Posts Tagged ‘Dover Castle’

Sunday 25 May 1264: under new management

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

This week, Simon de Montfort transported his captive king through Kent. They began the week in Battle, and made their way to Canterbury. According to the Canterbury/Dover chronicle, they reached Canterbury on 20 May, and spent several days in a great discussion of affairs. The earl and the king, and many prisoners, set off again for London on 25 May, and reached Rochester, by way of Ospringe, near Faversham. While the court was at Ospringe, the writing of the originalia roll resumed, as the bureaucracy of government began to function under new management (although maintaining the fiction of acting in the king’s name). On 25 May, Dover castle and the Cinque Ports were committed to Henry de Montfort, earl Simon’s son; this is also recorded a few days later in the patent roll. The young de Montfort was thus in charge of the strategically crucial crossing from France. In addition, he had custody of lord Edward and Henry of Almain, earl Richard’s son. These royal hostages were held in Dover castle, and, according to a royalist chronicler, treated harshly by Henry de Montfort. (Gervase II, 238; CFR 1263-64, no. 266; Ann Mon IV, 153)

Dover castle in the 17th century, by Wenceslaus Hollar.

Dover castle in the 17th century, by Wenceslaus Hollar.

The royal household was being supported by local officials as it passed through Kent: the Wardrobe received cash from the bailiffs of Canterbury (including 20 marks which they should have delivered as alms for the monks of Pontigny); the bailiff of the manor of Ospringe also provided cash, and had to pay for wine which the household had taken in Canterbury. There was clearly little cash in hand, but the household was planning ahead, and arranging to use the farm of the city of London to pay for wine and bread for Whitsun (which fell on 8 June). (CLR 1260-67, 136; CPR 1258-66, 318)

De Montfort was taking steps to let the counties know of his victory. The bailiffs of Derby were informed that peace had been made, and instructed to prevent disorder. The coroners were to proclaim the peace throughout the county. (CPR 1258-66, 359)

A group of royalist magnates, including earl Warenne, William de Valence, Guy de Lusignan and Hugh Bigod, had fled from Lewes and made their way to Pevensey castle, and thence to France. They joined queen Eleanor, who had been trying to organize military support for Henry, and informed her of the king’s misfortune. They stayed with her for a while, awaiting happier times, as one chronicle put it. Another chronicle, the London annals, claims that the émigrés went to the king of France, and told him that Henry had been captured by the barons while asleep in his bed at Lewes, unarmed and without warning. They urged Louis to help Henry, and Louis was angered by their lies. While Simon and Henry were in Canterbury, Guy de Lusignan’s household were given permission to leave the country and join him. (Howell, Eleanor of Provence, 211; Battle chronicle, in Bémont, 377; Ann Mon IV, 152; London annals, 64; CPR 1258-66, 318)

Sunday 17 February 1264: the return of the king

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

After more than six weeks in France, Henry III sailed back to Dover on 15 February. He left queen Eleanor, Peter of Savoy and John Mansel in France, in charge of raising funds to finance the coming struggle for power. They were to receive the payment due from Louis of France, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, and to raise money using the king’s jewels, which had been deposited at the Temple in Paris. (CPR 1258-66, 381)

The king’s return to England brought a prompt reminder that his authority was far from unquestioned. He had sent messengers from Wissant, demanding entry to Dover castle, and received the reply that the castle would not be delivered to anyone without orders from Richard de Grey, to whom the castle had been committed by the council. Hugh Bigod and Roger Leybourne crossed to France to urge Henry to return, and when Henry reached Dover he was honourably received in Dover priory. But when he again demanded entry to the castle, he received the same answer as before. Henry’s response seems rather feeble: he had the Mise of Amiens read out to all those present, then went to Canterbury, where he stayed for nine days. (Gervase of Canterbury, II, 232-3)

The king’s brother, earl Richard, had reached Hereford, a good deal closer to the fighting which had begun along the Severn. He ordered the sheriff to pay £20 for equipping Hereford castle. (CLR 1260-67, 131) There were also indications of trouble in the north of England. In December 1263, Robert Neville had been appointed as one of the king’s keepers of the peace in the northern counties. About this time, he wrote to the king, complaining that he found only tepid support for measures to oppose the rebels. He asked for orders to be sent to Robert Bruce, John Comyn, John Balliol and Henry Percy, instructing them to assist Neville in keeping the peace north of the Trent. Neville also asked for a strong garrison in Pontefract castle, ‘which is like the key to Yorkshire’. (Royal Letters, II, 255)

Henry had thus returned to find that he faced problems in all parts of the country.

Sunday 6 January 1264: seasickness and control of Kent

Sunday, January 5th, 2014
MParis Henry III in boat

Henry III on an earlier crossing to Brittany, by Matthew Paris.

Henry III spent most of the first week of 1264 in Boulogne. It appears that he had had a rough crossing to France. The Dunstable chronicler said that Henry went overseas with the lord Edward; when they were in the middle of the sea, a terrible great tempest arose, so that Edward made many vows, though fear, and they reached Wissant with great difficulty. Henry wrote to Louis IX on Saturday 5 January, apologizing that he would be unable to meet him at Amiens on the following Tuesday, because of ‘the feebleness of our body and the labours we have undergone for some time, both by sea and by land.’ Henry’s younger son Edmund was also suffering: Henry undertook to pay up to £100 (in money of Paris) to the abbey of St Mary in Boulogne, for the expenses of Edmund who was staying at the abbey while he was ill.1

Little routine business was conducted. The patent roll kept with the king in France recorded that Roger of Leybourne had been appointed sheriff of Kent. Leybourne was a Kent landowner, who had been associated with the lord Edward and the marcher lords. He had joined the marchers in the disorders of 1263, then been won over, with them, to the king’s side in the autumn of that year. He was to prove a consistent royalist from then on, fighting for the king at Lewes, then leading the pacification of the south-east after the royalist victory at Evesham.2

Leybourne’s appointment as sheriff had already been noted on the fine roll in December, when he was given a string of posts in the south-east: he was warden of the Cinque Ports, chamberlain of Sandwich, keeper of the hundred of Milton and the seven hundreds of the Weald, and keeper of the Dover ferry, or crossing (passagium).3 He had earlier been appointed as a steward of the royal household, and seems to have retained this role.4 But the key position in Kent was still not within the king’s gift. Dover castle remained in the hands of the Montfortians. It had been committed to Richard de Grey when de Montfort took control of government in the summer of 1263. Even though Henry had recovered much of his power since then, he was still not in command of the castle. This had been made only too clear when he was refused entry in December 1263. He would try again when he returned from France.

Back in England, the administration seems to have been at a standstill. The fine roll has a large blank space after the entries for 23 and 24 December (see the image here). There is then the heading for fines made after the king’s departure from Windsor castle on 23 December, but the first fine attested by earl Richard was not made until 7 January. There are similar gaps in the close roll  – a heading for the king’s crossing overseas, then the next entry on 8 January – and in the patent roll kept in England, where there are no entries until 11 January.5

  1. Ann Mon, III, 227; CPR 1258-66, 376.
  2. Kathryn Faulkner, ‘Leybourne , Sir Roger of (c.1215–1271)’, ODNB
  3. CFR 1263-64, nos. 37, 38, 42, 255, 256. Leybourne accounted as sheriff of Kent for the first half of 1263-64 (E 372/109 rot. 9d). Several of Leybourne’s numerous roles were recorded in the patent roll on 5 December, and he was also appointed keeper of the county on December 24: CPR 1258-66, 300, 358.
  4. Leybourne was apparently appointed steward on 15 August 1263, when de Montfort controlled such appointments (Gervase of Canterbury, II, 224), and Leybourne retained the post when he came over to the king’s side, still being mentioned in this role in January 1264 (Close Rolls 1261-64, 333).
  5. Close Rolls 1261-64, 333; CPR 1258-66, 305.

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 Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 13 November to Saturday 19 November 1261

Monday, November 14th, 2011

For Henry this was yet another week in the Tower of London. Negotiations with his opponents were continuing at Kingston on Thames. On Monday 14 November Henry issued yet another safe conduct, this one to run till Saturday 19 November, for the barons coming to Kingston  ‘to make peace with the king’. But, as before,  Henry was  keeping up his guard. The next day he ordered his castellan of Dover and sheriff of Kent, the doughty Robert Walerand,  to receive the knights and others called into the king’s service from beyond the seas.  The fine rolls this week contain two pieces of evidence which suggest that Henry was holding sway in northern Kent. On 16 November he placed Rochester under the control of John de Grey. John’s brother, Richard, was a leading Montfortian, but John, a former steward of the royal household  remained loyal to the king. Henry was acting, so he said, partly at the request of the citizens themselves, who were so riven by faction that they had asked the king several times to take the vill into his own hands. He was also, he said, motivated by ‘the disturbances which have arisen in the kingdom and the preservation of the security of those parts’.  Henry was equally in contact with the citizens of Faversham. It was in this week that the  barons of Faversham’, as they are called in recognition of their status, agreed to pay the king 10 marks for a royal charter.  The fine can be seen at the top of this image of membrane 18 of the roll. Details of this charter and others relating to Faversham are listed on Faversham’s own website.

The fine rolls also show that, in this week, Henry had a welcome windfall of money, although less than first appears.  The next entry to that for Faversham records how Belia, widow of Petitevin of Bedford, a Jew, had paid 400 marks cash down and promised 335 marks to come, for the chattels, lands and rents of her former husband in Bedford. In fact a later entry shows that she had already given  300 of the 400 marks when the king was at Windsor earlier in the year, and only 100 marks now came at the Tower. Still this was a useful subvention  at a critical time. The fine also shows, of course, that there remained  some very wealthy Jews despite the heavy taxation of the previous decades. Belia was also far from the only Jewish widow to take on her husband’s business.

The fine rolls  continue to reflect the chaotic times. Their material is jumbled in terms of chronology and it is difficult to know how many writs were purchased in this week to initiate and further common law legal actions. Between  12 and 23 November, the number appears to be a fairly modest eighteen.

Are the negotiations at Kingston going to have any result? Read next week’s instalment.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 August to Saturday 3 September 1261

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Henry spent all this week at Windsor.  Bad news kept pouring in.  We have seen from last week’s blog, that the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire was losing control of his counties.  A letter arrived from  the stalwart, James of Audley, revealing a similar situation  in Shropshire and Staffordshire.  In the north, Hugh Bigod, having tamely surrendered Dover to the king earlier in the year, now refused to give up Scarborough. He was, he declared, under oath not to surrendered it ‘without the will  and express order of the king and his magnates’. This showed he was still recognising the authority of the council of magnates imposed on the king in 1258.  And then intelligence arrived that Simon de Montfort had gone to France.  Henry said he did not know why, but must have feared that the earl’s aim was to replace the military force Henry hoped to raise abroad with one of his own. On Friday 2 September, Henry wrote accordingly to King Louis: please don’t  believe what Montfort tells you, and please  prevent him from acting to my prejudice ‘in the affair between us and our barons’. 

The fine rolls themselves shed an interesting light on the situation. In this week no less than thirty-six writs were purchased to commence or expedite the common law legal actions.  None, however,  were purchased from Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, which may well reflect the situation in those counties. Equally there were none from Audley’s Shropshire and Staffordshire, and Matthias Bezill’s Gloucestershire (for which see last week’s blog.) On the other hand, thirty-six writs purchased in all was not a bad total. People were still willing and able to come to Windsor, and had confidence that the legal actions they were pursuing were not going to be engulfed in  a civil war. This may help explain why Henry had felt able to return to Windsor, and why he continued to put his trust in conciliation as much as confrontation.  He thus counselled James of Audley to behave with caution and pass over mere verbal resistance. He should only act otherwise if there was violent resistance to the king’s officers.  Henry also sent an envoy to Norfolk and Suffolk to explain the affection and benevolence he felt for everyone in the two counties. The claims of malevolent people that he intended to subvert their rights and liberties were completely false.   See next week’s instalment.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 10 July to Saturday 16 July 1261

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Another week in the Tower of London and there are going to be many more of those.  Evidently Henry did not feel the position outside  allowed him even to go to Westminster. Doubtless he remembered the way he had been exposed there in 1258 by the baronial march on his hall. He had cried out ‘What is this my lords, am I your prisoner?’ At least in the Tower, that could not happen again.  There were reasons for unease. When Henry’s judges sought to hear pleas at Worcester on 1 July,  they were boycotted and the visitation had to be abandoned.  Yes had Henry been a bold and martial man  he would surely have taken the field to assert his authority throughout the country. There is something rather pathetic and uninspiring in the way he remained skulking in the Tower.  This is all the more so given he was not without funds. His wardrobe around now received some £730 from the issues of the vacant bishopric of Winchester.  Yes Henry relied on others. The fine rolls this week show him consolidating the position of Robert Walerand as sheriff of Kent and castellan of Dover. He was to have £400 a year for the custody of the castle.  Henry  also moved  affirm his control over central government. On Tuesday 12 July he took the great seal from the baronially appointed chancellor. Nicholas of Ely (who left court), and appointed the ever reliable Walter of Merton in his place.  With Henry in the Tower on 15 July were the bishops of London and Salisbury, Philip Basset the new justiciar, the marcher lord James of Audley, John Mansel, and indeed Robert Walerand, who had evidently come up to settle his terms for  Dover which were conceded on the same day.   Henry could also draw comfort from a revival of the business associated with the purchase of the common law writs. Some thirty-nine were obtained in this week. One saw no less than thirty three people from Rutland jointly obtaining a writ of pone which probably placed their legal case  before the judges at Westminster. At least their work continued there as did that of the exchequer.

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 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.

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’?