Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

Henry III’s Christmas Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 December to Saturday 31 December 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Westminster.  There is no fine roll business dated to it, but the other chancery rolls show something of how Henry celebrated Christmas. Thus  he ordered the custodians of various royal forests to catch, salt and carry to him for the feast  a total of 160 does. Henry issued this order on 4 December from the Tower of London, and was still unclear about his movements for  the game was simply to be sent to him it time for Christmas  wherever that might be.  Clearly Henry felt the political situation might still confine him to the Tower.  Fortunately, as we have seen, the storm clouds cleared, and on 10 December it was from Westminster that Henry issued orders for the purchase of 171 pairs of shoes, half at 5d a pair and half at 4½d, shoes with which, he, his queen and their children would  make their Christmas gifts to paupers. Doubtless numerous paupers were also fed. In 1259, when in Paris, Henry fed 450 paupers on the vigil and feast day, as well as burning 171 pounds of wax, 75 of them in the chapel and almonry.  We may be sure that on Christmas day 1261 Westminster Abbey was filled with light from Henry’s tapers. Henry also distributed robes to over sixty of the men, mostly nobles and household knights, to whom he had owed his victory. The costs of the celebrations stretched the royal budget. Henry  admitted that there was no money  for the purchases made in London against the feast, and told the mayor and sheriffs to promise payment from  the farms they owed at Easter and Michaelmas in 1262.  Still, Henry must have felt it was essential to put on a big celebration, both to proclaim his victory and thank God and man for it.

            It may be suggested that, as part of his thanks,  Henry now made a momentous decision about Westminster Abbey.  His return to Westminster in December 1261 had been after a long absence. Indeed, he  had not lived there since January 1261.  Now, having come to Westminster for Christmas, he  stayed there till 10 February. He was able once again to inspect the progress of the  great building. He was able once again to pray beside the shrine of Edward the Confessor, the patron saint to  whom above all, interceding at God’s right hand, he owed his triumph.  A long period of proximity to the Abbey and the Confessor, an overwhelming desire to thank the latter for his freedom, and by that very token  the power and the leisure to do so, all these things resulted in Henry’s decision to commission  from the Cosmati marblers in Italy  a magnificent shrine base to hold aloft the golden casket holding the Confessor’s body. The Italian reference  also thanked the pope for his support in the great struggle.  The shrine base, with its surrounding pavement, is thus the first of the Cosmati works in the Abbey. It is the product of a very precise moment in Henry’s career. It is his thank offering for his recovery of power in 1261.

Westminster Abbey and the Shrine of Edward the Confessor