Archive for August, 2012

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 29 July to Saturday 18 August 1257

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Henry III’s itinerary in these three weeks, as he girded himself for his campaign in Wales, can be traced in the fine rolls. On 30 July and 1 August he is found at Lichfield. On  7, 10, 14, 16, 17, and 18 August he is at Chester.  There he was gathering his army before moving westwards into Wales.  The campaign brought about a virtual cessation of the normal fine roll business. In this period only eleven writs were purchased to initiate and further common law legal actions.  There was, however, one very striking fine, which shows the power of Henry’s kingship, when he chose to use it, and his ability to bring low a great baron in a manner worthy of his father, King John. On 14 August at Chester, Henry accepted from the  northern baron, John de Balliol, a fine of £500. In return, Henry remitted all the rancour he had conceived against John for  his offences against the  king and queen of Scotland. He also abandoned the consequent legal action he had commenced against him. The queen of Scotland was Henry’s teenage daughter Margaret. During the course of 1255 some  alarming news had reached  Henry about her treatment. She was being kept in the gloomy castle of Edinburgh, out of sight of trees and fields and being prevented from sleeping in the same bed as her teenage husband. Both Henry and Queen Eleanor were affectionate parents. They also regarded King Alexander as an adopted sum. Nothing was more calculated to alarm than this intelligence. The result was Henry’s only journey to Scotland (with Queen Eleanor), the remodelling of Scotland’s minority government and the punishment of both Balliol, and the Northumberland baron, Robert de Ros, to whose care Margaret had been entrusted.  Matthew Paris also thought Henry had another motive, namely to get hold of Balliol’s fabled wealth. This he certainly did. As the entry on the fine rolls show, Balliol paid £100 cash down into the wardrobe (the financial office which travelled with the king.). The balance of £400 he was to pay into the wardrobe before the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that is by 8 September. It is interesting to note that Henry was keeping control of the debt entirely in his own hands. The money was to be paid into the wardrobe, not the exchequer, and for that reason the  entry does not appear on the originalia roll, the copy of the fine roll sent to the exchequer so that he knew what money to collect. In fact, Balliol did not meet the September deadline. Instead as a later addition to the entry shows, he was given quittance of the fine in the March portion of the fine roll of the following year.  An entry there (no 374 in the translation) shows that Balliol paid into the wardrobe another £266 both towards the fine, and an amercement of 100 marks (£66) imposed on him for convictions before the king’s judges when they had visited Northumberland in 1255.  The balance of the debt was then pardoned. Between August 1257 and March 1258, Henry had, therefore, extracted £366 from Balliol. Not bad going. How lawful was Henry’s conduct? How typical was it of his kingship? Was it a factor in causing the revolution of 1258? These are questions which will be addressed in a forthcoming ‘fine of the month’.

For the membranes with Balliol’s fine and the pardon of March 1258, thirteen from bottom, click here. See also here, twenty-seven from bottom.