Posts Tagged ‘Melksham’

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).