Posts Tagged ‘Gwynedd’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 August to Saturday 8 September 1257

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

These were the weeks of Henry III’s campaign in Wales, all be it a campaign of a very static nature. Its basic outline can be seen from the fine rolls, if you look at the relevant membrane. Here, five items from the bottom, is a letter witnessed by the king at Chester on 18 August: T’ R’ ap’ Cestr xviii. die Aug, that is  Teste Rege apud Cestr’ xviii. die Augusti. The next entry, four from bottom, the letter  is witnessed by the king ‘in castris apud Gannok’ (in the fields at Deganwy)  on 30 August. And then the next shows him back at Chester, the witness clause having the date 13 September.

Other evidence shows that Henry arrived at Deganwy on 27 August and stayed there till at least 4 September. At Deganwy, of course, was the great castle which Henry had built to hold down his Welsh conquests between the Conwy and the Dee. The castle stood proud, high above the Conwy estuary, and glared westwards towards the great mountain ranges in the heart of Gwynedd. For images, click here.

Henry, however, as the witness clause in the fine rolls shows, did not stay in the castle but in the fields round about.  There he probably lived in a great pavilion lent him by the earl of Gloucester.  Doubtless the castle was full masons, for one object of the campaign was to repair and augment its defences. Another was to ravage the land of  Llywelyn and his supporters. Matthew Paris gives a vivid picture of Henry, riding about ‘elegantly’ in armour under his dragon standard, encouraging his knights, although whether this amounted to more than wishing them well as they set out on their chevauchées  one may doubt. Henry had also much bigger schemes. These were the conquest of Anglesey and the division of what was left of Gwynedd west of Conwy between Llywelyn’s disaffected brothers. To that end, he had summoned shipping both from Ireland and the Cinque Ports. Henry’s ambitions, therefore,   were just as great as those of his son, the future Edward I. The difference was that Edward actually carried them out. Indeed, present on this campaign, he may have learnt something from his father’s failure.

For fail Henry did. In a letter to the earl of Gloucester from Deganwy on 4 September, he explained that he was going home.  The shipping had not arrived for the invasion of Anglesy and winter was approaching. Given that it was only  the first week of September, this was hardly a complete excuse, and Henry was clearly embarrassed by the decision. He explained to the earl (who had been far more successful in South Wales), that the decision had been taken  on the advice of the magnates present with him. It was not at all what he would have wanted, indeed it  was ‘repugnant’ to him. He was determined to return next summer and finish the job. Meanwhile  (which was not said in the letter),  Henry realised with relief that he could get back to Westminster in time for the feast of Edward the Confessor on 13 October, as both Matthew Paris and the Dunstable annalist noted. Indeed perhaps the desire to do that was another reason for abandoning the campaign. Nonetheless, Henry was serious about coming back. He was under pressure from Edward and the marcher barons; but he also felt deeply on his own account about preserving his Welsh conquests.  Preparations for the campaign of 1258 went on through the winter.

Returning to the fine rolls, it is interesting to see that the campaign brought an almost complete stop to the usual business.  Clearly no one sought the king out at Deganwy to buy the usual writs to initiate and further legal actions.  There is only one item of business recorded at Deganwy, itself the only business on the roll between 18 August and 13 September. This was, on 30 August, to allow the baron, Philip de Columbars [one of two Colombières near Bayeux in Normandy] to pay his £100 relief to enter his inheritance  on easier terms  as a reward for the service he was giving in the Welsh army.  The £100 relief, was, of course, in line with what was laid down in Magna Carta. It will be interesting to see how business picks up as Henry returns to Westminster

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 17 June to Saturday 23 June 1257

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

On Thursday 21 June, at Westminster, Henry III ordered ‘a certain standard of red cendal and gold brocade’ to be offered at the shrine of Edward the Confessor in the Abbey ‘as is customary  when he is about to go on campaign’. The same day Henry left Westminster. He was setting out on a slow journey to Chester where he had ordered his military forces to rendezvous.  At last Henry had decided to do something about the rebellion, as he would have seen it, of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

In the previous winter Llywelyn had overrun Henry’s ‘conquests’ as he called them in North Wales between the Conwy and the Dee, leaving only the new castles of Deganwy and Disserth holding out. In the spring he had defeated the native rulers of Powys, who were Henry’s allies.  For Henry, all this was an unwelcome distraction.  He had tried to conciliate Llywelyn.  Alternatively, he had hoped that Edward, his son and heir, and now the ruler of the crown’s dominions in Wales,  could sort thing out. Henry’s eyes were set on quite other things. There were the negotiations with France for a permanent peace. In this week, on 22 June, now at Windsor, Henry  had given full power to his envoys the bishop of Worcester and Hugh Bigod, counselled by Simon de Montfort and Peter of Savoy, to agree a peace. Three days later, Henry ordered a ship to be found for them all to cross at Dover. And with peace, and with his brother, Richard of Cornwall now installed as king of Germany (Henry was careful to keep him informed of the negotiations), might not the Sicilian project take on a new lease of life? The last thing Henry wanted now was to have to dig into his hard saved gold treasure to finance a campaign in Wales.  But the massacre of English forces near Cardigan at the start of June had given him no alternative. 

The fine rolls in this week have  eleven entries, all about the purchase of common law writs. It will be fascinating to see how business is affected by Henry’s journey and military campaign in Wales. 

For the membrane covering this week where one can see Henry’s move from Westminster to Windsor, click here.

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 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.