Posts Tagged ‘archbishop of Cologne’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 April to Saturday 14 April 1257

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

King Henry III celebrated Sunday 8 April, Easter Sunday, at Westminster amidst feasting, religious ceremony and almsgiving.  The week before, on Maundy Thursday, he had distributed 272 pairs of shoes to the poor, and quite probably had washed their feet. Later accounts show that a great silver bowl was kept in the wardrobe for such a  ceremony.  Perhaps some of those benefitting from these royally administered ablutions were lepers. At any rate,  the king of France, Louis IX, commended Henry for washing the feet of lepers and kissing them. 

After the Easter ceremony, the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, left London for Yarmouth, where he was to take ship for Germany and his royal coronation. The archbishop of Cologne took a different route  and sailed home in a great galley he had brought up the Thames. One can imagine it moored opposite the Tower, where doubtless it impressed the Londoners. Richard had given the archbishop  500 marks and a mitre decorated with precious stones.  The archbishop gracefully declared (according to Matthew Paris) ‘he has mitred me, I will crown him’,  referring to his role in the German coronation.

This week eight individuals bought writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. There were five fines of gold, two for respite of knighthood.  This was a respectable level of business but it was not going to transform the king’s financial position and enable him to pursue  his Sicilian schemes. He had also just failed to secure taxation from parliament for the same purpose. This may be part of the background to this week’s ambitious scheme to put the king’s finances on an entirely new footing. On Monday, 9 April, the king ‘provided and ordained’ that henceforth the expenses of the king’s household were to be paid for ‘day by day’. To that end, the exchequer was to set aside 20,000 marks (£13,333) each year, 10,000 marks coming from the first monies reaching it at Easter, and 10,000 marks from the first monies at Michaelmas. The king issued this ordinance in the presence of Edward, his son and heir, his half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence,  the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, and the ministers John Mansel and Robert Walerand. The presence here of the king’s foreign relatives, and the absence of a single English magnate, confirms the isolation of the king which we saw at the parliament, an isolation enhanced by the departure for Germany of the long suffering and supportive, Richard of Cornwall. On the other hand,  the ordinance does show the foreign relatives involved in  a sensible attempt at  financial reform, which probably  responded to complaints made about the king’s government at the parliament. The first aim was to see that the king paid for his food, drink, clothes and everything else promptly instead of  running up debts to merchants, tradesmen and others.  The second aim, at least by implication, was that the wardrobe, the chief spending department travelling with the king, was essentially to be funded by the exchequer. Although not stated explicitly, it was  the wardrobe which was to receive the 20,000 marks and since this was the rough equivalent of its total annual expenditure at this time (clearly the king had been well informed on that), it would  no longer need in a disorderly way to seek revenue from other sources. The implication was that the bulk of the king’s revenue could be paid into the exchequer instead of being siphoned off to the wardrobe. This was precisely what the reformers demanded and attempted to achieve after the revolution of 1258.

In all this, the king had not forgotten Westminster abbey, for another £1000 was to be reserved every year for the work on its fabric. Would the scheme work? It clearly depended on the revenue reaching the exchequer and the king refraining from either diverting it before it got there, or ordering the exchequer to spend it on other things before the 20,000 marks had been raised.  To that end, the king strictly ordered the exchequer to make no payments until the money had been set aside, even though commanded to do so by his writs and his own verbal orders! If they disobeyed, they would be liable to pay back the money from their own goods. This type of attempt to get  officials to act as a barrier against his own weakness was characteristic of Henry III, and does not show him in a very kingly light.  Having said that, is it much different from the way modern politicians have sought to guard against their own weakness by making the Bank of England independent in the setting of interest rates? Would Henry’s scheme work this time? Read future blogs to find out!