Posts Tagged ‘Louis IX’

Sunday 3 August 1264: the legate and negotiations

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014
Pope Clement IV and Charles of Anjou

Pope Clement IV and Charles of Anjou

This week, Simon de Montfort’s government was mostly concerned with events across the Channel, where queen Eleanor was amassing an invasion force, the king of France was being enlisted as arbiter, and the papal legate had reached the north of France and begun to take an active role in support of the royal cause. The legate, Guy de Foulquois, a Provençal cardinal, was later to become pope as Clement IV. He had been appointed legate in November 1263, at Henry III’s request, with the general object of restoring the king’s authority and suppressing baronial rebellion. The baronial government was naturally suspicious of the legate, who was closely associated with Louis IX. In addition, the papacy had previously shown itself hostile, in 1261 assisting Henry’s return to power by issuing a papal bull releasing him from his oath to observe the Provisions of Oxford.  According to a note in one source, from Ramsey abbey, the government at the end of July announced that it had prohibited the importation and publication of sentences of excommunication and interdict against those who observed the Provisions; it even decreed the unusual penalty of beheading for anyone who disobeyed this ban. (Councils & Synods, II, I, 693-4; Gilson, ‘Parliament of 1264’, EHR 1901)

The legate’s attempts to open negotiations with the government were repeatedly rebuffed. The government’s attitude was demonstrated early in July when the legate’s messenger, a friar, brother Alan, was detained at Dover. Alan reported that he was searched, and all his letters were seized. He was told that if he brought in a letter harmful to the kingdom, he would lose his life. Unsurprisingly, Alan advised the legate against attempting to come to England in person. Around the end of July, while the legate was in Amiens, he received a letter from the barons. This said that the legate could not enter England without invitation, but that negotiations might begin in Boulogne. It also asked the legate to prevent the king of France providing financial support for the planned invasion. The legate replied on 2 or 3 August that he could not help: the money had already been paid. (Heidemann, Papst Clemens IV, register entries 5-14)

The government continued to be greatly concerned with the arrangements for defence against a foreign invasion. The sheriff of Essex was told not to distrain the vicar of Coggeshall to contribute to the support of the four or six men of the town who were supposed to be sent to London, with 40 days’ expenses. The sheriff of Kent was not to force the men of Greenwich to join the land forces assembled near Dover, because they were more useful at sea, guarding the Thames and Medway against alien incursions. There were elaborate arrangements limiting the amount of trade, particularly wine imports, permitted through the major ports. (Close Rolls 1261-64, 391-5)

The king wrote to Simon de Montfort and Gilbert de Clare concerning negotiations with the king of France. Messengers were to be sent to Boulogne, and the king himself was to go to Dover. Lord Edward and Henry of Almain had been sent from Wallingford to Kenilworth, but should also be present at Dover. Letters in Henry III’s name were also sent to the king of France, and to Charles of Anjou, stressing the threat of invasion, and the danger to lord Edward and Henry of Almain, as hostages.  Henry asked that the proposed negotations at Boulogne should be postponed from 8 to 17 August, provided delegates were given safe conduct. (Close Rolls 1261-64, 396-7; Royal Letters, II, 262-6)

Royal ceremonial was being maintained, even if finances were precarious. The revenues from towns, manors and vacant bishoprics were being paid into the Wardrobe, rather than the Exchequer. The exchanges provided the cash needed to buy twelve gold pieces and 36 gold obols for the king’s annual offering on 1 August, the feast of St Peter’s Chains. (CLR 1260-67, 138-9)

Sunday 3 February 1264: the barons reject Louis IX’s verdict

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Following the announcement of the Mise of Amiens, Louis IX’s verdict on the dispute between Henry III and the barons, Henry remained in France. By 3 February he had travelled as far as Boulogne, where he borrowed 100 marks from the abbot of St Mary’s, to be repaid by 30 March. As usual, Henry was short of ready cash, but he had the promise of large sums to come from his friend Louis. Under the 1259 Treaty of Paris, Louis had agreed to pay the cost of 500 knights for two years. On 30 January, Henry and Louis agreed terms for payment of the remaining balance, equivalent to £14,500, a useful amount for a king facing renewed civil war.1

104-Ruins-of-the-Abbey-Church-at-Einsham-q75-500x431The Chancery staff must have been kept busy during the arbitration, and were duly rewarded: Henry’s Chancellor, John de Chishull, was to receive £20 in part payment of the expenses of himself and his staff while the king was abroad.2 Their colleagues at home still had relatively little to do, but the fine rolls did record the appointment of the king’s clerk William of Axmouth to administer another ecclesiastical vacancy, the abbey of Eynsham. As with the bishopric of Bath, mentioned two weeks ago, the king’s government might hope to receive a helpful sum from this vacancy, but William of Axmouth seems not to have accounted for any revenues he collected from Eynsham. There was a good reason for this. Nearly two years later, on 10 January 1266, William’s heirs and executors were pardoned of all his debts and accounts. This was explained more fully in the 1269 pipe roll: William had been entrusted with money for paying the wages of the knights and serjeants in the king’s service, but he did not have to account for this money because, while serving with the king at the battle of Lewes, he was so badly wounded that he died shortly afterwards. For his long and laudable service, the king forgave William and his heirs all the debts which he owed on the day he died.3

Of mise and men

Both the king and the barons had sworn to abide by Louis IX’s decision, as set out in the Mise of Amiens. The mise was wholly favourable to Henry III, but in this case, the referee’s decision was far from final. Walter of Guisborough wrote that the barons withdrew angrily, not wanting to obey an award in which one king decided wholly in favour of another king. The Cronica Maiorum says that the barons were not content with the king’s award, but immediately levied war on Roger Mortimer in the Marches of Wales; the Londoners, the barons of the Cinque Ports, and nearly all the middle class of people of the kingdom wholly rejected the king of France’s award, to which they had not been party.4 As we will see next week, hostilities did indeed resume almost immediately, and the mise was completely disregarded.

The generally royalist Thomas Wykes thought that Louis acted more hastily and much less wisely than he should have done. Other chroniclers, more or less sympathetic to the baronial cause, found various explanations for Louis’ utter rejection of the baronial case. The Tewkesbury annals, for example, blame queen Eleanor: the king of France was led astray by the serpentine deceit of a woman. The Dunstable annals say that Louis exceeded his powers at the urging of his wife and of the queen of England (who were sisters). It was true that Eleanor had been in France since September, and had no doubt been lobbying for the royal cause. A less credible version was provided by a later writer, John of Oxenedes, who alleged that Louis was corrupted by the receipt of money from Henry: we can be fairly sure that Henry, perennially short of funds, was not in a position to bribe his fellow-monarch.5

William Rishanger claimed that de Montfort and the barons rejected the mise, because they stood by the Provisions of Oxford, which were based on Magna Carta. John Maddicott says that Rishanger ‘as usual seems to have had access to sources close to Montfort.’ On the other hand, H.T. Riley, who edited Rishanger’s chronicle of Lewes and Evesham for the Rolls Series in 1876, described it ‘as a literary production, lame, disjointed, verbose, obscure, and, in places, almost unintelligible; … the singular obscurity of its style, its disjointed form, the badness of the writing, and the marvellous ignorance manifested by its scribe, detracting, to a very great extent, from the value which, if better executed, it might have possessed as an historical work.’ Which is hardly a recommendation from the editor.6

  1. CPR 1258-66, 379-80. Howell, Eleanor of Provence, 207.
  2. CLR 1260-67, 130.
  3. CFR 1263-64, nos. 69 and 70. E 159/40 rot. 10d. E 372/113 rot. 2. This pardon had evidently been forgotten when William’s debt from the bishopric of Bath was revived in 1325.
  4. Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough, 188. Cronica Maiorum, 61, and Riley’s translation, Chronicles of the Mayors, 64. The Cronica says that the barons were not contempti, which would mean something like ‘scornful’. Riley translates it as content, which makes sense of an otherwise baffling sentence.
  5. Ann Mon, IV, 139; Ann Mon, I, 177; Ann Mon, III, 227; Chronica Johannis de Oxenedes, 226.
  6. Ypodigma Neustriae, 509, xxxvii-xxxviii; Maddicott, Simon de Montfort, 261.

Sunday 27 January, 1264: two kings, two saints, and two castles

Sunday, January 26th, 2014
Henry and Louis

Henry III meets Louis IX in 1259. British Library MS Royal 16 G VI.

Henry III spent another week in Amiens, and was at last rewarded when Louis IX delivered his verdict on the competing cases put to him by the king and his baronial opponents. This decision, known as the Mise of Amiens, was announced on 23 January.1

The Mise begins with letters from the royal and baronial parties, written in December 1263, submitting their differences to Louis for his arbitration, and swearing to abide by his decision. The letters describe their dispute as concerning ‘the provisions, ordinances, statutes and all other obligations of Oxford.’ Louis then states that he had heard and understood both cases, and gives his conclusions: the provisions had harmed the rights and honour of the king, and disturbed the realm; Louis quashed and invalidated the provisions, as the pope had already done; all castles should be restored to the king; the king should appoint and dismiss his officials as he wished; foreigners should be allowed to stay in the realm, and to provide counsel to the king; the king should have full power and free authority in his kingdom, as he did before the provisions, subject to the charters and liberties which were in force before the provisions; and the king and the barons should be reconciled.

Louis had effectively awarded Henry everything he wanted (apart from his financial demands). The Mise turned the clock back to 1258, before the Provisions of Oxford, although it retained Magna Carta and the forest charter as limits to the king’s power.

Two saints

Henry led his own delegation to Amiens, to put his case in person to his fellow-monarch. The barons’ leader, Simon de Montfort, being detained in England by a broken leg, the baronial side was represented by William Marshal, Adam of Newmarket, Peter de Montfort and Thomas de Cantilupe. Cantilupe may well have drafted the baronial statement. He was an intellectual from an aristocratic background, a former chancellor of Oxford university. He was briefly to become Chancellor for the de Montfort regime, and from 1275 bishop of Hereford. Cantilupe died in 1282. Many miracles were attributed to him, including the resuscitation of a hanged man, and he was canonized in 1320. The Mise of Amiens was thus delivered by the future Saint Louis, rejecting the arguments of the future Saint Thomas of Hereford.2

Two castles

The Chancery at home was still quiet, with few fines or writs to record. But there were indications that, despite the apparent settlement announced at Amiens, the royalist party in England was continuing to prepare for hostilities.

On 20 January, an order was issued at Windsor by Edward, the king’s son, and Henry of Almain, son of Richard of Cornwall. This would seem to indicate that Edward had returned from France before the mise. (Or that he had not actually accompanied his father – could the chronicler who reported his presence on their rough sea voyage, noted on 6 January, have meant Edmund rather than Edward?) Roger of Leybourne, as sheriff of Kent, was to pay  200 marks to himself, in one of his other roles, as constable of Rochester castle. He was to equip the castle ‘and do other things enjoined on him.’3

On 26 January, the Exchequer carried out the audit of the accounts of Alan la Zuche, sheriff of Northampton. The completion of the sheriff’s accounting, the sum, was later deferred because he was detained on the king’s arduous business’. This included the provision of munitions for Northampton castle. He was instructed to spend whatever was reasonably necessary, and the inspectors of the works told the Exchequer that he had spent £110, out of the county’s revenues. He had to wait for this account to be settled. A writ to cover this expenditure of £110 was issued in January 1267, and the amount was included in his authorized expenditure for 1263-64, when he finally came to account in the 1266 pipe roll.4

Both Rochester and Northampton castles were to play significant roles in the next few months.

  1. Documents of the Baronial Movement, no. 38.
  2. R.C. Finucane, ‘Cantilupe, Thomas de [St Thomas of Hereford] (c. 1220-1282)’, ODNB. Robert Bartlett, The Hanged Man.
  3. CLR 1260-67, 131.
  4. E 159/38 m. 7, 4d. CLR 1260-67, 256. E 372/110 rot. 3.

1264: the blog begins

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
Henry III versus Simon de Montfort, from the British Library manuscript Royal 16 G VI, Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, after 1332, before 1350

Henry III versus Simon de Montfort, from the British Library manuscript Royal 16 G VI, Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, after 1332, before 1350

This illustration from a French chronicle gives an attractively simplified view of the Barons’ War.  The reality was rather more complex than a mounted combat between Henry III and Simon de Montfort, picturesque as that might appear. This year, 2014, could be a good opportunity to take a closer look at events, week by week. The 750th anniversary of the battle of Lewes, and the other events of 1264, seem worth remembering, even if likely to be overshadowed by other anniversaries this year and next.

David Carpenter’s blogs for 1257 and 1261 showed how much material is available, in the fine rolls and other records of this period, to build up a detailed account. Those years were chosen because their calendars largely coincided with the years when the blogs appeared. Of course, 1264 was a leap year, and 2014 isn’t; but the calendars do align from 1 March onwards, with Easter day falling on 20 April in both years. And 1264 should provide plenty of material for a blog: Louis IX of France’s attempt at mediation, in the mise of Amiens; the drift towards all-out war; the initial royal success at Northampton; de Montfort’s victory at Lewes, and the captivity of the king; the queen massing an invasion force in France, and the popular response in defence of England’s shores; a new constitution, establishing rule by a small council, with the king as a figurehead; the papal legate’s attempts to intervene; and the war in the Welsh Marches, ending with the marchers’ submission and agreement to go into exile.

Comments and corrections would be welcome. Contributions on any aspect of the year would be even more welcome. In the absence of volunteers, arms will be twisted …

 

MParis heading

When the year began, king Henry was in France, or on his way there.1 Henry was heading for Amiens, where Louis IX was to consider the submissions of the king and his baronial opponents, and deliver his judgment on their conflicting claims. Queen Eleanor was already in France, having stayed there after Henry’s previous meeting with Louis IX in September-October 1263. There was also a group of royalist exiles in France, including the king’s influential counsellor John Mansel, who were alleged to be lobbying for French support against the baronial party. Henry had left his brother Richard of Cornwall in charge of the government in England, and it was Richard who attested the relatively few letters patent issued in England in January and February 1264. According to one chronicle, the lord Edward collected a large army after Christmas, and devoted himself to plunder and arson; but according to another, he accompanied his father to France.2

Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, recognized as the leader of the baronial movement, should have been travelling to Amiens too. He had set out from his castle at Kenilworth, and had only reached Catesby, Northamptonshire, when his horse fell. De Montfort’s leg was broken, and he had to return to Kenilworth.3

The arbitration at Amiens had been agreed late in 1263, as part of an uneasy, and widely disregarded, truce. After a year of varying fortunes, neither side could claim victory, or even a clear chance of victory. Henry had the support of most of the magnates, and had won over the lords of the Welsh Marches. One of their leaders, Roger Mortimer, had been granted de Montfort’s three manors in Herefordshire, where fighting and looting continued.4 At the end of December, the marchers had been instructed to seek a truce with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the Welsh leader who had led a successful revolt against English domination.5 Henry had resumed control of the machinery of central government, but the loyalty of the counties was less secure. On 20 December, Henry sent a propaganda letter to all the counties, denying that he had tried to bring foreigners into the country, and pledging that he would always keep his oath made at Oxford – that is, to observe the provisions for good government; a few days later, he had appointed keepers in 22 counties, with a military role distinct from the sheriffs’ administrative functions, apparently preparing for conflict.6

Henry’s opponents could rely on the city of London, run by a populist mayor who had overthrown the old city hierarchy. The Londoners had saved de Montfort from being trapped by Henry’s forces outside London on 11 December. The baronial party also held Dover castle, and thus commanded the main route into England from the Continent. Early in December, Henry had been refused entry to the castle, by a custodian loyal to the baronial council. Many of the bishops also backed reform, but the Pope had appointed a legate, Guy Foulquois, with instructions explicitly hostile to de Montfort.

Such was the situation as the year began.

  1. The classic account of this period, R.F. Treharne’s The Baronial Plan of Reform, says on p. 337 that Henry crossed to France on 27 December 1263, and on p. 387 that Henry was at Dover on 1 January 1264. The first date derives from Thomas Wykes’ chronicle, Annales Monastici [Ann Mon] IV, 139, the second from Chancery records (CPR 1258-66, 376). Unfortunately, Treharne’s work ends in January 1264, and his promised second volume, The Barons’ War, 1264-68, never appeared.
  2. Chronicle of Bury St Edmunds, 28; Ann Mon III, 227. Michael Prestwich, Edward I, 41, is clear: ‘Edward accompanied his father to Amiens for the negotiations.’
  3. Ann Mon, III, 227.
  4. Ann Mon, III, 226.
  5. Close Rolls 1261-64, 373.
  6. CPR 1258-66, 357-8.

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.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 August to Saturday 3 September 1261

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Henry spent all this week at Windsor.  Bad news kept pouring in.  We have seen from last week’s blog, that the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire was losing control of his counties.  A letter arrived from  the stalwart, James of Audley, revealing a similar situation  in Shropshire and Staffordshire.  In the north, Hugh Bigod, having tamely surrendered Dover to the king earlier in the year, now refused to give up Scarborough. He was, he declared, under oath not to surrendered it ‘without the will  and express order of the king and his magnates’. This showed he was still recognising the authority of the council of magnates imposed on the king in 1258.  And then intelligence arrived that Simon de Montfort had gone to France.  Henry said he did not know why, but must have feared that the earl’s aim was to replace the military force Henry hoped to raise abroad with one of his own. On Friday 2 September, Henry wrote accordingly to King Louis: please don’t  believe what Montfort tells you, and please  prevent him from acting to my prejudice ‘in the affair between us and our barons’. 

The fine rolls themselves shed an interesting light on the situation. In this week no less than thirty-six writs were purchased to commence or expedite the common law legal actions.  None, however,  were purchased from Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, which may well reflect the situation in those counties. Equally there were none from Audley’s Shropshire and Staffordshire, and Matthias Bezill’s Gloucestershire (for which see last week’s blog.) On the other hand, thirty-six writs purchased in all was not a bad total. People were still willing and able to come to Windsor, and had confidence that the legal actions they were pursuing were not going to be engulfed in  a civil war. This may help explain why Henry had felt able to return to Windsor, and why he continued to put his trust in conciliation as much as confrontation.  He thus counselled James of Audley to behave with caution and pass over mere verbal resistance. He should only act otherwise if there was violent resistance to the king’s officers.  Henry also sent an envoy to Norfolk and Suffolk to explain the affection and benevolence he felt for everyone in the two counties. The claims of malevolent people that he intended to subvert their rights and liberties were completely false.   See next week’s instalment.

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 10 April to Saturday 16 April 1261

Monday, April 11th, 2011

For Henry this was another week in the Tower of London. How he must have wished to escape the confines of the great fortress.  He had not lived there since early in 1238 during  the protests  over the secret marriage of Simon de Montfort to his sister. How right the protesters were, Henry may now have ruefully reflected.  At least Henry could also reflect  that in the intervening years he had transformed the Tower, giving it a new gateway, moat and outer  line of  turreted walls. That was why it could now form the base for his recovery of power. One thinks of Henry III as the builder of Westminster Abbey. Much of the Tower of London, as we have it today, was also his work: the majesty of kingship at Westminster; the might at the Tower. Never, in the whole history of the Tower was that might put to better use than in 1261.

In fine rolls terms this week was business as usual.  Individuals continued to come into the Tower to buy from the chancery the writs to initiate and further the  common law legal actions. Some seventeen were  purchased in this week. Many of these (as in any week)  secured a time and place for a particular legal action to be heard, most often, although this was usually  not specified, before the justices of the bench. (These are the writs of ‘pone’ and ‘ad terminum’ which feature so largely in the fine rolls.)  Other writs  commissioned a particular judge to hear a case in the localities. This week Henry of Bratton received such a commission to hear a case in Somerset. Henry used to be regarded as the author as one of the greatest law books ever written: Bracton on the Laws and Customs of England, although it is now clear he was only its editor and preserver. We can think of him as the proud possessor of the text  at the time of his hearing this assize. The cost of these writs was usually about half a mark,  a third of a pound, which would equate to several thousand pounds in modern money.  So they were not cheap. However, the routine standard form common law writs, which initiated legal actions and simply gave you a place before the judges when they next toured your county, only cost 6d (around £250 perhaps in modern money).  This money went straight into the chancery and was never recorded on the fine rolls.  Doubtless many of these writs were also purchased in this week. Henry himself would   have had nothing to do with this routine business. However, he almost certainly was involved in one act recorded on the fine rolls this week. On 16  April Henry pardoned Ida de Beauchamp the 5 marks which she had been amerced  in the course of a law suit in the previous year.

Outside the fine rolls, this week was vital  in providing Henry with the authority to overthrow the Provisions of Oxford.  On Wednesday 13 April, in Rome, Pope Alexander IV issued the crucial  bull which freed Henry from his oath to observe them. It would be around month before the bull would arrive in England, but meanwhile Henry must have felt his decision to overthrow the Provisions had been amply vindicated.  His attempt  to conciliate Simon de Montfort (revealed in last week’s blog) had proved an utter failure. This was all too clear from the replies to Henry’s complaints against his council which  he must have  received this week or next.  They were unyielding, not so say insulting, and bore all the hallmarks of Montfort’s abrasive hand. So Henry was told ‘it is right and reasonable that whenever you talk sense, you should be heard and listened to as lord of us all’.  The counsellors  also  acknowledged that they discussed and effectively settled matters on their own and only then asked the king for his assent, adding that ‘they do nothing on his sole word’.  Henry might well have cried out, as did Louis IX later when he heard of the Provisions, ‘I would rather be a peasant breaking clods behind the plough than live under a regime of that kind’.

There were indications this week of the way Henry’s mind was working. On 13 April he was munitioning the castles of Corfe and Salisbury with arrows.  On 14 April, he encouraged his Poitevin favourite, Elyas de Rabayne, dismissed as castellan of Corfe and expelled in 1258, to hasten back to England.

King Henry III’s Fine Roll Blog

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Easter in this year, 2011, is unusually late, falling on 24 April.  There were in fact only two years in the  reign of Henry III when Easter was on 24  April, and in which, therefore,  the whole calendar was exactly the same as it is in 2011,  with each day of the month falling on the same day of the week.   These years were 1261 and 1272. 1272 was, of course, the last year of Henry’s reign and he did not reach its end, dying on 16 November.  I have decided therefore, in starting Henry III’s fine rolls blog, to take the year 1261, a very dramatic one in which he threw off the controls imposed on him by the Provisions of Oxford in 1258.

Between Sunday 27 March and Saturday 3 April, Henry III was at the Tower of London, a place where normally he would never live, much preferring his palace at Westminster.  Having at the start of the year, escaped from the ruling council imposed in 1258 and recovered control over his seal, he had been based at the Tower since February, the great fortress providing  a secure base from which he could defy the gathering opposition to his demarche. Letters Henry wrote in this week showed his anxieties. He cautioned his Poitevin half brother, William de Valence, expelled in 1258, against returning to England, doubtless fearing the storm it would provoke, and also expressed his hope that the arbitration of the king of France might settle his quarrels with Simon de Montfort. The  fine rolls of this week, however, suggest a different picture, that of business as usual.  Henry (or his ministers) issued orders about the running of two royal manors, Brill in Oxfordshire and Havering in Essex. The money arising from Brill  was to be sent to the Exchequer at Westminster, so clearly this was still seen as a safe place for the king’s money, even if he himself was at the Tower.   There were also twenty individuals who bought writs from the chancery to progress the legal actions in which they were involved. Clearly they were perfectly prepared to enter the Tower of London to get these.