Archive for April, 2012

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Saturday 22 April to Sunday 28 April 1257

Friday, April 27th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Merton priory, which was both an honour and a burden for the monks.  The fine rolls  have a fascinating variety of business. The king  issued twelve writs to initiate or further common law legal actions.   He also accepted  six fines of gold, and another of 50 marks of silver, which he earmarked for the purchase of gold. The silver was offered by the prioress and nuns of Wherwell abbey in Hampshire for custody of their abbey during the vacancy which would be caused by the imminent resignation of their abbess Euphemia.  Amongst the fines of gold, were two, of  one mark of gold apiece, from Gerard de Evinton and Henry of Pembridge to secure their appointments  as respectively sheriffs of Surrey/Sussex and Hereford.  The amounts involved were hardly large (a mark of gold was the equivalent of ten marks of silver) and reflect how little financial gain could be made from the office of sheriff now that the king was taking so large a slice of the profits for himself.  Two fines of gold were from Lincolnshire men seeking inquiries into the value of their lands. This was because they maintained they were being forced by the sheriff to take up knighthood as having an income of £15 a year whereas in fact, so they said, their income was less. Next week we shall see the results of such inquiries.  The whole policy  of enforcing knighthood in this way was tremendously unpopular.  Designed as it was to help fund the army Henry III was to supposed to send to conquer Sicily, it meant gentry lords throughout the country suffered from the madness of this policy.  In fact, after his failure to secure funds for Sicily at the recent parliament, Henry was at last beginning to have doubts about the enterprise, not before time.  On 24 April from Merton, ‘because he is not sure whether the business of Sicily is to proceed or not’, he ordered Master Rostand, who was collecting the Sicilian taxation from the church, not to make any further payments to anyone on pain of losing all he possessed in the realm. What this meant was that Rostand was no longer to pass the proceeds of the tax to the numerous Italian merchants, who had loaned money to Henry and the papacy,  or not until, as Henry said,  it was clear the business could proceed ‘with some effect’. Since the tax had been authorised by the papacy, Henry hardly had the authority to issue an order of this kind, and its effects are unfair. The Sicilian farce still had a long way to run. Next week Henry moved to Windsor castle.

The Wherwell fine is seventeen from the top on the membrane covering this week.

Battle of Lewes Conference (14 April 2012)

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Members of the project team – David Carpenter and Louise Wilkinson – gave lectures at a one-day conference to commemorate the Battle of Lewes on Saturday 14 April 2012. The conference, which was sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund and hosted by Baroness Andrews, chair of English Heritage, and the Sussex Archaeological Society at the Lewes Assembly Rooms, attracted 300 delegates. Other speakers included Dr Adrian Jobson, Dr John Maddicott, Dr Huw Ridgeway, Dr Andrew Spencer and Dr Tim Sutherland.



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

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

During this week, Henry III left Westminster to spend some time at Merton priory in Surrey. From there he was to move on to Windsor, before returning to Merton,  arriving back at Westminster in the middle of May. These kind of trips out and around the capital, taking in Windsor, and either  Merton  to the south, or St Albans to the north, were characteristic of Henry’s itinerary.  Westminster, with its palace, patron saint and abbey, was his favourite residence, quite apart from being, or perhaps in spite of being, the seat of government.  But Henry also delighted in Windsor. He had made it  into a luxurious palace where his queen and children were based. A visit to Windsor fitted well with a stay at Merton or St Albans where Henry could be sustained both by the prayers of the monks and their food and drink.  How one wishes, there was a Merton chronicle to match the picture  of Henry’s visits to St Albans given by Matthew Paris.  At least the witness lists to royal charters show who was with Henry at Merton, and they included both his brother in law, Simon de Montfort, and his half brother, William de Valence.

The week has a fascinating variety of material on the fine rolls.  On 18 April at Merton, the twenty-four jurors of Romney marsh (the men elected to keep the marsh) fined in one mark of gold for having the judge, Henry of Bath, hear and determine the disputes between them and the men of the marsh about the repair of the marsh’s embankments and drains. (No. 554 in the calendar).   As Hasted puts it in his History of Kent, this led to  ‘the ordinances of Henry de Bathe, from which laws the whole realm of England take directions in relation to the sewers’:  ‘Romney Marsh’, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (1799), pp. 465-473. URL:  Date accessed: 15 April 2012.

The king’s financial needs led to further measures for the selling of his woods in order to raise 3000 to 4000 marks. The treasurer of the exchequer, Philip Lovel, was too busy to attend to this, and so Adam de Grenville was appointed in his place. (No.565).

The next entries (nos.566-7), dated to 20 April at Merton, concerned the appointment of the  Yorkshire magnate, John de Eyville, as chief justice of the royal forest north of the Trent, which meant the northern forests were under his control.  John fined in two marks of gold for the office and agreed to pay 10 marks more a year for it than his predecessor,  terms which hardly seem extortionate.  John was to be a leading rebel in the civil war, but clearly he had not been excluded from office and favour beforehand.

Finally, to return to lampreys. In entry no.557, the exchequer was ordered to allow the king’s bailiffs of Gloucester £25 10d which they had spent buying  and transporting lampreys and other things for the king and queen during Lent.  This entry was cancelled, the reason (not stated) being that it should  have been placed on the liberate rolls. There more detail was given. The writ to the exchequer was issued on 19 April from Merton. 191 lampreys and 6 shad had been sent to the king and 55 lampreys and 2 shad  to the queen. Taking no account of the shad, this suggests a lamprey cost around 2 shillings or 24 pence. Given that a penny was enough to supply a pauper with food for one day, lampreys were evidently  expensive fish.

The cancelled entry about lampreys is seventeen from the bottom on the membrane covering this week; that about Romney marsh twenty from the bottom.

Sad News: The Death of Aidan Hyland Lawes

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

It is with great sorrow that we announce the recent death, on Palm Sunday 1 April 2012, at the age of 54, of our former colleague Aidan Hyland Lawes.  He never fully recovered from a dangerous operation undergone at Harefield Hospital on 25 January.  Aidan was for several years a valuable and valued member of the Fine Rolls project team as a representative of The National Archives.   He was a great advocate and supporter of the publication of historical records of all periods, and was in charge of publications at The National Archives for a number of years, before he had to take early retirement at the end of 2008 because of ill-health.  He attended the project events held in the Rolls Chapel building at the Chancery Lane building of the former Public Record Office, now the Maugham Library of King’s College, which features in his publication Chancery Lane, 1377-1977: ‘The Strong Box of the Empire’ (PRO Publications, 1996).  In the volume he printed the poem Goodbye Chancery Lane by a former colleague, Alan Jensen.  One verse reads: ‘The Rolls Chapel is empty too, But for the brooding tombs, Whose occupants keep a watchful eye, On the abandoned reading rooms’.  Aidan loved the building and its history, and was delighted that it eventually found such a suitable use as a King’s College library, overcoming the gloom occasioned by the departure of the records and staff in 1996 and encapsulated in Alan’s poem.  He will be sadly missed by all who knew him and shared his enthusiasms.

Aidan (centre), with David Crook and David Carpenter

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 April to Saturday 14 April 1257

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

King Henry III celebrated Sunday 8 April, Easter Sunday, at Westminster amidst feasting, religious ceremony and almsgiving.  The week before, on Maundy Thursday, he had distributed 272 pairs of shoes to the poor, and quite probably had washed their feet. Later accounts show that a great silver bowl was kept in the wardrobe for such a  ceremony.  Perhaps some of those benefitting from these royally administered ablutions were lepers. At any rate,  the king of France, Louis IX, commended Henry for washing the feet of lepers and kissing them. 

After the Easter ceremony, the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, left London for Yarmouth, where he was to take ship for Germany and his royal coronation. The archbishop of Cologne took a different route  and sailed home in a great galley he had brought up the Thames. One can imagine it moored opposite the Tower, where doubtless it impressed the Londoners. Richard had given the archbishop  500 marks and a mitre decorated with precious stones.  The archbishop gracefully declared (according to Matthew Paris) ‘he has mitred me, I will crown him’,  referring to his role in the German coronation.

This week eight individuals bought writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. There were five fines of gold, two for respite of knighthood.  This was a respectable level of business but it was not going to transform the king’s financial position and enable him to pursue  his Sicilian schemes. He had also just failed to secure taxation from parliament for the same purpose. This may be part of the background to this week’s ambitious scheme to put the king’s finances on an entirely new footing. On Monday, 9 April, the king ‘provided and ordained’ that henceforth the expenses of the king’s household were to be paid for ‘day by day’. To that end, the exchequer was to set aside 20,000 marks (£13,333) each year, 10,000 marks coming from the first monies reaching it at Easter, and 10,000 marks from the first monies at Michaelmas. The king issued this ordinance in the presence of Edward, his son and heir, his half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence,  the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, and the ministers John Mansel and Robert Walerand. The presence here of the king’s foreign relatives, and the absence of a single English magnate, confirms the isolation of the king which we saw at the parliament, an isolation enhanced by the departure for Germany of the long suffering and supportive, Richard of Cornwall. On the other hand,  the ordinance does show the foreign relatives involved in  a sensible attempt at  financial reform, which probably  responded to complaints made about the king’s government at the parliament. The first aim was to see that the king paid for his food, drink, clothes and everything else promptly instead of  running up debts to merchants, tradesmen and others.  The second aim, at least by implication, was that the wardrobe, the chief spending department travelling with the king, was essentially to be funded by the exchequer. Although not stated explicitly, it was  the wardrobe which was to receive the 20,000 marks and since this was the rough equivalent of its total annual expenditure at this time (clearly the king had been well informed on that), it would  no longer need in a disorderly way to seek revenue from other sources. The implication was that the bulk of the king’s revenue could be paid into the exchequer instead of being siphoned off to the wardrobe. This was precisely what the reformers demanded and attempted to achieve after the revolution of 1258.

In all this, the king had not forgotten Westminster abbey, for another £1000 was to be reserved every year for the work on its fabric. Would the scheme work? It clearly depended on the revenue reaching the exchequer and the king refraining from either diverting it before it got there, or ordering the exchequer to spend it on other things before the 20,000 marks had been raised.  To that end, the king strictly ordered the exchequer to make no payments until the money had been set aside, even though commanded to do so by his writs and his own verbal orders! If they disobeyed, they would be liable to pay back the money from their own goods. This type of attempt to get  officials to act as a barrier against his own weakness was characteristic of Henry III, and does not show him in a very kingly light.  Having said that, is it much different from the way modern politicians have sought to guard against their own weakness by making the Bank of England independent in the setting of interest rates? Would Henry’s scheme work this time? Read future blogs to find out!

Michael Wood and David Carpenter visit The National Archives

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

The acclaimed TV historian Michael Wood met with David Carpenter on a trip to the National Archives earlier this year. Here they are pictured with some fine rolls.





Henry III’s blog Sunday 1 April-Saturday 7 April 1257

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Westminster, preparing to celebrate Easter at the Abbey and the palace. The end of the parliament, which had reached its climax the week before (see last week’s blog), is reflected in the dearth of fine rolls business. There were only four judicial writs purchased and three fines of gold made. None of the latter were from lords seeking exemptions from knighthood or jury service. We will have to see in future blogs whether this revenue stream picks up. The fine rolls, however, do illustrate various aspects of contemporary life, some of it jarring. Thus Frederick Orland, a citizen and merchant of Sienna, fined in 50 marks of silver for being let off prosecution by the king for the rape of Alice la Franceis of which he stood accused. In the fine above, the abbot of Coggeshall fined in 55 marks (earmarked for the purchase of gold) for a charter allowing him to enclose with a ditch and a hedge his heath and woodland in Tolleshunt Major, Tolleshunt Tregoz, Inworth, Childerditch and Little Warley. The ditch was to be a small one, and deer and fawns were to enter and exit the enclosed area without difficulty. The way in which Henry III brought country and continent together (not always harmoniously) is shown by the fact that this charter, which the abbot must have taken proudly home to Coggeshall and broadcast locally was witnessed by Henry’s two Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, his wife’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, and his Savoyard steward, Imbert Pugeis, as well as by the earl of Gloucester and some English officials. Coggeshall itself is well worth a visit to see the brick remains of the monastery and its grange barn. The places where the abbot enclosed heath and woods are just to the south. This was a quiet week for Henry. Next week will be very different.
For Coggeshall and its grange barn see
The two fines mentioned above are nos.529 and 530 in the 1256-1257 calendar.
For them on the roll, see, 27, 28 down

Henry III’s blog Sunday 25 March-Saturday 31 March 1257

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

This was the week in which the great parliament Henry was holding at Westminster reached its climax.  On Sunday 25 March the archbishop of Messina entered the chapter house of Westminster abbey and addressed a great multitude of clergy and people, urging them to support the king’s Sicilian enterprise.  This is the first known event in the wonderful new chapter house at the abbey, which Henry had specially designed for occasions such as these. It was, of course, a house where the monks held their daily business meetings, but Henry also intended it from the first as a house where he and his agents  could address the realm. The archbishop  spoke from the abbot’s place in the centre of the bay opposite the entrance where the seats were raised higher than everywhere else. On either end of this bay, marking it out, a  band of tiles ran across the floor  repeating again and again,  the king’s coats of arms,  the leopards in each shield splendidly virile and fearsome.  As the archbishop spoke, he looked at up the statues either side of the entrance, the one of the Angel Gabriel, the other the Virgin Mary, the subject the Annunciation, the most significant declaration in history.  Who would not be empowered speaking in such a setting?  Who listening  there to the king or his ministers would dare to question the royal word? Unfortunately many dared. The assembled magnates refused to give any help and drew up a schedule of ‘reasons against the king’ which showed just how impossible the enterprise was. The ground covered was by this time familiar: the distance between England and Sicily; the danger of leaving England defenceless; and above all the king’s total lack of resources to both pay a vast sum of money to the pope and  send an army to Sicily to conquer it from Manfred, its formidable Hohenstaufen ruler. Whether Henry also spoke to the assembly in  the chapter house we do not know, although it is likely.  If so the results were the same. For his failure on this, or other occasions,   Henry seems to have blamed not the message but  his speaking position!  He later to commission a special lectern for the house, one of made apparently of gilded scrolls and iron work. Since this is described as ‘the lectern of the king’, it was from it that he now intended to speak

For the Chapter house, including an image of the tiles with the king’s coat of arms, go to

On the same day as the speech of the archbishop of Messina, the papal envoy, Rostand held an exclusively ecclesiastical gathering.   Before the deans and archdeacons of each diocese he published papal letters imposing on the church a series of new exactions to support the Sicilian enterprise.  In theory, the pope could just have ordered these to be levied, but popes liked to move with consent, and Rostand now asked for clergy’s agreement to the new taxes or at least co-operation in their collection.  Quite probably the bishops had already said that they could not bind their diocese and the lower clergy, represented by the deans and archdeacons,  must be consulted. This left some wriggle room and Rostand was told that the clerics would consult with their constituencies and return a month after Easter to give their reply.  Meanwhile the bishops and clergy drew up their own schedule of objections to the Sicilian affair which covered much the same ground as that of the magnates.

Something of Henry’s isolation during this parliament is reflected in the witness lists to royal charters, which show who was at court. As we saw last week, the earls of Gloucester and Leicester appear but they were the only earls to do so.  The only major prelates were the archbishop of Canterbury (the queen’s uncle, Boniface of Savoy), and the bishops of Worcester and Norwich. Meanwhile Henry in this week was engaged in one of those acts of patronage  to the benefit of his foreign relatives, which left him open to charges of sharp practice.  On 27 March Henry promised that if he could establish his right through a legal action to the manors of Gainsborough in Lincolnshire and Offington (near Worthing) in Sussex, he would grant them in hereditary right to his half brother William de Valence. Henry was careful to say that Richard of Cornwall had agreed to this.  The last thing Henry wanted to do was to offend Richard, nominally always top of the list for patronage, before his departure for Germany. Perhaps Henry did have a good case in seeking the manors but clearly there was pressure for a judgement,  just or unjust to be given in his favour.  There is more evidence about the sequel to this case, which I may refer to in a later blog, but better still would be someone else, more knowledgeable, to clarify what was going on.

After these bruising confrontations at the parliament, the fine roll business for this week gave the king some solace. Business was indeed picking up with the parliament. No less than twenty-seven fines were made in this week. Of these fourteen were for writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. There were eleven fines of gold (three for respite of knighthood) worth a total of 8 marks of gold or 80 marks of silver. In addition, the convent of Bury St Edmunds offered £100 of silver from which gold was to be purchased to have custody of their lands during the period before the election of a new abbot.  One interesting fine shows how heirs inherited debts along with property.  William de Vaux had been penalised 200 marks for marrying an heiress (Eleanor daughter of the earl of Derby) without the king’s permission.  John had now been succeeded by his brother, who although he had gained nothing from the marriage, now inherited the 40 marks or what was left of the debt. At least the king now allowed him to pay it off at 10 marks a year.

One final point of interest about this week in the fine rolls deserves a separate heading.

The fine rolls, the liberate rolls and Henry III’s giving shoes to the poor.

In this week the clerk copying out the  fine rolls made a mistake and placed on the fine rolls two writs which, since they concerned allowances for the expenditure of money, should have been on the liberate rolls instead.  The mistake was discovered and the entries cancelled and transferred to  their proper place. The episode shows how the various chancery rolls were drawn up in close proximity to each other.

The misplaced writs were both concerned with Henry’s preparations for Easter. In the first, the sheriff of Essex was ordered to receive 20 bucks taken in the park of Havering  and have them salted and carried to Westminster for the Easter feast.  In the second, John, the king’s chaplain, was to acquire 171 pairs of shoes to be distributed to the poor at Easter on behalf of the king, the queen and their children. Of these, half were to cost 5d and half 4½d. Why the curious number 171?  Other evidence shoes that 150 of the shoes were to be for the alms of the king and queen, of which 100 were the king’s and 50 the queen’s. That leaves 21  being offered on behalf of the king’s five children, two boys and three girls. How was this number broken up. Was it six shoes each for the boys and three each for the girls? That would make 21. Has anyone any ideas about this and the other odd numbers sometimes found in Henry’s almsgiving?

For the cancelled entries see, 19 and 20 entries down,

Read future blogs to hear about Henry’s Easter in 1257.