Posts Tagged ‘parliament’

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 15 January to Saturday 21 January 1257

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We saw in the last blog the major items on Henry III’s political agenda in 1257: the Sicilian affair, the peace with France, and the rising power of Llywelyn ap Gruffud in Wales.  All of these posed problems, but  Henry had  one reason to look forward with confidence. The balance of power in Europe was about to be transformed in his favour, or so he might hope. Just after a Christmas 1256, in ceremony before Henry and his council in St Stephen’s chapel in Westminster palace, during a great storm of thunder and lightening,  his brother, Richard of Cornwall, had accepted  election  as king of the Romans. He was now busy preparing his departure for Germany where he would be crowned.

During this week, which Henry spent at Westminster,  there was more good news.  On 18 January the abbot of Westminster and the bishop elect of Salisbury got back to England with news that the pope was prepared to extend the deadline of the Sicilian enterprise.  Under the original agreement  in which the kingdom was conferred on Edmund, his second son, Henry had been obliged to pay the pope £90,000 and send an army to Sicily to conquer the kingdom by Michaelmas 1256, which, of course, was  long gone.  Henry now learnt that the pope had graciously extended the deadline down to the start of June 1257.  There was no chance of Henry actually paying the money and sending an army within that term either, but at least he might be able to show he meant business. That above all meant getting a tax to support the enterprise from parliament.  The planning of a parliament must have now become a subject of earnest discussion between Henry and his advisers.

Meanwhile the fine rolls show that the attempt to build up a gold treasure to pay a Sicilian army was continuing. There were twelve fines of gold in this week, of which eight were for respite of knighthood.  Following on from last week’s discussion of the gold treasure, it might be worth explaining the form of these fines. Let us take as an example that translated as no 358 in the Calendar of Fine Rolls 1257  Its image is six items from the bottom in, with the marginal annotation ‘De fine auri pro respect milicie’. Here the Yorkshire knight, Robert de Etton’ (probably of Etton in the East Riding) is said to give the king half a mark of gold for respite from his  knighthood, which means that he has an exemption  from having to take up the honour.  Although the fine says he ‘gives’ the gold, in fact he  is not paying cash down. Instead as the fine goes on to indicate, he is to pay the gold into the wardrobe at the coming Michaelmas.  The ‘order to the sheriff of Yorkshire’ referred to is an order to the sheriff  to take security for this payment. In fact, as the entry goes on to indicate in a later addition (note the change of ink), Robert  paid the gold to the then keeper of the wardrobe, Peter des Rivaux, on Friday after Ash Wednesday in the regnal year 42, that is on 8 February 1258, so he missed his stipulated term.  Note ‘a’ to the translation adds that ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. The originalia roll was the copy of the fine roll sent the exchequer so it knew what monies to collect. The absence of the fine, like all fines of gold,  from the originalia roll thus meant that the exchequer had nothing to do with the collection and audit of the gold treasure, which was entirely a wardrobe affair.  Hence the record that the fine has been paid and that Robert is ‘quit’  is made here on the fine roll not on the exchequer’s pipe roll.  Unfortunately, like most of its kind, the fine does not indicate in what form the gold came.

The fine rolls for this week also reveal another way in which the king was accumulating his gold treasure.  This was from the towns who were offering  gold, or silver to buy gold, in return for charters giving them various privileges. Thus on  21 January the citizens of Northampton offered 100 marks of silver to buy gold for a charter of liberties, while in an undated entry, the men of Guildford offered one and a half marks of gold for a charter which established moved the county court of Surrey  to Guildford. This caused great anger locally since it meant moving the county court from the much more central Leatherhead.

Does anyway know whether these charters survive?  If the Guildford one does, it will clear up a mystery over its date. Although the fine for it appears in this week, and the actual charter is enrolled with others for January and has much the same witnesses, the charter roll calendar says it bears the date 7 September. An image of Guildford castle, much visited by Henry III, appears on the Guildford Borough website.

The witnesses to the Northampton charter, which is dated 18 January although the fine is three days later, show who was at court in this week. The list is  headed by the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence. Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle, does not feature, although he was at court around this time.  Henry’s generosity  to his foreign relatives is very clear.  On Friday, 20 January,  he confirmed an earlier gift  to Peter of Savoy  which meant  he was pardoned  the £625 he owed  each year for custody of the Vescy lands during the minority of the heir, a very major concession.   On the same day Henry took steps to give Guy de Lusignan 200 marks, and also compensated one of his clerks for giving way to the queen’s request to surrender a wardship. This was  so that it could be given to her daughter the queen of Scotland. The tensions between the Savoyards and the Lusignans in this scramble for patronage were to explode in 1258.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog for 1257

Friday, January 13th, 2012

King Henry’s situation in 1257 was very different from that in 1261. In 1261 he was struggling to overthrow the restrictions imposed on him in 1258. The kingdom was on the brink of civil war. In 1257 Henry was in full control of government. England was at peace. Henry had one major pre-occupation. This was the Sicilian enterprise. Henry  had accepted a papal offer of the throne of Sicily for his second son Edmund. The only problem was that he had to pay the pope £90,000 AND send an army out to Sicily to conquer it from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler.  Part of the money was coming from taxation levied on the church much to its fury. This was because  the pope had diverted the tax originally intended for Henry’s crusade to support the Sicilian business.  But this would raise at most half the money owed the pope, let alone finance a military campaign.  Henry desperately needed additional sums which meant trying to secure a general tax from parliament. What happened at the parliaments held in 1257, we shall see in due course. 

 The Sicilian business also impacted on relations with France. In order to concentrate upon it, Henry decided to  make peace with King Louis IX. In other words, he was prepared at last to resign his claims to his lost continental empire, which essentially meant resigning his claims to Normandy, Anjou and Poitou. Negotiations for such a settlement were to be a major theme in 1257.

With Sicily central to his thoughts,  the last thing Henry wanted  was to be distracted by events in Wales. Distracted he was, however. The rising power of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, became, in 1257, a major preoccupation.

The fine rolls in 1257 provide graphic testimony to the impact of the Sicilian business on local society. While Henry knew that only a general tax from parliament could really give the enterprise lift off, he was also trying to raise money in other ways. In particular he was assembling a treasure in gold to pay his Sicilian army, this because gold was the metal of the Sicilian currency. (For the ‘augustales’ minted by Frederick II in Sicily, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustalis.)  Central to Henry’s scheme was insisting that people who wished for concessions and favours should pay for them in gold.  These ‘fines of gold’ are recorded on the fine rolls, making the latter a key source for the accumulation of the gold treasure.  One favour in particular was being purchased in 1257. This was exemption from knighthood.  In 1256, the king had proclaimed that everyone with an income of £15 a year upwards should take up knighthood.  His aim was very largely to make money from the men prepared to fine with the king for exemption from the obligation. Alternatively they could fine for an inquiry into the value of their lands to see if they really did have the required income.   No one questioned the king’s right to impose knighthood, but his move still created resentment. There were some lords, certainly, who were attracted by the status of  knighthood, and its promise of  military activity.  But many others were put off both by the costs and the likely administrative as well as military burdens.  To have to pay to avoid them  was infuriating, the more especially as the £15 a year threshold was a low one.

The cost Henry charged for exemption or an inquiry was usually half a mark of gold. Since gold was worth ten times silver, this meant the fine was the equivalent of five marks of silver, or £3 6s 8d. It thus represented a sizable proportion of a £15 annual income.  During the course of 1257, as we will see, large numbers of potential knights came to court and made their fine. They must have asked why they had to do so in gold, thus discovering Henry’s Sicilian plans and how they were suffering from them. Most of those fining were lords of manors and members of the  gentry. They were influential locally, however much they wished to escape the burdens of knighthood. In this way the full horror of the Sicilian venture was spread through the counties of England.  What made matters worse was the saving of the gold was very personal to the king. The potential knights had to come to court to make their fine. They then had to pay the gold  in to the king’s wardrobe either at once or at stipulated terms in the future. Usually the terms were written down on the fine rolls, as was the record of the eventual payments to the wardrobe’s keeper, either Artald de St Romain or later, Peter des Rivaux. Both these men were foreigners, the latter notoriously so.  These gentry lords thus also saw how ‘alien’ was Henry’s court.  The  whole process of the making and collection of these fines  can be seen in the payments made in January 1257, with the marginal annotations ‘De finibus auri’, ‘Concerning fines of gold’.

The exchequer was not informed at all about the process, something it was left to the reformers of 1258 to put right. (See the fine of the month by Richard Cassidy)

One other aggravation was the bother of acquiring gold to make the fines. Unfortunately the fine rolls do not say in what form the gold came. Perhaps the most likely source was the goldsmiths who sold gold in foil and other forms, The cost of such purchases placed a further burden on the potential knights.

Henry III began the year 1257 at the priory of Merton in Surrey. He then moved to Westminster for the anniversary of Edward the Confessor’s death on 5 January. This feast of his patron was one of the greatest in Henry’s liturgical year and he always celebrated it at Westminster, unless abroad.  Henry was to remain at Westminster till near the end of the month.  In the first two weeks of January, the fine rolls show that there were no less than thirty-one fines of gold. Of these sixteen were for exemption from knighthood, and another six for inquiries into income.  Four fines were made for exemption from jury service.

The fine  rolls also show the way the king was entrusting major royal castles to his foreign servants. In this period Imbert Pugeis became keeper of The Tower of London and Aymon Tumbert keeper of Windsor. Both were Savoyards. Henry also increased the jurisdiction of his Poitevin castellan of Corfe, Elyas de Rabayne, by giving him control of the surrounding warren or park.  The way foreigners were in charge of the chief castles of the kingdom was one of the main complaints made against Henry’s rule in 1258.

See next week’s blog for more about fines of gold and Henry’s attempts to raise money.

Henry III’s Last Blog for 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Over the Christmas of 1261, did Henry III think back over his tumultuous, triumphant year? Triumphant because he had, for all practical purposes, broken the shackles fastened  in 1258 and recovered unfettered power. His conduct, however, appears un-heroic. He spent much of the year, sheltering, some might say cowering,  behind the walls of the Tower of London. On only three occasions had he dared to leave the capital. He had gone to Dover in May to secure the castle. Next month he had gone to Winchester to proclaim the papal bull quashing the oath to observe the  reforms of 1258. And then he had spent part of August and September at Windsor whither he summoned knights from the counties to attend his parliament. Meanwhile throughout England the authority of his sheriffs was being challenged by the insurgents. It is difficult to believe that either Henry’s father or his son would have behaved in this passive fashion. John and Edward would surely have toured the country bolstering the power of their local agents and punishing their opponents. Yet to all criticism, one answer is sufficient. Henry’s softly softly tactics had brought him victory. By not provoking the opposition, he had in the end disarmed it. The consequences of more abrasive tactics might well have been civil war. Henry’s personal preferences, as a ‘rex pacificus’, went hand in hand with political sense.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 September to Saturday 1 October 2161

Monday, September 26th, 2011

At last in this week Henry left Windsor.  There had been some indications that he intended to go to Oxfordshire and then Northamptonshire, thus rallying support in those counties. But if so, these plans were dropped in favour of a move far less ambitious and dangerous.  On Saturday 24 September Henry was still at Windsor. His whereabouts on Sunday 25 September are unknown. Probably he was travelling, for on Monday 26 September and for the rest of the week he is found in London, at St Paul’s. The only chronicler to notice this move is Thomas Wykes, and what he says is dramatic.

‘ After many disputes [between the king and his opponents], around Michaelmas [29 September], the king secretly entered the city of London, fearing sedition of the barons, since they refused to parliament with him’.

The reference here to a ‘refusal to parliament’ fits perfectly with the assembly Henry had summoned to Windsor for 21 September. We saw in last week’s blog some indication that knights did attend from Norfolk, but, judging from Wykes’s comment, the meeting (called a parliament at the time) was poorly attended.  It  did not encourage Henry to carry his standard into  the counties. Instead  ‘secretly’ (an indication both of his weakness and anxieties), he returned to London. The only bright spot was that Henry evidently felt secure in the city for he went not to the Tower but to St Paul’s where, in greater comfort than in the great fortress,  he almost certainly lived in the bishop’s palace.

Henry’s critical situation is  reflected in the fine rolls, where this week sees an extraordinary dearth  of business. On the roll there  are writs witnessed at Windsor on Saturday  24 September, followed by ten  undated entries. After these, the roll records in sequence a writ witnessed on Saturday 1 October at St Paul’s, two undated entries, and then an entry witnessed at St Paul’s on 5 October. In other words, this week, between 25 September and 1 October has only one item of business securely dated to it.  Although it is probable that some of the undated entries (mostly about the purchase of common law writs)   belong to this week, the impression that such business  was dwindling may not be far from the truth.  Conditions of near civil war did not encourage travel, and,  in any case, where was one to go? Given the ‘secrecy’ of Henry’s retreat from Windsor to London, many may not have known  just where the king was.

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 1 May to Saturday 7 May 1261

Friday, May 6th, 2011

At the end of last week’s blog, we asked what Henry’s decision to leave London and advance on Dover (which he reached on  Monday 2 May) would have on the business recorded in the fine rolls. The answer is the business collapsed. Henry’s long residence at the Tower of London had meant that those wishing to purchase writs and other favours had a central and certain place to go. They were clearly not deterred by the surrounding political tension. The five weeks down to 30 April had seen the purchase of   20, 13, 17, 17 and 12 writs respectively to further the common legal actions. The week between 1-7 May saw the purchase of only four,   these at Dover on 3 and 4 May.   There were  only two other entries on the fine rolls.  In the one, Henry pardoned a one mark penalty  imposed on a Rochester vintner for selling his wares contrary to the weights and measures regulations. In the other, Henry accepted an offer of 100  marks from the convent of Much Wenlock in Shropshire to have custody of their house during the vacancy caused by the death of their prior.

The disappearance  of the usual fine roll business was of little moment, against this week’s triumphal political success. What happened at Dover was recorded on the patent rolls.

‘Memorandum that on 2 May the king came to Dover and on the morrow took into his hand the castle of Dover and the wardenship of the Cinque Ports, which Hugh Bigod held before of the king’s bail by counsel of the nobles of the council, and he committed these during his pleasure to Robert Walerand’.

 The phraseology here was deliberately chosen and deeply significant for it indicated that the authority of the 1258 Provisions of Oxford council was at end. Yes, in giving Dover to Bigod, Henry had acted ‘by counsel of the nobles of the council’, but there was no suggestion that he had done the same in transferring the castle to the trusty Robert Walerand. Walerand was to hold during his pleasure.  Henry was now acting free of restraint of his own free will.

Materially Henry had struck a mighty blow for Dover was ‘the key to England’.  He could now dominate the Cinque ports, control the channel and call in foreign help. Symbolically the blow was equally great. Hugh Bigod, with his appointment at justiciar in 1258, had been at the summit of the reform regime.  If he was now prepared to throw it over, that really seemed the end.  Bigod, moreover, put up no struggle. He supplied the king’s household with the castle’s wine, and immediately joined the circle of the court, witnessing a royal charter while the king was at Dover.

Later in the year Bigod may have regretted his conduct. In August, he refused to surrender Scarborough and Pickering castles to the king, on the grounds that he had received them from the council as well as the king, and was sworn to surrender them only with the council’s consent. Precisely the situation, one would have thought at Dover. At this moment,  however, his conduct was understandable. He had been close to the king before the revolution of 1258, and thereafter, as justiciar, had been careful treat him with respect, much more respect than some other members of the regime. In 1260,  he had obeyed the king, rather than Simon de Montfort, and refused to hold the Candlemas parliament laid down by the Provisions of Oxford.  Montfort had  threatened him with reprisals, and then in October 1260 secured his removal as justiciar, only failing to  remove him from Dover at the same time. Doubtless Bigod was now told by the king that a papal bull was on its way quashing the oath to the 1258 reforms. He believed  the baronial enterprise was at end.  It was only  subsequent events which showed he had miscalculated.

After his triumph at Dover, Henry  moved on to Romney near where, on 6 May, the barons of the Cinque Ports came to do him homage.  But there were signs it would not all  be plain sailing. On 2 May, the day he arrived at Dover, there was resistance to the king’s judges hearing pleas at Hertford, and complaints that they were acting in contravention of the Provisions of Oxford. Two day later, Henry summoned foreign soldiers to England. The struggle had only just begun.

Consent and the Community of the Realm

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Over the last week I have been trying to plan out a chapter on Henry III’s crusade, foreign policies, and management of Gascon affairs between 1243 and 1254.  Yesterday I read a remarkable paper, alas unprinted, by Nicholas Vincent on ‘Henry III, Frederick II and the council of Lyons (1245)’.  This is based on evidence in hitherto unknown letter collections, the most striking of which, from Glastonbury abbey, contains a unique copy of an appeal made  at the papal council at Lyons by   Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, Philip Basset, baron, and Henry de la Mare, knight, styling themselves ‘actores et nuncii universitatis regni Anglie’.  The substance of the appeal was the claim made by Bigod and his colleagues,  on behalf of ‘the community of the whole realm, communitate totius regni’ that the ‘magnates and people’ had never consented to King John’s submission of England to the papacy. As Vincent observes, ‘what is remarkable’ here ‘is the degree to which [Bigod and his colleagues] claim the assent of the universitas or communitas regni’.

Those who keep an eagle eye on the Fines of the Month will realise at once why this new evidence made me sit up!   In the FOM for last May – ‘Consent to taxation, the community of the realm, and the development of parliament: the aid of 1245’, I showed, from evidence in the fine rolls, how  chancery clerks in 1245 (the very time of Bigod’s appeal)  were themselves writing about taxation ‘a tota communitate regni nostri nobis concessum’, and also deciding that the aid of 1245 had not received such consent. No more on this now. I may take it further in a future ‘Fine of the Month’.

Posted on behalf of David Carpenter.