Posts Tagged ‘Sicily’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 November to Saturday 8 December 1257

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

King Henry remained at Guildford until around 26 November and then returned to Westminster, where he was to remain till early January. Henry had intended during this time to visit his castle at Marlborough, and then to celebrate Christmas at Winchester, as he often did.  Urgent business, however, as he explained, kept him instead at Westminster. He was anxiously awaiting the return of envoys sent to the pope. Would they bring news that the Holy Father had modified the terms of the Sicilian business so that it could be pursued with some hope of success?  Henry was also arranging the despatch of a high powered delegation (including Simon de Montfort) to the king of France in the hope of advancing the peace negotiations and thus making it all the more possible to concentrate on Sicily. And then too  Henry was becoming  worried about events in Scotland, where  the young King Alexander was married to his daughter.  Would Henry have to go north, as he had in 1255, to rescue the royal couple from their enemies?

It must have been a relief for Henry to turn from these great matters to the comforting business of the fine rolls. During these two week, around twenty four people came to court to purchase the writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. Henry’s justice remained in demand.  One item on the rolls particularly stands out and will be commented on here. It bears on both the administrative processes and rituals of Henry’s kingship. It also shows how difficult it can be to capture the sense of an entry when translating it from Latin into English.

The entry is no.105 in the translation (forty-four entries down in the image) and appears as follows.

105

6 Dec. Westminster. For the burgesses of Bridgnorth. On Tuesday next after St. Andrew the Apostle in the forty-second year, the burgesses of Bridgnorth paid 25 m. in the king’s Wardrobe to Peter de Rivallis, keeper of the same Wardrobe, which remained to be rendered of the fine of 50 m. which they made with him a short while ago for having liberties, and, on the aforesaid day, they paid into the same Wardrobe the 10 m. which they had promised for their good coming to the king when he had last been at Bridgnorth. Order to the sheriff of Shropshire to cause the same burgesses to be quit from the aforesaid 35 m.

This entry is not in the originalia roll.

The feast of Andrew the Apostle was 30 November and the following Tuesday in 1258, when the payment was made into the wardrobe, was 4 December. The 6 December date at the head of the translation is that of the writ to the sheriff of Shropshire referred to at the end of the entry. Throughout the fine rolls it is these writs to  officials which actually give the dates to the entries.   The fine of 50 marks, which the burgesses made with the king, is not recorded on the fine rolls. It may be that the full way it was now recorded  was to make up for that lack. The fine was evidently made on 21-22 September 1257 when Henry passed through Bridgnorth on his way home from his campaign in Wales.  A couple of days later, now at Worcester, Henry issued a letter patent granting the ‘bailiffs and good men’ of Bridgnorth the right to take ‘murage’ for another three years, ‘murage’ being a toll whose revenues were devoted to works on the walls of the town. Perhaps this was the concession for which the men offered the king 50 marks, or  perhaps there were other ‘liberties’, building on an earlier charter of 1227, of which there seem to be no record.

From the administrative point of view, what is interesting is the way the whole business of the Bridgnorth debt was controlled by the wardrobe and chancery, travelling with the king, rather than, as would have been normal,  by the exchequer at Westminster.  At the end of the entry there is the statement,  provided by the editors of the fine roll,  ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. This means that no information about the fine and its payment was  sent to the exchequer, the originalia roll being the copy of the fine  roll despatched to the exchequer so that it knew what money to collect. As a result there is no entry for this debt on the pipe roll, the exchequer’s annual audit of  the money it was demanding for the  crown.  Instead, the only record of the existence  of the debt (apart from that on the wardrobe receipt roll) was that given here on the fine roll.   It is likewise the chancery writ, not the exchequer, which tells the sheriff that the burgesses are quit. The handling of the Bridgnorth debt was typical of many other debts at this time. Large numbers of fines between 1255 and 1257 – for  example for town liberties (as here)  and exemption from knighthood – were treated in the same way. There was no ‘constitutional’ reason for Henry bypassing the exchequer. Under its treasurer, Philip Lovel,  it was never less than under his  control.  The point was that Henry just got his money in more quickly and simply if he had such fines paid in directly to his wardrobe. Nonetheless the reformers in 1258 thought the king’s finances would be run  more responsibly if all the revenues were routed through the exchequer, a subject discussed in Richard Cassidy’s fine of the month .

The great majority of the fines paid into the wardrobe were in gold, or were in silver earmarked to buy gold, and were thus part of Henry’s campaign to build up a gold treasure to fund his Sicilian army. Another reason for making this a wardrobe treasure was that Henry could see the gold accumulating  before his eyes.  What a joy it must have been. By the autumn of 1257, however, as we have seen in previous blogs, the enterprise was beginning  to falter. Henry was having to spend his gold treasure, minting his wonderful gold penny in order to do so. The fact that the Bridgnorth fine was not in gold, or in silver earmarked to buy gold, may reflect this situation.  Henry had not quite given up, however, and these two weeks see two more fines of gold (nos.97, 102).

During the king’s visit in September 1257, the burgesses of Bridgnorth did not merely offer 50 mark for liberties. They also promised 10 marks ‘for their good coming to the king’. The Latin here, as one can see from the image, is ‘pro bono adventuo suo’. When the final checked and corrected version of the translation is put up, this passage will be altered since the ‘good coming’ is that of the king, not the burgesses. They are offering 10 marks ‘for his good coming’.  But does ‘good coming’, or ‘good arrival’ or ‘good advent’ quite capture the sense of what is happening?  At the very least, it sounds odd in modern English, and is another reason why we hope to provide the project with glossary.   What, of course, the burgesses were  giving, or in this case, promising Henry was a welcome present, one which demonstrated their loyalty, affection, and joy at his arrival. The present was designed to make his arrival ‘good’ for him, and also (in the benefits which might flow) ‘good’ for them.  In some circumstances, for example when the king was returning from overseas, there might also, wrapped up in the ‘good’, be joy at the king’s ‘safe’ arrival, and perhaps there was an element of that here too, given the hazards of the recent campaign in Wales.  Normally, we have no record of such gifts, because they were paid cash down into the wardrobe. It is only here, because the burgesses had exhausted (or so they must have said), their ready money in coming up with the initial 25 marks for their liberties, that we know about it. Such gifts, of course, in cash or precious  objects, were integral to Henry’s kingship, as they were to that of other kings. They were made, as here, by individual towns and, on a much grander and more organized scale, by the assembled great and good of the realm, on the king’s arrival back in his kingdom. They were also accompanied by other rituals, notably welcome processions of a town’s clergy and people. When the king rode up from Windsor to Westminster,  the custom was for the mayor and citizens of London to go out and meet him at Knightsbridge. They knew they were out of favour when he refused to meet them.

In such arrivals, the giving was not all one way. Quite the reverse. Henry himself might mark his coming by feeding paupers over and above his standard 100 a day, or 150 a day if the queen was with him, as she was at Bridgnorth.  He would also visit the religious establishments of the town and shower them with gifts.  At Bridgnorth, Henry  gave nine  ‘good oaks’ for work on the churches of the  Franciscan friars and  the hospital of Saint John, and another five good oaks to the canons of Bridgnorth chapel for the  repair of their chancel and stalls. His visit also brought other work to the town. On 21 September, probably the day of his arrival, he ordered  his chamber in the castle and that of the queen to be wainscoted, while the queen’s chamber was also to have  new windows and a fireplace.  On 25 September, having left Bridgnorth and arrived at Worcester, Henry ordered ten oaks to be sent to ‘the upstanding men of Bridgnorth’, as a ‘gift of the king’, to help with repairing the town gates. The visit, therefore,  had been a success. Henry’s ‘good oaks’, he doubtless hoped, would  be a perpetual memory to his piety and generosity in Bridgnorth and his concern for the security of this royal town.

The kind of ‘good arrival’, we glimpse here at Bridgnorth, must have been repeated thousands of times over during Henry’s reign. Such reciprocal rituals could  bind king and realm together.  But it did not always work like that.  Accounts in chroniclers make very plain that donors sometimes resented having to give such presents, just as the king resented it if he deemed the presents inadequate. The ritual could set apart as well as bring together. Were the men of Bridgnorth themselves disappointed that they had to pay for their ‘liberties’, especially if these were simply for the right to levy ‘murage’,  which they might have expected anyway, given  the threat from Llywelyn.  Did they also look askance at what they saw of Henry’ court?  The keeper of the wardrobe to whom they gave their money, both at Bridgnorth and Westminster, was Peter des Rivallis, one of Henry’s most notorious Poitevin servants, who was to be dismissed by the reformers in 1258.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 November to Saturday 10 November 1257

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Henry’s itinerary for this week is revealed in the dating clauses of the writs enrolled on the fine rolls.

Henry began the week at Westminster and then went to Windsor.  In the fine roll business, one item stands out. This is the fine  (37 down in the above image and no.37 in the translation)  made by the baron, Peter de Maulay, lord of Doncaster and other lands in Yorkshire. Peter offered 60 marks (so £40) to be pardoned Henry’s indignation and rancour. He had incurred this through failing  either to muster personally or to send his due quota of knights to the king’s recent expedition to Wales. As a result, the sheriff of Yorkshire had been ordered to take his lands into the king’s hands. These were now to be restored to him.  Henry was arguably well within his rights in seizing Peter’s lands. After all,  Peter had failed in the most basic obligation of a baron, namely to provide the military service due from his barony.  It would be interesting to know, however, whether the seizure was ordered after some kind of ‘judgement by peers’ had been given against Peter. After all, Magna Carta had laid down that no one was to be disseised save by ‘the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land’.  If there was no judgement, was Henry covered by the ‘law of the land’, which might be thought to sanction seizure when there was so blatant and basic a failure to fulfil  obligations?  The episode shows the power of Henry’s kingship when he chose to exercise it, for Peter was brought to heel and forced to offer his fine of 60 marks. On the other hand, the amount was hardly very large and one can imagine King John being far more punitive.  Henry himself,  admittedly for very different offences, had been far more punitive himself  in his treatment, at this time,  of John de Balliol and Robert de Ros for which see the fine of the month for last August.

This was not the first time Peter de Maulay had been in trouble with the king.  In January 1254, while in Gascony, Henry had sent a furious letter home to the queen, his regent in England (Close Rolls 12534, p.295). This complained that Peter had come out to Gascony late, and then done more harm than good. Indeed, he had insulted the king to his face, and tried to undermined the allegiance of  ‘the faithful men of England’  by persuading them to return home. Having, nonetheless, been placed in charge of fifty knights,  forming the king’s body guard, Peter  had gone off  without leave, placing the king in great peril. The queen and the home government were, therefore, ordered to ‘pay him back as you think expedient’. Given the depth of Henry’s anger, this seems a fairly mind form of punishment, and perhaps voices were already being raised on Peter’s behalf.  In the event, the letter was not sent, and Peter was soon back in favour. The storm in 1257 seems similarly to have passed away. Peter remained loyal during the subsequent civil war.  There are signs he was in financial difficulties, which perhaps explain why, in November 1258, he leased Doncaster and other properties for ten years to Simon de Montfort (Cal.Patent Rolls 1258-66, p.5)  Perhaps  Peter did not find  the great earl an altogether congenial tenant.

Peter de Maulay’s father, Peter de Maulay I,  had been one of King John’s most notorious foreign imports.  The reputed murderer of Arthur, his marriage to the Doncaster heiress had been one of the episodes which lay behind Magna Carta’s stipulation that heirs should not be ‘disparaged’ by being married to someone of a lower social class.  Henry III’s allegation that Peter de Maulay II, in Gascony, had tried to undermine the allegiance of the ‘fideles Angliae’,  suggests that he was now fully accepted as one of their number. Peter de Maulays were to continue, one after the other, as lords of Doncaster all the way down to 1438. A great deal about Peter de  Maulay I, may be found in N. Vincent’s Peter des Roches and D.A. Carpenter’s Minority of Henry III.

About another person making a fine  this week, much is known, although we are now at the level not of the baronage, but of the country gentry. Again, as in so much else, there is a Magna Carta angle. In the fine 27 down in the above image, and 27 in the translation, Thomas de Hotot offered one mark of gold (worth 10 marks of silver) to be exempted from assizes, which meant essentially he did not have to appear on juries. Thomas was lord of Clopton in Northamptonshire, and other properties, many of them acquired by his father Richard. It was Thomas who put together and partly wrote a fascinating register which contains  a family history,  surveys of  land, and records of  acquisitions. The register shows how politically aware were gentry lords for it also contained a text of the 1225 Magna Carta and the 1217 charter of the forest, as well as the charters in which King John made the kingdom a papal fief. The register is printed in A Northamptonshire Miscellany, ed. E. King (Northamptonshire Record society, xxxii, 1983).  The fine itself to be exempted from juries adds a little to our picture of Thomas’s world.  He had to come (or send) twice to court in connection with it.  The initial fine was made on 4 November 1257 at Westminster, while payment, (as a note  added to the fine shows)  was made to Peter de Rivallis, keeper of the wardrobe, at Windsor in the following January. It is a testimony to the business sense we see in the register, that Thomas paid in the whole of the one mark of gold in January, although only half was due then, the other half being due at Easter.

Thomas’s fine of gold shows that Henry was still trying to build up a gold treasure to finance the army which would help him conquer Sicily, a vain ambition if ever there was one, for which see the fine of the month for February 2012.

The ambition had recently become even vainer  because, while Henry was still receiving gold for his treasure, he was also spending it at a far quicker rate.  He had no alternative given his financial problems.  In order to spend it, Henry came up with a brilliant idea or so he thought. He would turn his treasure into his own gold coinage, the first minted in England since the Norman Conquest. The gold coin weighed two silver pennies,  and thus was worth twenty pence of silver. Unfortunately, the new coinage proved extremely unpopular.  In response, on Sunday 4 November, Henry summoned the mayor and citizens of London to come before him at the exchequer. He charged them on their allegiance to say if the new coinage was ‘of value for the common benefit of the kingdom or not’. The answer was that it was not!  This was partly because it was irrelevant for poor people whose total wealth was not worth one gold penny. It was also because (and here the goldsmith lobby spoke) because the sudden appearance of so much gold, as the king broke into his treasure to pay his expenses, was bringing down the value of the metal.  Henry, defiant, said he still wished the coinage to run, but it was not a success, which is why so few of his gold coins survive, making it the most valuable British coin at auction. The penny shows Henry sitting elegantly on his throne, crowned and holding orb and sceptre. As so often in Henry’s kingship, there was a glaring contrast between image and reality.

For an image of one of the coins, click here.

 

 

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 24 June to Saturday 7 July 1257

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

The fine rolls in these two weeks reveal Henry III’s itinerary. On 25 June, he was at Windsor, on 30 June at Reading and by 11 July at Woodstock, where (as other evidence shows) he had arrived on 3 July. For the membrane covering this period, click here.

Henry was, of course, on his way to Wales to lead a campaign against Llywelyn. He was now brought face to face with the impact this must have on his finances. On  25 June, the goldsmith, William of Gloucester  was ordered to send Henry, out of the silver  earmarked for the purchase of gold, 1000 marks now needed for the expenses of the household and the forthcoming campaign. So Henry was  having to break into the money set aside for acquiring the great treasure of gold needed to finance the army which would conquer Sicily.  The fine roll business on this front was equally depressing, for it showed all too clearly that Henry’s various expedients to extract fines of gold, and thus build up the gold treasure,  had run their course. In these weeks, not a single fine of gold was received. Given this situation,  Henry might have concluded that the Sicilian business should be brought to an end. That was not  his conclusion.  In late June,  Henry did send Simon de Montfort and Peter of Savoy on an important diplomatic mission.  They were to go first to king of France and continue the negotiations for a comprehensive peace. They were then to go on to the pope, having full power to renounce the Sicilian  throne.  In case, however,  they did not go to Rome, Henry (acting on the advice of the papal chaplain Rostand) set out detailed instructions for those who might go in their stead. These, in extraordinary, indeed excruciating detail, covered almost every conceivable way (none of them very practical) in which the pope might alleviate the current terms and thus enable Henry to prosecute the  project with some hope of success.  It appears all too clearly this is what Henry really wanted. The threat to renounce the whole business appears as no more than a bargaining device.

Away from these diplomatic fantasies, the fine rolls in these weeks give a fascinating insight into many aspects of English life.  Last week we say how there was a drop in the number of people coming to court to purchase the writs needed to initiate and further actions according to the common law. The numbers now recover. Between 25 June and 11 July, a three week period, thirty-six such writs were purchased. Clearly people were not put off by the king’s journey from Westminster to Woodstock.

 One  fine in this period (no.819 in the translation)  made on 30 June at  Reading, shows the property rights of women.  William of [East] Carlton in Norfolk had died leaving no sons and four daughters. These now became the heirs of his property,  which shows that this was a  society where women could inherit. Their rights were not, however, on a par with those of men in several ways. Firstly, a daughter only inherited if she had no brother. Secondly, whereas the eldest inheriting male would have all the inheritance,  this was not the case with the eldest inheriting female. Rather, if she had sisters,  the inheritance was split between them.  Thus in the Carlton case, all four daughters, Alice, Isabella, Agnes and Matilda, shared their father’s inheritance.  The marital state of the sisters was different, however, which makes another important point about the law with regard to women. In the case of the married sisters, Alice and Isabella, it was their husbands who did homage to the king, and had control of the lands. The unmarried sisters, however, Agnes and Matilda, did homage and controlled their land for themselves. Were they widows, or is this a rare example of inheriting spinsters? Fortunately, other information provides the answer to that question, which will be given in a future fine of the month.  One detail it reveals is that the bulk of the Carlton property was held by the service of carrying a hundred herrings in pies from the burgesses of Norwich to the king!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 17 June to Saturday 23 June 1257

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

On Thursday 21 June, at Westminster, Henry III ordered ‘a certain standard of red cendal and gold brocade’ to be offered at the shrine of Edward the Confessor in the Abbey ‘as is customary  when he is about to go on campaign’. The same day Henry left Westminster. He was setting out on a slow journey to Chester where he had ordered his military forces to rendezvous.  At last Henry had decided to do something about the rebellion, as he would have seen it, of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

In the previous winter Llywelyn had overrun Henry’s ‘conquests’ as he called them in North Wales between the Conwy and the Dee, leaving only the new castles of Deganwy and Disserth holding out. In the spring he had defeated the native rulers of Powys, who were Henry’s allies.  For Henry, all this was an unwelcome distraction.  He had tried to conciliate Llywelyn.  Alternatively, he had hoped that Edward, his son and heir, and now the ruler of the crown’s dominions in Wales,  could sort thing out. Henry’s eyes were set on quite other things. There were the negotiations with France for a permanent peace. In this week, on 22 June, now at Windsor, Henry  had given full power to his envoys the bishop of Worcester and Hugh Bigod, counselled by Simon de Montfort and Peter of Savoy, to agree a peace. Three days later, Henry ordered a ship to be found for them all to cross at Dover. And with peace, and with his brother, Richard of Cornwall now installed as king of Germany (Henry was careful to keep him informed of the negotiations), might not the Sicilian project take on a new lease of life? The last thing Henry wanted now was to have to dig into his hard saved gold treasure to finance a campaign in Wales.  But the massacre of English forces near Cardigan at the start of June had given him no alternative. 

The fine rolls in this week have  eleven entries, all about the purchase of common law writs. It will be fascinating to see how business is affected by Henry’s journey and military campaign in Wales. 

For the membrane covering this week where one can see Henry’s move from Westminster to Windsor, click here.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 3 June to Saturday 16 June 1257

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

King Henry III spent these two weeks at Westminster. He had, so Matthew Paris tells us, fallen ill.  He continued to grieve over  the death of his daughter Katherine, and he was anxious about Queen Eleanor, who lying sick at Windsor.  There were also, so  Paris thought,  two political problems which depressed Henry’s health. One was the state of the Sicilian project, which seemed to be existing on borrowed time, given that the deadline for paying all the money owed the pope and despatching an army to Italy had expired the previous Michaelmas. Henry, as we have seen in earlier blogs, had thought of pulling out altogether but had then unwisely decided to continue. In these weeks, there were earnest discussions about sending Peter of Savoy, Simon de Montfort and the bishop of Worcester (all now present at court), on an important diplomatic mission. They were to go first to France to push on the negotiations for a permanent peace, and then proceed to the papal court to seek alleviation of the Sicilian terms.  On 15 June Henry took out a huge loan of 20,000 marks (£13,333) from Florentine merchants, half of which was to support his envoys at the papal court.

The other political problem centred on the situation in Wales.  What had previously been a distraction  had now become a disaster. Earlier in the year the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, had attacked Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn and Gruffudd of Bromfield, the native rulers of Powys and Henry’s allies. On 16 June Henry granted them lands in England as compensation for their losses.  Up till now, however, Henry had hoped that Edward, his son and heir, as lord of Chester, and the royal lands in Wales, would be able to deal with the situation himself. This was no longer the case. On Saturday 2 June a substantial force, commanded by  Edward’s lieutenant, the  trusted knight, Stephen Bauzan, was massacred in South Wales. On 18 June Henry made a concession to Stephen’s widow.  He also began to contemplate summoning an army and  going to  Wales himself.

The fine roll business in these two weeks is interesting, although it can have given Henry little comfort. The fines  of gold from which he hoped to amass his gold treasure to fund his Sicilian army, were still coming in, but hardly at a pace to alter the  situation. Henry had no reserves to speak of,  as the great Florentine loan taken out this week showed.  At least the king’s justice was in demand. Indeed in these two weeks no less than 54 writs were purchased to initiate or further legal actions according to the common law. 

For the membrane covering this week, click here.

What was going to happen in Wales? Would Henry have to go there? What would the effect be on fine rolls business? Read future blogs to find out!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 6 May to Saturday 12 May 1257

Friday, May 11th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Merton priory.  It was a week in which he made a momentous decision, namely to continue with the Sicilian affair. We have seen that a couple of weeks earlier, Henry had been entertaining serious doubts about whether it should proceed, not surprisingly given the opposition in parliament. Now, however, on 10 May, he wrote to the pope saying that he had made effective arrangements for sending out to him ‘a noble and vigorous captain’ and a messenger equipped with a great sum of money. He had done this in the presence of the archbishop of  Messina, who was now returning to Rome, and would be able to tell the pope all about it.   The intention presumably was for the captain to head an army composed of mercenaries hired by the  money.  Yet  of the ‘effective’ arrangements,  there is no sign.   Perhaps Henry was buoyed up  be hearing  that Richard of Cornwall  had arrived safely in Germany.  He gave a robe to the messenger who brought the news on 9 May. Perhaps he was also thinking of the £52,000 offered by an ecclesiastical council, which had  met in London in early May, on condition that the pope ended all future Sicilian taxation.   But this was money controlled by the pope not the king.  It was not using these resources that Henry was supposed to sustain  the  captain and the army  which  was to conquer Sicily.  Henry was not uncounselled at this time.  With him at Merton on 12 May were Simon de Montfort, Richard de Clare earl of Glouceser, Peter of Savoy, William de Valence and John Mansel. Whether they all agreed with the decision we may doubt. Montfort was in any case  preoccupied with his own affairs and on 13 May extracted £200 from the king, this to be followed by another £500 a week later.  One cannot help thinking that,  forced to make up  his mind by the departure of the archbishop of Messina, Henry had taken a decision as impulsive as it was irrational.  The dangers of proceeding were underlined on 10 May itself, for it was on this very day that Henry was giving support to  captain who really did exist. This was John de Grey appointed by the Lord Edward to head an army against  Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in Wales.

The fine rolls in this week continue to underline the unpopularity of Henry’s drive to force men to take up knighthood.  Although he was in Holy Orders,  Baldwin de Kalna still had to offer the king half a mark of gold (which he paid later into the wardrobe) in order to avoid the honour.  The rolls also show, however, how the king could help those of small account.  On 12 May, Robert de Haya, who owed the king 6s 8d for writ, was allowed to pay the debt of at 40d a year ‘on account of his poverty’.

Next week, Henry returned to Westminster.        

For the membrane covering this week, click here.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Saturday 22 April to Sunday 28 April 1257

Friday, April 27th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Merton priory, which was both an honour and a burden for the monks.  The fine rolls  have a fascinating variety of business. The king  issued twelve writs to initiate or further common law legal actions.   He also accepted  six fines of gold, and another of 50 marks of silver, which he earmarked for the purchase of gold. The silver was offered by the prioress and nuns of Wherwell abbey in Hampshire for custody of their abbey during the vacancy which would be caused by the imminent resignation of their abbess Euphemia.  Amongst the fines of gold, were two, of  one mark of gold apiece, from Gerard de Evinton and Henry of Pembridge to secure their appointments  as respectively sheriffs of Surrey/Sussex and Hereford.  The amounts involved were hardly large (a mark of gold was the equivalent of ten marks of silver) and reflect how little financial gain could be made from the office of sheriff now that the king was taking so large a slice of the profits for himself.  Two fines of gold were from Lincolnshire men seeking inquiries into the value of their lands. This was because they maintained they were being forced by the sheriff to take up knighthood as having an income of £15 a year whereas in fact, so they said, their income was less. Next week we shall see the results of such inquiries.  The whole policy  of enforcing knighthood in this way was tremendously unpopular.  Designed as it was to help fund the army Henry III was to supposed to send to conquer Sicily, it meant gentry lords throughout the country suffered from the madness of this policy.  In fact, after his failure to secure funds for Sicily at the recent parliament, Henry was at last beginning to have doubts about the enterprise, not before time.  On 24 April from Merton, ‘because he is not sure whether the business of Sicily is to proceed or not’, he ordered Master Rostand, who was collecting the Sicilian taxation from the church, not to make any further payments to anyone on pain of losing all he possessed in the realm. What this meant was that Rostand was no longer to pass the proceeds of the tax to the numerous Italian merchants, who had loaned money to Henry and the papacy,  or not until, as Henry said,  it was clear the business could proceed ‘with some effect’. Since the tax had been authorised by the papacy, Henry hardly had the authority to issue an order of this kind, and its effects are unfair. The Sicilian farce still had a long way to run. Next week Henry moved to Windsor castle.

The Wherwell fine is seventeen from the top on the membrane covering this week.

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!

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’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 March to Saturday 24 March 1257

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Henry III’s great parliament opened on or soon after 18 March. On 18th March itself  the witnesses to a royal charter were merely the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, and an assortment of household officials. But in the ensuing days, charters were witnessed  by Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, Peter of Savoy, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Worcester and Norwich.  The stated purpose of the parliament was to say good bye to Richard of Cornwall who was about to leave England for his coronation as king of Germany. On 27 March Henry sent an order about the equipping of 100 ships gathering at Yarmouth for the voyage.  No more, however,  is heard of Henry’s enthusiastic but impractical  idea of actually accompanying his brother.  The second purpose of the parliament was to consider Henry’s appeals for funds to support his Sicilian project, the project that is to put Edmund his second son on the throne of Sicily.  To stir the emotions,  Henry  (according to Matthew Paris) paraded the twelve year old Edmund in Sicilian robes before the assembly  and begged it not to let him down.

Henry could take comfort from the fact that the parliament brought a large increase in fine roll business. Whereas in the previous week there had been only three items of business, in this week there were seventeen. These included thirteen fines for writs to initiate or further common law legal actions, and four fines of gold. Two of the latter were for respite of knighthood, one for exemption from jury service, and one, worth two mark of gold or twenty marks of silver, from the Kentish knight, Nicholas of Lenham, for a charters conceding him a market and fair, and a free warren. As the charters, issued on 18 March show the free warren (essentially a private hunting park) was to be for all of Nicholas’ s manors which included Lenham and Lamberhurst in Kent and Redenhall in Norfolk.  The market and fair were to be at Hunton in Kent. The establishment was not, however, very successful.  An inquiry of 1312 said the market had never been held and the fair was only worth 3d a year. See the Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs, edited by Samantha Letters. Nicholas’s fine is the twentieth entry from bottom the bottom of this membrane (click here). It would be interesting to know whether Nicholas of Lenham  attended the parliament and saw Edmund in his Sicilian robes. Would such tactics work?  Read next week’s blog to find out.

For this parliament, see J.R. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament 924-1327, pp.471-2.

Nicholas of Lenham, it may be noted, fought against the king at the battle of Lewes.