Posts Tagged ‘alien curiales’

Henry III’s Alien Curiales

Friday, July 29th, 2011

When the storm broke around the King’s head in 1258, the Barons in their Petition of that May asked that all royal castles including those adjoining harbours from which ships sail, should be committed to the custody of men born in England and that no women shall be disparaged by being married to ‘men who are not true-born Englishmen’. The experience of the King’s alien curiales  varied.  As a result of the Provisions of Oxford of June/July, John de Plessis, far from being removed, was, by a vote of the Barons, appointed to the group of four who would chose the King’s Council.  In addition he was to hold Devizes castle.  Mathias Bezill was retained as Constable of Gloucester but Imbert Pugeys was removed from the Tower of London. 

A Tourangeau, Mathias Bezill benefited during his countryman, Peter des Roche’s ascendancy.  Bezill was the nephew of one of the Chanceaux clan which was probably related to Engelard de Cigogné and, like him, was banned by chapter fifty of Magna Carta.  Bezill was first mentioned in 1232, during the des Roches dominance, when he was given custody of the lands of two of the supporters of the rebel, Richard Marshal and he received his first royal patronage in the following January and witnessed a royal charter in June.  By 1258 he had gained lands in Devon, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Wiltshire and had married a wealthy widow. More importantly, in 1240, he was made Marshal of the Queen’s household and, by 1251, he was constable of Gloucester. In 1254, he became the Queen’s Steward.

Although Bezill was not disadvantaged by the Provisions, he suffered in the aftermath as a result of the special eyre set up under the supervision of the Justiciar, Hugh Bigod.  In September 1258, Bezill was ordered to be imprisoned when a jury refused to overturn his conviction for reducing a free tenant to serfdom.This potential imprisonment at this time was an indication of the ebbing of the power of alien courtiers around the King.

1261 saw Henry III  overthrowing the Provisions of Oxford and recovering of royal power. He replaced sheriffs with those he could trust; John de Plessis became sheriff of Leicestershire and Warwick whilst in July Mathias Bezill added the shrievalty of Gloucestershire to his castellany of Gloucester castle.

Whereas Plessis experienced no problems, there was a spectacular and violent reaction to Bezill’s appointment.  The county gentry of Gloucestershire elected one of their own men, William de Tracy, as sheriff.  With a strong force, Bezill seized Tracy at a meeting of the county court, had him beaten, dragged through the mire and imprisoned in Gloucester castle.

Although Robert of Gloucester referred to a popular election, David Carpenter has suggested that Tracy was, in fact, a member of the entourage of the Earl of Gloucester.  Although the evidence he relied on dates from 1267, refers back to 1265 and is about a later Earl, it does carry some weight as a 1259 patent roll entry refers to Oliver de Tracy, who was possibly William’s brother, as the nephew of the Earl in 1259.

These events show that Bezill was still perceived as a foreigner even though he had been in England for thirty years, had been associated with Gloucester castle for twelve years, had been accepted as constable by the Barons in 1258, had held lands in Gloucestershire, was married to an Englishwoman and had children born in England. That Bezill identified with Gloucestershire is demonstrated by his funding on an obit at Gloucester Abbey. Robert of Gloucester drew particular attention to the French origins of Bezill and the St Alban’s Continuator also referred to Bezill’s’ alien origin.

But an item in a wardrobe account of the mid 1250’s found by Ben Wild may throw a new light on these events. One reading of this entry is that Bezill paid ten marks to have the sheriff of Gloucester moved.  If so, why?   Bezill had been Constable of Gloucester since 1251.  William de Lasborough, who was sheriff in April 1255, was replaced in 1257 by Henry de Penbroke.

However,  the List of Sheriffs  records Bezill, as sheriff, on 10 January 1256 but there is no supporting evidence.  The List states that he did not account at the Exchequer.  Perhaps this statement is based on a Patent Roll entry which can be read as referring to Bezill’s keeping Gloucester castle but not the county.  Lasborough is in the parish of Westonbirt.  Bezill held lands at Sherston, about two miles away, from 1240 and at Didmarton, also about two miles way, from before 1260.  Perhaps Bezill was objecting to Lasborough as either a hindrance to his position as Constable or it was a neighbour dispute or both.  But if he did pay to have Lasborough removed, why was he only prepared, or expected, to pay only ten marks?  So if Bezill had had a brush with a locally based sheriff in the 1250’s, this might be a further reason for local hostility to him in the 1260’s.

Whatever was the motive for the local gentry’s hostility to Bezill in 1261, they remembered his actions and  took violent revenge in 1263.

Posted on behalf of Michael Ray.