Posts Tagged ‘Boniface of Savoy’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 6 November to Saturday 12 November 1261

Monday, November 7th, 2011

For King Henry, as the kingdom  balanced uncertainly between  war or peace, this was yet another week in the Tower of London. How he must have hated being confined there.  The continuing collapse of fine roll business testified to the uncertainty of the times.  Between 5 November and 12 November only seven writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased.  One membrane of the rolls was sufficient to cover everything on the rolls between 26 October and 15 November.

In this week there was one substantial piece of business.  The prior and convent of Hyde abbey in Winchester offered 100 marks to have custody of their properties during the vacancy which would be created by the death or resignation of their current abbot. They paid the money, the fine rolls noted, to a merchant of Genoa for the crossbows bought from him for the king’s use.  Henry, however, still hoped to avoid firing off his armoury. On 8 November yet another safe conduct (this one lasting till 12 November) was given to barons coming to Kingston for peace negotiations.

From the witness list of a royal charter, we know  who was with Henry in the Tower on Monday 7 November.[1] The Savoyard kinsmen of the Queen (who almost certainly there too)  were very apparent.   Peter of Savoy, Peter de Chauvent, and the king’s steward, Imbert Pugeys, sometimes  called Imbert of Savoy, all witnessed the charter.  Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury, was probably present as well since the charter was in his favour.   The official element was headed by John Mansel and Philip Basset. Also present  was the bishop of Salisbury, Giles of Bridport. He and Mansel we later find acting as envoys of the king in the negotiations and doubtless they were already filling that role.   Giles of Bridport’s splendid tomb still survives in Salisbury cathedral.

Another witness to the charter was  Hugh de Vere, earl of Oxford. He was the poorest earl and not a man of much political weight, but  his presence may well reflect a role in the negotiations.

Henry was surrounded by wise heads. Would they be able to broker peace?


[1] This charter was actually copied at the end of the final membrane of the charter roll for the previous regnal year, another indication of the chaos in the chancery for which see also the blog for 23-29 October.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 2 October to Saturday 8 October 1261

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Henry III spent all this week at St Paul’s in London where he was almost certainly staying at the bishop’s palace.  The chaos of the time is reflected in the continuing collapse of fine roll business. Only nine writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased in this week. Henry was  anxious about control of the Cinque Ports. On 4 October, he ordered the men of Winchelsea and Sandwich to have nothing to do with a meeting the king’s enemies had tried to arrange. Ostensibly this was to settle a dispute between the men. In fact, as Henry said, it was to seduce them from their allegiance. The men were also told to prevent the king’s enemies bringing foreign soldiers into the country. This was not, of course, to prevent the king doing the same.

This week did, however, bring two pieces of good news for Henry.  First, he had evidently tried to summon his supporters to London, and the result was not disappointing. The witness lists to royal charters show that with Henry at St Paul’s on 4, 5 October were Boniface archbishop of Canterbury,* the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, Peter of Savoy, the marcher barons, James of Audley and Reginald fitzPeter (see the blog for 8-14 May),  Philip Basset, the justiciar,  and John Mansel. Since one charter was in favour of John de Plessis, earl of Warwick, he was probably there too.

The second piece of good news came  from the exchequer at Westminster. Henry himself had long felt that Westminster was out of bounds. With the palace there unprotected, he  feared an armed coup like that which had overturned him in 1258. But such dangers had not stopped the exchequer courageously attending to its business. Thus the  money to be raised by the fines  continued to be sent to the exchequer on the originalia rolls (the copies of the fine rolls), and we can see the exchequer setting about the business of collecting it in the annotations it made on the rolls, ‘in the roll’ meaning the debt has been put in the pipe roll: ‘s’ meaning it has been put into the ‘summonses’, the list of debts sent to the sheriffs for collection.  It was one thing to order the sheriffs to collect the debts, another for them actually to do so when their authority was being challenged by rival sheriffs set up by the insurgents. The acid test of their success was now at hand for it was at Michaelmas,  at the end of  each September, that the sheriffs were supposed to send in to the exchequer the money they had raised. What now would be the results? Henry must have wondered that more anxiously at Michaelmas 1261 than at any other time in his reign.

In the event, Henry was re-assured, at least in some measure.  He may well   have feared that nothing at all would arrive. In fact, the sheriffs and those answering separately for various towns and manors brought in  around £1580.  On the other hand, there were some black holes,  showing clearly where the king’s authority had disintegrated.  Matthias Bezill, challenged  by William de Tracy in Gloucestershire (see the blog for 24-30 July) sent nothing.  Nothing equally came from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, and most worrying of all perhaps, from Kent. No wonder Henry was concerned about the Cinque  Ports. There was also very little from Essex and Hertforshire. Still the exchequer was undaunted and vigorously set about hearing the sheriff’s accounts.  Later in the year it was to bring the rival sheriffs themselves to book, getting them to answer for their ill gotten gains. The exchequer’s buoyant spirit is reflected in the elaborate ‘A’  penned by the clerk, drawing up the memoranda roll for Michaelmas 1261, in the heading ‘Still  (Adhuc)  communia for the term of St Michaelmas’. (‘Communia’ here essentially means common or general business).

Henry himself was now facing a dilemma for 13 October was coming up. This was the greatest day in his religious year,  the feast day  of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. It was a day he ALWAYS spent at Westminster amidst splendid services and joyous celebrations. Would he go there in 1261? Read next week’s blog to find out.

*An unflattering sketch of Boniface Archbishop of Canterbury appears on the 1261-2 memoranda roll.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 3 July to Saturday 9 July 1261

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Another week for Henry at the Tower of London  and a momentous one.  On Friday and Saturday, 8-9 July, Henry took the decisive step of dismissing the sheriffs and castellans appointed by the baronial regime and replacing them with his own men.  It was one thing to proclaim, as Henry had done at Winchester in May, that he was no longer bound by his oath to obey the Provisions of Oxford. It was quite another to act on his new power and attempt to assert his authority throughout the country. That was what Henry was now doing.

The apparently bullish mood in which he took this dangerous step is revealed in letters Henry issued this week. He protested to the pope about Archbishop Boniface’s proceedings at the recent council of Lambeth ‘to the diminution of the state of our crown and dignity’.  He then proclaimed that his political position was improving ‘from moment to moment’.  He had taken possession of Dover, the city and the  Tower of London, together with other castles.  He held everything in peace with the ‘assent of the community’, save for certain malevolent people, whose crafty machinations, he hoped, with the help of God and the pope, soon to destroy.  To the Welsh prince Llywelyn, Henry explained that he was now absolved from his oath to govern with the counsel of the nobles and had resumed ‘the strength of royal power’

This confidence was, however, more apparent than real. Henry remained in the Tower. He evidently shrank for touring the country to give comfort and support to his new officials against the malevolent plotters. He was like a soldier who has popped his head above the trench to a fire a missile and then quickly ducks down into its protection.   Henry  also still cherished the hope that the leader of the opposition  might be deflected by diplomacy. On 5 July,  he took a further initiative designed to settle his private quarrels with Simon de Montfort by arbitration.

The growing furore provoked by Henry’s actions is revealed in the fine rolls. No business at all was recorded between 4-7 July inclusive. The whole week only saw the purchase of sixteen common law writs, far fewer than usual. Evidently people were unable or unwilling to come to court.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 June to Saturday 25 June 1261

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

We left Henry on Saturday 18 June at Guildford.  He had reached there on his sudden flight from Winchester, following the furore provoked by his publication of the papal bulls dissolving the Provisions of Oxford. On the Sunday, Henry moved on to Kingston, closer that is to London, where he remained for the Monday and the Tuesday. The fine rolls reveal one piece of routine business discharged at this time and also the jurisdiction of the court held by the king’s marshal. This imposed an amercement (in modern terminology a fine) of one mark for wine sold at Kingston ‘contrary to the assize’, contrary that is to the regulations on weights and measures.  Probably Henry was pausing at Kingston while he received intelligence as to just how serious the revolt against his démarche was. Doubtless he would have liked to have gone on to Westminster.  In the event, he could not.   The situation did not permit residence at this undefended palace. On Tuesday 22 June Henry was back at the Tower of London. He was in for another long stay.

The disturbance of these days is reflected in the fine rolls which record no business for 19-21 June. It was also left to a clerk checking the rolls, while drawing up the copies sent to the exchequer, to supply the date  (22 June at the Tower of London) for an otherwise undated entry.  Some of the other chancery rolls at this time are even more chaotic with writs slapped down in haphazard order.  Once the king reached the Tower, however, routine business resumed and by the end of the week twenty-two writs to initiate or further the common law legal procedures were recorded on the fine rolls.

None of those securing these writs would have seen the king personally. This was business dealt with by the chancery clerks. But one person who appears on the fine rolls this week certainly did reach the royal presence, and found a warm welcome. This was the Gloucestershire baron, Maurice of Berkeley. In March he had been one of those give an annual pension (in his case 40 marks) in order to sustain him in the king’s service.  Now he was pardoned an amercement of £5 imposed for allowing a thief to escape from his prison at Redcliffe in Somerset.  He also received (while the king was at Kingston) a gift of three oaks from the forest of Dean. This was the kind of personal concession (Henry authorised it himself) which meant so much to the recipient. Evidently the king was very keen to secure Maurice’s loyalty in the struggle, all the more so since the great earl of Gloucester, Richard de Clare, was with the opposition.

We are able to see who was with the king this week in the Tower, thanks to the witness lists of royal charters issued from there on 25 June.  There were three bishops, those of Salisbury, Norwich and London. The last two were trusted royal servants and Henry could be absolutely sure of them.  In the same category came John Mansel (in command of the Tower), Philip Basset (now justiciar), Alan la Zouche, Robert Walerand , the judge William of Wilton, and the clerk Walter of Merton who was soon to be given custody of the seal.   Then there was group of barons from the Welsh march, Maurice of Berkeley, as we have said, and also Thomas Corbet of Cause and Reginald fitzPeter.  These men supplied muscle. Finally there were two men from the Savoyard party of the queen, namely Imbert de Montferrand and the king’s steward, Imbert Pugeys. One of the charters issued on 25 June was for another Savoyard, Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury. He was granted the right to hold a weekly market at Petersfield in the great archiepiscopal property of Maidstone. The fine rolls show he paid nothing for the concession. It was pure favour. Henry was not best pleased with his wife’s uncle, following the independence he had displayed at the ecclesiastical synod at Lambeth in May. But it was vital to keep him now on side, given he was one of those to whom the pope had addressed the letters quashing the Provision.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 22 May to Saturday 28 May 1261

Friday, May 27th, 2011

From Saturday 21 May till Thursday 26 May, Henry III remained at the bishop of London’s palace at Saint Pauls. The flood of litigants seeking writs to initiate and further common law legal actions continued. The fine rolls show no less than sixty such writs were purchased in these days. On Tuesday 24 May, the chancery despatched to the exchequer  a copy of the fine roll down to that date so that it knew what monies to collect.  Alongside the note  recording  this despatch,  the clerk drew a grotesque head.  In the draft translation of the roll currently on line we suggested this was might have been a caricature of Mabel, daughter of Simon de Bere, who in an adjoining entry was recorded as giving half a mark for the hearing of an assize.  Closer inspection of the image  shows the imputation is false and we are pleased to withdraw it. The head, instead, was clearly intended to mark out the note about the despatch of the roll to the exchequer.

Head drawn on membrane 10 of roll C60/58

Under the cloak of this routine business, great matters were now afoot.  The king must certainly have received the papal letter of 13 April absolving his from his oath to observe the Provisions of Oxford.  Probably too the follow up letter of 29 April had also arrived in England. This was even more crucial because it was not personal to Henry but general to the realm.  The letter empowered the  archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Norwich, and John Mansel, to absolve everyone from their oaths. At St Paul’s,  there must have been earnest debate as to when, where and how to detonate this explosive weapon. One problem concerned the addressees. The bishop of Norwich, a former royal judge, was completely to be trusted. So, of course, was Henry’s loyal, wise and courageous clerk,  John Mansel. Indeed, in this week Mansel was made constable of the Tower of London.  He was at court and central to the direction of policy. The problem was the archbishop, Boniface of Savoy,  the uncle of the queen, who had incurred the king’s displeasure over the legislation, very critical of royal government, passed at the Lambeth ecclesiastical council earlier in the month.  (See Sophie Ambler’s contribution to this blog).  On Thursday 26 May, Henry sent a proctor to Rome to appeal against the ordinances made  ‘to the prejudice of the king’s right and dignity and the liberties,  laws and customs of the realm’. The phraseology reflects royal thinking on a wider front. The king was now to take action against another set of Ordinances, the Provisions of Oxford, which  were equally prejudicial to the king and the realm. Henry could only hope (probably rightly) that Boniface would be more co-operative in the secular sphere than he was in the ecclesiastical.

In other respects, what was in the making seems very much a foreign, Savoyard plot, in which doubtless the queen herself was deeply involved. At court were her uncle, Peter of Savoy, and a host other Savoyards or Savoyard connections, including  Imbert Pugeys,  Imbert de Montferrand, Eubule de Montibus and Ingram de Fiennes.  Also there, providing muscle, were a group of Welsh marcher barons, James of Audley, Thomas Corbet, and Reginald fitzPeter.  Behind this group stood  the king’s brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and king of Germany.  He received major concessions this week, as did Henry his son. And even more vital was the  support or at least acquiescence of Henry’s own son, Edward. On his return to England,  he had seemed to sympathise with Montfort. But he had appeared for his father at the Lambeth conference to protest against any violation of the rights of the crown, and this week a concession was made ‘at his instance’.

It was this grouping  which took the momentous decision. They would detonate the papal letters and publicly denounce the Provisions of Oxford. But they would not do it in London. For all the security of the Tower, there was danger of an explosion from the heaving  and volatile populace. Instead the coup would be launched  somewhere both safe and symbolic. This was Winchester, Henry’s birthplace, and ancient seat of royal government, where the great castle dominated the small town, and ensured the loyalty of its docile inhabitants. Henry, therefore, left London on Thursday 26 May. Covering over thirty miles, that evening he reached his palace castle at Guildford.  There he remained, gathering breath, on the Friday and Saturday. On the Saturday, despite the tension all around,  the fine rolls recorded a characteristic act of  charity.   Henry, so he said,  had heard that the resources of Ralph de Heppewrth’ (perhaps Hepworth in Suffolk),  were insufficient to pay his debts to the Jews. Therefore, ‘out of compassion for his poverty’, Henry  took steps to ensure Ralph had enough to live off and was not ‘forced to beg’.

The Lambeth Council of 8 to 13 May 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

The ecclesiastical council that met from 8 to 13 May was not in fact held at Westminster, as the king had suggested, but rather at Lambeth, the residence of the archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface of Savoy. Things were not all that they seemed, as Henry surely now realised. The pope had ordered clerical councils to be held across Christendom, with the aim of mustering funds to combat the Mongol invasion of Hungary. This topic, though, was not on the agenda at Lambeth. Instead, Boniface seized the opportunity to resurrect the extensive complaints about Henry’s treatment of the Church, which had dominated ecclesiastical meetings of the 1250s when Henry had been demanding taxes from the English Church to support his ambitions in Sicily. To Henry, Boniface’s move was nothing less than a stab in the back. Writing angrily to the pope, Henry protested that he had been excluded from the council. Rather than being given the opportunity to address the clergy’s complaints, he had been presented with a fait accompli, an official set of statutes that were to be enforced by sentence of excommunication (potentially against the king himself). Timing, moreover, was crucial. The Constitutions of Lambeth came at the very moment that Henry was working to rebuild his position, when any opposition was bound to look like an attack against him. Particularly upsetting was the central role of Boniface of Savoy. Henry would have expected the archbishop, as Queen Eleanor’s uncle, to join his kinsmen Peter of Savoy and Richard of Cornwall in the vanguard of the royal revanche. Boniface might not have been a Montfortian but his failure to stand with the king at this decisive moment was, to Henry, a painful treachery, as the bitterness of his complaints to the pope attest.

A contribution by Sophie Ambler

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 17 April to Saturday 23 April 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

So to Easter week, the last week of Lent. In fine rolls terms it seems a week very much of business as usual with seventeen writs purchased to further common law litigation. This business was so routine that usually such purchases were listed, without any indication of their precise date, and indeed, only one is dated in this week, 18 April at The Tower of London. The fine rolls, therefore, often so informative, do not reveal the momentous change that this week saw in Henry’s situation.  After having been there since early February, he at last left the Tower of London. His destination was St Paul’s where doubtless he set up court in the house of the bishop of London. Henry,  therefore, had not gone far. Westminster he clearly still felt was insecure. How galling that must have been. Throughout the 1250s (if in England), he had always spent his Easters there, celebrating the great feast besides his patron saint, Edward the Confessor. One wonders, during his long sojourn at the Tower, whether Henry dared to slip down to Westminster to gain spiritual support from his hero.

Throughout this week Henry and his counsellors must have been planning and plotting. Immediately after Easter, as we will see, Henry was to make a far more dramatic move than that merely to St Pauls.  One decision was that Queen Eleanor would remain  behind there. Thus Henry wrote to the archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface of Savoy, telling him he should be satisfied with holding  the forthcoming ecclesiastical  council not at St Paul’s but in ‘our hall of Westminster the noblest place in our kingdom’.  This was because ‘our beloved queen is staying at St Paul’s’, which would make the appearance of a great multitude of people there completely inappropriate.  Another reason, Henry added, was that the city itself needed to be fortified ‘because…’. At this point the letter breaks off and in fact the record of it is cancelled. Perhaps Henry was able to discuss the venue of the council with Boniface by word of mouth. Had he written more,  Henry would doubtless  have described the political crisis which made the fortification of the city a necessity.