Posts Tagged ‘Paupers’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 November to Saturday 8 December 1257

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

King Henry remained at Guildford until around 26 November and then returned to Westminster, where he was to remain till early January. Henry had intended during this time to visit his castle at Marlborough, and then to celebrate Christmas at Winchester, as he often did.  Urgent business, however, as he explained, kept him instead at Westminster. He was anxiously awaiting the return of envoys sent to the pope. Would they bring news that the Holy Father had modified the terms of the Sicilian business so that it could be pursued with some hope of success?  Henry was also arranging the despatch of a high powered delegation (including Simon de Montfort) to the king of France in the hope of advancing the peace negotiations and thus making it all the more possible to concentrate on Sicily. And then too  Henry was becoming  worried about events in Scotland, where  the young King Alexander was married to his daughter.  Would Henry have to go north, as he had in 1255, to rescue the royal couple from their enemies?

It must have been a relief for Henry to turn from these great matters to the comforting business of the fine rolls. During these two week, around twenty four people came to court to purchase the writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. Henry’s justice remained in demand.  One item on the rolls particularly stands out and will be commented on here. It bears on both the administrative processes and rituals of Henry’s kingship. It also shows how difficult it can be to capture the sense of an entry when translating it from Latin into English.

The entry is no.105 in the translation (forty-four entries down in the image) and appears as follows.

105

6 Dec. Westminster. For the burgesses of Bridgnorth. On Tuesday next after St. Andrew the Apostle in the forty-second year, the burgesses of Bridgnorth paid 25 m. in the king’s Wardrobe to Peter de Rivallis, keeper of the same Wardrobe, which remained to be rendered of the fine of 50 m. which they made with him a short while ago for having liberties, and, on the aforesaid day, they paid into the same Wardrobe the 10 m. which they had promised for their good coming to the king when he had last been at Bridgnorth. Order to the sheriff of Shropshire to cause the same burgesses to be quit from the aforesaid 35 m.

This entry is not in the originalia roll.

The feast of Andrew the Apostle was 30 November and the following Tuesday in 1258, when the payment was made into the wardrobe, was 4 December. The 6 December date at the head of the translation is that of the writ to the sheriff of Shropshire referred to at the end of the entry. Throughout the fine rolls it is these writs to  officials which actually give the dates to the entries.   The fine of 50 marks, which the burgesses made with the king, is not recorded on the fine rolls. It may be that the full way it was now recorded  was to make up for that lack. The fine was evidently made on 21-22 September 1257 when Henry passed through Bridgnorth on his way home from his campaign in Wales.  A couple of days later, now at Worcester, Henry issued a letter patent granting the ‘bailiffs and good men’ of Bridgnorth the right to take ‘murage’ for another three years, ‘murage’ being a toll whose revenues were devoted to works on the walls of the town. Perhaps this was the concession for which the men offered the king 50 marks, or  perhaps there were other ‘liberties’, building on an earlier charter of 1227, of which there seem to be no record.

From the administrative point of view, what is interesting is the way the whole business of the Bridgnorth debt was controlled by the wardrobe and chancery, travelling with the king, rather than, as would have been normal,  by the exchequer at Westminster.  At the end of the entry there is the statement,  provided by the editors of the fine roll,  ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. This means that no information about the fine and its payment was  sent to the exchequer, the originalia roll being the copy of the fine  roll despatched to the exchequer so that it knew what money to collect. As a result there is no entry for this debt on the pipe roll, the exchequer’s annual audit of  the money it was demanding for the  crown.  Instead, the only record of the existence  of the debt (apart from that on the wardrobe receipt roll) was that given here on the fine roll.   It is likewise the chancery writ, not the exchequer, which tells the sheriff that the burgesses are quit. The handling of the Bridgnorth debt was typical of many other debts at this time. Large numbers of fines between 1255 and 1257 – for  example for town liberties (as here)  and exemption from knighthood – were treated in the same way. There was no ‘constitutional’ reason for Henry bypassing the exchequer. Under its treasurer, Philip Lovel,  it was never less than under his  control.  The point was that Henry just got his money in more quickly and simply if he had such fines paid in directly to his wardrobe. Nonetheless the reformers in 1258 thought the king’s finances would be run  more responsibly if all the revenues were routed through the exchequer, a subject discussed in Richard Cassidy’s fine of the month .

The great majority of the fines paid into the wardrobe were in gold, or were in silver earmarked to buy gold, and were thus part of Henry’s campaign to build up a gold treasure to fund his Sicilian army. Another reason for making this a wardrobe treasure was that Henry could see the gold accumulating  before his eyes.  What a joy it must have been. By the autumn of 1257, however, as we have seen in previous blogs, the enterprise was beginning  to falter. Henry was having to spend his gold treasure, minting his wonderful gold penny in order to do so. The fact that the Bridgnorth fine was not in gold, or in silver earmarked to buy gold, may reflect this situation.  Henry had not quite given up, however, and these two weeks see two more fines of gold (nos.97, 102).

During the king’s visit in September 1257, the burgesses of Bridgnorth did not merely offer 50 mark for liberties. They also promised 10 marks ‘for their good coming to the king’. The Latin here, as one can see from the image, is ‘pro bono adventuo suo’. When the final checked and corrected version of the translation is put up, this passage will be altered since the ‘good coming’ is that of the king, not the burgesses. They are offering 10 marks ‘for his good coming’.  But does ‘good coming’, or ‘good arrival’ or ‘good advent’ quite capture the sense of what is happening?  At the very least, it sounds odd in modern English, and is another reason why we hope to provide the project with glossary.   What, of course, the burgesses were  giving, or in this case, promising Henry was a welcome present, one which demonstrated their loyalty, affection, and joy at his arrival. The present was designed to make his arrival ‘good’ for him, and also (in the benefits which might flow) ‘good’ for them.  In some circumstances, for example when the king was returning from overseas, there might also, wrapped up in the ‘good’, be joy at the king’s ‘safe’ arrival, and perhaps there was an element of that here too, given the hazards of the recent campaign in Wales.  Normally, we have no record of such gifts, because they were paid cash down into the wardrobe. It is only here, because the burgesses had exhausted (or so they must have said), their ready money in coming up with the initial 25 marks for their liberties, that we know about it. Such gifts, of course, in cash or precious  objects, were integral to Henry’s kingship, as they were to that of other kings. They were made, as here, by individual towns and, on a much grander and more organized scale, by the assembled great and good of the realm, on the king’s arrival back in his kingdom. They were also accompanied by other rituals, notably welcome processions of a town’s clergy and people. When the king rode up from Windsor to Westminster,  the custom was for the mayor and citizens of London to go out and meet him at Knightsbridge. They knew they were out of favour when he refused to meet them.

In such arrivals, the giving was not all one way. Quite the reverse. Henry himself might mark his coming by feeding paupers over and above his standard 100 a day, or 150 a day if the queen was with him, as she was at Bridgnorth.  He would also visit the religious establishments of the town and shower them with gifts.  At Bridgnorth, Henry  gave nine  ‘good oaks’ for work on the churches of the  Franciscan friars and  the hospital of Saint John, and another five good oaks to the canons of Bridgnorth chapel for the  repair of their chancel and stalls. His visit also brought other work to the town. On 21 September, probably the day of his arrival, he ordered  his chamber in the castle and that of the queen to be wainscoted, while the queen’s chamber was also to have  new windows and a fireplace.  On 25 September, having left Bridgnorth and arrived at Worcester, Henry ordered ten oaks to be sent to ‘the upstanding men of Bridgnorth’, as a ‘gift of the king’, to help with repairing the town gates. The visit, therefore,  had been a success. Henry’s ‘good oaks’, he doubtless hoped, would  be a perpetual memory to his piety and generosity in Bridgnorth and his concern for the security of this royal town.

The kind of ‘good arrival’, we glimpse here at Bridgnorth, must have been repeated thousands of times over during Henry’s reign. Such reciprocal rituals could  bind king and realm together.  But it did not always work like that.  Accounts in chroniclers make very plain that donors sometimes resented having to give such presents, just as the king resented it if he deemed the presents inadequate. The ritual could set apart as well as bring together. Were the men of Bridgnorth themselves disappointed that they had to pay for their ‘liberties’, especially if these were simply for the right to levy ‘murage’,  which they might have expected anyway, given  the threat from Llywelyn.  Did they also look askance at what they saw of Henry’ court?  The keeper of the wardrobe to whom they gave their money, both at Bridgnorth and Westminster, was Peter des Rivallis, one of Henry’s most notorious Poitevin servants, who was to be dismissed by the reformers in 1258.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 May to Saturday 2 June 1257

Friday, June 1st, 2012

On Sunday 28 May Henry III celebrated Pentecost at Westminster. For some time he had been making preparations. On 3 May he had ordered his huntsman to take over fifty deer of various types for the feast.  There were also to be robes for distribution to his household and  164 tunics for poor Jewish converts to Christianity, these  for the alms  of the king, the queen and their children.  In previous years the  number of tunics distributed had been 171, the missing seven  presumably being the quota of Henry’s recently deceased daughter, Katherine. She was, however, very much on Henry’s mind, for on the feast day itself, he paid the expenses of  Master Simon of Wells who was coming  to Westminster to make an image of her in gilt bronze for her tomb.  Henry must have been encouraged by the good turn for the celebrations. On 28 May a royal charter, in favour of the bishop of Bath and Wells, was witnessed by the bishops of Worcester and Salisbury, and the earls of Norfolk, Gloucester, Leicester, Hereford, and Aumale, as well as Philip Basset and Stephen Longespee, and assorted ministers. For once, Henry’s foreign relatives were absent, although William de Valence was back attesting on 1 June.  The king’s roll, recording his daily expenditure on food and drink, which survives for 1260, throws more light on the Pentecost festivities. In that year, Henry fed 464 paupers, expended 200 pounds of wax burning candles in his chapel and almonry, and spent some £145 mostly on food and drink. Translating such sums into modern money is full of pitfalls but it could be viewed as the equivalent of between half a million and a million pounds today.

The fine rolls show business as usual in this week. Indeed it continued on 28 May itself when the rolls record the appointment of a new sheriff for Gloucestershire. This was done by the ordinance of the senior judge, Henry of Bath, and the treasurer of the exchequer, Philip Lovel, which shows how Henry had devolved such appointments. A fine of particular interest shows how carefully the accumulation of gold was monitored, and also gives evidence for the exchange rate between gold and silver.  On 30 May (entry no.703),  Roger of Newcastle offered half a mark of gold   for a certain writ. However, the entry recorded that the gold offered was under weight by one gold penny, ‘that is ten pennies of silver’.  This shows that the exchange rate between gold and silver was then one to ten, so that a penny of gold should weigh ten pennies of silver. Of course, at this time there were no gold pennies (but wait till later in the year!), and the gold had to offered either in foil or in foreign gold currencies. The amounts offered would then be weighed and at the one to ten ratio, the half a mark of gold here offered, that is  80 pence in gold, should have weighed 800 silver pennies. In fact, as we have seen, it weighed ten silver pennies less. Hence the trouble.

One question about the numbers of paupers clothed on such feast days. We have said that in 1257 the numbers of converts clothed was 164. We have also suggested that the number is seven down from the year before because of Katherine’ s death. But how do the numbers work? There is other evidence that the number for the king was 100 and  the queen 50. That leaves 21 (before 1257) for the children. But as there were five children and if the portion per child was seven, that should make the number 185. Is the answer that Henry did not give alms in the same way for his married children (by 1256 Margaret and Edward), and so the twenty-one is just Edmund, Beatrice and Katherine at seven apiece?  Ideas welcome.

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 Christmas Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 December to Saturday 31 December 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Westminster.  There is no fine roll business dated to it, but the other chancery rolls show something of how Henry celebrated Christmas. Thus  he ordered the custodians of various royal forests to catch, salt and carry to him for the feast  a total of 160 does. Henry issued this order on 4 December from the Tower of London, and was still unclear about his movements for  the game was simply to be sent to him it time for Christmas  wherever that might be.  Clearly Henry felt the political situation might still confine him to the Tower.  Fortunately, as we have seen, the storm clouds cleared, and on 10 December it was from Westminster that Henry issued orders for the purchase of 171 pairs of shoes, half at 5d a pair and half at 4½d, shoes with which, he, his queen and their children would  make their Christmas gifts to paupers. Doubtless numerous paupers were also fed. In 1259, when in Paris, Henry fed 450 paupers on the vigil and feast day, as well as burning 171 pounds of wax, 75 of them in the chapel and almonry.  We may be sure that on Christmas day 1261 Westminster Abbey was filled with light from Henry’s tapers. Henry also distributed robes to over sixty of the men, mostly nobles and household knights, to whom he had owed his victory. The costs of the celebrations stretched the royal budget. Henry  admitted that there was no money  for the purchases made in London against the feast, and told the mayor and sheriffs to promise payment from  the farms they owed at Easter and Michaelmas in 1262.  Still, Henry must have felt it was essential to put on a big celebration, both to proclaim his victory and thank God and man for it.

            It may be suggested that, as part of his thanks,  Henry now made a momentous decision about Westminster Abbey.  His return to Westminster in December 1261 had been after a long absence. Indeed, he  had not lived there since January 1261.  Now, having come to Westminster for Christmas, he  stayed there till 10 February. He was able once again to inspect the progress of the  great building. He was able once again to pray beside the shrine of Edward the Confessor, the patron saint to  whom above all, interceding at God’s right hand, he owed his triumph.  A long period of proximity to the Abbey and the Confessor, an overwhelming desire to thank the latter for his freedom, and by that very token  the power and the leisure to do so, all these things resulted in Henry’s decision to commission  from the Cosmati marblers in Italy  a magnificent shrine base to hold aloft the golden casket holding the Confessor’s body. The Italian reference  also thanked the pope for his support in the great struggle.  The shrine base, with its surrounding pavement, is thus the first of the Cosmati works in the Abbey. It is the product of a very precise moment in Henry’s career. It is his thank offering for his recovery of power in 1261.

Westminster Abbey and the Shrine of Edward the Confessor

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 9 October to Saturday 15 October 1261

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Henry III began this week at St Paul’s in London, where he was almost certainly staying in the palace of the bishop.  He had around him a large body of supporters including the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, the earls of Hereford and Warwick, the marcher barons, James of Audley and  Reginald fitzPeter, and such leading ministers as Philip Basset, justiciar of England and John Mansel.  The chronicle written by the London alderman, Arnold fitzThedmar, adds that the king’s brother, Richard, earl of Cornwall and king of the Romans, was  at St Martin le Grand, while the queen herself was with the king at St Paul’s. Also in London, presumably staying at his palace in the Strand,  was the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, who, thanks to Henry’s munificence,  was lord of both Pevensey in Sussex and Richmond in Yorkshire.  Meanwhile, up river at Westminster the exchequer was bravely at work, receiving revenue  from loyalist sheriffs and beginning the work of hearing their accounts.

The trouble was that in and around London there were also large numbers of insurgent barons and knights, including in all probability, Simon de Montfort.  Meanwhile, out in the counties the king’s sheriffs were being challenged for control by rival officials set up by the opposition.  Henry now faced a difficult decision. Did he dare go to Westminster on 13 October to celebrate the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor? At Westminster, where palace and abbey were  unprotected, he would  be vulnerable to the kind of armed coup which had overthrown him in 1258.  Yet, on the other hand, 13 October was the day in his religious year. He always celebrated it at Westminster besides the sainted body of his predecessor.  The year before, in 1260, his household records show he fed 5016 paupers around the great day and spent some £200 on a stupendous feast,  the very rough equivalent of two million pounds in modern money (at least according to my conversion ratio).  Entertainment for the guests was provided by the  Cinque Ports who were ordered to send  boats with trumpeters to play water music on the Thames. But that was 1260. What would happen if Henry went in the very different circumstances of 1261?

In the event Henry did go. The dating clauses of his letters place him at St Paul’s on 12 October, and on 13 October at Westminster. Henry was probably encouraged  by a relaxation in the tension, for fitzThedmar’s chronicle avers that before the feast of the Confessor the ‘dissension’ between the king and the barons was ‘pacified’. He adds, however, that the ‘peace’ did not last.  The truth of that is very apparent in Henry’s conduct. On 13 October he was at Westminster. But for all the spiritual balm radiating from the Confessor’s body, he did not stay there. The very next day he was back in London, and back not at St Pauls but at the Tower of London.  Evidently the situation had taken a turn for the worse. The bishop’s house at St Paul’s was itself now thought insecure. Only within the walls of the Tower could Henry feel safe.

On the fine rolls between 8 and 18 October only thirteen items of business were enrolled. All were entries, undated as usual, about the purchase of writs to initiate and further common law legal procedures.  Just how many of these writs  were issued in this week, and how many in the next, we cannot know, but whatever the breakdown, the numbers are comparatively small, and almost certainly reflect the uncertain situation.  Historians of the future will have to do a great deal of work to establish just who was purchasing these common law writs and engaging in the subsequent litigation. In this week, one name does stand out, that of Matthew of Kniveton in Derbyshire. He offered half a mark for a writ ad terminum, a writ that is which gave his law case a time to be heard before the king’s justices. The search facility for the fine rolls show that Matthew purchased similar writs in  October 1258 and January and May 1261. Matthew was a remarkable man.  Through a whole series of purchases, he was engaged in building up a landed estate, raising his family  from the free peasantry into the ranks of the knightly class.  The charters which recorded his endeavours were later copied into a family cartulary,  published as The Kniveton Leiger, ed. A. Saltman (London, HMSO, 1977).  In the forthcoming civil war, Matthew was involved with his lord, Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby in  pillaging property in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, although, unlike his lord, he escaped the consequences, and made his peace with the post Evesham regime.  That this canny and ambitious man, in the fraught situation  in October 1261, was prepared to come to court and purchase a writ to prosecute a law case, suggests he was confident that peace would  soon be restored.  For whether that confidence was justified, see the following blogs.