Posts Tagged ‘fines of gold’

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 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 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 28 May to Saturday 2 June 1257

Friday, June 1st, 2012

On Sunday 28 May Henry III celebrated Pentecost at Westminster. For some time he had been making preparations. On 3 May he had ordered his huntsman to take over fifty deer of various types for the feast.  There were also to be robes for distribution to his household and  164 tunics for poor Jewish converts to Christianity, these  for the alms  of the king, the queen and their children.  In previous years the  number of tunics distributed had been 171, the missing seven  presumably being the quota of Henry’s recently deceased daughter, Katherine. She was, however, very much on Henry’s mind, for on the feast day itself, he paid the expenses of  Master Simon of Wells who was coming  to Westminster to make an image of her in gilt bronze for her tomb.  Henry must have been encouraged by the good turn for the celebrations. On 28 May a royal charter, in favour of the bishop of Bath and Wells, was witnessed by the bishops of Worcester and Salisbury, and the earls of Norfolk, Gloucester, Leicester, Hereford, and Aumale, as well as Philip Basset and Stephen Longespee, and assorted ministers. For once, Henry’s foreign relatives were absent, although William de Valence was back attesting on 1 June.  The king’s roll, recording his daily expenditure on food and drink, which survives for 1260, throws more light on the Pentecost festivities. In that year, Henry fed 464 paupers, expended 200 pounds of wax burning candles in his chapel and almonry, and spent some £145 mostly on food and drink. Translating such sums into modern money is full of pitfalls but it could be viewed as the equivalent of between half a million and a million pounds today.

The fine rolls show business as usual in this week. Indeed it continued on 28 May itself when the rolls record the appointment of a new sheriff for Gloucestershire. This was done by the ordinance of the senior judge, Henry of Bath, and the treasurer of the exchequer, Philip Lovel, which shows how Henry had devolved such appointments. A fine of particular interest shows how carefully the accumulation of gold was monitored, and also gives evidence for the exchange rate between gold and silver.  On 30 May (entry no.703),  Roger of Newcastle offered half a mark of gold   for a certain writ. However, the entry recorded that the gold offered was under weight by one gold penny, ‘that is ten pennies of silver’.  This shows that the exchange rate between gold and silver was then one to ten, so that a penny of gold should weigh ten pennies of silver. Of course, at this time there were no gold pennies (but wait till later in the year!), and the gold had to offered either in foil or in foreign gold currencies. The amounts offered would then be weighed and at the one to ten ratio, the half a mark of gold here offered, that is  80 pence in gold, should have weighed 800 silver pennies. In fact, as we have seen, it weighed ten silver pennies less. Hence the trouble.

One question about the numbers of paupers clothed on such feast days. We have said that in 1257 the numbers of converts clothed was 164. We have also suggested that the number is seven down from the year before because of Katherine’ s death. But how do the numbers work? There is other evidence that the number for the king was 100 and  the queen 50. That leaves 21 (before 1257) for the children. But as there were five children and if the portion per child was seven, that should make the number 185. Is the answer that Henry did not give alms in the same way for his married children (by 1256 Margaret and Edward), and so the twenty-one is just Edmund, Beatrice and Katherine at seven apiece?  Ideas welcome.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 6 May to Saturday 12 May 1257

Friday, May 11th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Merton priory.  It was a week in which he made a momentous decision, namely to continue with the Sicilian affair. We have seen that a couple of weeks earlier, Henry had been entertaining serious doubts about whether it should proceed, not surprisingly given the opposition in parliament. Now, however, on 10 May, he wrote to the pope saying that he had made effective arrangements for sending out to him ‘a noble and vigorous captain’ and a messenger equipped with a great sum of money. He had done this in the presence of the archbishop of  Messina, who was now returning to Rome, and would be able to tell the pope all about it.   The intention presumably was for the captain to head an army composed of mercenaries hired by the  money.  Yet  of the ‘effective’ arrangements,  there is no sign.   Perhaps Henry was buoyed up  be hearing  that Richard of Cornwall  had arrived safely in Germany.  He gave a robe to the messenger who brought the news on 9 May. Perhaps he was also thinking of the £52,000 offered by an ecclesiastical council, which had  met in London in early May, on condition that the pope ended all future Sicilian taxation.   But this was money controlled by the pope not the king.  It was not using these resources that Henry was supposed to sustain  the  captain and the army  which  was to conquer Sicily.  Henry was not uncounselled at this time.  With him at Merton on 12 May were Simon de Montfort, Richard de Clare earl of Glouceser, Peter of Savoy, William de Valence and John Mansel. Whether they all agreed with the decision we may doubt. Montfort was in any case  preoccupied with his own affairs and on 13 May extracted £200 from the king, this to be followed by another £500 a week later.  One cannot help thinking that,  forced to make up  his mind by the departure of the archbishop of Messina, Henry had taken a decision as impulsive as it was irrational.  The dangers of proceeding were underlined on 10 May itself, for it was on this very day that Henry was giving support to  captain who really did exist. This was John de Grey appointed by the Lord Edward to head an army against  Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in Wales.

The fine rolls in this week continue to underline the unpopularity of Henry’s drive to force men to take up knighthood.  Although he was in Holy Orders,  Baldwin de Kalna still had to offer the king half a mark of gold (which he paid later into the wardrobe) in order to avoid the honour.  The rolls also show, however, how the king could help those of small account.  On 12 May, Robert de Haya, who owed the king 6s 8d for writ, was allowed to pay the debt of at 40d a year ‘on account of his poverty’.

Next week, Henry returned to Westminster.        

For the membrane covering this week, click here.

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.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Saturday 22 April to Sunday 28 April 1257

Friday, April 27th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Merton priory, which was both an honour and a burden for the monks.  The fine rolls  have a fascinating variety of business. The king  issued twelve writs to initiate or further common law legal actions.   He also accepted  six fines of gold, and another of 50 marks of silver, which he earmarked for the purchase of gold. The silver was offered by the prioress and nuns of Wherwell abbey in Hampshire for custody of their abbey during the vacancy which would be caused by the imminent resignation of their abbess Euphemia.  Amongst the fines of gold, were two, of  one mark of gold apiece, from Gerard de Evinton and Henry of Pembridge to secure their appointments  as respectively sheriffs of Surrey/Sussex and Hereford.  The amounts involved were hardly large (a mark of gold was the equivalent of ten marks of silver) and reflect how little financial gain could be made from the office of sheriff now that the king was taking so large a slice of the profits for himself.  Two fines of gold were from Lincolnshire men seeking inquiries into the value of their lands. This was because they maintained they were being forced by the sheriff to take up knighthood as having an income of £15 a year whereas in fact, so they said, their income was less. Next week we shall see the results of such inquiries.  The whole policy  of enforcing knighthood in this way was tremendously unpopular.  Designed as it was to help fund the army Henry III was to supposed to send to conquer Sicily, it meant gentry lords throughout the country suffered from the madness of this policy.  In fact, after his failure to secure funds for Sicily at the recent parliament, Henry was at last beginning to have doubts about the enterprise, not before time.  On 24 April from Merton, ‘because he is not sure whether the business of Sicily is to proceed or not’, he ordered Master Rostand, who was collecting the Sicilian taxation from the church, not to make any further payments to anyone on pain of losing all he possessed in the realm. What this meant was that Rostand was no longer to pass the proceeds of the tax to the numerous Italian merchants, who had loaned money to Henry and the papacy,  or not until, as Henry said,  it was clear the business could proceed ‘with some effect’. Since the tax had been authorised by the papacy, Henry hardly had the authority to issue an order of this kind, and its effects are unfair. The Sicilian farce still had a long way to run. Next week Henry moved to Windsor castle.

The Wherwell fine is seventeen from the top on the membrane covering this week.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 April to Saturday 21 April 1257

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

During this week, Henry III left Westminster to spend some time at Merton priory in Surrey. From there he was to move on to Windsor, before returning to Merton,  arriving back at Westminster in the middle of May. These kind of trips out and around the capital, taking in Windsor, and either  Merton  to the south, or St Albans to the north, were characteristic of Henry’s itinerary.  Westminster, with its palace, patron saint and abbey, was his favourite residence, quite apart from being, or perhaps in spite of being, the seat of government.  But Henry also delighted in Windsor. He had made it  into a luxurious palace where his queen and children were based. A visit to Windsor fitted well with a stay at Merton or St Albans where Henry could be sustained both by the prayers of the monks and their food and drink.  How one wishes, there was a Merton chronicle to match the picture  of Henry’s visits to St Albans given by Matthew Paris.  At least the witness lists to royal charters show who was with Henry at Merton, and they included both his brother in law, Simon de Montfort, and his half brother, William de Valence.

The week has a fascinating variety of material on the fine rolls.  On 18 April at Merton, the twenty-four jurors of Romney marsh (the men elected to keep the marsh) fined in one mark of gold for having the judge, Henry of Bath, hear and determine the disputes between them and the men of the marsh about the repair of the marsh’s embankments and drains. (No. 554 in the calendar).   As Hasted puts it in his History of Kent, this led to  ‘the ordinances of Henry de Bathe, from which laws the whole realm of England take directions in relation to the sewers’:  ‘Romney Marsh’, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (1799), pp. 465-473. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63514&strquery=jurors  Date accessed: 15 April 2012.

The king’s financial needs led to further measures for the selling of his woods in order to raise 3000 to 4000 marks. The treasurer of the exchequer, Philip Lovel, was too busy to attend to this, and so Adam de Grenville was appointed in his place. (No.565).

The next entries (nos.566-7), dated to 20 April at Merton, concerned the appointment of the  Yorkshire magnate, John de Eyville, as chief justice of the royal forest north of the Trent, which meant the northern forests were under his control.  John fined in two marks of gold for the office and agreed to pay 10 marks more a year for it than his predecessor,  terms which hardly seem extortionate.  John was to be a leading rebel in the civil war, but clearly he had not been excluded from office and favour beforehand.

Finally, to return to lampreys. In entry no.557, the exchequer was ordered to allow the king’s bailiffs of Gloucester £25 10d which they had spent buying  and transporting lampreys and other things for the king and queen during Lent.  This entry was cancelled, the reason (not stated) being that it should  have been placed on the liberate rolls. There more detail was given. The writ to the exchequer was issued on 19 April from Merton. 191 lampreys and 6 shad had been sent to the king and 55 lampreys and 2 shad  to the queen. Taking no account of the shad, this suggests a lamprey cost around 2 shillings or 24 pence. Given that a penny was enough to supply a pauper with food for one day, lampreys were evidently  expensive fish.

The cancelled entry about lampreys is seventeen from the bottom on the membrane covering this week; that about Romney marsh twenty from the bottom.

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

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Henry III’s great parliament opened on or soon after 18 March. On 18th March itself  the witnesses to a royal charter were merely the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, and an assortment of household officials. But in the ensuing days, charters were witnessed  by Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, Peter of Savoy, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Worcester and Norwich.  The stated purpose of the parliament was to say good bye to Richard of Cornwall who was about to leave England for his coronation as king of Germany. On 27 March Henry sent an order about the equipping of 100 ships gathering at Yarmouth for the voyage.  No more, however,  is heard of Henry’s enthusiastic but impractical  idea of actually accompanying his brother.  The second purpose of the parliament was to consider Henry’s appeals for funds to support his Sicilian project, the project that is to put Edmund his second son on the throne of Sicily.  To stir the emotions,  Henry  (according to Matthew Paris) paraded the twelve year old Edmund in Sicilian robes before the assembly  and begged it not to let him down.

Henry could take comfort from the fact that the parliament brought a large increase in fine roll business. Whereas in the previous week there had been only three items of business, in this week there were seventeen. These included thirteen fines for writs to initiate or further common law legal actions, and four fines of gold. Two of the latter were for respite of knighthood, one for exemption from jury service, and one, worth two mark of gold or twenty marks of silver, from the Kentish knight, Nicholas of Lenham, for a charters conceding him a market and fair, and a free warren. As the charters, issued on 18 March show the free warren (essentially a private hunting park) was to be for all of Nicholas’ s manors which included Lenham and Lamberhurst in Kent and Redenhall in Norfolk.  The market and fair were to be at Hunton in Kent. The establishment was not, however, very successful.  An inquiry of 1312 said the market had never been held and the fair was only worth 3d a year. See the Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs, edited by Samantha Letters. Nicholas’s fine is the twentieth entry from bottom the bottom of this membrane (click here). It would be interesting to know whether Nicholas of Lenham  attended the parliament and saw Edmund in his Sicilian robes. Would such tactics work?  Read next week’s blog to find out.

For this parliament, see J.R. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament 924-1327, pp.471-2.

Nicholas of Lenham, it may be noted, fought against the king at the battle of Lewes.

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

Friday, March 16th, 2012

In this week Henry completed the tour we discussed in the blog for last week. On Saturday 11 March he began the day  with his half brother, William de Valence, at Hertford, and then moved on to Waltham abbey. He remained there till 14 or 15 March when he returned to Westminster for the great parliament which was to open on the eighteenth.  In terms of fine roll business, indeed of all business, this seems a very quiet week. Indeed, only three items of fine roll business are dated to it.  One suspects that everything was hanging fire till the parliament and that those wishing to make fines with the king, that is offer money to him for concessions and favours, had decided to wait until he returned to Westminster.  It may be remembered that last week when the masters of Oxford University came before the king at St Albans, he referred them to the forthcoming parliament. It will be interesting to see if business does indeed pick up next week.

 In one of the fines of this week,  made at Waltham on Tuesday 13 March, Hugh de Dyve offered half a mark of gold ‘for quittance of assizes’ , which meant he was freed from having to appear on juries.  The concession was embodied in a letter patent witnessed by the king at Waltham on the following day.  Henry III made a good deal of money from selling such exemptions  and they made a significant contribution to his gold treasure. They were, however, unpopular, and indeed featured in the  ‘the Petition of the Barons’, presented at the revolutionary Oxford parliament in 1258. It was there claimed that, as a result of the king granting such quittances, so many knights were free from appearing on grand assize juries (which had to be composed entirely of knights) that it was impossible to assemble them.  Today  one suspects that a good deal of money could likewise be raised by selling exemptions from jury service, with much the same damage to the legal processes.

Hugh de Dive’s fine appears 28 entries down on the membrane of the fine roll.

For the selling of exemptions from jury service see a famous article by Scott Waugh ‘Reluctant knights and jurors: respites, exemptions and public obligations in the reign of Henry III’, Speculum, 58 (1983), 937-86.

One footnote. It will be noticed that now we have passed the leap year of 2012, the calendar is exactly the same in 1257 as in 2012.

So on to the parliament.