Posts Tagged ‘Kingston on Thames’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 December to Saturday 10 December 1261

Monday, December 5th, 2011

At last for Henry, victory, or at least an approach to victory.  On 21 November, at Kingston on Thames,  his envoys and those of the baronial insurgents had agreed the terms of peace. But would the barons, for whom the envoys were acting, actually accept them? Since 21 November Henry had waited anxiously in the Tower of London to find out, hoping for peace but still preparing for war. The answer came this week. In London, on Monday 5 December, according to the Oseney abbey chronicler, Henry and the barons put their seals to ‘the form of peace’. Two days later, on Wednesday 7 December, Henry proclaimed it in letters sent through the counties of England. The letters were in French, the vernacular language of the nobility and gentry, and thus were intended to be read out direct, without any need of translation from the Latin.  Henry declared that a conflict had arisen between himself and his barons and others ‘by reason of the covenants made between us and them’ in 1258. In order to bring the quarrels to an end, a ‘mise’ (meaning here a process or arbitration) had been agreed ‘by common accord between us and them’. The judgement  was to be pronounced by the following Pentecost, and meanwhile Henry had given ‘them’ his peace.  The proclamation did not go into details about the ‘mise’ and indeed no official text of it survives.  However, as we have seen in other blogs, it certainly involved  Henry making a major concession over how the sheriffs were to be chosen. But it also left him in control of central government. The cardinal and most obnoxious  feature of the 1258 reforms was thus  overthrown. Nor, given the form  of the arbitration, was there any likelihood  of it being revived.

Henry’s victory, however, was far from assured, as a second letter issued on 7 December showed.  Here he pardoned all the  trespasses of his opponents, but went on to name fourteen men who needed to put their seals to the mise by Epiphany (6 January) if they were to benefit from  it.  The fourteen, then, had so far resisted the terms of the peace, which  helps explains the long interval between its negotiation on 21 November and proclamation on 7 December.  The fourteen were formidable. The list began with Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, and Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, and also included John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, and  Roger de Mortimer.  The fine rolls themselves in this period still reflect an uncertain situation.  The dated entries a come in  haphazard order with one  from 9 December coming after one for 23 December. See (the first and third entries).

Yet Henry seemed confident.  On 8 December he took steps to pay off the foreign mercenaries whom he was  gathering across the Channel. And, on the same day,  he at last moved from the Tower to Westminster. Henry had not been to Westminster since his fleeting visit on 13 October to celebrate the translation of Edward the Confessor.  After the ceremony, he  had fled to the  Tower and remained there.  That he now could now leave the fortress for the  palace is a sure sign he felt the immediate crisis was at an end.  He doubted whether  the  recalcitrant barons would act together.  And they were only fourteen. Clearly a far larger group  had sealed the agreement. One of these was Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, to whom Henry made various concessions (including a gift of deer) on 3 and 4 December. The fine rolls themselves show Henry, around 10 December, alleviating the debts of the great northern baron, his ‘beloved and faithful’, Gilbert de Gant.  See (sixth entry from bottom).

Above all, Henry had won over Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford.  His desertion was seen as the crucial factor by all the contemporary commentators.  He too received a concession from the king on 11 December.  Henry, therefore, with his brother Richard of Cornwall, and  Richard de Clare on side had the support of the two most powerful English barons. He was also strengthened on 10 December  by the receipt from Louis IX of several thousand pounds due under the Treaty of Paris.

Would Henry’s confidence be justified? What was Simon de Montfort going to do? Read next week’s blog to find out.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 27 November to Saturday 3 December 1261

Monday, November 28th, 2011

A very tense week for Henry III, as he waited on peace or war in the Tower of London. At Kingston on  Thames on 21 November, his envoys and those of his opponents had negotiated a ‘form of peace’. But would it prove acceptable?  Simon de Montfort was now leading the fight to reject the terms, given they meant  relinquishing control of the king and thus the overthrow  (as Simon would have seen it) of the Provisions of Oxford. At Runnymede in 1215 it had taken three days for the terms of Magna Carta to be accepted by the barons assembled at Runnymede.  John issued the Charter on 15 June and it was only on the nineteenth that peace was declared. Now it was taking much longer for this week saw no formal ratification and announcement of the 21 November settlement. The fine rolls continue to reflect the turmoil.  Between 26 November and  10 December only seventeen writs to initiate and further  common law legal actions were purchased, a pretty paltry number for a fortnight. Would there then be war or peace. Would Henry III win or Simon de Montfort? Next week we really do find out!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 20 November to Saturday 26 November 1261

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Henry spent all this week at the Tower of London. The chaos of the time,  with civil war so close, is again reflected in the collapse of fine rolls business.  Between dated entries on 15 and 26 November, only four writs were purchased to initiate or further common law legal actions.  Clearly it was thought dangerous to come to court to get the writs. In any case would the king’s courts be functioning to hear the cases?

Henry, however, could at last hope the clouds were lifting.  For some time now, negotiations, had been on going  at Kingston on Thames for a settlement of  the quarrel.  On  Monday, 21 November,  a provisional agreement was reached.  Under this ‘form of peace’, both sides   appointed three arbitrators who were to pronounce their award on the Provisions of Oxford by the following June.  If they disagreed, then the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall and  the king of France, would be added to their number. For Henry this proposal must have seemed  like approaching victory. He was left in charge of central government, free  from the pernicious controls imposed on him in 1258.  Nor was there any likelihood of them ever being revived, given the presence of   Richard of Cornwall and the king of France amongst the potential arbitrators.  Nonetheless Henry paid a price. He agreed that each county could elect four candidates for the office of sheriff  from whom  he would choose one, very much the arrangement under the reforms of 1258-9.  This meant that the trusty  sheriffs, whom Henry had appointed in the summer of 1261,  would have to go out, and  Henry might  have to choose their successors  from the very men who had so violently  opposed them.   Henry had almost certainly been brought to this concession  by the demands of Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester.  It was his weakening resistance, which made the settlement at Kingston possible.   With a large following of knights to appease, the  compromise over the sheriffdoms was his price. Henry must have felt it was worth paying. It certainly shows the force of local opinion in the crisis of 1261, which both sides had recognised in summoning  knights from the shires to their rival parliaments.

The peace of Kingston was simply a draft proposal, which had still to be ratified by the opposition leaders.   It had the support of Richard de Clare, otherwise it would never have come into being, but what of the other insurgent barons?  Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, despite being put down as one of the arbitrators,  refused his agreement. So did many others. Most vociferous and passionate of all in his rejection was Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.   Would the Kingston compromise stick?  Read the blogs of the next few weeks to find out.

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’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 23 October to Saturday 29 October 1261

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

As the kingdom hovered between war and peace, Henry spent another week at the Tower of London. On 28 October, a hopeful sign, he issued a letter of safe conduct, as he had the week before, to the barons coming to Kingston on Thames ‘for the reformation of peace on the contentions which have arisen between us and them’. The conduct was to last for a week, and they were to come without alms. 

The chaotic situation is reflected in the relative paucity of people coming to the Tower to purchase the writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the forms of the common law, although it is difficult to put precise numbers on this.  The purchase of such writs is noted on the fine rolls. Occasionally the entry is dated either on the fine rolls, or on the originalia rolls, the copies of the fine rolls sent to the exchequer. But in the great majority of cases the entries, which often are brought together in long runs,  are not dated at all so one has to judge their approximate dates from the dated entries either side.  Between dated entries on 24 October 1261 and 4 November 1261, some fourteen writs were purchased, hardly a high number for considerably more than a week. Only two writs were purchased from the counties in the south east, one being for Berkshire and one for Essex. 

One thing the chancery clerks had to do in this week was  to begin a new set of rolls on which to record their business. This was because 28 October was the start of the new regnal year, Henry III’s fourty-sixth, and all the rolls ran for regnal years. The clerks, therefore, had to begin new fine rolls, charter rolls, patent rolls, close rolls and liberate rolls. This was less onerous than it seems. One just had to remember to stop writing on the  membranes of the current rolls on 27 October and continue the entries on a new membranes, thus beginning what would become the roll for the new year. It would be interesting to know when the membranes were sewn together to make the rolls, as they now exist. Was that done during the course of the year, or at its end?  Early in Henry’s reign it had sometimes been the practice to write splendid headings in capitals at the start of the first membrane of each new year.  For example, the heading for  the fine rolls of Henry III’s second regnal year. But gradually the clerks could not be bothered, and often, although a space was left usually for a heading, no heading was actually written up. One can see this to be the case for the fine roll of 46 Henry III. However, a  heading, or rather a footer, in large letters proclaiming  its year was written at the end of the roll for 45 Henry III.