Archive for September, 2012

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 16 September to Saturday 23 September 1257

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

During this week, Henry III continued his slow journey back from north Wales to Westminster.  The fine rolls show him on 20 September at Wenlock  (Much Wenlock),  where he pardoned one of his servants, Elyas Marshal, a debt on account of his good severance in Wales.  The rolls next show Henry, on 24 September, at Worcester.   For the membrane covering the period, click here. The entry at Wenlock is seventeen down.

Henry had, therefore, travelled from north to south down the length of the Welsh border. He was thus able to monitor the situation in the March as well taking as good a route back to Westminster as any.  In fact, Henry had plenty of time before his arrival at Westminster, where he wanted to be by the feast of Edward the Confessor on 13 October. Other evidence shows he stayed for much of the period between 12 and 20 September at Much Wenlock, where doubtless he enjoyed  the hospitality provided by the monks of the priory. Very few people sought Henry out in the Welsh borderland to buy the usual writs to initiate or further the common law legal actions. Most of those who did come were locals. Indeed between 15 and 24 September, of the ten writs purchased, one was for Lincolnshire, one for Staffordshire, one for Herefordshire, and all the rest for Shropshire.      

Nest week, the king reaches his palace of Woodstock.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 9 September to Saturday 15 September 1257

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

During this week, Henry began his journey home from Wales. His aim was to be at Westminster for the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor on 13 October. The journey  disrupted fine roll business because none at all is recorded between 30 August, when Henry was at Deganwy, and 13 September when he was at Chester.  At Chester, however,  between the 13 and 15 September, there was a revival of the normal judicial business with half a dozen writs to initiate or further common law legal actions being purchased.  There was also one other highly profitable transaction, although it also pointed forward to the revolution of 1258.  At Chester, the king reached an agreement with the executors of the late bishop of Ely, William of Kilkenny.  In return,  amongst other things, for the promise of 2000 marks (£1333), he allowed them to have all the corn due to be harvested from the late bishop’s manors. A marginal note added later records what Henry did with this extremely valuable windfall. The executors gave 1000 marks of it to the Lord Edward at the Temple in London at the feast of St Martin 1257. This money was then used (although the note does not say so) to help finance Edward’s war in Wales, which was fair enough. It is the fate of the other 1000 which was extraordinary. This, the note indicates,  was given on 9 April 1258 to the queen’s uncle, Thomas of Savoy. The date is immensely significant because it was right at the start of the revolutionary parliament which was to strip the king of power.  News of the gift evidently  reverberated round the parliament for it soon reached an appalled Matthew Paris at St Albans.  For many it epitomised the king’s profligate generosity to his foreign relatives.  What made it worse was that Thomas was not even any longer a useful ally.  He had arrived in England on a litter, his health broken down and his ambitions in tatters, after  his capture and imprisonment by the citizens of Turin.  Although the Savoyards were not themselves attacked in 1258 (the fire was concentrated on the king’s Poitevin half brothers), the gift  to Thomas, at such a sensitive  time, must have contributed, in no small measure,  to the general dissatisfaction  expressed at the parliament with Henry’s rule. One final point. As far as can be seen,  the exchequer was never informed of the debt owed by the executors of the late bishop of Ely. It was dealt with entirely by the wardrobe. This is why the note of payment was made in the margin of the fine rolls. This by passing of the exchequer was something else the reformers intended to stop. 

For the entry, click here (and count down nine entries from the top).

Hilary Mantel and Henry III’s Elephant: A Contribution by Dr Richard Cassidy

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Henry III’s elephant keeps cropping up. I have just started reading Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel (her sequel to Wolf Hall). And Thomas Cromwell is thinking about monasteries, and relics:

‘In the year 1257, an elephant died in the Tower menagerie and was buried in a pit near the chapel. But the following year he was dug up and his remains sent to Westminster Abbey. Now, what did they want at Westminster Abbey, with the remains of an elephant? If not to carve a ton of relics out of him, and make his animal bones into the bones of saints?’

She has evidently done her homework. If only she had written earlier, we would have had a great intro for the Fine of the Month.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 August to Saturday 8 September 1257

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

These were the weeks of Henry III’s campaign in Wales, all be it a campaign of a very static nature. Its basic outline can be seen from the fine rolls, if you look at the relevant membrane. Here, five items from the bottom, is a letter witnessed by the king at Chester on 18 August: T’ R’ ap’ Cestr xviii. die Aug, that is  Teste Rege apud Cestr’ xviii. die Augusti. The next entry, four from bottom, the letter  is witnessed by the king ‘in castris apud Gannok’ (in the fields at Deganwy)  on 30 August. And then the next shows him back at Chester, the witness clause having the date 13 September.

Other evidence shows that Henry arrived at Deganwy on 27 August and stayed there till at least 4 September. At Deganwy, of course, was the great castle which Henry had built to hold down his Welsh conquests between the Conwy and the Dee. The castle stood proud, high above the Conwy estuary, and glared westwards towards the great mountain ranges in the heart of Gwynedd. For images, click here.

Henry, however, as the witness clause in the fine rolls shows, did not stay in the castle but in the fields round about.  There he probably lived in a great pavilion lent him by the earl of Gloucester.  Doubtless the castle was full masons, for one object of the campaign was to repair and augment its defences. Another was to ravage the land of  Llywelyn and his supporters. Matthew Paris gives a vivid picture of Henry, riding about ‘elegantly’ in armour under his dragon standard, encouraging his knights, although whether this amounted to more than wishing them well as they set out on their chevauchées  one may doubt. Henry had also much bigger schemes. These were the conquest of Anglesey and the division of what was left of Gwynedd west of Conwy between Llywelyn’s disaffected brothers. To that end, he had summoned shipping both from Ireland and the Cinque Ports. Henry’s ambitions, therefore,   were just as great as those of his son, the future Edward I. The difference was that Edward actually carried them out. Indeed, present on this campaign, he may have learnt something from his father’s failure.

For fail Henry did. In a letter to the earl of Gloucester from Deganwy on 4 September, he explained that he was going home.  The shipping had not arrived for the invasion of Anglesy and winter was approaching. Given that it was only  the first week of September, this was hardly a complete excuse, and Henry was clearly embarrassed by the decision. He explained to the earl (who had been far more successful in South Wales), that the decision had been taken  on the advice of the magnates present with him. It was not at all what he would have wanted, indeed it  was ‘repugnant’ to him. He was determined to return next summer and finish the job. Meanwhile  (which was not said in the letter),  Henry realised with relief that he could get back to Westminster in time for the feast of Edward the Confessor on 13 October, as both Matthew Paris and the Dunstable annalist noted. Indeed perhaps the desire to do that was another reason for abandoning the campaign. Nonetheless, Henry was serious about coming back. He was under pressure from Edward and the marcher barons; but he also felt deeply on his own account about preserving his Welsh conquests.  Preparations for the campaign of 1258 went on through the winter.

Returning to the fine rolls, it is interesting to see that the campaign brought an almost complete stop to the usual business.  Clearly no one sought the king out at Deganwy to buy the usual writs to initiate and further legal actions.  There is only one item of business recorded at Deganwy, itself the only business on the roll between 18 August and 13 September. This was, on 30 August, to allow the baron, Philip de Columbars [one of two Colombières near Bayeux in Normandy] to pay his £100 relief to enter his inheritance  on easier terms  as a reward for the service he was giving in the Welsh army.  The £100 relief, was, of course, in line with what was laid down in Magna Carta. It will be interesting to see how business picks up as Henry returns to Westminster