Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 20 November to Saturday 26 November 1261

Henry spent all this week at the Tower of London. The chaos of the time,  with civil war so close, is again reflected in the collapse of fine rolls business.  Between dated entries on 15 and 26 November, only four writs were purchased to initiate or further common law legal actions.  Clearly it was thought dangerous to come to court to get the writs. In any case would the king’s courts be functioning to hear the cases?

Henry, however, could at last hope the clouds were lifting.  For some time now, negotiations, had been on going  at Kingston on Thames for a settlement of  the quarrel.  On  Monday, 21 November,  a provisional agreement was reached.  Under this ‘form of peace’, both sides   appointed three arbitrators who were to pronounce their award on the Provisions of Oxford by the following June.  If they disagreed, then the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall and  the king of France, would be added to their number. For Henry this proposal must have seemed  like approaching victory. He was left in charge of central government, free  from the pernicious controls imposed on him in 1258.  Nor was there any likelihood of them ever being revived, given the presence of   Richard of Cornwall and the king of France amongst the potential arbitrators.  Nonetheless Henry paid a price. He agreed that each county could elect four candidates for the office of sheriff  from whom  he would choose one, very much the arrangement under the reforms of 1258-9.  This meant that the trusty  sheriffs, whom Henry had appointed in the summer of 1261,  would have to go out, and  Henry might  have to choose their successors  from the very men who had so violently  opposed them.   Henry had almost certainly been brought to this concession  by the demands of Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester.  It was his weakening resistance, which made the settlement at Kingston possible.   With a large following of knights to appease, the  compromise over the sheriffdoms was his price. Henry must have felt it was worth paying. It certainly shows the force of local opinion in the crisis of 1261, which both sides had recognised in summoning  knights from the shires to their rival parliaments.

The peace of Kingston was simply a draft proposal, which had still to be ratified by the opposition leaders.   It had the support of Richard de Clare, otherwise it would never have come into being, but what of the other insurgent barons?  Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, despite being put down as one of the arbitrators,  refused his agreement. So did many others. Most vociferous and passionate of all in his rejection was Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.   Would the Kingston compromise stick?  Read the blogs of the next few weeks to find out.

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