Posts Tagged ‘Matthias Bezill’

The Exchequer, around Michaelmas 1261

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Richard Cassidy writes…

Frustratingly, it is at this point that we become unable to keep track of how much cash was coming into the Treasury. The receipt roll for Easter term 1261 shows that the Treasury received £6,158 between the beginning of May and the end of July, and only £18 between 30 July and 29 September. But there is then a two-year gap in the surviving sequence of receipt rolls, so that we do not know what resources Henry had available as he re-asserted his authority.

We do know that Michaelmas term 1261 began fairly well. The mayor and citizens of London came to the Exchequer, as was traditional at the beginning of the Exchequer’s year, to present the new sheriffs of London and Middlesex. The annual cycle of auditing the sheriffs’ accounts began on 30 September with the accounts of Somerset and Dorset for 1260-61. It is notable that the county accounts were presented by Philip de Cerne, who had been appointed sheriff by the barons in 1259, and replaced by the royalist Philip Basset in July 1261.

The Adventus of the sheriffs was a partial success. It is striking that all of the sheriffs attended or were represented, even those from the most distant counties. Even in normal times, one or two sheriffs, out of a possible 24, might not appear, and these were far from normal times. The list in the memoranda roll is unusual in giving the names of several of the sheriffs – Alan la Zuche in Northamptonshire, Matthias Bezill in Gloucestershire, Robert Walerand in Kent, for example. These are the sheriffs who had been appointed in July 1261, and the Adventus list may be making the point that these royal appointees are the sheriffs, not any baronial rivals.

But while the Adventus was a success in terms of the number attending, the sheriffs brought less cash than in past years – £791, compared to £918 at Michaelmas 1260, and £1,246 in 1259. The towns and cities which paid their dues directly to the Exchequer (rather than through the sheriff) were also well-represented, and paid £795, which was only slightly below the amounts paid at the same time in the past two years (£815 and £866). Unfortunately, without the receipt roll, there is no way of knowing how much of the total of £1,586 was actually received in the Treasury at this time. We also do not know whether the lower amount recorded at the Adventus was due to the difficulties the new royalist sheriffs might be having in imposing their authority, or to them spending more of the money they were collecting. Henry was about to send orders to several sheriffs, instructing them to lay in provisions in key castles because of the disturbed state of the realm. It may be that they were using cash locally on such preparations, rather than sending it to London.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 2 October to Saturday 8 October 1261

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Henry III spent all this week at St Paul’s in London where he was almost certainly staying at the bishop’s palace.  The chaos of the time is reflected in the continuing collapse of fine roll business. Only nine writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased in this week. Henry was  anxious about control of the Cinque Ports. On 4 October, he ordered the men of Winchelsea and Sandwich to have nothing to do with a meeting the king’s enemies had tried to arrange. Ostensibly this was to settle a dispute between the men. In fact, as Henry said, it was to seduce them from their allegiance. The men were also told to prevent the king’s enemies bringing foreign soldiers into the country. This was not, of course, to prevent the king doing the same.

This week did, however, bring two pieces of good news for Henry.  First, he had evidently tried to summon his supporters to London, and the result was not disappointing. The witness lists to royal charters show that with Henry at St Paul’s on 4, 5 October were Boniface archbishop of Canterbury,* the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, Peter of Savoy, the marcher barons, James of Audley and Reginald fitzPeter (see the blog for 8-14 May),  Philip Basset, the justiciar,  and John Mansel. Since one charter was in favour of John de Plessis, earl of Warwick, he was probably there too.

The second piece of good news came  from the exchequer at Westminster. Henry himself had long felt that Westminster was out of bounds. With the palace there unprotected, he  feared an armed coup like that which had overturned him in 1258. But such dangers had not stopped the exchequer courageously attending to its business. Thus the  money to be raised by the fines  continued to be sent to the exchequer on the originalia rolls (the copies of the fine rolls), and we can see the exchequer setting about the business of collecting it in the annotations it made on the rolls, ‘in the roll’ meaning the debt has been put in the pipe roll: ‘s’ meaning it has been put into the ‘summonses’, the list of debts sent to the sheriffs for collection.  It was one thing to order the sheriffs to collect the debts, another for them actually to do so when their authority was being challenged by rival sheriffs set up by the insurgents. The acid test of their success was now at hand for it was at Michaelmas,  at the end of  each September, that the sheriffs were supposed to send in to the exchequer the money they had raised. What now would be the results? Henry must have wondered that more anxiously at Michaelmas 1261 than at any other time in his reign.

In the event, Henry was re-assured, at least in some measure.  He may well   have feared that nothing at all would arrive. In fact, the sheriffs and those answering separately for various towns and manors brought in  around £1580.  On the other hand, there were some black holes,  showing clearly where the king’s authority had disintegrated.  Matthias Bezill, challenged  by William de Tracy in Gloucestershire (see the blog for 24-30 July) sent nothing.  Nothing equally came from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, and most worrying of all perhaps, from Kent. No wonder Henry was concerned about the Cinque  Ports. There was also very little from Essex and Hertforshire. Still the exchequer was undaunted and vigorously set about hearing the sheriff’s accounts.  Later in the year it was to bring the rival sheriffs themselves to book, getting them to answer for their ill gotten gains. The exchequer’s buoyant spirit is reflected in the elaborate ‘A’  penned by the clerk, drawing up the memoranda roll for Michaelmas 1261, in the heading ‘Still  (Adhuc)  communia for the term of St Michaelmas’. (‘Communia’ here essentially means common or general business).

Henry himself was now facing a dilemma for 13 October was coming up. This was the greatest day in his religious year,  the feast day  of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. It was a day he ALWAYS spent at Westminster amidst splendid services and joyous celebrations. Would he go there in 1261? Read next week’s blog to find out.

*An unflattering sketch of Boniface Archbishop of Canterbury appears on the 1261-2 memoranda roll.

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 Saturday 20 August to Saturday 27 August 1261

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

This week was chiefly remarkable for Henry III’s extraordinary move from Windsor to the Tower of London and back.  According to the fine rolls, Henry witnessed letters at Windsor on Saturday 20 August. Yet a letter on the close rolls has him attesting on the same day at the Tower of London. Indeed it was from there that he sent ten foot archers to Matthias Bezill at Gloucester castle. Evidently he had heard of Bezill’s violent quarrel with  the rival sheriff, William de Tracy, and felt he needed reinforcements. (See the blog for 24-30 July).  Henry seems, therefore, to have travelled from Windsor to the Tower in the course of 20 August. Most  probably he made the journey by boat.  Just how long he stayed at the Tower is unclear because the dating clauses of royal letters become contradictory, testimony perhaps to the general confusion. A letter on the fine rolls has Henry still at the Tower on 23 August. Yet one on the close rolls places him back at Windsor on the  twenty-second.  Certainly he was at Windsor from the twenty-fourth onwards.

Just why Henry made this dash to the Tower is unclear. Perhaps the most likely explanation is that he felt the growth of the insurgency around Windsor made it unsafe. The last thing he wanted was to face a siege there. This then  was a flight rather like that from from Winchester  to the Tower back in June (see the blog for 12-18 June).  After a few days, Henry  returned to Windsor having been  re-assured of the situation. He was  more comfortable there than in his confined quarters at the Tower. He could also assert more of a presence than bottled up in the capital.  The hypothesis that Henry was losing control of the area near Windsor is supported by some strands  of evidence. It was from 24 August that his sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Alexander of Hampden,  received nothing from the issues of the county ‘because of the disturbance’, according to his later testimony.  The fine rolls are also interesting.  Below the letter attested on 20 August come twelve fines for writs to initiate or further the common law legal proceedings.  The fine rolls record, as was usual, omits the date of the writs, but they were presumably issued around 20 August.  Not one concerned counties in the circle around Windsor. Henry was now girding himself for war, although he still hoped to avoid it.  On 22 August, he sent letters to various foreign lords asking them to be ready to send him a total of 300 knights and  the same number of serjeants or archers. These were  to be despatched  once Henry  sent a further request. As he explained, ‘certain of our magnates have for sometime been rebels, and unless they speedily think again, we will have to take appropriate measures’.