Posts Tagged ‘exchequer’

Sunday 30 November 1264: a change of plan

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

This week saw a change of plan, apparently related to the need to confront the growing disorder in the Marches of Wales. The king changed course, and rather than going to Northampton, he instead instead travelled from St Albans, via Dunstable, to Oxford, closer to the troubles in the west. Earls, barons and knights had been commanded to meet at Northampton on 25 November, but were now to join the king at Oxford with all speed; Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, was going to Northampton to explain the new instructions to those who turned up there as originally intended. Having reached Oxford, the king issued yet another safe conduct for the marchers such as Roger Mortimer and James of Audley to come and join him. (CPR 1258-66, 389-90)

This sudden change of direction meant that the sheriff of Oxfordshire, John de St Valery, had to make preparations for the king’s arrival, rather than going to Westminster for the audit of his accounts. The audit, to cover the Exchequer year which had ended at Michaelmas, had been scheduled for 26 November; St Valery had been sheriff, appointed by the new regime after Lewes, for the last quarter of the year. The Exchequer intended to amerce the sheriff for his failure to appear, at the standard rate of 100s. per day for the first three days and at will for any further delay. It was hardly St Valery’s fault that he was detained at Oxford, and the king instructed the barons of the Exchequer not to punish the sheriff. They were to defer the audit until 14 January. The audit kept being put back, and St Valery eventually presented his accounts for the last quarter of 1263-64 on 13 April 1265. (Close Rolls 1264-68, 4; E 368/39 m. 24, 4, 23)

Dunstable priory in 1730

Dunstable priory in 1730

While the court was on its travels, the government continued to use the resources of the royal forests as a means of rewarding the king’s servants, and supporting religious institutions. At Dunstable on 24 November, orders were sent out for two gifts from the forests. The king’s cook, Henry Wade, was given an assart in Windsor forest, for him and his heirs to cultivate in perpetuity. He was also given the timber and underwood in the assart. The Dominican friars of Dunstable were given fifteen oaks from Barnwood forest. This gift could well have reflected the personal interests of Henry III, rather than those who governed in his name. The friary at Dunstable had been set up in 1259, at the invitation of the king and queen; it was greatly resented by the existing Augustinian priory in the town, the annals of which say that the friars entered the town against the Augustinians’ will, by great effort and deceit. A few days later, the forests were used again for a royal gift, but this one surely showed the growing influence of the de Montfort family, and could hardly have been in line with Henry’s wishes: Guy de Montfort was to be given sixteen of the king’s deer from Rutland forest, in order to stock his own park. (Close Rolls 1264-68, 4-5; Ann Mon, III, 213; VCH, Bedfordshire, I)

Sunday 9 November 1264: the Exchequer and Pevensey

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

The court spent this week at St Paul’s. There were plans to go to Northampton: the sheriff was ordered to repair the buildings of Northampton castle before the king’s arrival, as they were in danger of falling down. (CLR 1260-67, 147)

The Exchequer was operating relatively normally, having recovered from its closure in the spring of 1264, and at last had a permanent head. Roger de la Legh had been acting treasurer since November 1263, combining this post with being chancellor of the exchequer; he had been re-appointed acting treasurer by the baronial council at the beginning of Michaelmas term. On 3 November, the bishop of London and Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, presented to the barons of the Exchequer the new treasurer, Henry, prior of St Radegund’s (an abbey in Bradsole, Kent). Henry had previously held office between July and November 1263, when de Montfort was briefly in charge of the government, so may have been seen as a supporter of the baronial cause; he only remained in office until the summer of 1265, when the royalists returned to power. (E 368/39 m. 3d; Treharne, Baronial Plan, 330)

The normal business of the Exchequer was continuing. During this week, the accounts for Hampshire for 1263-64 were audited. The two sheriffs who had held office during the year owed £46, which they were to pay in January, together with a further £74 which they had not collected, but could collect. (E 368/39 m. 18-9) The Exchequer was also the site for the ceremony of the mayor of London taking his oath of office. Usually, this was a formality, but in 1263 the elected mayor, Thomas fitz Thomas, had not been admitted to office. Fitz Thomas was the populist mayor who had overthrown the traditional authority of the city magnates, represented by the aldermen. This year, the citizens of London came before the king, sitting in the Exchequer, and presented fitz Thomas as mayor; he was admitted and took the oath. (E 368/39 m. 2d, which confusingly calls the mayor Thomas fitz Richard; Cronica Maiorum, 70)

Although the threat of invasion had diminished, military operations continued against the royalists still resisting within England. Simon de Montfort junior was still besieging Pevensey castle, where royalists had held out since their escape there after the battle of Lewes. This was an expensive business, and Simon junior was to receive £800 from the bishop of Winchester, in part payment of his expenses. (CPR 1258-66, 386; CLR 1260-67, 145)

Sunday 13 July 1264: marchers, manors, and mines

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

The government continued to try to impose its authority over royalist magnates. The bishop of Worcester was sent to the March to offer safe conduct for a group of marcher lords such as Roger Mortimer to come to London. The royalists holding Pevensey castle, and the northern barons such as John Balliol and Adam of Jesmond, were also summoned to speak to the king. These overtures were fruitless, as usual. Gilbert de Clare continued to accumulate the spoils of backing the winning side. He was given custody of Peter of Savoy’s lands, including Richmond castle. On the other hand, Clare was instructed to hand over the manors of the bishop of Hereford which he had seized; the government had committed the bishopric to two canons of Hereford, in the absence of the royalist bishop, who had fled to France. The process of distributing the economic and strategic prizes of victory also included Devizes and Oxford castles for Hugh Despenser, Colchester castle for Nicholas Spigurnel, and Scarborough castle for Henry of Hastings. In some cases, the new castellans might find that the royalist incumbents were unwilling to hand over these strongholds. (CPR 1258-66, 332-6)

The government wrote in the king’s name to Louis of France on 6 and 10 July, pointing out that they still awaited a French response to the proposals for arbitration set out in the mise of Lewes. The letters included mentions of the royal hostages, lord Edward and Henry of Almain, presumably intended to spur Louis into action, but received no answer. (Close Rolls 1261-64, 389-91)

Government finance continued to have the air of improvization, although there was at last some sign of the Exchequer resuming activity. The barons of the Exchequer were told that Roger de Legh was managing Exchequer business, and would therefore be unable to continue as one of the wardens of the exchanges. Revenue from the exchanges was used to cover current expenditure, such as the building works at Westminster. The exchanges were also to provide the cash for the king’s alms for the monks of Pontigny – this cash usually came from the farm of Canterbury, but the 20 marks for the Easter payment had been “borrowed” from the bailiffs of Canterbury when the king and de Montfort were making their way though Kent after Lewes.  Other income, such as manorial revenues, seems to have been channelled through the Wardrobe. There is evidence of a search for income from an unusual source in a writ to the sheriff of Devon of 8 July. The king was sending Walter of Hamburg and other German miners to Devon to mine copper, silver, gold and lead. The sheriff was to pay their wages and expenses. (CLR 1260-67, 136-8; Close Rolls 1261-64, 349-50)

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 November to Saturday 8 December 1257

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

King Henry remained at Guildford until around 26 November and then returned to Westminster, where he was to remain till early January. Henry had intended during this time to visit his castle at Marlborough, and then to celebrate Christmas at Winchester, as he often did.  Urgent business, however, as he explained, kept him instead at Westminster. He was anxiously awaiting the return of envoys sent to the pope. Would they bring news that the Holy Father had modified the terms of the Sicilian business so that it could be pursued with some hope of success?  Henry was also arranging the despatch of a high powered delegation (including Simon de Montfort) to the king of France in the hope of advancing the peace negotiations and thus making it all the more possible to concentrate on Sicily. And then too  Henry was becoming  worried about events in Scotland, where  the young King Alexander was married to his daughter.  Would Henry have to go north, as he had in 1255, to rescue the royal couple from their enemies?

It must have been a relief for Henry to turn from these great matters to the comforting business of the fine rolls. During these two week, around twenty four people came to court to purchase the writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. Henry’s justice remained in demand.  One item on the rolls particularly stands out and will be commented on here. It bears on both the administrative processes and rituals of Henry’s kingship. It also shows how difficult it can be to capture the sense of an entry when translating it from Latin into English.

The entry is no.105 in the translation (forty-four entries down in the image) and appears as follows.

105

6 Dec. Westminster. For the burgesses of Bridgnorth. On Tuesday next after St. Andrew the Apostle in the forty-second year, the burgesses of Bridgnorth paid 25 m. in the king’s Wardrobe to Peter de Rivallis, keeper of the same Wardrobe, which remained to be rendered of the fine of 50 m. which they made with him a short while ago for having liberties, and, on the aforesaid day, they paid into the same Wardrobe the 10 m. which they had promised for their good coming to the king when he had last been at Bridgnorth. Order to the sheriff of Shropshire to cause the same burgesses to be quit from the aforesaid 35 m.

This entry is not in the originalia roll.

The feast of Andrew the Apostle was 30 November and the following Tuesday in 1258, when the payment was made into the wardrobe, was 4 December. The 6 December date at the head of the translation is that of the writ to the sheriff of Shropshire referred to at the end of the entry. Throughout the fine rolls it is these writs to  officials which actually give the dates to the entries.   The fine of 50 marks, which the burgesses made with the king, is not recorded on the fine rolls. It may be that the full way it was now recorded  was to make up for that lack. The fine was evidently made on 21-22 September 1257 when Henry passed through Bridgnorth on his way home from his campaign in Wales.  A couple of days later, now at Worcester, Henry issued a letter patent granting the ‘bailiffs and good men’ of Bridgnorth the right to take ‘murage’ for another three years, ‘murage’ being a toll whose revenues were devoted to works on the walls of the town. Perhaps this was the concession for which the men offered the king 50 marks, or  perhaps there were other ‘liberties’, building on an earlier charter of 1227, of which there seem to be no record.

From the administrative point of view, what is interesting is the way the whole business of the Bridgnorth debt was controlled by the wardrobe and chancery, travelling with the king, rather than, as would have been normal,  by the exchequer at Westminster.  At the end of the entry there is the statement,  provided by the editors of the fine roll,  ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. This means that no information about the fine and its payment was  sent to the exchequer, the originalia roll being the copy of the fine  roll despatched to the exchequer so that it knew what money to collect. As a result there is no entry for this debt on the pipe roll, the exchequer’s annual audit of  the money it was demanding for the  crown.  Instead, the only record of the existence  of the debt (apart from that on the wardrobe receipt roll) was that given here on the fine roll.   It is likewise the chancery writ, not the exchequer, which tells the sheriff that the burgesses are quit. The handling of the Bridgnorth debt was typical of many other debts at this time. Large numbers of fines between 1255 and 1257 – for  example for town liberties (as here)  and exemption from knighthood – were treated in the same way. There was no ‘constitutional’ reason for Henry bypassing the exchequer. Under its treasurer, Philip Lovel,  it was never less than under his  control.  The point was that Henry just got his money in more quickly and simply if he had such fines paid in directly to his wardrobe. Nonetheless the reformers in 1258 thought the king’s finances would be run  more responsibly if all the revenues were routed through the exchequer, a subject discussed in Richard Cassidy’s fine of the month .

The great majority of the fines paid into the wardrobe were in gold, or were in silver earmarked to buy gold, and were thus part of Henry’s campaign to build up a gold treasure to fund his Sicilian army. Another reason for making this a wardrobe treasure was that Henry could see the gold accumulating  before his eyes.  What a joy it must have been. By the autumn of 1257, however, as we have seen in previous blogs, the enterprise was beginning  to falter. Henry was having to spend his gold treasure, minting his wonderful gold penny in order to do so. The fact that the Bridgnorth fine was not in gold, or in silver earmarked to buy gold, may reflect this situation.  Henry had not quite given up, however, and these two weeks see two more fines of gold (nos.97, 102).

During the king’s visit in September 1257, the burgesses of Bridgnorth did not merely offer 50 mark for liberties. They also promised 10 marks ‘for their good coming to the king’. The Latin here, as one can see from the image, is ‘pro bono adventuo suo’. When the final checked and corrected version of the translation is put up, this passage will be altered since the ‘good coming’ is that of the king, not the burgesses. They are offering 10 marks ‘for his good coming’.  But does ‘good coming’, or ‘good arrival’ or ‘good advent’ quite capture the sense of what is happening?  At the very least, it sounds odd in modern English, and is another reason why we hope to provide the project with glossary.   What, of course, the burgesses were  giving, or in this case, promising Henry was a welcome present, one which demonstrated their loyalty, affection, and joy at his arrival. The present was designed to make his arrival ‘good’ for him, and also (in the benefits which might flow) ‘good’ for them.  In some circumstances, for example when the king was returning from overseas, there might also, wrapped up in the ‘good’, be joy at the king’s ‘safe’ arrival, and perhaps there was an element of that here too, given the hazards of the recent campaign in Wales.  Normally, we have no record of such gifts, because they were paid cash down into the wardrobe. It is only here, because the burgesses had exhausted (or so they must have said), their ready money in coming up with the initial 25 marks for their liberties, that we know about it. Such gifts, of course, in cash or precious  objects, were integral to Henry’s kingship, as they were to that of other kings. They were made, as here, by individual towns and, on a much grander and more organized scale, by the assembled great and good of the realm, on the king’s arrival back in his kingdom. They were also accompanied by other rituals, notably welcome processions of a town’s clergy and people. When the king rode up from Windsor to Westminster,  the custom was for the mayor and citizens of London to go out and meet him at Knightsbridge. They knew they were out of favour when he refused to meet them.

In such arrivals, the giving was not all one way. Quite the reverse. Henry himself might mark his coming by feeding paupers over and above his standard 100 a day, or 150 a day if the queen was with him, as she was at Bridgnorth.  He would also visit the religious establishments of the town and shower them with gifts.  At Bridgnorth, Henry  gave nine  ‘good oaks’ for work on the churches of the  Franciscan friars and  the hospital of Saint John, and another five good oaks to the canons of Bridgnorth chapel for the  repair of their chancel and stalls. His visit also brought other work to the town. On 21 September, probably the day of his arrival, he ordered  his chamber in the castle and that of the queen to be wainscoted, while the queen’s chamber was also to have  new windows and a fireplace.  On 25 September, having left Bridgnorth and arrived at Worcester, Henry ordered ten oaks to be sent to ‘the upstanding men of Bridgnorth’, as a ‘gift of the king’, to help with repairing the town gates. The visit, therefore,  had been a success. Henry’s ‘good oaks’, he doubtless hoped, would  be a perpetual memory to his piety and generosity in Bridgnorth and his concern for the security of this royal town.

The kind of ‘good arrival’, we glimpse here at Bridgnorth, must have been repeated thousands of times over during Henry’s reign. Such reciprocal rituals could  bind king and realm together.  But it did not always work like that.  Accounts in chroniclers make very plain that donors sometimes resented having to give such presents, just as the king resented it if he deemed the presents inadequate. The ritual could set apart as well as bring together. Were the men of Bridgnorth themselves disappointed that they had to pay for their ‘liberties’, especially if these were simply for the right to levy ‘murage’,  which they might have expected anyway, given  the threat from Llywelyn.  Did they also look askance at what they saw of Henry’ court?  The keeper of the wardrobe to whom they gave their money, both at Bridgnorth and Westminster, was Peter des Rivallis, one of Henry’s most notorious Poitevin servants, who was to be dismissed by the reformers in 1258.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 November to Saturday 17 November 1257

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

King Henry spent the first part of this week at Windsor, and then moved to Guildford before returning to Westminster at the end of the month.   In this week,  there is an entry on the fine rolls which foreshadows the terrible famine which was to sweep England in the summer of 1258.  By November, the failure of the 1257 harvest had long been clear. Grain prices were already more than double their normal level, and everyone knew that worse was to come.   The three serjeants in the garrison of  Windsor castle evidently complained to the king about the difficulties this was causing  them, all the more so because at this time a block had been placed on their wages.  This emerges in the concession the king made to them on Thursday 15 November after he arrived at  Guildford (no.60 in the translation and three from the bottom).

The concession was made on account of the ‘caritudo’ of the current year,  ‘caritudo’ here meaning  ‘dearth’, and hence ‘dearness’ in the sense of  high prices.  Because of this,  Henry said he would allow the serjeants a delay till the following Michalemas (or longer if he thought it expedient) in repaying a debt which they owed the exchequer. The debt was for 150s owed for a prest, that is a loan, made to the serjeants in advance of their wages when the king was in Gascony in 1253-1254.  The exchequer was also now to pay them the arrears of their wages which had been withheld because they had not paid the debt.  Each of the serjeants received a wage of 6d a day, where 1.5 pennies a day was the pay at this time of a labourer working on Westminster abbey.  Provided they could unlock their wages, the serjeants  would probably be alright in the famine.  Many people were much less well off.  By the spring of 1258, thousands who had flocked to London in search of food were dying of starvation.  In the counties the same situation prevailed. Indeed, so many were dying that the government allowed bodies to be buried without view of the coroners. The great famine provided the context for the political revolution of 1258.

 

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 9 September to Saturday 15 September 1257

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

During this week, Henry began his journey home from Wales. His aim was to be at Westminster for the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor on 13 October. The journey  disrupted fine roll business because none at all is recorded between 30 August, when Henry was at Deganwy, and 13 September when he was at Chester.  At Chester, however,  between the 13 and 15 September, there was a revival of the normal judicial business with half a dozen writs to initiate or further common law legal actions being purchased.  There was also one other highly profitable transaction, although it also pointed forward to the revolution of 1258.  At Chester, the king reached an agreement with the executors of the late bishop of Ely, William of Kilkenny.  In return,  amongst other things, for the promise of 2000 marks (£1333), he allowed them to have all the corn due to be harvested from the late bishop’s manors. A marginal note added later records what Henry did with this extremely valuable windfall. The executors gave 1000 marks of it to the Lord Edward at the Temple in London at the feast of St Martin 1257. This money was then used (although the note does not say so) to help finance Edward’s war in Wales, which was fair enough. It is the fate of the other 1000 which was extraordinary. This, the note indicates,  was given on 9 April 1258 to the queen’s uncle, Thomas of Savoy. The date is immensely significant because it was right at the start of the revolutionary parliament which was to strip the king of power.  News of the gift evidently  reverberated round the parliament for it soon reached an appalled Matthew Paris at St Albans.  For many it epitomised the king’s profligate generosity to his foreign relatives.  What made it worse was that Thomas was not even any longer a useful ally.  He had arrived in England on a litter, his health broken down and his ambitions in tatters, after  his capture and imprisonment by the citizens of Turin.  Although the Savoyards were not themselves attacked in 1258 (the fire was concentrated on the king’s Poitevin half brothers), the gift  to Thomas, at such a sensitive  time, must have contributed, in no small measure,  to the general dissatisfaction  expressed at the parliament with Henry’s rule. One final point. As far as can be seen,  the exchequer was never informed of the debt owed by the executors of the late bishop of Ely. It was dealt with entirely by the wardrobe. This is why the note of payment was made in the margin of the fine rolls. This by passing of the exchequer was something else the reformers intended to stop. 

For the entry, click here (and count down nine entries from the top).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 July to Saturday 14 July 1257

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Woodstock, while his army assembled to meet him at Chester in the first week of August. Material on the fine rolls, as it did last week, illustrates the law relating to property rights in marriage. On 14 July the king made a concession in favour of the Warwickshire knight, John of Ladbroke. John had married an heiress, namely Joan, daughter of Richard de Baresworth.  Although Joan had been married before, and her inheritance would eventually pass to the children of her first marriage,  John was entitled to control that inheritance during her lifetime. What, however, would happen after her death, for she had indeed now died? Here everything depended on whether there had been offspring from the marriage. If there had not been, then Joan’s inheritance would pass at once to the offspring  her first marriage. If, however, Joan and John had produced a child, even if it was now dead, then John was entitled to keep the inheritance for his own lifetime.  In legal terminology, this was called tenure ‘by the courtesy of England’. What the entry on the fine rolls shows (no.832) is that John was indeed in this fortunate position. The only misfortune was that, having control of Joan’s inheritance, meant that he had also to shoulder the debts to the crown, which Joan had inherited from her father. These included debts owed the Jews, which had been taken into the king’s hands, and which, so John said, were to be paid off at £1 a year. John’s complaint was that the exchequer was now forcing him to pay the whole debt, and was disregarding the terms allowing payment at the rate of £1 a year. The king, therefore, ordered the exchequer to allow John to recover those terms. The king added ‘if this is true’, so the exchequer had some  leeway, but there was evidence to back up John’s story. The pipe rolls, the annual audit of money owed the crown, do show that Joan’s first husband had been allowed to pay the debt off at £1 a year. The pipe rolls for this year, that is for 1256-1257 (for the membrane, click here), by contrast,  show  John himself paying in  £1 16s 8d, in other words he was having to cough up  more than a  £1.  In the pipe roll for 1257-1258,  John does just pay in £1 so his complaint had some effect.  The debt itself was a large one, amounting to £97, which made it  important to secure terms for its repayment.

One further point of interest is that writ to the exchequer, on John’s behalf,  is said in the  fine rolls to be ‘per’, that is authorised by Laurence de Manneby.  Evidently  Laurence was John’s contact at court, and it was he who saw the concession through.  Laurence was a king’s clerk and brother and, as the fine rolls show (CFR 1255-6, no.77; 1257-8, no.997) to Hugh de Manneby, who was at this time earning an evil reputation as sheriff of Northamptonshire.  I do not know the connection between Laurence de Manneby and John of Ladbroke. Has anyone any clues here?  How did those fair in their petitions who did not have these connections?

Next week the king gets ready for his Welsh campaign.

For the membrane with  the writ in favour of John of Ladbroke, see four from bottom here.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 April to Saturday 14 April 1257

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

King Henry III celebrated Sunday 8 April, Easter Sunday, at Westminster amidst feasting, religious ceremony and almsgiving.  The week before, on Maundy Thursday, he had distributed 272 pairs of shoes to the poor, and quite probably had washed their feet. Later accounts show that a great silver bowl was kept in the wardrobe for such a  ceremony.  Perhaps some of those benefitting from these royally administered ablutions were lepers. At any rate,  the king of France, Louis IX, commended Henry for washing the feet of lepers and kissing them. 

After the Easter ceremony, the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, left London for Yarmouth, where he was to take ship for Germany and his royal coronation. The archbishop of Cologne took a different route  and sailed home in a great galley he had brought up the Thames. One can imagine it moored opposite the Tower, where doubtless it impressed the Londoners. Richard had given the archbishop  500 marks and a mitre decorated with precious stones.  The archbishop gracefully declared (according to Matthew Paris) ‘he has mitred me, I will crown him’,  referring to his role in the German coronation.

This week eight individuals bought writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. There were five fines of gold, two for respite of knighthood.  This was a respectable level of business but it was not going to transform the king’s financial position and enable him to pursue  his Sicilian schemes. He had also just failed to secure taxation from parliament for the same purpose. This may be part of the background to this week’s ambitious scheme to put the king’s finances on an entirely new footing. On Monday, 9 April, the king ‘provided and ordained’ that henceforth the expenses of the king’s household were to be paid for ‘day by day’. To that end, the exchequer was to set aside 20,000 marks (£13,333) each year, 10,000 marks coming from the first monies reaching it at Easter, and 10,000 marks from the first monies at Michaelmas. The king issued this ordinance in the presence of Edward, his son and heir, his half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence,  the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, and the ministers John Mansel and Robert Walerand. The presence here of the king’s foreign relatives, and the absence of a single English magnate, confirms the isolation of the king which we saw at the parliament, an isolation enhanced by the departure for Germany of the long suffering and supportive, Richard of Cornwall. On the other hand,  the ordinance does show the foreign relatives involved in  a sensible attempt at  financial reform, which probably  responded to complaints made about the king’s government at the parliament. The first aim was to see that the king paid for his food, drink, clothes and everything else promptly instead of  running up debts to merchants, tradesmen and others.  The second aim, at least by implication, was that the wardrobe, the chief spending department travelling with the king, was essentially to be funded by the exchequer. Although not stated explicitly, it was  the wardrobe which was to receive the 20,000 marks and since this was the rough equivalent of its total annual expenditure at this time (clearly the king had been well informed on that), it would  no longer need in a disorderly way to seek revenue from other sources. The implication was that the bulk of the king’s revenue could be paid into the exchequer instead of being siphoned off to the wardrobe. This was precisely what the reformers demanded and attempted to achieve after the revolution of 1258.

In all this, the king had not forgotten Westminster abbey, for another £1000 was to be reserved every year for the work on its fabric. Would the scheme work? It clearly depended on the revenue reaching the exchequer and the king refraining from either diverting it before it got there, or ordering the exchequer to spend it on other things before the 20,000 marks had been raised.  To that end, the king strictly ordered the exchequer to make no payments until the money had been set aside, even though commanded to do so by his writs and his own verbal orders! If they disobeyed, they would be liable to pay back the money from their own goods. This type of attempt to get  officials to act as a barrier against his own weakness was characteristic of Henry III, and does not show him in a very kingly light.  Having said that, is it much different from the way modern politicians have sought to guard against their own weakness by making the Bank of England independent in the setting of interest rates? Would Henry’s scheme work this time? Read future blogs to find out!

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.