Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 9 September to Saturday 15 September 1257

During this week, Henry began his journey home from Wales. His aim was to be at Westminster for the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor on 13 October. The journey  disrupted fine roll business because none at all is recorded between 30 August, when Henry was at Deganwy, and 13 September when he was at Chester.  At Chester, however,  between the 13 and 15 September, there was a revival of the normal judicial business with half a dozen writs to initiate or further common law legal actions being purchased.  There was also one other highly profitable transaction, although it also pointed forward to the revolution of 1258.  At Chester, the king reached an agreement with the executors of the late bishop of Ely, William of Kilkenny.  In return,  amongst other things, for the promise of 2000 marks (£1333), he allowed them to have all the corn due to be harvested from the late bishop’s manors. A marginal note added later records what Henry did with this extremely valuable windfall. The executors gave 1000 marks of it to the Lord Edward at the Temple in London at the feast of St Martin 1257. This money was then used (although the note does not say so) to help finance Edward’s war in Wales, which was fair enough. It is the fate of the other 1000 which was extraordinary. This, the note indicates,  was given on 9 April 1258 to the queen’s uncle, Thomas of Savoy. The date is immensely significant because it was right at the start of the revolutionary parliament which was to strip the king of power.  News of the gift evidently  reverberated round the parliament for it soon reached an appalled Matthew Paris at St Albans.  For many it epitomised the king’s profligate generosity to his foreign relatives.  What made it worse was that Thomas was not even any longer a useful ally.  He had arrived in England on a litter, his health broken down and his ambitions in tatters, after  his capture and imprisonment by the citizens of Turin.  Although the Savoyards were not themselves attacked in 1258 (the fire was concentrated on the king’s Poitevin half brothers), the gift  to Thomas, at such a sensitive  time, must have contributed, in no small measure,  to the general dissatisfaction  expressed at the parliament with Henry’s rule. One final point. As far as can be seen,  the exchequer was never informed of the debt owed by the executors of the late bishop of Ely. It was dealt with entirely by the wardrobe. This is why the note of payment was made in the margin of the fine rolls. This by passing of the exchequer was something else the reformers intended to stop. 

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