Posts Tagged ‘Simon de Montfort’

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 Sunday 15 April to Saturday 21 April 1257

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

During this week, Henry III left Westminster to spend some time at Merton priory in Surrey. From there he was to move on to Windsor, before returning to Merton,  arriving back at Westminster in the middle of May. These kind of trips out and around the capital, taking in Windsor, and either  Merton  to the south, or St Albans to the north, were characteristic of Henry’s itinerary.  Westminster, with its palace, patron saint and abbey, was his favourite residence, quite apart from being, or perhaps in spite of being, the seat of government.  But Henry also delighted in Windsor. He had made it  into a luxurious palace where his queen and children were based. A visit to Windsor fitted well with a stay at Merton or St Albans where Henry could be sustained both by the prayers of the monks and their food and drink.  How one wishes, there was a Merton chronicle to match the picture  of Henry’s visits to St Albans given by Matthew Paris.  At least the witness lists to royal charters show who was with Henry at Merton, and they included both his brother in law, Simon de Montfort, and his half brother, William de Valence.

The week has a fascinating variety of material on the fine rolls.  On 18 April at Merton, the twenty-four jurors of Romney marsh (the men elected to keep the marsh) fined in one mark of gold for having the judge, Henry of Bath, hear and determine the disputes between them and the men of the marsh about the repair of the marsh’s embankments and drains. (No. 554 in the calendar).   As Hasted puts it in his History of Kent, this led to  ‘the ordinances of Henry de Bathe, from which laws the whole realm of England take directions in relation to the sewers’:  ‘Romney Marsh’, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (1799), pp. 465-473. URL:  Date accessed: 15 April 2012.

The king’s financial needs led to further measures for the selling of his woods in order to raise 3000 to 4000 marks. The treasurer of the exchequer, Philip Lovel, was too busy to attend to this, and so Adam de Grenville was appointed in his place. (No.565).

The next entries (nos.566-7), dated to 20 April at Merton, concerned the appointment of the  Yorkshire magnate, John de Eyville, as chief justice of the royal forest north of the Trent, which meant the northern forests were under his control.  John fined in two marks of gold for the office and agreed to pay 10 marks more a year for it than his predecessor,  terms which hardly seem extortionate.  John was to be a leading rebel in the civil war, but clearly he had not been excluded from office and favour beforehand.

Finally, to return to lampreys. In entry no.557, the exchequer was ordered to allow the king’s bailiffs of Gloucester £25 10d which they had spent buying  and transporting lampreys and other things for the king and queen during Lent.  This entry was cancelled, the reason (not stated) being that it should  have been placed on the liberate rolls. There more detail was given. The writ to the exchequer was issued on 19 April from Merton. 191 lampreys and 6 shad had been sent to the king and 55 lampreys and 2 shad  to the queen. Taking no account of the shad, this suggests a lamprey cost around 2 shillings or 24 pence. Given that a penny was enough to supply a pauper with food for one day, lampreys were evidently  expensive fish.

The cancelled entry about lampreys is seventeen from the bottom on the membrane covering this week; that about Romney marsh twenty from the bottom.

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.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 February to Saturday 24 February 1257

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

At the start of this week, or possibly at the end of last, Henry moved from Westminster to Windsor, going by way of Merton priory in Surrey.  On Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, his Lenten fast began, which at the very least must have meant a fish diet.   Henry  remained pre-occupied by the Sicilian project, the project that is to place Edmund, his second son, on the throne of Sicily.  In this week he gave 100 marks for the support of  Henry, the brother of the king of Castile. Henry was in England and being canvassed  as the man who might lead the army to conquer Sicily from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler. In this week, King  Henry also appointed Simon de Montfort  as his ambassador to negotiate a peace with the king of France. This too was linked to the Sicilian project since, without such a peace, a passage of an English army through France on its way to Sicily would never be permitted.  Montfort was at court at Windsor during the week and, preparatory to his mission, gained permission both to make his will and to receive his inheritance in France if the king of France would grant it to him.

It is a curious week for the fine rolls because between 16 and 26 February only six items of business were enrolled upon them.  Since a new membrane was started in the course of the week and an old one finished, one wonders whether some business was lost in the transition. By far the most striking entry – the last in the image above – concerned Amice countess of Devon. On 19 February the king made her a life grant of the royal manor of Melksham in Wiltshire in return for the traditional annual payment or farm of  a little over £48. This was a generous concession because when Melksham had been valued  in 1250 its farm had been set at £140. (See CFR 1250-1, no.1107).  Amice  was a woman of the highest status.  She was the daughter of Gilbert de Clare earl of Gloucester and his wife, Isabel,  daughter of the great William Marshal, earl of Pembroke. She was the widow of Baldwin de Redvers, earl of Devon, who had died in 1245. Since then she  had resisted pressure to take a second husband. Amice was protected by Magna Carta which laid down that no widow could be made re-marry.  She was also protected by her close relationship with Queen Eleanor and her party of Savoyards. In this year,  Amice’s son and heir,  Baldwin, was to marry a daughter of the queen’s uncle Thomas of Savoy.  The gift of Melksham to Amice was made at Windsor, Eleanor’s chief base. Almost certainly she had a hand in it, as perhaps did Peter of Savoy, who was also at court this week. Doubtless Amice was there too, as she had been at the start of January, when she received a new year’s gift of  six deer from the king.  Queen Eleanor continued to keep her eye on Melksham. In 1258,  the £48 annual farm was used to support her lady Willelma, ‘who from the childhood of the queen has served her and now, wearied in that service and worn out by old age and sickness, does not wish to follow the queen, but proposes for her better quiet  to dwell in the abbey of Lacock or some other religious house’. (See p.105 of Margaret Howell’s, Eleanor of Provence).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 February to Saturday 17 February 1257

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Westminster.  At its start, the bishop of London, the bishop of Lincoln, the elect of Salisbury, Richard earl of Cornwall, and Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester all appeared at court. On 11 February Simon obtained a recognition that custody of lands in Toddington in Bedfordshire  belonged to him rather than the king. Toddington, has of course, given its name to a service station on the M1 from which there are pleasant views over surrounding fields. Simon held the manor as part of Eleanor’s dower from the lands of her first husband, William Marshal earl of Pembroke.  With major players at court, Henry now took an important decision. On Monday 12 February he sent out the writs summoning the lay and ecclesiastical magnates to  meet him in London at mid Lent (18 March).  The writs announced that Richard was to leave immediately afterwards to take up his kingship in Germany. Henry, therefore, wished to have discussion with his prelates and magnates ‘about great and arduous affairs touching ourselves and our kingdom for the common utility of you and us and all our kingdom’.  These affairs included, although it was not said, the Sicilian enterprise.  The archbishop of Messina had now arrived in England from the papal court to stir Henry into action. On 15 February Henry ordered the exchequer to give him fifteen marks to distribute to knights and others coming with messages from Sicily.  Action for Henry meant  more than anything else securing a tax from parliament. Without it there was no hope of him  ever sending an army to Sicily to wrest control of the kingdom.  Making the case for such a tax would therefore by high on the agenda of the parliament summoned for mid Lent.

The fine rolls reflect Henry’s need for taxation to fill his coffers in this  Magna Carta world. On 13 February, Henry took the homage of Henry of Lexington (or Laxton), the bishop of Lincoln, for the lands he had inherited from his elder brother, the former royal steward, John of Lexington. The bishop’s relief or inheritance tax was £5, which was strictly in accordance with  Magna Carta. This laid down £5 as the relief for a knight’s fee which was all that John held from the king. John’s estates, however, were far greater than this single fee. Orders to put the bishop in possession of John’s  properties were sent to the king’s officials in London and six counties.  A relief of much larger size might seem to have been justified but was prevented by Magna Carta. The fine rolls of this week also underlined the necessity of a tax  in another way for there were only two of the fines of gold from which, as we have seen, Henry was hoping to support his Sicilian army. If this pattern continued it would be worrying indeed.  See future blogs to find out what happened to the gold treasure.

For the bishop of Lincoln’s fine, count up eleven from bottom on the membrane and no.434 in the Calendar.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Monday 22 January to Saturday 27 January 1257

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Perspicacious readers will already have appreciated  why this week’s blog needs to run  from Monday not Sunday. Last week’s blog mistakenly followed the calendar for 2012 not 1257 and so ran from Sunday 15 January to Saturday 21 January instead of Sunday 14 January to Saturday 20 January. In this blog we are now back on the true 1257 course.

Henry III began this week at Westminster and then, between 24 and 27 January  moved to Windsor.  Once there, he took steps to see the five chaplains  serving the castle’s chapels and the four serjeants in the garrison received their pay.

The fine rolls show the raising of the gold treasure in full swing. In these six days no less than eleven men offered the king half a mark of gold apiece for exemption from knighthood.  How effectively the sheriffs were putting pressure throughout the country on men to assume the title  or (which was preferable)  pay not to do so, is shown by the fact that these fines came from a wide sweep of counties:  Devon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire,   Hampshire, Sussex,  Cambridgeshire,   Suffolk, Leicestershire,  Rutland, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  The gold was intended to  finance an expedition to Sicily, and this week Henry, the brother of the king of Castile, who was being mooted as the possible commander of the army, was allowed to hunt at the royal manor of Havering in Essex.

Other fines of gold came from Robert of Canterbury for a die in the king’s mint at Canterbury and from  Walter de la More of Buckinghamshire to  have a pardon for a homicide. This second concession (no.383 in the Calendar)  was made at the instance of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.  (For the entry see twenty items down in the image of the membrane:  Montfort also secured in this week a charter from the king allowing him to set up a new park at his manor of Shipley in Northumberland.  Since there is no reference to a fine for this on the fine rolls, he got the concession free of charge. These favours are useful reminders of how far Montfort was back on good terms with the king before the revolution of 1258.  He was not at court this week,  but his close associate (although no relation),  Peter de Montfort,  a member of the king’s council, witnesses the Shipley charter  and it was probably  through Peter that the concessions were obtained. Other witnesses were Peter of Savoy, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence which shows how very prominent the king’s foreign relatives were at court. In 1258 that court was to break apart.

One small point of chancery practice or mispractice. No 380 in the Calendar (seventeen items down in the image) is an interesting example of an  entry being enrolled late and out of sequence.  It is a concession to Philip Basset, witnessed at Windsor on 7 November 1256. Note also the smaller hand and lighter ink from the entries before and after.  This hand and ink, however, is not found in the marginal annotation to the entry, which looks the same as those to the other entries,  a  sure sign these marginalia were done later all at the same time.  I  assume, incidentally,  that when the immediately following entry (no.381) is said to be ‘witnessed as above’, that refers back to the 27 January of entry no.375 not 7 November of  380.

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 4 December to Saturday 10 December 1261

Monday, December 5th, 2011

At last for Henry, victory, or at least an approach to victory.  On 21 November, at Kingston on Thames,  his envoys and those of the baronial insurgents had agreed the terms of peace. But would the barons, for whom the envoys were acting, actually accept them? Since 21 November Henry had waited anxiously in the Tower of London to find out, hoping for peace but still preparing for war. The answer came this week. In London, on Monday 5 December, according to the Oseney abbey chronicler, Henry and the barons put their seals to ‘the form of peace’. Two days later, on Wednesday 7 December, Henry proclaimed it in letters sent through the counties of England. The letters were in French, the vernacular language of the nobility and gentry, and thus were intended to be read out direct, without any need of translation from the Latin.  Henry declared that a conflict had arisen between himself and his barons and others ‘by reason of the covenants made between us and them’ in 1258. In order to bring the quarrels to an end, a ‘mise’ (meaning here a process or arbitration) had been agreed ‘by common accord between us and them’. The judgement  was to be pronounced by the following Pentecost, and meanwhile Henry had given ‘them’ his peace.  The proclamation did not go into details about the ‘mise’ and indeed no official text of it survives.  However, as we have seen in other blogs, it certainly involved  Henry making a major concession over how the sheriffs were to be chosen. But it also left him in control of central government. The cardinal and most obnoxious  feature of the 1258 reforms was thus  overthrown. Nor, given the form  of the arbitration, was there any likelihood  of it being revived.

Henry’s victory, however, was far from assured, as a second letter issued on 7 December showed.  Here he pardoned all the  trespasses of his opponents, but went on to name fourteen men who needed to put their seals to the mise by Epiphany (6 January) if they were to benefit from  it.  The fourteen, then, had so far resisted the terms of the peace, which  helps explains the long interval between its negotiation on 21 November and proclamation on 7 December.  The fourteen were formidable. The list began with Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, and Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, and also included John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, and  Roger de Mortimer.  The fine rolls themselves in this period still reflect an uncertain situation.  The dated entries a come in  haphazard order with one  from 9 December coming after one for 23 December. See (the first and third entries).

Yet Henry seemed confident.  On 8 December he took steps to pay off the foreign mercenaries whom he was  gathering across the Channel. And, on the same day,  he at last moved from the Tower to Westminster. Henry had not been to Westminster since his fleeting visit on 13 October to celebrate the translation of Edward the Confessor.  After the ceremony, he  had fled to the  Tower and remained there.  That he now could now leave the fortress for the  palace is a sure sign he felt the immediate crisis was at an end.  He doubted whether  the  recalcitrant barons would act together.  And they were only fourteen. Clearly a far larger group  had sealed the agreement. One of these was Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, to whom Henry made various concessions (including a gift of deer) on 3 and 4 December. The fine rolls themselves show Henry, around 10 December, alleviating the debts of the great northern baron, his ‘beloved and faithful’, Gilbert de Gant.  See (sixth entry from bottom).

Above all, Henry had won over Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford.  His desertion was seen as the crucial factor by all the contemporary commentators.  He too received a concession from the king on 11 December.  Henry, therefore, with his brother Richard of Cornwall, and  Richard de Clare on side had the support of the two most powerful English barons. He was also strengthened on 10 December  by the receipt from Louis IX of several thousand pounds due under the Treaty of Paris.

Would Henry’s confidence be justified? What was Simon de Montfort going to do? Read next week’s blog 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.