Posts Tagged ‘Provisions of Oxford’

Sunday 24 August 1264: courts and ports

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

The court spent the week at Canterbury, again mostly concerned with the threat of invasion and the exchanges with the legate in France. There was still time, however, for the king and Simon de Montfort to involve themselves in more local matters. Fulk Peyforer, the sheriff of Kent, reported that he had collected no revenue from the meeting of the county court on Monday 18 August, ‘because the lord king was present and the pleas were held by the earl of Leicester.’ (E 389/81)

Perquisites of the county court on Monday after the Assumption: ‘nothing, because the lord king was present and the pleas were held by the earl of Leicester.'

Perquisites of the Kent county court on Monday after the Assumption: ‘nothing, because the lord king was present and the pleas were held by the earl of Leicester.’ The same thing happened at the next meeting of the court, on 15 September. (E 389/81)

Another indication of the continuing bureaucratic routine was the resumption of entries in the charter roll. It had not been used since 30 March, when the king was at Oxford. He now began again to issue charters, with three enrolled on 24 August at Canterbury. They were unremarkable grants of free warren and the right to a weekly market and annual fair, but their enrolment was another indication that de Montfort’s regime was trying to maintain the usual procedures of government. (Calendar of Charter Rolls, II, 49)

Military preparations were still being made. The officials of the Cinque Ports were ordered to bring all their ships, with men, arms and provisions, before the port of Sandwich by Thursday 21 August, for the defence of the realm against a foreign invasion. They were not to allow any merchandise to leave the ports without the permission of Henry de Montfort. Even the most remote regions were thought to be under threat: a letter in the king’s name to the whole community of Northumberland warned them to prepare to defend the coast against invasion. The royalists of the north and the Marches were still disregarding orders to come to London, to release their prisoners, and to hand over the castles they held, such as Gloucester, Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth. (Close Rolls 1261-64, 356; Royal Letters, II, 271-3; CPR 1258-66, 366-7)

Relations with the papal legate were not improving. A further exchange of letters showed how far apart the two sides were. The barons wrote that they were amazed at the legate’s public rejection of the peace terms agreed by the king, the prelates and the whole community of the realm. This resulted in another unyielding set of demands from the legate. He should be assured of safe conduct for coming to England, or the barons would be excommunicated and London and the Cinque Ports placed under an interdict. The king’s freedom should be restored, and the hostages, lord Edward and Henry of Almain, should be liberated. The Provisions of Oxford should be abandoned. The barons’ representatives should come to him at Boulogne by the beginning of September. There was clearly little willingness to compromise on either side. (Heidemann, register, nos. 24-6)

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 27 November to Saturday 3 December 1261

Monday, November 28th, 2011

A very tense week for Henry III, as he waited on peace or war in the Tower of London. At Kingston on  Thames on 21 November, his envoys and those of his opponents had negotiated a ‘form of peace’. But would it prove acceptable?  Simon de Montfort was now leading the fight to reject the terms, given they meant  relinquishing control of the king and thus the overthrow  (as Simon would have seen it) of the Provisions of Oxford. At Runnymede in 1215 it had taken three days for the terms of Magna Carta to be accepted by the barons assembled at Runnymede.  John issued the Charter on 15 June and it was only on the nineteenth that peace was declared. Now it was taking much longer for this week saw no formal ratification and announcement of the 21 November settlement. The fine rolls continue to reflect the turmoil.  Between 26 November and  10 December only seventeen writs to initiate and further  common law legal actions were purchased, a pretty paltry number for a fortnight. Would there then be war or peace. Would Henry III win or Simon de Montfort? Next week we really do find out!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 20 November to Saturday 26 November 1261

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Henry spent all this week at the Tower of London. The chaos of the time,  with civil war so close, is again reflected in the collapse of fine rolls business.  Between dated entries on 15 and 26 November, only four writs were purchased to initiate or further common law legal actions.  Clearly it was thought dangerous to come to court to get the writs. In any case would the king’s courts be functioning to hear the cases?

Henry, however, could at last hope the clouds were lifting.  For some time now, negotiations, had been on going  at Kingston on Thames for a settlement of  the quarrel.  On  Monday, 21 November,  a provisional agreement was reached.  Under this ‘form of peace’, both sides   appointed three arbitrators who were to pronounce their award on the Provisions of Oxford by the following June.  If they disagreed, then the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall and  the king of France, would be added to their number. For Henry this proposal must have seemed  like approaching victory. He was left in charge of central government, free  from the pernicious controls imposed on him in 1258.  Nor was there any likelihood of them ever being revived, given the presence of   Richard of Cornwall and the king of France amongst the potential arbitrators.  Nonetheless Henry paid a price. He agreed that each county could elect four candidates for the office of sheriff  from whom  he would choose one, very much the arrangement under the reforms of 1258-9.  This meant that the trusty  sheriffs, whom Henry had appointed in the summer of 1261,  would have to go out, and  Henry might  have to choose their successors  from the very men who had so violently  opposed them.   Henry had almost certainly been brought to this concession  by the demands of Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester.  It was his weakening resistance, which made the settlement at Kingston possible.   With a large following of knights to appease, the  compromise over the sheriffdoms was his price. Henry must have felt it was worth paying. It certainly shows the force of local opinion in the crisis of 1261, which both sides had recognised in summoning  knights from the shires to their rival parliaments.

The peace of Kingston was simply a draft proposal, which had still to be ratified by the opposition leaders.   It had the support of Richard de Clare, otherwise it would never have come into being, but what of the other insurgent barons?  Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, despite being put down as one of the arbitrators,  refused his agreement. So did many others. Most vociferous and passionate of all in his rejection was Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.   Would the Kingston compromise stick?  Read the blogs of the next few weeks to find out.

Henry III’s Alien Curiales

Friday, July 29th, 2011

When the storm broke around the King’s head in 1258, the Barons in their Petition of that May asked that all royal castles including those adjoining harbours from which ships sail, should be committed to the custody of men born in England and that no women shall be disparaged by being married to ‘men who are not true-born Englishmen’. The experience of the King’s alien curiales  varied.  As a result of the Provisions of Oxford of June/July, John de Plessis, far from being removed, was, by a vote of the Barons, appointed to the group of four who would chose the King’s Council.  In addition he was to hold Devizes castle.  Mathias Bezill was retained as Constable of Gloucester but Imbert Pugeys was removed from the Tower of London. 

A Tourangeau, Mathias Bezill benefited during his countryman, Peter des Roche’s ascendancy.  Bezill was the nephew of one of the Chanceaux clan which was probably related to Engelard de Cigogné and, like him, was banned by chapter fifty of Magna Carta.  Bezill was first mentioned in 1232, during the des Roches dominance, when he was given custody of the lands of two of the supporters of the rebel, Richard Marshal and he received his first royal patronage in the following January and witnessed a royal charter in June.  By 1258 he had gained lands in Devon, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Wiltshire and had married a wealthy widow. More importantly, in 1240, he was made Marshal of the Queen’s household and, by 1251, he was constable of Gloucester. In 1254, he became the Queen’s Steward.

Although Bezill was not disadvantaged by the Provisions, he suffered in the aftermath as a result of the special eyre set up under the supervision of the Justiciar, Hugh Bigod.  In September 1258, Bezill was ordered to be imprisoned when a jury refused to overturn his conviction for reducing a free tenant to serfdom.This potential imprisonment at this time was an indication of the ebbing of the power of alien courtiers around the King.

1261 saw Henry III  overthrowing the Provisions of Oxford and recovering of royal power. He replaced sheriffs with those he could trust; John de Plessis became sheriff of Leicestershire and Warwick whilst in July Mathias Bezill added the shrievalty of Gloucestershire to his castellany of Gloucester castle.

Whereas Plessis experienced no problems, there was a spectacular and violent reaction to Bezill’s appointment.  The county gentry of Gloucestershire elected one of their own men, William de Tracy, as sheriff.  With a strong force, Bezill seized Tracy at a meeting of the county court, had him beaten, dragged through the mire and imprisoned in Gloucester castle.

Although Robert of Gloucester referred to a popular election, David Carpenter has suggested that Tracy was, in fact, a member of the entourage of the Earl of Gloucester.  Although the evidence he relied on dates from 1267, refers back to 1265 and is about a later Earl, it does carry some weight as a 1259 patent roll entry refers to Oliver de Tracy, who was possibly William’s brother, as the nephew of the Earl in 1259.

These events show that Bezill was still perceived as a foreigner even though he had been in England for thirty years, had been associated with Gloucester castle for twelve years, had been accepted as constable by the Barons in 1258, had held lands in Gloucestershire, was married to an Englishwoman and had children born in England. That Bezill identified with Gloucestershire is demonstrated by his funding on an obit at Gloucester Abbey. Robert of Gloucester drew particular attention to the French origins of Bezill and the St Alban’s Continuator also referred to Bezill’s’ alien origin.

But an item in a wardrobe account of the mid 1250’s found by Ben Wild may throw a new light on these events. One reading of this entry is that Bezill paid ten marks to have the sheriff of Gloucester moved.  If so, why?   Bezill had been Constable of Gloucester since 1251.  William de Lasborough, who was sheriff in April 1255, was replaced in 1257 by Henry de Penbroke.

However,  the List of Sheriffs  records Bezill, as sheriff, on 10 January 1256 but there is no supporting evidence.  The List states that he did not account at the Exchequer.  Perhaps this statement is based on a Patent Roll entry which can be read as referring to Bezill’s keeping Gloucester castle but not the county.  Lasborough is in the parish of Westonbirt.  Bezill held lands at Sherston, about two miles away, from 1240 and at Didmarton, also about two miles way, from before 1260.  Perhaps Bezill was objecting to Lasborough as either a hindrance to his position as Constable or it was a neighbour dispute or both.  But if he did pay to have Lasborough removed, why was he only prepared, or expected, to pay only ten marks?  So if Bezill had had a brush with a locally based sheriff in the 1250’s, this might be a further reason for local hostility to him in the 1260’s.

Whatever was the motive for the local gentry’s hostility to Bezill in 1261, they remembered his actions and  took violent revenge in 1263.

Posted on behalf of Michael Ray.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 3 July to Saturday 9 July 1261

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Another week for Henry at the Tower of London  and a momentous one.  On Friday and Saturday, 8-9 July, Henry took the decisive step of dismissing the sheriffs and castellans appointed by the baronial regime and replacing them with his own men.  It was one thing to proclaim, as Henry had done at Winchester in May, that he was no longer bound by his oath to obey the Provisions of Oxford. It was quite another to act on his new power and attempt to assert his authority throughout the country. That was what Henry was now doing.

The apparently bullish mood in which he took this dangerous step is revealed in letters Henry issued this week. He protested to the pope about Archbishop Boniface’s proceedings at the recent council of Lambeth ‘to the diminution of the state of our crown and dignity’.  He then proclaimed that his political position was improving ‘from moment to moment’.  He had taken possession of Dover, the city and the  Tower of London, together with other castles.  He held everything in peace with the ‘assent of the community’, save for certain malevolent people, whose crafty machinations, he hoped, with the help of God and the pope, soon to destroy.  To the Welsh prince Llywelyn, Henry explained that he was now absolved from his oath to govern with the counsel of the nobles and had resumed ‘the strength of royal power’

This confidence was, however, more apparent than real. Henry remained in the Tower. He evidently shrank for touring the country to give comfort and support to his new officials against the malevolent plotters. He was like a soldier who has popped his head above the trench to a fire a missile and then quickly ducks down into its protection.   Henry  also still cherished the hope that the leader of the opposition  might be deflected by diplomacy. On 5 July,  he took a further initiative designed to settle his private quarrels with Simon de Montfort by arbitration.

The growing furore provoked by Henry’s actions is revealed in the fine rolls. No business at all was recorded between 4-7 July inclusive. The whole week only saw the purchase of sixteen common law writs, far fewer than usual. Evidently people were unable or unwilling to come to court.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 June to Saturday 25 June 1261

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

We left Henry on Saturday 18 June at Guildford.  He had reached there on his sudden flight from Winchester, following the furore provoked by his publication of the papal bulls dissolving the Provisions of Oxford. On the Sunday, Henry moved on to Kingston, closer that is to London, where he remained for the Monday and the Tuesday. The fine rolls reveal one piece of routine business discharged at this time and also the jurisdiction of the court held by the king’s marshal. This imposed an amercement (in modern terminology a fine) of one mark for wine sold at Kingston ‘contrary to the assize’, contrary that is to the regulations on weights and measures.  Probably Henry was pausing at Kingston while he received intelligence as to just how serious the revolt against his démarche was. Doubtless he would have liked to have gone on to Westminster.  In the event, he could not.   The situation did not permit residence at this undefended palace. On Tuesday 22 June Henry was back at the Tower of London. He was in for another long stay.

The disturbance of these days is reflected in the fine rolls which record no business for 19-21 June. It was also left to a clerk checking the rolls, while drawing up the copies sent to the exchequer, to supply the date  (22 June at the Tower of London) for an otherwise undated entry.  Some of the other chancery rolls at this time are even more chaotic with writs slapped down in haphazard order.  Once the king reached the Tower, however, routine business resumed and by the end of the week twenty-two writs to initiate or further the common law legal procedures were recorded on the fine rolls.

None of those securing these writs would have seen the king personally. This was business dealt with by the chancery clerks. But one person who appears on the fine rolls this week certainly did reach the royal presence, and found a warm welcome. This was the Gloucestershire baron, Maurice of Berkeley. In March he had been one of those give an annual pension (in his case 40 marks) in order to sustain him in the king’s service.  Now he was pardoned an amercement of £5 imposed for allowing a thief to escape from his prison at Redcliffe in Somerset.  He also received (while the king was at Kingston) a gift of three oaks from the forest of Dean. This was the kind of personal concession (Henry authorised it himself) which meant so much to the recipient. Evidently the king was very keen to secure Maurice’s loyalty in the struggle, all the more so since the great earl of Gloucester, Richard de Clare, was with the opposition.

We are able to see who was with the king this week in the Tower, thanks to the witness lists of royal charters issued from there on 25 June.  There were three bishops, those of Salisbury, Norwich and London. The last two were trusted royal servants and Henry could be absolutely sure of them.  In the same category came John Mansel (in command of the Tower), Philip Basset (now justiciar), Alan la Zouche, Robert Walerand , the judge William of Wilton, and the clerk Walter of Merton who was soon to be given custody of the seal.   Then there was group of barons from the Welsh march, Maurice of Berkeley, as we have said, and also Thomas Corbet of Cause and Reginald fitzPeter.  These men supplied muscle. Finally there were two men from the Savoyard party of the queen, namely Imbert de Montferrand and the king’s steward, Imbert Pugeys. One of the charters issued on 25 June was for another Savoyard, Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury. He was granted the right to hold a weekly market at Petersfield in the great archiepiscopal property of Maidstone. The fine rolls show he paid nothing for the concession. It was pure favour. Henry was not best pleased with his wife’s uncle, following the independence he had displayed at the ecclesiastical synod at Lambeth in May. But it was vital to keep him now on side, given he was one of those to whom the pope had addressed the letters quashing the Provision.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 12 June to Saturday 18 June 1261

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Sunday 12 June at Winchester. At last Whitsunday had arrived. Henry III always celebrated the great feast magnificently, and now he had added reason for doing so.  As so often in the medieval period, a major political event was to be linked to a key  Christian festival. The event, of course, was the publication of the papal letters quashing the Provisions of Oxford.  Henry had chosen Whitsun in part because it was the first great feast on the calendar after the arrival of the papal letters.  But he must also have thought the choice deeply appropriate. At Whitsun the Holy Spirit had rushed in upon the apostles, the multitude of assembled Jews had spoken in tongues, and Peter had cried out to the throng ‘Let  all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ’.  In the service Henry would have used, the Office for the day  began  ‘For the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world’. The appointed psalm was 68: ‘Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him’.  And this was the Collect:

‘God, who at this time didst teach the hearts of the faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy holy spirit; grant us by the same spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his comfort’.

Henry, of course, would not quite have equated the papal letters with the coming of the Holy Spirit, let alone have equated himself with Christ. But nonetheless the parallels were obvious. How he must have hoped the letters would re-establish ‘right judgement’ in his own people, and make them once again respect him as their proper lord and  rejoice in his comfort and protection.

Whitsunday doubtless began with a mass for the king in the castle,  his  chapel, together with the almonry, being  filled with light from numerous candles.  At Westminster for Whitsun 1260, for which records survive,  200 pounds of wax were consumed in the chapel and the almonry on the vigil and the feast day, twenty times more than what was often the usual quota. After this private mass, Henry and his entourage would have gone down from the castle to the cathedral  for the great service. One can imagine the procession of monks which came out to meet them.  There was no bishop, for the see was vacant, but Henry had with him the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich. Quite probably his son Edward was there too, a vital sign of political strength. At any rate on this very day, the fine rolls show Henry making a major concession to his son.  After the service there was a huge feast either in the bishop’s palace or back in the great hall of the castle, which of course still survives. (See the photos on this blog.) On the vigil  and the day of Whitsun in 1260, Henry had spent over £125 on his court’s food and drink,  a sum equalling of  a whole year’s income of a minor baron, and the very rough equivalent of over half a million pounds today. This was a sum over twenty times larger than Henry might have spent on two ordinary days.

The service in 1261 was  accompanied by prolific alms giving, hence the lights in the almonry.  Henry distributed 171 pairs of shoes to paupers and probably fed many more. His usual daily quota, when the queen was with him, was 150. But at Whitsun 1260  he fed 464, and probably it was the same in 1261. Henry also knighted some of his followers and distributed  robes to the 100 or so household knights he had now retained.  Just when and how the papal letters were proclaimed we do not know, but clearly   the rituals of the day enhanced their impact, and emboldened  the king and his supporters to put them into effect. Henry acted decisively to do just that. Probably on Whitsunday itself he dismissed  the baronial justiciar, Hugh Despencer,  and replaced him with the trusty Philip Basset.  There was no clearer proof that the baronial regime was over.

After these dramatic moves, it is not clear what Henry planned to do next. In the event, the decision was  made for him.  John Mansel, perhaps the best of all his councillors, had come part of the way to Winchester, but had then turned back. Probably he returned to the Tower of London where he was in command.  In any case, there or elsewhere,  he learnt that major resistance was being plotted against Henry’s overthrow of the Provisions of Oxford. At Winchester, Henry might even be in danger. Mansel thus hurried to join the king and was with him by Tuesday 14 June. He counselled an immediate return to the safety of the Tower, and that very day Henry slipped out of Winchester castle with a small following to make his return. By the evening he had  reached Alton, and by the end of the week was at Guildford. It was a humiliating conclusion to the triumphant Whitsun celebrations.  For all the robes distributed to his knights, Henry clearly felt his forces were insufficient to meet the growing insurgency.

The dramatic events of this week are reflected in the fine rolls.  Some eighteen writs to further common law legal actions were issued, but nearly all of these were purchased on or around 13 June before the flight from Winchester.  No business was recorded at Alton on  14-15 June, nor at Guildford and Kingston between 17 and 21 June.  John Mansel, however, kept his nerve and on 17 June at Guildford saw through a striking concession  enrolled on the fine rolls. By this,  Hawise, widow of the marcher baron, Patrick de Chaworth, was given compensation for the money she was spending ‘on the  war that she wages in parts of Wales’.  A striking example of a woman in command of military actions.

Beyond these great  events, there are sharp reminders of the  fate of those outside the political process. On the back of the fine roll for this week, there is a schedule recording that the burgesses of Derby had fined with the king for 10 marks to have a charter that no Jew or Jewess should henceforth remain in their vill.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 5 June to Saturday 11 June 1261

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Henry spent this week at Winchester in preparation for holding the Whitsun feast there on Sunday 12 June. His celebrations of the festival  were always  on a grand scale, and this year they  had  an added significance. During their course, Henry intended to publish the papal bulls quashing the Provisions of Oxford. It was vital to have the strength to resist any resulting protests,  and Henry’s preparations  are reflected in a royal  order he issued on Monday 7 June. Robes were to be ready at the feast for around a hundred knights whom he had retained as members of his household. These included  fourteen knights brought from abroad  by two northern French nobles, Alard de Seningham and Gerard de Rodes, who were friends of Queen Eleanor. Eleanor had made her own way to Winchester, where she arrived during the course of this week.  In terms of fine roll business the week seems very much business as usual.  Around twenty-five writs were purchased to further common law litigation. These included five commissions to the judge, Peter de Percy, to hear cases in Yorkshire. One supposes that the litigants  had clubbed together to send someone south to get the writs. Significantly another group of Yorkshire litigants purchased a writ for a case to be heard by Hugh Despencer ‘justiciar of England’. Despencer, a confidant of Simon de Montfort, had been appointed by the baronial regime, much against the king’s wishes,  back in October 1260.  The Yorkshire litigants clearly had no  inkling that he was about to be dismissed. Nor  did the chancery clerks enlighten them.  Surprise was all.

The Round Table in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 29 May to Saturday 4 June 1261

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

From Guildford, where he was on Sunday 29 May, Henry moved to Chawton, later of course of Jane Austen fame. He left there on Tuesday 31 May and the same day reached Winchester. He now had plenty of time to prepare for the proclamation of the papal letters quashing  the Provisions of Oxford. The lives of medieval rulers revolved around the ecclesiastical calendar. They were deeply aware of how celebration of the  great religious festivals could give a sacral gloss to their rule before large gatherings of people.  Thus coronations and crown wearings, parliaments and proclamations were frequently time to coincide with the great feasts. [See the blog on the ‘Revealing Records’ symposium below.]  So it was in 1261 for Henry III intended to pronounce the papal letters on the feast on Pentecost. In 1261 as in 2011, this fell on Sunday 12 June.  Arriving at Winchester on 31 May, Henry thus had eleven days before  the papal balloon went up.

The journey to Winchester, not surprisingly, saw a sharp decline in the numbers of writs purchased in connection with  the common law legal procedures;  only nineteen  as opposed to sixty the week before when the king had been largely in London. The fine rolls for this week also have a fascinating order highlighting  various aspects of the king’s relations with the Jews. It was issued at the instance of Henry’s son, the Lord Edward, which reflected the fact that the Jews had been placed in some respects under his control.  The Jews owed the king 1000 marks (£666) as a penalty for an unspecified ‘trespass’. This they had been due to pay before Pentecost. Now, at Edward’s request, the payment was postponed till three weeks after the feast of John the Baptist, so to 15 July (another example of how the calendar was conceived in terms of the great ecclesiastical festivals).  Meanwhile the Jews were to recover their  chattels seized for the non payment of the debt. Henry then added a proviso. In the assessment of the  money to pay the debt, poor Jews were not to be ‘grieved’.  In intervening for the Jews, Edward was probably serving his own interests. There would be all the more of Jewish money for himself. Quite probably, he was also paid for his intervention.  But in Henry’s proviso one wonders if one sees his well known concern for the poor embracing even the poor of the Jewish community.  The importance attached to the proviso  is shown in the way  it was added to the initial record of the order on the fine rolls. Henry, however, was also casting an avaricious eye over Jewish wealth.  Before the chattels were returned,  there was to be an inquiry into what exactly was in the  ‘coffers’ or ‘chests’  of the Jews  in London and elsewhere. This was to be carried out secretly so the Jews were unaware of it, and the king was to be informed of the results.