Posts Tagged ‘Guildford’

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 15 January to Saturday 21 January 1257

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We saw in the last blog the major items on Henry III’s political agenda in 1257: the Sicilian affair, the peace with France, and the rising power of Llywelyn ap Gruffud in Wales.  All of these posed problems, but  Henry had  one reason to look forward with confidence. The balance of power in Europe was about to be transformed in his favour, or so he might hope. Just after a Christmas 1256, in ceremony before Henry and his council in St Stephen’s chapel in Westminster palace, during a great storm of thunder and lightening,  his brother, Richard of Cornwall, had accepted  election  as king of the Romans. He was now busy preparing his departure for Germany where he would be crowned.

During this week, which Henry spent at Westminster,  there was more good news.  On 18 January the abbot of Westminster and the bishop elect of Salisbury got back to England with news that the pope was prepared to extend the deadline of the Sicilian enterprise.  Under the original agreement  in which the kingdom was conferred on Edmund, his second son, Henry had been obliged to pay the pope £90,000 and send an army to Sicily to conquer the kingdom by Michaelmas 1256, which, of course, was  long gone.  Henry now learnt that the pope had graciously extended the deadline down to the start of June 1257.  There was no chance of Henry actually paying the money and sending an army within that term either, but at least he might be able to show he meant business. That above all meant getting a tax to support the enterprise from parliament.  The planning of a parliament must have now become a subject of earnest discussion between Henry and his advisers.

Meanwhile the fine rolls show that the attempt to build up a gold treasure to pay a Sicilian army was continuing. There were twelve fines of gold in this week, of which eight were for respite of knighthood.  Following on from last week’s discussion of the gold treasure, it might be worth explaining the form of these fines. Let us take as an example that translated as no 358 in the Calendar of Fine Rolls 1257  Its image is six items from the bottom in, with the marginal annotation ‘De fine auri pro respect milicie’. Here the Yorkshire knight, Robert de Etton’ (probably of Etton in the East Riding) is said to give the king half a mark of gold for respite from his  knighthood, which means that he has an exemption  from having to take up the honour.  Although the fine says he ‘gives’ the gold, in fact he  is not paying cash down. Instead as the fine goes on to indicate, he is to pay the gold into the wardrobe at the coming Michaelmas.  The ‘order to the sheriff of Yorkshire’ referred to is an order to the sheriff  to take security for this payment. In fact, as the entry goes on to indicate in a later addition (note the change of ink), Robert  paid the gold to the then keeper of the wardrobe, Peter des Rivaux, on Friday after Ash Wednesday in the regnal year 42, that is on 8 February 1258, so he missed his stipulated term.  Note ‘a’ to the translation adds that ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. The originalia roll was the copy of the fine roll sent the exchequer so it knew what monies to collect. The absence of the fine, like all fines of gold,  from the originalia roll thus meant that the exchequer had nothing to do with the collection and audit of the gold treasure, which was entirely a wardrobe affair.  Hence the record that the fine has been paid and that Robert is ‘quit’  is made here on the fine roll not on the exchequer’s pipe roll.  Unfortunately, like most of its kind, the fine does not indicate in what form the gold came.

The fine rolls for this week also reveal another way in which the king was accumulating his gold treasure.  This was from the towns who were offering  gold, or silver to buy gold, in return for charters giving them various privileges. Thus on  21 January the citizens of Northampton offered 100 marks of silver to buy gold for a charter of liberties, while in an undated entry, the men of Guildford offered one and a half marks of gold for a charter which established moved the county court of Surrey  to Guildford. This caused great anger locally since it meant moving the county court from the much more central Leatherhead.

Does anyway know whether these charters survive?  If the Guildford one does, it will clear up a mystery over its date. Although the fine for it appears in this week, and the actual charter is enrolled with others for January and has much the same witnesses, the charter roll calendar says it bears the date 7 September. An image of Guildford castle, much visited by Henry III, appears on the Guildford Borough website.

The witnesses to the Northampton charter, which is dated 18 January although the fine is three days later, show who was at court in this week. The list is  headed by the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence. Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle, does not feature, although he was at court around this time.  Henry’s generosity  to his foreign relatives is very clear.  On Friday, 20 January,  he confirmed an earlier gift  to Peter of Savoy  which meant  he was pardoned  the £625 he owed  each year for custody of the Vescy lands during the minority of the heir, a very major concession.   On the same day Henry took steps to give Guy de Lusignan 200 marks, and also compensated one of his clerks for giving way to the queen’s request to surrender a wardship. This was  so that it could be given to her daughter the queen of Scotland. The tensions between the Savoyards and the Lusignans in this scramble for patronage were to explode in 1258.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 June to Saturday 25 June 1261

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

We left Henry on Saturday 18 June at Guildford.  He had reached there on his sudden flight from Winchester, following the furore provoked by his publication of the papal bulls dissolving the Provisions of Oxford. On the Sunday, Henry moved on to Kingston, closer that is to London, where he remained for the Monday and the Tuesday. The fine rolls reveal one piece of routine business discharged at this time and also the jurisdiction of the court held by the king’s marshal. This imposed an amercement (in modern terminology a fine) of one mark for wine sold at Kingston ‘contrary to the assize’, contrary that is to the regulations on weights and measures.  Probably Henry was pausing at Kingston while he received intelligence as to just how serious the revolt against his démarche was. Doubtless he would have liked to have gone on to Westminster.  In the event, he could not.   The situation did not permit residence at this undefended palace. On Tuesday 22 June Henry was back at the Tower of London. He was in for another long stay.

The disturbance of these days is reflected in the fine rolls which record no business for 19-21 June. It was also left to a clerk checking the rolls, while drawing up the copies sent to the exchequer, to supply the date  (22 June at the Tower of London) for an otherwise undated entry.  Some of the other chancery rolls at this time are even more chaotic with writs slapped down in haphazard order.  Once the king reached the Tower, however, routine business resumed and by the end of the week twenty-two writs to initiate or further the common law legal procedures were recorded on the fine rolls.

None of those securing these writs would have seen the king personally. This was business dealt with by the chancery clerks. But one person who appears on the fine rolls this week certainly did reach the royal presence, and found a warm welcome. This was the Gloucestershire baron, Maurice of Berkeley. In March he had been one of those give an annual pension (in his case 40 marks) in order to sustain him in the king’s service.  Now he was pardoned an amercement of £5 imposed for allowing a thief to escape from his prison at Redcliffe in Somerset.  He also received (while the king was at Kingston) a gift of three oaks from the forest of Dean. This was the kind of personal concession (Henry authorised it himself) which meant so much to the recipient. Evidently the king was very keen to secure Maurice’s loyalty in the struggle, all the more so since the great earl of Gloucester, Richard de Clare, was with the opposition.

We are able to see who was with the king this week in the Tower, thanks to the witness lists of royal charters issued from there on 25 June.  There were three bishops, those of Salisbury, Norwich and London. The last two were trusted royal servants and Henry could be absolutely sure of them.  In the same category came John Mansel (in command of the Tower), Philip Basset (now justiciar), Alan la Zouche, Robert Walerand , the judge William of Wilton, and the clerk Walter of Merton who was soon to be given custody of the seal.   Then there was group of barons from the Welsh march, Maurice of Berkeley, as we have said, and also Thomas Corbet of Cause and Reginald fitzPeter.  These men supplied muscle. Finally there were two men from the Savoyard party of the queen, namely Imbert de Montferrand and the king’s steward, Imbert Pugeys. One of the charters issued on 25 June was for another Savoyard, Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury. He was granted the right to hold a weekly market at Petersfield in the great archiepiscopal property of Maidstone. The fine rolls show he paid nothing for the concession. It was pure favour. Henry was not best pleased with his wife’s uncle, following the independence he had displayed at the ecclesiastical synod at Lambeth in May. But it was vital to keep him now on side, given he was one of those to whom the pope had addressed the letters quashing the Provision.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 12 June to Saturday 18 June 1261

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Sunday 12 June at Winchester. At last Whitsunday had arrived. Henry III always celebrated the great feast magnificently, and now he had added reason for doing so.  As so often in the medieval period, a major political event was to be linked to a key  Christian festival. The event, of course, was the publication of the papal letters quashing the Provisions of Oxford.  Henry had chosen Whitsun in part because it was the first great feast on the calendar after the arrival of the papal letters.  But he must also have thought the choice deeply appropriate. At Whitsun the Holy Spirit had rushed in upon the apostles, the multitude of assembled Jews had spoken in tongues, and Peter had cried out to the throng ‘Let  all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ’.  In the service Henry would have used, the Office for the day  began  ‘For the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world’. The appointed psalm was 68: ‘Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him’.  And this was the Collect:

‘God, who at this time didst teach the hearts of the faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy holy spirit; grant us by the same spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his comfort’.

Henry, of course, would not quite have equated the papal letters with the coming of the Holy Spirit, let alone have equated himself with Christ. But nonetheless the parallels were obvious. How he must have hoped the letters would re-establish ‘right judgement’ in his own people, and make them once again respect him as their proper lord and  rejoice in his comfort and protection.

Whitsunday doubtless began with a mass for the king in the castle,  his  chapel, together with the almonry, being  filled with light from numerous candles.  At Westminster for Whitsun 1260, for which records survive,  200 pounds of wax were consumed in the chapel and the almonry on the vigil and the feast day, twenty times more than what was often the usual quota. After this private mass, Henry and his entourage would have gone down from the castle to the cathedral  for the great service. One can imagine the procession of monks which came out to meet them.  There was no bishop, for the see was vacant, but Henry had with him the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich. Quite probably his son Edward was there too, a vital sign of political strength. At any rate on this very day, the fine rolls show Henry making a major concession to his son.  After the service there was a huge feast either in the bishop’s palace or back in the great hall of the castle, which of course still survives. (See the photos on this blog.) On the vigil  and the day of Whitsun in 1260, Henry had spent over £125 on his court’s food and drink,  a sum equalling of  a whole year’s income of a minor baron, and the very rough equivalent of over half a million pounds today. This was a sum over twenty times larger than Henry might have spent on two ordinary days.

The service in 1261 was  accompanied by prolific alms giving, hence the lights in the almonry.  Henry distributed 171 pairs of shoes to paupers and probably fed many more. His usual daily quota, when the queen was with him, was 150. But at Whitsun 1260  he fed 464, and probably it was the same in 1261. Henry also knighted some of his followers and distributed  robes to the 100 or so household knights he had now retained.  Just when and how the papal letters were proclaimed we do not know, but clearly   the rituals of the day enhanced their impact, and emboldened  the king and his supporters to put them into effect. Henry acted decisively to do just that. Probably on Whitsunday itself he dismissed  the baronial justiciar, Hugh Despencer,  and replaced him with the trusty Philip Basset.  There was no clearer proof that the baronial regime was over.

After these dramatic moves, it is not clear what Henry planned to do next. In the event, the decision was  made for him.  John Mansel, perhaps the best of all his councillors, had come part of the way to Winchester, but had then turned back. Probably he returned to the Tower of London where he was in command.  In any case, there or elsewhere,  he learnt that major resistance was being plotted against Henry’s overthrow of the Provisions of Oxford. At Winchester, Henry might even be in danger. Mansel thus hurried to join the king and was with him by Tuesday 14 June. He counselled an immediate return to the safety of the Tower, and that very day Henry slipped out of Winchester castle with a small following to make his return. By the evening he had  reached Alton, and by the end of the week was at Guildford. It was a humiliating conclusion to the triumphant Whitsun celebrations.  For all the robes distributed to his knights, Henry clearly felt his forces were insufficient to meet the growing insurgency.

The dramatic events of this week are reflected in the fine rolls.  Some eighteen writs to further common law legal actions were issued, but nearly all of these were purchased on or around 13 June before the flight from Winchester.  No business was recorded at Alton on  14-15 June, nor at Guildford and Kingston between 17 and 21 June.  John Mansel, however, kept his nerve and on 17 June at Guildford saw through a striking concession  enrolled on the fine rolls. By this,  Hawise, widow of the marcher baron, Patrick de Chaworth, was given compensation for the money she was spending ‘on the  war that she wages in parts of Wales’.  A striking example of a woman in command of military actions.

Beyond these great  events, there are sharp reminders of the  fate of those outside the political process. On the back of the fine roll for this week, there is a schedule recording that the burgesses of Derby had fined with the king for 10 marks to have a charter that no Jew or Jewess should henceforth remain in their vill.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 29 May to Saturday 4 June 1261

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

From Guildford, where he was on Sunday 29 May, Henry moved to Chawton, later of course of Jane Austen fame. He left there on Tuesday 31 May and the same day reached Winchester. He now had plenty of time to prepare for the proclamation of the papal letters quashing  the Provisions of Oxford. The lives of medieval rulers revolved around the ecclesiastical calendar. They were deeply aware of how celebration of the  great religious festivals could give a sacral gloss to their rule before large gatherings of people.  Thus coronations and crown wearings, parliaments and proclamations were frequently time to coincide with the great feasts. [See the blog on the ‘Revealing Records’ symposium below.]  So it was in 1261 for Henry III intended to pronounce the papal letters on the feast on Pentecost. In 1261 as in 2011, this fell on Sunday 12 June.  Arriving at Winchester on 31 May, Henry thus had eleven days before  the papal balloon went up.

The journey to Winchester, not surprisingly, saw a sharp decline in the numbers of writs purchased in connection with  the common law legal procedures;  only nineteen  as opposed to sixty the week before when the king had been largely in London. The fine rolls for this week also have a fascinating order highlighting  various aspects of the king’s relations with the Jews. It was issued at the instance of Henry’s son, the Lord Edward, which reflected the fact that the Jews had been placed in some respects under his control.  The Jews owed the king 1000 marks (£666) as a penalty for an unspecified ‘trespass’. This they had been due to pay before Pentecost. Now, at Edward’s request, the payment was postponed till three weeks after the feast of John the Baptist, so to 15 July (another example of how the calendar was conceived in terms of the great ecclesiastical festivals).  Meanwhile the Jews were to recover their  chattels seized for the non payment of the debt. Henry then added a proviso. In the assessment of the  money to pay the debt, poor Jews were not to be ‘grieved’.  In intervening for the Jews, Edward was probably serving his own interests. There would be all the more of Jewish money for himself. Quite probably, he was also paid for his intervention.  But in Henry’s proviso one wonders if one sees his well known concern for the poor embracing even the poor of the Jewish community.  The importance attached to the proviso  is shown in the way  it was added to the initial record of the order on the fine rolls. Henry, however, was also casting an avaricious eye over Jewish wealth.  Before the chattels were returned,  there was to be an inquiry into what exactly was in the  ‘coffers’ or ‘chests’  of the Jews  in London and elsewhere. This was to be carried out secretly so the Jews were unaware of it, and the king was to be informed of the results.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 22 May to Saturday 28 May 1261

Friday, May 27th, 2011

From Saturday 21 May till Thursday 26 May, Henry III remained at the bishop of London’s palace at Saint Pauls. The flood of litigants seeking writs to initiate and further common law legal actions continued. The fine rolls show no less than sixty such writs were purchased in these days. On Tuesday 24 May, the chancery despatched to the exchequer  a copy of the fine roll down to that date so that it knew what monies to collect.  Alongside the note  recording  this despatch,  the clerk drew a grotesque head.  In the draft translation of the roll currently on line we suggested this was might have been a caricature of Mabel, daughter of Simon de Bere, who in an adjoining entry was recorded as giving half a mark for the hearing of an assize.  Closer inspection of the image  shows the imputation is false and we are pleased to withdraw it. The head, instead, was clearly intended to mark out the note about the despatch of the roll to the exchequer.

Head drawn on membrane 10 of roll C60/58

Under the cloak of this routine business, great matters were now afoot.  The king must certainly have received the papal letter of 13 April absolving his from his oath to observe the Provisions of Oxford.  Probably too the follow up letter of 29 April had also arrived in England. This was even more crucial because it was not personal to Henry but general to the realm.  The letter empowered the  archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Norwich, and John Mansel, to absolve everyone from their oaths. At St Paul’s,  there must have been earnest debate as to when, where and how to detonate this explosive weapon. One problem concerned the addressees. The bishop of Norwich, a former royal judge, was completely to be trusted. So, of course, was Henry’s loyal, wise and courageous clerk,  John Mansel. Indeed, in this week Mansel was made constable of the Tower of London.  He was at court and central to the direction of policy. The problem was the archbishop, Boniface of Savoy,  the uncle of the queen, who had incurred the king’s displeasure over the legislation, very critical of royal government, passed at the Lambeth ecclesiastical council earlier in the month.  (See Sophie Ambler’s contribution to this blog).  On Thursday 26 May, Henry sent a proctor to Rome to appeal against the ordinances made  ‘to the prejudice of the king’s right and dignity and the liberties,  laws and customs of the realm’. The phraseology reflects royal thinking on a wider front. The king was now to take action against another set of Ordinances, the Provisions of Oxford, which  were equally prejudicial to the king and the realm. Henry could only hope (probably rightly) that Boniface would be more co-operative in the secular sphere than he was in the ecclesiastical.

In other respects, what was in the making seems very much a foreign, Savoyard plot, in which doubtless the queen herself was deeply involved. At court were her uncle, Peter of Savoy, and a host other Savoyards or Savoyard connections, including  Imbert Pugeys,  Imbert de Montferrand, Eubule de Montibus and Ingram de Fiennes.  Also there, providing muscle, were a group of Welsh marcher barons, James of Audley, Thomas Corbet, and Reginald fitzPeter.  Behind this group stood  the king’s brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and king of Germany.  He received major concessions this week, as did Henry his son. And even more vital was the  support or at least acquiescence of Henry’s own son, Edward. On his return to England,  he had seemed to sympathise with Montfort. But he had appeared for his father at the Lambeth conference to protest against any violation of the rights of the crown, and this week a concession was made ‘at his instance’.

It was this grouping  which took the momentous decision. They would detonate the papal letters and publicly denounce the Provisions of Oxford. But they would not do it in London. For all the security of the Tower, there was danger of an explosion from the heaving  and volatile populace. Instead the coup would be launched  somewhere both safe and symbolic. This was Winchester, Henry’s birthplace, and ancient seat of royal government, where the great castle dominated the small town, and ensured the loyalty of its docile inhabitants. Henry, therefore, left London on Thursday 26 May. Covering over thirty miles, that evening he reached his palace castle at Guildford.  There he remained, gathering breath, on the Friday and Saturday. On the Saturday, despite the tension all around,  the fine rolls recorded a characteristic act of  charity.   Henry, so he said,  had heard that the resources of Ralph de Heppewrth’ (perhaps Hepworth in Suffolk),  were insufficient to pay his debts to the Jews. Therefore, ‘out of compassion for his poverty’, Henry  took steps to ensure Ralph had enough to live off and was not ‘forced to beg’.