Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 September to Saturday 1 October 2161

At last in this week Henry left Windsor.  There had been some indications that he intended to go to Oxfordshire and then Northamptonshire, thus rallying support in those counties. But if so, these plans were dropped in favour of a move far less ambitious and dangerous.  On Saturday 24 September Henry was still at Windsor. His whereabouts on Sunday 25 September are unknown. Probably he was travelling, for on Monday 26 September and for the rest of the week he is found in London, at St Paul’s. The only chronicler to notice this move is Thomas Wykes, and what he says is dramatic.

‘ After many disputes [between the king and his opponents], around Michaelmas [29 September], the king secretly entered the city of London, fearing sedition of the barons, since they refused to parliament with him’.

The reference here to a ‘refusal to parliament’ fits perfectly with the assembly Henry had summoned to Windsor for 21 September. We saw in last week’s blog some indication that knights did attend from Norfolk, but, judging from Wykes’s comment, the meeting (called a parliament at the time) was poorly attended.  It  did not encourage Henry to carry his standard into  the counties. Instead  ‘secretly’ (an indication both of his weakness and anxieties), he returned to London. The only bright spot was that Henry evidently felt secure in the city for he went not to the Tower but to St Paul’s where, in greater comfort than in the great fortress,  he almost certainly lived in the bishop’s palace.

Henry’s critical situation is  reflected in the fine rolls, where this week sees an extraordinary dearth  of business. On the roll there  are writs witnessed at Windsor on Saturday  24 September, followed by ten  undated entries. After these, the roll records in sequence a writ witnessed on Saturday 1 October at St Paul’s, two undated entries, and then an entry witnessed at St Paul’s on 5 October. In other words, this week, between 25 September and 1 October has only one item of business securely dated to it.  Although it is probable that some of the undated entries (mostly about the purchase of common law writs)   belong to this week, the impression that such business  was dwindling may not be far from the truth.  Conditions of near civil war did not encourage travel, and,  in any case, where was one to go? Given the ‘secrecy’ of Henry’s retreat from Windsor to London, many may not have known  just where the king was.

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