Posts Tagged ‘Dee’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 August to Saturday 8 September 1257

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

These were the weeks of Henry III’s campaign in Wales, all be it a campaign of a very static nature. Its basic outline can be seen from the fine rolls, if you look at the relevant membrane. Here, five items from the bottom, is a letter witnessed by the king at Chester on 18 August: T’ R’ ap’ Cestr xviii. die Aug, that is  Teste Rege apud Cestr’ xviii. die Augusti. The next entry, four from bottom, the letter  is witnessed by the king ‘in castris apud Gannok’ (in the fields at Deganwy)  on 30 August. And then the next shows him back at Chester, the witness clause having the date 13 September.

Other evidence shows that Henry arrived at Deganwy on 27 August and stayed there till at least 4 September. At Deganwy, of course, was the great castle which Henry had built to hold down his Welsh conquests between the Conwy and the Dee. The castle stood proud, high above the Conwy estuary, and glared westwards towards the great mountain ranges in the heart of Gwynedd. For images, click here.

Henry, however, as the witness clause in the fine rolls shows, did not stay in the castle but in the fields round about.  There he probably lived in a great pavilion lent him by the earl of Gloucester.  Doubtless the castle was full masons, for one object of the campaign was to repair and augment its defences. Another was to ravage the land of  Llywelyn and his supporters. Matthew Paris gives a vivid picture of Henry, riding about ‘elegantly’ in armour under his dragon standard, encouraging his knights, although whether this amounted to more than wishing them well as they set out on their chevauchées  one may doubt. Henry had also much bigger schemes. These were the conquest of Anglesey and the division of what was left of Gwynedd west of Conwy between Llywelyn’s disaffected brothers. To that end, he had summoned shipping both from Ireland and the Cinque Ports. Henry’s ambitions, therefore,   were just as great as those of his son, the future Edward I. The difference was that Edward actually carried them out. Indeed, present on this campaign, he may have learnt something from his father’s failure.

For fail Henry did. In a letter to the earl of Gloucester from Deganwy on 4 September, he explained that he was going home.  The shipping had not arrived for the invasion of Anglesy and winter was approaching. Given that it was only  the first week of September, this was hardly a complete excuse, and Henry was clearly embarrassed by the decision. He explained to the earl (who had been far more successful in South Wales), that the decision had been taken  on the advice of the magnates present with him. It was not at all what he would have wanted, indeed it  was ‘repugnant’ to him. He was determined to return next summer and finish the job. Meanwhile  (which was not said in the letter),  Henry realised with relief that he could get back to Westminster in time for the feast of Edward the Confessor on 13 October, as both Matthew Paris and the Dunstable annalist noted. Indeed perhaps the desire to do that was another reason for abandoning the campaign. Nonetheless, Henry was serious about coming back. He was under pressure from Edward and the marcher barons; but he also felt deeply on his own account about preserving his Welsh conquests.  Preparations for the campaign of 1258 went on through the winter.

Returning to the fine rolls, it is interesting to see that the campaign brought an almost complete stop to the usual business.  Clearly no one sought the king out at Deganwy to buy the usual writs to initiate and further legal actions.  There is only one item of business recorded at Deganwy, itself the only business on the roll between 18 August and 13 September. This was, on 30 August, to allow the baron, Philip de Columbars [one of two Colombières near Bayeux in Normandy] to pay his £100 relief to enter his inheritance  on easier terms  as a reward for the service he was giving in the Welsh army.  The £100 relief, was, of course, in line with what was laid down in Magna Carta. It will be interesting to see how business picks up as Henry returns to Westminster