Posts Tagged ‘Dover’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 17 June to Saturday 23 June 1257

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

On Thursday 21 June, at Westminster, Henry III ordered ‘a certain standard of red cendal and gold brocade’ to be offered at the shrine of Edward the Confessor in the Abbey ‘as is customary  when he is about to go on campaign’. The same day Henry left Westminster. He was setting out on a slow journey to Chester where he had ordered his military forces to rendezvous.  At last Henry had decided to do something about the rebellion, as he would have seen it, of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

In the previous winter Llywelyn had overrun Henry’s ‘conquests’ as he called them in North Wales between the Conwy and the Dee, leaving only the new castles of Deganwy and Disserth holding out. In the spring he had defeated the native rulers of Powys, who were Henry’s allies.  For Henry, all this was an unwelcome distraction.  He had tried to conciliate Llywelyn.  Alternatively, he had hoped that Edward, his son and heir, and now the ruler of the crown’s dominions in Wales,  could sort thing out. Henry’s eyes were set on quite other things. There were the negotiations with France for a permanent peace. In this week, on 22 June, now at Windsor, Henry  had given full power to his envoys the bishop of Worcester and Hugh Bigod, counselled by Simon de Montfort and Peter of Savoy, to agree a peace. Three days later, Henry ordered a ship to be found for them all to cross at Dover. And with peace, and with his brother, Richard of Cornwall now installed as king of Germany (Henry was careful to keep him informed of the negotiations), might not the Sicilian project take on a new lease of life? The last thing Henry wanted now was to have to dig into his hard saved gold treasure to finance a campaign in Wales.  But the massacre of English forces near Cardigan at the start of June had given him no alternative. 

The fine rolls in this week have  eleven entries, all about the purchase of common law writs. It will be fascinating to see how business is affected by Henry’s journey and military campaign in Wales. 

For the membrane covering this week where one can see Henry’s move from Westminster to Windsor, click here.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 30 October to Saturday 5 November 1261

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

For Henry this was another week within the walls of  the Tower of London.  The chaos of the time, in which the kingdom hovered between war and peace, is reflected in the fine rolls. Between dated items on 26 October and 5 November, there are just nine entries relating to the purchase of writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the forms of the common law. The total number is pathetically small for what would normally be a busy time of year. In 1260 some  thirty-seven writs of similar type were purchased between the same dates.  Of the nine writs, there were two apiece from Cumberland, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, plus one form Wiltshire.  The absence of people coming from the midlands and the south east is striking and must testify to conditions in those areas.

At the end of last week, Henry had given safe conduct to barons coming to Kingston to discuss terms of peace.  If negotiations took place, they had no immediate result, and the safe conduct was later renewed, as will be seen in subsequent blogs. Meanwhile Henry prepared for war. On Friday 4 November he asked for a list of the foreign soldiers retained at Witsand (near Boulogne), and arranged for them to receive eight days pay. He also promised that either he or Edward, his son, would come to Dover so that they could safely enter the kingdom.  Evidently, at this crucial time, Edward was very much on side. His presence at Dover would certainly have given me a lot more confidence than that of his father!

For hiring soldiers money was vital and Henry was short of it.  On 27 October  he had ordered the keepers of the  vacant bishopric of Winchester to send him cash ‘day by day’,  evidently thinking  of what they would shortly be receiving from the Michaelmas rents.  Money, however, was not just for soldiers.  God was more powerful than man, and Henry’s way to God was through Edward the Confessor. On Monday 1 November, he ordered the exchequer to assign 100 marks to the works on the Confessor’s abbey at Westminster.

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 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.