witnessed at Windsor on 7 November 1256. Note also the smaller hand and lighter ink from the entries before and after.  This hand and ink, however, is not found in the marginal annotation to the entry, which looks the same as those to the other entries,  a  sure sign these marginalia were done later all at the same time.  I  assume, incidentally,  that when the immediately following entry (no.381) is said to be ‘witnessed as above’, that refers back to the 27 January of entry no.375 not 7 November of  380.

Aymo Tumbert

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

David Carpenter writes:

In Henry III’s first blog for 1257, I  described Aymo Tumbert, just appointed as keeper  of Windsor castle, as a Savoyard. Since the queen was based at Windsor,  I thought that was likely since she would want the castle under one of her own countrymen, as had often been the case in the past. However, I had no precise evidence of Aymo’s nationality, and accordingly asked the leading expert on the aliens, Huw Ridgeway, whether he could supply any.

 Huw Ridgeway writes as follows:

I always considered Aymo a ‘Savoyard’. He was Constable of Tower Sept 1256-Jan 1257 and Windsor 1253-4;1257-1263 (when dismissed by Montfort). He possibly died not long after that, since there is no subsequent reference to him. He is a curious character who comes out of the blue and goes out into it.  Much associated with service to the  Queen and (in capacity as Constable of Windsor) in looking after Lord Edmund and other royal children ( eg, Cal Liberate Rolls 1251-60,p.176; 302; Close Rolls  1259-61,p.101). I cannot find, alas, independent confirmation that Aymo was actually ‘Savoyard’ by origin. I think it likely: there is no reference to his family’s landholding in England prior to 1250, which suggests ‘alien’; he first appears, more or less, in Feb 1252 as executor of Peter of Geneva (Cal. Liberate Rolls 1251-60,p.27) which makes me think that he was originally in Peter’s household and moved across to the Queen’s after Peter’s death. He is therefore, at the very least a Savoyard by association.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 January to Saturday 21 January 1257

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We saw in the last blog the major items on Henry III’s political agenda in 1257: the Sicilian affair, the peace with France, and the rising power of Llywelyn ap Gruffud in Wales.  All of these posed problems, but  Henry had  one reason to look forward with confidence. The balance of power in Europe was about to be transformed in his favour, or so he might hope. Just after a Christmas 1256, in ceremony before Henry and his council in St Stephen’s chapel in Westminster palace, during a great storm of thunder and lightening,  his brother, Richard of Cornwall, had accepted  election  as king of the Romans. He was now busy preparing his departure for Germany where he would be crowned.

During this week, which Henry spent at Westminster,  there was more good news.  On 18 January the abbot of Westminster and the bishop elect of Salisbury got back to England with news that the pope was prepared to extend the deadline of the Sicilian enterprise.  Under the original agreement  in which the kingdom was conferred on Edmund, his second son, Henry had been obliged to pay the pope £90,000 and send an army to Sicily to conquer the kingdom by Michaelmas 1256, which, of course, was  long gone.  Henry now learnt that the pope had graciously extended the deadline down to the start of June 1257.  There was no chance of Henry actually paying the money and sending an army within that term either, but at least he might be able to show he meant business. That above all meant getting a tax to support the enterprise from parliament.  The planning of a parliament must have now become a subject of earnest discussion between Henry and his advisers.

Meanwhile the fine rolls show that the attempt to build up a gold treasure to pay a Sicilian army was continuing. There were twelve fines of gold in this week, of which eight were for respite of knighthood.  Following on from last week’s discussion of the gold treasure, it might be worth explaining the form of these fines. Let us take as an example that translated as no 358 in the Calendar of Fine Rolls 1257  Its image is six items from the bottom in, with the marginal annotation ‘De fine auri pro respect milicie’. Here the Yorkshire knight, Robert de Etton’ (probably of Etton in the East Riding) is said to give the king half a mark of gold for respite from his  knighthood, which means that he has an exemption  from having to take up the honour.  Although the fine says he ‘gives’ the gold, in fact he  is not paying cash down. Instead as the fine goes on to indicate, he is to pay the gold into the wardrobe at the coming Michaelmas.  The ‘order to the sheriff of Yorkshire’ referred to is an order to the sheriff  to take security for this payment. In fact, as the entry goes on to indicate in a later addition (note the change of ink), Robert  paid the gold to the then keeper of the wardrobe, Peter des Rivaux, on Friday after Ash Wednesday in the regnal year 42, that is on 8 February 1258, so he missed his stipulated term.  Note ‘a’ to the translation adds that ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. The originalia roll was the copy of the fine roll sent the exchequer so it knew what monies to collect. The absence of the fine, like all fines of gold,  from the originalia roll thus meant that the exchequer had nothing to do with the collection and audit of the gold treasure, which was entirely a wardrobe affair.  Hence the record that the fine has been paid and that Robert is ‘quit’  is made here on the fine roll not on the exchequer’s pipe roll.  Unfortunately, like most of its kind, the fine does not indicate in what form the gold came.

The fine rolls for this week also reveal another way in which the king was accumulating his gold treasure.  This was from the towns who were offering  gold, or silver to buy gold, in return for charters giving them various privileges. Thus on  21 January the citizens of Northampton offered 100 marks of silver to buy gold for a charter of liberties, while in an undated entry, the men of Guildford offered one and a half marks of gold for a charter which established moved the county court of Surrey  to Guildford. This caused great anger locally since it meant moving the county court from the much more central Leatherhead.

Does anyway know whether these charters survive?  If the Guildford one does, it will clear up a mystery over its date. Although the fine for it appears in this week, and the actual charter is enrolled with others for January and has much the same witnesses, the charter roll calendar says it bears the date 7 September. An image of Guildford castle, much visited by Henry III, appears on the Guildford Borough website.

The witnesses to the Northampton charter, which is dated 18 January although the fine is three days later, show who was at court in this week. The list is  headed by the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence. Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle, does not feature, although he was at court around this time.  Henry’s generosity  to his foreign relatives is very clear.  On Friday, 20 January,  he confirmed an earlier gift  to Peter of Savoy  which meant  he was pardoned  the £625 he owed  each year for custody of the Vescy lands during the minority of the heir, a very major concession.   On the same day Henry took steps to give Guy de Lusignan 200 marks, and also compensated one of his clerks for giving way to the queen’s request to surrender a wardship. This was  so that it could be given to her daughter the queen of Scotland. The tensions between the Savoyards and the Lusignans in this scramble for patronage were to explode in 1258.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog for 1257

Friday, January 13th, 2012

King Henry’s situation in 1257 was very different from that in 1261. In 1261 he was struggling to overthrow the restrictions imposed on him in 1258. The kingdom was on the brink of civil war. In 1257 Henry was in full control of government. England was at peace. Henry had one major pre-occupation. This was the Sicilian enterprise. Henry  had accepted a papal offer of the throne of Sicily for his second son Edmund. The only problem was that he had to pay the pope £90,000 AND send an army out to Sicily to conquer it from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler.  Part of the money was coming from taxation levied on the church much to its fury. This was because  the pope had diverted the tax originally intended for Henry’s crusade to support the Sicilian business.  But this would raise at most half the money owed the pope, let alone finance a military campaign.  Henry desperately needed additional sums which meant trying to secure a general tax from parliament. What happened at the parliaments held in 1257, we shall see in due course. 

 The Sicilian business also impacted on relations with France. In order to concentrate upon it, Henry decided to  make peace with King Louis IX. In other words, he was prepared at last to resign his claims to his lost continental empire, which essentially meant resigning his claims to Normandy, Anjou and Poitou. Negotiations for such a settlement were to be a major theme in 1257.

With Sicily central to his thoughts,  the last thing Henry wanted  was to be distracted by events in Wales. Distracted he was, however. The rising power of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, became, in 1257, a major preoccupation.

The fine rolls in 1257 provide graphic testimony to the impact of the Sicilian business on local society. While Henry knew that only a general tax from parliament could really give the enterprise lift off, he was also trying to raise money in other ways. In particular he was assembling a treasure in gold to pay his Sicilian army, this because gold was the metal of the Sicilian currency. (For the ‘augustales’ minted by Frederick II in Sicily, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustalis.)  Central to Henry’s scheme was insisting that people who wished for concessions and favours should pay for them in gold.  These ‘fines of gold’ are recorded on the fine rolls, making the latter a key source for the accumulation of the gold treasure.  One favour in particular was being purchased in 1257. This was exemption from knighthood.  In 1256, the king had proclaimed that everyone with an income of £15 a year upwards should take up knighthood.  His aim was very largely to make money from the men prepared to fine with the king for exemption from the obligation. Alternatively they could fine for an inquiry into the value of their lands to see if they really did have the required income.   No one questioned the king’s right to impose knighthood, but his move still created resentment. There were some lords, certainly, who were attracted by the status of  knighthood, and its promise of  military activity.  But many others were put off both by the costs and the likely administrative as well as military burdens.  To have to pay to avoid them  was infuriating, the more especially as the £15 a year threshold was a low one.

The cost Henry charged for exemption or an inquiry was usually half a mark of gold. Since gold was worth ten times silver, this meant the fine was the equivalent of five marks of silver, or £3 6s 8d. It thus represented a sizable proportion of a £15 annual income.  During the course of 1257, as we will see, large numbers of potential knights came to court and made their fine. They must have asked why they had to do so in gold, thus discovering Henry’s Sicilian plans and how they were suffering from them. Most of those fining were lords of manors and members of the  gentry. They were influential locally, however much they wished to escape the burdens of knighthood. In this way the full horror of the Sicilian venture was spread through the counties of England.  What made matters worse was the saving of the gold was very personal to the king. The potential knights had to come to court to make their fine. They then had to pay the gold  in to the king’s wardrobe either at once or at stipulated terms in the future. Usually the terms were written down on the fine rolls, as was the record of the eventual payments to the wardrobe’s keeper, either Artald de St Romain or later, Peter des Rivaux. Both these men were foreigners, the latter notoriously so.  These gentry lords thus also saw how ‘alien’ was Henry’s court.  The  whole process of the making and collection of these fines  can be seen in the payments made in January 1257, with the marginal annotations ‘De finibus auri’, ‘Concerning fines of gold’.

The exchequer was not informed at all about the process, something it was left to the reformers of 1258 to put right. (See the fine of the month by Richard Cassidy)

One other aggravation was the bother of acquiring gold to make the fines. Unfortunately the fine rolls do not say in what form the gold came. Perhaps the most likely source was the goldsmiths who sold gold in foil and other forms, The cost of such purchases placed a further burden on the potential knights.

Henry III began the year 1257 at the priory of Merton in Surrey. He then moved to Westminster for the anniversary of Edward the Confessor’s death on 5 January. This feast of his patron was one of the greatest in Henry’s liturgical year and he always celebrated it at Westminster, unless abroad.  Henry was to remain at Westminster till near the end of the month.  In the first two weeks of January, the fine rolls show that there were no less than thirty-one fines of gold. Of these sixteen were for exemption from knighthood, and another six for inquiries into income.  Four fines were made for exemption from jury service.

The fine  rolls also show the way the king was entrusting major royal castles to his foreign servants. In this period Imbert Pugeis became keeper of The Tower of London and Aymon Tumbert keeper of Windsor. Both were Savoyards. Henry also increased the jurisdiction of his Poitevin castellan of Corfe, Elyas de Rabayne, by giving him control of the surrounding warren or park.  The way foreigners were in charge of the chief castles of the kingdom was one of the main complaints made against Henry’s rule in 1258.

See next week’s blog for more about fines of gold and Henry’s attempts to raise money.

Hardware upgrade

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Users of the Fine Rolls website may have noticed recently that pages are loading much faster than before. The improvement is due to a massive upgrade of the hardware infrastructure for the Department of Digital Humanities (DDH) that took place in November and December last year. Henry III Fine Rolls is one of many complex digital resources for which DDH has responsibility. They are hosted on individual “virtual machines” (ie. servers that exist in software, rather than physical boxes) and these in turn are run on a much smaller number of physical servers with a large Storage Area Network attached. Over the last few years the resources (financial, personnel, etc.) available to DDH to ensure this all ran smoothly could not keep pace with the growing number of projects being hosted. The whole setup began to creak and groan.

Then two fortunate things happened: DDH got a substantial amount of money from King’s to spend on infrastructure improvements, and Tim Watts joined DDH as a full-time Systems Administrator. After a stellar effort by Tim, DDH now has a server setup equal to its task. I will not try to give all the technical details, but the following photograph sums things up nicely:

DDH's new hardware; the cabling is a thing of beauty.

The actual machines live in the large basement server room of the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC) where there are the kind of protections – secure facility, climate control, failover power supply, fire suppressant systems – that should keep them safe and running for the next few years.

DDH's equipment lives in the basement at ULCC

ANNOUNCEMENT – Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog for 1257

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

The reason for choosing 1261 as the year for Henry’s fine rolls blog was that it was the only full year in the reign when the  ecclesiastical calendar was the same as 2011.  Thus in both years Easter Day fell on 24 April. This year, 2012, is a leap year with Easter Day falling on 8 April. The only year in Henry’s reign with the same calendar, leap year and all, is 1268.   1235, 1246 and 1257 also have Easter days on 8 April but are not leap years. As a result, their calendars only come into exact line  with that of 2012, all the dates falling on the same days of the week,  at the end of February. Nonetheless,  rather than blogging 1268, or continuing into 1262 (when Easter day was on 9 April),  I thought it would be make more of a contrast if Henry blogged instead a year from his personal rule. Accordingly, I have chosen 1257. This seems to  me the most interesting of the possible alternatives, being the last full year of Henry’s personal rule before the revolution of 1258.

Henry’s first blog for 1257 will follow shortly.

Henry III’s End of Year

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Did Henry have a sense that a new year began on 1 January in accordance with Roman practice. The answer is  yes because we know he gave what he would have  regarded as new year’s presents on the feast of the  Circumcision, which is 1 January. See the fascinating article by Ben Wild in English Historical Review for 2010 (pp.529-69).  On the other hand, Henry would also have been aware that the Christian church began the year with one of its own festivals.  That used by Bede and  Matthew Paris, was Christmas Day. An alternative, followed by many chroniclers and sometimes by the royal chancery was 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation.

Henry III’s Last Blog for 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Over the Christmas of 1261, did Henry III think back over his tumultuous, triumphant year? Triumphant because he had, for all practical purposes, broken the shackles fastened  in 1258 and recovered unfettered power. His conduct, however, appears un-heroic. He spent much of the year, sheltering, some might say cowering,  behind the walls of the Tower of London. On only three occasions had he dared to leave the capital. He had gone to Dover in May to secure the castle. Next month he had gone to Winchester to proclaim the papal bull quashing the oath to observe the  reforms of 1258. And then he had spent part of August and September at Windsor whither he summoned knights from the counties to attend his parliament. Meanwhile throughout England the authority of his sheriffs was being challenged by the insurgents. It is difficult to believe that either Henry’s father or his son would have behaved in this passive fashion. John and Edward would surely have toured the country bolstering the power of their local agents and punishing their opponents. Yet to all criticism, one answer is sufficient. Henry’s softly softly tactics had brought him victory. By not provoking the opposition, he had in the end disarmed it. The consequences of more abrasive tactics might well have been civil war. Henry’s personal preferences, as a ‘rex pacificus’, went hand in hand with political sense.