Posts Tagged ‘sheriffs’

Sunday 6 July 1264: keeping the peace

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

This week, entries in the fine roll resumed, for the first time since April. There were the usual fines for having routine writs, and records of reliefs owed by heirs of tenants in chief – encouraging signs of the return of normal business, with the prospect of some income for the government. (CFR 1263-64, 115-35)

At last, de Montfort secured control of Windsor castle. Drogo de Barentin and his garrison were given safe conduct, and John fitz John was appointed constable. On the other hand, the marcher lords, like Roger Mortimer, continued to ignore orders to come to London and to release their prisoners. (CPR 1258-66, 329-30, 362)

After the disorders of the preceding months, it was hardly surprising that the government was short of money, and managing by short-term expedients. The king’s chamberlain bought wine worth £95 from Gascon merchants, with payment guaranteed by William son of Richard and Reginald of Canterbury, the London moneyers. The moneyers were to be reimbursed from the revenues of the London and Canterbury exchanges. The need for cash led to Hervey of Stanhoe, the new sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, being instructed to collect arrears of farms from the cities and towns of those counties, disregarding their liberties if need be, and to send the proceeds to the Wardrobe. This indicates that revenue, which should have been paid to the Exchequer, was still being diverted to the Wardrobe to pay day-to-day expenses, as had been done during the period of civil war. (CPR 1258-66, 331)

The new sheriffs evidently faced considerable problems. They were all instructed to preserve the peace: the king understood that certain keepers of the peace had become disturbers of the peace; others held men to ransom and plundered their goods. The sheriffs were to take action against them, and hold them prisoner, awaiting further instructions. (CPR 1258-66, 362)

There was also the threat from royalists overseas, with reports that the queen was leading a large army to the coast of Flanders, ready to cross to England. Letters were sent to most of the counties, setting out the threat of a great number of foreigners invading the country, and instructing the knights and free tenants to come to London with horses and arms on Sunday 2 August. In each township, the sheriff was to summon eight, six or at least four of the best men, mounted and on foot, armed with lances, bows and arrows, crossbows and axes. He was to accept no excuses because it was harvest-time: better to lose some goods than to risk total loss of land and goods at the hands of those who would spare neither age nor sex if they prevailed. Similarly, the commonalty of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex were to be ready to defend the coasts, commanded by Hugh Despenser. This was the de Montfort regime’s response to the preparations for invasion from France, calling up a peasant army to defend against the foreign threat. (Ann Mon III, 233; IV, 154; CPR 1258-66, 360-2; Foedera, I, I, 444)

An unattractive aspect of the new regime became apparent on 30 June, in a blatantly biased judgment against William de Braose. He had plundered Sedgewick, a Sussex manor belonging to Simon de Montfort junior. He was ordered to pay 10,000 marks damages, a ridiculously large sum, by a tribunal headed by Henry de Montfort, who was hardly likely to be impartial. (Bémont, Simon de Montfort, 353-4)

Sunday 29 June 1264: parliament and sheriffs

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

The parliament which had been summoned on 4 June met during this week. The chief business appears to have been the announcement of a new council to govern the country, and the appointment of sheriffs for most of the counties. The arrangements for the council were supposedly provisional, to apply only until the completion of the French arbitration required by the mise of Lewes. As there was no prospect of Louis IX co-operating with de Montfort over the arbitration, the arrangements for central government were effectively a new constitution. A group of three, de Montfort, Gilbert de Clare and the bishop of Chichester, were to nominate a council of nine experienced men to rule the affairs of the realm. The council would oversee all official appointments, and three of its members would be with the king at all times. Unlike the council of 1258, which included royal nominees, this new council would give unfettered power to de Montfort and his allies, and remove any possibility of independent action by the king. According to one chronicler, Henry III was forced by threats to give his assent to the Ordinance setting out these arrangements; he was told that he would be replaced by another king, and lord Edward imprisoned forever. (DBM, no. 40; Flores, III, 262)

Eight new sheriffs were announced on 27 June, and Hereford and Cumberland were instructed to elect sheriffs. It may be significant that the announcement of these sheriffs was made during the parliament, to which four knights had been summoned from each county. It may mean that the new regime was following the proposals set out in the Provisions of Westminster in 1259, for each county to select four knights, from whom the central government would select one to be sheriff. The new sheriffs had a formidable task, “as the king has learned that plunderings, burnings and other enormities have occurred in those counties since the proclamation of peace.” The keepers of the peace in each county were told to summon the county court to hear the king’s orders, and to assist the sheriff. One of the sheriffs appointed the previous week, Fulk Peyforer of Kent, had begun work already: he held a session of the county court on Monday 23 June, showing that the machinery of local government was beginning to function again. (CPR 1258-66, 326-8; appointments of sheriffs and castellans also in the originalia roll, CFR 1263-64, 272-98; E 389/81)

Two continuing problems again exercised de Montfort’s government. The archbishop of Canterbury remained in France, and was refusing to co-operate by confirming the election of Walter Giffard as bishop of Bath and Wells. The garrison of Windsor castle continued to ignore instructions to leave the castle, and disregarded offers of safe conduct to come to London. (CPR 1258-66, 328-9)

The council was also exercised by the need to secure the ports against enemy infiltration. Thry decreed that anybody entering or leaving the country should do so through Dover (except for merchants bringing wine or other necessities). Other ports were to arrest anyone landing there. (CPR 1258-66, 361)

Sunday 22 June 1264

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Windsor castle continued to be a thorn in the side of de Montfort’s regime. The royalist constable, Drogo de Barentin, and his knights continued to ignore orders to come to London and to hand over the castle. De Montfort sent the bishop of Carlisle to deliver their safe conduct to come to London, with the threat that they would otherwise be considered to be rebels. Eleanor of Castile, wife of lord Edward, and Joan, the wife of William de Valence, had both taken refuge in the castle, and were ordered to leave. (CPR 1258-66, 324, 325)

The new government began to assert its authority in the counties, with the appointment of two sheriffs on 18 June. Fulk Peyforer was appointed sheriff of Kent, with instructions to deliver the county’s revenues to Henry de Montfort to pay for munitions for Dover castle. John de Scalariis became sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. The announcement of their appointments acknowledged that the new regime had yet to restore order. Both new sheriffs were instructed to keep the peace, as the king understood that plunderings, burnings and other enormities were being perpetrated daily since the proclamation of peace. They were both local landowners, and experienced local administrators – Fulk had been sheriff of Kent in 1258-59, John had been sheriff of Cambridgeshire in 1249 and 1259-61. They were the sort of reliable person with roots in the locality whom the reformers of 1258-59 had wanted to see in office. (CPR 1258-66, 325)

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.