Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 17 July to Saturday 23 July

And another week in the Tower of London. At least if Henry was confined there, his quarters were comfortable, as Jane Spooner shows in her contribution to the blog.  The fine rolls themselves might  suggest all was well.  Some forty-nine writs to  further legal actions according to the procedures of the common law were purchased in this week,  a very respectable number. In giving favour, Henry was also able to act in ways which might have been difficult during the restrictions of the baronial regime. He conceded  the manor of Kidlington in Oxfordshire to his foreign favourite, John de Plessy, earl of Warwick. The fact that Plessy offered 400 marks for the gift reflects the  arguably dubious legality of what was going on.  Also in this week, Henry  restored William de Bussey to his lands. Bussey had been the notorious steward of Henry’s Poitevin half brother, Wiliam de Valence. During the period of baronial reform, he had been arrested and his lands taken into the king’s hands. Matthew Paris ascribed to him the arrogant remark, made during his days of power, ‘if I do wrong, who is there to do you right?’ Now he was rehabilitated,  although Henry did make some nod in the direction of how this would look. Bussey had to give security that he would answer to  anyone who wished to complain against him.  Henry then went on the explain that, as a result of this security, he was bound by law (de jure)  to restore his lands.  This explanation was not included in a first version of the writ making the restoration.  That it appears in a second is hardly on a par with the way David Cameron is currently distancing himself from Andy Coulson, but it at least shows some sensitivity on Henry’s part to what the public might make of his association with a controversial figure.

Henry  had every reason for anxiety.  In this week, he must have been increasingly aware of the growing opposition to his seizure of power. In a rising, partly spontaneous and partly orchestrated by the baronial leaders, the sheriffs appointed by him earlier in the month were being  openly defied and  rival sheriffs being set up.  With the kingdom sliding towards civil war, both sides made efforts to draw back and reach a settlement. In this week various schemes for  arbitration by the king of France were being muted. One letter, was sent to Louis IX, on Monday  18 July, in the names of Walter de Cantilupe,  bishop of Worcester, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, and Hugh Bigod. This was a formidable coalition which reflected that Bigod had defected from the king to  the baronial opposition.  That the letter was sent from London shows the insurgents were at large in the capital and helps explain why Henry was stuck in the Tower. That Louis’s intervention was seen as ‘the only way’ of avoiding the ‘desolatio,  dissipatio  and irreparable loss which threatens all the land’ shows just how serious the situation now was.  Read next’s week’s instalment!

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One Response to “Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 17 July to Saturday 23 July”

  1. Dr Michael Ray says:

    A comment
    On Christmas day 1242, John de Plessis was granted the marriage of Margery de Newburgh, the Countess of Warwick in her own right. Centred on Warwickshire and Staffordshire, including rich manors such as Warwick, Myton, Sutton Coldfield, Claverdon, Tamworth and Brailes, the earldom was liable to provide fifty two knights. Margery resisted the marriage but enormous pressure was put on her and by September 1243 she had married John. In 1253, when Margaret died childless, John was permitted by the agreement with the Maudit family to retain the lands of the earldom for the rest of his life with the earldom going to the Maudits when he died. Margery died in June 1253, and a royal grant allowed Plessis to keep the Oilly barony which had come to Margery through her father’s marriage to the heiress of Henry d’Oilly. which included the manors of Hook Norton and Kidlington. On the 4 May Plessis had been granted these lands for life if Margery had not given birth to an heir but the lands were to revert to the King on Plessis’s death. This might show that by May, Margery was known to be dying and the King was preparing the ground for Plessis’s permanent acquisition of part of her lands for his family. A writ was issued on 7 July calling for an investigation. This held that the barony was Terra Normanorum. This was land in England held by Anglo-Normans, who took their allegiance to the King of France after the fall of Normandy in 1204 and was forfeit allowing the King to grant it to whom he willed although Countess Ela, Earl Thomas’ widow, and Matilda de Cantilupe, widow of Henry d’Oilly, had dower rights.

    The investigation was carried out by the escheator, the Abbot of Pershore, and the sheriff and coroners of Oxfordshire but it is not clear why they came to their conclusion. There were still Oillys in England but perhaps they adjudged that the nearest claimant lived under the power of France. Walter de Daventry’s family claimed descent from Henry d’Oilly’s younger sister. Emma Mason believed that they had a right to the barony but the Daventrys were descended from Henry’s father’s second wife and were only entitled to her settlement; Bradenham (Buckinghamshire). The King might have influenced the the inquisition’s verdict. Elerius, the Abbot of Pershore, (1251-64) was a fellow curialis of Plessis. They witnessed charters together in September 1251 and August 1252 and the Abbot witnessed a further eight charters before February 1253. Writs of 7 September and 2 December 1253 showed that Plessis eventually received the barony in hereditary right.

    The Fine Roll entry to which David Carpenter refers was a result of the death in 1261 of Matilda de Cantilupe. John de Plessis was now able to obtain Kidlington and complete his family’s permanent acquisition of the Oilly barony. The process that began in 1243 was now at an end even though it cost John another 400 marks . Despite the dubious legality of the proceedings, there is no evidence of contemporary criticism of John de Plessis who seems to have been an amiable man.

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