Posts Tagged ‘Pope Alexander IV’

Henry III and the Sicilian Affair

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

David Carpenter writes…

I have had a most interesting letter from Margaret Howell about my fine of the month on Henry III and the Sicilian affair.  She observes  that it was Huw Ridgeway, in his doctoral thesis, who  first grasped the centrality of Henry III’s Savoyard kinsmen  to the project. She points this out on p.132 of her Eleanor of Provence. Margaret also thinks I have under-estimated the role of the Savoyards in the second phase of the project initiated by Pope Alexander IV in 1255. She notes in particular the way Henry III, in June 1255, commissioned Thomas of Savoy, Peter of Savoy and Philip of Savoy, bishop elect of Lyons, to recruit knights for his service.  I am sure Margaret is right about this.  However, I am still struck  by the way neither Thomas nor Peter of Savoy seem to have been involved with either negotiating or accepting the deal  of 1255.  They must surely have  regarded it as very unfortunate, for themselves as much as for the king.  Essentially,  the terms meant the Savoyards would never have the resources to recruit an  army to intervene in Sicily on Henry’s behalf.  Henry could ask them to retain knights as much as he liked, but he had no money with which they could do it.

Huw Ridgeway’s thesis is ‘The politics of the English royal court 1247-1265 with special reference to the role of the aliens’ (University of Oxford, 1983).

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 10 April to Saturday 16 April 1261

Monday, April 11th, 2011

For Henry this was another week in the Tower of London. How he must have wished to escape the confines of the great fortress.  He had not lived there since early in 1238 during  the protests  over the secret marriage of Simon de Montfort to his sister. How right the protesters were, Henry may now have ruefully reflected.  At least Henry could also reflect  that in the intervening years he had transformed the Tower, giving it a new gateway, moat and outer  line of  turreted walls. That was why it could now form the base for his recovery of power. One thinks of Henry III as the builder of Westminster Abbey. Much of the Tower of London, as we have it today, was also his work: the majesty of kingship at Westminster; the might at the Tower. Never, in the whole history of the Tower was that might put to better use than in 1261.

In fine rolls terms this week was business as usual.  Individuals continued to come into the Tower to buy from the chancery the writs to initiate and further the  common law legal actions. Some seventeen were  purchased in this week. Many of these (as in any week)  secured a time and place for a particular legal action to be heard, most often, although this was usually  not specified, before the justices of the bench. (These are the writs of ‘pone’ and ‘ad terminum’ which feature so largely in the fine rolls.)  Other writs  commissioned a particular judge to hear a case in the localities. This week Henry of Bratton received such a commission to hear a case in Somerset. Henry used to be regarded as the author as one of the greatest law books ever written: Bracton on the Laws and Customs of England, although it is now clear he was only its editor and preserver. We can think of him as the proud possessor of the text  at the time of his hearing this assize. The cost of these writs was usually about half a mark,  a third of a pound, which would equate to several thousand pounds in modern money.  So they were not cheap. However, the routine standard form common law writs, which initiated legal actions and simply gave you a place before the judges when they next toured your county, only cost 6d (around £250 perhaps in modern money).  This money went straight into the chancery and was never recorded on the fine rolls.  Doubtless many of these writs were also purchased in this week. Henry himself would   have had nothing to do with this routine business. However, he almost certainly was involved in one act recorded on the fine rolls this week. On 16  April Henry pardoned Ida de Beauchamp the 5 marks which she had been amerced  in the course of a law suit in the previous year.

Outside the fine rolls, this week was vital  in providing Henry with the authority to overthrow the Provisions of Oxford.  On Wednesday 13 April, in Rome, Pope Alexander IV issued the crucial  bull which freed Henry from his oath to observe them. It would be around month before the bull would arrive in England, but meanwhile Henry must have felt his decision to overthrow the Provisions had been amply vindicated.  His attempt  to conciliate Simon de Montfort (revealed in last week’s blog) had proved an utter failure. This was all too clear from the replies to Henry’s complaints against his council which  he must have  received this week or next.  They were unyielding, not so say insulting, and bore all the hallmarks of Montfort’s abrasive hand. So Henry was told ‘it is right and reasonable that whenever you talk sense, you should be heard and listened to as lord of us all’.  The counsellors  also  acknowledged that they discussed and effectively settled matters on their own and only then asked the king for his assent, adding that ‘they do nothing on his sole word’.  Henry might well have cried out, as did Louis IX later when he heard of the Provisions, ‘I would rather be a peasant breaking clods behind the plough than live under a regime of that kind’.

There were indications this week of the way Henry’s mind was working. On 13 April he was munitioning the castles of Corfe and Salisbury with arrows.  On 14 April, he encouraged his Poitevin favourite, Elyas de Rabayne, dismissed as castellan of Corfe and expelled in 1258, to hasten back to England.