Posts Tagged ‘Eleanor of Provence’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 November to Saturday 25 November 1257 (and a contribution by Dr Richard Cassidy)

Monday, November 26th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Guildford castle. There was no great press of business and he  had time to plan  extensive improvements  to what had become one of his favourite residences.  On 25 November he ordered the sheriff of Surrey to carry out a whole series of works, works which, as he said,  he  had explained in more detail to ‘Master John the mason’. The John here was of Beverley who was also the master mason at Westminster abbey. We can imagine the two men walking over the castle together and discussing what needed to be done.

 

The works commissioned were as follows:

 

A door and a fireplace.

 

A saucer and a larder under one roof

 

A building to store brushwood.

 

The paving of the chapels and chambers of king and queen.

 

A stable between the hall and kitchen.

 

The blocking of the outer and inner doors of the chamber under the gallery and the making of a new door to enter it under the gallery from the wardrobe.

 

A small building for  warming the queen’s food.

 

A passage from the chamber of Edward, the king’s son, to the kitchens and another from the chaplains’ chamber to the kitchens.

 

Repair of the almonry.

 

One notes, of course, Henry’s concern for Queen Eleanor and Edward and his son and heir.

 

In terms of fine roll business, one item this week (no.80 in the translation) shows Henry carefully establishing the status of an heiress’s inheritance so that (although this is not stated explicitly) he  could observe the stipulations of Magna Carta. The Charter had laid down that  the ‘relief’  (that is inheritance tax) for anyone entering a barony should be £100 whereas that for a knight’s fee should only be £5.  On 21 November Henry took the homage of Thomas of Aldham. Thomas had married an heiress, Isabella, but the nature of her inheritance was unclear. Henry, therefore, ordered the exchequer to inquire, by examining its rolls, whether the inheritance  was held by barony or by knight service.  The exchequer was then to levy a relief accordingly.

 

Richard Cassidy writes:

 

The names of Thomas of Aldham and Isabella should have rung a bell with the Chancery clerks. Only a few years before, they had featured in the fine rolls and the close rolls: Isabella’s first husband was Ralph de Haya, who died in 1254; early in 1255, Isabella had married Thomas without licence, despite having taken an oath not to marry without the king’s consent, and the lands of both Isabella and Thomas were taken into the king’s hand (Close Rolls 1254-56, 40). In April 1255, Isabella fined 200 marks for licence to marry whomever she chose. The fine was assigned to Geoffrey de Lusignan, and when Isabella paid the first instalment, the sheriffs of Sussex, Lincolnshire, Somerset and Kent were ordered to restore Thomas and Isabella’s lands. Thomas and Isabella had paid the full fine by January 1256 (CFR 1254-55, no. 332; Close Rolls 1254-56, 67-8, 263).

 

The clerks could also have checked the inquisitions post mortem. The query in 1257 concerned lands which Isabella had inherited from her sister Margery, who had been married to William of Etchingham. William had died in 1253, and the inquisition then recorded that William held half the manor of Chiselborough, near Yeovil. He held this half as part of Margery’s inheritance, and it was held of the king in chief by barony. The other half of the manor was held by Ralph de Haya, by reason of his wife, Isabella (Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, I, no. 287). So the inquisition showed that the sisters shared a manor held as a barony. After Margery’s death Isabella was to hold the whole manor (among many other properties).

 

Margery’s executors, Robert le Poher and Osbert Huse, were given administration of her estate, and undertook to pay her debts to the king (E 368/33 m. 5d). The fine roll records that the sheriff and escheator of Somerset were ordered to give Thomas and Isabella full seisin of Margery’s lands. They seem to have exceeded their orders, by ejecting Robert le Poher from land in Chiselborough with which Margery had enfeoffed him (Close Rolls 1256-59, 213-4).

 

In the long run, Thomas and Isabella’s status as holders of a barony must have become plain. When Thomas died in 1275, the inquisition noted that he had held Chiselborough through Isabella, as her inheritance, and that she now held it of the king in chief by barony (Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, II, no. 193).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 November to Saturday 10 November 1257

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Henry’s itinerary for this week is revealed in the dating clauses of the writs enrolled on the fine rolls.

Henry began the week at Westminster and then went to Windsor.  In the fine roll business, one item stands out. This is the fine  (37 down in the above image and no.37 in the translation)  made by the baron, Peter de Maulay, lord of Doncaster and other lands in Yorkshire. Peter offered 60 marks (so £40) to be pardoned Henry’s indignation and rancour. He had incurred this through failing  either to muster personally or to send his due quota of knights to the king’s recent expedition to Wales. As a result, the sheriff of Yorkshire had been ordered to take his lands into the king’s hands. These were now to be restored to him.  Henry was arguably well within his rights in seizing Peter’s lands. After all,  Peter had failed in the most basic obligation of a baron, namely to provide the military service due from his barony.  It would be interesting to know, however, whether the seizure was ordered after some kind of ‘judgement by peers’ had been given against Peter. After all, Magna Carta had laid down that no one was to be disseised save by ‘the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land’.  If there was no judgement, was Henry covered by the ‘law of the land’, which might be thought to sanction seizure when there was so blatant and basic a failure to fulfil  obligations?  The episode shows the power of Henry’s kingship when he chose to exercise it, for Peter was brought to heel and forced to offer his fine of 60 marks. On the other hand, the amount was hardly very large and one can imagine King John being far more punitive.  Henry himself,  admittedly for very different offences, had been far more punitive himself  in his treatment, at this time,  of John de Balliol and Robert de Ros for which see the fine of the month for last August.

This was not the first time Peter de Maulay had been in trouble with the king.  In January 1254, while in Gascony, Henry had sent a furious letter home to the queen, his regent in England (Close Rolls 12534, p.295). This complained that Peter had come out to Gascony late, and then done more harm than good. Indeed, he had insulted the king to his face, and tried to undermined the allegiance of  ‘the faithful men of England’  by persuading them to return home. Having, nonetheless, been placed in charge of fifty knights,  forming the king’s body guard, Peter  had gone off  without leave, placing the king in great peril. The queen and the home government were, therefore, ordered to ‘pay him back as you think expedient’. Given the depth of Henry’s anger, this seems a fairly mind form of punishment, and perhaps voices were already being raised on Peter’s behalf.  In the event, the letter was not sent, and Peter was soon back in favour. The storm in 1257 seems similarly to have passed away. Peter remained loyal during the subsequent civil war.  There are signs he was in financial difficulties, which perhaps explain why, in November 1258, he leased Doncaster and other properties for ten years to Simon de Montfort (Cal.Patent Rolls 1258-66, p.5)  Perhaps  Peter did not find  the great earl an altogether congenial tenant.

Peter de Maulay’s father, Peter de Maulay I,  had been one of King John’s most notorious foreign imports.  The reputed murderer of Arthur, his marriage to the Doncaster heiress had been one of the episodes which lay behind Magna Carta’s stipulation that heirs should not be ‘disparaged’ by being married to someone of a lower social class.  Henry III’s allegation that Peter de Maulay II, in Gascony, had tried to undermine the allegiance of the ‘fideles Angliae’,  suggests that he was now fully accepted as one of their number. Peter de Maulays were to continue, one after the other, as lords of Doncaster all the way down to 1438. A great deal about Peter de  Maulay I, may be found in N. Vincent’s Peter des Roches and D.A. Carpenter’s Minority of Henry III.

About another person making a fine  this week, much is known, although we are now at the level not of the baronage, but of the country gentry. Again, as in so much else, there is a Magna Carta angle. In the fine 27 down in the above image, and 27 in the translation, Thomas de Hotot offered one mark of gold (worth 10 marks of silver) to be exempted from assizes, which meant essentially he did not have to appear on juries. Thomas was lord of Clopton in Northamptonshire, and other properties, many of them acquired by his father Richard. It was Thomas who put together and partly wrote a fascinating register which contains  a family history,  surveys of  land, and records of  acquisitions. The register shows how politically aware were gentry lords for it also contained a text of the 1225 Magna Carta and the 1217 charter of the forest, as well as the charters in which King John made the kingdom a papal fief. The register is printed in A Northamptonshire Miscellany, ed. E. King (Northamptonshire Record society, xxxii, 1983).  The fine itself to be exempted from juries adds a little to our picture of Thomas’s world.  He had to come (or send) twice to court in connection with it.  The initial fine was made on 4 November 1257 at Westminster, while payment, (as a note  added to the fine shows)  was made to Peter de Rivallis, keeper of the wardrobe, at Windsor in the following January. It is a testimony to the business sense we see in the register, that Thomas paid in the whole of the one mark of gold in January, although only half was due then, the other half being due at Easter.

Thomas’s fine of gold shows that Henry was still trying to build up a gold treasure to finance the army which would help him conquer Sicily, a vain ambition if ever there was one, for which see the fine of the month for February 2012.

The ambition had recently become even vainer  because, while Henry was still receiving gold for his treasure, he was also spending it at a far quicker rate.  He had no alternative given his financial problems.  In order to spend it, Henry came up with a brilliant idea or so he thought. He would turn his treasure into his own gold coinage, the first minted in England since the Norman Conquest. The gold coin weighed two silver pennies,  and thus was worth twenty pence of silver. Unfortunately, the new coinage proved extremely unpopular.  In response, on Sunday 4 November, Henry summoned the mayor and citizens of London to come before him at the exchequer. He charged them on their allegiance to say if the new coinage was ‘of value for the common benefit of the kingdom or not’. The answer was that it was not!  This was partly because it was irrelevant for poor people whose total wealth was not worth one gold penny. It was also because (and here the goldsmith lobby spoke) because the sudden appearance of so much gold, as the king broke into his treasure to pay his expenses, was bringing down the value of the metal.  Henry, defiant, said he still wished the coinage to run, but it was not a success, which is why so few of his gold coins survive, making it the most valuable British coin at auction. The penny shows Henry sitting elegantly on his throne, crowned and holding orb and sceptre. As so often in Henry’s kingship, there was a glaring contrast between image and reality.

For an image of one of the coins, click here.

 

 

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 July to Saturday 28 July 1257

Friday, July 27th, 2012

King Henry’s itinerary in these two week can be followed in the fine rolls.  Down to 20 July he is found at Woodstock. On 24 July he is at Coventry and on 29 July at Lichfield. For the membrane covering the period, click here.

Henry was on his way to Chester to meet the army he had summoned for his campaign against Llywelyn. Preparations were now in full swing.  On 18 July 100 good archers were summoned from Sussex and a 100 good lancers from Northamptonshire. There was, however,  an important change of plan. On 13 July Llywelyn had attacked Richard de Clare’s lordship of Glamorgan.  The result was that on 18 July Henry decided to split his army and place a substantial force in south Wales under Richard’s command. Henry was also anxious on another front, one he had very much to heart. There was more trouble in Scotland where factional disputes were threatening the peace of the young king Alexander, who was married to Henry’s cherished daughter Margaret. On 20 July Henry sent envoys to Scotland to try and settle the disputes.  On the same day we find that Queen Eleanor was on her way to stay at Nottingham. This journey, hitherto unexplained, was almost certainly connected with events in Scotland. Eleanor felt as strongly about the welfare of Alexander and Margaret as did Henry. In 1255, when they had been under threat before, she had gone all the way to Scotland with Henry to effect their rescue. On that occasion, Henry and Eleanor had broken their journey at Nottingham. This year, Eleanor probably saw it as a base from which, if necessary, she could go further north. In fact, Eleanor did not stay at Nottingham long, although the  windows of her apartments there had been glassed, and the walls  wainscoted, plastered and adorned with a painting of the story of Alexander. She found the air not to her taste (an issue on which she was always sensitive) and moved to  the Ferrers castle of Tutbury, which was then, through a wardship,  in her own hands.

The fine rolls in these two weeks, show the usual common law business holding up well  with twenty-two writs being purchased to initiate or further legal actions. There is, as usual, a wide variety of other business. On 20 July at Woodstock, Henry, allowed Agnes, the widow of Stephen Bauzan, whose death at the hands of the Welsh had triggered the campaign, to have the royal manor of Wooton in Oxfordshire for six years, a nice act of compassion.  At Coventry, on 24 July, the ex sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire, Robert de Grendon, was allowed to pay off his arrears, which amounted to £484, at £20 a year.  How had he run up such a large deficit and why had he been allowed to do so? It would be interesting to research these questions, which could be posed concerning several other sheriffs at this time. There was also an important fine made by the Jewish community. Elyas Bishop, a London Jew, had just been removed from his position as ‘priest of the community of Jews of England’ for having allegedly tried to defraud Henry III’s brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and now, of course, king of Germany.  Despite its title, the position of ‘priest’ or ‘archpriest’ was a secular office held under the crown, the holder being responsible for carrying out the king’s orders with respect to the Jewry. Now Elyas’s brothers, Cress and Hagin, on behalf of the Jewish  community, offered the king three marks of gold (so the equivalent of thirty marks of silver) to ensure that Elyas never recovered the office and that henceforth the priest should be appointed by ‘common election of the aforesaid community’. It is interesting to see how the idea of that royal officials should be elected was embraced by the Jewish community just as much as it was by the Christian. It might seem strange that Henry III gave way to the request that the priest be elected,  but it had one great advantage.  If the priest was elected by the community, then the community could be penalised for his misdemeanours. Parliament’s demand to elect the king’s chief ministers, which Henry consistently rejected, was a rather different matter. For the fine, see nineteen from top on the membrane. The marginal note says the fine was by the community of the Jews of London, but the body of the fine makes clear it was by the community of the Jews of England.

Next week on to Chester.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 3 June to Saturday 16 June 1257

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

King Henry III spent these two weeks at Westminster. He had, so Matthew Paris tells us, fallen ill.  He continued to grieve over  the death of his daughter Katherine, and he was anxious about Queen Eleanor, who lying sick at Windsor.  There were also, so  Paris thought,  two political problems which depressed Henry’s health. One was the state of the Sicilian project, which seemed to be existing on borrowed time, given that the deadline for paying all the money owed the pope and despatching an army to Italy had expired the previous Michaelmas. Henry, as we have seen in earlier blogs, had thought of pulling out altogether but had then unwisely decided to continue. In these weeks, there were earnest discussions about sending Peter of Savoy, Simon de Montfort and the bishop of Worcester (all now present at court), on an important diplomatic mission. They were to go first to France to push on the negotiations for a permanent peace, and then proceed to the papal court to seek alleviation of the Sicilian terms.  On 15 June Henry took out a huge loan of 20,000 marks (£13,333) from Florentine merchants, half of which was to support his envoys at the papal court.

The other political problem centred on the situation in Wales.  What had previously been a distraction  had now become a disaster. Earlier in the year the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, had attacked Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn and Gruffudd of Bromfield, the native rulers of Powys and Henry’s allies. On 16 June Henry granted them lands in England as compensation for their losses.  Up till now, however, Henry had hoped that Edward, his son and heir, as lord of Chester, and the royal lands in Wales, would be able to deal with the situation himself. This was no longer the case. On Saturday 2 June a substantial force, commanded by  Edward’s lieutenant, the  trusted knight, Stephen Bauzan, was massacred in South Wales. On 18 June Henry made a concession to Stephen’s widow.  He also began to contemplate summoning an army and  going to  Wales himself.

The fine roll business in these two weeks is interesting, although it can have given Henry little comfort. The fines  of gold from which he hoped to amass his gold treasure to fund his Sicilian army, were still coming in, but hardly at a pace to alter the  situation. Henry had no reserves to speak of,  as the great Florentine loan taken out this week showed.  At least the king’s justice was in demand. Indeed in these two weeks no less than 54 writs were purchased to initiate or further legal actions according to the common law. 

For the membrane covering this week, click here.

What was going to happen in Wales? Would Henry have to go there? What would the effect be on fine rolls business? Read future blogs to find out!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 29 April to Saturday 5 May 1257

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

For Henry III and Queen Eleanor, this was a week of tragedy. Around 3 May, their daughter Katherine died. She had been born in 1254 and was, so Matthew Paris tells us, ‘mute and incapable but very beautiful in face’. Henry was deeply attached to this his last child.  He had ordered a silver image of her to be put up on the shrine of Edward the Confessor at Westminster, when she was ill in 1256. A few days later he gave a present of  ‘a good robe’  to the queen’s  messenger  who arrived with the ‘good news’ of her recovery.  It is highly likely that Katherine died at Windsor, for there the queen had always been based with her children. If so, Henry was probably present since on or shortly before 29 April he had arrived at Windsor from Merton priory.  Curiously enough, he seems to have left immediately after Katherine’s demise for on 3 May he was at Chertsey and on 5 May back at Merton. He stayed there till 14 May, when he returned to Westminster both for Katherine’s burial in the Abbey, and the feast of Pentecost.  Whether the queen accompanied Henry to Merton is doubtful. According to Matthew Paris, she was utterly devastated by her daughter’s death, and wasted away in bed at Windsor, seemingly beyond the help of doctors.  Absence, however, did not weaken the bond between king and queen. When Henry himself fell ill towards the end of the month, worry over the queen and grief over his daughter were, according to Paris, contributory factors. When a decade later, Henry commissioned the splendid retable for the High Altar of Westminster abbey, one of the miracles depicted was Christ raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead.  Included in the scene, standing over his daughter, is Jairus himself, and behind Jairus, with her arms around him, is Jairus’s wife (the figure now largely lost). Is this how Henry and Eleanor stood grieving over Katherine? The scene on the Retable was deeply personal. Christ had not raised their daughter from the dead, but he could certainly raise her now into the life hereafter.

 For the retable, although not alas with a detailed shot of the miracle in question, click here.

After this tragedy, one scarcely has the heart to turn to fine rolls business, yet again this is an interesting week.   When he arrived at Windsor, Henry conceded easier terms on which the master and brethren of the hospital of Dover could repay their debts.  He did this ‘moved by charity’ and to sustain their work. Was this pious act a way of seeking God’s favour in Katherine’s illness?  Henry also took steps to see the queen got her financial cut from the money offered him in fines. The rolls continue to reveal the consequences of the campaign to get those with incomes of £15 a year and upwards either to take up knighthood, or, which was more the aim, to make fines in gold to be exempted from doing so.  In this week, the ex sheriff of Warwickshire-Leicestershire, William Mansel, had to make two fines of half a mark of gold because inquiries, paid for by the victims, had shown he  had wrongly returned two men as liable for knighthood,  when their incomes from land were actually  worth  only £5 and £7 10s. One cannot help feeling the sheriffs were being damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. On the one hand, they were being punished for carrying out the measure too rigorously and on the other for not doing it rigorously enough!

For the image of the membrane covering this week, click here. For Henry back at Merton, read next week’s blog.

Lampreys

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Lampreys were the favourite fish of Henry III and Queen Eleanor, judging at least from a statement in a letter close that they found all other fish ‘insipid’. Lampreys were particularly caught in the Severn at Gloucester. For the men of Gloucester offering lampreys for a concession see Cal. Fine Rolls 1233-4, no.74.

In the KCL MA course on Magna Carta, there was some discussion of lampreys and what they looked like. Claire fitzGerald with praiseworthy initiative followed this up and as these images show brought one in for us to see. The image was taken by Richard de Renzy Channer also of the MA.

Henry III and the Sicilian Affair

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

David Carpenter writes…

I have had a most interesting letter from Margaret Howell about my fine of the month on Henry III and the Sicilian affair.  She observes  that it was Huw Ridgeway, in his doctoral thesis, who  first grasped the centrality of Henry III’s Savoyard kinsmen  to the project. She points this out on p.132 of her Eleanor of Provence. Margaret also thinks I have under-estimated the role of the Savoyards in the second phase of the project initiated by Pope Alexander IV in 1255. She notes in particular the way Henry III, in June 1255, commissioned Thomas of Savoy, Peter of Savoy and Philip of Savoy, bishop elect of Lyons, to recruit knights for his service.  I am sure Margaret is right about this.  However, I am still struck  by the way neither Thomas nor Peter of Savoy seem to have been involved with either negotiating or accepting the deal  of 1255.  They must surely have  regarded it as very unfortunate, for themselves as much as for the king.  Essentially,  the terms meant the Savoyards would never have the resources to recruit an  army to intervene in Sicily on Henry’s behalf.  Henry could ask them to retain knights as much as he liked, but he had no money with which they could do it.

Huw Ridgeway’s thesis is ‘The politics of the English royal court 1247-1265 with special reference to the role of the aliens’ (University of Oxford, 1983).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 February to Saturday 10 March 1257

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Henry III began the week commencing Sunday 25 February at Windsor.  He had to be back at Westminster by 18 March for the opening of the great parliament which would make crucial decisions about the Sicilian affair and  say good bye to Richard of Cornwall before his departure for Germany.  To fill in the intervening period, there was just time for a short tour.  Henry left Windsor on Friday 2 March and stayed over night at  the house of Henry de Bohun at Amersham.  On the evening  of the next day,  Saturday 3 March he reached St Albans abbey where he remained until the ninth. Then Henry moved on to Hertford to be entertained by his half brother, William de Valence, to whom he had given Hertford castle. After that,  Henry progressed  to Waltham abbey where he stayed from  11 to 14 March  before returning to Westminster for the parliament.

There were several reasons for this tour. One was that there was sickness at Windsor.  Queen Eleanor was ill there, as were several young nobles, including Nicholas of Seagrave, who were being brought up at  court.  Another reason was spiritual. Henry was on a  pilgrimage. He could pray for help at the forthcoming parliament before the shrine of England’s proto-martyr Alban and before Waltham’s famous Holy Cross. And there was a financial motive.  Henry was doing all he could to save money for the Sicilian affair.   What better way to reduce the costs of his daily expenditure on food and drink than by accepting the hospitality of his nobles and even more, for they could put him up for longer, of England’s  great religious houses.  Henry’s exploitation of religious houses in this way was one of the complaints made against him by churchmen in the 1250s. He was, however, aware that not everyone had their resources, and was good enough to send Henry de Bohun a cask of wine to compensate for what had been consumed at Amersham

Matthew Paris gives a wonderful picture of Henry’s visit to St Albans.  He makes no complaint about it, although Henry stayed for a week and  brought with him two of his unpopular Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, as well as his Savoyard steward, Imbert Pugeis, and another foreign relative, William de Chabanais. But then Henry’s conduct was so completely right. He offered at the great altar a ‘most noble necklace with two clasp and a cross chain’  and at the altars of St Alban and St Amphibalis most noble rings. He also gave a silver gilt cup to hold the dust found in  the recently discovered original tomb of St Alban and as well as six silken cloths, of which one was to cover the tomb and another the tombs of the hermits Roger and Sigard. Henry also gave money for work on the St Alban’s feretory.  During this visit, Matthew Paris, so he tells us, was continually with the king  at his table and in his chamber.  Henry indeed, ‘directing amicably and diligently the pen of the writer’, named for Paris the princes who had just elected Richard as king of Germany. He also named the sainted kings of England and then ran through all the English baronies he could remember of which he found there were 250.  Paris also captures Henry dealing with business.  Certain masters of the University of Oxford came before him in the chapel of Saint Oswin and made a complaint about the jurisdictional  claims of  bishop of Lincoln. They were given a day for their case to be heard at the forthcoming ‘great parliament’.  Matthew Paris added his two penny worth. He told the king  ‘secretly’ how  ruin would threaten the whole church if the  University of Oxford should now suffer the same fate as the currently troubled University of Paris. Henry showed suitable  alarm. ‘Let this not happen, especially in my time’. One is so used to Paris’s diatribes against Henry III, that it is good to be reminded of a totally different side to the their relationship.  On a visit like this to a great monastery, Henry could display a charming  combination of respectful piety, friendly accessibility and proper concern.

The fine rolls in these two weeks reflect Henry’s efforts to raise money. At Windsor on 28 February he arranged for wood to be sold from the royal forests, hoping this would raise 3000 or 4000 marks.  The fines of gold, designed to provide the treasure for the Sicilian army, continued  to come in. There were eleven in these two weeks worth some nine marks of gold, the equivalent of 90 marks of silver. In addition the abbot of Croxton, at St Albans on 5 March, offered 60 marks silver for the purchase of gold to secure the king’s confirmation of gift of land.  Henry added a further concession ‘for the sake of the heart of King John’, which was buried at the abbey. The rolls  give a perfect example of how Magna Carta had restricted royal income. On 2 March at Windsor, Henry de Blendet did homage to the king for his father’s lands.  The relief or inheritance tax he had to pay was £5. Since he held one knight’s fee from the king this was strictly in accord with Magna Carta. It was  restrictions such as these which made the king so dependent on taxation which only parliament could grant. Hence the importance of the approaching meeting.

On the membrane covering this period, the entry for the sale of wood is 10 down, the relief of Henry de Blendet is fourteen down, and for the king at St Albans on 5 March, see sixteen down.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 February to Saturday 24 February 1257

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

At the start of this week, or possibly at the end of last, Henry moved from Westminster to Windsor, going by way of Merton priory in Surrey.  On Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, his Lenten fast began, which at the very least must have meant a fish diet.   Henry  remained pre-occupied by the Sicilian project, the project that is to place Edmund, his second son, on the throne of Sicily.  In this week he gave 100 marks for the support of  Henry, the brother of the king of Castile. Henry was in England and being canvassed  as the man who might lead the army to conquer Sicily from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler. In this week, King  Henry also appointed Simon de Montfort  as his ambassador to negotiate a peace with the king of France. This too was linked to the Sicilian project since, without such a peace, a passage of an English army through France on its way to Sicily would never be permitted.  Montfort was at court at Windsor during the week and, preparatory to his mission, gained permission both to make his will and to receive his inheritance in France if the king of France would grant it to him.

It is a curious week for the fine rolls because between 16 and 26 February only six items of business were enrolled upon them.  Since a new membrane was started in the course of the week and an old one finished, one wonders whether some business was lost in the transition. By far the most striking entry – the last in the image above – concerned Amice countess of Devon. On 19 February the king made her a life grant of the royal manor of Melksham in Wiltshire in return for the traditional annual payment or farm of  a little over £48. This was a generous concession because when Melksham had been valued  in 1250 its farm had been set at £140. (See CFR 1250-1, no.1107).  Amice  was a woman of the highest status.  She was the daughter of Gilbert de Clare earl of Gloucester and his wife, Isabel,  daughter of the great William Marshal, earl of Pembroke. She was the widow of Baldwin de Redvers, earl of Devon, who had died in 1245. Since then she  had resisted pressure to take a second husband. Amice was protected by Magna Carta which laid down that no widow could be made re-marry.  She was also protected by her close relationship with Queen Eleanor and her party of Savoyards. In this year,  Amice’s son and heir,  Baldwin, was to marry a daughter of the queen’s uncle Thomas of Savoy.  The gift of Melksham to Amice was made at Windsor, Eleanor’s chief base. Almost certainly she had a hand in it, as perhaps did Peter of Savoy, who was also at court this week. Doubtless Amice was there too, as she had been at the start of January, when she received a new year’s gift of  six deer from the king.  Queen Eleanor continued to keep her eye on Melksham. In 1258,  the £48 annual farm was used to support her lady Willelma, ‘who from the childhood of the queen has served her and now, wearied in that service and worn out by old age and sickness, does not wish to follow the queen, but proposes for her better quiet  to dwell in the abbey of Lacock or some other religious house’. (See p.105 of Margaret Howell’s, Eleanor of Provence).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 February to Saturday 10 February 1257

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

This week’s blog needs to begin with a small correction. The blog for last week stated that Henry spent the whole of that week at Windsor. I was relying here on the Itinerary of Henry III, prepared by Theodore Craib of the Public Record Office,  as found in the later edition put together by English Heritage. I failed to notice  that the latter has a mistake and gives as Henry’s itinerary for February what is in fact his itinerary for March, leaving out February altogether.  As is actually clear from the fine rolls, during the week of 28 January-3 February, Henry left Windsor and returned to Westminster.

Henry spent the whole of the week  from 4 to 10 February at Westminster.  The fine rolls show his continuing efforts to build up his gold treasure to fund the campaign to place his second son on the throne of Sicily. In this week, there were thirteen  fines made in gold, of which eight  were connected with exemptions from knighthood. The most valuable fine was produced by an alliance planned between two noble houses. On Friday 9 February, Edmund de Lacy, heir to the earldom of Lincoln,  fined in ten marks of gold (the equivalent of 100 marks of silver) for permission to marry  Henry, his son and heir,  to the eldest daughter and heir of William Longespee.  As a  result of this marriage, Henry, who was to be a leading counsellor  of King Edward I,  ultimately  became  earl of Salisbury as well as earl of Lincoln.  It might be wondered why this marriage was not snapped up by one of Henry III’s foreign relations, who dominated the court in this week. On 4 February a royal charter was witnessed by three of the king’s Poitevin half brothers (Guy and Geoffrey de Lusignan and William de Valence), by the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, by two other Savoyard ministers, and not a single English magnate. The answer was that Edmund de Lacy was already part of the Savoyard circle because his wife, through the brokerage of Peter of Savoy, was Alice, daughter of the marquis of Saluzzo in North Italy and his Savoyard bride. Edmund’s mother, moreover, Margaret de Lacy, countess of Lincoln, who had played a key part in negotiating Henry’s marriage to the Longespee heiress, was  close to Queen Eleanor, as Louise Wilkinson has shown in an article about her in Historical Research.

For the image of Edmund de Lacy’s fine, count up twenty-nine entries from the bottom of the membrane on the fine roll, and see no.416 in the calendar.

Saving hard for Sicily, and hoping to accompany his brother Richard to Germany for his coronation as king of the Romans, the last thing Henry  wanted was trouble in Wales.  Yet he could no longer ignore the insurgency of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. On 10 February he issued letters of safe conduct to Llywelyn’s envoys to come and see Richard, who hoped (as Matthew Paris noted) to persuade the Welsh prince to keep quiet so as not to interfere with his departure from the kingdom. Some hope! Henry himself had done little since the start of the year to meet his growing problems. Next week’s blog will at last show him taking action.