Posts Tagged ‘Norwich’

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 18 September to 24 September 1261

Monday, September 19th, 2011

For Henry this was another week at Windsor castle.  Wednesday 21 September, as we saw in the last blog, was supposed to be the day when three knights from each county were to come to Windsor rather than to the baronial assembly at St Albans.  While there is no hard evidence about who attended either meeting, the fine rolls do contain a remarkable, and hitherto unknown, suggestion that at least two knights did come to Windsor from Norfolk. The same entry also shows that Henry’s sheriff was at least able to exercise some authority in the county.

Since the start of August  Henry’s sheriff in Norfolk and Suffolk, Philip Marmion, had been challenged by two rival ‘keepers’ set up by the earls of  Norfolk, Gloucester and other magnates.  It was said later that, as a result, he had been unable to hold  county courts. Nonetheless, during this week  the burgesses of Norwich  were willing and able to lay a complaint  before Henry III. Their grievance was against the sheriff so he evidently had control of the town and presumably its great castle.  The burgesses claimed that they had the privilege of answering directly either to the king’s judges or the exchequer for the chattels of those convicted of felony in the town. Instead, they now alleged,  the sheriff was demanding the chattels so he could answer for them himself. (The immediate issue was over the chattels of someone who had  committed suicide through drowning.)  In response to this complaint, Henry ordered the sheriff to take two local knights, William of Stalham and Stephen of Reedham, with him, and  inquire into the value of the chattels. He was then to allow the burgesses to answer for them as they requested.

How did Henry know that these two knights could be trusted at a time when his rule in Norfolk was under  the severest challenge? The most natural answer is that they had both turned up at Windsor for the parliament on 21 September.  Quite probably they had themselves brought the burgesses’ complaint.  It would be interesting to do more research on the careers of the two men. The electronic search facility to the fine rolls, here so useful, shows at once that Reedham purchased a series of writs in the 1250s and 1260s to initiate and further law cases. Stalham secured an exemption from having to sit on juries. He was certainly a leading figure in the  Norfolk for he was one of the four knights appointed under the reforms of 1258 to inquire into abuses in the county. There is also some indication that he was connected with the earl of Norfolk, Roger Bigod. If so, his attendance at Windsor may suggest the latter’s opposition to the king at this time was not root and branch.

Apart from these encouraging signs from Norfolk, the fine rolls for this week suggest little of comfort to the king. There was a decline  to a low thirteen in the number of common law writs purchased. Again, as in the week before,  not one came from Berkshire and the surrounding counties. Meanwhile, the king promised John Mansel, who was in charge of the Tower of London, to meet the  great expenses he was incurring ‘because of the dissension between the king and his barons’.

In all he was enduring, Henry had the support of his Queen Eleanor, as a writ from this week on the fine rolls shows.   On 24 September, ‘at the instance of his beloved queen’, he made a concession to Salomon l’Evesque (the bishop), a member of a Jewish family, which she often protected. (See Margaret Howell’s book Eleanor of Provence, p.277).

Towards the end of this week, Henry made the decision to leave Windsor. For where he went, see next week’s blog.