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

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)

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