Consent and the Community of the Realm

Over the last week I have been trying to plan out a chapter on Henry III’s crusade, foreign policies, and management of Gascon affairs between 1243 and 1254.  Yesterday I read a remarkable paper, alas unprinted, by Nicholas Vincent on ‘Henry III, Frederick II and the council of Lyons (1245)’.  This is based on evidence in hitherto unknown letter collections, the most striking of which, from Glastonbury abbey, contains a unique copy of an appeal made  at the papal council at Lyons by   Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, Philip Basset, baron, and Henry de la Mare, knight, styling themselves ‘actores et nuncii universitatis regni Anglie’.  The substance of the appeal was the claim made by Bigod and his colleagues,  on behalf of ‘the community of the whole realm, communitate totius regni’ that the ‘magnates and people’ had never consented to King John’s submission of England to the papacy. As Vincent observes, ‘what is remarkable’ here ‘is the degree to which [Bigod and his colleagues] claim the assent of the universitas or communitas regni’.

Those who keep an eagle eye on the Fines of the Month will realise at once why this new evidence made me sit up!   In the FOM for last May – ‘Consent to taxation, the community of the realm, and the development of parliament: the aid of 1245’, I showed, from evidence in the fine rolls, how  chancery clerks in 1245 (the very time of Bigod’s appeal)  were themselves writing about taxation ‘a tota communitate regni nostri nobis concessum’, and also deciding that the aid of 1245 had not received such consent. No more on this now. I may take it further in a future ‘Fine of the Month’.

Posted on behalf of David Carpenter.

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