Posts Tagged ‘Philip Basset’

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.

The Misplaced Concession to Philip Basset

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

David Carpenter and William Stewart-Parker write:

Readers of Henry III’s blog may recall the question of the date of the concession to Philip Basset which freed him from 60s a year  owed the king for the manor of Dymock in Gloucestershire. The concession was embodied in a writ to the exchequer dated 7 November 1256 but, puzzlingly,  was enrolled amongst material on the fine rolls dating from late January 1257. (See no.380  in the Calendar and sixteen from the top in this link . The explanation may be as follows. The original concession of Dymock to Basset had indeed been made back on 7 November 1256 (Cal. Patent Rolls 1247-58, 529).  The king was now, in January, going further and feeing him from the annual rent, but to ensure this concession ran from the date of the original grant, this was the date put on the writ sent to the exchequer.

The concession of Dymock to Basset had been made at the instance of Richard of Cornwall.  The manor had been granted by the king to Ela, countess of Warwick, but only during her widowhood. When, therefore, she married Basset a fresh concession was necessary if he was to obtain the manor.  Both the marriage and the grant of Dymock are useful reminders that not all the patronage in this period was going to Henry’s foreign relatives. Basset was conspicuously loyal during the ensuing period of reform and rebellion as readers of Henry III’s blog for 1261 may remember.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Monday 22 January to Saturday 27 January 1257

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Perspicacious readers will already have appreciated  why this week’s blog needs to run  from Monday not Sunday. Last week’s blog mistakenly followed the calendar for 2012 not 1257 and so ran from Sunday 15 January to Saturday 21 January instead of Sunday 14 January to Saturday 20 January. In this blog we are now back on the true 1257 course.

Henry III began this week at Westminster and then, between 24 and 27 January  moved to Windsor.  Once there, he took steps to see the five chaplains  serving the castle’s chapels and the four serjeants in the garrison received their pay.

The fine rolls show the raising of the gold treasure in full swing. In these six days no less than eleven men offered the king half a mark of gold apiece for exemption from knighthood.  How effectively the sheriffs were putting pressure throughout the country on men to assume the title  or (which was preferable)  pay not to do so, is shown by the fact that these fines came from a wide sweep of counties:  Devon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire,   Hampshire, Sussex,  Cambridgeshire,   Suffolk, Leicestershire,  Rutland, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  The gold was intended to  finance an expedition to Sicily, and this week Henry, the brother of the king of Castile, who was being mooted as the possible commander of the army, was allowed to hunt at the royal manor of Havering in Essex.

Other fines of gold came from Robert of Canterbury for a die in the king’s mint at Canterbury and from  Walter de la More of Buckinghamshire to  have a pardon for a homicide. This second concession (no.383 in the Calendar)  was made at the instance of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.  (For the entry see twenty items down in the image of the membrane: http://frh3.org.uk/content/fimages/C60_54/m08.html.).  Montfort also secured in this week a charter from the king allowing him to set up a new park at his manor of Shipley in Northumberland.  Since there is no reference to a fine for this on the fine rolls, he got the concession free of charge. These favours are useful reminders of how far Montfort was back on good terms with the king before the revolution of 1258.  He was not at court this week,  but his close associate (although no relation),  Peter de Montfort,  a member of the king’s council, witnesses the Shipley charter  and it was probably  through Peter that the concessions were obtained. Other witnesses were Peter of Savoy, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence which shows how very prominent the king’s foreign relatives were at court. In 1258 that court was to break apart.

One small point of chancery practice or mispractice. No 380 in the Calendar (seventeen items down in the image) is an interesting example of an  entry being enrolled late and out of sequence.  It is a concession to Philip Basset, witnessed at Windsor on 7 November 1256. Note also the smaller hand and lighter ink from the entries before and after.  This hand and ink, however, is not found in the marginal annotation to the entry, which looks the same as those to the other entries,  a  sure sign these marginalia were done later all at the same time.  I  assume, incidentally,  that when the immediately following entry (no.381) is said to be ‘witnessed as above’, that refers back to the 27 January of entry no.375 not 7 November of  380.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 December to Saturday 17 December 1261

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Henry III began this week at Westminster.  After his long sojourn in the Tower, what a relief to be back at his great  palace. Once more he could pray beside the shrine of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, and survey the magnificent abbey he was rebuilding in his honour. Surprisingly, however, Henry’s stay only lasted a few days. On 14 December he left for Merton priory in Surrey, a religious house where he often stayed.  Conceivably, after his long absence, the palace of Westminster was not ready to receive him.  He would enjoy the hospitality of the Merton monks before returning to Westminster  for Christmas.

As we saw from last week’s blog, on 7 December Henry had  proclaimed the ‘form of peace’ agreed with his opponents.  But the agreement was far from universal. At Merton on Friday 16 December, Henry issued an appeal to those who had yet to seal the document, urging them  to do so. If they could not come in person, they could just send their seals.

The list of the recalcitrants  was  the same as it had been on 7 December. In the order given  it was as follows.

Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk

John de Warenne, earl of Surrey,

Simon de Montfort, earl of Leiecester

Roger Mortimer

Hugh Despencer

William Bardolph

John de Burgh

Henry de Hastings

John fitzJohn

Robert de Vipont

William de Munchensy

John fitzAlan

Nicholas of Seagrave

Geoffrey de Lucy

How many of these men actually responded to the call to  seal the agreement we do not know, but what we do know is that they never acted as a body to oppose it. That for Henry was enough.  Inaction amounted to acceptance, acceptance of his recovery of power and the effective abrogation of the Provisions of Oxford.  Just to hammer home the point, on 11 December Henry sent envoys to the new pope Urban IV, asking him to renew his predecessor’s absolution from the oath to obey the Provisions,  Provisions which had been issued ‘manifestly to the depression and diminution of royal power’.

Only one man stood out  against this feeble acquiescence: Simon de Montfort.  According to the friendly and well informed annals of Dunstable priory, having heard that his erstwhile allies  had capitulated, ‘he left England, saying that he preferred to die without land than be a perjurer and depart from the truth’.  This was the defining moment in Simon’s career, the moment when he showed he was not as other men.  Unlike everyone else, he would not abandon the Provisions.  He would only return to England if they were resurrected. When he did return in 1263 it was to lead a movement which aimed to do just that.

The fine rolls continue to reflect the uncertainty of this period. Things were far from back to normal.  The fine rolls, like the other rolls of the chancery, continue to record business in a jumbled chronological order. The dearth of those  seeking the writs to pursue the common law legal actions continued. Only four such writs were purchased between  dated entries on 12 and 23 December. In one writ on the fine rolls, issued on 12 December,  Henry rewarded a man who, morally and materially, had been crucial to his recovery of power.  This was Philip Basset. Basset was  a wealthy and respected magnate. In the subsequent  civil war he was as defiant in defeat as he was magnanimous in victory. He refused to surrender at the battle of Lewes, and was captured covered in wounds. After Evesham, he did all he could to alleviate the lot of the disinherited. It was immensely important for Henry’s cause in 1261, that he had a man of this calibre on his side, and indeed could appoint him as justiciar, in effect the chief minister of his regime.  What made Basset’s stance all the more significant, was that years before, in 1233 he and his older brother, Gilbert Basset,  had joined Richard Marshal, earl of Pembroke’s rebellion against the crown. Philip then was no pliant,  unthinking loyalist. Henry’s concession on 12 December itself reached back to the events of 1233, since when Philip had succeeded Gilbert as lord of the Basset estates. Henry now pardoned Philip the £9 4s 4d owed for the farm of High Wycombe (a chief Basset manor held from the crown)  for the first part of the financial year 1232-3. The concession appears 6th from the bottom on the fine roll. The reason was that Gilbert had been unable to receive the money ‘because the king had taken [High Wycombe] into his hand at the aforesaid time by reason of the war waged between the king and Richard earl Marshal’. So, for the king. Philip’s loyalty in 1261 wiped away the last stain  disloyalty of 1233.  Philip would not have looked at it like that.  Rebellion in 1233 had been justified. In 1261 it was not.

Would Henry get to his palace and abbey at Westminster for a happy and peaceful Christmas?  Read subsequent blogs to find out.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 6 November to Saturday 12 November 1261

Monday, November 7th, 2011

For King Henry, as the kingdom  balanced uncertainly between  war or peace, this was yet another week in the Tower of London. How he must have hated being confined there.  The continuing collapse of fine roll business testified to the uncertainty of the times.  Between 5 November and 12 November only seven writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased.  One membrane of the rolls was sufficient to cover everything on the rolls between 26 October and 15 November.

In this week there was one substantial piece of business.  The prior and convent of Hyde abbey in Winchester offered 100 marks to have custody of their properties during the vacancy which would be created by the death or resignation of their current abbot. They paid the money, the fine rolls noted, to a merchant of Genoa for the crossbows bought from him for the king’s use.  Henry, however, still hoped to avoid firing off his armoury. On 8 November yet another safe conduct (this one lasting till 12 November) was given to barons coming to Kingston for peace negotiations.

From the witness list of a royal charter, we know  who was with Henry in the Tower on Monday 7 November.[1] The Savoyard kinsmen of the Queen (who almost certainly there too)  were very apparent.   Peter of Savoy, Peter de Chauvent, and the king’s steward, Imbert Pugeys, sometimes  called Imbert of Savoy, all witnessed the charter.  Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury, was probably present as well since the charter was in his favour.   The official element was headed by John Mansel and Philip Basset. Also present  was the bishop of Salisbury, Giles of Bridport. He and Mansel we later find acting as envoys of the king in the negotiations and doubtless they were already filling that role.   Giles of Bridport’s splendid tomb still survives in Salisbury cathedral.

Another witness to the charter was  Hugh de Vere, earl of Oxford. He was the poorest earl and not a man of much political weight, but  his presence may well reflect a role in the negotiations.

Henry was surrounded by wise heads. Would they be able to broker peace?


[1] This charter was actually copied at the end of the final membrane of the charter roll for the previous regnal year, another indication of the chaos in the chancery for which see also the blog for 23-29 October.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 16 October to Saturday 25 October 1261

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Henry III spent the whole of this week in the Tower of London. He was preparing for war. On and around 18 October he asked over a hundred of his supporters to join him in London by the end of the month with horses, arms and as many troops as they could raise.  He was also summoning  soldiers from abroad. The count of St Pol, he hoped, would come with 60 knights.  Henry’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, wrote advising a  careful check as to where these foreign forces could safely land, adding that he would soon be with the king to give advice on the subject. If the Cinque Ports gave difficulty, not to worry. He could arrange a  landing elsewhere.  Henry was also taking steps to strengthen his castellans and explain his case. He sent Philip Basset and others into the counties with the message that the king wished to give justice to everyone in the kingdom and preserve everyone’s rights.  The rival sheriffs  were  not to be obeyed. Yet if Henry was preparing for war he hoped for peace.  A party within the opposition hoped so too.  On 20 October Henry gave safe conducts to the barons coming to Kingston between 29 October and 1 November with a view to making peace over the contentions which had arisen. The only condition was that they should come without arms.

The fine rolls reflect the king’s efforts to reward and strengthen his supporters. Thus Henry made  Baldwin de Lisle, earl of Devon, one of those summoned to come with horses and arms, keeper of the manor of Swineston (in Calbourne) in the  Isle of Wight. This was a manor of the bishop of Winchester which was  in the king’s hands as the bishopric was vacant.  Baldwin was to take a 100 marks a year from the revenues to make up the annual pension given him by the king, and answer for the remainder at the exchequer.  If war broke out,   the men of the manor were to  ‘assist the earl in the defence of those parts and in keeping the king’s peace’.

One of Henry’s complaints at this time was that the sheriffs put in place by the opposition were preventing people seeking the king’s justice.  That may well  explain the small numbers we have seen coming to court in the last few weeks to purchase writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the common law.  Of the counties about which Henry was concerned particularly this week,  no writs  were purchased by people from Surrey, Sussex, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire  although one or two  brave souls did come from Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.

War or peace? See next week’s blog.

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.

The Exchequer, around Michaelmas 1261

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Richard Cassidy writes…

Frustratingly, it is at this point that we become unable to keep track of how much cash was coming into the Treasury. The receipt roll for Easter term 1261 shows that the Treasury received £6,158 between the beginning of May and the end of July, and only £18 between 30 July and 29 September. But there is then a two-year gap in the surviving sequence of receipt rolls, so that we do not know what resources Henry had available as he re-asserted his authority.

We do know that Michaelmas term 1261 began fairly well. The mayor and citizens of London came to the Exchequer, as was traditional at the beginning of the Exchequer’s year, to present the new sheriffs of London and Middlesex. The annual cycle of auditing the sheriffs’ accounts began on 30 September with the accounts of Somerset and Dorset for 1260-61. It is notable that the county accounts were presented by Philip de Cerne, who had been appointed sheriff by the barons in 1259, and replaced by the royalist Philip Basset in July 1261.

The Adventus of the sheriffs was a partial success. It is striking that all of the sheriffs attended or were represented, even those from the most distant counties. Even in normal times, one or two sheriffs, out of a possible 24, might not appear, and these were far from normal times. The list in the memoranda roll is unusual in giving the names of several of the sheriffs – Alan la Zuche in Northamptonshire, Matthias Bezill in Gloucestershire, Robert Walerand in Kent, for example. These are the sheriffs who had been appointed in July 1261, and the Adventus list may be making the point that these royal appointees are the sheriffs, not any baronial rivals.

But while the Adventus was a success in terms of the number attending, the sheriffs brought less cash than in past years – £791, compared to £918 at Michaelmas 1260, and £1,246 in 1259. The towns and cities which paid their dues directly to the Exchequer (rather than through the sheriff) were also well-represented, and paid £795, which was only slightly below the amounts paid at the same time in the past two years (£815 and £866). Unfortunately, without the receipt roll, there is no way of knowing how much of the total of £1,586 was actually received in the Treasury at this time. We also do not know whether the lower amount recorded at the Adventus was due to the difficulties the new royalist sheriffs might be having in imposing their authority, or to them spending more of the money they were collecting. Henry was about to send orders to several sheriffs, instructing them to lay in provisions in key castles because of the disturbed state of the realm. It may be that they were using cash locally on such preparations, rather than sending it to London.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 2 October to Saturday 8 October 1261

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Henry III spent all this week at St Paul’s in London where he was almost certainly staying at the bishop’s palace.  The chaos of the time is reflected in the continuing collapse of fine roll business. Only nine writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased in this week. Henry was  anxious about control of the Cinque Ports. On 4 October, he ordered the men of Winchelsea and Sandwich to have nothing to do with a meeting the king’s enemies had tried to arrange. Ostensibly this was to settle a dispute between the men. In fact, as Henry said, it was to seduce them from their allegiance. The men were also told to prevent the king’s enemies bringing foreign soldiers into the country. This was not, of course, to prevent the king doing the same.

This week did, however, bring two pieces of good news for Henry.  First, he had evidently tried to summon his supporters to London, and the result was not disappointing. The witness lists to royal charters show that with Henry at St Paul’s on 4, 5 October were Boniface archbishop of Canterbury,* the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, Peter of Savoy, the marcher barons, James of Audley and Reginald fitzPeter (see the blog for 8-14 May),  Philip Basset, the justiciar,  and John Mansel. Since one charter was in favour of John de Plessis, earl of Warwick, he was probably there too.

The second piece of good news came  from the exchequer at Westminster. Henry himself had long felt that Westminster was out of bounds. With the palace there unprotected, he  feared an armed coup like that which had overturned him in 1258. But such dangers had not stopped the exchequer courageously attending to its business. Thus the  money to be raised by the fines  continued to be sent to the exchequer on the originalia rolls (the copies of the fine rolls), and we can see the exchequer setting about the business of collecting it in the annotations it made on the rolls, ‘in the roll’ meaning the debt has been put in the pipe roll: ‘s’ meaning it has been put into the ‘summonses’, the list of debts sent to the sheriffs for collection.  It was one thing to order the sheriffs to collect the debts, another for them actually to do so when their authority was being challenged by rival sheriffs set up by the insurgents. The acid test of their success was now at hand for it was at Michaelmas,  at the end of  each September, that the sheriffs were supposed to send in to the exchequer the money they had raised. What now would be the results? Henry must have wondered that more anxiously at Michaelmas 1261 than at any other time in his reign.

In the event, Henry was re-assured, at least in some measure.  He may well   have feared that nothing at all would arrive. In fact, the sheriffs and those answering separately for various towns and manors brought in  around £1580.  On the other hand, there were some black holes,  showing clearly where the king’s authority had disintegrated.  Matthias Bezill, challenged  by William de Tracy in Gloucestershire (see the blog for 24-30 July) sent nothing.  Nothing equally came from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, and most worrying of all perhaps, from Kent. No wonder Henry was concerned about the Cinque  Ports. There was also very little from Essex and Hertforshire. Still the exchequer was undaunted and vigorously set about hearing the sheriff’s accounts.  Later in the year it was to bring the rival sheriffs themselves to book, getting them to answer for their ill gotten gains. The exchequer’s buoyant spirit is reflected in the elaborate ‘A’  penned by the clerk, drawing up the memoranda roll for Michaelmas 1261, in the heading ‘Still  (Adhuc)  communia for the term of St Michaelmas’. (‘Communia’ here essentially means common or general business).

Henry himself was now facing a dilemma for 13 October was coming up. This was the greatest day in his religious year,  the feast day  of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. It was a day he ALWAYS spent at Westminster amidst splendid services and joyous celebrations. Would he go there in 1261? Read next week’s blog to find out.

*An unflattering sketch of Boniface Archbishop of Canterbury appears on the 1261-2 memoranda roll.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 September to Saturday 18 September 1261

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Henry remained all this week at Windsor. He had heard that Simon de Montfort,  Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and the bishop of Worcester, Montfort’s old friend, Walter de Cantilupe, had summoned three knights from each county to meet them at St Albans on 21 September to  discuss the common affairs of the realm.  Their aim manifestly was to rally support for the insurgency, and then perhaps to  advance on Windsor itself, not twenty-five miles away. Faced with this threat, on Sunday 11 September, Henry took action. He did not, however, bravely march out of Windsor towards St Albans  to  confront this usurpation of royal authority, which was what the summons amounted to. Instead,   he ordered, by letters, his sheriffs to ensure that  that the knights came on 21 September  to Windsor instead. There they would take part in peace negotiations between Henry and the nobles. They would see from the results, Henry averred, how he intended nothing save what would make ‘for the honour and common utility of our kingdom’.

There is much that is mysterious about  this famous episode. We do not know how the three knights were chosen in the first place, nor indeed whether any came  either to St Albans or to Windsor.  The rival summonses, however, reveal the political importance of the knights, and mark a  stage in the process by which they  appeared in  parliament.  Henry’s assembly indeed could be regarded as a parliament. So much is revealed in a letter, probably written this week, by the justiciar, Philip Basset, to the chancellor, Walter of Merton, a letter which also shows the efforts to ensure that individual barons as well  attended the royal rather than the Montfortian assembly.  Basset had learnt that Roger de Somery,  lord of Dudley in the west midlands, intended to go to St Albans if he did not receive a letter of summons from the king. He, therefore, urged Merton to get the king  to write to Somery summoning him to his forthcoming ‘parliament’. Basset added helpfully that Somery was at his manor Berkshire manor of Bradfield. Basset’s plea gives an interesting insight into  Henry’s own involvement in affairs. Basset clearly thought the decision  had to be made by the king, and that Merton, as chancellor, could not simply write on his own authority.

Philip Basset was clearly at this time not at court, and was presumably trying to uphold the king’s authority in the provinces.  Henry, himself, as we have said, had clearly decided not to go out himself to confront the rebellion. There is, however, a sign in this week that he was contemplating a move.  On 11 September, the day he wrote to the sheriffs summoning the knights to Windsor, he also ordered repairs to Oxford Castle, Woodstock, and his Northamptonshire houses at King’s Cliffe and Geddington to be ready by Michaelmas. This may indicate that Henry intended to  be there at  the end of the month.

The fine rolls of this week shed interesting light on the situation.   The number of writs purchased to initiate or further the common law legal procedures picked up from the low of the week before. They numbered a respectable thirty-two.  It is very noticeable, however, that not one of these came from  Berkshire, or from the surrounding counties of Buckinghamshire, Surrey, and Hampshire.  The one from Middlesex was cancelled because the purchaser, for an unexplained reason,  did not have the writ.  It seems highly likely that this reflects  the disintegration of royal authority in the home counties.  

One pleasure for Henry in these traumatic times was to exercise in  Windsor great park. That alone made Windsor a much more congenial a place to stay than the Tower of London.  But how secure was the park?  The fine rolls show the issue came up this week, perhaps as a result of Henry’s own inspection.  On 18 September, the constable of Windsor, was ordered to sell the alder and birch in the park, and spend the resulting money making good the defects in the park’s  enclosure.