Posts Tagged ‘Edward the Confessor’

Sunday 19 October 1264: return to Westminster

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

The return of the king and the government from Canterbury to Westminster demonstrated growing confidence about the threat of invasion. It was clearly no longer considered so pressing that it required the court to remain near the Kent coast. Queen Eleanor’s invasion force in Flanders was dispersing and her funds were running out. About this time, the queen gave up and withdrew to France. (Howell, Eleanor of Provence, 221)
The government acknowledged the receipt of £133 which Thomas fitz Thomas, mayor of London, had paid into the Wardrobe for the wardship of the lands and heirs of Robert le Blund, tenant-in-chief. This payment, which had been agreed in July, gave fitz Thomas control of lands in Essex, Wiltshire and Staffordshire. It showed that fitz Thomas was a very wealthy man. Despite that, he was a populist mayor who supported the reforming regime and opposed the élite of aldermen who traditionally ruled London. It also showed that the government was continuing to channel income through the Wardrobe, rather than the Treasury (although this payment does not appear in the accounts of the Wardrobe, which handled the finances of the royal household) — the sort of behaviour which the reformers had once criticized. (CPR 1258-66, 341, 353; CFR 1263-64, 302)

Edward the Confessor, Henry III’s favourite saint, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry

Edward the Confessor, Henry III’s favourite saint, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry

The feast of Edward the Confessor on 13 October was always an important event for Henry III. It would seem that it was celebrated as usual this year. The court had returned to Westminster, the king’s sauser was buying pepper, cumin and cinnamon to make sauces for the king at the feast, and the keeper of the wardrobe was buying wax and gold coins for offerings. (CLR 1260-67, 143-4) One chronicler, in the annals of Dunstable, records that the clergy of England met in a council at Westminster on 19 October, to ratify an appeal against the legate’s condemnation. (C&S, II, I, 700)

Sunday 12 October 1264: an unusual delivery

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

The court and Simon de Montfort’s government were based in Canterbury until the end of this week. According to the London chronicler Arnold fitz Thedmar, the king returned to London on 11 October, two days before the feast of St Edward the Confessor, which was always an important date in Henry III’s calendar. The king would thus be able to celebrate the feast at the saint’s shrine in Westminster abbey. (Cronica Maiorum, 69)
The government continued its unavailing efforts to assert its authority over the northern royalists. Robert de Nevill was ordered to hand over York castle to the Montfortian sheriff of Yorkshire. Similarly, Adam of Jesmond was commanded to deliver the castle of Newcastle on Tyne to the sheriff of Northumberland. Nevill and Jesmond, together with John and Eustace de Balliol, Peter de Brus and other Northern barons, were yet again ordered to come to the king with horses and arms, to defend the realm against the threat of invasion. They were offered safe conduct until 28 October, but this offer was once more ignored.
The Marchers, led by Roger Mortimer and James of Audley, resumed hostilities by besieging Gilbert de Clare’s castle at Hanley in Worcestershire. De Montfort’s government initially responded by pointing out that this threatened any prospect of release for the royalist hostages it held, lord Edward and Henry of Almain. (CPR 1258-66, 373-5)

Knights in a ship, with a letter. From BL Royal 14 E III, first quarter of 14th century

Knights in a ship, with a letter. From BL Royal 14 E III, first quarter of 14th century

The bishops of London and Winchester, the baronial government’s representatives in talks with the papal legate, had asked for safe conduct to return to Wissant on 7 or 8 October, but did not appear. Instead, on 11 October, ‘a certain knight of the king of England’ sailed to Wissant, but did not land, throwing into the sea a small box full of letters to the legate. These included the texts of the peace of Canterbury and of the ordinance establishing the government of England by the baronial council, as well as letters formally rejecting the legate’s proposals. Negotiations were well and truly ended. (Heidemann, register, 45-6)

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Friday 12 October to Saturday 20 October 1257

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Henry arrived at Westminster on Friday 12 October, having travelled up from Windsor. On the twelfth,  according to his custom, he fasted.  On the thirteenth he celebrated, for it was the greatest day in his religious year, the feast of the translation of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. How wonderful to celebrate it, with masses, candles, offerings at the Confessor’s shrine, and feasts for magnates and thousands of paupers, now the great new church he was building  in the Confessor’s honour was nearing completion in its eastern arm and transepts.   The new church dominated the Westminster scene, proclaiming to all the power of the Confessor and the protection he afforded to his greatest disciple.  Something of the celebrations of this day can be glimpsed in the orders Henry issued to prepare for the feast.  These included the procurement of  6000 fresh herrings, 2000 place, 5000 merlin, up to 20,000 lampreys.

John Maddicott, in his great book, The Origins of the English Parliament, p.472 suspected that Henry held a parliament at this time. He was right to do so for the Abingdon chronicle states this specifically. The meeting of parliament helps explain the large amount of fine roll business done in this week. Between 14 and 20 October, no less than thirty-three writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased,  the highest score achieved, I think,  this year. As someone with connections with the Lake District, it is nice to see a writ purchased by  Juliana, widow of William of Derwentwater: no.1004 in the translation, and in the images below, thirty-two entries from the bottom (according to my count).

The week witnessed the consummation  of the one success of the summer’s campaign in Wales, although it was the result of the endeavours of  Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, rather than the king. On 18 October, the Welsh prince, Maredudd ap Rhys did homage to Henry, in Richard’s presence. Two days before,  Henry had rewarded Roger Bigod earl of Norfolk (probably for his good service in Wales) with a gift of ten great oaks to help build a chapel at Hamstead  Marshall in  Berkshire.  Hamstead  was a  manor of the Marshal family, which  Bigod had inherited through his mother on the death of the last Marshal earl. Next year, in 1258,  it was Roger Bigod, who was to lead the march on the king’s hall at Westminster, which precipitated the political revolution.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Monday 1 October to Saturday 6 October 1257

Friday, October 12th, 2012

In the fine rolls for this week, the last stages of Henry’s journey home (as he would certainly have thought of it), can be followed. On Monday 1 October, he was at Woodstock, and on Thursday 4 October at Wallingford.  There he stayed in the  castle of his brother, Richard, although Richard was not there to entertain him, being now king of Germany. Next day, Henry moved on to his castle palace of Windsor. He was thus in good  time for the celebration of  the great feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, at Westminster on 13 October.  Perhaps the most significant item of business on the fine rolls this week is  the committal to the king’s goldsmith, William of Gloucester, of the king’s mint. William was in high favour because he had recently been responsible for turning  a large part of Henry’s gold treasure (for whose accumulation the fine rolls is the major source) into a gold coinage, being  almost certainly responsible for designing the splendid gold pennies which were the result.  As the image of them shows, they depicted Henry sitting elegantly on his throne, crowned and holding orb and sceptre.

For the membranes covering this week, click here. At the bottom of the first membrane shown here and the start of the next you can see the king at Woodstock,  Wallingford and Windsor, and also (nos.961-2 in the translation) the giving of the mint to William of Gloucester.  Note the contemporary stitching joining the membranes.

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.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 December to Saturday 17 December 1261

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Henry III began this week at Westminster.  After his long sojourn in the Tower, what a relief to be back at his great  palace. Once more he could pray beside the shrine of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, and survey the magnificent abbey he was rebuilding in his honour. Surprisingly, however, Henry’s stay only lasted a few days. On 14 December he left for Merton priory in Surrey, a religious house where he often stayed.  Conceivably, after his long absence, the palace of Westminster was not ready to receive him.  He would enjoy the hospitality of the Merton monks before returning to Westminster  for Christmas.

As we saw from last week’s blog, on 7 December Henry had  proclaimed the ‘form of peace’ agreed with his opponents.  But the agreement was far from universal. At Merton on Friday 16 December, Henry issued an appeal to those who had yet to seal the document, urging them  to do so. If they could not come in person, they could just send their seals.

The list of the recalcitrants  was  the same as it had been on 7 December. In the order given  it was as follows.

Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk

John de Warenne, earl of Surrey,

Simon de Montfort, earl of Leiecester

Roger Mortimer

Hugh Despencer

William Bardolph

John de Burgh

Henry de Hastings

John fitzJohn

Robert de Vipont

William de Munchensy

John fitzAlan

Nicholas of Seagrave

Geoffrey de Lucy

How many of these men actually responded to the call to  seal the agreement we do not know, but what we do know is that they never acted as a body to oppose it. That for Henry was enough.  Inaction amounted to acceptance, acceptance of his recovery of power and the effective abrogation of the Provisions of Oxford.  Just to hammer home the point, on 11 December Henry sent envoys to the new pope Urban IV, asking him to renew his predecessor’s absolution from the oath to obey the Provisions,  Provisions which had been issued ‘manifestly to the depression and diminution of royal power’.

Only one man stood out  against this feeble acquiescence: Simon de Montfort.  According to the friendly and well informed annals of Dunstable priory, having heard that his erstwhile allies  had capitulated, ‘he left England, saying that he preferred to die without land than be a perjurer and depart from the truth’.  This was the defining moment in Simon’s career, the moment when he showed he was not as other men.  Unlike everyone else, he would not abandon the Provisions.  He would only return to England if they were resurrected. When he did return in 1263 it was to lead a movement which aimed to do just that.

The fine rolls continue to reflect the uncertainty of this period. Things were far from back to normal.  The fine rolls, like the other rolls of the chancery, continue to record business in a jumbled chronological order. The dearth of those  seeking the writs to pursue the common law legal actions continued. Only four such writs were purchased between  dated entries on 12 and 23 December. In one writ on the fine rolls, issued on 12 December,  Henry rewarded a man who, morally and materially, had been crucial to his recovery of power.  This was Philip Basset. Basset was  a wealthy and respected magnate. In the subsequent  civil war he was as defiant in defeat as he was magnanimous in victory. He refused to surrender at the battle of Lewes, and was captured covered in wounds. After Evesham, he did all he could to alleviate the lot of the disinherited. It was immensely important for Henry’s cause in 1261, that he had a man of this calibre on his side, and indeed could appoint him as justiciar, in effect the chief minister of his regime.  What made Basset’s stance all the more significant, was that years before, in 1233 he and his older brother, Gilbert Basset,  had joined Richard Marshal, earl of Pembroke’s rebellion against the crown. Philip then was no pliant,  unthinking loyalist. Henry’s concession on 12 December itself reached back to the events of 1233, since when Philip had succeeded Gilbert as lord of the Basset estates. Henry now pardoned Philip the £9 4s 4d owed for the farm of High Wycombe (a chief Basset manor held from the crown)  for the first part of the financial year 1232-3. The concession appears 6th from the bottom on the fine roll. The reason was that Gilbert had been unable to receive the money ‘because the king had taken [High Wycombe] into his hand at the aforesaid time by reason of the war waged between the king and Richard earl Marshal’. So, for the king. Philip’s loyalty in 1261 wiped away the last stain  disloyalty of 1233.  Philip would not have looked at it like that.  Rebellion in 1233 had been justified. In 1261 it was not.

Would Henry get to his palace and abbey at Westminster for a happy and peaceful Christmas?  Read subsequent blogs to find out.

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 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 17 April to Saturday 23 April 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

So to Easter week, the last week of Lent. In fine rolls terms it seems a week very much of business as usual with seventeen writs purchased to further common law litigation. This business was so routine that usually such purchases were listed, without any indication of their precise date, and indeed, only one is dated in this week, 18 April at The Tower of London. The fine rolls, therefore, often so informative, do not reveal the momentous change that this week saw in Henry’s situation.  After having been there since early February, he at last left the Tower of London. His destination was St Paul’s where doubtless he set up court in the house of the bishop of London. Henry,  therefore, had not gone far. Westminster he clearly still felt was insecure. How galling that must have been. Throughout the 1250s (if in England), he had always spent his Easters there, celebrating the great feast besides his patron saint, Edward the Confessor. One wonders, during his long sojourn at the Tower, whether Henry dared to slip down to Westminster to gain spiritual support from his hero.

Throughout this week Henry and his counsellors must have been planning and plotting. Immediately after Easter, as we will see, Henry was to make a far more dramatic move than that merely to St Pauls.  One decision was that Queen Eleanor would remain  behind there. Thus Henry wrote to the archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface of Savoy, telling him he should be satisfied with holding  the forthcoming ecclesiastical  council not at St Paul’s but in ‘our hall of Westminster the noblest place in our kingdom’.  This was because ‘our beloved queen is staying at St Paul’s’, which would make the appearance of a great multitude of people there completely inappropriate.  Another reason, Henry added, was that the city itself needed to be fortified ‘because…’. At this point the letter breaks off and in fact the record of it is cancelled. Perhaps Henry was able to discuss the venue of the council with Boniface by word of mouth. Had he written more,  Henry would doubtless  have described the political crisis which made the fortification of the city a necessity.