Sunday 17 August 1264: the Peace of Canterbury, and a hanging

This week, Henry III and his court moved from St Paul’s, where they had been based since the end of May, to Canterbury. This brought the king and his keepers closer to the great army preparing to resist invasion by the queen’s forces. It was also more convenient for the diplomatic exchanges taking place across the Channel, with the king of France and the papal legate.

The legate and Louis were displeased because no negotiators had appeared to meet them in Boulogne. The legate delivered a lengthy public denunciation of the baronial regime in the church of Boulogne on 12 August. He demanded that he should be allowed entry to England by the beginning of September, under threat of excommunication of the barons and their supporters. The legate’s terms allowed little room for compromise: Henry was to be restored to power, the hostages freed, and the Provisions of Oxford abandoned. (Heidemann, register nos. 19 and 20)

It was plain that the legate was firmly opposed to the baronial government. It was also clear that Louis would have no part in the proposed arbitration under the Mise of Lewes. Simon de Montfort’s government responded on 15 August by sending to Louis and the legate the Peace of Canterbury. This document was an expanded version of the ordinance adopted by the June parliament. It set out the arrangements for government by council, in the absence of progress on the Mise of Lewes. One significant difference was that it was now stated that the constitutional arrangements would last throughout Henry’s reign and until some unspecified point in the reign of Edward. The Montfortian government for the first time made a public claim to a long-term role, and considered the prospect of dealing with another king who would be just as hostile and much more forceful. The Peace of Canterbury also re-stated the commitment to the Charters and the Provisions. It somewhat weakened the former hostility to aliens, who would be allowed to enter or leave the country freely (although the councillors, castellans and royal officials should always be natives). Louis was asked to examine and approve the Peace, and cause it to be accepted by the royalist exiles. (DBM, 294-301; CPR 1258-66, 366)

The legate did not delay in delivering his reaction. He wrote to Henry on 16 August, rejecting the Peace, and to the bishops of England on 17 August, again dismissing a settlement which replaced one king with three councillors, and exposed England to dangers and schisms. The bishops were again summoned to appear before him. (Heidemann, register nos. 21-3)

Initial C for Crimen, from BL Royal 6 E VI, S.E. England, c. 1360-75.

Initial C for Crimen, from BL Royal 6 E VI, S.E. England, c. 1360-75.

Away from these momentous events, there was an odd item recorded in the patent roll this week. Juetta de Balsham had been sentenced to hang for receiving thieves. She had been hanged from the ninth hour of Monday until sunrise of the Tuesday following, as appeared on trustworthy testimony, and lived. She was to be pardoned. Such survivals were not unknown. They could be attributed to a miracle, as in the case of the hanged man saved by St Thomas Cantilupe, or to incompetence or collusion. (CPR 1258-66, 342; Robert Bartlett, The Hanged Man, for an account of a miracle; Henry Summerson, ‘Attitudes to capital punishment in England, 1200-1350’, Thirteenth Century England VIII, for instances of recovery from hanging.)

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