Posts Tagged ‘Magna Carta’

KCL at The National Archives

Friday, April 26th, 2013

 

MA students from KCL at The National Archives

MA students from KCL at The National Archives

On Wednesday 27 March a group of students from KCL’s MA in Medieval History visited The National Archives. They were taken round by Dr Jessica Nelson (centre in group photo) who herself studied for her MA and doctorate at King’s. Illustrated below are some of the documents the group looked at.

closerollhead

A marginal head from a close roll

nationalarchivesroll

A Basset charter

A Basset charter

On the following day David Carpenter was back at TNA to photo the authorised version of Magna Carta in the Red Book of the Exchequer. While there he took the images illustrated of Henry II on his death bed (from the text of his will in the Black Book of the Exchequer):IMG_0032

and the image of Edward I legislating in the cartulary of Malmesbury Abbey:IMG_0052

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 November to Saturday 25 November 1257 (and a contribution by Dr Richard Cassidy)

Monday, November 26th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Guildford castle. There was no great press of business and he  had time to plan  extensive improvements  to what had become one of his favourite residences.  On 25 November he ordered the sheriff of Surrey to carry out a whole series of works, works which, as he said,  he  had explained in more detail to ‘Master John the mason’. The John here was of Beverley who was also the master mason at Westminster abbey. We can imagine the two men walking over the castle together and discussing what needed to be done.

 

The works commissioned were as follows:

 

A door and a fireplace.

 

A saucer and a larder under one roof

 

A building to store brushwood.

 

The paving of the chapels and chambers of king and queen.

 

A stable between the hall and kitchen.

 

The blocking of the outer and inner doors of the chamber under the gallery and the making of a new door to enter it under the gallery from the wardrobe.

 

A small building for  warming the queen’s food.

 

A passage from the chamber of Edward, the king’s son, to the kitchens and another from the chaplains’ chamber to the kitchens.

 

Repair of the almonry.

 

One notes, of course, Henry’s concern for Queen Eleanor and Edward and his son and heir.

 

In terms of fine roll business, one item this week (no.80 in the translation) shows Henry carefully establishing the status of an heiress’s inheritance so that (although this is not stated explicitly) he  could observe the stipulations of Magna Carta. The Charter had laid down that  the ‘relief’  (that is inheritance tax) for anyone entering a barony should be £100 whereas that for a knight’s fee should only be £5.  On 21 November Henry took the homage of Thomas of Aldham. Thomas had married an heiress, Isabella, but the nature of her inheritance was unclear. Henry, therefore, ordered the exchequer to inquire, by examining its rolls, whether the inheritance  was held by barony or by knight service.  The exchequer was then to levy a relief accordingly.

 

Richard Cassidy writes:

 

The names of Thomas of Aldham and Isabella should have rung a bell with the Chancery clerks. Only a few years before, they had featured in the fine rolls and the close rolls: Isabella’s first husband was Ralph de Haya, who died in 1254; early in 1255, Isabella had married Thomas without licence, despite having taken an oath not to marry without the king’s consent, and the lands of both Isabella and Thomas were taken into the king’s hand (Close Rolls 1254-56, 40). In April 1255, Isabella fined 200 marks for licence to marry whomever she chose. The fine was assigned to Geoffrey de Lusignan, and when Isabella paid the first instalment, the sheriffs of Sussex, Lincolnshire, Somerset and Kent were ordered to restore Thomas and Isabella’s lands. Thomas and Isabella had paid the full fine by January 1256 (CFR 1254-55, no. 332; Close Rolls 1254-56, 67-8, 263).

 

The clerks could also have checked the inquisitions post mortem. The query in 1257 concerned lands which Isabella had inherited from her sister Margery, who had been married to William of Etchingham. William had died in 1253, and the inquisition then recorded that William held half the manor of Chiselborough, near Yeovil. He held this half as part of Margery’s inheritance, and it was held of the king in chief by barony. The other half of the manor was held by Ralph de Haya, by reason of his wife, Isabella (Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, I, no. 287). So the inquisition showed that the sisters shared a manor held as a barony. After Margery’s death Isabella was to hold the whole manor (among many other properties).

 

Margery’s executors, Robert le Poher and Osbert Huse, were given administration of her estate, and undertook to pay her debts to the king (E 368/33 m. 5d). The fine roll records that the sheriff and escheator of Somerset were ordered to give Thomas and Isabella full seisin of Margery’s lands. They seem to have exceeded their orders, by ejecting Robert le Poher from land in Chiselborough with which Margery had enfeoffed him (Close Rolls 1256-59, 213-4).

 

In the long run, Thomas and Isabella’s status as holders of a barony must have become plain. When Thomas died in 1275, the inquisition noted that he had held Chiselborough through Isabella, as her inheritance, and that she now held it of the king in chief by barony (Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, II, no. 193).

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

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Henry’s itinerary for this week is revealed in the dating clauses of the writs enrolled on the fine rolls.

Henry began the week at Westminster and then went to Windsor.  In the fine roll business, one item stands out. This is the fine  (37 down in the above image and no.37 in the translation)  made by the baron, Peter de Maulay, lord of Doncaster and other lands in Yorkshire. Peter offered 60 marks (so £40) to be pardoned Henry’s indignation and rancour. He had incurred this through failing  either to muster personally or to send his due quota of knights to the king’s recent expedition to Wales. As a result, the sheriff of Yorkshire had been ordered to take his lands into the king’s hands. These were now to be restored to him.  Henry was arguably well within his rights in seizing Peter’s lands. After all,  Peter had failed in the most basic obligation of a baron, namely to provide the military service due from his barony.  It would be interesting to know, however, whether the seizure was ordered after some kind of ‘judgement by peers’ had been given against Peter. After all, Magna Carta had laid down that no one was to be disseised save by ‘the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land’.  If there was no judgement, was Henry covered by the ‘law of the land’, which might be thought to sanction seizure when there was so blatant and basic a failure to fulfil  obligations?  The episode shows the power of Henry’s kingship when he chose to exercise it, for Peter was brought to heel and forced to offer his fine of 60 marks. On the other hand, the amount was hardly very large and one can imagine King John being far more punitive.  Henry himself,  admittedly for very different offences, had been far more punitive himself  in his treatment, at this time,  of John de Balliol and Robert de Ros for which see the fine of the month for last August.

This was not the first time Peter de Maulay had been in trouble with the king.  In January 1254, while in Gascony, Henry had sent a furious letter home to the queen, his regent in England (Close Rolls 12534, p.295). This complained that Peter had come out to Gascony late, and then done more harm than good. Indeed, he had insulted the king to his face, and tried to undermined the allegiance of  ‘the faithful men of England’  by persuading them to return home. Having, nonetheless, been placed in charge of fifty knights,  forming the king’s body guard, Peter  had gone off  without leave, placing the king in great peril. The queen and the home government were, therefore, ordered to ‘pay him back as you think expedient’. Given the depth of Henry’s anger, this seems a fairly mind form of punishment, and perhaps voices were already being raised on Peter’s behalf.  In the event, the letter was not sent, and Peter was soon back in favour. The storm in 1257 seems similarly to have passed away. Peter remained loyal during the subsequent civil war.  There are signs he was in financial difficulties, which perhaps explain why, in November 1258, he leased Doncaster and other properties for ten years to Simon de Montfort (Cal.Patent Rolls 1258-66, p.5)  Perhaps  Peter did not find  the great earl an altogether congenial tenant.

Peter de Maulay’s father, Peter de Maulay I,  had been one of King John’s most notorious foreign imports.  The reputed murderer of Arthur, his marriage to the Doncaster heiress had been one of the episodes which lay behind Magna Carta’s stipulation that heirs should not be ‘disparaged’ by being married to someone of a lower social class.  Henry III’s allegation that Peter de Maulay II, in Gascony, had tried to undermine the allegiance of the ‘fideles Angliae’,  suggests that he was now fully accepted as one of their number. Peter de Maulays were to continue, one after the other, as lords of Doncaster all the way down to 1438. A great deal about Peter de  Maulay I, may be found in N. Vincent’s Peter des Roches and D.A. Carpenter’s Minority of Henry III.

About another person making a fine  this week, much is known, although we are now at the level not of the baronage, but of the country gentry. Again, as in so much else, there is a Magna Carta angle. In the fine 27 down in the above image, and 27 in the translation, Thomas de Hotot offered one mark of gold (worth 10 marks of silver) to be exempted from assizes, which meant essentially he did not have to appear on juries. Thomas was lord of Clopton in Northamptonshire, and other properties, many of them acquired by his father Richard. It was Thomas who put together and partly wrote a fascinating register which contains  a family history,  surveys of  land, and records of  acquisitions. The register shows how politically aware were gentry lords for it also contained a text of the 1225 Magna Carta and the 1217 charter of the forest, as well as the charters in which King John made the kingdom a papal fief. The register is printed in A Northamptonshire Miscellany, ed. E. King (Northamptonshire Record society, xxxii, 1983).  The fine itself to be exempted from juries adds a little to our picture of Thomas’s world.  He had to come (or send) twice to court in connection with it.  The initial fine was made on 4 November 1257 at Westminster, while payment, (as a note  added to the fine shows)  was made to Peter de Rivallis, keeper of the wardrobe, at Windsor in the following January. It is a testimony to the business sense we see in the register, that Thomas paid in the whole of the one mark of gold in January, although only half was due then, the other half being due at Easter.

Thomas’s fine of gold shows that Henry was still trying to build up a gold treasure to finance the army which would help him conquer Sicily, a vain ambition if ever there was one, for which see the fine of the month for February 2012.

The ambition had recently become even vainer  because, while Henry was still receiving gold for his treasure, he was also spending it at a far quicker rate.  He had no alternative given his financial problems.  In order to spend it, Henry came up with a brilliant idea or so he thought. He would turn his treasure into his own gold coinage, the first minted in England since the Norman Conquest. The gold coin weighed two silver pennies,  and thus was worth twenty pence of silver. Unfortunately, the new coinage proved extremely unpopular.  In response, on Sunday 4 November, Henry summoned the mayor and citizens of London to come before him at the exchequer. He charged them on their allegiance to say if the new coinage was ‘of value for the common benefit of the kingdom or not’. The answer was that it was not!  This was partly because it was irrelevant for poor people whose total wealth was not worth one gold penny. It was also because (and here the goldsmith lobby spoke) because the sudden appearance of so much gold, as the king broke into his treasure to pay his expenses, was bringing down the value of the metal.  Henry, defiant, said he still wished the coinage to run, but it was not a success, which is why so few of his gold coins survive, making it the most valuable British coin at auction. The penny shows Henry sitting elegantly on his throne, crowned and holding orb and sceptre. As so often in Henry’s kingship, there was a glaring contrast between image and reality.

For an image of one of the coins, click here.

 

 

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 23 September to Saturday 29 September 1257

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

During this week, Henry left the Welsh march and set off eastwards back to Westminster. On  24 and 27  September, the fine rolls show him still at Worcester. By 29 September, he was at Woodstock. What a relief to enjoy once more the comfort of a major royal palace.  By far the most interesting entry on the fine rolls this week relates to a concession Henry made at Worcester on 27 September. This was to give John fitzAlan easier terms on which to repay a debt of 10,000 marks (£6666) which he owed the king. John was paying this debt off at the rate of £100 a year, £50 at Easter and £50 at Michaelmas.  Henry now allowed him to miss the payment due at Michaelmas 1257, the reason for the concession being that John was remaining in the king’s service in Wales.

John fitzAlan was a great baron of the Welsh march, being lord of Oswestry and Clun. He was also lord of Arundel in Sussex. His descendants indeed became earls of Arundel. How was it then that he owed such an astronomical sum to the king?  The answer is that  he had inherited the debt. The 10,000 marks had actually been offered King John back in 1214 by John fitzAlan’s uncle, William fitzAlan in order to be allowed to enter the fitzAlan inheritance. William died in 1216 and was followed by his brother, John fitzAlan, who died in 1240. Neither of them paid a penny towards the 10,000 marks.  When our John fitzAlan (the son of John who died in 1240), came of age in 1244, he might have hoped he too would be exempted from paying the debt, if not pardoned it all together. After all it originated in what was surely one of King John’s  most tyrannous exactions. Not a bit of it. Henry III demanded that John pay the debt. True he was allowed first to pay at the rate of £200 a year, and then (as we see in 1257) at the rate of a £100, but these were still substantial sums.  Nor was that all. When John had  succeeded in 1244, his relief was not the statutory £100 laid down in Magna Carta but a whopping £1000.  In his treatment of John fitzAlan, Henry seems to have been returning to the worst days of his father. What on earth was going on? I hope to answer that question before too long in a new fine of the month.      

For the membrane covering this week, click here (the John fitzAlan entry is 28 down).

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 25 February to Saturday 10 March 1257

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Henry III began the week commencing Sunday 25 February at Windsor.  He had to be back at Westminster by 18 March for the opening of the great parliament which would make crucial decisions about the Sicilian affair and  say good bye to Richard of Cornwall before his departure for Germany.  To fill in the intervening period, there was just time for a short tour.  Henry left Windsor on Friday 2 March and stayed over night at  the house of Henry de Bohun at Amersham.  On the evening  of the next day,  Saturday 3 March he reached St Albans abbey where he remained until the ninth. Then Henry moved on to Hertford to be entertained by his half brother, William de Valence, to whom he had given Hertford castle. After that,  Henry progressed  to Waltham abbey where he stayed from  11 to 14 March  before returning to Westminster for the parliament.

There were several reasons for this tour. One was that there was sickness at Windsor.  Queen Eleanor was ill there, as were several young nobles, including Nicholas of Seagrave, who were being brought up at  court.  Another reason was spiritual. Henry was on a  pilgrimage. He could pray for help at the forthcoming parliament before the shrine of England’s proto-martyr Alban and before Waltham’s famous Holy Cross. And there was a financial motive.  Henry was doing all he could to save money for the Sicilian affair.   What better way to reduce the costs of his daily expenditure on food and drink than by accepting the hospitality of his nobles and even more, for they could put him up for longer, of England’s  great religious houses.  Henry’s exploitation of religious houses in this way was one of the complaints made against him by churchmen in the 1250s. He was, however, aware that not everyone had their resources, and was good enough to send Henry de Bohun a cask of wine to compensate for what had been consumed at Amersham

Matthew Paris gives a wonderful picture of Henry’s visit to St Albans.  He makes no complaint about it, although Henry stayed for a week and  brought with him two of his unpopular Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, as well as his Savoyard steward, Imbert Pugeis, and another foreign relative, William de Chabanais. But then Henry’s conduct was so completely right. He offered at the great altar a ‘most noble necklace with two clasp and a cross chain’  and at the altars of St Alban and St Amphibalis most noble rings. He also gave a silver gilt cup to hold the dust found in  the recently discovered original tomb of St Alban and as well as six silken cloths, of which one was to cover the tomb and another the tombs of the hermits Roger and Sigard. Henry also gave money for work on the St Alban’s feretory.  During this visit, Matthew Paris, so he tells us, was continually with the king  at his table and in his chamber.  Henry indeed, ‘directing amicably and diligently the pen of the writer’, named for Paris the princes who had just elected Richard as king of Germany. He also named the sainted kings of England and then ran through all the English baronies he could remember of which he found there were 250.  Paris also captures Henry dealing with business.  Certain masters of the University of Oxford came before him in the chapel of Saint Oswin and made a complaint about the jurisdictional  claims of  bishop of Lincoln. They were given a day for their case to be heard at the forthcoming ‘great parliament’.  Matthew Paris added his two penny worth. He told the king  ‘secretly’ how  ruin would threaten the whole church if the  University of Oxford should now suffer the same fate as the currently troubled University of Paris. Henry showed suitable  alarm. ‘Let this not happen, especially in my time’. One is so used to Paris’s diatribes against Henry III, that it is good to be reminded of a totally different side to the their relationship.  On a visit like this to a great monastery, Henry could display a charming  combination of respectful piety, friendly accessibility and proper concern.

The fine rolls in these two weeks reflect Henry’s efforts to raise money. At Windsor on 28 February he arranged for wood to be sold from the royal forests, hoping this would raise 3000 or 4000 marks.  The fines of gold, designed to provide the treasure for the Sicilian army, continued  to come in. There were eleven in these two weeks worth some nine marks of gold, the equivalent of 90 marks of silver. In addition the abbot of Croxton, at St Albans on 5 March, offered 60 marks silver for the purchase of gold to secure the king’s confirmation of gift of land.  Henry added a further concession ‘for the sake of the heart of King John’, which was buried at the abbey. The rolls  give a perfect example of how Magna Carta had restricted royal income. On 2 March at Windsor, Henry de Blendet did homage to the king for his father’s lands.  The relief or inheritance tax he had to pay was £5. Since he held one knight’s fee from the king this was strictly in accord with Magna Carta. It was  restrictions such as these which made the king so dependent on taxation which only parliament could grant. Hence the importance of the approaching meeting.

On the membrane covering this period, the entry for the sale of wood is 10 down, the relief of Henry de Blendet is fourteen down, and for the king at St Albans on 5 March, see sixteen down.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 February to Saturday 24 February 1257

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

At the start of this week, or possibly at the end of last, Henry moved from Westminster to Windsor, going by way of Merton priory in Surrey.  On Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, his Lenten fast began, which at the very least must have meant a fish diet.   Henry  remained pre-occupied by the Sicilian project, the project that is to place Edmund, his second son, on the throne of Sicily.  In this week he gave 100 marks for the support of  Henry, the brother of the king of Castile. Henry was in England and being canvassed  as the man who might lead the army to conquer Sicily from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler. In this week, King  Henry also appointed Simon de Montfort  as his ambassador to negotiate a peace with the king of France. This too was linked to the Sicilian project since, without such a peace, a passage of an English army through France on its way to Sicily would never be permitted.  Montfort was at court at Windsor during the week and, preparatory to his mission, gained permission both to make his will and to receive his inheritance in France if the king of France would grant it to him.

It is a curious week for the fine rolls because between 16 and 26 February only six items of business were enrolled upon them.  Since a new membrane was started in the course of the week and an old one finished, one wonders whether some business was lost in the transition. By far the most striking entry – the last in the image above – concerned Amice countess of Devon. On 19 February the king made her a life grant of the royal manor of Melksham in Wiltshire in return for the traditional annual payment or farm of  a little over £48. This was a generous concession because when Melksham had been valued  in 1250 its farm had been set at £140. (See CFR 1250-1, no.1107).  Amice  was a woman of the highest status.  She was the daughter of Gilbert de Clare earl of Gloucester and his wife, Isabel,  daughter of the great William Marshal, earl of Pembroke. She was the widow of Baldwin de Redvers, earl of Devon, who had died in 1245. Since then she  had resisted pressure to take a second husband. Amice was protected by Magna Carta which laid down that no widow could be made re-marry.  She was also protected by her close relationship with Queen Eleanor and her party of Savoyards. In this year,  Amice’s son and heir,  Baldwin, was to marry a daughter of the queen’s uncle Thomas of Savoy.  The gift of Melksham to Amice was made at Windsor, Eleanor’s chief base. Almost certainly she had a hand in it, as perhaps did Peter of Savoy, who was also at court this week. Doubtless Amice was there too, as she had been at the start of January, when she received a new year’s gift of  six deer from the king.  Queen Eleanor continued to keep her eye on Melksham. In 1258,  the £48 annual farm was used to support her lady Willelma, ‘who from the childhood of the queen has served her and now, wearied in that service and worn out by old age and sickness, does not wish to follow the queen, but proposes for her better quiet  to dwell in the abbey of Lacock or some other religious house’. (See p.105 of Margaret Howell’s, Eleanor of Provence).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 February to Saturday 17 February 1257

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Westminster.  At its start, the bishop of London, the bishop of Lincoln, the elect of Salisbury, Richard earl of Cornwall, and Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester all appeared at court. On 11 February Simon obtained a recognition that custody of lands in Toddington in Bedfordshire  belonged to him rather than the king. Toddington, has of course, given its name to a service station on the M1 from which there are pleasant views over surrounding fields. Simon held the manor as part of Eleanor’s dower from the lands of her first husband, William Marshal earl of Pembroke.  With major players at court, Henry now took an important decision. On Monday 12 February he sent out the writs summoning the lay and ecclesiastical magnates to  meet him in London at mid Lent (18 March).  The writs announced that Richard was to leave immediately afterwards to take up his kingship in Germany. Henry, therefore, wished to have discussion with his prelates and magnates ‘about great and arduous affairs touching ourselves and our kingdom for the common utility of you and us and all our kingdom’.  These affairs included, although it was not said, the Sicilian enterprise.  The archbishop of Messina had now arrived in England from the papal court to stir Henry into action. On 15 February Henry ordered the exchequer to give him fifteen marks to distribute to knights and others coming with messages from Sicily.  Action for Henry meant  more than anything else securing a tax from parliament. Without it there was no hope of him  ever sending an army to Sicily to wrest control of the kingdom.  Making the case for such a tax would therefore by high on the agenda of the parliament summoned for mid Lent.

The fine rolls reflect Henry’s need for taxation to fill his coffers in this  Magna Carta world. On 13 February, Henry took the homage of Henry of Lexington (or Laxton), the bishop of Lincoln, for the lands he had inherited from his elder brother, the former royal steward, John of Lexington. The bishop’s relief or inheritance tax was £5, which was strictly in accordance with  Magna Carta. This laid down £5 as the relief for a knight’s fee which was all that John held from the king. John’s estates, however, were far greater than this single fee. Orders to put the bishop in possession of John’s  properties were sent to the king’s officials in London and six counties.  A relief of much larger size might seem to have been justified but was prevented by Magna Carta. The fine rolls of this week also underlined the necessity of a tax  in another way for there were only two of the fines of gold from which, as we have seen, Henry was hoping to support his Sicilian army. If this pattern continued it would be worrying indeed.  See future blogs to find out what happened to the gold treasure.

For the bishop of Lincoln’s fine, count up eleven from bottom on the membrane and no.434 in the Calendar.

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 Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 24 April (Easter Day) to Saturday 30 April 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

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

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

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