Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 May to Saturday 14 May 1261

Having been at Romney on Saturday 7 May 1261, Henry moved north to Canterbury where he stayed from Monday 9 May to the following Friday. This pause enabled those seeking the writs to initiate and further the common law legal actions to catch up with him. In the previous week, only four  had been purchased. This week the number recovered to  a healthy twenty-one. It is noticeable that eight of these concerned litigation in Kent, and another three  cases in Sussex and Surrey. This shows how the king’s presence in an area encouraged litigants  to come forward to purchase writs.  On the other hand, people were still prepared to travel, even  in these troubled times,  and three writs were purchased for cases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.  The fine roll also has a writ (issued from Canterbury on Monday 9 May), in which the king pardoned  Reginald fitzPeter a debt of five marks. This was a timely reward for his support, for Reginald had come to court and on this very day attested a royal charter.  Since he was a lord with major interests both in Hampshire and the Welsh marches,  his was an important addition to royal strength.  It was needed for Henry’s anxieties in this week are palpable.  One way kings of England strengthened their position in  times of political tension was by the exaction of  oaths of loyalty from their subjects. In 1209, for example, King John had taken oaths and homages from a large assembly gathered at Marlborough. (This is the subject of a fascinating paper by John Maddicott in the April 2011 edition of English Historical Review.)  On Friday 6 May, Henry had, in similar fashion, taken the homages of the barons of the Cinque ports gathered at Lydd near Romney. But very far from all had come. There was also conspicuous absenteeism when Henry, around the same time, summoned the knights and freemen of Kent to swear oaths of fealty. Had Henry been a bold man, had his position warranted it, he might now have taken punitive action against the delinquents.  Instead, with Dover safe under Robert Walerand,  and the main aim of his expedition accomplished, he decided to return to the safety of the capital.  Another factor in his decision was probably  alarm at the rebellion against  the royal judges in Hertfordshire. This had taken place on 2 May, and on Friday 12 May, from Canterbury, Henry  withdrew the judges and proclaimed his desire to give everyone his ‘gracious justice and benevolent favour’. On the same day, Henry declared he could not go to Sussex to receive the fealty of the knights and freemen of the county. The sheriff would have to receive it instead. On Saturday 13 May, Henry left Canterbury and reached Faversham. There he told the sheriff of Kent and Robert Walerand to receive the fealty of those men of Kent and the Cinque Ports who had failed to turn up earlier. Next day, Saturday 14 May (the day on which the battle of Lewes was to be fought in 1264)  Henry reached Rochester and by the evening was back in the Tower of London.

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