Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Sunday 28 December 1264: Woodstock and Kenilworth

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

This week, Henry III’s court moved from Worcester to Woodstock, where the king celebrated Christmas. It would seem that the arrangements for the feast were more lavish than usual: the sheriff of Oxfordshire supplied 30 oxen, 100 sheep, five boars and nine dozen fowls; salted venison was brought from Wiltshire; salmon and lampreys were sent from Gloucester; six tuns of new wine were transported from Bristol, thirteen tuns from Northampton; and the bailiff of Woodstock provided charcoal and brushwood. In all, purchases for the feast amounted to £205, more than double what Henry had spent the year before. Christmas robes would be provided for lord Edward’s wife, Eleanor, and her household. While the king was at Woodstock, he also ordered repairs for the wall of the park and his chaplains’ chamber, as well as the planting of 100 pear saplings. (CLR 1260-67, 152-66; Wild, ‘A captive king’, TCE XIII, 49; Close Rolls 1264-68, 8)

At Woodstock, there was yet another attempt to order the northern royalists to come to the king, with the assurance that the northern leaders loyal to Simon de Montfort would not molest them; this was linked to the promise of discussions about the liberation of lord Edward, who would not be required as a hostage now that peace had been restored. At the same time, de Montfort was given still more power and privilege. Porchester castle was committed to him; lord Edward was said to have granted to him the county, castle and honour of Chester; and the earl of Derby was instructed to deliver the castle of the Peak to de Montfort. (CPR 1258-66, 397-8)

According to one chronicle, while Henry held Christmas solemnly at Woodstock, Simon de Montfort celebrated in his own castle of Kenilworth, surrounded by many knights. He was said to have at least 140 paid knights in his household (another chronicle gives the number as 160), with many more, devoted to him, who joined him when he went to war. Fortune smiled on everything he did, and the whole of England, apart from the far north, was subject to him. Everything in the kingdom was controlled by de Montfort, and the king could do nothing without his supervision. (Flores, II, 504; Rishanger, in Ypodigma Neustriae, 537)

The battle well, on the hill outside Evesham, the traditional site of Simon de Montfort’s death in battle, on 4 August 1265.

The battle well, on the hill outside Evesham, the traditional site of Simon de Montfort’s death in battle, on 4 August 1265.

Year’s end

This is where we have to leave the year 1264, with Simon de Montfort at the peak of his success. He ruled the country, having defeated the king’s army, deterred the threat of invasion, withstood the threats of the papal legate, and finally imposed peace on the barons of the Marches. The king was his puppet, the heir to the crown his hostage. Representatives of the nobility, church, counties and towns had been summoned to the parliament which would meet in January 1265, to endorse the new regime’s programme, as set out in the Provisions of Westminster. The events of Christmas week, however, show the weaknesses of this apparent triumph. The royalists of the north continued to disregard de Montfort’s instructions. Magnates like the earl of Derby were being pushed aside. De Montfort and his family were appearing increasingly greedy and arrogant, monopolizing power and the spoils of victory. De Montfort was making enemies, and when lord Edward escaped from captivity, he was soon able to assemble the army which would defeat de Montfort at Evesham in August 1265.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 November to Saturday 8 December 1257

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

King Henry remained at Guildford until around 26 November and then returned to Westminster, where he was to remain till early January. Henry had intended during this time to visit his castle at Marlborough, and then to celebrate Christmas at Winchester, as he often did.  Urgent business, however, as he explained, kept him instead at Westminster. He was anxiously awaiting the return of envoys sent to the pope. Would they bring news that the Holy Father had modified the terms of the Sicilian business so that it could be pursued with some hope of success?  Henry was also arranging the despatch of a high powered delegation (including Simon de Montfort) to the king of France in the hope of advancing the peace negotiations and thus making it all the more possible to concentrate on Sicily. And then too  Henry was becoming  worried about events in Scotland, where  the young King Alexander was married to his daughter.  Would Henry have to go north, as he had in 1255, to rescue the royal couple from their enemies?

It must have been a relief for Henry to turn from these great matters to the comforting business of the fine rolls. During these two week, around twenty four people came to court to purchase the writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. Henry’s justice remained in demand.  One item on the rolls particularly stands out and will be commented on here. It bears on both the administrative processes and rituals of Henry’s kingship. It also shows how difficult it can be to capture the sense of an entry when translating it from Latin into English.

The entry is no.105 in the translation (forty-four entries down in the image) and appears as follows.

105

6 Dec. Westminster. For the burgesses of Bridgnorth. On Tuesday next after St. Andrew the Apostle in the forty-second year, the burgesses of Bridgnorth paid 25 m. in the king’s Wardrobe to Peter de Rivallis, keeper of the same Wardrobe, which remained to be rendered of the fine of 50 m. which they made with him a short while ago for having liberties, and, on the aforesaid day, they paid into the same Wardrobe the 10 m. which they had promised for their good coming to the king when he had last been at Bridgnorth. Order to the sheriff of Shropshire to cause the same burgesses to be quit from the aforesaid 35 m.

This entry is not in the originalia roll.

The feast of Andrew the Apostle was 30 November and the following Tuesday in 1258, when the payment was made into the wardrobe, was 4 December. The 6 December date at the head of the translation is that of the writ to the sheriff of Shropshire referred to at the end of the entry. Throughout the fine rolls it is these writs to  officials which actually give the dates to the entries.   The fine of 50 marks, which the burgesses made with the king, is not recorded on the fine rolls. It may be that the full way it was now recorded  was to make up for that lack. The fine was evidently made on 21-22 September 1257 when Henry passed through Bridgnorth on his way home from his campaign in Wales.  A couple of days later, now at Worcester, Henry issued a letter patent granting the ‘bailiffs and good men’ of Bridgnorth the right to take ‘murage’ for another three years, ‘murage’ being a toll whose revenues were devoted to works on the walls of the town. Perhaps this was the concession for which the men offered the king 50 marks, or  perhaps there were other ‘liberties’, building on an earlier charter of 1227, of which there seem to be no record.

From the administrative point of view, what is interesting is the way the whole business of the Bridgnorth debt was controlled by the wardrobe and chancery, travelling with the king, rather than, as would have been normal,  by the exchequer at Westminster.  At the end of the entry there is the statement,  provided by the editors of the fine roll,  ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. This means that no information about the fine and its payment was  sent to the exchequer, the originalia roll being the copy of the fine  roll despatched to the exchequer so that it knew what money to collect. As a result there is no entry for this debt on the pipe roll, the exchequer’s annual audit of  the money it was demanding for the  crown.  Instead, the only record of the existence  of the debt (apart from that on the wardrobe receipt roll) was that given here on the fine roll.   It is likewise the chancery writ, not the exchequer, which tells the sheriff that the burgesses are quit. The handling of the Bridgnorth debt was typical of many other debts at this time. Large numbers of fines between 1255 and 1257 – for  example for town liberties (as here)  and exemption from knighthood – were treated in the same way. There was no ‘constitutional’ reason for Henry bypassing the exchequer. Under its treasurer, Philip Lovel,  it was never less than under his  control.  The point was that Henry just got his money in more quickly and simply if he had such fines paid in directly to his wardrobe. Nonetheless the reformers in 1258 thought the king’s finances would be run  more responsibly if all the revenues were routed through the exchequer, a subject discussed in Richard Cassidy’s fine of the month .

The great majority of the fines paid into the wardrobe were in gold, or were in silver earmarked to buy gold, and were thus part of Henry’s campaign to build up a gold treasure to fund his Sicilian army. Another reason for making this a wardrobe treasure was that Henry could see the gold accumulating  before his eyes.  What a joy it must have been. By the autumn of 1257, however, as we have seen in previous blogs, the enterprise was beginning  to falter. Henry was having to spend his gold treasure, minting his wonderful gold penny in order to do so. The fact that the Bridgnorth fine was not in gold, or in silver earmarked to buy gold, may reflect this situation.  Henry had not quite given up, however, and these two weeks see two more fines of gold (nos.97, 102).

During the king’s visit in September 1257, the burgesses of Bridgnorth did not merely offer 50 mark for liberties. They also promised 10 marks ‘for their good coming to the king’. The Latin here, as one can see from the image, is ‘pro bono adventuo suo’. When the final checked and corrected version of the translation is put up, this passage will be altered since the ‘good coming’ is that of the king, not the burgesses. They are offering 10 marks ‘for his good coming’.  But does ‘good coming’, or ‘good arrival’ or ‘good advent’ quite capture the sense of what is happening?  At the very least, it sounds odd in modern English, and is another reason why we hope to provide the project with glossary.   What, of course, the burgesses were  giving, or in this case, promising Henry was a welcome present, one which demonstrated their loyalty, affection, and joy at his arrival. The present was designed to make his arrival ‘good’ for him, and also (in the benefits which might flow) ‘good’ for them.  In some circumstances, for example when the king was returning from overseas, there might also, wrapped up in the ‘good’, be joy at the king’s ‘safe’ arrival, and perhaps there was an element of that here too, given the hazards of the recent campaign in Wales.  Normally, we have no record of such gifts, because they were paid cash down into the wardrobe. It is only here, because the burgesses had exhausted (or so they must have said), their ready money in coming up with the initial 25 marks for their liberties, that we know about it. Such gifts, of course, in cash or precious  objects, were integral to Henry’s kingship, as they were to that of other kings. They were made, as here, by individual towns and, on a much grander and more organized scale, by the assembled great and good of the realm, on the king’s arrival back in his kingdom. They were also accompanied by other rituals, notably welcome processions of a town’s clergy and people. When the king rode up from Windsor to Westminster,  the custom was for the mayor and citizens of London to go out and meet him at Knightsbridge. They knew they were out of favour when he refused to meet them.

In such arrivals, the giving was not all one way. Quite the reverse. Henry himself might mark his coming by feeding paupers over and above his standard 100 a day, or 150 a day if the queen was with him, as she was at Bridgnorth.  He would also visit the religious establishments of the town and shower them with gifts.  At Bridgnorth, Henry  gave nine  ‘good oaks’ for work on the churches of the  Franciscan friars and  the hospital of Saint John, and another five good oaks to the canons of Bridgnorth chapel for the  repair of their chancel and stalls. His visit also brought other work to the town. On 21 September, probably the day of his arrival, he ordered  his chamber in the castle and that of the queen to be wainscoted, while the queen’s chamber was also to have  new windows and a fireplace.  On 25 September, having left Bridgnorth and arrived at Worcester, Henry ordered ten oaks to be sent to ‘the upstanding men of Bridgnorth’, as a ‘gift of the king’, to help with repairing the town gates. The visit, therefore,  had been a success. Henry’s ‘good oaks’, he doubtless hoped, would  be a perpetual memory to his piety and generosity in Bridgnorth and his concern for the security of this royal town.

The kind of ‘good arrival’, we glimpse here at Bridgnorth, must have been repeated thousands of times over during Henry’s reign. Such reciprocal rituals could  bind king and realm together.  But it did not always work like that.  Accounts in chroniclers make very plain that donors sometimes resented having to give such presents, just as the king resented it if he deemed the presents inadequate. The ritual could set apart as well as bring together. Were the men of Bridgnorth themselves disappointed that they had to pay for their ‘liberties’, especially if these were simply for the right to levy ‘murage’,  which they might have expected anyway, given  the threat from Llywelyn.  Did they also look askance at what they saw of Henry’ court?  The keeper of the wardrobe to whom they gave their money, both at Bridgnorth and Westminster, was Peter des Rivallis, one of Henry’s most notorious Poitevin servants, who was to be dismissed by the reformers in 1258.

 

Henry III’s Last Blog for 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Over the Christmas of 1261, did Henry III think back over his tumultuous, triumphant year? Triumphant because he had, for all practical purposes, broken the shackles fastened  in 1258 and recovered unfettered power. His conduct, however, appears un-heroic. He spent much of the year, sheltering, some might say cowering,  behind the walls of the Tower of London. On only three occasions had he dared to leave the capital. He had gone to Dover in May to secure the castle. Next month he had gone to Winchester to proclaim the papal bull quashing the oath to observe the  reforms of 1258. And then he had spent part of August and September at Windsor whither he summoned knights from the counties to attend his parliament. Meanwhile throughout England the authority of his sheriffs was being challenged by the insurgents. It is difficult to believe that either Henry’s father or his son would have behaved in this passive fashion. John and Edward would surely have toured the country bolstering the power of their local agents and punishing their opponents. Yet to all criticism, one answer is sufficient. Henry’s softly softly tactics had brought him victory. By not provoking the opposition, he had in the end disarmed it. The consequences of more abrasive tactics might well have been civil war. Henry’s personal preferences, as a ‘rex pacificus’, went hand in hand with political sense.

Henry III’s Christmas Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 December to Saturday 31 December 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Westminster.  There is no fine roll business dated to it, but the other chancery rolls show something of how Henry celebrated Christmas. Thus  he ordered the custodians of various royal forests to catch, salt and carry to him for the feast  a total of 160 does. Henry issued this order on 4 December from the Tower of London, and was still unclear about his movements for  the game was simply to be sent to him it time for Christmas  wherever that might be.  Clearly Henry felt the political situation might still confine him to the Tower.  Fortunately, as we have seen, the storm clouds cleared, and on 10 December it was from Westminster that Henry issued orders for the purchase of 171 pairs of shoes, half at 5d a pair and half at 4½d, shoes with which, he, his queen and their children would  make their Christmas gifts to paupers. Doubtless numerous paupers were also fed. In 1259, when in Paris, Henry fed 450 paupers on the vigil and feast day, as well as burning 171 pounds of wax, 75 of them in the chapel and almonry.  We may be sure that on Christmas day 1261 Westminster Abbey was filled with light from Henry’s tapers. Henry also distributed robes to over sixty of the men, mostly nobles and household knights, to whom he had owed his victory. The costs of the celebrations stretched the royal budget. Henry  admitted that there was no money  for the purchases made in London against the feast, and told the mayor and sheriffs to promise payment from  the farms they owed at Easter and Michaelmas in 1262.  Still, Henry must have felt it was essential to put on a big celebration, both to proclaim his victory and thank God and man for it.

            It may be suggested that, as part of his thanks,  Henry now made a momentous decision about Westminster Abbey.  His return to Westminster in December 1261 had been after a long absence. Indeed, he  had not lived there since January 1261.  Now, having come to Westminster for Christmas, he  stayed there till 10 February. He was able once again to inspect the progress of the  great building. He was able once again to pray beside the shrine of Edward the Confessor, the patron saint to  whom above all, interceding at God’s right hand, he owed his triumph.  A long period of proximity to the Abbey and the Confessor, an overwhelming desire to thank the latter for his freedom, and by that very token  the power and the leisure to do so, all these things resulted in Henry’s decision to commission  from the Cosmati marblers in Italy  a magnificent shrine base to hold aloft the golden casket holding the Confessor’s body. The Italian reference  also thanked the pope for his support in the great struggle.  The shrine base, with its surrounding pavement, is thus the first of the Cosmati works in the Abbey. It is the product of a very precise moment in Henry’s career. It is his thank offering for his recovery of power in 1261.

Westminster Abbey and the Shrine of Edward the Confessor