Posts Tagged ‘Llywelyn ap Gruffudd’

Sunday 10 February 1264: preparing for war

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

While Henry III remained in northern France – by 10 February he had reached Wissant, the usual port for the Channel crossing – the news of the Mise of Amiens had led to a rapid resumption of hostilities in England. Rather than settling the dispute between king and barons, Louis IX’s total rejection of the barons’ arguments had removed the possibility of a compromise. As early as 4 February, lord Edward, Henry of Almain and earl Richard, who were then at Windsor, had heard that baronial forces were moving westward. They wrote to the sheriffs of Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire: they understood that certain barons planned to cross the Severn with horses and arms, to link up with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and attack Roger Mortimer’s castles in the Marches; the sheriffs were to break down all the bridges across the Severn, except the bridge at Gloucester, which was to be closely guarded, and to destroy the ferries and block the fords. Roger Mortimer had earlier been instructed to meet Llywelyn on 10 February, to negotiate a truce, and he was sent further, unspecified, instructions for these negotiations on 7 February. This may have been an attempt to forestall the alliance of the barons and the Welsh against the king and his supporters in the Marches, particularly Mortimer. Earl Richard himself travelled westwards, reaching Oxford on 7 February and Worcester on 9 February.1

The background to this baronial incursion into the Marches was as much personal as political. In December, Henry had granted to Mortimer three manors in Herefordshire, which had earlier been assigned to Simon de Montfort. Mortimer had looted these manors, and held de Montfort’s bailiff captive until he paid a ransom of 100 marks. It appears that de Montfort had refrained from retaliating, while awaiting the news from Amiens. He now sent his sons Simon and Henry, with a great army, to avenge their father by attacking Mortimer’s castles and towns, which they wasted and burned.2

The disorders in the Marches had their impact on the normal activities of the civil service. Little routine business was conducted – the Calendar of the Fine Rolls records only three fines between 4 February and 5 March. The Exchequer audited the accounts of the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire on 5 February, but that was the last audit for the year. Several more had been scheduled, but they were postponed, or simply didn’t happen. In some cases, this was directly attributable to the outbreak of hostilities. The audit for Surrey and Sussex, which should have happened on 5 February, was cancelled because the sheriff was in Wales. On 9 February, earl Richard told the Exchequer to postpone the Wiltshire audit, because the sheriff had to stay in Salisbury, to ensure the security of the castle. Eventually, the pipe roll for 1263 contained only nine sheriffs’ accounts, out of a potential 28.3

Something to look forward to

who_leeds

Like The Who, but slightly quieter, the International Medieval Congress will be live at Leeds University in July. For those interested in 1264, the undoubted highlight will be a series of three sessions on Thursday 10 July, on the theme The Battle of Lewes, 1264: Reflections on the 750th Anniversary. These sessions, organized by Sophie Ambler and Kathleen Neal, cover the religious and intellectual background, the military and political events, and some immediate consequences of the battle:

I. Ideas and Principles (session 1531), moderator Michael Clanchy

  • Felicity Hill, Papal Excommunication: A Threat to the Montfortian Regime, 1264-1265?
  • Jennifer Jahner, Veritasluxcaritascalor: Metaphysical Politics and The Song of Lewes
  • Sophie Ambler, The Role of Churchmen in the Montfortian Regime, 1264-1265

II. Conflict and Combatants (session 1631), moderator Kathleen Neal

  • Andrew M. Spencer, Brothers-in-Arms: Gilbert and Thomas de Clare in the Barons’ Wars
  • Adrian Jobson, Reluctant Commander: The Military Career of Richard of Cornwall
  • Fergus Oakes, The Scots at the Battle of Lewes

III. Context and Aftermath (session 1731), moderator Adrian Jobson

  • Tony Moore, Criminal Plundering or Legitimate Distraint?: Perspectives on the Montfortian Campaign of 1263
  • Beth Hartland, Lewes: Repercussions in Ireland
  • Richard Cassidy, Simon de Montfort’s Sheriffs, 1264-65
Live at Lewes

The Argus has published an article on the events planned for May this year, in and around the town of Lewes, to mark the 750th anniversary of the battle.

  1. CR 1261-64, 374, 334. CPR 1258-66, 306.
  2. Ann Mon, III, 226-7.
  3. E 159/38 m. 7, 14. CR 1261-64, 334. E 372/107.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 August to Saturday 8 September 1257

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

These were the weeks of Henry III’s campaign in Wales, all be it a campaign of a very static nature. Its basic outline can be seen from the fine rolls, if you look at the relevant membrane. Here, five items from the bottom, is a letter witnessed by the king at Chester on 18 August: T’ R’ ap’ Cestr xviii. die Aug, that is  Teste Rege apud Cestr’ xviii. die Augusti. The next entry, four from bottom, the letter  is witnessed by the king ‘in castris apud Gannok’ (in the fields at Deganwy)  on 30 August. And then the next shows him back at Chester, the witness clause having the date 13 September.

Other evidence shows that Henry arrived at Deganwy on 27 August and stayed there till at least 4 September. At Deganwy, of course, was the great castle which Henry had built to hold down his Welsh conquests between the Conwy and the Dee. The castle stood proud, high above the Conwy estuary, and glared westwards towards the great mountain ranges in the heart of Gwynedd. For images, click here.

Henry, however, as the witness clause in the fine rolls shows, did not stay in the castle but in the fields round about.  There he probably lived in a great pavilion lent him by the earl of Gloucester.  Doubtless the castle was full masons, for one object of the campaign was to repair and augment its defences. Another was to ravage the land of  Llywelyn and his supporters. Matthew Paris gives a vivid picture of Henry, riding about ‘elegantly’ in armour under his dragon standard, encouraging his knights, although whether this amounted to more than wishing them well as they set out on their chevauchées  one may doubt. Henry had also much bigger schemes. These were the conquest of Anglesey and the division of what was left of Gwynedd west of Conwy between Llywelyn’s disaffected brothers. To that end, he had summoned shipping both from Ireland and the Cinque Ports. Henry’s ambitions, therefore,   were just as great as those of his son, the future Edward I. The difference was that Edward actually carried them out. Indeed, present on this campaign, he may have learnt something from his father’s failure.

For fail Henry did. In a letter to the earl of Gloucester from Deganwy on 4 September, he explained that he was going home.  The shipping had not arrived for the invasion of Anglesy and winter was approaching. Given that it was only  the first week of September, this was hardly a complete excuse, and Henry was clearly embarrassed by the decision. He explained to the earl (who had been far more successful in South Wales), that the decision had been taken  on the advice of the magnates present with him. It was not at all what he would have wanted, indeed it  was ‘repugnant’ to him. He was determined to return next summer and finish the job. Meanwhile  (which was not said in the letter),  Henry realised with relief that he could get back to Westminster in time for the feast of Edward the Confessor on 13 October, as both Matthew Paris and the Dunstable annalist noted. Indeed perhaps the desire to do that was another reason for abandoning the campaign. Nonetheless, Henry was serious about coming back. He was under pressure from Edward and the marcher barons; but he also felt deeply on his own account about preserving his Welsh conquests.  Preparations for the campaign of 1258 went on through the winter.

Returning to the fine rolls, it is interesting to see that the campaign brought an almost complete stop to the usual business.  Clearly no one sought the king out at Deganwy to buy the usual writs to initiate and further legal actions.  There is only one item of business recorded at Deganwy, itself the only business on the roll between 18 August and 13 September. This was, on 30 August, to allow the baron, Philip de Columbars [one of two Colombières near Bayeux in Normandy] to pay his £100 relief to enter his inheritance  on easier terms  as a reward for the service he was giving in the Welsh army.  The £100 relief, was, of course, in line with what was laid down in Magna Carta. It will be interesting to see how business picks up as Henry returns to Westminster

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 24 June to Saturday 7 July 1257

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

The fine rolls in these two weeks reveal Henry III’s itinerary. On 25 June, he was at Windsor, on 30 June at Reading and by 11 July at Woodstock, where (as other evidence shows) he had arrived on 3 July. For the membrane covering this period, click here.

Henry was, of course, on his way to Wales to lead a campaign against Llywelyn. He was now brought face to face with the impact this must have on his finances. On  25 June, the goldsmith, William of Gloucester  was ordered to send Henry, out of the silver  earmarked for the purchase of gold, 1000 marks now needed for the expenses of the household and the forthcoming campaign. So Henry was  having to break into the money set aside for acquiring the great treasure of gold needed to finance the army which would conquer Sicily.  The fine roll business on this front was equally depressing, for it showed all too clearly that Henry’s various expedients to extract fines of gold, and thus build up the gold treasure,  had run their course. In these weeks, not a single fine of gold was received. Given this situation,  Henry might have concluded that the Sicilian business should be brought to an end. That was not  his conclusion.  In late June,  Henry did send Simon de Montfort and Peter of Savoy on an important diplomatic mission.  They were to go first to king of France and continue the negotiations for a comprehensive peace. They were then to go on to the pope, having full power to renounce the Sicilian  throne.  In case, however,  they did not go to Rome, Henry (acting on the advice of the papal chaplain Rostand) set out detailed instructions for those who might go in their stead. These, in extraordinary, indeed excruciating detail, covered almost every conceivable way (none of them very practical) in which the pope might alleviate the current terms and thus enable Henry to prosecute the  project with some hope of success.  It appears all too clearly this is what Henry really wanted. The threat to renounce the whole business appears as no more than a bargaining device.

Away from these diplomatic fantasies, the fine rolls in these weeks give a fascinating insight into many aspects of English life.  Last week we say how there was a drop in the number of people coming to court to purchase the writs needed to initiate and further actions according to the common law. The numbers now recover. Between 25 June and 11 July, a three week period, thirty-six such writs were purchased. Clearly people were not put off by the king’s journey from Westminster to Woodstock.

 One  fine in this period (no.819 in the translation)  made on 30 June at  Reading, shows the property rights of women.  William of [East] Carlton in Norfolk had died leaving no sons and four daughters. These now became the heirs of his property,  which shows that this was a  society where women could inherit. Their rights were not, however, on a par with those of men in several ways. Firstly, a daughter only inherited if she had no brother. Secondly, whereas the eldest inheriting male would have all the inheritance,  this was not the case with the eldest inheriting female. Rather, if she had sisters,  the inheritance was split between them.  Thus in the Carlton case, all four daughters, Alice, Isabella, Agnes and Matilda, shared their father’s inheritance.  The marital state of the sisters was different, however, which makes another important point about the law with regard to women. In the case of the married sisters, Alice and Isabella, it was their husbands who did homage to the king, and had control of the lands. The unmarried sisters, however, Agnes and Matilda, did homage and controlled their land for themselves. Were they widows, or is this a rare example of inheriting spinsters? Fortunately, other information provides the answer to that question, which will be given in a future fine of the month.  One detail it reveals is that the bulk of the Carlton property was held by the service of carrying a hundred herrings in pies from the burgesses of Norwich to the king!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 17 June to Saturday 23 June 1257

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

On Thursday 21 June, at Westminster, Henry III ordered ‘a certain standard of red cendal and gold brocade’ to be offered at the shrine of Edward the Confessor in the Abbey ‘as is customary  when he is about to go on campaign’. The same day Henry left Westminster. He was setting out on a slow journey to Chester where he had ordered his military forces to rendezvous.  At last Henry had decided to do something about the rebellion, as he would have seen it, of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

In the previous winter Llywelyn had overrun Henry’s ‘conquests’ as he called them in North Wales between the Conwy and the Dee, leaving only the new castles of Deganwy and Disserth holding out. In the spring he had defeated the native rulers of Powys, who were Henry’s allies.  For Henry, all this was an unwelcome distraction.  He had tried to conciliate Llywelyn.  Alternatively, he had hoped that Edward, his son and heir, and now the ruler of the crown’s dominions in Wales,  could sort thing out. Henry’s eyes were set on quite other things. There were the negotiations with France for a permanent peace. In this week, on 22 June, now at Windsor, Henry  had given full power to his envoys the bishop of Worcester and Hugh Bigod, counselled by Simon de Montfort and Peter of Savoy, to agree a peace. Three days later, Henry ordered a ship to be found for them all to cross at Dover. And with peace, and with his brother, Richard of Cornwall now installed as king of Germany (Henry was careful to keep him informed of the negotiations), might not the Sicilian project take on a new lease of life? The last thing Henry wanted now was to have to dig into his hard saved gold treasure to finance a campaign in Wales.  But the massacre of English forces near Cardigan at the start of June had given him no alternative. 

The fine rolls in this week have  eleven entries, all about the purchase of common law writs. It will be fascinating to see how business is affected by Henry’s journey and military campaign in Wales. 

For the membrane covering this week where one can see Henry’s move from Westminster to Windsor, click here.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 3 June to Saturday 16 June 1257

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

King Henry III spent these two weeks at Westminster. He had, so Matthew Paris tells us, fallen ill.  He continued to grieve over  the death of his daughter Katherine, and he was anxious about Queen Eleanor, who lying sick at Windsor.  There were also, so  Paris thought,  two political problems which depressed Henry’s health. One was the state of the Sicilian project, which seemed to be existing on borrowed time, given that the deadline for paying all the money owed the pope and despatching an army to Italy had expired the previous Michaelmas. Henry, as we have seen in earlier blogs, had thought of pulling out altogether but had then unwisely decided to continue. In these weeks, there were earnest discussions about sending Peter of Savoy, Simon de Montfort and the bishop of Worcester (all now present at court), on an important diplomatic mission. They were to go first to France to push on the negotiations for a permanent peace, and then proceed to the papal court to seek alleviation of the Sicilian terms.  On 15 June Henry took out a huge loan of 20,000 marks (£13,333) from Florentine merchants, half of which was to support his envoys at the papal court.

The other political problem centred on the situation in Wales.  What had previously been a distraction  had now become a disaster. Earlier in the year the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, had attacked Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn and Gruffudd of Bromfield, the native rulers of Powys and Henry’s allies. On 16 June Henry granted them lands in England as compensation for their losses.  Up till now, however, Henry had hoped that Edward, his son and heir, as lord of Chester, and the royal lands in Wales, would be able to deal with the situation himself. This was no longer the case. On Saturday 2 June a substantial force, commanded by  Edward’s lieutenant, the  trusted knight, Stephen Bauzan, was massacred in South Wales. On 18 June Henry made a concession to Stephen’s widow.  He also began to contemplate summoning an army and  going to  Wales himself.

The fine roll business in these two weeks is interesting, although it can have given Henry little comfort. The fines  of gold from which he hoped to amass his gold treasure to fund his Sicilian army, were still coming in, but hardly at a pace to alter the  situation. Henry had no reserves to speak of,  as the great Florentine loan taken out this week showed.  At least the king’s justice was in demand. Indeed in these two weeks no less than 54 writs were purchased to initiate or further legal actions according to the common law. 

For the membrane covering this week, click here.

What was going to happen in Wales? Would Henry have to go there? What would the effect be on fine rolls business? Read future blogs to find out!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 6 May to Saturday 12 May 1257

Friday, May 11th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Merton priory.  It was a week in which he made a momentous decision, namely to continue with the Sicilian affair. We have seen that a couple of weeks earlier, Henry had been entertaining serious doubts about whether it should proceed, not surprisingly given the opposition in parliament. Now, however, on 10 May, he wrote to the pope saying that he had made effective arrangements for sending out to him ‘a noble and vigorous captain’ and a messenger equipped with a great sum of money. He had done this in the presence of the archbishop of  Messina, who was now returning to Rome, and would be able to tell the pope all about it.   The intention presumably was for the captain to head an army composed of mercenaries hired by the  money.  Yet  of the ‘effective’ arrangements,  there is no sign.   Perhaps Henry was buoyed up  be hearing  that Richard of Cornwall  had arrived safely in Germany.  He gave a robe to the messenger who brought the news on 9 May. Perhaps he was also thinking of the £52,000 offered by an ecclesiastical council, which had  met in London in early May, on condition that the pope ended all future Sicilian taxation.   But this was money controlled by the pope not the king.  It was not using these resources that Henry was supposed to sustain  the  captain and the army  which  was to conquer Sicily.  Henry was not uncounselled at this time.  With him at Merton on 12 May were Simon de Montfort, Richard de Clare earl of Glouceser, Peter of Savoy, William de Valence and John Mansel. Whether they all agreed with the decision we may doubt. Montfort was in any case  preoccupied with his own affairs and on 13 May extracted £200 from the king, this to be followed by another £500 a week later.  One cannot help thinking that,  forced to make up  his mind by the departure of the archbishop of Messina, Henry had taken a decision as impulsive as it was irrational.  The dangers of proceeding were underlined on 10 May itself, for it was on this very day that Henry was giving support to  captain who really did exist. This was John de Grey appointed by the Lord Edward to head an army against  Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in Wales.

The fine rolls in this week continue to underline the unpopularity of Henry’s drive to force men to take up knighthood.  Although he was in Holy Orders,  Baldwin de Kalna still had to offer the king half a mark of gold (which he paid later into the wardrobe) in order to avoid the honour.  The rolls also show, however, how the king could help those of small account.  On 12 May, Robert de Haya, who owed the king 6s 8d for writ, was allowed to pay the debt of at 40d a year ‘on account of his poverty’.

Next week, Henry returned to Westminster.        

For the membrane covering this week, click here.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 February to Saturday 10 February 1257

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

This week’s blog needs to begin with a small correction. The blog for last week stated that Henry spent the whole of that week at Windsor. I was relying here on the Itinerary of Henry III, prepared by Theodore Craib of the Public Record Office,  as found in the later edition put together by English Heritage. I failed to notice  that the latter has a mistake and gives as Henry’s itinerary for February what is in fact his itinerary for March, leaving out February altogether.  As is actually clear from the fine rolls, during the week of 28 January-3 February, Henry left Windsor and returned to Westminster.

Henry spent the whole of the week  from 4 to 10 February at Westminster.  The fine rolls show his continuing efforts to build up his gold treasure to fund the campaign to place his second son on the throne of Sicily. In this week, there were thirteen  fines made in gold, of which eight  were connected with exemptions from knighthood. The most valuable fine was produced by an alliance planned between two noble houses. On Friday 9 February, Edmund de Lacy, heir to the earldom of Lincoln,  fined in ten marks of gold (the equivalent of 100 marks of silver) for permission to marry  Henry, his son and heir,  to the eldest daughter and heir of William Longespee.  As a  result of this marriage, Henry, who was to be a leading counsellor  of King Edward I,  ultimately  became  earl of Salisbury as well as earl of Lincoln.  It might be wondered why this marriage was not snapped up by one of Henry III’s foreign relations, who dominated the court in this week. On 4 February a royal charter was witnessed by three of the king’s Poitevin half brothers (Guy and Geoffrey de Lusignan and William de Valence), by the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, by two other Savoyard ministers, and not a single English magnate. The answer was that Edmund de Lacy was already part of the Savoyard circle because his wife, through the brokerage of Peter of Savoy, was Alice, daughter of the marquis of Saluzzo in North Italy and his Savoyard bride. Edmund’s mother, moreover, Margaret de Lacy, countess of Lincoln, who had played a key part in negotiating Henry’s marriage to the Longespee heiress, was  close to Queen Eleanor, as Louise Wilkinson has shown in an article about her in Historical Research.

For the image of Edmund de Lacy’s fine, count up twenty-nine entries from the bottom of the membrane on the fine roll, and see no.416 in the calendar.

Saving hard for Sicily, and hoping to accompany his brother Richard to Germany for his coronation as king of the Romans, the last thing Henry  wanted was trouble in Wales.  Yet he could no longer ignore the insurgency of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. On 10 February he issued letters of safe conduct to Llywelyn’s envoys to come and see Richard, who hoped (as Matthew Paris noted) to persuade the Welsh prince to keep quiet so as not to interfere with his departure from the kingdom. Some hope! Henry himself had done little since the start of the year to meet his growing problems. Next week’s blog will at last show him taking action.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 January to Saturday 21 January 1257

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We saw in the last blog the major items on Henry III’s political agenda in 1257: the Sicilian affair, the peace with France, and the rising power of Llywelyn ap Gruffud in Wales.  All of these posed problems, but  Henry had  one reason to look forward with confidence. The balance of power in Europe was about to be transformed in his favour, or so he might hope. Just after a Christmas 1256, in ceremony before Henry and his council in St Stephen’s chapel in Westminster palace, during a great storm of thunder and lightening,  his brother, Richard of Cornwall, had accepted  election  as king of the Romans. He was now busy preparing his departure for Germany where he would be crowned.

During this week, which Henry spent at Westminster,  there was more good news.  On 18 January the abbot of Westminster and the bishop elect of Salisbury got back to England with news that the pope was prepared to extend the deadline of the Sicilian enterprise.  Under the original agreement  in which the kingdom was conferred on Edmund, his second son, Henry had been obliged to pay the pope £90,000 and send an army to Sicily to conquer the kingdom by Michaelmas 1256, which, of course, was  long gone.  Henry now learnt that the pope had graciously extended the deadline down to the start of June 1257.  There was no chance of Henry actually paying the money and sending an army within that term either, but at least he might be able to show he meant business. That above all meant getting a tax to support the enterprise from parliament.  The planning of a parliament must have now become a subject of earnest discussion between Henry and his advisers.

Meanwhile the fine rolls show that the attempt to build up a gold treasure to pay a Sicilian army was continuing. There were twelve fines of gold in this week, of which eight were for respite of knighthood.  Following on from last week’s discussion of the gold treasure, it might be worth explaining the form of these fines. Let us take as an example that translated as no 358 in the Calendar of Fine Rolls 1257  Its image is six items from the bottom in, with the marginal annotation ‘De fine auri pro respect milicie’. Here the Yorkshire knight, Robert de Etton’ (probably of Etton in the East Riding) is said to give the king half a mark of gold for respite from his  knighthood, which means that he has an exemption  from having to take up the honour.  Although the fine says he ‘gives’ the gold, in fact he  is not paying cash down. Instead as the fine goes on to indicate, he is to pay the gold into the wardrobe at the coming Michaelmas.  The ‘order to the sheriff of Yorkshire’ referred to is an order to the sheriff  to take security for this payment. In fact, as the entry goes on to indicate in a later addition (note the change of ink), Robert  paid the gold to the then keeper of the wardrobe, Peter des Rivaux, on Friday after Ash Wednesday in the regnal year 42, that is on 8 February 1258, so he missed his stipulated term.  Note ‘a’ to the translation adds that ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. The originalia roll was the copy of the fine roll sent the exchequer so it knew what monies to collect. The absence of the fine, like all fines of gold,  from the originalia roll thus meant that the exchequer had nothing to do with the collection and audit of the gold treasure, which was entirely a wardrobe affair.  Hence the record that the fine has been paid and that Robert is ‘quit’  is made here on the fine roll not on the exchequer’s pipe roll.  Unfortunately, like most of its kind, the fine does not indicate in what form the gold came.

The fine rolls for this week also reveal another way in which the king was accumulating his gold treasure.  This was from the towns who were offering  gold, or silver to buy gold, in return for charters giving them various privileges. Thus on  21 January the citizens of Northampton offered 100 marks of silver to buy gold for a charter of liberties, while in an undated entry, the men of Guildford offered one and a half marks of gold for a charter which established moved the county court of Surrey  to Guildford. This caused great anger locally since it meant moving the county court from the much more central Leatherhead.

Does anyway know whether these charters survive?  If the Guildford one does, it will clear up a mystery over its date. Although the fine for it appears in this week, and the actual charter is enrolled with others for January and has much the same witnesses, the charter roll calendar says it bears the date 7 September. An image of Guildford castle, much visited by Henry III, appears on the Guildford Borough website.

The witnesses to the Northampton charter, which is dated 18 January although the fine is three days later, show who was at court in this week. The list is  headed by the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence. Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle, does not feature, although he was at court around this time.  Henry’s generosity  to his foreign relatives is very clear.  On Friday, 20 January,  he confirmed an earlier gift  to Peter of Savoy  which meant  he was pardoned  the £625 he owed  each year for custody of the Vescy lands during the minority of the heir, a very major concession.   On the same day Henry took steps to give Guy de Lusignan 200 marks, and also compensated one of his clerks for giving way to the queen’s request to surrender a wardship. This was  so that it could be given to her daughter the queen of Scotland. The tensions between the Savoyards and the Lusignans in this scramble for patronage were to explode in 1258.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog for 1257

Friday, January 13th, 2012

King Henry’s situation in 1257 was very different from that in 1261. In 1261 he was struggling to overthrow the restrictions imposed on him in 1258. The kingdom was on the brink of civil war. In 1257 Henry was in full control of government. England was at peace. Henry had one major pre-occupation. This was the Sicilian enterprise. Henry  had accepted a papal offer of the throne of Sicily for his second son Edmund. The only problem was that he had to pay the pope £90,000 AND send an army out to Sicily to conquer it from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler.  Part of the money was coming from taxation levied on the church much to its fury. This was because  the pope had diverted the tax originally intended for Henry’s crusade to support the Sicilian business.  But this would raise at most half the money owed the pope, let alone finance a military campaign.  Henry desperately needed additional sums which meant trying to secure a general tax from parliament. What happened at the parliaments held in 1257, we shall see in due course. 

 The Sicilian business also impacted on relations with France. In order to concentrate upon it, Henry decided to  make peace with King Louis IX. In other words, he was prepared at last to resign his claims to his lost continental empire, which essentially meant resigning his claims to Normandy, Anjou and Poitou. Negotiations for such a settlement were to be a major theme in 1257.

With Sicily central to his thoughts,  the last thing Henry wanted  was to be distracted by events in Wales. Distracted he was, however. The rising power of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, became, in 1257, a major preoccupation.

The fine rolls in 1257 provide graphic testimony to the impact of the Sicilian business on local society. While Henry knew that only a general tax from parliament could really give the enterprise lift off, he was also trying to raise money in other ways. In particular he was assembling a treasure in gold to pay his Sicilian army, this because gold was the metal of the Sicilian currency. (For the ‘augustales’ minted by Frederick II in Sicily, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustalis.)  Central to Henry’s scheme was insisting that people who wished for concessions and favours should pay for them in gold.  These ‘fines of gold’ are recorded on the fine rolls, making the latter a key source for the accumulation of the gold treasure.  One favour in particular was being purchased in 1257. This was exemption from knighthood.  In 1256, the king had proclaimed that everyone with an income of £15 a year upwards should take up knighthood.  His aim was very largely to make money from the men prepared to fine with the king for exemption from the obligation. Alternatively they could fine for an inquiry into the value of their lands to see if they really did have the required income.   No one questioned the king’s right to impose knighthood, but his move still created resentment. There were some lords, certainly, who were attracted by the status of  knighthood, and its promise of  military activity.  But many others were put off both by the costs and the likely administrative as well as military burdens.  To have to pay to avoid them  was infuriating, the more especially as the £15 a year threshold was a low one.

The cost Henry charged for exemption or an inquiry was usually half a mark of gold. Since gold was worth ten times silver, this meant the fine was the equivalent of five marks of silver, or £3 6s 8d. It thus represented a sizable proportion of a £15 annual income.  During the course of 1257, as we will see, large numbers of potential knights came to court and made their fine. They must have asked why they had to do so in gold, thus discovering Henry’s Sicilian plans and how they were suffering from them. Most of those fining were lords of manors and members of the  gentry. They were influential locally, however much they wished to escape the burdens of knighthood. In this way the full horror of the Sicilian venture was spread through the counties of England.  What made matters worse was the saving of the gold was very personal to the king. The potential knights had to come to court to make their fine. They then had to pay the gold  in to the king’s wardrobe either at once or at stipulated terms in the future. Usually the terms were written down on the fine rolls, as was the record of the eventual payments to the wardrobe’s keeper, either Artald de St Romain or later, Peter des Rivaux. Both these men were foreigners, the latter notoriously so.  These gentry lords thus also saw how ‘alien’ was Henry’s court.  The  whole process of the making and collection of these fines  can be seen in the payments made in January 1257, with the marginal annotations ‘De finibus auri’, ‘Concerning fines of gold’.

The exchequer was not informed at all about the process, something it was left to the reformers of 1258 to put right. (See the fine of the month by Richard Cassidy)

One other aggravation was the bother of acquiring gold to make the fines. Unfortunately the fine rolls do not say in what form the gold came. Perhaps the most likely source was the goldsmiths who sold gold in foil and other forms, The cost of such purchases placed a further burden on the potential knights.

Henry III began the year 1257 at the priory of Merton in Surrey. He then moved to Westminster for the anniversary of Edward the Confessor’s death on 5 January. This feast of his patron was one of the greatest in Henry’s liturgical year and he always celebrated it at Westminster, unless abroad.  Henry was to remain at Westminster till near the end of the month.  In the first two weeks of January, the fine rolls show that there were no less than thirty-one fines of gold. Of these sixteen were for exemption from knighthood, and another six for inquiries into income.  Four fines were made for exemption from jury service.

The fine  rolls also show the way the king was entrusting major royal castles to his foreign servants. In this period Imbert Pugeis became keeper of The Tower of London and Aymon Tumbert keeper of Windsor. Both were Savoyards. Henry also increased the jurisdiction of his Poitevin castellan of Corfe, Elyas de Rabayne, by giving him control of the surrounding warren or park.  The way foreigners were in charge of the chief castles of the kingdom was one of the main complaints made against Henry’s rule in 1258.

See next week’s blog for more about fines of gold and Henry’s attempts to raise money.