Archive for February, 2014

Sunday 24 February 1264: writs and verse

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Henry III’s return to England seems somewhat muted after the successful completion, from his point of view, of the arbitration by Louis IX. Henry spent this week in Canterbury, accompanied by Hugh Bigod and Roger Leybourne, who had gone to France to urge his return. Henry’s only recorded activity consists of a few writs issued in Canterbury: an order to the authorities in Dover to obey Leybourne’s bailiff, a writ in favour of a Canterbury church, and some minor grants for the benefit of members of his entourage.  Henry had not even resumed control of the machinery of government. The clerks of the Chancery remained with earl Richard in Hereford, where they recorded writs and fines made on his authority. (CPR 1258-66, 381-2; Close Rolls 1261-64, 335; CFR 1263-64, no. 77)

Richard was a good deal closer to the significant events of this period. Confused fighting and pillaging was going on in the Welsh Marches and Midlands. Simon de Montfort’s sons Henry and Simon junior were attacking the lands of the Marcher lords, taking Thomas Corbet’s castle at Radnor and Roger Mortimer’s castle at Wigmore. (Gervase of Canterbury, II, 233) Richard was trying to provide financial support for the royalist forces, commanded by lord Edward: the city authorities in Worcester, Shrewsbury and Hereford were instructed to anticipate the next two instalments of the farm of those towns, and pay it in advance to Edward; they were to do this without fail, ‘to despatch certain most urgent business of the king, for which he is at present in great need of money.’ (CLR 1260-67, 131)

The 1264 pipe roll shows that the citizens of Worcester did indeed pay the £30 they owed for the annual farm of their town to lord Edward, for carrying out the king’s business. (E 372/108 rot 10d) Shrewsbury also provided Edward with £30, although this was not recorded until 1267.  (E 372/111 rot 6) Herefordshire accounted a year later, covering all the transactions of the past seven years – the Exchequer did its best keep track of what it was owed, even in these turbulent times – and recorded that the citizens of Hereford provided Edward with £40 for carrying out the king’s business in Wales. (E 372/112 rot 11d)

Edward was thus able to pay and provision his troops. He joined forces with Mortimer, and captured Humphrey de Bohun’s castles at Hay and Huntington. (Flores Hist, II, 486) But he was too late to prevent a remarkable coup by the baronial forces in Gloucester. The king had committed Gloucestershire to Roger de Clifford, and ordered him to hold the strategically important bridge over the Severn. His local rival, John Giffard of Brimpsfield, supported de Montfort. The English verse chronicle attributed to Robert of Gloucester gives this account, translated into modern English (or at least 19th-century English) by Joseph Stevenson (Church Historians, V, 363):

And sir Roger de Clifford kept Gloucester also,
And at each end of the town placed a good watch.
Sir John Giffard came one day, and sir John de Balun there,
Riding upon two woolpacks, merchants as if they were,
To the west gate over the bridge, and asked the porters,
To let two woolmongers bring in their merchandise.
Covered they both were with two Welsh mantles.
When the gates were undone they both hopped down
From their horses, and cast their mantles away anon,
And then they stood armed from the head to the toes.
Then were the porters sore afraid at that sight,
And threw them the keys, glad that they might. …
Then the barons had the town, and the king had the castle.

It is not often that a source for 13th-century history reads more like a ballad of the adventures of Robin Hood.

Sunday 17 February 1264: the return of the king

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

After more than six weeks in France, Henry III sailed back to Dover on 15 February. He left queen Eleanor, Peter of Savoy and John Mansel in France, in charge of raising funds to finance the coming struggle for power. They were to receive the payment due from Louis of France, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, and to raise money using the king’s jewels, which had been deposited at the Temple in Paris. (CPR 1258-66, 381)

The king’s return to England brought a prompt reminder that his authority was far from unquestioned. He had sent messengers from Wissant, demanding entry to Dover castle, and received the reply that the castle would not be delivered to anyone without orders from Richard de Grey, to whom the castle had been committed by the council. Hugh Bigod and Roger Leybourne crossed to France to urge Henry to return, and when Henry reached Dover he was honourably received in Dover priory. But when he again demanded entry to the castle, he received the same answer as before. Henry’s response seems rather feeble: he had the Mise of Amiens read out to all those present, then went to Canterbury, where he stayed for nine days. (Gervase of Canterbury, II, 232-3)

The king’s brother, earl Richard, had reached Hereford, a good deal closer to the fighting which had begun along the Severn. He ordered the sheriff to pay £20 for equipping Hereford castle. (CLR 1260-67, 131) There were also indications of trouble in the north of England. In December 1263, Robert Neville had been appointed as one of the king’s keepers of the peace in the northern counties. About this time, he wrote to the king, complaining that he found only tepid support for measures to oppose the rebels. He asked for orders to be sent to Robert Bruce, John Comyn, John Balliol and Henry Percy, instructing them to assist Neville in keeping the peace north of the Trent. Neville also asked for a strong garrison in Pontefract castle, ‘which is like the key to Yorkshire’. (Royal Letters, II, 255)

Henry had thus returned to find that he faced problems in all parts of the country.

Sunday 10 February 1264: preparing for war

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

While Henry III remained in northern France – by 10 February he had reached Wissant, the usual port for the Channel crossing – the news of the Mise of Amiens had led to a rapid resumption of hostilities in England. Rather than settling the dispute between king and barons, Louis IX’s total rejection of the barons’ arguments had removed the possibility of a compromise. As early as 4 February, lord Edward, Henry of Almain and earl Richard, who were then at Windsor, had heard that baronial forces were moving westward. They wrote to the sheriffs of Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire: they understood that certain barons planned to cross the Severn with horses and arms, to link up with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and attack Roger Mortimer’s castles in the Marches; the sheriffs were to break down all the bridges across the Severn, except the bridge at Gloucester, which was to be closely guarded, and to destroy the ferries and block the fords. Roger Mortimer had earlier been instructed to meet Llywelyn on 10 February, to negotiate a truce, and he was sent further, unspecified, instructions for these negotiations on 7 February. This may have been an attempt to forestall the alliance of the barons and the Welsh against the king and his supporters in the Marches, particularly Mortimer. Earl Richard himself travelled westwards, reaching Oxford on 7 February and Worcester on 9 February.1

The background to this baronial incursion into the Marches was as much personal as political. In December, Henry had granted to Mortimer three manors in Herefordshire, which had earlier been assigned to Simon de Montfort. Mortimer had looted these manors, and held de Montfort’s bailiff captive until he paid a ransom of 100 marks. It appears that de Montfort had refrained from retaliating, while awaiting the news from Amiens. He now sent his sons Simon and Henry, with a great army, to avenge their father by attacking Mortimer’s castles and towns, which they wasted and burned.2

The disorders in the Marches had their impact on the normal activities of the civil service. Little routine business was conducted – the Calendar of the Fine Rolls records only three fines between 4 February and 5 March. The Exchequer audited the accounts of the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire on 5 February, but that was the last audit for the year. Several more had been scheduled, but they were postponed, or simply didn’t happen. In some cases, this was directly attributable to the outbreak of hostilities. The audit for Surrey and Sussex, which should have happened on 5 February, was cancelled because the sheriff was in Wales. On 9 February, earl Richard told the Exchequer to postpone the Wiltshire audit, because the sheriff had to stay in Salisbury, to ensure the security of the castle. Eventually, the pipe roll for 1263 contained only nine sheriffs’ accounts, out of a potential 28.3

Something to look forward to


Like The Who, but slightly quieter, the International Medieval Congress will be live at Leeds University in July. For those interested in 1264, the undoubted highlight will be a series of three sessions on Thursday 10 July, on the theme The Battle of Lewes, 1264: Reflections on the 750th Anniversary. These sessions, organized by Sophie Ambler and Kathleen Neal, cover the religious and intellectual background, the military and political events, and some immediate consequences of the battle:

I. Ideas and Principles (session 1531), moderator Michael Clanchy

  • Felicity Hill, Papal Excommunication: A Threat to the Montfortian Regime, 1264-1265?
  • Jennifer Jahner, Veritasluxcaritascalor: Metaphysical Politics and The Song of Lewes
  • Sophie Ambler, The Role of Churchmen in the Montfortian Regime, 1264-1265

II. Conflict and Combatants (session 1631), moderator Kathleen Neal

  • Andrew M. Spencer, Brothers-in-Arms: Gilbert and Thomas de Clare in the Barons’ Wars
  • Adrian Jobson, Reluctant Commander: The Military Career of Richard of Cornwall
  • Fergus Oakes, The Scots at the Battle of Lewes

III. Context and Aftermath (session 1731), moderator Adrian Jobson

  • Tony Moore, Criminal Plundering or Legitimate Distraint?: Perspectives on the Montfortian Campaign of 1263
  • Beth Hartland, Lewes: Repercussions in Ireland
  • Richard Cassidy, Simon de Montfort’s Sheriffs, 1264-65
Live at Lewes

The Argus has published an article on the events planned for May this year, in and around the town of Lewes, to mark the 750th anniversary of the battle.

  1. CR 1261-64, 374, 334. CPR 1258-66, 306.
  2. Ann Mon, III, 226-7.
  3. E 159/38 m. 7, 14. CR 1261-64, 334. E 372/107.

Sunday 3 February 1264: the barons reject Louis IX’s verdict

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Following the announcement of the Mise of Amiens, Louis IX’s verdict on the dispute between Henry III and the barons, Henry remained in France. By 3 February he had travelled as far as Boulogne, where he borrowed 100 marks from the abbot of St Mary’s, to be repaid by 30 March. As usual, Henry was short of ready cash, but he had the promise of large sums to come from his friend Louis. Under the 1259 Treaty of Paris, Louis had agreed to pay the cost of 500 knights for two years. On 30 January, Henry and Louis agreed terms for payment of the remaining balance, equivalent to £14,500, a useful amount for a king facing renewed civil war.1

104-Ruins-of-the-Abbey-Church-at-Einsham-q75-500x431The Chancery staff must have been kept busy during the arbitration, and were duly rewarded: Henry’s Chancellor, John de Chishull, was to receive £20 in part payment of the expenses of himself and his staff while the king was abroad.2 Their colleagues at home still had relatively little to do, but the fine rolls did record the appointment of the king’s clerk William of Axmouth to administer another ecclesiastical vacancy, the abbey of Eynsham. As with the bishopric of Bath, mentioned two weeks ago, the king’s government might hope to receive a helpful sum from this vacancy, but William of Axmouth seems not to have accounted for any revenues he collected from Eynsham. There was a good reason for this. Nearly two years later, on 10 January 1266, William’s heirs and executors were pardoned of all his debts and accounts. This was explained more fully in the 1269 pipe roll: William had been entrusted with money for paying the wages of the knights and serjeants in the king’s service, but he did not have to account for this money because, while serving with the king at the battle of Lewes, he was so badly wounded that he died shortly afterwards. For his long and laudable service, the king forgave William and his heirs all the debts which he owed on the day he died.3

Of mise and men

Both the king and the barons had sworn to abide by Louis IX’s decision, as set out in the Mise of Amiens. The mise was wholly favourable to Henry III, but in this case, the referee’s decision was far from final. Walter of Guisborough wrote that the barons withdrew angrily, not wanting to obey an award in which one king decided wholly in favour of another king. The Cronica Maiorum says that the barons were not content with the king’s award, but immediately levied war on Roger Mortimer in the Marches of Wales; the Londoners, the barons of the Cinque Ports, and nearly all the middle class of people of the kingdom wholly rejected the king of France’s award, to which they had not been party.4 As we will see next week, hostilities did indeed resume almost immediately, and the mise was completely disregarded.

The generally royalist Thomas Wykes thought that Louis acted more hastily and much less wisely than he should have done. Other chroniclers, more or less sympathetic to the baronial cause, found various explanations for Louis’ utter rejection of the baronial case. The Tewkesbury annals, for example, blame queen Eleanor: the king of France was led astray by the serpentine deceit of a woman. The Dunstable annals say that Louis exceeded his powers at the urging of his wife and of the queen of England (who were sisters). It was true that Eleanor had been in France since September, and had no doubt been lobbying for the royal cause. A less credible version was provided by a later writer, John of Oxenedes, who alleged that Louis was corrupted by the receipt of money from Henry: we can be fairly sure that Henry, perennially short of funds, was not in a position to bribe his fellow-monarch.5

William Rishanger claimed that de Montfort and the barons rejected the mise, because they stood by the Provisions of Oxford, which were based on Magna Carta. John Maddicott says that Rishanger ‘as usual seems to have had access to sources close to Montfort.’ On the other hand, H.T. Riley, who edited Rishanger’s chronicle of Lewes and Evesham for the Rolls Series in 1876, described it ‘as a literary production, lame, disjointed, verbose, obscure, and, in places, almost unintelligible; … the singular obscurity of its style, its disjointed form, the badness of the writing, and the marvellous ignorance manifested by its scribe, detracting, to a very great extent, from the value which, if better executed, it might have possessed as an historical work.’ Which is hardly a recommendation from the editor.6

  1. CPR 1258-66, 379-80. Howell, Eleanor of Provence, 207.
  2. CLR 1260-67, 130.
  3. CFR 1263-64, nos. 69 and 70. E 159/40 rot. 10d. E 372/113 rot. 2. This pardon had evidently been forgotten when William’s debt from the bishopric of Bath was revived in 1325.
  4. Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough, 188. Cronica Maiorum, 61, and Riley’s translation, Chronicles of the Mayors, 64. The Cronica says that the barons were not contempti, which would mean something like ‘scornful’. Riley translates it as content, which makes sense of an otherwise baffling sentence.
  5. Ann Mon, IV, 139; Ann Mon, I, 177; Ann Mon, III, 227; Chronica Johannis de Oxenedes, 226.
  6. Ypodigma Neustriae, 509, xxxvii-xxxviii; Maddicott, Simon de Montfort, 261.