Posts Tagged ‘exemption from knighthood’

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.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 January to Saturday 3 February 1257

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Windsor.  There was some really joyful news. On Sunday 28 January, Henry announced (in a letter to the bishop of Hereford),  the certain intelligence that his brother, Richard, had been elected as king of the Romans.  (The election, following Richard’s acceptance of the offer in December had in fact taken place on 13 January outside Frankfurt.)  Henry ordered a robe to be given to the messenger of the bishop of Cambray who had brought the glad tidings. On the following Tuesday, after dinner at his castle of Wallingford, Richard himself heard details, which made things even better. King Ottakar of Bohemia, hitherto sitting on the fence, had given his assent to the election. Henry now entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of the occasion  and declared his intention of accompanying Richard out to Germany, obviously with the aim of attending  the coronation. This was just the kind of  pageantry Henry loved. But there was more to it than  that. His presence would  help establish Richard in Germany, thus transforming the political shape of Europe and helping forward the Sicilian enterprise; or at least so Henry might hope. In and around this week, the fine rolls show the gold  to finance Henry’s Sicilian campaign was still rolling in. Between 1 February and 7 February there were twelve fines of gold, nine of them from men seeking exemption from knighthood. One of the fines suggests that it was not always easy to acquire the gold required for the Yorkshire lord, Simon of Lowthorpe, actually paid half his fine in silver. This is thirty seven entries down (if I have counted correctly) in the image and no.400 in the Calendar.

Would Henry go to Germany? Would Richard’s  Germany kingship help the Sicilian enterprise. Read future blogs to find out.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Monday 22 January to Saturday 27 January 1257

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Perspicacious readers will already have appreciated  why this week’s blog needs to run  from Monday not Sunday. Last week’s blog mistakenly followed the calendar for 2012 not 1257 and so ran from Sunday 15 January to Saturday 21 January instead of Sunday 14 January to Saturday 20 January. In this blog we are now back on the true 1257 course.

Henry III began this week at Westminster and then, between 24 and 27 January  moved to Windsor.  Once there, he took steps to see the five chaplains  serving the castle’s chapels and the four serjeants in the garrison received their pay.

The fine rolls show the raising of the gold treasure in full swing. In these six days no less than eleven men offered the king half a mark of gold apiece for exemption from knighthood.  How effectively the sheriffs were putting pressure throughout the country on men to assume the title  or (which was preferable)  pay not to do so, is shown by the fact that these fines came from a wide sweep of counties:  Devon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire,   Hampshire, Sussex,  Cambridgeshire,   Suffolk, Leicestershire,  Rutland, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  The gold was intended to  finance an expedition to Sicily, and this week Henry, the brother of the king of Castile, who was being mooted as the possible commander of the army, was allowed to hunt at the royal manor of Havering in Essex.

Other fines of gold came from Robert of Canterbury for a die in the king’s mint at Canterbury and from  Walter de la More of Buckinghamshire to  have a pardon for a homicide. This second concession (no.383 in the Calendar)  was made at the instance of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.  (For the entry see twenty items down in the image of the membrane: http://frh3.org.uk/content/fimages/C60_54/m08.html.).  Montfort also secured in this week a charter from the king allowing him to set up a new park at his manor of Shipley in Northumberland.  Since there is no reference to a fine for this on the fine rolls, he got the concession free of charge. These favours are useful reminders of how far Montfort was back on good terms with the king before the revolution of 1258.  He was not at court this week,  but his close associate (although no relation),  Peter de Montfort,  a member of the king’s council, witnesses the Shipley charter  and it was probably  through Peter that the concessions were obtained. Other witnesses were Peter of Savoy, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence which shows how very prominent the king’s foreign relatives were at court. In 1258 that court was to break apart.

One small point of chancery practice or mispractice. No 380 in the Calendar (seventeen items down in the image) is an interesting example of an  entry being enrolled late and out of sequence.  It is a concession to Philip Basset, witnessed at Windsor on 7 November 1256. Note also the smaller hand and lighter ink from the entries before and after.  This hand and ink, however, is not found in the marginal annotation to the entry, which looks the same as those to the other entries,  a  sure sign these marginalia were done later all at the same time.  I  assume, incidentally,  that when the immediately following entry (no.381) is said to be ‘witnessed as above’, that refers back to the 27 January of entry no.375 not 7 November of  380.

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.