Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 17 April to Saturday 23 April 1261

So to Easter week, the last week of Lent. In fine rolls terms it seems a week very much of business as usual with seventeen writs purchased to further common law litigation. This business was so routine that usually such purchases were listed, without any indication of their precise date, and indeed, only one is dated in this week, 18 April at The Tower of London. The fine rolls, therefore, often so informative, do not reveal the momentous change that this week saw in Henry’s situation.  After having been there since early February, he at last left the Tower of London. His destination was St Paul’s where doubtless he set up court in the house of the bishop of London. Henry,  therefore, had not gone far. Westminster he clearly still felt was insecure. How galling that must have been. Throughout the 1250s (if in England), he had always spent his Easters there, celebrating the great feast besides his patron saint, Edward the Confessor. One wonders, during his long sojourn at the Tower, whether Henry dared to slip down to Westminster to gain spiritual support from his hero.

Throughout this week Henry and his counsellors must have been planning and plotting. Immediately after Easter, as we will see, Henry was to make a far more dramatic move than that merely to St Pauls.  One decision was that Queen Eleanor would remain  behind there. Thus Henry wrote to the archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface of Savoy, telling him he should be satisfied with holding  the forthcoming ecclesiastical  council not at St Paul’s but in ‘our hall of Westminster the noblest place in our kingdom’.  This was because ‘our beloved queen is staying at St Paul’s’, which would make the appearance of a great multitude of people there completely inappropriate.  Another reason, Henry added, was that the city itself needed to be fortified ‘because…’. At this point the letter breaks off and in fact the record of it is cancelled. Perhaps Henry was able to discuss the venue of the council with Boniface by word of mouth. Had he written more,  Henry would doubtless  have described the political crisis which made the fortification of the city a necessity.

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