Posts Tagged ‘Revolution of 1258’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 April to Saturday 14 April 1257

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

King Henry III celebrated Sunday 8 April, Easter Sunday, at Westminster amidst feasting, religious ceremony and almsgiving.  The week before, on Maundy Thursday, he had distributed 272 pairs of shoes to the poor, and quite probably had washed their feet. Later accounts show that a great silver bowl was kept in the wardrobe for such a  ceremony.  Perhaps some of those benefitting from these royally administered ablutions were lepers. At any rate,  the king of France, Louis IX, commended Henry for washing the feet of lepers and kissing them. 

After the Easter ceremony, the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, left London for Yarmouth, where he was to take ship for Germany and his royal coronation. The archbishop of Cologne took a different route  and sailed home in a great galley he had brought up the Thames. One can imagine it moored opposite the Tower, where doubtless it impressed the Londoners. Richard had given the archbishop  500 marks and a mitre decorated with precious stones.  The archbishop gracefully declared (according to Matthew Paris) ‘he has mitred me, I will crown him’,  referring to his role in the German coronation.

This week eight individuals bought writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. There were five fines of gold, two for respite of knighthood.  This was a respectable level of business but it was not going to transform the king’s financial position and enable him to pursue  his Sicilian schemes. He had also just failed to secure taxation from parliament for the same purpose. This may be part of the background to this week’s ambitious scheme to put the king’s finances on an entirely new footing. On Monday, 9 April, the king ‘provided and ordained’ that henceforth the expenses of the king’s household were to be paid for ‘day by day’. To that end, the exchequer was to set aside 20,000 marks (£13,333) each year, 10,000 marks coming from the first monies reaching it at Easter, and 10,000 marks from the first monies at Michaelmas. The king issued this ordinance in the presence of Edward, his son and heir, his half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence,  the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, and the ministers John Mansel and Robert Walerand. The presence here of the king’s foreign relatives, and the absence of a single English magnate, confirms the isolation of the king which we saw at the parliament, an isolation enhanced by the departure for Germany of the long suffering and supportive, Richard of Cornwall. On the other hand,  the ordinance does show the foreign relatives involved in  a sensible attempt at  financial reform, which probably  responded to complaints made about the king’s government at the parliament. The first aim was to see that the king paid for his food, drink, clothes and everything else promptly instead of  running up debts to merchants, tradesmen and others.  The second aim, at least by implication, was that the wardrobe, the chief spending department travelling with the king, was essentially to be funded by the exchequer. Although not stated explicitly, it was  the wardrobe which was to receive the 20,000 marks and since this was the rough equivalent of its total annual expenditure at this time (clearly the king had been well informed on that), it would  no longer need in a disorderly way to seek revenue from other sources. The implication was that the bulk of the king’s revenue could be paid into the exchequer instead of being siphoned off to the wardrobe. This was precisely what the reformers demanded and attempted to achieve after the revolution of 1258.

In all this, the king had not forgotten Westminster abbey, for another £1000 was to be reserved every year for the work on its fabric. Would the scheme work? It clearly depended on the revenue reaching the exchequer and the king refraining from either diverting it before it got there, or ordering the exchequer to spend it on other things before the 20,000 marks had been raised.  To that end, the king strictly ordered the exchequer to make no payments until the money had been set aside, even though commanded to do so by his writs and his own verbal orders! If they disobeyed, they would be liable to pay back the money from their own goods. This type of attempt to get  officials to act as a barrier against his own weakness was characteristic of Henry III, and does not show him in a very kingly light.  Having said that, is it much different from the way modern politicians have sought to guard against their own weakness by making the Bank of England independent in the setting of interest rates? Would Henry’s scheme work this time? Read future blogs to find out!

A Case of Papal Duplicity: The Diplomacy of Pope Innocent IV

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

When studying the fine rolls of King Henry III, it is well to remember  the wider European context, for it had  an impact on the business the rolls recorded.  Those following Henry III’s blog for 1257 will know that the large numbers of fines of gold on the rolls were produced by Henry’s effort to build up a gold treasure to fund his Sicilian campaign, the campaign, that is, which was to place his  second son on the throne of Sicily. I hope to reflect more generally on the Sicilian enterprise in a future Fine of the Month. Here I am going to reveal, I think for the first time,  a remarkable case  of duplicitous papal diplomacy from an earlier stage of the affair.

In his effort to rid Sicily of its Hohenstaufen rulers, Pope Innocent IV offered the throne of the kingdom both to Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry III, and to Charles of Anjou, brother of King Louis IX of France.  With Richard ruling himself out, negotiations with Charles, during the summer of 1253,  proceeded as far as some very hard bargaining over the conditions.  It was at this point that the papal notary and legate, Master Albert of Parma, who was conducting the negotiations, reported back to Innocent. His message was that whereas Charles professed himself content with the terms on offer, his counsellors were making difficulties over them. Innocent’s solution, set out in a letter to Master Albert from Assisi on 11 July 1253, was ingenious.  He promised to  accept whatever two prelates and a knight, nominated by Charles, would say on the disputed points. This, however, was merely for the public consumption of the counsellors and to persuade them to go with Charles on the expedition. The promise itself  was actually to be of no value, ‘sit irrita penitus et inanis’. To make quite sure, Charles was to give Albert his letters patent acknowledging just that.

On the face of it, Innocent was engaged in a thoroughly duplicitous manoeuvre to trick Charles’s counsellors into supporting  the Sicilian expedition. The stratagem he concocted gives a remarkable insight into the devious workings of  his  mind.  It might equally seem to reflect on the mind and morality of Charles, at least as Innocent perceived them. Innocent apparently thought Charles was capable of being just as duplicitous as himself.  But are other interpretations  possible which might let the two men of the hook?  If, for example, Innocent thought Charles was  sheltering behind his counsellors, might the offer have been just a way of calling his bluff?  That has at least been suggested to me.  Charles’s claim reminds one naturally of Louis IX’s oft repeated statement that he would return Normandy to Henry III, if only his barons would allow him. Here too there is debate about the sincerity of the statement.  That Innocent did believe there was a real chance  of his bait being swallowed, is suggested by the way the letter to Master  Albert was included in  the papal register,  this  at a time when the great bulk of diplomatic correspondence was left out.  Innocent seems to have  wanted an exact record of what might be an important deal.  Perhaps we will never know the truth, but comments and suggestions  by readers of this blog will be very welcome.

At the end of the letter,  Innocent added a final inducement.  As soon as  Charles was invested with the kingdom by Master Albert,  he might call  himself king of Sicily. Of course, nothing like that happened. Charles, in the end, declined the offer and turned instead to getting control of Flanders. It was to be  another decade before he returned to the Sicilian affair. That left to King Henry to pick up the papal tab, hence the fines of gold in the fine rolls  and the trail which ended in the revolution of 1258.

Innocent’s letter to Master Albert  can be found in Les Registres d’Innocent IV:  Tome Troisième, ed. E. Berger (Paris, 1897), no.7755.

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.