Posts Tagged ‘parliament’

Sunday 14 December 1264: peace and parliament

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

During this week, the court travelled from Woodstock, via Pershore, to Worcester. The main focus of attention was the threat from the Marches. While the court was at Woodstock, preparing to move west, the sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire was ordered to assemble all the knights of the counties and lead them in person to meet the king at Worcester on 11 December. (CPR 1258-66, 475-6)

A rapid campaign in the Marches led to the submission of the marcher lords, caught between de Montfort’s forces advancing from Oxford, and on the other side Llywellyn’s Welsh. The Peace of Worcester required the marchers to go into exile for a year, while de Montfort took custody of their lands. Arrangements for Edward’s release would be discussed at a parliament, to be held in January. (Flores, II, 504; Maddicott, Montfort, 307)

A stamp from 1965, showing Simon de Montfort’s seal, and a caption which might require a certain amount of qualification.

A stamp from 1965, showing Simon de Montfort’s seal, and a caption which might require a certain amount of qualification.

At Worcester, on 14 December, summonses were sent out for this parliament to meet in London on 20 January. These summonses were sent to bishops and abbots, with many more following on 24 December, covering a large number of abbots and priors, five earls and only eighteen barons – an indication perhaps of the government’s lack of support among the magnates. The summonses which were to make this parliament famous were also sent out on 24 December: each county was to send two knights; the citizens of York, Lincoln and unspecified other towns were each to send two citizens or burgesses; and the Cinque Ports were each to send four representatives. (Foedera, I, I, 449; Close Rolls 1264-68, 84-7, 89)

The court’s presence in Worcester was presumably responsible for a gesture aimed at undoing some of the damage done during the disorders early in the year. At the end of February, Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby, had besieged and taken Worcester, sacking the city and destroying the Jewish quarter. Ferrers had seized the chest holding the charters recording debts to the Jews, and taken it to his castle at Tutbury. When lord Edward had captured Tutbury, he had broken open the chest and sent the charters to Bristol, which was held by the royalists. Edward’s clerks were ordered to hand over the charters to the chirographers of the Jews of Worcester, so that they could be replaced in the chest. This would allow the Jews once again to collect the debts they were owed, but it seems unlikely that Edward’s followers would obey such instructions, particularly as one of them was Warin of Bassingbourn, who had led the attempt to free Edward from captivity. (Close Rolls 1264-68, 82-3)

There were outbreaks of disorder in the south-west, where the government was trying to repress breaches of the peace, homicides, plundering and house-burning in Devon, Somerset and Dorset. Also in Devon, there was a further indication of the dominance of Simon de Montfort, and the personal advantages he was gaining. De Montfort was given custody of all the lands and holdings in Devon belonging to Richard of Cornwall, the king’s brother.(CPR 1258-66, 475; Foedera, I, I, 448) Henry de Montfort, as warden of the Cinque Ports, had been instructed to ensure the safety of wool and other goods belonging to foreign merchants. He was now ordered to move the merchandise to safer places. (CPR 1258-66, 393)

On 8 December, the archbishop of York and the bishops of London and Lincoln were instructed to hear the complaints of the clergy who had suffered injuries and damages due to plundering during the recent disorders, as provided by the prelates and nobles in London. The patent roll said that the bishops would arrange compensation for the clergy, which would be enforced by the justiciar, who would have a hundred or more knights and serjeants to distrain offenders.  According to the London chronicler Arnold fitz Thedmar, this tribunal was set up about the end of October, and given full powers by the king and barons to correct all the injuries done to the church since Easter 1263. Anyone who did not submit to the judgement of the bishops would be excommunicated. The bishops were also to collect the revenues of benefices held by foreigners. Three chronicles record that a church council was held about this time at Reading. This approved an appeal against the legate’s sentence of excommunication, which the bishops had refused to publish. (CPR 1258-66, 375, 393; Cronica Maiorum, 70; C&S, II, I, 699-700)

Sunday 29 June 1264: parliament and sheriffs

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

The parliament which had been summoned on 4 June met during this week. The chief business appears to have been the announcement of a new council to govern the country, and the appointment of sheriffs for most of the counties. The arrangements for the council were supposedly provisional, to apply only until the completion of the French arbitration required by the mise of Lewes. As there was no prospect of Louis IX co-operating with de Montfort over the arbitration, the arrangements for central government were effectively a new constitution. A group of three, de Montfort, Gilbert de Clare and the bishop of Chichester, were to nominate a council of nine experienced men to rule the affairs of the realm. The council would oversee all official appointments, and three of its members would be with the king at all times. Unlike the council of 1258, which included royal nominees, this new council would give unfettered power to de Montfort and his allies, and remove any possibility of independent action by the king. According to one chronicler, Henry III was forced by threats to give his assent to the Ordinance setting out these arrangements; he was told that he would be replaced by another king, and lord Edward imprisoned forever. (DBM, no. 40; Flores, III, 262)

Eight new sheriffs were announced on 27 June, and Hereford and Cumberland were instructed to elect sheriffs. It may be significant that the announcement of these sheriffs was made during the parliament, to which four knights had been summoned from each county. It may mean that the new regime was following the proposals set out in the Provisions of Westminster in 1259, for each county to select four knights, from whom the central government would select one to be sheriff. The new sheriffs had a formidable task, “as the king has learned that plunderings, burnings and other enormities have occurred in those counties since the proclamation of peace.” The keepers of the peace in each county were told to summon the county court to hear the king’s orders, and to assist the sheriff. One of the sheriffs appointed the previous week, Fulk Peyforer of Kent, had begun work already: he held a session of the county court on Monday 23 June, showing that the machinery of local government was beginning to function again. (CPR 1258-66, 326-8; appointments of sheriffs and castellans also in the originalia roll, CFR 1263-64, 272-98; E 389/81)

Two continuing problems again exercised de Montfort’s government. The archbishop of Canterbury remained in France, and was refusing to co-operate by confirming the election of Walter Giffard as bishop of Bath and Wells. The garrison of Windsor castle continued to ignore instructions to leave the castle, and disregarded offers of safe conduct to come to London. (CPR 1258-66, 328-9)

The council was also exercised by the need to secure the ports against enemy infiltration. Thry decreed that anybody entering or leaving the country should do so through Dover (except for merchants bringing wine or other necessities). Other ports were to arrest anyone landing there. (CPR 1258-66, 361)

Sunday 8 June 1264: keeping the peace

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Today was Whit Sunday, in 1264 as in 2014, and the king was evidently allowed to maintain at least part of the usual observances, preserving the fiction that he continued to rule. The sheriffs of London provided the cash for the king to give 115 pairs of shoes for the poor, and cloth worth £9, as Whitsuntide alms. (CLR 1260-67, 137)

During the week, de Montfort, in the king’s name, took a number of steps to impose the authority of the new regime and to re-assert control of the counties. Several castles, including Windsor and Nottingham, were still held by royalists. Prominent royalists, including these castellans and the northern and marcher lords, were repeatedly and unavailingly instructed to hand over the castles, to come to London, and to release their prisoners, particularly those baronial supporters captured at Northampton. The royalists were told that, since peace had been restored, they were forbidden to carry arms without permission, at peril of life and limb. The estates of royalist émigrés like Hugh Bigod, John de Warenne, William de Valence and Peter of Savoy were entrusted to de Montfort’s supporters. Most importantly, on 4 June keepers of the peace were appointed in each county. They were to maintain law and order. They were also to send four knights from each county to London by the last week in June – de Montfort was preparing to hold a parliament. (CPR 1258-66, 321-3, 359-60; Close Rolls 1261-64, 386-7; Foedera, I, 1, 442)

Queen Eleanor began, so far as she could, to exercise royal authority in France on behalf of her husband. She made a decision on a court case concerning the community of Dax in Gascony, and issued instructions to the royal officials in the duchy.  (Howell, Eleanor of Provence, 211-2)

7 Class 5d3-e Willem of London obv

… and obverse

7 Class 5d3-e Willem of London rev

Long cross penny of Henry III from the London mint. Reverse …

During the week, de Montfort took steps to revive overseas trade, which had evidently been affected by the war. The civic authorities of Flanders and Brabant were told that the disturbance of the realm had been settled, and peace had been made between the king and his barons. Merchants could again come safely to the realm. This was an important attempt to revive both trade and royal income, as the king in normal times received significant revenues from the exchanges where foreign merchants obtained English coins. This should have been the exchanges’ busiest time, at the height of the season for shearing and selling wool, the key component of England’s exports. The mint output statistics show how badly trade had been affected. In the year to the end of January 1263, the London and Canterbury mints produced over £50,000; in the year to January 1264, output was £54,000; but in the period from January to July 1264, they produced only £7,400. Mint output was driven by demand from foreign merchants, particularly those in the wool trade, and it is clear that trade had collapsed, and with it government revenue. (CPR 1258-66, 320; Allen, Mints and Money in Medieval England, table C.1)

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Friday 12 October to Saturday 20 October 1257

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Henry arrived at Westminster on Friday 12 October, having travelled up from Windsor. On the twelfth,  according to his custom, he fasted.  On the thirteenth he celebrated, for it was the greatest day in his religious year, the feast of the translation of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. How wonderful to celebrate it, with masses, candles, offerings at the Confessor’s shrine, and feasts for magnates and thousands of paupers, now the great new church he was building  in the Confessor’s honour was nearing completion in its eastern arm and transepts.   The new church dominated the Westminster scene, proclaiming to all the power of the Confessor and the protection he afforded to his greatest disciple.  Something of the celebrations of this day can be glimpsed in the orders Henry issued to prepare for the feast.  These included the procurement of  6000 fresh herrings, 2000 place, 5000 merlin, up to 20,000 lampreys.

John Maddicott, in his great book, The Origins of the English Parliament, p.472 suspected that Henry held a parliament at this time. He was right to do so for the Abingdon chronicle states this specifically. The meeting of parliament helps explain the large amount of fine roll business done in this week. Between 14 and 20 October, no less than thirty-three writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased,  the highest score achieved, I think,  this year. As someone with connections with the Lake District, it is nice to see a writ purchased by  Juliana, widow of William of Derwentwater: no.1004 in the translation, and in the images below, thirty-two entries from the bottom (according to my count).

The week witnessed the consummation  of the one success of the summer’s campaign in Wales, although it was the result of the endeavours of  Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, rather than the king. On 18 October, the Welsh prince, Maredudd ap Rhys did homage to Henry, in Richard’s presence. Two days before,  Henry had rewarded Roger Bigod earl of Norfolk (probably for his good service in Wales) with a gift of ten great oaks to help build a chapel at Hamstead  Marshall in  Berkshire.  Hamstead  was a  manor of the Marshal family, which  Bigod had inherited through his mother on the death of the last Marshal earl. Next year, in 1258,  it was Roger Bigod, who was to lead the march on the king’s hall at Westminster, which precipitated the political revolution.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 9 September to Saturday 15 September 1257

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

During this week, Henry began his journey home from Wales. His aim was to be at Westminster for the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor on 13 October. The journey  disrupted fine roll business because none at all is recorded between 30 August, when Henry was at Deganwy, and 13 September when he was at Chester.  At Chester, however,  between the 13 and 15 September, there was a revival of the normal judicial business with half a dozen writs to initiate or further common law legal actions being purchased.  There was also one other highly profitable transaction, although it also pointed forward to the revolution of 1258.  At Chester, the king reached an agreement with the executors of the late bishop of Ely, William of Kilkenny.  In return,  amongst other things, for the promise of 2000 marks (£1333), he allowed them to have all the corn due to be harvested from the late bishop’s manors. A marginal note added later records what Henry did with this extremely valuable windfall. The executors gave 1000 marks of it to the Lord Edward at the Temple in London at the feast of St Martin 1257. This money was then used (although the note does not say so) to help finance Edward’s war in Wales, which was fair enough. It is the fate of the other 1000 which was extraordinary. This, the note indicates,  was given on 9 April 1258 to the queen’s uncle, Thomas of Savoy. The date is immensely significant because it was right at the start of the revolutionary parliament which was to strip the king of power.  News of the gift evidently  reverberated round the parliament for it soon reached an appalled Matthew Paris at St Albans.  For many it epitomised the king’s profligate generosity to his foreign relatives.  What made it worse was that Thomas was not even any longer a useful ally.  He had arrived in England on a litter, his health broken down and his ambitions in tatters, after  his capture and imprisonment by the citizens of Turin.  Although the Savoyards were not themselves attacked in 1258 (the fire was concentrated on the king’s Poitevin half brothers), the gift  to Thomas, at such a sensitive  time, must have contributed, in no small measure,  to the general dissatisfaction  expressed at the parliament with Henry’s rule. One final point. As far as can be seen,  the exchequer was never informed of the debt owed by the executors of the late bishop of Ely. It was dealt with entirely by the wardrobe. This is why the note of payment was made in the margin of the fine rolls. This by passing of the exchequer was something else the reformers intended to stop. 

For the entry, click here (and count down nine entries from the top).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 July to Saturday 28 July 1257

Friday, July 27th, 2012

King Henry’s itinerary in these two week can be followed in the fine rolls.  Down to 20 July he is found at Woodstock. On 24 July he is at Coventry and on 29 July at Lichfield. For the membrane covering the period, click here.

Henry was on his way to Chester to meet the army he had summoned for his campaign against Llywelyn. Preparations were now in full swing.  On 18 July 100 good archers were summoned from Sussex and a 100 good lancers from Northamptonshire. There was, however,  an important change of plan. On 13 July Llywelyn had attacked Richard de Clare’s lordship of Glamorgan.  The result was that on 18 July Henry decided to split his army and place a substantial force in south Wales under Richard’s command. Henry was also anxious on another front, one he had very much to heart. There was more trouble in Scotland where factional disputes were threatening the peace of the young king Alexander, who was married to Henry’s cherished daughter Margaret. On 20 July Henry sent envoys to Scotland to try and settle the disputes.  On the same day we find that Queen Eleanor was on her way to stay at Nottingham. This journey, hitherto unexplained, was almost certainly connected with events in Scotland. Eleanor felt as strongly about the welfare of Alexander and Margaret as did Henry. In 1255, when they had been under threat before, she had gone all the way to Scotland with Henry to effect their rescue. On that occasion, Henry and Eleanor had broken their journey at Nottingham. This year, Eleanor probably saw it as a base from which, if necessary, she could go further north. In fact, Eleanor did not stay at Nottingham long, although the  windows of her apartments there had been glassed, and the walls  wainscoted, plastered and adorned with a painting of the story of Alexander. She found the air not to her taste (an issue on which she was always sensitive) and moved to  the Ferrers castle of Tutbury, which was then, through a wardship,  in her own hands.

The fine rolls in these two weeks, show the usual common law business holding up well  with twenty-two writs being purchased to initiate or further legal actions. There is, as usual, a wide variety of other business. On 20 July at Woodstock, Henry, allowed Agnes, the widow of Stephen Bauzan, whose death at the hands of the Welsh had triggered the campaign, to have the royal manor of Wooton in Oxfordshire for six years, a nice act of compassion.  At Coventry, on 24 July, the ex sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire, Robert de Grendon, was allowed to pay off his arrears, which amounted to £484, at £20 a year.  How had he run up such a large deficit and why had he been allowed to do so? It would be interesting to research these questions, which could be posed concerning several other sheriffs at this time. There was also an important fine made by the Jewish community. Elyas Bishop, a London Jew, had just been removed from his position as ‘priest of the community of Jews of England’ for having allegedly tried to defraud Henry III’s brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and now, of course, king of Germany.  Despite its title, the position of ‘priest’ or ‘archpriest’ was a secular office held under the crown, the holder being responsible for carrying out the king’s orders with respect to the Jewry. Now Elyas’s brothers, Cress and Hagin, on behalf of the Jewish  community, offered the king three marks of gold (so the equivalent of thirty marks of silver) to ensure that Elyas never recovered the office and that henceforth the priest should be appointed by ‘common election of the aforesaid community’. It is interesting to see how the idea of that royal officials should be elected was embraced by the Jewish community just as much as it was by the Christian. It might seem strange that Henry III gave way to the request that the priest be elected,  but it had one great advantage.  If the priest was elected by the community, then the community could be penalised for his misdemeanours. Parliament’s demand to elect the king’s chief ministers, which Henry consistently rejected, was a rather different matter. For the fine, see nineteen from top on the membrane. The marginal note says the fine was by the community of the Jews of London, but the body of the fine makes clear it was by the community of the Jews of England.

Next week on to Chester.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 April to Saturday 14 April 1257

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

King Henry III celebrated Sunday 8 April, Easter Sunday, at Westminster amidst feasting, religious ceremony and almsgiving.  The week before, on Maundy Thursday, he had distributed 272 pairs of shoes to the poor, and quite probably had washed their feet. Later accounts show that a great silver bowl was kept in the wardrobe for such a  ceremony.  Perhaps some of those benefitting from these royally administered ablutions were lepers. At any rate,  the king of France, Louis IX, commended Henry for washing the feet of lepers and kissing them. 

After the Easter ceremony, the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, left London for Yarmouth, where he was to take ship for Germany and his royal coronation. The archbishop of Cologne took a different route  and sailed home in a great galley he had brought up the Thames. One can imagine it moored opposite the Tower, where doubtless it impressed the Londoners. Richard had given the archbishop  500 marks and a mitre decorated with precious stones.  The archbishop gracefully declared (according to Matthew Paris) ‘he has mitred me, I will crown him’,  referring to his role in the German coronation.

This week eight individuals bought writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. There were five fines of gold, two for respite of knighthood.  This was a respectable level of business but it was not going to transform the king’s financial position and enable him to pursue  his Sicilian schemes. He had also just failed to secure taxation from parliament for the same purpose. This may be part of the background to this week’s ambitious scheme to put the king’s finances on an entirely new footing. On Monday, 9 April, the king ‘provided and ordained’ that henceforth the expenses of the king’s household were to be paid for ‘day by day’. To that end, the exchequer was to set aside 20,000 marks (£13,333) each year, 10,000 marks coming from the first monies reaching it at Easter, and 10,000 marks from the first monies at Michaelmas. The king issued this ordinance in the presence of Edward, his son and heir, his half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence,  the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, and the ministers John Mansel and Robert Walerand. The presence here of the king’s foreign relatives, and the absence of a single English magnate, confirms the isolation of the king which we saw at the parliament, an isolation enhanced by the departure for Germany of the long suffering and supportive, Richard of Cornwall. On the other hand,  the ordinance does show the foreign relatives involved in  a sensible attempt at  financial reform, which probably  responded to complaints made about the king’s government at the parliament. The first aim was to see that the king paid for his food, drink, clothes and everything else promptly instead of  running up debts to merchants, tradesmen and others.  The second aim, at least by implication, was that the wardrobe, the chief spending department travelling with the king, was essentially to be funded by the exchequer. Although not stated explicitly, it was  the wardrobe which was to receive the 20,000 marks and since this was the rough equivalent of its total annual expenditure at this time (clearly the king had been well informed on that), it would  no longer need in a disorderly way to seek revenue from other sources. The implication was that the bulk of the king’s revenue could be paid into the exchequer instead of being siphoned off to the wardrobe. This was precisely what the reformers demanded and attempted to achieve after the revolution of 1258.

In all this, the king had not forgotten Westminster abbey, for another £1000 was to be reserved every year for the work on its fabric. Would the scheme work? It clearly depended on the revenue reaching the exchequer and the king refraining from either diverting it before it got there, or ordering the exchequer to spend it on other things before the 20,000 marks had been raised.  To that end, the king strictly ordered the exchequer to make no payments until the money had been set aside, even though commanded to do so by his writs and his own verbal orders! If they disobeyed, they would be liable to pay back the money from their own goods. This type of attempt to get  officials to act as a barrier against his own weakness was characteristic of Henry III, and does not show him in a very kingly light.  Having said that, is it much different from the way modern politicians have sought to guard against their own weakness by making the Bank of England independent in the setting of interest rates? Would Henry’s scheme work this time? Read future blogs to find out!

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

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Henry III’s great parliament opened on or soon after 18 March. On 18th March itself  the witnesses to a royal charter were merely the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, and an assortment of household officials. But in the ensuing days, charters were witnessed  by Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, Peter of Savoy, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Worcester and Norwich.  The stated purpose of the parliament was to say good bye to Richard of Cornwall who was about to leave England for his coronation as king of Germany. On 27 March Henry sent an order about the equipping of 100 ships gathering at Yarmouth for the voyage.  No more, however,  is heard of Henry’s enthusiastic but impractical  idea of actually accompanying his brother.  The second purpose of the parliament was to consider Henry’s appeals for funds to support his Sicilian project, the project that is to put Edmund his second son on the throne of Sicily.  To stir the emotions,  Henry  (according to Matthew Paris) paraded the twelve year old Edmund in Sicilian robes before the assembly  and begged it not to let him down.

Henry could take comfort from the fact that the parliament brought a large increase in fine roll business. Whereas in the previous week there had been only three items of business, in this week there were seventeen. These included thirteen fines for writs to initiate or further common law legal actions, and four fines of gold. Two of the latter were for respite of knighthood, one for exemption from jury service, and one, worth two mark of gold or twenty marks of silver, from the Kentish knight, Nicholas of Lenham, for a charters conceding him a market and fair, and a free warren. As the charters, issued on 18 March show the free warren (essentially a private hunting park) was to be for all of Nicholas’ s manors which included Lenham and Lamberhurst in Kent and Redenhall in Norfolk.  The market and fair were to be at Hunton in Kent. The establishment was not, however, very successful.  An inquiry of 1312 said the market had never been held and the fair was only worth 3d a year. See the Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs, edited by Samantha Letters. Nicholas’s fine is the twentieth entry from bottom the bottom of this membrane (click here). It would be interesting to know whether Nicholas of Lenham  attended the parliament and saw Edmund in his Sicilian robes. Would such tactics work?  Read next week’s blog to find out.

For this parliament, see J.R. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament 924-1327, pp.471-2.

Nicholas of Lenham, it may be noted, fought against the king at the battle of Lewes.

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

Friday, March 16th, 2012

In this week Henry completed the tour we discussed in the blog for last week. On Saturday 11 March he began the day  with his half brother, William de Valence, at Hertford, and then moved on to Waltham abbey. He remained there till 14 or 15 March when he returned to Westminster for the great parliament which was to open on the eighteenth.  In terms of fine roll business, indeed of all business, this seems a very quiet week. Indeed, only three items of fine roll business are dated to it.  One suspects that everything was hanging fire till the parliament and that those wishing to make fines with the king, that is offer money to him for concessions and favours, had decided to wait until he returned to Westminster.  It may be remembered that last week when the masters of Oxford University came before the king at St Albans, he referred them to the forthcoming parliament. It will be interesting to see if business does indeed pick up next week.

 In one of the fines of this week,  made at Waltham on Tuesday 13 March, Hugh de Dyve offered half a mark of gold ‘for quittance of assizes’ , which meant he was freed from having to appear on juries.  The concession was embodied in a letter patent witnessed by the king at Waltham on the following day.  Henry III made a good deal of money from selling such exemptions  and they made a significant contribution to his gold treasure. They were, however, unpopular, and indeed featured in the  ‘the Petition of the Barons’, presented at the revolutionary Oxford parliament in 1258. It was there claimed that, as a result of the king granting such quittances, so many knights were free from appearing on grand assize juries (which had to be composed entirely of knights) that it was impossible to assemble them.  Today  one suspects that a good deal of money could likewise be raised by selling exemptions from jury service, with much the same damage to the legal processes.

Hugh de Dive’s fine appears 28 entries down on the membrane of the fine roll.

For the selling of exemptions from jury service see a famous article by Scott Waugh ‘Reluctant knights and jurors: respites, exemptions and public obligations in the reign of Henry III’, Speculum, 58 (1983), 937-86.

One footnote. It will be noticed that now we have passed the leap year of 2012, the calendar is exactly the same in 1257 as in 2012.

So on to the parliament.

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.