Archive for December, 2014

Sunday 28 December 1264: Woodstock and Kenilworth

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

This week, Henry III’s court moved from Worcester to Woodstock, where the king celebrated Christmas. It would seem that the arrangements for the feast were more lavish than usual: the sheriff of Oxfordshire supplied 30 oxen, 100 sheep, five boars and nine dozen fowls; salted venison was brought from Wiltshire; salmon and lampreys were sent from Gloucester; six tuns of new wine were transported from Bristol, thirteen tuns from Northampton; and the bailiff of Woodstock provided charcoal and brushwood. In all, purchases for the feast amounted to £205, more than double what Henry had spent the year before. Christmas robes would be provided for lord Edward’s wife, Eleanor, and her household. While the king was at Woodstock, he also ordered repairs for the wall of the park and his chaplains’ chamber, as well as the planting of 100 pear saplings. (CLR 1260-67, 152-66; Wild, ‘A captive king’, TCE XIII, 49; Close Rolls 1264-68, 8)

At Woodstock, there was yet another attempt to order the northern royalists to come to the king, with the assurance that the northern leaders loyal to Simon de Montfort would not molest them; this was linked to the promise of discussions about the liberation of lord Edward, who would not be required as a hostage now that peace had been restored. At the same time, de Montfort was given still more power and privilege. Porchester castle was committed to him; lord Edward was said to have granted to him the county, castle and honour of Chester; and the earl of Derby was instructed to deliver the castle of the Peak to de Montfort. (CPR 1258-66, 397-8)

According to one chronicle, while Henry held Christmas solemnly at Woodstock, Simon de Montfort celebrated in his own castle of Kenilworth, surrounded by many knights. He was said to have at least 140 paid knights in his household (another chronicle gives the number as 160), with many more, devoted to him, who joined him when he went to war. Fortune smiled on everything he did, and the whole of England, apart from the far north, was subject to him. Everything in the kingdom was controlled by de Montfort, and the king could do nothing without his supervision. (Flores, II, 504; Rishanger, in Ypodigma Neustriae, 537)

The battle well, on the hill outside Evesham, the traditional site of Simon de Montfort’s death in battle, on 4 August 1265.

The battle well, on the hill outside Evesham, the traditional site of Simon de Montfort’s death in battle, on 4 August 1265.

Year’s end

This is where we have to leave the year 1264, with Simon de Montfort at the peak of his success. He ruled the country, having defeated the king’s army, deterred the threat of invasion, withstood the threats of the papal legate, and finally imposed peace on the barons of the Marches. The king was his puppet, the heir to the crown his hostage. Representatives of the nobility, church, counties and towns had been summoned to the parliament which would meet in January 1265, to endorse the new regime’s programme, as set out in the Provisions of Westminster. The events of Christmas week, however, show the weaknesses of this apparent triumph. The royalists of the north continued to disregard de Montfort’s instructions. Magnates like the earl of Derby were being pushed aside. De Montfort and his family were appearing increasingly greedy and arrogant, monopolizing power and the spoils of victory. De Montfort was making enemies, and when lord Edward escaped from captivity, he was soon able to assemble the army which would defeat de Montfort at Evesham in August 1265.

Sunday 21 December 1264: cash and castles

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

The court spent the week at Worcester, where it covered its expenses by borrowing £40 from the bishop. The bailiffs of Worcester contributed £15 from the farm of the town. Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, lent another £40, which was paid to John de Grey, who had been keeper of Nottingham castle. This was an indicator of another success for the government. John de Grey had been holding the castle for the royalists, but had now made peace. In return, the government ordered William Marshal to hand back Grey’s lands in Northamptonshire, which Marshal had been occupying.

The city of Gloucester in the early fourteenth century. From BL Royal 13 A III, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s  Historia Regum Britanniae.

The city of Gloucester in the early fourteenth century. From BL Royal 13 A III, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae.

The government made further attempts to assert its control over key strongholds, committing Nottingham castle to Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, Gloucester castle to Simon de Montfort junior, Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury castles to Ralph Basset of Drayton, and Hereford castle to Peter de Montfort. The problem would be to convince the royalists who still held several castles to hand them over. Lord Edward, the king’s son, was said to have committed the castle and town of Bristol to Simon de Montfort senior, and to have received Ludgershall, in Wiltshire; as Edward was Simon’s prisoner, he may not have had much choice in this exchange. On the other hand, Edward’s captivity may not have been too unpleasant; he was sent 50 tuns of wine from the king’s wines in Nottingham castle. Although the marchers agreed to make peace, plundering and disorder continued. The marcher leaders were offered safe conduct to go to Kenilworth to meet lord Edward, and again ordered to release prisoners they had taken at Northampton. (CPR 1258-66, 394-7, 475; Close Rolls 1264-68, 83-4; CLR 1260-67, 151, 154; CFR 1264-65, 630-7; Foedera, I, I, 449)

Preparations began for the king to celebrate Christmas at Evesham. The sheriffs of London were to arrange for the transport of supplies for the king’s wardrobe, such as wax, robes, napkins and towels. (CLR 1260-67, 153)

Sunday 14 December 1264: peace and parliament

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

During this week, the court travelled from Woodstock, via Pershore, to Worcester. The main focus of attention was the threat from the Marches. While the court was at Woodstock, preparing to move west, the sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire was ordered to assemble all the knights of the counties and lead them in person to meet the king at Worcester on 11 December. (CPR 1258-66, 475-6)

A rapid campaign in the Marches led to the submission of the marcher lords, caught between de Montfort’s forces advancing from Oxford, and on the other side Llywellyn’s Welsh. The Peace of Worcester required the marchers to go into exile for a year, while de Montfort took custody of their lands. Arrangements for Edward’s release would be discussed at a parliament, to be held in January. (Flores, II, 504; Maddicott, Montfort, 307)

A stamp from 1965, showing Simon de Montfort’s seal, and a caption which might require a certain amount of qualification.

A stamp from 1965, showing Simon de Montfort’s seal, and a caption which might require a certain amount of qualification.

At Worcester, on 14 December, summonses were sent out for this parliament to meet in London on 20 January. These summonses were sent to bishops and abbots, with many more following on 24 December, covering a large number of abbots and priors, five earls and only eighteen barons – an indication perhaps of the government’s lack of support among the magnates. The summonses which were to make this parliament famous were also sent out on 24 December: each county was to send two knights; the citizens of York, Lincoln and unspecified other towns were each to send two citizens or burgesses; and the Cinque Ports were each to send four representatives. (Foedera, I, I, 449; Close Rolls 1264-68, 84-7, 89)

The court’s presence in Worcester was presumably responsible for a gesture aimed at undoing some of the damage done during the disorders early in the year. At the end of February, Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby, had besieged and taken Worcester, sacking the city and destroying the Jewish quarter. Ferrers had seized the chest holding the charters recording debts to the Jews, and taken it to his castle at Tutbury. When lord Edward had captured Tutbury, he had broken open the chest and sent the charters to Bristol, which was held by the royalists. Edward’s clerks were ordered to hand over the charters to the chirographers of the Jews of Worcester, so that they could be replaced in the chest. This would allow the Jews once again to collect the debts they were owed, but it seems unlikely that Edward’s followers would obey such instructions, particularly as one of them was Warin of Bassingbourn, who had led the attempt to free Edward from captivity. (Close Rolls 1264-68, 82-3)

There were outbreaks of disorder in the south-west, where the government was trying to repress breaches of the peace, homicides, plundering and house-burning in Devon, Somerset and Dorset. Also in Devon, there was a further indication of the dominance of Simon de Montfort, and the personal advantages he was gaining. De Montfort was given custody of all the lands and holdings in Devon belonging to Richard of Cornwall, the king’s brother.(CPR 1258-66, 475; Foedera, I, I, 448) Henry de Montfort, as warden of the Cinque Ports, had been instructed to ensure the safety of wool and other goods belonging to foreign merchants. He was now ordered to move the merchandise to safer places. (CPR 1258-66, 393)

On 8 December, the archbishop of York and the bishops of London and Lincoln were instructed to hear the complaints of the clergy who had suffered injuries and damages due to plundering during the recent disorders, as provided by the prelates and nobles in London. The patent roll said that the bishops would arrange compensation for the clergy, which would be enforced by the justiciar, who would have a hundred or more knights and serjeants to distrain offenders.  According to the London chronicler Arnold fitz Thedmar, this tribunal was set up about the end of October, and given full powers by the king and barons to correct all the injuries done to the church since Easter 1263. Anyone who did not submit to the judgement of the bishops would be excommunicated. The bishops were also to collect the revenues of benefices held by foreigners. Three chronicles record that a church council was held about this time at Reading. This approved an appeal against the legate’s sentence of excommunication, which the bishops had refused to publish. (CPR 1258-66, 375, 393; Cronica Maiorum, 70; C&S, II, I, 699-700)

Sunday 7 December 1264: a siege and a debt

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

The king spent most of this week in Oxford, moving only as far as Woodstock on 6 December. Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, had evidently rejoined the court; he had been sent to find any stragglers who had gone to Northampton, following the earlier instructions for forces to gather there, rather than at Oxford. Despenser held an inquiry in Oxford on 3 December, concerning a death during a quarrel; the report of the inquiry is confused, beginning by saying that it concerns the death of Robert son of Cecil de Stokes, but ending by saying that Robert drew his knife and killed Richard Crindel. (Cal Inq Misc, I, no. 283)

Pevensey Castle in 1737. In 1246, Henry III had granted the castle to Peter of Savoy (Cal Charter Rolls, I, 296).

Pevensey Castle in 1737. In 1246, Henry III had granted the castle to Peter of Savoy (Cal Charter Rolls, I, 296).

Although Despenser had time for such local matters, the main business of the week was preparation for operations against the royalists. Nine of the king’s crossbowmen were paid 40 shillings each for arrears of wages, so that they could come to the March with the king, with horses and arms. (CLR 1260-67, 150) The council committed Scarborough castle to John de Eyvill and Newcastle on Tyne castle to Robert de Lisle, ordering their royalist commanders to hand them over. The ports of Hastings, Winchelsea and Rye were instructed to prevent royalist attempts to deliver supplies by sea, and break the siege of Pevensey castle. Simon de Montfort junior, who commanded the siege, was paid £100 toward the costs of continuing the siege during the winter, and for making a ditch in front of the castle so that the royalists could not get out. (CPR 1258-66, 390-2; CLR 1260-67, 152; CFR 1264-65, 626, 628)

Simon de Montfort appears again to have been using his position for his own benefit, in the matter of his wife’s dower. The sheriff of Lincolnshire was ordered to raise 600 marks from the goods and chattels of Margaret countess of Lincoln, which the king owed as Eleanor’s dower. This was to be paid on 1 December. (E 368/39 m. 2d)