Archive for October, 2012

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Friday 12 October to Saturday 20 October 1257

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Henry arrived at Westminster on Friday 12 October, having travelled up from Windsor. On the twelfth,  according to his custom, he fasted.  On the thirteenth he celebrated, for it was the greatest day in his religious year, the feast of the translation of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. How wonderful to celebrate it, with masses, candles, offerings at the Confessor’s shrine, and feasts for magnates and thousands of paupers, now the great new church he was building  in the Confessor’s honour was nearing completion in its eastern arm and transepts.   The new church dominated the Westminster scene, proclaiming to all the power of the Confessor and the protection he afforded to his greatest disciple.  Something of the celebrations of this day can be glimpsed in the orders Henry issued to prepare for the feast.  These included the procurement of  6000 fresh herrings, 2000 place, 5000 merlin, up to 20,000 lampreys.

John Maddicott, in his great book, The Origins of the English Parliament, p.472 suspected that Henry held a parliament at this time. He was right to do so for the Abingdon chronicle states this specifically. The meeting of parliament helps explain the large amount of fine roll business done in this week. Between 14 and 20 October, no less than thirty-three writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased,  the highest score achieved, I think,  this year. As someone with connections with the Lake District, it is nice to see a writ purchased by  Juliana, widow of William of Derwentwater: no.1004 in the translation, and in the images below, thirty-two entries from the bottom (according to my count).

The week witnessed the consummation  of the one success of the summer’s campaign in Wales, although it was the result of the endeavours of  Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, rather than the king. On 18 October, the Welsh prince, Maredudd ap Rhys did homage to Henry, in Richard’s presence. Two days before,  Henry had rewarded Roger Bigod earl of Norfolk (probably for his good service in Wales) with a gift of ten great oaks to help build a chapel at Hamstead  Marshall in  Berkshire.  Hamstead  was a  manor of the Marshal family, which  Bigod had inherited through his mother on the death of the last Marshal earl. Next year, in 1258,  it was Roger Bigod, who was to lead the march on the king’s hall at Westminster, which precipitated the political revolution.

William of Gloucester and the Royal Mint, a contribution by Dr Richard Cassidy

Friday, October 12th, 2012

William of Gloucester had been the king’s goldsmith since 1252. His role in the royal mints and exchanges went back to May 1255, when he was granted one of the dies in the London mint. The dies of the London and Canterbury mints were traditionally farmed for a payment of 100s. a year each, which seems to have allowed the die-keepers to pocket a proportion of the profits of the coinage. In 1256, William was a member of a consortium of moneyers who took over the farm of all eight dies at the London mint.

In October 1257, as well as being appointed warden of the exchanges, William was granted a die at the Canterbury mint. He thus achieved a dominant position in control of the coinage, while continuing to receive commissions from the king as a goldsmith.

William retained his posts in the exchanges during the early years of the baronial reform period, but official inquiries into the management of the exchanges uncovered several dubious practices, suggesting that a margin of perhaps 3d. in the pound was being taken by the moneyers. This sum, the profits of the foundry, was then claimed for the crown, and the practice of farming out the dies was ended. Early in 1262, William was replaced as warden of the exchanges.

Despite this apparent disgrace, William continued to work as the king’s goldsmith until his death, late in 1268 or early in 1269. His executors’ account, in the 1272 pipe roll, includes such expenditures as £80 for painted panels for an altar at Westminster Abbey, and 20 marks for a painted canopy around the king’s bed.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Monday 1 October to Saturday 6 October 1257

Friday, October 12th, 2012

In the fine rolls for this week, the last stages of Henry’s journey home (as he would certainly have thought of it), can be followed. On Monday 1 October, he was at Woodstock, and on Thursday 4 October at Wallingford.  There he stayed in the  castle of his brother, Richard, although Richard was not there to entertain him, being now king of Germany. Next day, Henry moved on to his castle palace of Windsor. He was thus in good  time for the celebration of  the great feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, at Westminster on 13 October.  Perhaps the most significant item of business on the fine rolls this week is  the committal to the king’s goldsmith, William of Gloucester, of the king’s mint. William was in high favour because he had recently been responsible for turning  a large part of Henry’s gold treasure (for whose accumulation the fine rolls is the major source) into a gold coinage, being  almost certainly responsible for designing the splendid gold pennies which were the result.  As the image of them shows, they depicted Henry sitting elegantly on his throne, crowned and holding orb and sceptre.

For the membranes covering this week, click here. At the bottom of the first membrane shown here and the start of the next you can see the king at Woodstock,  Wallingford and Windsor, and also (nos.961-2 in the translation) the giving of the mint to William of Gloucester.  Note the contemporary stitching joining the membranes.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 23 September to Saturday 29 September 1257

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

During this week, Henry left the Welsh march and set off eastwards back to Westminster. On  24 and 27  September, the fine rolls show him still at Worcester. By 29 September, he was at Woodstock. What a relief to enjoy once more the comfort of a major royal palace.  By far the most interesting entry on the fine rolls this week relates to a concession Henry made at Worcester on 27 September. This was to give John fitzAlan easier terms on which to repay a debt of 10,000 marks (£6666) which he owed the king. John was paying this debt off at the rate of £100 a year, £50 at Easter and £50 at Michaelmas.  Henry now allowed him to miss the payment due at Michaelmas 1257, the reason for the concession being that John was remaining in the king’s service in Wales.

John fitzAlan was a great baron of the Welsh march, being lord of Oswestry and Clun. He was also lord of Arundel in Sussex. His descendants indeed became earls of Arundel. How was it then that he owed such an astronomical sum to the king?  The answer is that  he had inherited the debt. The 10,000 marks had actually been offered King John back in 1214 by John fitzAlan’s uncle, William fitzAlan in order to be allowed to enter the fitzAlan inheritance. William died in 1216 and was followed by his brother, John fitzAlan, who died in 1240. Neither of them paid a penny towards the 10,000 marks.  When our John fitzAlan (the son of John who died in 1240), came of age in 1244, he might have hoped he too would be exempted from paying the debt, if not pardoned it all together. After all it originated in what was surely one of King John’s  most tyrannous exactions. Not a bit of it. Henry III demanded that John pay the debt. True he was allowed first to pay at the rate of £200 a year, and then (as we see in 1257) at the rate of a £100, but these were still substantial sums.  Nor was that all. When John had  succeeded in 1244, his relief was not the statutory £100 laid down in Magna Carta but a whopping £1000.  In his treatment of John fitzAlan, Henry seems to have been returning to the worst days of his father. What on earth was going on? I hope to answer that question before too long in a new fine of the month.      

For the membrane covering this week, click here (the John fitzAlan entry is 28 down).