Archive for March, 2012

Lampreys

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Lampreys were the favourite fish of Henry III and Queen Eleanor, judging at least from a statement in a letter close that they found all other fish ‘insipid’. Lampreys were particularly caught in the Severn at Gloucester. For the men of Gloucester offering lampreys for a concession see Cal. Fine Rolls 1233-4, no.74.

In the KCL MA course on Magna Carta, there was some discussion of lampreys and what they looked like. Claire fitzGerald with praiseworthy initiative followed this up and as these images show brought one in for us to see. The image was taken by Richard de Renzy Channer also of the MA.

Henry III and the Sicilian Affair

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

David Carpenter writes…

I have had a most interesting letter from Margaret Howell about my fine of the month on Henry III and the Sicilian affair.  She observes  that it was Huw Ridgeway, in his doctoral thesis, who  first grasped the centrality of Henry III’s Savoyard kinsmen  to the project. She points this out on p.132 of her Eleanor of Provence. Margaret also thinks I have under-estimated the role of the Savoyards in the second phase of the project initiated by Pope Alexander IV in 1255. She notes in particular the way Henry III, in June 1255, commissioned Thomas of Savoy, Peter of Savoy and Philip of Savoy, bishop elect of Lyons, to recruit knights for his service.  I am sure Margaret is right about this.  However, I am still struck  by the way neither Thomas nor Peter of Savoy seem to have been involved with either negotiating or accepting the deal  of 1255.  They must surely have  regarded it as very unfortunate, for themselves as much as for the king.  Essentially,  the terms meant the Savoyards would never have the resources to recruit an  army to intervene in Sicily on Henry’s behalf.  Henry could ask them to retain knights as much as he liked, but he had no money with which they could do it.

Huw Ridgeway’s thesis is ‘The politics of the English royal court 1247-1265 with special reference to the role of the aliens’ (University of Oxford, 1983).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 March to Saturday 24 March 1257

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Henry III’s great parliament opened on or soon after 18 March. On 18th March itself  the witnesses to a royal charter were merely the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, and an assortment of household officials. But in the ensuing days, charters were witnessed  by Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, Peter of Savoy, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Worcester and Norwich.  The stated purpose of the parliament was to say good bye to Richard of Cornwall who was about to leave England for his coronation as king of Germany. On 27 March Henry sent an order about the equipping of 100 ships gathering at Yarmouth for the voyage.  No more, however,  is heard of Henry’s enthusiastic but impractical  idea of actually accompanying his brother.  The second purpose of the parliament was to consider Henry’s appeals for funds to support his Sicilian project, the project that is to put Edmund his second son on the throne of Sicily.  To stir the emotions,  Henry  (according to Matthew Paris) paraded the twelve year old Edmund in Sicilian robes before the assembly  and begged it not to let him down.

Henry could take comfort from the fact that the parliament brought a large increase in fine roll business. Whereas in the previous week there had been only three items of business, in this week there were seventeen. These included thirteen fines for writs to initiate or further common law legal actions, and four fines of gold. Two of the latter were for respite of knighthood, one for exemption from jury service, and one, worth two mark of gold or twenty marks of silver, from the Kentish knight, Nicholas of Lenham, for a charters conceding him a market and fair, and a free warren. As the charters, issued on 18 March show the free warren (essentially a private hunting park) was to be for all of Nicholas’ s manors which included Lenham and Lamberhurst in Kent and Redenhall in Norfolk.  The market and fair were to be at Hunton in Kent. The establishment was not, however, very successful.  An inquiry of 1312 said the market had never been held and the fair was only worth 3d a year. See the Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs, edited by Samantha Letters. Nicholas’s fine is the twentieth entry from bottom the bottom of this membrane (click here). It would be interesting to know whether Nicholas of Lenham  attended the parliament and saw Edmund in his Sicilian robes. Would such tactics work?  Read next week’s blog to find out.

For this parliament, see J.R. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament 924-1327, pp.471-2.

Nicholas of Lenham, it may be noted, fought against the king at the battle of Lewes.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 March to Saturday 17 March 1257

Friday, March 16th, 2012

In this week Henry completed the tour we discussed in the blog for last week. On Saturday 11 March he began the day  with his half brother, William de Valence, at Hertford, and then moved on to Waltham abbey. He remained there till 14 or 15 March when he returned to Westminster for the great parliament which was to open on the eighteenth.  In terms of fine roll business, indeed of all business, this seems a very quiet week. Indeed, only three items of fine roll business are dated to it.  One suspects that everything was hanging fire till the parliament and that those wishing to make fines with the king, that is offer money to him for concessions and favours, had decided to wait until he returned to Westminster.  It may be remembered that last week when the masters of Oxford University came before the king at St Albans, he referred them to the forthcoming parliament. It will be interesting to see if business does indeed pick up next week.

 In one of the fines of this week,  made at Waltham on Tuesday 13 March, Hugh de Dyve offered half a mark of gold ‘for quittance of assizes’ , which meant he was freed from having to appear on juries.  The concession was embodied in a letter patent witnessed by the king at Waltham on the following day.  Henry III made a good deal of money from selling such exemptions  and they made a significant contribution to his gold treasure. They were, however, unpopular, and indeed featured in the  ‘the Petition of the Barons’, presented at the revolutionary Oxford parliament in 1258. It was there claimed that, as a result of the king granting such quittances, so many knights were free from appearing on grand assize juries (which had to be composed entirely of knights) that it was impossible to assemble them.  Today  one suspects that a good deal of money could likewise be raised by selling exemptions from jury service, with much the same damage to the legal processes.

Hugh de Dive’s fine appears 28 entries down on the membrane of the fine roll.

For the selling of exemptions from jury service see a famous article by Scott Waugh ‘Reluctant knights and jurors: respites, exemptions and public obligations in the reign of Henry III’, Speculum, 58 (1983), 937-86.

One footnote. It will be noticed that now we have passed the leap year of 2012, the calendar is exactly the same in 1257 as in 2012.

So on to the parliament.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 February to Saturday 10 March 1257

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Henry III began the week commencing Sunday 25 February at Windsor.  He had to be back at Westminster by 18 March for the opening of the great parliament which would make crucial decisions about the Sicilian affair and  say good bye to Richard of Cornwall before his departure for Germany.  To fill in the intervening period, there was just time for a short tour.  Henry left Windsor on Friday 2 March and stayed over night at  the house of Henry de Bohun at Amersham.  On the evening  of the next day,  Saturday 3 March he reached St Albans abbey where he remained until the ninth. Then Henry moved on to Hertford to be entertained by his half brother, William de Valence, to whom he had given Hertford castle. After that,  Henry progressed  to Waltham abbey where he stayed from  11 to 14 March  before returning to Westminster for the parliament.

There were several reasons for this tour. One was that there was sickness at Windsor.  Queen Eleanor was ill there, as were several young nobles, including Nicholas of Seagrave, who were being brought up at  court.  Another reason was spiritual. Henry was on a  pilgrimage. He could pray for help at the forthcoming parliament before the shrine of England’s proto-martyr Alban and before Waltham’s famous Holy Cross. And there was a financial motive.  Henry was doing all he could to save money for the Sicilian affair.   What better way to reduce the costs of his daily expenditure on food and drink than by accepting the hospitality of his nobles and even more, for they could put him up for longer, of England’s  great religious houses.  Henry’s exploitation of religious houses in this way was one of the complaints made against him by churchmen in the 1250s. He was, however, aware that not everyone had their resources, and was good enough to send Henry de Bohun a cask of wine to compensate for what had been consumed at Amersham

Matthew Paris gives a wonderful picture of Henry’s visit to St Albans.  He makes no complaint about it, although Henry stayed for a week and  brought with him two of his unpopular Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, as well as his Savoyard steward, Imbert Pugeis, and another foreign relative, William de Chabanais. But then Henry’s conduct was so completely right. He offered at the great altar a ‘most noble necklace with two clasp and a cross chain’  and at the altars of St Alban and St Amphibalis most noble rings. He also gave a silver gilt cup to hold the dust found in  the recently discovered original tomb of St Alban and as well as six silken cloths, of which one was to cover the tomb and another the tombs of the hermits Roger and Sigard. Henry also gave money for work on the St Alban’s feretory.  During this visit, Matthew Paris, so he tells us, was continually with the king  at his table and in his chamber.  Henry indeed, ‘directing amicably and diligently the pen of the writer’, named for Paris the princes who had just elected Richard as king of Germany. He also named the sainted kings of England and then ran through all the English baronies he could remember of which he found there were 250.  Paris also captures Henry dealing with business.  Certain masters of the University of Oxford came before him in the chapel of Saint Oswin and made a complaint about the jurisdictional  claims of  bishop of Lincoln. They were given a day for their case to be heard at the forthcoming ‘great parliament’.  Matthew Paris added his two penny worth. He told the king  ‘secretly’ how  ruin would threaten the whole church if the  University of Oxford should now suffer the same fate as the currently troubled University of Paris. Henry showed suitable  alarm. ‘Let this not happen, especially in my time’. One is so used to Paris’s diatribes against Henry III, that it is good to be reminded of a totally different side to the their relationship.  On a visit like this to a great monastery, Henry could display a charming  combination of respectful piety, friendly accessibility and proper concern.

The fine rolls in these two weeks reflect Henry’s efforts to raise money. At Windsor on 28 February he arranged for wood to be sold from the royal forests, hoping this would raise 3000 or 4000 marks.  The fines of gold, designed to provide the treasure for the Sicilian army, continued  to come in. There were eleven in these two weeks worth some nine marks of gold, the equivalent of 90 marks of silver. In addition the abbot of Croxton, at St Albans on 5 March, offered 60 marks silver for the purchase of gold to secure the king’s confirmation of gift of land.  Henry added a further concession ‘for the sake of the heart of King John’, which was buried at the abbey. The rolls  give a perfect example of how Magna Carta had restricted royal income. On 2 March at Windsor, Henry de Blendet did homage to the king for his father’s lands.  The relief or inheritance tax he had to pay was £5. Since he held one knight’s fee from the king this was strictly in accord with Magna Carta. It was  restrictions such as these which made the king so dependent on taxation which only parliament could grant. Hence the importance of the approaching meeting.

On the membrane covering this period, the entry for the sale of wood is 10 down, the relief of Henry de Blendet is fourteen down, and for the king at St Albans on 5 March, see sixteen down.

A drawing of Eva, nurse of Richard, the future earl of Cornwall

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Richard De Renzy Channer, an eagle-eyed MA student at King’s College London spotted this image of a woman’s head that is reminiscent of those of other women (e.g. Muriel the Jewess of Gloucester) found in the margins of the fine rolls. It is from the close roll of June 1213 (held at The National Archives) and is against an order to the exchequer to give 4d a day to Eva, nurse of King John’s son, Richard, the future earl of Cornwall, so it might well be her.