Posts Tagged ‘John fitzJohn’

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 11 December to Saturday 17 December 1261

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Henry III began this week at Westminster.  After his long sojourn in the Tower, what a relief to be back at his great  palace. Once more he could pray beside the shrine of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, and survey the magnificent abbey he was rebuilding in his honour. Surprisingly, however, Henry’s stay only lasted a few days. On 14 December he left for Merton priory in Surrey, a religious house where he often stayed.  Conceivably, after his long absence, the palace of Westminster was not ready to receive him.  He would enjoy the hospitality of the Merton monks before returning to Westminster  for Christmas.

As we saw from last week’s blog, on 7 December Henry had  proclaimed the ‘form of peace’ agreed with his opponents.  But the agreement was far from universal. At Merton on Friday 16 December, Henry issued an appeal to those who had yet to seal the document, urging them  to do so. If they could not come in person, they could just send their seals.

The list of the recalcitrants  was  the same as it had been on 7 December. In the order given  it was as follows.

Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk

John de Warenne, earl of Surrey,

Simon de Montfort, earl of Leiecester

Roger Mortimer

Hugh Despencer

William Bardolph

John de Burgh

Henry de Hastings

John fitzJohn

Robert de Vipont

William de Munchensy

John fitzAlan

Nicholas of Seagrave

Geoffrey de Lucy

How many of these men actually responded to the call to  seal the agreement we do not know, but what we do know is that they never acted as a body to oppose it. That for Henry was enough.  Inaction amounted to acceptance, acceptance of his recovery of power and the effective abrogation of the Provisions of Oxford.  Just to hammer home the point, on 11 December Henry sent envoys to the new pope Urban IV, asking him to renew his predecessor’s absolution from the oath to obey the Provisions,  Provisions which had been issued ‘manifestly to the depression and diminution of royal power’.

Only one man stood out  against this feeble acquiescence: Simon de Montfort.  According to the friendly and well informed annals of Dunstable priory, having heard that his erstwhile allies  had capitulated, ‘he left England, saying that he preferred to die without land than be a perjurer and depart from the truth’.  This was the defining moment in Simon’s career, the moment when he showed he was not as other men.  Unlike everyone else, he would not abandon the Provisions.  He would only return to England if they were resurrected. When he did return in 1263 it was to lead a movement which aimed to do just that.

The fine rolls continue to reflect the uncertainty of this period. Things were far from back to normal.  The fine rolls, like the other rolls of the chancery, continue to record business in a jumbled chronological order. The dearth of those  seeking the writs to pursue the common law legal actions continued. Only four such writs were purchased between  dated entries on 12 and 23 December. In one writ on the fine rolls, issued on 12 December,  Henry rewarded a man who, morally and materially, had been crucial to his recovery of power.  This was Philip Basset. Basset was  a wealthy and respected magnate. In the subsequent  civil war he was as defiant in defeat as he was magnanimous in victory. He refused to surrender at the battle of Lewes, and was captured covered in wounds. After Evesham, he did all he could to alleviate the lot of the disinherited. It was immensely important for Henry’s cause in 1261, that he had a man of this calibre on his side, and indeed could appoint him as justiciar, in effect the chief minister of his regime.  What made Basset’s stance all the more significant, was that years before, in 1233 he and his older brother, Gilbert Basset,  had joined Richard Marshal, earl of Pembroke’s rebellion against the crown. Philip then was no pliant,  unthinking loyalist. Henry’s concession on 12 December itself reached back to the events of 1233, since when Philip had succeeded Gilbert as lord of the Basset estates. Henry now pardoned Philip the £9 4s 4d owed for the farm of High Wycombe (a chief Basset manor held from the crown)  for the first part of the financial year 1232-3. The concession appears 6th from the bottom on the fine roll. The reason was that Gilbert had been unable to receive the money ‘because the king had taken [High Wycombe] into his hand at the aforesaid time by reason of the war waged between the king and Richard earl Marshal’. So, for the king. Philip’s loyalty in 1261 wiped away the last stain  disloyalty of 1233.  Philip would not have looked at it like that.  Rebellion in 1233 had been justified. In 1261 it was not.

Would Henry get to his palace and abbey at Westminster for a happy and peaceful Christmas?  Read subsequent blogs to find out.