Sunday 29 June 1264: parliament and sheriffs

The parliament which had been summoned on 4 June met during this week. The chief business appears to have been the announcement of a new council to govern the country, and the appointment of sheriffs for most of the counties. The arrangements for the council were supposedly provisional, to apply only until the completion of the French arbitration required by the mise of Lewes. As there was no prospect of Louis IX co-operating with de Montfort over the arbitration, the arrangements for central government were effectively a new constitution. A group of three, de Montfort, Gilbert de Clare and the bishop of Chichester, were to nominate a council of nine experienced men to rule the affairs of the realm. The council would oversee all official appointments, and three of its members would be with the king at all times. Unlike the council of 1258, which included royal nominees, this new council would give unfettered power to de Montfort and his allies, and remove any possibility of independent action by the king. According to one chronicler, Henry III was forced by threats to give his assent to the Ordinance setting out these arrangements; he was told that he would be replaced by another king, and lord Edward imprisoned forever. (DBM, no. 40; Flores, III, 262)

Eight new sheriffs were announced on 27 June, and Hereford and Cumberland were instructed to elect sheriffs. It may be significant that the announcement of these sheriffs was made during the parliament, to which four knights had been summoned from each county. It may mean that the new regime was following the proposals set out in the Provisions of Westminster in 1259, for each county to select four knights, from whom the central government would select one to be sheriff. The new sheriffs had a formidable task, “as the king has learned that plunderings, burnings and other enormities have occurred in those counties since the proclamation of peace.” The keepers of the peace in each county were told to summon the county court to hear the king’s orders, and to assist the sheriff. One of the sheriffs appointed the previous week, Fulk Peyforer of Kent, had begun work already: he held a session of the county court on Monday 23 June, showing that the machinery of local government was beginning to function again. (CPR 1258-66, 326-8; appointments of sheriffs and castellans also in the originalia roll, CFR 1263-64, 272-98; E 389/81)

Two continuing problems again exercised de Montfort’s government. The archbishop of Canterbury remained in France, and was refusing to co-operate by confirming the election of Walter Giffard as bishop of Bath and Wells. The garrison of Windsor castle continued to ignore instructions to leave the castle, and disregarded offers of safe conduct to come to London. (CPR 1258-66, 328-9)

The council was also exercised by the need to secure the ports against enemy infiltration. Thry decreed that anybody entering or leaving the country should do so through Dover (except for merchants bringing wine or other necessities). Other ports were to arrest anyone landing there. (CPR 1258-66, 361)

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