Posts Tagged ‘Cinque Ports’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 May to Saturday 21 May 1261

Friday, May 20th, 2011

After his expedition to Kent, and recovery of Dover castle, Henry had got back to London on the evening of Saturday 14 May. He had hoped (or at least there are indications that he had hoped), to set up court at Westminster, but instead he had gone to the Tower. His stay  was brief, however,  for he left the fortress  on Sunday 15 May and spent the whole of this  week, doubtless in greater comfort,  at the bishop of London’s palace at St Paul’s. 

The return to London coincided with a large increase in the purchase of writs to initiate and further the common law legal actions. Clearly a backlog had built up during Henry’s Kentish foray, with litigants hesitating to follow  the king and waiting in London  for his return. Thus no less than 53 such writs were purchased this week, between two and three times the number usual since the start of this blog  back in March.

 The fine rolls also contain a writ in which Henry said how ‘moved’ he was ‘by the long service’ which Nicholas the Welshman, his messenger, had given him. As a result, Henry made Nicholas a life grant of a small holding in Brockton (near Sutton Maddock) in Shropshire.  Nicholas was to perform the service due from the holding, which, other evidence shows, was to find a man for Montgomery castle for fifteen days in time of war with a bow and four arrows.  Henry’s employment of Nicholas reflects, of course, how ready Welshmen were to serve the king of England, if necessary fighting against  their own people.  In Nicholas’s case one assumes that his man did not go home, or hang around idly,  once he had fired off his four arrows. One remembers, however, the case  of Hugo fizHeyr (discovered by Michael Prestwich.)  He was obliged to follow the king in war with a bow and arrow. In 1282, as soon as he saw the king’s enemies, he loosed off his arrow and went home.

In making his grant to Nicholas, Henry  stressed that he was acting within his rights and that an inquiry (which survives) had shown that the property was indeed his to give.  Henry’s assertions chimed with other statements this year. Struggling to re-assert his authority and overthrow the Provisions of Oxford, he was often at pains to stress the law abiding nature of his rule.

The need to do so was becoming more and more apparent, as the struggle intensified.  During this week, on Wednesday 18 May, Henry  warned the Cinque Ports that Simon de Montfort was ‘endeavouring to bring into the realm aliens with arms against the king to the disturbance of the peace and the grievous cost of the realm’.  This was to turn the tables on Montfort who complained vociferously  about Henry’s own attempt to bring foreign soldiers into the realm in 1260. In fact Henry was doing the same again now. On Saturday 21 May he promised a life pension to the count of  St Pol who was, or was hoped to be,  the leader of one such foreign contingent.

During this week, at the latest,  Henry must have received the papal bull issued from Rome on 13 April which absolved him from his oath to keep the Provisions of Oxford. Indeed, it may well have arrived  on or shortly before 12 May at Canterbury. On that day,  John Mansel junior, who had secured the bull from the pope and probably brought it to England, was setting off back to papal court.  The question for Henry and his advisers was when and how to detonate this explosive weapon.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 May to Saturday 14 May 1261

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Having been at Romney on Saturday 7 May 1261, Henry moved north to Canterbury where he stayed from Monday 9 May to the following Friday. This pause enabled those seeking the writs to initiate and further the common law legal actions to catch up with him. In the previous week, only four  had been purchased. This week the number recovered to  a healthy twenty-one. It is noticeable that eight of these concerned litigation in Kent, and another three  cases in Sussex and Surrey. This shows how the king’s presence in an area encouraged litigants  to come forward to purchase writs.  On the other hand, people were still prepared to travel, even  in these troubled times,  and three writs were purchased for cases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.  The fine roll also has a writ (issued from Canterbury on Monday 9 May), in which the king pardoned  Reginald fitzPeter a debt of five marks. This was a timely reward for his support, for Reginald had come to court and on this very day attested a royal charter.  Since he was a lord with major interests both in Hampshire and the Welsh marches,  his was an important addition to royal strength.  It was needed for Henry’s anxieties in this week are palpable.  One way kings of England strengthened their position in  times of political tension was by the exaction of  oaths of loyalty from their subjects. In 1209, for example, King John had taken oaths and homages from a large assembly gathered at Marlborough. (This is the subject of a fascinating paper by John Maddicott in the April 2011 edition of English Historical Review.)  On Friday 6 May, Henry had, in similar fashion, taken the homages of the barons of the Cinque ports gathered at Lydd near Romney. But very far from all had come. There was also conspicuous absenteeism when Henry, around the same time, summoned the knights and freemen of Kent to swear oaths of fealty. Had Henry been a bold man, had his position warranted it, he might now have taken punitive action against the delinquents.  Instead, with Dover safe under Robert Walerand,  and the main aim of his expedition accomplished, he decided to return to the safety of the capital.  Another factor in his decision was probably  alarm at the rebellion against  the royal judges in Hertfordshire. This had taken place on 2 May, and on Friday 12 May, from Canterbury, Henry  withdrew the judges and proclaimed his desire to give everyone his ‘gracious justice and benevolent favour’. On the same day, Henry declared he could not go to Sussex to receive the fealty of the knights and freemen of the county. The sheriff would have to receive it instead. On Saturday 13 May, Henry left Canterbury and reached Faversham. There he told the sheriff of Kent and Robert Walerand to receive the fealty of those men of Kent and the Cinque Ports who had failed to turn up earlier. Next day, Saturday 14 May (the day on which the battle of Lewes was to be fought in 1264)  Henry reached Rochester and by the evening was back in the Tower of London.

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 1 May to Saturday 7 May 1261

Friday, May 6th, 2011

At the end of last week’s blog, we asked what Henry’s decision to leave London and advance on Dover (which he reached on  Monday 2 May) would have on the business recorded in the fine rolls. The answer is the business collapsed. Henry’s long residence at the Tower of London had meant that those wishing to purchase writs and other favours had a central and certain place to go. They were clearly not deterred by the surrounding political tension. The five weeks down to 30 April had seen the purchase of   20, 13, 17, 17 and 12 writs respectively to further the common legal actions. The week between 1-7 May saw the purchase of only four,   these at Dover on 3 and 4 May.   There were  only two other entries on the fine rolls.  In the one, Henry pardoned a one mark penalty  imposed on a Rochester vintner for selling his wares contrary to the weights and measures regulations. In the other, Henry accepted an offer of 100  marks from the convent of Much Wenlock in Shropshire to have custody of their house during the vacancy caused by the death of their prior.

The disappearance  of the usual fine roll business was of little moment, against this week’s triumphal political success. What happened at Dover was recorded on the patent rolls.

‘Memorandum that on 2 May the king came to Dover and on the morrow took into his hand the castle of Dover and the wardenship of the Cinque Ports, which Hugh Bigod held before of the king’s bail by counsel of the nobles of the council, and he committed these during his pleasure to Robert Walerand’.

 The phraseology here was deliberately chosen and deeply significant for it indicated that the authority of the 1258 Provisions of Oxford council was at end. Yes, in giving Dover to Bigod, Henry had acted ‘by counsel of the nobles of the council’, but there was no suggestion that he had done the same in transferring the castle to the trusty Robert Walerand. Walerand was to hold during his pleasure.  Henry was now acting free of restraint of his own free will.

Materially Henry had struck a mighty blow for Dover was ‘the key to England’.  He could now dominate the Cinque ports, control the channel and call in foreign help. Symbolically the blow was equally great. Hugh Bigod, with his appointment at justiciar in 1258, had been at the summit of the reform regime.  If he was now prepared to throw it over, that really seemed the end.  Bigod, moreover, put up no struggle. He supplied the king’s household with the castle’s wine, and immediately joined the circle of the court, witnessing a royal charter while the king was at Dover.

Later in the year Bigod may have regretted his conduct. In August, he refused to surrender Scarborough and Pickering castles to the king, on the grounds that he had received them from the council as well as the king, and was sworn to surrender them only with the council’s consent. Precisely the situation, one would have thought at Dover. At this moment,  however, his conduct was understandable. He had been close to the king before the revolution of 1258, and thereafter, as justiciar, had been careful treat him with respect, much more respect than some other members of the regime. In 1260,  he had obeyed the king, rather than Simon de Montfort, and refused to hold the Candlemas parliament laid down by the Provisions of Oxford.  Montfort had  threatened him with reprisals, and then in October 1260 secured his removal as justiciar, only failing to  remove him from Dover at the same time. Doubtless Bigod was now told by the king that a papal bull was on its way quashing the oath to the 1258 reforms. He believed  the baronial enterprise was at end.  It was only  subsequent events which showed he had miscalculated.

After his triumph at Dover, Henry  moved on to Romney near where, on 6 May, the barons of the Cinque Ports came to do him homage.  But there were signs it would not all  be plain sailing. On 2 May, the day he arrived at Dover, there was resistance to the king’s judges hearing pleas at Hertford, and complaints that they were acting in contravention of the Provisions of Oxford. Two day later, Henry summoned foreign soldiers to England. The struggle had only just begun.