Posts Tagged ‘John de Plessis’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 2 October to Saturday 8 October 1261

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Henry III spent all this week at St Paul’s in London where he was almost certainly staying at the bishop’s palace.  The chaos of the time is reflected in the continuing collapse of fine roll business. Only nine writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased in this week. Henry was  anxious about control of the Cinque Ports. On 4 October, he ordered the men of Winchelsea and Sandwich to have nothing to do with a meeting the king’s enemies had tried to arrange. Ostensibly this was to settle a dispute between the men. In fact, as Henry said, it was to seduce them from their allegiance. The men were also told to prevent the king’s enemies bringing foreign soldiers into the country. This was not, of course, to prevent the king doing the same.

This week did, however, bring two pieces of good news for Henry.  First, he had evidently tried to summon his supporters to London, and the result was not disappointing. The witness lists to royal charters show that with Henry at St Paul’s on 4, 5 October were Boniface archbishop of Canterbury,* the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, Peter of Savoy, the marcher barons, James of Audley and Reginald fitzPeter (see the blog for 8-14 May),  Philip Basset, the justiciar,  and John Mansel. Since one charter was in favour of John de Plessis, earl of Warwick, he was probably there too.

The second piece of good news came  from the exchequer at Westminster. Henry himself had long felt that Westminster was out of bounds. With the palace there unprotected, he  feared an armed coup like that which had overturned him in 1258. But such dangers had not stopped the exchequer courageously attending to its business. Thus the  money to be raised by the fines  continued to be sent to the exchequer on the originalia rolls (the copies of the fine rolls), and we can see the exchequer setting about the business of collecting it in the annotations it made on the rolls, ‘in the roll’ meaning the debt has been put in the pipe roll: ‘s’ meaning it has been put into the ‘summonses’, the list of debts sent to the sheriffs for collection.  It was one thing to order the sheriffs to collect the debts, another for them actually to do so when their authority was being challenged by rival sheriffs set up by the insurgents. The acid test of their success was now at hand for it was at Michaelmas,  at the end of  each September, that the sheriffs were supposed to send in to the exchequer the money they had raised. What now would be the results? Henry must have wondered that more anxiously at Michaelmas 1261 than at any other time in his reign.

In the event, Henry was re-assured, at least in some measure.  He may well   have feared that nothing at all would arrive. In fact, the sheriffs and those answering separately for various towns and manors brought in  around £1580.  On the other hand, there were some black holes,  showing clearly where the king’s authority had disintegrated.  Matthias Bezill, challenged  by William de Tracy in Gloucestershire (see the blog for 24-30 July) sent nothing.  Nothing equally came from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, and most worrying of all perhaps, from Kent. No wonder Henry was concerned about the Cinque  Ports. There was also very little from Essex and Hertforshire. Still the exchequer was undaunted and vigorously set about hearing the sheriff’s accounts.  Later in the year it was to bring the rival sheriffs themselves to book, getting them to answer for their ill gotten gains. The exchequer’s buoyant spirit is reflected in the elaborate ‘A’  penned by the clerk, drawing up the memoranda roll for Michaelmas 1261, in the heading ‘Still  (Adhuc)  communia for the term of St Michaelmas’. (‘Communia’ here essentially means common or general business).

Henry himself was now facing a dilemma for 13 October was coming up. This was the greatest day in his religious year,  the feast day  of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. It was a day he ALWAYS spent at Westminster amidst splendid services and joyous celebrations. Would he go there in 1261? Read next week’s blog to find out.

*An unflattering sketch of Boniface Archbishop of Canterbury appears on the 1261-2 memoranda roll.

Henry III’s Alien Curiales

Friday, July 29th, 2011

When the storm broke around the King’s head in 1258, the Barons in their Petition of that May asked that all royal castles including those adjoining harbours from which ships sail, should be committed to the custody of men born in England and that no women shall be disparaged by being married to ‘men who are not true-born Englishmen’. The experience of the King’s alien curiales  varied.  As a result of the Provisions of Oxford of June/July, John de Plessis, far from being removed, was, by a vote of the Barons, appointed to the group of four who would chose the King’s Council.  In addition he was to hold Devizes castle.  Mathias Bezill was retained as Constable of Gloucester but Imbert Pugeys was removed from the Tower of London. 

A Tourangeau, Mathias Bezill benefited during his countryman, Peter des Roche’s ascendancy.  Bezill was the nephew of one of the Chanceaux clan which was probably related to Engelard de Cigogné and, like him, was banned by chapter fifty of Magna Carta.  Bezill was first mentioned in 1232, during the des Roches dominance, when he was given custody of the lands of two of the supporters of the rebel, Richard Marshal and he received his first royal patronage in the following January and witnessed a royal charter in June.  By 1258 he had gained lands in Devon, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Wiltshire and had married a wealthy widow. More importantly, in 1240, he was made Marshal of the Queen’s household and, by 1251, he was constable of Gloucester. In 1254, he became the Queen’s Steward.

Although Bezill was not disadvantaged by the Provisions, he suffered in the aftermath as a result of the special eyre set up under the supervision of the Justiciar, Hugh Bigod.  In September 1258, Bezill was ordered to be imprisoned when a jury refused to overturn his conviction for reducing a free tenant to serfdom.This potential imprisonment at this time was an indication of the ebbing of the power of alien courtiers around the King.

1261 saw Henry III  overthrowing the Provisions of Oxford and recovering of royal power. He replaced sheriffs with those he could trust; John de Plessis became sheriff of Leicestershire and Warwick whilst in July Mathias Bezill added the shrievalty of Gloucestershire to his castellany of Gloucester castle.

Whereas Plessis experienced no problems, there was a spectacular and violent reaction to Bezill’s appointment.  The county gentry of Gloucestershire elected one of their own men, William de Tracy, as sheriff.  With a strong force, Bezill seized Tracy at a meeting of the county court, had him beaten, dragged through the mire and imprisoned in Gloucester castle.

Although Robert of Gloucester referred to a popular election, David Carpenter has suggested that Tracy was, in fact, a member of the entourage of the Earl of Gloucester.  Although the evidence he relied on dates from 1267, refers back to 1265 and is about a later Earl, it does carry some weight as a 1259 patent roll entry refers to Oliver de Tracy, who was possibly William’s brother, as the nephew of the Earl in 1259.

These events show that Bezill was still perceived as a foreigner even though he had been in England for thirty years, had been associated with Gloucester castle for twelve years, had been accepted as constable by the Barons in 1258, had held lands in Gloucestershire, was married to an Englishwoman and had children born in England. That Bezill identified with Gloucestershire is demonstrated by his funding on an obit at Gloucester Abbey. Robert of Gloucester drew particular attention to the French origins of Bezill and the St Alban’s Continuator also referred to Bezill’s’ alien origin.

But an item in a wardrobe account of the mid 1250’s found by Ben Wild may throw a new light on these events. One reading of this entry is that Bezill paid ten marks to have the sheriff of Gloucester moved.  If so, why?   Bezill had been Constable of Gloucester since 1251.  William de Lasborough, who was sheriff in April 1255, was replaced in 1257 by Henry de Penbroke.

However,  the List of Sheriffs  records Bezill, as sheriff, on 10 January 1256 but there is no supporting evidence.  The List states that he did not account at the Exchequer.  Perhaps this statement is based on a Patent Roll entry which can be read as referring to Bezill’s keeping Gloucester castle but not the county.  Lasborough is in the parish of Westonbirt.  Bezill held lands at Sherston, about two miles away, from 1240 and at Didmarton, also about two miles way, from before 1260.  Perhaps Bezill was objecting to Lasborough as either a hindrance to his position as Constable or it was a neighbour dispute or both.  But if he did pay to have Lasborough removed, why was he only prepared, or expected, to pay only ten marks?  So if Bezill had had a brush with a locally based sheriff in the 1250’s, this might be a further reason for local hostility to him in the 1260’s.

Whatever was the motive for the local gentry’s hostility to Bezill in 1261, they remembered his actions and  took violent revenge in 1263.

Posted on behalf of Michael Ray.

Elias de Rabayn

Friday, May 6th, 2011

It is not surprising that Henry III sent for Elias Rabayn (see ‘Elyas de Rabayne’ in Henry III Fine Rolls Blog, Sunday 24 April to Saturday 30 April 1261).  Like all his fellow aliens, Rabayn, whilst much criticised by the English and their chroniclers, maintained a scrupulous loyalty to the King.  It is ironic that the only alien who betrayed him was the one to whom he had been most generous, Simon de Montfort.

The thirteenth century saw several waves of aliens coming to serve the English kings.  They came from Normandy, Touraine, Poitou, Savoy and even Germany.  The last wave, who arrived before the reform period, was that of the Poitevins.  They came to England in 1247, when the Lusignans arrived to be welcomed by their generous half-brother, Henry III.   Rabayn, probably from the Isle of Oléron, was first noted in English records in 1247.  He married an heiress and was Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1251 as well as Constable of Corfe and Sherborne.  Corfe was a vital castle which had once been the home of King John’s treasure and was still used for the imprisonment of important captives.  Rabayn retained Corfe when he was replaced as sheriff in 1255.  It was a gift of 500 marks’ worth of land to Rabayn that infuriated Matthew Paris in 1252.  He wrote that, whilst the King had refused to allow his own subjects to pay their debts in installments, he had nevertheless rewarded the Poitevin.

When the storm broke around the King’s head in 1258, the Barons in their Petition of that May asked that all royal castles including those adjoining harbours from which ships sailed, should be committed to the custody of men born in England and that no women should be disparaged by being married to ‘men who are not true-born Englishmen’.  As a result of the Provisions of Oxford of June/July, the Norman, John de Plessis, far from being removed, was appointed to the group of four who would chose the King’s Council, by a vote of the Barons.  In addition he was to hold Devizes castle.  Mathias Bezill was retained as Constable of Gloucester but Imbert Pugeys was removed from the Tower of London.  Rabayn lost the custody of Corfe castle.  The main casualties of 1258 were the Poitevins.  Their leaders, the Lusignans, who were perceived to have resisted the reformers, were driven out of England.  Their fall impacted on their associates; Rabayn also left England and his lands were taken into the King’s hands. 

1261 saw Henry III overthrowing the Provisions of Oxford and recovering his royal power. He replaced sheriffs with those he could trust.  With the recovery of royal power, some of the Poitevins returned; on 14 April, Rabayn was granted permission to return to England and was told to come at all speed.  Nine days later, he was remitted of the King’s rancour and his lands, which had been taken into the King’s hands on that account, were to be restored to him.

Serious concerns about disturbances in Wales and the March marked the beginning of 1263 and the King planned to go there with Rabayn as one of his party.  During June a petition of the Barons was produced which sought the restitution of the Provisions of Oxford but with a new demand that ‘aliens should depart from the kingdom never further to return, save those whose stay the faithful men of the realm might with unanimous assent accept’.  By July the King had agreed to the baronial demand and, following his consent  to  the Statute against the Aliens, the Lord Edward was forced to cede Windsor castle to the barons.  The alien knights had moved there when they were removed from London.   These knights were then escorted to the Channel coast and, according to one chronicler, ‘they returned to their native land’ and to another, they were allowed to ‘freely depart with their horses and arms after first swearing not to come back again without being sent for by the community‘. Was Rabayn among them?   But by November the Windsor castle was back in royal hands.

 As part of their submission to the arbitration of Louis IX of France, the Barons returned to the attack on the aliens, albeit linked to courtiers in general.  When, in January 1264, Louis announced his judgement at  Amiens, one knight with Henry III in France was Rabayn.  But perhaps he sensed that trouble was coming as, in February, he obtained a licence to crenellate his manor at Upway, near Lyme Regis in Dorset.

It is not certain whether Rabayn was at the Battles of Lewes or Evesham but he held rebel’s lands as early as October 1265.   Rabayn has been said to have joined the Lord Edward’s crusade but his presence as a royal charter witness during this period shows that he did not go.  However, he was Constable of Corfe again from 1272 until 1280 and for a short while he regained Sherborne castle.  When he died in 1285, some of his lands went to the alien Bezill family as his daughter married Mathias’s Bezill’s son, John.

A contribution by Dr Michael Ray