Posts Tagged ‘Jews’

Sunday 15 June 1264

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Monday 9 June was Whit Monday, the day of the procession by the villagers of Kibworth, in Leicestershire, to the church of Market Harborough, which David Carpenter wrote about in the September 2010 Fine of the Month. We know about this event from the pardon later granted to Wodard of Kibworth for the killing of William King in self-defence. It could be evidence of peasants’ awareness of the political struggle, and support for the cause of reform, only four weeks after the battle of Lewes.

During this week, the new government in London continued to try to impose its authority over the rest of the country, and to distribute some of the prizes of office. Leading royalists were repeatedly commanded to come to London, and the constable of Nottingham castle was ordered to release the prisoners whom the royalists had taken at Northampton. Gilbert de Clare was granted the wardenship of Boston fair, one of the main annual commercial events, where much of the business of the wool trade was transacted. He was also given custody of the estates of the émigré royalist, John de Warenne. (CPR 1258-66, 323, 325-6)

De Montfort and the Jews

The attitude of the de Montfort regime to the Jews seems particularly relevant this week. A letter to The Times on Tuesday (The Times, 10 June 2014, p. 29 – the online edition is only available to subscribers, apparently) accused Simon de Montfort of being ‘a notorious and rabid antisemite’. He certainly had a record suggesting hostility to Jews. De Montfort, as lord of Leicester, issued a charter in 1231-32, expelling the Jews from that city. His supporters, as we have seen in recent weeks, had been involved in attacks on the Jewish communities in Worcester, Canterbury and London. Two prominent rebels had been personally involved in these outrages. Robert Ferrers, earl of Derby, killed or imprisoned many Jews during the sack of Worcester, and later carried off the bonds recording Jewish loans to his castle of Tutbury; this was perhaps the action of a debtor. John fitz John led the pillage of the Jews of London, and himself murdered Kok son of Abraham. (Maddicott, Simon de Montfort, 15; Maddicott, ‘Ferrers’ and Carpenter ‘John’, ODNB)

The new government, on the other hand, was trying to restore some semblance of normality. On 2 June, several burgesses of Northampton were ordered to protect the Jewish community, who had fled to Northampton castle during the battle, and had not dared to leave it. The Jews should return to the town and live there, protected by the burgesses. Similarly, the mayor and sheriffs of London were instructed on 11 June to protect the Jews who had taken refuge in the Tower, and who should now be allowed to return to their homes in security. And on 14 June 1264, a group of citizens of Winchester were appointed as wardens of the Jews of Winchester; now that peace had been made, they were to proclaim, on behalf of the king and the barons, that the Jews should not be molested. These were not, of course, straightforward gestures of tolerance; as the royal letter to Northampton pointed out, while the Jews remained in the castle, the king was suffering no small loss. (CPR 1258-66, 323; Foedera, I, I, 441-3)

Sunday 13 April 1264: Looting, burning and murder

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Following the capture of Northampton, Henry moved rapidly towards Leicester and Nottingham, burning and wasting the manors of his baronial enemies. At Nottingham, he entered the castle without opposition. Following his military successes in the Midlands, the king needed to ensure that he maintained control of the area through reliable sheriffs and castellans. The fine roll shows that, while Henry was in Northampton, he committed the county and the castle to his supporters. A few days later, in Nottingham, he made similar appointments for Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire, and for Nottingham castle. 

Two royalist commanders, Roger of Leybourne and John de Warenne, the earl of Surrey, had been sent south to hold Rochester and Reigate castles. Meanwhile, lord Edward was leading another force into Derbyshire and Staffordshire, pillaging the estates of Robert de Ferrers, and destroying his castle of Tutbury. He was also engaging in extortion, demanding £200 to spare the wapentake of Wirksworth in Derbyshire; the Dunstable annals record that the prior of Dunstable had to contribute £10 towards this. In the words of a chronicler with baronial sympathies, wherever the armies of the king and Edward went, they were followed by three companions – looting, burning and murder. The only success for the barons was the capture of Warwick castle, using Simon de Montfort’s siege engines from his nearby castle of Kenilworth. (CFR 1263-64, nos. 94-100; Guisborough, 191; Ann Mon, III, 230; Flores, II, 489; London annals, 61-2) 

The baronial party was also guilty of atrocities. Simon de Montfort and many other prominent rebels were in London at the end of March, when they swore an oath of mutual support with the citizens of London. Some of these barons went immediately to Northampton, where they were captured, as we saw last week. The main baronial force had set out from London to support the defenders of Northampton, but had been too late. Henry had taken the town before they reached St Albans. They turned back, and in this week, which was the week before Palm Sunday, they embarked on a massacre of the Jewish community in London. At about the same time, Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, who had only recently declared his support for the barons, led an attack on the Jews of Canterbury. (Ann Mon, III, 230; Gervase of Canterbury, II, 235)

The Dunstable annals report rumours that the Jews of London were preparing to betray the citizens: they had Greek fire to burn the city, copies of the keys to the city gates, and subterranean passages to each gate. Such tales were used to excuse an outbreak of looting and murder. One chronicler says that the Jews were suspected of betraying the barons and citizens, and almost all were killed. Another says that the Jewish quarter was pillaged, and any Jews who were caught were stripped, robbed and murdered. Estimates of the number killed range from 200 to 500, with the remainder forcibly converted or imprisoned (or, looking at it another way, the rest were saved by the justices and the mayor, who sent them to the Tower for protection). The chronicler Wykes, who tended to be less favourable to the baronial party, singled out the baronial leader John fitz John, who was said to have killed the leading Jew, Kok son of Abraham, with his own hands, and seized his treasure. Fitz John was then forced to share the proceeds with Simon de Montfort. It is possible that de Montfort was taking the Jewish treasure, not to enrich himself, but to finance his forces. At the same time, the cash of Italian and French merchants, deposited in religious houses around London, was also seized and taken to the city. (Ian Stone, ‘The rebel barons of 1264 and the commune of London’, EHR, CXXIX (2014), 1-18; Flores, II, 489; Cronica Maiorum, 62; Ann Mon, III, 230, and IV, 142-3)

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 July to Saturday 28 July 1257

Friday, July 27th, 2012

King Henry’s itinerary in these two week can be followed in the fine rolls.  Down to 20 July he is found at Woodstock. On 24 July he is at Coventry and on 29 July at Lichfield. For the membrane covering the period, click here.

Henry was on his way to Chester to meet the army he had summoned for his campaign against Llywelyn. Preparations were now in full swing.  On 18 July 100 good archers were summoned from Sussex and a 100 good lancers from Northamptonshire. There was, however,  an important change of plan. On 13 July Llywelyn had attacked Richard de Clare’s lordship of Glamorgan.  The result was that on 18 July Henry decided to split his army and place a substantial force in south Wales under Richard’s command. Henry was also anxious on another front, one he had very much to heart. There was more trouble in Scotland where factional disputes were threatening the peace of the young king Alexander, who was married to Henry’s cherished daughter Margaret. On 20 July Henry sent envoys to Scotland to try and settle the disputes.  On the same day we find that Queen Eleanor was on her way to stay at Nottingham. This journey, hitherto unexplained, was almost certainly connected with events in Scotland. Eleanor felt as strongly about the welfare of Alexander and Margaret as did Henry. In 1255, when they had been under threat before, she had gone all the way to Scotland with Henry to effect their rescue. On that occasion, Henry and Eleanor had broken their journey at Nottingham. This year, Eleanor probably saw it as a base from which, if necessary, she could go further north. In fact, Eleanor did not stay at Nottingham long, although the  windows of her apartments there had been glassed, and the walls  wainscoted, plastered and adorned with a painting of the story of Alexander. She found the air not to her taste (an issue on which she was always sensitive) and moved to  the Ferrers castle of Tutbury, which was then, through a wardship,  in her own hands.

The fine rolls in these two weeks, show the usual common law business holding up well  with twenty-two writs being purchased to initiate or further legal actions. There is, as usual, a wide variety of other business. On 20 July at Woodstock, Henry, allowed Agnes, the widow of Stephen Bauzan, whose death at the hands of the Welsh had triggered the campaign, to have the royal manor of Wooton in Oxfordshire for six years, a nice act of compassion.  At Coventry, on 24 July, the ex sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire, Robert de Grendon, was allowed to pay off his arrears, which amounted to £484, at £20 a year.  How had he run up such a large deficit and why had he been allowed to do so? It would be interesting to research these questions, which could be posed concerning several other sheriffs at this time. There was also an important fine made by the Jewish community. Elyas Bishop, a London Jew, had just been removed from his position as ‘priest of the community of Jews of England’ for having allegedly tried to defraud Henry III’s brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and now, of course, king of Germany.  Despite its title, the position of ‘priest’ or ‘archpriest’ was a secular office held under the crown, the holder being responsible for carrying out the king’s orders with respect to the Jewry. Now Elyas’s brothers, Cress and Hagin, on behalf of the Jewish  community, offered the king three marks of gold (so the equivalent of thirty marks of silver) to ensure that Elyas never recovered the office and that henceforth the priest should be appointed by ‘common election of the aforesaid community’. It is interesting to see how the idea of that royal officials should be elected was embraced by the Jewish community just as much as it was by the Christian. It might seem strange that Henry III gave way to the request that the priest be elected,  but it had one great advantage.  If the priest was elected by the community, then the community could be penalised for his misdemeanours. Parliament’s demand to elect the king’s chief ministers, which Henry consistently rejected, was a rather different matter. For the fine, see nineteen from top on the membrane. The marginal note says the fine was by the community of the Jews of London, but the body of the fine makes clear it was by the community of the Jews of England.

Next week on to Chester.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 July to Saturday 14 July 1257

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Woodstock, while his army assembled to meet him at Chester in the first week of August. Material on the fine rolls, as it did last week, illustrates the law relating to property rights in marriage. On 14 July the king made a concession in favour of the Warwickshire knight, John of Ladbroke. John had married an heiress, namely Joan, daughter of Richard de Baresworth.  Although Joan had been married before, and her inheritance would eventually pass to the children of her first marriage,  John was entitled to control that inheritance during her lifetime. What, however, would happen after her death, for she had indeed now died? Here everything depended on whether there had been offspring from the marriage. If there had not been, then Joan’s inheritance would pass at once to the offspring  her first marriage. If, however, Joan and John had produced a child, even if it was now dead, then John was entitled to keep the inheritance for his own lifetime.  In legal terminology, this was called tenure ‘by the courtesy of England’. What the entry on the fine rolls shows (no.832) is that John was indeed in this fortunate position. The only misfortune was that, having control of Joan’s inheritance, meant that he had also to shoulder the debts to the crown, which Joan had inherited from her father. These included debts owed the Jews, which had been taken into the king’s hands, and which, so John said, were to be paid off at £1 a year. John’s complaint was that the exchequer was now forcing him to pay the whole debt, and was disregarding the terms allowing payment at the rate of £1 a year. The king, therefore, ordered the exchequer to allow John to recover those terms. The king added ‘if this is true’, so the exchequer had some  leeway, but there was evidence to back up John’s story. The pipe rolls, the annual audit of money owed the crown, do show that Joan’s first husband had been allowed to pay the debt off at £1 a year. The pipe rolls for this year, that is for 1256-1257 (for the membrane, click here), by contrast,  show  John himself paying in  £1 16s 8d, in other words he was having to cough up  more than a  £1.  In the pipe roll for 1257-1258,  John does just pay in £1 so his complaint had some effect.  The debt itself was a large one, amounting to £97, which made it  important to secure terms for its repayment.

One further point of interest is that writ to the exchequer, on John’s behalf,  is said in the  fine rolls to be ‘per’, that is authorised by Laurence de Manneby.  Evidently  Laurence was John’s contact at court, and it was he who saw the concession through.  Laurence was a king’s clerk and brother and, as the fine rolls show (CFR 1255-6, no.77; 1257-8, no.997) to Hugh de Manneby, who was at this time earning an evil reputation as sheriff of Northamptonshire.  I do not know the connection between Laurence de Manneby and John of Ladbroke. Has anyone any clues here?  How did those fair in their petitions who did not have these connections?

Next week the king gets ready for his Welsh campaign.

For the membrane with  the writ in favour of John of Ladbroke, see four from bottom here.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 May to Saturday 2 June 1257

Friday, June 1st, 2012

On Sunday 28 May Henry III celebrated Pentecost at Westminster. For some time he had been making preparations. On 3 May he had ordered his huntsman to take over fifty deer of various types for the feast.  There were also to be robes for distribution to his household and  164 tunics for poor Jewish converts to Christianity, these  for the alms  of the king, the queen and their children.  In previous years the  number of tunics distributed had been 171, the missing seven  presumably being the quota of Henry’s recently deceased daughter, Katherine. She was, however, very much on Henry’s mind, for on the feast day itself, he paid the expenses of  Master Simon of Wells who was coming  to Westminster to make an image of her in gilt bronze for her tomb.  Henry must have been encouraged by the good turn for the celebrations. On 28 May a royal charter, in favour of the bishop of Bath and Wells, was witnessed by the bishops of Worcester and Salisbury, and the earls of Norfolk, Gloucester, Leicester, Hereford, and Aumale, as well as Philip Basset and Stephen Longespee, and assorted ministers. For once, Henry’s foreign relatives were absent, although William de Valence was back attesting on 1 June.  The king’s roll, recording his daily expenditure on food and drink, which survives for 1260, throws more light on the Pentecost festivities. In that year, Henry fed 464 paupers, expended 200 pounds of wax burning candles in his chapel and almonry, and spent some £145 mostly on food and drink. Translating such sums into modern money is full of pitfalls but it could be viewed as the equivalent of between half a million and a million pounds today.

The fine rolls show business as usual in this week. Indeed it continued on 28 May itself when the rolls record the appointment of a new sheriff for Gloucestershire. This was done by the ordinance of the senior judge, Henry of Bath, and the treasurer of the exchequer, Philip Lovel, which shows how Henry had devolved such appointments. A fine of particular interest shows how carefully the accumulation of gold was monitored, and also gives evidence for the exchange rate between gold and silver.  On 30 May (entry no.703),  Roger of Newcastle offered half a mark of gold   for a certain writ. However, the entry recorded that the gold offered was under weight by one gold penny, ‘that is ten pennies of silver’.  This shows that the exchange rate between gold and silver was then one to ten, so that a penny of gold should weigh ten pennies of silver. Of course, at this time there were no gold pennies (but wait till later in the year!), and the gold had to offered either in foil or in foreign gold currencies. The amounts offered would then be weighed and at the one to ten ratio, the half a mark of gold here offered, that is  80 pence in gold, should have weighed 800 silver pennies. In fact, as we have seen, it weighed ten silver pennies less. Hence the trouble.

One question about the numbers of paupers clothed on such feast days. We have said that in 1257 the numbers of converts clothed was 164. We have also suggested that the number is seven down from the year before because of Katherine’ s death. But how do the numbers work? There is other evidence that the number for the king was 100 and  the queen 50. That leaves 21 (before 1257) for the children. But as there were five children and if the portion per child was seven, that should make the number 185. Is the answer that Henry did not give alms in the same way for his married children (by 1256 Margaret and Edward), and so the twenty-one is just Edmund, Beatrice and Katherine at seven apiece?  Ideas welcome.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 13 May to Saturday 19 May 1257

Friday, May 18th, 2012

At the start of this week Henry moved from Merton to Westminster where he was to remain for well over a month. The week was a sad one, for it probably saw in Westminster abbey the funeral of Henry’s beloved daughter Katherine.  On 16 May, Henry assigned £51 to John, his almoner, for the funeral’s expenses. If this money went in giving alms to the poor for Katherine’s soul, as seems likely, it suggests that around 10,000 paupers were fed on the day of the funeral. 

The king’s presence at Westminster had a dramatic effect on business recorded in the fine rolls. In the week before at Merton, only eleven purchases were made of writs to initiate or further legal actions according to the common law. In this week at Westminster the number was twenty-seven. Clearly litigants knew the king was coming to Westminster and decided to wait for his arrival,  rather than seeking him out at Merton. This does raise the question as to why Henry’s government never devolved the power to issue the common law writs to the judges at Westminster,  rather than making everyone get them from the chancery which, of course, followed the king.  The solution adopted in the next century for the chancery itself to become fixed at Westminster was, to my mind, less satisfactory.  The twenty-seven writs were for litigation in a range of counties, which shows again the common law was genuinely common and was not just for the south-east.  Lincolnshire easily tops the list with ten writs, and one wonders whether one envoy had been sent to secure them for all the litigants, although admittedly they are not placed on the roll in a single block.  After that, there were three writs for Northamptonshire, two for Kent, Berkshire and Wiltshire,  and one for Essex, Devon, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire.

The roll also has something on the aftermath of the persecution of the Jews of Lincoln for allegedly crucifying a Christian boy (‘little Saint Hugh’) in their town in 1255. On 18 May  William de Kivelingho offered the king a mark of gold (through the sheriff and the justice of the Jews, Simon Passelewe) ‘for the house which Vives of Norwich, Jew, hung for having, as was said, crucified a boy at Lincoln, held in Brancegate in the parish of St Martin in Lincoln’.  The ‘as was said’ is interesting and like other entries in the rolls in this period suggests increasing doubt as to whether the event really had taken place. This entry is  no 648 in calendar and bottom but one of this membrane.  Note also the drawing in the margin designed perhaps to mark the entry.

For Henry and the Jews of Lincoln in 1255 see the fines of the month for January and February 2010.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 13 November to Saturday 19 November 1261

Monday, November 14th, 2011

For Henry this was yet another week in the Tower of London. Negotiations with his opponents were continuing at Kingston on Thames. On Monday 14 November Henry issued yet another safe conduct, this one to run till Saturday 19 November, for the barons coming to Kingston  ‘to make peace with the king’. But, as before,  Henry was  keeping up his guard. The next day he ordered his castellan of Dover and sheriff of Kent, the doughty Robert Walerand,  to receive the knights and others called into the king’s service from beyond the seas.  The fine rolls this week contain two pieces of evidence which suggest that Henry was holding sway in northern Kent. On 16 November he placed Rochester under the control of John de Grey. John’s brother, Richard, was a leading Montfortian, but John, a former steward of the royal household  remained loyal to the king. Henry was acting, so he said, partly at the request of the citizens themselves, who were so riven by faction that they had asked the king several times to take the vill into his own hands. He was also, he said, motivated by ‘the disturbances which have arisen in the kingdom and the preservation of the security of those parts’.  Henry was equally in contact with the citizens of Faversham. It was in this week that the  barons of Faversham’, as they are called in recognition of their status, agreed to pay the king 10 marks for a royal charter.  The fine can be seen at the top of this image of membrane 18 of the roll. Details of this charter and others relating to Faversham are listed on Faversham’s own website.

The fine rolls also show that, in this week, Henry had a welcome windfall of money, although less than first appears.  The next entry to that for Faversham records how Belia, widow of Petitevin of Bedford, a Jew, had paid 400 marks cash down and promised 335 marks to come, for the chattels, lands and rents of her former husband in Bedford. In fact a later entry shows that she had already given  300 of the 400 marks when the king was at Windsor earlier in the year, and only 100 marks now came at the Tower. Still this was a useful subvention  at a critical time. The fine also shows, of course, that there remained  some very wealthy Jews despite the heavy taxation of the previous decades. Belia was also far from the only Jewish widow to take on her husband’s business.

The fine rolls  continue to reflect the chaotic times. Their material is jumbled in terms of chronology and it is difficult to know how many writs were purchased in this week to initiate and further common law legal actions. Between  12 and 23 November, the number appears to be a fairly modest eighteen.

Are the negotiations at Kingston going to have any result? Read next week’s instalment.

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 September to Saturday 10 September 1261

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Henry spent all of this week at Windsor castle.  The pressure was mounting. He must have during the the week that  Simon de Montfort, Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and the bishop of Worcester, had summoned three knights from each  county to meet them on 21 September at St Albans, less than twenty-five miles away. Would the upshot of that assembly be outright defiance of the king and the start of  civil war?  The parlous political situation impacted on the fine rolls. Only three writs to initiate or further the common law legal actions were purchased in this week, as opposed to thirty-six the week before.  Even allowing for problems of dating these writs exactly, this small  number  surely reflects the dangers of travelling to the king.

It is good to see that during this difficult time, Henry had with him that best of all his counsellors, John Mansel. Mansel had returned to court from  supervising the building works at his Sussex castle and endeavouring to win over to the king the hearts and minds of those in the area. On or around 8 September, he authorised a writ in favour of the Lincolnshire knight Ralph Darcy and his wife Philippa. After an investigation of their resources, they were to be given reasonable terms for the payment of the debts they owed Jews in Lincoln, Stamford and London.  Later  Ralph was turned into an outright enemy of the king by a far bigger concession over his  Jewish debts made by Simon de Montfort. What else could Henry do to shore up support in 1261, faced with the coming assembly at St Albans. Read next week’s blog.

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.