Archive for May, 2012

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 20 May to Sunday 27 May 1257

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Henry spent all this week at Westminster. He was preparing for the great feast of Pentecost on Sunday 28 May. To join in the celebrations, he was joined during the week by Walter de Cantilupe, bishop of Worcester, Peter of Savoy, Simon de Montfort earl of Leicester and Richard de Clare earl of Gloucester. Both Savoy and Montfort used their presence to  secure concessions from the king.  Montfort’s was a writ to the  exchequer ordering it to pay him all of £500 for his losses while Henry’s seneschal in Gascony between 1248 and 1252, although, in the event, the order was cancelled as Montfort secured payment through an earlier writ.

The fine rolls for this week continue to record a good flow of judicial business. Some 18 writs were purchased to initiate or further common law legal actions. Another purchase seems more sinister. On 25 May, Henry accepted 20s from John son of Reginald of Rawcliffe in Yorkshire for a writ of grace which commanded the judge Roger of Thirkleby not to hear the assize being brought against him by the abbot of Selby for land in Rawcliffe. Was Henry here obstructing the judicial process, or are other interpretations possible?  Three fines this week to have cases brought before the court coram rege, the court which travelled with the king. One of these concerning land in Berkshire was to be held when the king was at Windsor, and another, concerning land in Wiltshire, when he was at Clarendon.  Litigants living in the west and the north of the country, which Henry rarely visited, were not, of course, able to have their cases heard on the spot in this way.

For the membrane covering this week, click here

Next week, the feast of Pentecost.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 13 May to Saturday 19 May 1257

Friday, May 18th, 2012

At the start of this week Henry moved from Merton to Westminster where he was to remain for well over a month. The week was a sad one, for it probably saw in Westminster abbey the funeral of Henry’s beloved daughter Katherine.  On 16 May, Henry assigned £51 to John, his almoner, for the funeral’s expenses. If this money went in giving alms to the poor for Katherine’s soul, as seems likely, it suggests that around 10,000 paupers were fed on the day of the funeral. 

The king’s presence at Westminster had a dramatic effect on business recorded in the fine rolls. In the week before at Merton, only eleven purchases were made of writs to initiate or further legal actions according to the common law. In this week at Westminster the number was twenty-seven. Clearly litigants knew the king was coming to Westminster and decided to wait for his arrival,  rather than seeking him out at Merton. This does raise the question as to why Henry’s government never devolved the power to issue the common law writs to the judges at Westminster,  rather than making everyone get them from the chancery which, of course, followed the king.  The solution adopted in the next century for the chancery itself to become fixed at Westminster was, to my mind, less satisfactory.  The twenty-seven writs were for litigation in a range of counties, which shows again the common law was genuinely common and was not just for the south-east.  Lincolnshire easily tops the list with ten writs, and one wonders whether one envoy had been sent to secure them for all the litigants, although admittedly they are not placed on the roll in a single block.  After that, there were three writs for Northamptonshire, two for Kent, Berkshire and Wiltshire,  and one for Essex, Devon, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire.

The roll also has something on the aftermath of the persecution of the Jews of Lincoln for allegedly crucifying a Christian boy (‘little Saint Hugh’) in their town in 1255. On 18 May  William de Kivelingho offered the king a mark of gold (through the sheriff and the justice of the Jews, Simon Passelewe) ‘for the house which Vives of Norwich, Jew, hung for having, as was said, crucified a boy at Lincoln, held in Brancegate in the parish of St Martin in Lincoln’.  The ‘as was said’ is interesting and like other entries in the rolls in this period suggests increasing doubt as to whether the event really had taken place. This entry is  no 648 in calendar and bottom but one of this membrane.  Note also the drawing in the margin designed perhaps to mark the entry.

For Henry and the Jews of Lincoln in 1255 see the fines of the month for January and February 2010.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 6 May to Saturday 12 May 1257

Friday, May 11th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Merton priory.  It was a week in which he made a momentous decision, namely to continue with the Sicilian affair. We have seen that a couple of weeks earlier, Henry had been entertaining serious doubts about whether it should proceed, not surprisingly given the opposition in parliament. Now, however, on 10 May, he wrote to the pope saying that he had made effective arrangements for sending out to him ‘a noble and vigorous captain’ and a messenger equipped with a great sum of money. He had done this in the presence of the archbishop of  Messina, who was now returning to Rome, and would be able to tell the pope all about it.   The intention presumably was for the captain to head an army composed of mercenaries hired by the  money.  Yet  of the ‘effective’ arrangements,  there is no sign.   Perhaps Henry was buoyed up  be hearing  that Richard of Cornwall  had arrived safely in Germany.  He gave a robe to the messenger who brought the news on 9 May. Perhaps he was also thinking of the £52,000 offered by an ecclesiastical council, which had  met in London in early May, on condition that the pope ended all future Sicilian taxation.   But this was money controlled by the pope not the king.  It was not using these resources that Henry was supposed to sustain  the  captain and the army  which  was to conquer Sicily.  Henry was not uncounselled at this time.  With him at Merton on 12 May were Simon de Montfort, Richard de Clare earl of Glouceser, Peter of Savoy, William de Valence and John Mansel. Whether they all agreed with the decision we may doubt. Montfort was in any case  preoccupied with his own affairs and on 13 May extracted £200 from the king, this to be followed by another £500 a week later.  One cannot help thinking that,  forced to make up  his mind by the departure of the archbishop of Messina, Henry had taken a decision as impulsive as it was irrational.  The dangers of proceeding were underlined on 10 May itself, for it was on this very day that Henry was giving support to  captain who really did exist. This was John de Grey appointed by the Lord Edward to head an army against  Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in Wales.

The fine rolls in this week continue to underline the unpopularity of Henry’s drive to force men to take up knighthood.  Although he was in Holy Orders,  Baldwin de Kalna still had to offer the king half a mark of gold (which he paid later into the wardrobe) in order to avoid the honour.  The rolls also show, however, how the king could help those of small account.  On 12 May, Robert de Haya, who owed the king 6s 8d for writ, was allowed to pay the debt of at 40d a year ‘on account of his poverty’.

Next week, Henry returned to Westminster.        

For the membrane covering this week, click here.

The Nuns of Wherwell Abbey

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Dr Rhoda Bucknill, whose doctoral thesis was about Wherwell abbey, writes as follows about the fine, mentioned in last week’s blog, of the prioress and nuns of Wherwell to have custody of their abbey during the vacancy caused by the death or resignation of their Abbess Euphemia.  

Euphemia  died on 26 April 1257. The fine  is undated but occurs between entries belonging  to  27 and 29 April.  Since the fine was clearly made while Euphemia was thought to be still alive, the nuns presumably set off shorly before 26 April, which would fit with the time needed to travel the fifty or so miles from Wherwell to Merton priory.   Henry knew Wherwell well as it was conveniently placed to stop off at when visiting Winchester, just a few miles to the south, thus many gifts of wine and deer by the king are recorded over the forty-four years in which Euphemia was abbess, probably in return for the hospitality he received.  He was well acquainted with the ambitious building projects that Euphemia had initiated in the abbey precinct and beyond, and contributed timber from Chute Forest to assist her. His last visit was in December 1256, just four months before her death.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 29 April to Saturday 5 May 1257

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

For Henry III and Queen Eleanor, this was a week of tragedy. Around 3 May, their daughter Katherine died. She had been born in 1254 and was, so Matthew Paris tells us, ‘mute and incapable but very beautiful in face’. Henry was deeply attached to this his last child.  He had ordered a silver image of her to be put up on the shrine of Edward the Confessor at Westminster, when she was ill in 1256. A few days later he gave a present of  ‘a good robe’  to the queen’s  messenger  who arrived with the ‘good news’ of her recovery.  It is highly likely that Katherine died at Windsor, for there the queen had always been based with her children. If so, Henry was probably present since on or shortly before 29 April he had arrived at Windsor from Merton priory.  Curiously enough, he seems to have left immediately after Katherine’s demise for on 3 May he was at Chertsey and on 5 May back at Merton. He stayed there till 14 May, when he returned to Westminster both for Katherine’s burial in the Abbey, and the feast of Pentecost.  Whether the queen accompanied Henry to Merton is doubtful. According to Matthew Paris, she was utterly devastated by her daughter’s death, and wasted away in bed at Windsor, seemingly beyond the help of doctors.  Absence, however, did not weaken the bond between king and queen. When Henry himself fell ill towards the end of the month, worry over the queen and grief over his daughter were, according to Paris, contributory factors. When a decade later, Henry commissioned the splendid retable for the High Altar of Westminster abbey, one of the miracles depicted was Christ raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead.  Included in the scene, standing over his daughter, is Jairus himself, and behind Jairus, with her arms around him, is Jairus’s wife (the figure now largely lost). Is this how Henry and Eleanor stood grieving over Katherine? The scene on the Retable was deeply personal. Christ had not raised their daughter from the dead, but he could certainly raise her now into the life hereafter.

 For the retable, although not alas with a detailed shot of the miracle in question, click here.

After this tragedy, one scarcely has the heart to turn to fine rolls business, yet again this is an interesting week.   When he arrived at Windsor, Henry conceded easier terms on which the master and brethren of the hospital of Dover could repay their debts.  He did this ‘moved by charity’ and to sustain their work. Was this pious act a way of seeking God’s favour in Katherine’s illness?  Henry also took steps to see the queen got her financial cut from the money offered him in fines. The rolls continue to reveal the consequences of the campaign to get those with incomes of £15 a year and upwards either to take up knighthood, or, which was more the aim, to make fines in gold to be exempted from doing so.  In this week, the ex sheriff of Warwickshire-Leicestershire, William Mansel, had to make two fines of half a mark of gold because inquiries, paid for by the victims, had shown he  had wrongly returned two men as liable for knighthood,  when their incomes from land were actually  worth  only £5 and £7 10s. One cannot help feeling the sheriffs were being damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. On the one hand, they were being punished for carrying out the measure too rigorously and on the other for not doing it rigorously enough!

For the image of the membrane covering this week, click here. For Henry back at Merton, read next week’s blog.