Sunday 13 January 1264: Peter of Savoy, and Henry’s complaints

There was still little routine business being conducted in England this week – the Exchequer term did not begin until 14 January, and the Chancery recorded only seven small fines under 7 January. In France, Henry had moved to Amiens, for the process of arbitration by Louis IX. The clerks keeping the patent roll in France  noted a few writs. One of these was relevant to the case which Henry was putting forward: Guichard de Charrun, to whom the king had committed Peter of Savoy’s lands in the honour of Richmond, was to pay Peter the revenues from these lands; Peter was also to receive the revenues of his lands in Sussex.1

Richmond castle, part of Peter of Savoy’s estates

Richmond castle, part of Peter of Savoy’s estates

Peter of Savoy was the uncle of queen Eleanor. He had come to England in 1240, and received an extravagant welcome, including the grant of the lordship of Richmond in Yorkshire and the honour of Aigle in Sussex.  His brother Boniface became archbishop of Canterbury. Peter was one of the magnates who led the original coup against Henry III’s rule in 1258, but soon drifted away from the reform movement. He became increasingly preoccupied with his interests in Savoy, particularly after being recognized as count in June 1263, but he was with Henry and Eleanor in Boulogne in September-October 1263, at the time of an earlier attempt at arbitration by Louis IX. While Peter was in Savoy, in the summer of 1263, his estates were among those singled out for attack in the wave of disorder which swept across England following the return of Simon de Montfort. Several marcher lords and Roger of Leybourne formed a loose coalition with de Montfort. Their immediate targets were aliens, royalists and courtiers, and in particular the Savoyard relatives of the queen. The victims  included Peter of Aigueblanche, the Savoyard bishop of Hereford, Robert Walerand, John Mansel, and Boniface and Peter of Savoy. Their estates were occupied and looted.2

When the coalition fell apart, and the marchers and Leybourne turned against de Montfort, Henry recovered control of the civil service. He began to issue writs, demanding the return of the plundered estates to their rightful owners. In November 1263, Peter of Savoy’s land and castles, ‘lately occupied by some persons by occasion of the disturbance of the realm’,  were committed to Guichard de Charrun. Charrun was Peter of Savoy’s steward, which must have been a demanding post: he had to recover control of Peter’s extensive estates, and deliver their income to their absentee landlord, who was using his English revenues to build up his family’s domination of what is now western Switzerland. Charrun evidently had some success in taking back Peter’s possessions, for in March 1265 he was holding Richmond castle, despite the orders of de Montfort’s government that he should surrender it. After de Montfort’s defeat, in September 1265, all Peter of Savoy’s possessions were restored to him, and again committed to Charrun. Charrun later became sheriff of Northumberland.3

The influence of aliens, and the excessive favours which Henry III granted to them, were among the factors fuelling the discontent in England. Simon de Montfort, despite being a Frenchman, had made use of this anti-alien sentiment. When the reform movement began in 1258, the Petition of the Barons called for royal castles to be committed to faithful subjects born in England, and for women whose marriage was in the king’s gift not to be disparaged by marriage to foreigners. The sentiment against foreigners widened in scope, and it became one of the demands of Henry’s opponents that sheriffs, castellans and holders of other key posts should be Englishmen, and that aliens should be excluded from the king’s council. For Henry, this was an unacceptable limitation on his freedom of action. His freedom to make appointments, and the attacks on the property of his supporters, were key points in the statement of his case which was submitted to Louis for arbitration.4

This statement took the form of a set of complaints (gravamina) and a demand for damages, as if Henry was bringing a law suit against his opponents. Henry said that the council nominated by the barons appointed the chief justiciar, chancellor, treasurer, sheriffs, justices, castellans and stewards of the royal household; the king and his ancestors had been accustomed to appointing and removing these officials at their own pleasure. The council had taken away his right to monitor and correct the activities of his ministers. The castles and properties of the king, his family and supporters had been attacked and plundered. Henry asked for compensation and damages totalling £433,000 – a vast sum, equivalent to perhaps ten or fifteen years’ government revenues in normal times. And he asked king Louis to quash and invalidate the provisions upon which his opponents based their case – that is, to overthrow the reforming measures which were loosely known as the Provisions of Oxford, and which Henry had promised to uphold only a few weeks before.

  1. CPR 1258-66, 377.
  2. Nicholas Vincent, ‘Savoy, Peter of, count of Savoy and de facto earl of Richmond (1203?– 1268)’, ODNB. J.R. Maddicott, Simon de Montfort, 225-9. Peter’s presence in Boulogne in 1263 is mentioned in the Dover chronicle: Gervase of Canterbury, II, 225.
  3. CPR 1258-66, 297, 301, 410, 452. Close Rolls 1261-64, 369-70. Close Rolls 1264-68, 101-2. Charrun is mentioned as Peter’s steward in July 1262: CPR 1258-66, 218.
  4. R.F. Treharne, ‘The Mise of Amiens, 23 January 1264’, in Studies in Medieval History Presented to F.M. Powicke. D.A. Carpenter, ‘King Henry III’s statute against aliens: July 1263’, in The Reign of Henry III. The Petition of the Barons is document 3, and Henry’s submission document 37A, in Documents of the Baronial Movement.



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