Archive for March, 2014

Sunday 30 March 1264: an abbey, a saint and a curse

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Henry’s forces were assembling in Oxford. The charter roll shows that those present on 30 March included: the king’s brother, earl Richard; the earl’s son, Henry of Almain; Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford; Hugh Bigod, who had been Justiciar in the early days of the reform movement; Philip Basset; Roger de Mortimer; James Audley; Robert Walerand; John de Grey; and Warin de Bassingbourn. They were witnessing a charter for the citizens of Worcester, who were granted a range of privileges and liberties, in return for an increase in the farm, for the good service they had rendered to the king and lord Edward; perhaps this was some compensation for the recent sacking of the city by Robert de Ferrers. Henry had promised to pay the expenses of those coming to Oxford to join his army. This must have been a problem, particularly with the Treasury either closed or inaccessible, in rebel-held London. Henry was presumably using the Wardrobe to administer his finances, and seems to have taken some steps to direct revenues there, rather than to the the Treasury: £200 from the farm of Southampton was paid to the Wardrobe on 27 March. (Royal Charter Witness Lists, 332; CChR 1257-1300, 48; CLR 1260-67, 132; Wardrobe Accounts Henry III, 109)

The fine roll shows another source of revenue, resulting from the siege of Gloucester and lord Edward’s eventual success in taking the town. On 15 March, Henry had sent orders to Roger de Clifford, his constable of Gloucester castle, concerning the property of St Peter’s abbey which had been confiscated; the abbey had until 23 March to make amends for recent offences. On 27 March, the fine roll records that the abbot and convent had paid 100 marks to the Wardrobe. This was a fine paid because they had harboured barons (hospitaverunt barones) in the abbey without the king’s permission, and to have the king’s goodwill. This may be an indicator both of the sympathies of many churchmen, who supported the barons, and of the way in which Henry was raising cash. The abbey did not have to dip into its own reserves, however; on the same day as the fine was recorded, the tenants of the abbey were instructed to contribute an aid to the abbot and convent, for the relief of its debts. The abbot was also given an allowance for the provisions which Roger de Clifford had taken from his property, for supplying the castle. (Close Rolls 1261-64, 336; CFR 1263-64, no. 90; CPR 1258-66, 308; CLR 1260-67, 135)

St Frideswide, from a window in Christ Church, Oxford, designed by Edward Burne-Jones

St Frideswide, from a window in Christ Church, Oxford, designed by Edward Burne-Jones

While he was in Oxford, Henry granted the prior and convent of St Frideswide’s an annual payment of 100s. to pay for a chaplain and candles at the saint’s shrine. This was the sort of gesture which one might expect from a pious king like Henry, but contemporary chroniclers were more impressed by the fact that he had entered Oxford at all. There was said to be a curse, which no previous king had dared to defy. Supposedly, Frideswide (d. 727) was the daughter of the king of Oxford. She became an abbess, and was pursued by the lecherous king Algar of Leicester. Frideswide went into hiding, and when Algar tried to enter Oxford he was struck blind. The Osney chronicle said that Henry entered the church of St Frideswide with great devotion, which no king had attempted since the time of king Algar; he gave many goods to the church, and promised more if God gave him victory over his enemies. (CPR 1258-66, 308; John Blair, ‘Frithuswith’, ODNB; Flores Hist, II, 487; Ann Mon, IV, 142-3)

 

Sunday 23 March 1264: talking peace, preparing for war

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Henry III spent another week in Oxford, waiting for his forces to gather there, ostensibly to launch a campaign against the Welsh. He sent messages to ten southern and western counties, instructing their knights and freemen to come to Oxford with horses and arms by 30 March. The sheriffs would induce and if necessary compel them to do so, and the king would pay their costs. The sheriffs should proclaim this immediately, and come to Oxford in person with the knights, serjeants and squires they could gather at the king’s expense. (CPR 1258-66, 358; Close Rolls 1261-64, 382)

“Cum equis et armis.” From BL Royal 12 F XIII, a bestiary, possibly from Rochester, second quarter of 13th century.

“Cum equis et armis.” From BL Royal 12 F XIII, a bestiary, possibly from Rochester, second quarter of 13th century.

At the same time, Henry was trying to negotiate a settlement with the barons. He issued a safe conduct for a baronial delegation to come to Brackley (in Northamptonshire, about 19 miles from Oxford) for peace talks. Henry was represented by Roger Longespee, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and master Nicholas de Plumpton, archdeacon of Norfolk. A French knight, John de Valentinis, was to act as arbitrator. Following the capture of Gloucester, Henry must have felt that he was negotiating from a position of strength. According to the London annals, the bishops representing the baronial party were willing to compromise on almost everything, accepting the terms laid down by Louis IX in the mise of Amiens. Their only stipulation was that foreigners should be removed from England, which should be ruled by natives. The king’s answer was that he would not go back on the terms imposed by the king of France, which he would enforce forever. The difference between the two sides came down to this single point: the king could not allow any limitation on his choice of ministers and officials; the barons could not swallow the loss of this last vestige of their reforming programme. No compromise was possible. (CPR 1258-66, 307-8; Ann Lond, 61)

Book review

English Historical Review has just put online a book review which is relevant to the events of 1264: Sophie Ambler reviews The First English Revolution: Simon de Montfort, Henry III and the Barons’ War, by Adrian Jobson. She says: ‘this book provides a superb introduction for those unfamiliar with the topic, as well as a very useful summary for specialists.’

You can’t say fairer than that. And we can look forward to a contribution to this blog from Adrian Jobson, to appear in a couple of weeks.

Sunday 16 March 1264: Oxford, Gloucester and London

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Henry III stayed in Oxford all week, waiting for his followers to respond to the summons he had sent out. He sent the students away, as many undisciplined men (indomiti) would be coming to the town. Henry would not be able to guarantee the safety of the clerks in an armed camp; in addition, his troops would presumably need to take over the students’ accommodation. We know the names of some of those who were already with him, because there is an entry on the charter roll from 14 March, the first charter to be recorded since December. The witnesses who were present in Oxford include earl Richard, Hugh Bigod, Philip Basset, Roger Leybourne, Warin de Bassingbourn, Roger Mortimer and James Audley – some of the leading royalist commanders. (Foedera, I, 1, 435; Royal Charter Witness Lists of Henry III)

The fine roll this week shows that Henry was losing such support as he had had in Wales. Back in 1257, he had granted the manors of Market Harborough, Great Bowden and Kingsthorpe to the Welsh magnate Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn. This was a reward for Gruffydd’s service to the king and lord Edward, against the rising power of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. Gruffydd lost his lands and chattels in Powys during the war in Wales, but he and his family would be sustained by these English manors. In 1263, Gruffydd evidently saw which way the wind was blowing, and deserted the king’s cause, to attach himself to Llywelyn. Henry responded on 14 March, taking away Gruffydd’s manors, committing them to be managed by the men of those manors instead. (CFR 1257-58, no. 140; CPR 1247-58, 560, 608; CFR 1263-64, nos. 87-8)

Lord Edward began the week trapped in Gloucester castle, with baronial forces holding the town, and the troops of Robert de Ferrers approaching, following their sack of Worcester. In Robert of Gloucester’s verses:

Then they saw out of the tower the earl Robert of Ferrers
At the town’s end come, with noble men and fierce,
From the direction of Tewkesbury, armed well each one,
Horse and men, all ready battle to do anon.
When sir Edward saw this, nothing was he glad,
For it was said that he was not so sore afraid of any one.

Bishop Walter de Cantilupe negotiated a ceasefire between Edward and Henry de Montfort, much to Ferrers’ annoyance. Edward promised to arrange terms for peace by 13 March. De Montfort’s baronial forces withdrew from the town, under the terms of the agreement, which Edward promptly disregarded, ‘with foxlike cunning.’ Edward occupied the town, imprisoned the leading citizens and extorted a large ransom. The gatekeepers who had been tricked into letting the baronial forces into Gloucester were hanged from the west gate. The ransom was said to be £1,000; Roger Clifford, the royalist constable of Gloucester castle, was ordered to send £100 of this directly to the king. The king did take steps to negotiate with his opponents: on 13 March he appointed proctors to seek Simon de Montfort and negotiate with him, in the presence of a French envoy. (Church Historians, V, 365-6; Ann Mon, III, 228; Flores Hist, II, 487; Close Rolls 1261-64, 336-7; Foedera, I, 1, 436)

London remained hostile to the king. It is notable that he had avoided the capital when he travelled from Rochester to Oxford. The city was controlled by baronial sympathizers, who appointed a constable and marshal to command the Londoners. The Tower appears to have been in the hands of Hugh Despenser, who had been appointed Justiciar (the chief administrative and judicial officer) and keeper of the Tower by the baronial council in 1260-61. Despenser had returned to these offices in 1263, when de Montfort was briefly in control. Although he ceased to function as Justiciar in October 1263, as Henry re-asserted his authority, Despenser seems to have kept control of the Tower. This week, Despenser and the Londoners attacked and plundered earl Richard’s manor of Isleworth, and destroyed his house in Westminster. The London mob also ‘ravaged with fire and destruction’ the estates of other royalists, including Philip Basset. Basset was one of the charter witnesses with the king in Oxford; he was also Despenser’s father-in-law, and had replaced him as Justiciar between 1261 and 1263. The Londoners are said to have attacked and imprisoned the king’s clerks, the barons of the Exchequer and the justices of the Bench. Henry responded by imposing sanctions (as we would now say): the constable of Windsor castle was to prevent supplies reaching London by boat, cart or pack-horse; royalist supporters were not to pay debts owed to burgesses who held their manors, which were to be seized by the sheriff of Kent. (Cronica Maiorum, 61; Ann Mon, IV, 140-1; Flores Hist, II, 487; Close Rolls 1261-64, 375-6)

Sunday 9 March 1264: summoning an army

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

After a relatively quiet few weeks, Henry III had a sudden burst of activity. He moved from Rochester, via Windsor and Reading, to Oxford. He resumed control of the machinery of government. And he summoned his supporters to prepare for all-out war.

Henry arrived in Oxford at a difficult time. There had been violent riots, following conflict in 1263 between the university and the city authorities over scholars’ immunity from arrest. Henry had written to the chancellor and the mayor from Rochester on 28 February, supporting arbitration, and ordering the scholars to remain peacefully in the town. According to Robert of Gloucester, further troubles broke out just before the king’s arrival, on the first Thursday in Lent (6 March). (History of the University of Oxford, I, 128-9; CPR 1258-66, 383; Church Historians, V, 364)

C60-61_m5_returnK

The fine roll records the king’s return. There are similar headings in the patent, close and liberate rolls during this week. The second entry here, ‘De homagio’, concerns the de Vere inheritance.

Although Henry had returned to England on 15 February, it was not until this week that the Chancery rolls recorded his return. His brother Richard stopped authorizing writs, and it was Henry himself who witnessed entries on the rolls from 4 March onwards.

The second fine roll entry which Henry witnessed concerned the earl of Oxford’s estates. Hugh de Vere, earl of Oxford, had died in December 1263. His estates had been taken into the king’s hands, to be administered by William of Axmouth (along with much else, as we have recently seen). The heir, Robert de Vere, had now done homage for Hedingham castle and all his father’s other possessions, which were to be handed over to him. If this was an attempt to win support from the new earl, it failed: de Vere fought with the baronial forces at the battle of Lewes; he was one of the young men whom de Montfort knighted on the eve of the battle. (CFR 1263-64, no. 80)

While he was at Windsor on 6 March, Henry sent letters to some 120 nobles and knights, instructing them to gather at Oxford at the end of March, with their followers, with horses and arms. Similar letters went to the bishops and abbots, and to the sheriffs of each county, who were to provide their due military service. The nominal reason for this summons was to deal with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, who was occupying the lands of the king and Edward, occupying and destroying their castles. There was a hint of the real reason in a note in the close roll after the list of those summoned: ‘Those who are against the king are not written to.’ There was also a hint of the king’s actual target: he appointed John Lovel as constable of Northampton castle, and ordered Roger of Walton, who held it for the barons, to hand it over to Lovel. (Close Rolls 1261-64, 377-80; CPR 1258-66, 306)

Those against the king had taken the town of Gloucester, as we saw two weeks ago. Lord Edward, after capturing Humphrey de Bohun junior’s castles, moved rapidly to the rescue of the royalist garrison in Gloucester castle, which continued to hold out. Edward forced his way into the castle, getting past the baronial besiegers either by repairing the bridge over the Severn, which had been burned, or by taking a ship belonging to the abbot of Tewkesbury. (Flores Hist, II, 486-7; Ann Mon, II, 227; Church Historians, V, 365)

Sunday 2 March 1264: A grandson, and the sack of Worcester

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Henry III received some good news this week: his first grandson had been born. Henry’s daughter Margaret, married to Alexander III of Scotland, had given birth to her first son, also Alexander, on 21 January. The news had been brought from Jedburgh to Rochester by Margaret’s cook, Robert de Huntingfeld, who was promised a generous reward of land worth £10 a year. Robert had to wait for this promise to be fulfilled. In November 1269, Henry granted a wardship to Peter de Arenges, with the condition that Peter should pay Robert his £10 a year.  Oddly, there was a liberate writ as late as May 1272, for payment of 10 marks to Robert, ‘of the king’s gift for his expenses homewards.’ (CPR 1258-66, 382; CPR 1266-72, 395; CLR 1267-72, 1933)

The other news was not so good. Henry travelled this week only from Canterbury to Rochester, but he did begin to take a more active role in government. Although the main body of the Chancery remained with earl Richard in Hereford, Henry issued writs from Rochester concerned with preparations for conflict. He ordered the authorities in York to support Robert de Neville; Neville had written to the king, warning of opposition in the north, and Henry now wanted him to take York castle, which John de Eyville was holding for the barons. Henry also took steps to strengthen his position in another part of the country. He granted Roger Leybourne not only a pardon for his participation in the disorders of the previous year, but also an undertaking that the king would support him against anyone who took action against him. Leybourne had joined the Marcher lords in 1263 in their attacks on the Savoyard bishop of Hereford, and the pillaging of royalists’ estates. Despite that, Henry was now offering to back Leybourne against claims for compensation. The victims in the disturbances had included prominent royalists like Peter of Savoy, John Mansel and Robert Walerand. There had also been attacks on church property. In January, Henry had said that he was ‘perturbed about the injuries, damages and violences lately committed.’ He had promised the archbishop of Canterbury that Leybourne and others would ‘make competent amends.’ The church and his closest allies might well have grievances against Leybourne, but now it was more important for Henry to ensure that he had the backing of this competent soldier and landowner in the south-east. (CFR 1263-64, no 77; CPR 1258-66, 378, 382-3)

The situation along the Severn became more violent with the intervention of Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby. Ferrers seems to have had no principled commitment to the baronial cause, but he was strongly hostile to lord Edward. This resentment may have stemmed from competing claims to the Peverel inheritance, and from Edwards wardship of Ferrers lands between 1254 and 1257. Ferrers joined forces with Peter and Henry de Montfort, and besieged Worcester. After several assaults, they took the city on 29 February. According to the Worcester annals: ‘They plundered whatever they could find outside the church, together with the whole of the Jewry; they took and imprisoned some Jews, they killed others. Another account says that Ferrers destroyed the city and ruined the Jewish quarter.

Several years later, the Worcester eyre of 1275 recorded the cases of William Magge, who had murdered a man in Worcester, and of Robert son of Alexander, who committed a burglary and murdered a clerk in February 1263. Ferrers broke into Worcester gaol, released these two murderers, and took them away with him. This gives us an indication of the way in which Ferrers recruited his troops, and of their likely character. (J.R. Maddicott, Ferrers, Robert de, sixth earl of Derby, ODNB; Ann Mon, IV, 448-9; Flores Hist, II, 486-7; Worcester Eyre of 1275, nos 1270, 1284)