Posts Tagged ‘Provisions of Oxford’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 22 May to Saturday 28 May 1261

Friday, May 27th, 2011

From Saturday 21 May till Thursday 26 May, Henry III remained at the bishop of London’s palace at Saint Pauls. The flood of litigants seeking writs to initiate and further common law legal actions continued. The fine rolls show no less than sixty such writs were purchased in these days. On Tuesday 24 May, the chancery despatched to the exchequer  a copy of the fine roll down to that date so that it knew what monies to collect.  Alongside the note  recording  this despatch,  the clerk drew a grotesque head.  In the draft translation of the roll currently on line we suggested this was might have been a caricature of Mabel, daughter of Simon de Bere, who in an adjoining entry was recorded as giving half a mark for the hearing of an assize.  Closer inspection of the image  shows the imputation is false and we are pleased to withdraw it. The head, instead, was clearly intended to mark out the note about the despatch of the roll to the exchequer.

Head drawn on membrane 10 of roll C60/58

Under the cloak of this routine business, great matters were now afoot.  The king must certainly have received the papal letter of 13 April absolving his from his oath to observe the Provisions of Oxford.  Probably too the follow up letter of 29 April had also arrived in England. This was even more crucial because it was not personal to Henry but general to the realm.  The letter empowered the  archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Norwich, and John Mansel, to absolve everyone from their oaths. At St Paul’s,  there must have been earnest debate as to when, where and how to detonate this explosive weapon. One problem concerned the addressees. The bishop of Norwich, a former royal judge, was completely to be trusted. So, of course, was Henry’s loyal, wise and courageous clerk,  John Mansel. Indeed, in this week Mansel was made constable of the Tower of London.  He was at court and central to the direction of policy. The problem was the archbishop, Boniface of Savoy,  the uncle of the queen, who had incurred the king’s displeasure over the legislation, very critical of royal government, passed at the Lambeth ecclesiastical council earlier in the month.  (See Sophie Ambler’s contribution to this blog).  On Thursday 26 May, Henry sent a proctor to Rome to appeal against the ordinances made  ‘to the prejudice of the king’s right and dignity and the liberties,  laws and customs of the realm’. The phraseology reflects royal thinking on a wider front. The king was now to take action against another set of Ordinances, the Provisions of Oxford, which  were equally prejudicial to the king and the realm. Henry could only hope (probably rightly) that Boniface would be more co-operative in the secular sphere than he was in the ecclesiastical.

In other respects, what was in the making seems very much a foreign, Savoyard plot, in which doubtless the queen herself was deeply involved. At court were her uncle, Peter of Savoy, and a host other Savoyards or Savoyard connections, including  Imbert Pugeys,  Imbert de Montferrand, Eubule de Montibus and Ingram de Fiennes.  Also there, providing muscle, were a group of Welsh marcher barons, James of Audley, Thomas Corbet, and Reginald fitzPeter.  Behind this group stood  the king’s brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and king of Germany.  He received major concessions this week, as did Henry his son. And even more vital was the  support or at least acquiescence of Henry’s own son, Edward. On his return to England,  he had seemed to sympathise with Montfort. But he had appeared for his father at the Lambeth conference to protest against any violation of the rights of the crown, and this week a concession was made ‘at his instance’.

It was this grouping  which took the momentous decision. They would detonate the papal letters and publicly denounce the Provisions of Oxford. But they would not do it in London. For all the security of the Tower, there was danger of an explosion from the heaving  and volatile populace. Instead the coup would be launched  somewhere both safe and symbolic. This was Winchester, Henry’s birthplace, and ancient seat of royal government, where the great castle dominated the small town, and ensured the loyalty of its docile inhabitants. Henry, therefore, left London on Thursday 26 May. Covering over thirty miles, that evening he reached his palace castle at Guildford.  There he remained, gathering breath, on the Friday and Saturday. On the Saturday, despite the tension all around,  the fine rolls recorded a characteristic act of  charity.   Henry, so he said,  had heard that the resources of Ralph de Heppewrth’ (perhaps Hepworth in Suffolk),  were insufficient to pay his debts to the Jews. Therefore, ‘out of compassion for his poverty’, Henry  took steps to ensure Ralph had enough to live off and was not ‘forced to beg’.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 May to Saturday 21 May 1261

Friday, May 20th, 2011

After his expedition to Kent, and recovery of Dover castle, Henry had got back to London on the evening of Saturday 14 May. He had hoped (or at least there are indications that he had hoped), to set up court at Westminster, but instead he had gone to the Tower. His stay  was brief, however,  for he left the fortress  on Sunday 15 May and spent the whole of this  week, doubtless in greater comfort,  at the bishop of London’s palace at St Paul’s. 

The return to London coincided with a large increase in the purchase of writs to initiate and further the common law legal actions. Clearly a backlog had built up during Henry’s Kentish foray, with litigants hesitating to follow  the king and waiting in London  for his return. Thus no less than 53 such writs were purchased this week, between two and three times the number usual since the start of this blog  back in March.

 The fine rolls also contain a writ in which Henry said how ‘moved’ he was ‘by the long service’ which Nicholas the Welshman, his messenger, had given him. As a result, Henry made Nicholas a life grant of a small holding in Brockton (near Sutton Maddock) in Shropshire.  Nicholas was to perform the service due from the holding, which, other evidence shows, was to find a man for Montgomery castle for fifteen days in time of war with a bow and four arrows.  Henry’s employment of Nicholas reflects, of course, how ready Welshmen were to serve the king of England, if necessary fighting against  their own people.  In Nicholas’s case one assumes that his man did not go home, or hang around idly,  once he had fired off his four arrows. One remembers, however, the case  of Hugo fizHeyr (discovered by Michael Prestwich.)  He was obliged to follow the king in war with a bow and arrow. In 1282, as soon as he saw the king’s enemies, he loosed off his arrow and went home.

In making his grant to Nicholas, Henry  stressed that he was acting within his rights and that an inquiry (which survives) had shown that the property was indeed his to give.  Henry’s assertions chimed with other statements this year. Struggling to re-assert his authority and overthrow the Provisions of Oxford, he was often at pains to stress the law abiding nature of his rule.

The need to do so was becoming more and more apparent, as the struggle intensified.  During this week, on Wednesday 18 May, Henry  warned the Cinque Ports that Simon de Montfort was ‘endeavouring to bring into the realm aliens with arms against the king to the disturbance of the peace and the grievous cost of the realm’.  This was to turn the tables on Montfort who complained vociferously  about Henry’s own attempt to bring foreign soldiers into the realm in 1260. In fact Henry was doing the same again now. On Saturday 21 May he promised a life pension to the count of  St Pol who was, or was hoped to be,  the leader of one such foreign contingent.

During this week, at the latest,  Henry must have received the papal bull issued from Rome on 13 April which absolved him from his oath to keep the Provisions of Oxford. Indeed, it may well have arrived  on or shortly before 12 May at Canterbury. On that day,  John Mansel junior, who had secured the bull from the pope and probably brought it to England, was setting off back to papal court.  The question for Henry and his advisers was when and how to detonate this explosive weapon.

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

Friday, May 6th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elias de Rabayn

Friday, May 6th, 2011

It is not surprising that Henry III sent for Elias Rabayn (see ‘Elyas de Rabayne’ in Henry III Fine Rolls Blog, Sunday 24 April to Saturday 30 April 1261).  Like all his fellow aliens, Rabayn, whilst much criticised by the English and their chroniclers, maintained a scrupulous loyalty to the King.  It is ironic that the only alien who betrayed him was the one to whom he had been most generous, Simon de Montfort.

The thirteenth century saw several waves of aliens coming to serve the English kings.  They came from Normandy, Touraine, Poitou, Savoy and even Germany.  The last wave, who arrived before the reform period, was that of the Poitevins.  They came to England in 1247, when the Lusignans arrived to be welcomed by their generous half-brother, Henry III.   Rabayn, probably from the Isle of Oléron, was first noted in English records in 1247.  He married an heiress and was Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1251 as well as Constable of Corfe and Sherborne.  Corfe was a vital castle which had once been the home of King John’s treasure and was still used for the imprisonment of important captives.  Rabayn retained Corfe when he was replaced as sheriff in 1255.  It was a gift of 500 marks’ worth of land to Rabayn that infuriated Matthew Paris in 1252.  He wrote that, whilst the King had refused to allow his own subjects to pay their debts in installments, he had nevertheless rewarded the Poitevin.

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 sailed, should be committed to the custody of men born in England and that no women should be disparaged by being married to ‘men who are not true-born Englishmen’.  As a result of the Provisions of Oxford of June/July, the Norman, John de Plessis, far from being removed, was appointed to the group of four who would chose the King’s Council, by a vote of the Barons.  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.  Rabayn lost the custody of Corfe castle.  The main casualties of 1258 were the Poitevins.  Their leaders, the Lusignans, who were perceived to have resisted the reformers, were driven out of England.  Their fall impacted on their associates; Rabayn also left England and his lands were taken into the King’s hands. 

1261 saw Henry III overthrowing the Provisions of Oxford and recovering his royal power. He replaced sheriffs with those he could trust.  With the recovery of royal power, some of the Poitevins returned; on 14 April, Rabayn was granted permission to return to England and was told to come at all speed.  Nine days later, he was remitted of the King’s rancour and his lands, which had been taken into the King’s hands on that account, were to be restored to him.

Serious concerns about disturbances in Wales and the March marked the beginning of 1263 and the King planned to go there with Rabayn as one of his party.  During June a petition of the Barons was produced which sought the restitution of the Provisions of Oxford but with a new demand that ‘aliens should depart from the kingdom never further to return, save those whose stay the faithful men of the realm might with unanimous assent accept’.  By July the King had agreed to the baronial demand and, following his consent  to  the Statute against the Aliens, the Lord Edward was forced to cede Windsor castle to the barons.  The alien knights had moved there when they were removed from London.   These knights were then escorted to the Channel coast and, according to one chronicler, ‘they returned to their native land’ and to another, they were allowed to ‘freely depart with their horses and arms after first swearing not to come back again without being sent for by the community‘. Was Rabayn among them?   But by November the Windsor castle was back in royal hands.

 As part of their submission to the arbitration of Louis IX of France, the Barons returned to the attack on the aliens, albeit linked to courtiers in general.  When, in January 1264, Louis announced his judgement at  Amiens, one knight with Henry III in France was Rabayn.  But perhaps he sensed that trouble was coming as, in February, he obtained a licence to crenellate his manor at Upway, near Lyme Regis in Dorset.

It is not certain whether Rabayn was at the Battles of Lewes or Evesham but he held rebel’s lands as early as October 1265.   Rabayn has been said to have joined the Lord Edward’s crusade but his presence as a royal charter witness during this period shows that he did not go.  However, he was Constable of Corfe again from 1272 until 1280 and for a short while he regained Sherborne castle.  When he died in 1285, some of his lands went to the alien Bezill family as his daughter married Mathias’s Bezill’s son, John.

A contribution by Dr Michael Ray

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.

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 3 April – Saturday 9 April 1261

Monday, April 4th, 2011

In this week in 1261, Henry III remained in the Tower of London, safe from those opposing his resumption of power.  People continued to come to the Tower to obtain writs from the chancery to further their litigation according to the procedures of the common law.  Thirteen such writs were purchased in the week.  This was routine business which did not require the direct involvement of the king.  Henry, however, was involved in an act of measured compassion to a poor man, an act which shows how the poor  could gain access to him. One John Sundy had been accused before the justices in eyre in Oxfordshire of harbouring criminals. He had fled in fear and his chattels had been seized into the king’s hands. Now Henry ‘out of compassion for his poverty and wishing to do him special grace’ ordered the sheriff of Oxfordshire to restore to John his chattels, although he was to pay the king the price at which they had been valued.  The writ to the sheriff, dated [Wednesday] 6 April can be found at no.329 of our translation of the roll for 1260-1261.

More generally the week saw some relaxation in the political tension. Henry had shaken off the conciliar control imposed on him in 1258, but had yet to proclaim his wholesale rejection of the scheme of reform known as the Provisions of Oxford. Instead, earlier in March, he had  drawn up a long list of complaints about the way the council had behaved, and agreed to submit these to some form of arbitration.  In this week (as last), the justiciar imposed on Henry by  the reform regime, Hugh Despencer, was with the king in the Tower and still acknowledged as holding his office. Hugh was very close to Simon de Montfort and on 9 April, Henry allowed him  to authorise a  writ  allowing Montfort to have timber for the manor of Rodley  in Gloucesteshire.  Rodley was a property Montfort had managed to prize from the king in 1259, much to Henry’s anger. This, therefore, was a considerable favour to the man now emerging as the chief opponent of the king’s recovery of power.  We may wonder whether it was genuine act of conciliation, in the hope of some settlement, or whether Henry was just playing for time until he should receive the papal letters quashing the Provisions altogether.

King Henry III’s Fine Roll Blog

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Easter in this year, 2011, is unusually late, falling on 24 April.  There were in fact only two years in the  reign of Henry III when Easter was on 24  April, and in which, therefore,  the whole calendar was exactly the same as it is in 2011,  with each day of the month falling on the same day of the week.   These years were 1261 and 1272. 1272 was, of course, the last year of Henry’s reign and he did not reach its end, dying on 16 November.  I have decided therefore, in starting Henry III’s fine rolls blog, to take the year 1261, a very dramatic one in which he threw off the controls imposed on him by the Provisions of Oxford in 1258.

Between Sunday 27 March and Saturday 3 April, Henry III was at the Tower of London, a place where normally he would never live, much preferring his palace at Westminster.  Having at the start of the year, escaped from the ruling council imposed in 1258 and recovered control over his seal, he had been based at the Tower since February, the great fortress providing  a secure base from which he could defy the gathering opposition to his demarche. Letters Henry wrote in this week showed his anxieties. He cautioned his Poitevin half brother, William de Valence, expelled in 1258, against returning to England, doubtless fearing the storm it would provoke, and also expressed his hope that the arbitration of the king of France might settle his quarrels with Simon de Montfort. The  fine rolls of this week, however, suggest a different picture, that of business as usual.  Henry (or his ministers) issued orders about the running of two royal manors, Brill in Oxfordshire and Havering in Essex. The money arising from Brill  was to be sent to the Exchequer at Westminster, so clearly this was still seen as a safe place for the king’s money, even if he himself was at the Tower.   There were also twenty individuals who bought writs from the chancery to progress the legal actions in which they were involved. Clearly they were perfectly prepared to enter the Tower of London to get these.