Posts Tagged ‘Alexander of Hampden’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Saturday 20 August to Saturday 27 August 1261

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

This week was chiefly remarkable for Henry III’s extraordinary move from Windsor to the Tower of London and back.  According to the fine rolls, Henry witnessed letters at Windsor on Saturday 20 August. Yet a letter on the close rolls has him attesting on the same day at the Tower of London. Indeed it was from there that he sent ten foot archers to Matthias Bezill at Gloucester castle. Evidently he had heard of Bezill’s violent quarrel with  the rival sheriff, William de Tracy, and felt he needed reinforcements. (See the blog for 24-30 July).  Henry seems, therefore, to have travelled from Windsor to the Tower in the course of 20 August. Most  probably he made the journey by boat.  Just how long he stayed at the Tower is unclear because the dating clauses of royal letters become contradictory, testimony perhaps to the general confusion. A letter on the fine rolls has Henry still at the Tower on 23 August. Yet one on the close rolls places him back at Windsor on the  twenty-second.  Certainly he was at Windsor from the twenty-fourth onwards.

Just why Henry made this dash to the Tower is unclear. Perhaps the most likely explanation is that he felt the growth of the insurgency around Windsor made it unsafe. The last thing he wanted was to face a siege there. This then  was a flight rather like that from from Winchester  to the Tower back in June (see the blog for 12-18 June).  After a few days, Henry  returned to Windsor having been  re-assured of the situation. He was  more comfortable there than in his confined quarters at the Tower. He could also assert more of a presence than bottled up in the capital.  The hypothesis that Henry was losing control of the area near Windsor is supported by some strands  of evidence. It was from 24 August that his sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Alexander of Hampden,  received nothing from the issues of the county ‘because of the disturbance’, according to his later testimony.  The fine rolls are also interesting.  Below the letter attested on 20 August come twelve fines for writs to initiate or further the common law legal proceedings.  The fine rolls record, as was usual, omits the date of the writs, but they were presumably issued around 20 August.  Not one concerned counties in the circle around Windsor. Henry was now girding himself for war, although he still hoped to avoid it.  On 22 August, he sent letters to various foreign lords asking them to be ready to send him a total of 300 knights and  the same number of serjeants or archers. These were  to be despatched  once Henry  sent a further request. As he explained, ‘certain of our magnates have for sometime been rebels, and unless they speedily think again, we will have to take appropriate measures’.