Archive for November, 2014

Sunday 30 November 1264: a change of plan

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

This week saw a change of plan, apparently related to the need to confront the growing disorder in the Marches of Wales. The king changed course, and rather than going to Northampton, he instead instead travelled from St Albans, via Dunstable, to Oxford, closer to the troubles in the west. Earls, barons and knights had been commanded to meet at Northampton on 25 November, but were now to join the king at Oxford with all speed; Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, was going to Northampton to explain the new instructions to those who turned up there as originally intended. Having reached Oxford, the king issued yet another safe conduct for the marchers such as Roger Mortimer and James of Audley to come and join him. (CPR 1258-66, 389-90)

This sudden change of direction meant that the sheriff of Oxfordshire, John de St Valery, had to make preparations for the king’s arrival, rather than going to Westminster for the audit of his accounts. The audit, to cover the Exchequer year which had ended at Michaelmas, had been scheduled for 26 November; St Valery had been sheriff, appointed by the new regime after Lewes, for the last quarter of the year. The Exchequer intended to amerce the sheriff for his failure to appear, at the standard rate of 100s. per day for the first three days and at will for any further delay. It was hardly St Valery’s fault that he was detained at Oxford, and the king instructed the barons of the Exchequer not to punish the sheriff. They were to defer the audit until 14 January. The audit kept being put back, and St Valery eventually presented his accounts for the last quarter of 1263-64 on 13 April 1265. (Close Rolls 1264-68, 4; E 368/39 m. 24, 4, 23)

Dunstable priory in 1730

Dunstable priory in 1730

While the court was on its travels, the government continued to use the resources of the royal forests as a means of rewarding the king’s servants, and supporting religious institutions. At Dunstable on 24 November, orders were sent out for two gifts from the forests. The king’s cook, Henry Wade, was given an assart in Windsor forest, for him and his heirs to cultivate in perpetuity. He was also given the timber and underwood in the assart. The Dominican friars of Dunstable were given fifteen oaks from Barnwood forest. This gift could well have reflected the personal interests of Henry III, rather than those who governed in his name. The friary at Dunstable had been set up in 1259, at the invitation of the king and queen; it was greatly resented by the existing Augustinian priory in the town, the annals of which say that the friars entered the town against the Augustinians’ will, by great effort and deceit. A few days later, the forests were used again for a royal gift, but this one surely showed the growing influence of the de Montfort family, and could hardly have been in line with Henry’s wishes: Guy de Montfort was to be given sixteen of the king’s deer from Rutland forest, in order to stock his own park. (Close Rolls 1264-68, 4-5; Ann Mon, III, 213; VCH, Bedfordshire, I)

Sunday 23 November 1264: two Eleanors

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

The court spent most of this week at Windsor, and at the end of the week began the planned move towards Northampton, reaching St Albans on 23 November.

Although the threat of invasion had largely dissipated, and the forces assembled by queen Eleanor had dispersed, the government continued to take precautions. The authorities in Winchelsea were instructed to continue guarding the Channel, and to prevent anyone crossing without permission. Any suspect arrivals from overseas were to be arrested and detained. It would appear that there was some justification for such measures: a ship belonging to the abbot of St Mary’s, Dublin, had been forced by rough seas to land at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight; the ship and its sailors were being held there because the bailiffs of the island had suspicions about a knight on the ship, who was being transported from Dieppe to Ireland with letters addressed to Irish magnates. (Close Rolls 1264-68, 80-1)

Preparations continued for further negotiations in France, with king Louis, the legate and queen Eleanor. The king of France’s envoys were expecting to meet an English delegation at Wissant, and escort them to the king. The French envoys were asked to wait, as the English negotiators were going with the court to meet lord Edward. The dean of Wells was then given safe conduct to go to France as an envoy. The dean was armed with a set of letters in king Henry’s name to Louis and the queen of France, queen Eleanor, Peter of Savoy, and the legate. Louis, Eleanor and Peter were asked to prevent the sale or alienation of royal rights and properties — a reference, presumably, to Eleanor’s attempts to raise money for her invasion force. The legate was asked to exercise mercy and kindness, rather than ecclesiastical coercion. The letter to Eleanor included a more personal opening paragraph, perhaps from the king himself rather than the council which spoke on his behalf: ‘Know that we and Edward our firstborn son are healthy and unharmed … we have firm hope of having secure and good peace in our kingdom, for which you may be cheerful and delighted.’ (CPR 1258-66, 388, 473-4; Foedera, I, I, 448)

Matthew Paris reports the death of William Marshal junior in 1231, showing his arms reversed. Marshal’s death left Eleanor a widow at the age of 16; she married Simon de Montfort in 1238.

Matthew Paris reports the death of William Marshal junior in 1231, showing his arms reversed. Marshal’s death left Eleanor a widow at the age of 16; she married Simon de Montfort in 1238. From BL Royal 14 C VII.

The government continued to pay special attention to the interests of the de Montfort family. Eleanor de Montfort had long complained that she had not received the full dower to which she was entitled, following the death of her first husband, William Marshal junior, earl of Pembroke. This dispute had helped to embitter relations between the de Montforts and Henry III. There was now to be an inquiry into Eleanor’s complaints against the king, by the bishops of Worcester and London, Hugh Despenser the justiciar, and Peter de Montfort. With such committed supporters of the regime to conduct the inquiry, its conclusions must have seemed rather predictable. (CPR 1258-66, 388-9; Wilkinson, Eleanor de Montfort, 106-7)

Sunday 16 November 1264: marchers and merchants

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

The court moved to Windsor this week, but preparations continued for a further move, to Northampton. The sheriff of Cambridge was instructed to send 20 tuns of wine to Northampton, in readiness for the king’s arrival. The Dunstable annals record that the king, on the advice of the barons, sent letters to every county, summoning all those who owed military service to be ready with horses and arms at Northampton by 25 November. The government was evidently preparing to take on the marcher lords who had seized the castles of Gloucester, Bridgnorth and Marlborough, and sacked Hereford on 10 November. (CLR 1260-67, 147-8; Ann Mon, III, 234-5)

Wallingford castle

Wallingford castle

About this time, the royalists who held Bristol castle made a daring attempt to free lord Edward and Richard of Cornwall from captivity at Wallingford. Led by Warin of Bassingbourn, some 300 men dashed across southern England undetected, and surprised the garrison of Wallingford. The attackers breached the outer defences of the castle, but withdrew empty-handed when the defenders threatened to throw Edward out of the castle, using a mangonel. Simon de Montfort then had the royal hostages moved to greater safety, in his own castle of Kenilworth. (Robert of Gloucester, II, 751-2; Flores, II, 503)

While the court was at Windsor, the king and his advisors made a generous gesture, which seems rather extravagant at a time when cash was in short supply. The king’s master carpenter at Windsor castle, Ralph Burnel, had died in 1262. The post, with 3d. a day in wages, had then been granted to his son, Thomas Burnel. It was now recorded that Thomas was not a carpenter, and therefore could not fill the office; nevertheless, in recognition of his father’s long service, he was still to be paid 3d. a day, for life. (CPR 1258-66, 202, 387)

The countess of Flanders wrote again to Henry III, requesting that he ensure that Flemish merchants were protected in England, as English merchants were in Flanders. Henry was asked not to allow violence or injury to merchants, their goods or their ships, so that merchants could freely enter England, do business, and return to Flanders. (Diplomatic Documents, I, 271) A reason for the countess’s concern may be indicated by the chronicler Thomas Wykes. He was a royalist, perhaps connected to Richard of Cornwall, and tended to stress the failings of the de Montfort regime. He presents, in rather lurid terms, what must have been a real problem, with overseas trade disrupted by the preparations for defence against invasion. According to Wykes, the sailors of the Cinque Ports turned to piracy, patrolling the coasts, seizing any ships they came across, cutting the throats of those on board and throwing their bodies into the sea. As a result, there were shortages of imported goods. The price of wine went up from 40s. to 10 marks; a pound of pepper which was hardly worth 6d. was sold for 3s. In addition, Henry de Montfort seized all the wool which merchants were bringing to the ports, so that he was commonly called a wool-merchant rather than a knight. (Ann Mon, IV, 157-9)

Sunday 9 November 1264: the Exchequer and Pevensey

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

The court spent this week at St Paul’s. There were plans to go to Northampton: the sheriff was ordered to repair the buildings of Northampton castle before the king’s arrival, as they were in danger of falling down. (CLR 1260-67, 147)

The Exchequer was operating relatively normally, having recovered from its closure in the spring of 1264, and at last had a permanent head. Roger de la Legh had been acting treasurer since November 1263, combining this post with being chancellor of the exchequer; he had been re-appointed acting treasurer by the baronial council at the beginning of Michaelmas term. On 3 November, the bishop of London and Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, presented to the barons of the Exchequer the new treasurer, Henry, prior of St Radegund’s (an abbey in Bradsole, Kent). Henry had previously held office between July and November 1263, when de Montfort was briefly in charge of the government, so may have been seen as a supporter of the baronial cause; he only remained in office until the summer of 1265, when the royalists returned to power. (E 368/39 m. 3d; Treharne, Baronial Plan, 330)

The normal business of the Exchequer was continuing. During this week, the accounts for Hampshire for 1263-64 were audited. The two sheriffs who had held office during the year owed £46, which they were to pay in January, together with a further £74 which they had not collected, but could collect. (E 368/39 m. 18-9) The Exchequer was also the site for the ceremony of the mayor of London taking his oath of office. Usually, this was a formality, but in 1263 the elected mayor, Thomas fitz Thomas, had not been admitted to office. Fitz Thomas was the populist mayor who had overthrown the traditional authority of the city magnates, represented by the aldermen. This year, the citizens of London came before the king, sitting in the Exchequer, and presented fitz Thomas as mayor; he was admitted and took the oath. (E 368/39 m. 2d, which confusingly calls the mayor Thomas fitz Richard; Cronica Maiorum, 70)

Although the threat of invasion had diminished, military operations continued against the royalists still resisting within England. Simon de Montfort junior was still besieging Pevensey castle, where royalists had held out since their escape there after the battle of Lewes. This was an expensive business, and Simon junior was to receive £800 from the bishop of Winchester, in part payment of his expenses. (CPR 1258-66, 386; CLR 1260-67, 145)

Sunday 2 November 1264: a new year

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

A new regnal year began on 28 October, the 49th year of Henry III’s reign. As usual, the Chancery marked the new year by beginning a new set of rolls (the Exchequer worked on a different system, and had begun its new year on 30 September, the morrow of Michaelmas). Henry spent most of the week in Westminster, moving on 1 November to St Paul’s. He evidently marked the new year in his usual pious manner, offering 24 gold obols, bought from the revenues of the exchange. (CLR 1260-67, 148)

The final section of the 1263-64 fine roll is largely occupied by a series of transactions, which seem to show that the baronial government had found a way of rewarding its supporters at the expense of the Jewish community. Between 25 and 28 October, nearly twenty individuals were pardoned the interest and fees due on any debts owed to Jews. A few more were pardoned their debts entirely. The charters recording the debts were to be handed over. In addition, Peter de Montfort, a member of the governing council, was pardoned all his own debts to Jewish moneylenders, and debts which others had contracted on his behalf were also set aside, with the charters to be delivered to Peter. (CFR 1263-64, 226-43)

The abbey gate, Bury St Edmunds, in 1827.

The abbey gate, Bury St Edmunds, in 1827.

The council set up an inquiry into disturbances which had been going on in Bury St Edmunds since early in 1264. The abbey of Bury had extensive privileges within its liberty, including even the right to its own mint. At some point before the battle of Lewes, the young men of the town had organized themselves into a guild, which seized control of the government of the town. They disregarded the authority of the abbot’s port-reeve, and refused to obey the authority of the horn summoning them to the portman-moot. These local rebels elected their own alderman and bailiffs, established a court, and imposed an oath of obedience. The patent roll said that they had set up their own horn, which they used to summon the conspirators who had risen against the abbot. (CPR 1258-66, 375; Chronicle of Bury St Edmunds, xxiv; H.W.C. Davis, EHR, 1909)

The baronial government was still engaged in sporadic attempts at negotiating with its opponents in France. Guy Foulquois’ last act as papal legate had been the sentences of excommunication and interdict delivered on 20 October, but he apparently remained in France until December or January, shortly before he was elected pope as Clement IV. By now, queen Eleanor had been forced to accept that the planned invasion would not take place. In the words of the Bury chronicle: ‘When the queen’s money ran out everyone went home, not without discomfort and disgrace. It should be remembered that England would have been captured by foreigners if the seas had not been protected.’ In England, the council tried to resume negotiations with king Louis, requesting safe conduct for messengers from the barons and the bishops, who would be sent to Wissant. The men of Dunwich were rewarded for their support in defending the coasts by being given respite from paying the farm of the town and any other debts they owed to the Exchequer. (C&S, II, I, 694; CPR 1258-66, 385; Chronicle of Bury, 29; CFR 1263-64, 236)