Posts Tagged ‘Corfe Castle’

NEWS – Fine of the Month Winners Announced for 2011

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

We are delighted to announce the joint winners of the Fine of the Month competition for 2011:

Jeremy Ashbee, ‘”Gloriette” in Corfe Castle, 1260’ (FOM, July 2011)

Evyatar Marienberg, ‘The Stealing of the “Apple of Eve” from the Thirteenth-Century Synagogue of Winchester’ (FOM, December 2011)

Congratulations to both contributors for such splendid pieces and many thanks, on behalf of the Project Team, to everyone else who wrote a Fine of the Month last year.

Louise Wilkinson

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog for 1257

Friday, January 13th, 2012

King Henry’s situation in 1257 was very different from that in 1261. In 1261 he was struggling to overthrow the restrictions imposed on him in 1258. The kingdom was on the brink of civil war. In 1257 Henry was in full control of government. England was at peace. Henry had one major pre-occupation. This was the Sicilian enterprise. Henry  had accepted a papal offer of the throne of Sicily for his second son Edmund. The only problem was that he had to pay the pope £90,000 AND send an army out to Sicily to conquer it from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler.  Part of the money was coming from taxation levied on the church much to its fury. This was because  the pope had diverted the tax originally intended for Henry’s crusade to support the Sicilian business.  But this would raise at most half the money owed the pope, let alone finance a military campaign.  Henry desperately needed additional sums which meant trying to secure a general tax from parliament. What happened at the parliaments held in 1257, we shall see in due course. 

 The Sicilian business also impacted on relations with France. In order to concentrate upon it, Henry decided to  make peace with King Louis IX. In other words, he was prepared at last to resign his claims to his lost continental empire, which essentially meant resigning his claims to Normandy, Anjou and Poitou. Negotiations for such a settlement were to be a major theme in 1257.

With Sicily central to his thoughts,  the last thing Henry wanted  was to be distracted by events in Wales. Distracted he was, however. The rising power of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, became, in 1257, a major preoccupation.

The fine rolls in 1257 provide graphic testimony to the impact of the Sicilian business on local society. While Henry knew that only a general tax from parliament could really give the enterprise lift off, he was also trying to raise money in other ways. In particular he was assembling a treasure in gold to pay his Sicilian army, this because gold was the metal of the Sicilian currency. (For the ‘augustales’ minted by Frederick II in Sicily, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustalis.)  Central to Henry’s scheme was insisting that people who wished for concessions and favours should pay for them in gold.  These ‘fines of gold’ are recorded on the fine rolls, making the latter a key source for the accumulation of the gold treasure.  One favour in particular was being purchased in 1257. This was exemption from knighthood.  In 1256, the king had proclaimed that everyone with an income of £15 a year upwards should take up knighthood.  His aim was very largely to make money from the men prepared to fine with the king for exemption from the obligation. Alternatively they could fine for an inquiry into the value of their lands to see if they really did have the required income.   No one questioned the king’s right to impose knighthood, but his move still created resentment. There were some lords, certainly, who were attracted by the status of  knighthood, and its promise of  military activity.  But many others were put off both by the costs and the likely administrative as well as military burdens.  To have to pay to avoid them  was infuriating, the more especially as the £15 a year threshold was a low one.

The cost Henry charged for exemption or an inquiry was usually half a mark of gold. Since gold was worth ten times silver, this meant the fine was the equivalent of five marks of silver, or £3 6s 8d. It thus represented a sizable proportion of a £15 annual income.  During the course of 1257, as we will see, large numbers of potential knights came to court and made their fine. They must have asked why they had to do so in gold, thus discovering Henry’s Sicilian plans and how they were suffering from them. Most of those fining were lords of manors and members of the  gentry. They were influential locally, however much they wished to escape the burdens of knighthood. In this way the full horror of the Sicilian venture was spread through the counties of England.  What made matters worse was the saving of the gold was very personal to the king. The potential knights had to come to court to make their fine. They then had to pay the gold  in to the king’s wardrobe either at once or at stipulated terms in the future. Usually the terms were written down on the fine rolls, as was the record of the eventual payments to the wardrobe’s keeper, either Artald de St Romain or later, Peter des Rivaux. Both these men were foreigners, the latter notoriously so.  These gentry lords thus also saw how ‘alien’ was Henry’s court.  The  whole process of the making and collection of these fines  can be seen in the payments made in January 1257, with the marginal annotations ‘De finibus auri’, ‘Concerning fines of gold’.

The exchequer was not informed at all about the process, something it was left to the reformers of 1258 to put right. (See the fine of the month by Richard Cassidy)

One other aggravation was the bother of acquiring gold to make the fines. Unfortunately the fine rolls do not say in what form the gold came. Perhaps the most likely source was the goldsmiths who sold gold in foil and other forms, The cost of such purchases placed a further burden on the potential knights.

Henry III began the year 1257 at the priory of Merton in Surrey. He then moved to Westminster for the anniversary of Edward the Confessor’s death on 5 January. This feast of his patron was one of the greatest in Henry’s liturgical year and he always celebrated it at Westminster, unless abroad.  Henry was to remain at Westminster till near the end of the month.  In the first two weeks of January, the fine rolls show that there were no less than thirty-one fines of gold. Of these sixteen were for exemption from knighthood, and another six for inquiries into income.  Four fines were made for exemption from jury service.

The fine  rolls also show the way the king was entrusting major royal castles to his foreign servants. In this period Imbert Pugeis became keeper of The Tower of London and Aymon Tumbert keeper of Windsor. Both were Savoyards. Henry also increased the jurisdiction of his Poitevin castellan of Corfe, Elyas de Rabayne, by giving him control of the surrounding warren or park.  The way foreigners were in charge of the chief castles of the kingdom was one of the main complaints made against Henry’s rule in 1258.

See next week’s blog for more about fines of gold and Henry’s attempts to raise money.

Forthcoming Fine of the Month

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Jeremy Ashbee, Head Properties Curator of English Heritage, has been in touch about the inventory of Corfe and Sherborne castles which formed the subject of Huw Ridgeway’s fine of the month for December 2010. Jeremy had previously thought that the term ‘la  gloriette’ at Corfe, as attached to  King John’s splendid new building, was introduced by Edward I. ‘The fine roll’,  he writes, ‘changes all that’ for the name appears there ‘which is phenomenal to see’ and ‘immensely exciting’.   Jeremy’s fine of the month about all this will appear shortly

Elias de Rabayn

Friday, May 6th, 2011

It is not surprising that Henry III sent for Elias Rabayn (see ‘Elyas de Rabayne’ in Henry III Fine Rolls Blog, Sunday 24 April to Saturday 30 April 1261).  Like all his fellow aliens, Rabayn, whilst much criticised by the English and their chroniclers, maintained a scrupulous loyalty to the King.  It is ironic that the only alien who betrayed him was the one to whom he had been most generous, Simon de Montfort.

The thirteenth century saw several waves of aliens coming to serve the English kings.  They came from Normandy, Touraine, Poitou, Savoy and even Germany.  The last wave, who arrived before the reform period, was that of the Poitevins.  They came to England in 1247, when the Lusignans arrived to be welcomed by their generous half-brother, Henry III.   Rabayn, probably from the Isle of Oléron, was first noted in English records in 1247.  He married an heiress and was Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1251 as well as Constable of Corfe and Sherborne.  Corfe was a vital castle which had once been the home of King John’s treasure and was still used for the imprisonment of important captives.  Rabayn retained Corfe when he was replaced as sheriff in 1255.  It was a gift of 500 marks’ worth of land to Rabayn that infuriated Matthew Paris in 1252.  He wrote that, whilst the King had refused to allow his own subjects to pay their debts in installments, he had nevertheless rewarded the Poitevin.

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 sailed, should be committed to the custody of men born in England and that no women should be disparaged by being married to ‘men who are not true-born Englishmen’.  As a result of the Provisions of Oxford of June/July, the Norman, John de Plessis, far from being removed, was appointed to the group of four who would chose the King’s Council, by a vote of the Barons.  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.  Rabayn lost the custody of Corfe castle.  The main casualties of 1258 were the Poitevins.  Their leaders, the Lusignans, who were perceived to have resisted the reformers, were driven out of England.  Their fall impacted on their associates; Rabayn also left England and his lands were taken into the King’s hands. 

1261 saw Henry III overthrowing the Provisions of Oxford and recovering his royal power. He replaced sheriffs with those he could trust.  With the recovery of royal power, some of the Poitevins returned; on 14 April, Rabayn was granted permission to return to England and was told to come at all speed.  Nine days later, he was remitted of the King’s rancour and his lands, which had been taken into the King’s hands on that account, were to be restored to him.

Serious concerns about disturbances in Wales and the March marked the beginning of 1263 and the King planned to go there with Rabayn as one of his party.  During June a petition of the Barons was produced which sought the restitution of the Provisions of Oxford but with a new demand that ‘aliens should depart from the kingdom never further to return, save those whose stay the faithful men of the realm might with unanimous assent accept’.  By July the King had agreed to the baronial demand and, following his consent  to  the Statute against the Aliens, the Lord Edward was forced to cede Windsor castle to the barons.  The alien knights had moved there when they were removed from London.   These knights were then escorted to the Channel coast and, according to one chronicler, ‘they returned to their native land’ and to another, they were allowed to ‘freely depart with their horses and arms after first swearing not to come back again without being sent for by the community‘. Was Rabayn among them?   But by November the Windsor castle was back in royal hands.

 As part of their submission to the arbitration of Louis IX of France, the Barons returned to the attack on the aliens, albeit linked to courtiers in general.  When, in January 1264, Louis announced his judgement at  Amiens, one knight with Henry III in France was Rabayn.  But perhaps he sensed that trouble was coming as, in February, he obtained a licence to crenellate his manor at Upway, near Lyme Regis in Dorset.

It is not certain whether Rabayn was at the Battles of Lewes or Evesham but he held rebel’s lands as early as October 1265.   Rabayn has been said to have joined the Lord Edward’s crusade but his presence as a royal charter witness during this period shows that he did not go.  However, he was Constable of Corfe again from 1272 until 1280 and for a short while he regained Sherborne castle.  When he died in 1285, some of his lands went to the alien Bezill family as his daughter married Mathias’s Bezill’s son, John.

A contribution by Dr Michael Ray

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 24 April (Easter Day) to Saturday 30 April 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Last week, Henry III at last left the Tower of London and set up court at St Paul’s doubtless in the bishop’s house there. He was able to celebrate Easter Day, 24 April, at St Paul’s rather than in the great fortress. Yet that was still a terrific breach with custom. Since 1239 Henry had always celebrated Easter at Westminster Abbey. The only exceptions were 1243 and 1254 when he was in France.  Between 1230 and 1238, the pattern had been different. The great feast had then been shared between Westminster, Gloucester, Canterbury, Clarendon and (most popular of all)  Reading abbey.  The change, of course, reflected  how Henry’s devotion to Edward the Confessor had come to dominate his life.  He would always celebrate Easter beside his patron saint. How grievous now to be unable to do so.

Even worse, St Paul’s itself  was not entirely secure, as the fine rolls reveal for the first time. The usual itinerary of Henry III has him at St Paul’s for the whole period from 23 to 29 April.  Indeed it was at St Paul’s, on 28 April, as the fine rolls show, that Henry took the homage of the Nicholas de Cantilupe in return for a relief of £5 for the knight’s fee he held from the crown. This was in strict accordance with the level stipulated by Magna Carta.  But the fine rolls also show that Henry was briefly back at the Tower on the twenty-sixth.  It was from there that he issued the order  putting Elyas de Rabayne back in possession of his properties.  Evidently Elyas, the Poitevin castellan of Corfe expelled in 1258,  had acted on Henry’s invitation (see the blog for 10-16 April) and had returned to England.   Elyas may have brought vital information about the situation at Dover for next day Henry ordered money to be sent there for the expenses of his household.  He had taken the momentous decision to dash to Dover and seize the  castle.  This was not a decision he made alone for  his brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and king of Germany,  the Queen and her  uncle, Peter of Savoy, the Norman John de Plessy (earl of Warwick through marriage), and the king’s most faithful and brilliant counsellor, John Mansel,  were all at court around this time.  Leaving Mansel behind in command of the Tower, Henry  left London on 29 April and by the end of the day had reached Rochester.

The exigencies of this week may explain a falling off in the routine business on the fine rolls. Only twelve of the common law writs were sought as opposed to seventeen the week before. It will be interesting to see how far the flow was affected by the move on Dover. For Henry, of course, that was not a consideration. The vital question was what would happen which he got there. Would he manage to get control of the great castle, widely thought of as ‘the key to England’?

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 10 April to Saturday 16 April 1261

Monday, April 11th, 2011

For Henry this was another week in the Tower of London. How he must have wished to escape the confines of the great fortress.  He had not lived there since early in 1238 during  the protests  over the secret marriage of Simon de Montfort to his sister. How right the protesters were, Henry may now have ruefully reflected.  At least Henry could also reflect  that in the intervening years he had transformed the Tower, giving it a new gateway, moat and outer  line of  turreted walls. That was why it could now form the base for his recovery of power. One thinks of Henry III as the builder of Westminster Abbey. Much of the Tower of London, as we have it today, was also his work: the majesty of kingship at Westminster; the might at the Tower. Never, in the whole history of the Tower was that might put to better use than in 1261.

In fine rolls terms this week was business as usual.  Individuals continued to come into the Tower to buy from the chancery the writs to initiate and further the  common law legal actions. Some seventeen were  purchased in this week. Many of these (as in any week)  secured a time and place for a particular legal action to be heard, most often, although this was usually  not specified, before the justices of the bench. (These are the writs of ‘pone’ and ‘ad terminum’ which feature so largely in the fine rolls.)  Other writs  commissioned a particular judge to hear a case in the localities. This week Henry of Bratton received such a commission to hear a case in Somerset. Henry used to be regarded as the author as one of the greatest law books ever written: Bracton on the Laws and Customs of England, although it is now clear he was only its editor and preserver. We can think of him as the proud possessor of the text  at the time of his hearing this assize. The cost of these writs was usually about half a mark,  a third of a pound, which would equate to several thousand pounds in modern money.  So they were not cheap. However, the routine standard form common law writs, which initiated legal actions and simply gave you a place before the judges when they next toured your county, only cost 6d (around £250 perhaps in modern money).  This money went straight into the chancery and was never recorded on the fine rolls.  Doubtless many of these writs were also purchased in this week. Henry himself would   have had nothing to do with this routine business. However, he almost certainly was involved in one act recorded on the fine rolls this week. On 16  April Henry pardoned Ida de Beauchamp the 5 marks which she had been amerced  in the course of a law suit in the previous year.

Outside the fine rolls, this week was vital  in providing Henry with the authority to overthrow the Provisions of Oxford.  On Wednesday 13 April, in Rome, Pope Alexander IV issued the crucial  bull which freed Henry from his oath to observe them. It would be around month before the bull would arrive in England, but meanwhile Henry must have felt his decision to overthrow the Provisions had been amply vindicated.  His attempt  to conciliate Simon de Montfort (revealed in last week’s blog) had proved an utter failure. This was all too clear from the replies to Henry’s complaints against his council which  he must have  received this week or next.  They were unyielding, not so say insulting, and bore all the hallmarks of Montfort’s abrasive hand. So Henry was told ‘it is right and reasonable that whenever you talk sense, you should be heard and listened to as lord of us all’.  The counsellors  also  acknowledged that they discussed and effectively settled matters on their own and only then asked the king for his assent, adding that ‘they do nothing on his sole word’.  Henry might well have cried out, as did Louis IX later when he heard of the Provisions, ‘I would rather be a peasant breaking clods behind the plough than live under a regime of that kind’.

There were indications this week of the way Henry’s mind was working. On 13 April he was munitioning the castles of Corfe and Salisbury with arrows.  On 14 April, he encouraged his Poitevin favourite, Elyas de Rabayne, dismissed as castellan of Corfe and expelled in 1258, to hasten back to England.