Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Bigod’

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 October to Sunday 4 November 1257

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

King Henry III spent all this week at Westminster.  On Sunday 28 October, his forty-second regnal year opened, Henry having been crowned at Gloucester on 28 October 1216. The new regnal year meant that the chancery clerks had to begin a fresh set off rolls.  If one clicks here,  one can see the first membrane of the fine roll for the forty-second year.

Evidently, a space has been left for a big heading in capitals,  such as is found early in the reign, which would have proclaimed that this was ‘The Roll of Fines for the forty-second year of King Henry son of King John’. The clerk, however, could not be bothered with that and contented  himself with writing in a tiny hand ‘fines anni xlii’, leaving blank space all around.  One is tempted to think that this reflects the low morale of the chancery staff as Henry’s rule became more and more ineffective and contentious. No one, however, could have foreseen that by the end of the regnal year a revolution would have stripped the king of power.

The week in the fine rolls had many points of interest, but one may be singled out. The question is often raised as to just how valuable the chancery rolls were as records of royal government. Were they ever consulted to see what the king had done? Entry no. 18 from this week provides an example of when they were.  (This is eighteen entries down in the image above). It shows  the king informing the exchequer that, ‘having inspected the rolls of the chancery’, he has found that Master Roger de Cantilupe ‘had quittance of the common summons before the justices of common pleas in their last eyre in Somerset’. What this means is that Roger had been let off appearing before the justices on the first day of their business in Somerset in answer to the general summons sent round for people to attend. Accordingly, the king went on, Roger was to be pardoned the amercement of one mark imposed on him by the justices for his ‘default’ in  not turning up.   The actual record showing Roger’s exemption is  found on the close rolls for Henry III’s fortieth year, being on the dorse of membrane 19 (Close Rolls 1254-6, p.380), so quite a considerable search must have been necessary to find it.

The fine rolls for this week, under 1 November, also record the king’s grant to Elyas Marshal of land in Alton in Hampshire. Probably this was put on the fine rolls so as to inform the exchequer, through the originalia roll (the copy of the fine roll  sent the exchequer)   of the rent which Elyas was  to pay.  The ‘in the roll’ annotation to the entry made by our editors (no.17 in the translation ) shows that  there was such an annotation on the originalia roll. This would have been made by the exchequer and indicated it had put the debt into the pipe roll, the record of the annual audit of money owed the crown.  The charter corresponding to the entry likewise bears the date 1 November. It has an interesting witness list which shows those who were soon to make the revolution were not outsiders and strangers to the court. It is headed by Roger Bigod earl of Norfolk, and also includes his brother Hugh Bigod, who were both to be leading revolutionaries.  It also features the king’s half brother, William de Valence, whom the revolution was to expel from England.  Two foreign courtiers, the Savoyard steward, Imbert Pugeys and butler, William de Sancta Ermina (another to be expelled) featured alongside two native stewards, John and William de Grey. One puzzle  concerns John de Warenne, who was earl of Surrey. Why in the witness lists here (as elsewhere)  is he not given the title of ‘earl’?

Next week, Henry has humiliating news about his gold coinage.

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 28 August to Saturday 3 September 1261

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Henry spent all this week at Windsor.  Bad news kept pouring in.  We have seen from last week’s blog, that the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire was losing control of his counties.  A letter arrived from  the stalwart, James of Audley, revealing a similar situation  in Shropshire and Staffordshire.  In the north, Hugh Bigod, having tamely surrendered Dover to the king earlier in the year, now refused to give up Scarborough. He was, he declared, under oath not to surrendered it ‘without the will  and express order of the king and his magnates’. This showed he was still recognising the authority of the council of magnates imposed on the king in 1258.  And then intelligence arrived that Simon de Montfort had gone to France.  Henry said he did not know why, but must have feared that the earl’s aim was to replace the military force Henry hoped to raise abroad with one of his own. On Friday 2 September, Henry wrote accordingly to King Louis: please don’t  believe what Montfort tells you, and please  prevent him from acting to my prejudice ‘in the affair between us and our barons’. 

The fine rolls themselves shed an interesting light on the situation. In this week no less than thirty-six writs were purchased to commence or expedite the common law legal actions.  None, however,  were purchased from Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, which may well reflect the situation in those counties. Equally there were none from Audley’s Shropshire and Staffordshire, and Matthias Bezill’s Gloucestershire (for which see last week’s blog.) On the other hand, thirty-six writs purchased in all was not a bad total. People were still willing and able to come to Windsor, and had confidence that the legal actions they were pursuing were not going to be engulfed in  a civil war. This may help explain why Henry had felt able to return to Windsor, and why he continued to put his trust in conciliation as much as confrontation.  He thus counselled James of Audley to behave with caution and pass over mere verbal resistance. He should only act otherwise if there was violent resistance to the king’s officers.  Henry also sent an envoy to Norfolk and Suffolk to explain the affection and benevolence he felt for everyone in the two counties. The claims of malevolent people that he intended to subvert their rights and liberties were completely false.   See next week’s instalment.

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

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

And another week in the Tower of London. At least if Henry was confined there, his quarters were comfortable, as Jane Spooner shows in her contribution to the blog.  The fine rolls themselves might  suggest all was well.  Some forty-nine writs to  further legal actions according to the procedures of the common law were purchased in this week,  a very respectable number. In giving favour, Henry was also able to act in ways which might have been difficult during the restrictions of the baronial regime. He conceded  the manor of Kidlington in Oxfordshire to his foreign favourite, John de Plessy, earl of Warwick. The fact that Plessy offered 400 marks for the gift reflects the  arguably dubious legality of what was going on.  Also in this week, Henry  restored William de Bussey to his lands. Bussey had been the notorious steward of Henry’s Poitevin half brother, Wiliam de Valence. During the period of baronial reform, he had been arrested and his lands taken into the king’s hands. Matthew Paris ascribed to him the arrogant remark, made during his days of power, ‘if I do wrong, who is there to do you right?’ Now he was rehabilitated,  although Henry did make some nod in the direction of how this would look. Bussey had to give security that he would answer to  anyone who wished to complain against him.  Henry then went on the explain that, as a result of this security, he was bound by law (de jure)  to restore his lands.  This explanation was not included in a first version of the writ making the restoration.  That it appears in a second is hardly on a par with the way David Cameron is currently distancing himself from Andy Coulson, but it at least shows some sensitivity on Henry’s part to what the public might make of his association with a controversial figure.

Henry  had every reason for anxiety.  In this week, he must have been increasingly aware of the growing opposition to his seizure of power. In a rising, partly spontaneous and partly orchestrated by the baronial leaders, the sheriffs appointed by him earlier in the month were being  openly defied and  rival sheriffs being set up.  With the kingdom sliding towards civil war, both sides made efforts to draw back and reach a settlement. In this week various schemes for  arbitration by the king of France were being muted. One letter, was sent to Louis IX, on Monday  18 July, in the names of Walter de Cantilupe,  bishop of Worcester, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, and Hugh Bigod. This was a formidable coalition which reflected that Bigod had defected from the king to  the baronial opposition.  That the letter was sent from London shows the insurgents were at large in the capital and helps explain why Henry was stuck in the Tower. That Louis’s intervention was seen as ‘the only way’ of avoiding the ‘desolatio,  dissipatio  and irreparable loss which threatens all the land’ shows just how serious the situation now was.  Read next’s week’s instalment!

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 1 May to Saturday 7 May 1261

Friday, May 6th, 2011

At the end of last week’s blog, we asked what Henry’s decision to leave London and advance on Dover (which he reached on  Monday 2 May) would have on the business recorded in the fine rolls. The answer is the business collapsed. Henry’s long residence at the Tower of London had meant that those wishing to purchase writs and other favours had a central and certain place to go. They were clearly not deterred by the surrounding political tension. The five weeks down to 30 April had seen the purchase of   20, 13, 17, 17 and 12 writs respectively to further the common legal actions. The week between 1-7 May saw the purchase of only four,   these at Dover on 3 and 4 May.   There were  only two other entries on the fine rolls.  In the one, Henry pardoned a one mark penalty  imposed on a Rochester vintner for selling his wares contrary to the weights and measures regulations. In the other, Henry accepted an offer of 100  marks from the convent of Much Wenlock in Shropshire to have custody of their house during the vacancy caused by the death of their prior.

The disappearance  of the usual fine roll business was of little moment, against this week’s triumphal political success. What happened at Dover was recorded on the patent rolls.

‘Memorandum that on 2 May the king came to Dover and on the morrow took into his hand the castle of Dover and the wardenship of the Cinque Ports, which Hugh Bigod held before of the king’s bail by counsel of the nobles of the council, and he committed these during his pleasure to Robert Walerand’.

 The phraseology here was deliberately chosen and deeply significant for it indicated that the authority of the 1258 Provisions of Oxford council was at end. Yes, in giving Dover to Bigod, Henry had acted ‘by counsel of the nobles of the council’, but there was no suggestion that he had done the same in transferring the castle to the trusty Robert Walerand. Walerand was to hold during his pleasure.  Henry was now acting free of restraint of his own free will.

Materially Henry had struck a mighty blow for Dover was ‘the key to England’.  He could now dominate the Cinque ports, control the channel and call in foreign help. Symbolically the blow was equally great. Hugh Bigod, with his appointment at justiciar in 1258, had been at the summit of the reform regime.  If he was now prepared to throw it over, that really seemed the end.  Bigod, moreover, put up no struggle. He supplied the king’s household with the castle’s wine, and immediately joined the circle of the court, witnessing a royal charter while the king was at Dover.

Later in the year Bigod may have regretted his conduct. In August, he refused to surrender Scarborough and Pickering castles to the king, on the grounds that he had received them from the council as well as the king, and was sworn to surrender them only with the council’s consent. Precisely the situation, one would have thought at Dover. At this moment,  however, his conduct was understandable. He had been close to the king before the revolution of 1258, and thereafter, as justiciar, had been careful treat him with respect, much more respect than some other members of the regime. In 1260,  he had obeyed the king, rather than Simon de Montfort, and refused to hold the Candlemas parliament laid down by the Provisions of Oxford.  Montfort had  threatened him with reprisals, and then in October 1260 secured his removal as justiciar, only failing to  remove him from Dover at the same time. Doubtless Bigod was now told by the king that a papal bull was on its way quashing the oath to the 1258 reforms. He believed  the baronial enterprise was at end.  It was only  subsequent events which showed he had miscalculated.

After his triumph at Dover, Henry  moved on to Romney near where, on 6 May, the barons of the Cinque Ports came to do him homage.  But there were signs it would not all  be plain sailing. On 2 May, the day he arrived at Dover, there was resistance to the king’s judges hearing pleas at Hertford, and complaints that they were acting in contravention of the Provisions of Oxford. Two day later, Henry summoned foreign soldiers to England. The struggle had only just begun.