Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Despenser’

Sunday 21 December 1264: cash and castles

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

The court spent the week at Worcester, where it covered its expenses by borrowing £40 from the bishop. The bailiffs of Worcester contributed £15 from the farm of the town. Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, lent another £40, which was paid to John de Grey, who had been keeper of Nottingham castle. This was an indicator of another success for the government. John de Grey had been holding the castle for the royalists, but had now made peace. In return, the government ordered William Marshal to hand back Grey’s lands in Northamptonshire, which Marshal had been occupying.

The city of Gloucester in the early fourteenth century. From BL Royal 13 A III, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s  Historia Regum Britanniae.

The city of Gloucester in the early fourteenth century. From BL Royal 13 A III, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae.

The government made further attempts to assert its control over key strongholds, committing Nottingham castle to Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, Gloucester castle to Simon de Montfort junior, Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury castles to Ralph Basset of Drayton, and Hereford castle to Peter de Montfort. The problem would be to convince the royalists who still held several castles to hand them over. Lord Edward, the king’s son, was said to have committed the castle and town of Bristol to Simon de Montfort senior, and to have received Ludgershall, in Wiltshire; as Edward was Simon’s prisoner, he may not have had much choice in this exchange. On the other hand, Edward’s captivity may not have been too unpleasant; he was sent 50 tuns of wine from the king’s wines in Nottingham castle. Although the marchers agreed to make peace, plundering and disorder continued. The marcher leaders were offered safe conduct to go to Kenilworth to meet lord Edward, and again ordered to release prisoners they had taken at Northampton. (CPR 1258-66, 394-7, 475; Close Rolls 1264-68, 83-4; CLR 1260-67, 151, 154; CFR 1264-65, 630-7; Foedera, I, I, 449)

Preparations began for the king to celebrate Christmas at Evesham. The sheriffs of London were to arrange for the transport of supplies for the king’s wardrobe, such as wax, robes, napkins and towels. (CLR 1260-67, 153)

Sunday 7 December 1264: a siege and a debt

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

The king spent most of this week in Oxford, moving only as far as Woodstock on 6 December. Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, had evidently rejoined the court; he had been sent to find any stragglers who had gone to Northampton, following the earlier instructions for forces to gather there, rather than at Oxford. Despenser held an inquiry in Oxford on 3 December, concerning a death during a quarrel; the report of the inquiry is confused, beginning by saying that it concerns the death of Robert son of Cecil de Stokes, but ending by saying that Robert drew his knife and killed Richard Crindel. (Cal Inq Misc, I, no. 283)

Pevensey Castle in 1737. In 1246, Henry III had granted the castle to Peter of Savoy (Cal Charter Rolls, I, 296).

Pevensey Castle in 1737. In 1246, Henry III had granted the castle to Peter of Savoy (Cal Charter Rolls, I, 296).

Although Despenser had time for such local matters, the main business of the week was preparation for operations against the royalists. Nine of the king’s crossbowmen were paid 40 shillings each for arrears of wages, so that they could come to the March with the king, with horses and arms. (CLR 1260-67, 150) The council committed Scarborough castle to John de Eyvill and Newcastle on Tyne castle to Robert de Lisle, ordering their royalist commanders to hand them over. The ports of Hastings, Winchelsea and Rye were instructed to prevent royalist attempts to deliver supplies by sea, and break the siege of Pevensey castle. Simon de Montfort junior, who commanded the siege, was paid £100 toward the costs of continuing the siege during the winter, and for making a ditch in front of the castle so that the royalists could not get out. (CPR 1258-66, 390-2; CLR 1260-67, 152; CFR 1264-65, 626, 628)

Simon de Montfort appears again to have been using his position for his own benefit, in the matter of his wife’s dower. The sheriff of Lincolnshire was ordered to raise 600 marks from the goods and chattels of Margaret countess of Lincoln, which the king owed as Eleanor’s dower. This was to be paid on 1 December. (E 368/39 m. 2d)

Sunday 14 September 1264: peace terms

Sunday, September 14th, 2014
Eudes Rigaud, archbishop of Rouen. It was proposed that he should have the deciding vote if negotiations were tied.

Eudes Rigaud, archbishop of Rouen. It was proposed that he should have the deciding vote if negotiations were tied.

On 11 September, Simon de Montfort’s government produced a set of proposals for negotiations about the ‘form of peace’, the settlement agreed after the baronial victory. Several draft proposals survive, showing various approaches to setting up an Anglo-French committee to rule on the future government of England. Initially, the negotiators, to meet Louis IX and the papal legate, were the bishops of Worcester and Winchester, and Peter de Montfort. They were to propose establishing a group of four to decide what changes to the peace were needed, if any; two would be English (the bishop of London and Hugh Despenser) and two French, with the archbishop of Rouen as arbiter in the event of disagreement. The proposals stipulated that England must be governed by natives, and that castles and offices must be held by natives. A few days later, the bishop of London, Hugh Despenser, and the archdeacon of Oxford were added to the baronial negotiating team. (Diplomatic Documents, I, 269-70; Foedera, I, I, 446-7; CPR 1258-66, 369-70)

A further set of proposals was then produced. The arbitrators were to rule on the election of councillors, who must be Englishmen. These councillors would rule on the appointment of officials, who must also be English, the observance of the charters and the control of the king’s expenditure. When agreement was reached, the royal hostages would be released. If the arbitration failed, then the terms of the Peace of Canterbury would remain in effect. (CPR 1258-66, 370-1)

One chronicler, Arnold fitz Thedmar, reported that the king and barons went to Dover about this time, for a meeting between the representatives of the king and barons on one side, and on the other the foreigners whom the Queen had paid to invade England. Then Hugh Despenser, Peter de Montfort and other nobles and bishops went to France to discuss peace. A rather confused version of the actual events had evidently become known in London. (Cronica Maiorum, 69)

The government was not only concerned with the defence of the coasts: the local authorities in Oxford were ordered to repress illicit gatherings, intended to disturb the region, and to prevent the assembly of ‘a multitude of foreign Jews’ in the town. (Close Rolls 1261-64, 363-4)

Sunday 6 July 1264: keeping the peace

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

This week, entries in the fine roll resumed, for the first time since April. There were the usual fines for having routine writs, and records of reliefs owed by heirs of tenants in chief – encouraging signs of the return of normal business, with the prospect of some income for the government. (CFR 1263-64, 115-35)

At last, de Montfort secured control of Windsor castle. Drogo de Barentin and his garrison were given safe conduct, and John fitz John was appointed constable. On the other hand, the marcher lords, like Roger Mortimer, continued to ignore orders to come to London and to release their prisoners. (CPR 1258-66, 329-30, 362)

After the disorders of the preceding months, it was hardly surprising that the government was short of money, and managing by short-term expedients. The king’s chamberlain bought wine worth £95 from Gascon merchants, with payment guaranteed by William son of Richard and Reginald of Canterbury, the London moneyers. The moneyers were to be reimbursed from the revenues of the London and Canterbury exchanges. The need for cash led to Hervey of Stanhoe, the new sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, being instructed to collect arrears of farms from the cities and towns of those counties, disregarding their liberties if need be, and to send the proceeds to the Wardrobe. This indicates that revenue, which should have been paid to the Exchequer, was still being diverted to the Wardrobe to pay day-to-day expenses, as had been done during the period of civil war. (CPR 1258-66, 331)

The new sheriffs evidently faced considerable problems. They were all instructed to preserve the peace: the king understood that certain keepers of the peace had become disturbers of the peace; others held men to ransom and plundered their goods. The sheriffs were to take action against them, and hold them prisoner, awaiting further instructions. (CPR 1258-66, 362)

There was also the threat from royalists overseas, with reports that the queen was leading a large army to the coast of Flanders, ready to cross to England. Letters were sent to most of the counties, setting out the threat of a great number of foreigners invading the country, and instructing the knights and free tenants to come to London with horses and arms on Sunday 2 August. In each township, the sheriff was to summon eight, six or at least four of the best men, mounted and on foot, armed with lances, bows and arrows, crossbows and axes. He was to accept no excuses because it was harvest-time: better to lose some goods than to risk total loss of land and goods at the hands of those who would spare neither age nor sex if they prevailed. Similarly, the commonalty of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex were to be ready to defend the coasts, commanded by Hugh Despenser. This was the de Montfort regime’s response to the preparations for invasion from France, calling up a peasant army to defend against the foreign threat. (Ann Mon III, 233; IV, 154; CPR 1258-66, 360-2; Foedera, I, I, 444)

An unattractive aspect of the new regime became apparent on 30 June, in a blatantly biased judgment against William de Braose. He had plundered Sedgewick, a Sussex manor belonging to Simon de Montfort junior. He was ordered to pay 10,000 marks damages, a ridiculously large sum, by a tribunal headed by Henry de Montfort, who was hardly likely to be impartial. (Bémont, Simon de Montfort, 353-4)

Sunday 16 March 1264: Oxford, Gloucester and London

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Henry III stayed in Oxford all week, waiting for his followers to respond to the summons he had sent out. He sent the students away, as many undisciplined men (indomiti) would be coming to the town. Henry would not be able to guarantee the safety of the clerks in an armed camp; in addition, his troops would presumably need to take over the students’ accommodation. We know the names of some of those who were already with him, because there is an entry on the charter roll from 14 March, the first charter to be recorded since December. The witnesses who were present in Oxford include earl Richard, Hugh Bigod, Philip Basset, Roger Leybourne, Warin de Bassingbourn, Roger Mortimer and James Audley – some of the leading royalist commanders. (Foedera, I, 1, 435; Royal Charter Witness Lists of Henry III)

The fine roll this week shows that Henry was losing such support as he had had in Wales. Back in 1257, he had granted the manors of Market Harborough, Great Bowden and Kingsthorpe to the Welsh magnate Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn. This was a reward for Gruffydd’s service to the king and lord Edward, against the rising power of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. Gruffydd lost his lands and chattels in Powys during the war in Wales, but he and his family would be sustained by these English manors. In 1263, Gruffydd evidently saw which way the wind was blowing, and deserted the king’s cause, to attach himself to Llywelyn. Henry responded on 14 March, taking away Gruffydd’s manors, committing them to be managed by the men of those manors instead. (CFR 1257-58, no. 140; CPR 1247-58, 560, 608; CFR 1263-64, nos. 87-8)

Lord Edward began the week trapped in Gloucester castle, with baronial forces holding the town, and the troops of Robert de Ferrers approaching, following their sack of Worcester. In Robert of Gloucester’s verses:

Then they saw out of the tower the earl Robert of Ferrers
At the town’s end come, with noble men and fierce,
From the direction of Tewkesbury, armed well each one,
Horse and men, all ready battle to do anon.
When sir Edward saw this, nothing was he glad,
For it was said that he was not so sore afraid of any one.

Bishop Walter de Cantilupe negotiated a ceasefire between Edward and Henry de Montfort, much to Ferrers’ annoyance. Edward promised to arrange terms for peace by 13 March. De Montfort’s baronial forces withdrew from the town, under the terms of the agreement, which Edward promptly disregarded, ‘with foxlike cunning.’ Edward occupied the town, imprisoned the leading citizens and extorted a large ransom. The gatekeepers who had been tricked into letting the baronial forces into Gloucester were hanged from the west gate. The ransom was said to be £1,000; Roger Clifford, the royalist constable of Gloucester castle, was ordered to send £100 of this directly to the king. The king did take steps to negotiate with his opponents: on 13 March he appointed proctors to seek Simon de Montfort and negotiate with him, in the presence of a French envoy. (Church Historians, V, 365-6; Ann Mon, III, 228; Flores Hist, II, 487; Close Rolls 1261-64, 336-7; Foedera, I, 1, 436)

London remained hostile to the king. It is notable that he had avoided the capital when he travelled from Rochester to Oxford. The city was controlled by baronial sympathizers, who appointed a constable and marshal to command the Londoners. The Tower appears to have been in the hands of Hugh Despenser, who had been appointed Justiciar (the chief administrative and judicial officer) and keeper of the Tower by the baronial council in 1260-61. Despenser had returned to these offices in 1263, when de Montfort was briefly in control. Although he ceased to function as Justiciar in October 1263, as Henry re-asserted his authority, Despenser seems to have kept control of the Tower. This week, Despenser and the Londoners attacked and plundered earl Richard’s manor of Isleworth, and destroyed his house in Westminster. The London mob also ‘ravaged with fire and destruction’ the estates of other royalists, including Philip Basset. Basset was one of the charter witnesses with the king in Oxford; he was also Despenser’s father-in-law, and had replaced him as Justiciar between 1261 and 1263. The Londoners are said to have attacked and imprisoned the king’s clerks, the barons of the Exchequer and the justices of the Bench. Henry responded by imposing sanctions (as we would now say): the constable of Windsor castle was to prevent supplies reaching London by boat, cart or pack-horse; royalist supporters were not to pay debts owed to burgesses who held their manors, which were to be seized by the sheriff of Kent. (Cronica Maiorum, 61; Ann Mon, IV, 140-1; Flores Hist, II, 487; Close Rolls 1261-64, 375-6)