Posts Tagged ‘John de Plessy’

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 24 April (Easter Day) to Saturday 30 April 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Last week, Henry III at last left the Tower of London and set up court at St Paul’s doubtless in the bishop’s house there. He was able to celebrate Easter Day, 24 April, at St Paul’s rather than in the great fortress. Yet that was still a terrific breach with custom. Since 1239 Henry had always celebrated Easter at Westminster Abbey. The only exceptions were 1243 and 1254 when he was in France.  Between 1230 and 1238, the pattern had been different. The great feast had then been shared between Westminster, Gloucester, Canterbury, Clarendon and (most popular of all)  Reading abbey.  The change, of course, reflected  how Henry’s devotion to Edward the Confessor had come to dominate his life.  He would always celebrate Easter beside his patron saint. How grievous now to be unable to do so.

Even worse, St Paul’s itself  was not entirely secure, as the fine rolls reveal for the first time. The usual itinerary of Henry III has him at St Paul’s for the whole period from 23 to 29 April.  Indeed it was at St Paul’s, on 28 April, as the fine rolls show, that Henry took the homage of the Nicholas de Cantilupe in return for a relief of £5 for the knight’s fee he held from the crown. This was in strict accordance with the level stipulated by Magna Carta.  But the fine rolls also show that Henry was briefly back at the Tower on the twenty-sixth.  It was from there that he issued the order  putting Elyas de Rabayne back in possession of his properties.  Evidently Elyas, the Poitevin castellan of Corfe expelled in 1258,  had acted on Henry’s invitation (see the blog for 10-16 April) and had returned to England.   Elyas may have brought vital information about the situation at Dover for next day Henry ordered money to be sent there for the expenses of his household.  He had taken the momentous decision to dash to Dover and seize the  castle.  This was not a decision he made alone for  his brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and king of Germany,  the Queen and her  uncle, Peter of Savoy, the Norman John de Plessy (earl of Warwick through marriage), and the king’s most faithful and brilliant counsellor, John Mansel,  were all at court around this time.  Leaving Mansel behind in command of the Tower, Henry  left London on 29 April and by the end of the day had reached Rochester.

The exigencies of this week may explain a falling off in the routine business on the fine rolls. Only twelve of the common law writs were sought as opposed to seventeen the week before. It will be interesting to see how far the flow was affected by the move on Dover. For Henry, of course, that was not a consideration. The vital question was what would happen which he got there. Would he manage to get control of the great castle, widely thought of as ‘the key to England’?