Sunday 20 April 1264: Easter in Nottingham

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle

Henry III spent this week in Nottingham, consolidating his recent military successes and dealing with his enemies. He must have felt that he had inflicted a decisive blow on the rebels, and that he could enjoy his victory. He was joined in Nottingham by his supporters from the north – John Balliol, Robert de Brus, Peter de Brus and many other barons. They would be welcomed with suitable provisions for the Easter feast: the bailiffs of Lincoln, Newark, Grantham and elsewhere were ordered to send to Nottingham 40 fat cattle, 30 cattle, 140 sheep, 20 boars, 40 pigs, 500 hens, 600 chickens, 300 pigeons, 4,000 eggs, and 560 shillings-worth of bread. The end of the Lenten fast would clearly be celebrated in the traditional manner. Henry was also collecting cash, by having some £85 from the farm payments for Lincoln, Nottingham and Derby paid into the Wardrobe this week, rather than being delivered to the Treasury. The Wardrobe travelled with the king, so this would be cash which he could use for his immediate needs, particularly his military expenditure. (The bailiffs who provided food for the feast were not paid cash, of course. They would have to wait; they were told that the king would allow them the cost when their total expenditure was known.) (Flores, II, 488; Close Rolls 1261-64, 341-2; CLR 1260-67, 135)

Henry and Edward now seemed to have struck a decisive blow against the rebels. Within the last few weeks they had taken control of Gloucester, commanding the Severn crossing, and most of the Midlands, one of the two centres of baronial support. The barons still held London and Dover, but Henry had also sent forces to reinforce Rochester, on the road between them. The fine roll records Henry’s revenge on the opponents whom he appeared to have defeated. The king’s newly-appointed sheriffs of the Midlands counties were ordered to seize the lands of the king’s adversaries. Those listed include Simon de Montfort, Hugh Despenser, Henry of Hastings, Ralph Basset of Sapcote, Ralph Basset of Drayton, and so on. The sheriffs were also to take the lands of those who had opposed the king in Northampton, particularly Peter de Montfort and Simon de Montfort junior. The escheator for the north of England received similar orders for the lands of the rebels beyond the Trent. The magnates, bishops and abbots who had failed to obey the king’s summons to send troops were also to be punished by losing their estates (the king had already ordered the confiscation of the baronies of the archbishop of York, the bishops of Winchester, Ely, and Lincoln, and the abbots of Abingdon and Ramsey). Castles across England were to be stocked with supplies. (CFR 1263-64, nos. 101-8, 259-64; Close Rolls 1261-64, 382-3; CPR 1258-66, 313)

Simon de Montfort, as we saw last week, had failed to relieve Northampton and returned to London. Now, rather than directly countering the king’s successes in the Midlands, Simon turned south-east, towards Rochester. Henry had sent Roger of Leybourne and John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, to hold Rochester castle. Simon co-ordinated his attack on the town with Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester. De Clare, a great magnate, aged only 20, had only recently declared his support for the baronial cause. His forces, coming from Clare’s castle of Tonbridge, attacked from the south. De Montfort’s forces, coming from London, crossed the Medway into the town from Strood, to the west. The two baronial forces fought their way into the town on 18 April, and took the outer fortifications of the castle, but were unable to take the keep. (Ann Mon, III, 230-1, and IV, 146-7; Flores, 489-91)

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