Posts Tagged ‘St Albans’

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: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63514&strquery=jurors  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 11 March to Saturday 17 March 1257

Friday, March 16th, 2012

In this week Henry completed the tour we discussed in the blog for last week. On Saturday 11 March he began the day  with his half brother, William de Valence, at Hertford, and then moved on to Waltham abbey. He remained there till 14 or 15 March when he returned to Westminster for the great parliament which was to open on the eighteenth.  In terms of fine roll business, indeed of all business, this seems a very quiet week. Indeed, only three items of fine roll business are dated to it.  One suspects that everything was hanging fire till the parliament and that those wishing to make fines with the king, that is offer money to him for concessions and favours, had decided to wait until he returned to Westminster.  It may be remembered that last week when the masters of Oxford University came before the king at St Albans, he referred them to the forthcoming parliament. It will be interesting to see if business does indeed pick up next week.

 In one of the fines of this week,  made at Waltham on Tuesday 13 March, Hugh de Dyve offered half a mark of gold ‘for quittance of assizes’ , which meant he was freed from having to appear on juries.  The concession was embodied in a letter patent witnessed by the king at Waltham on the following day.  Henry III made a good deal of money from selling such exemptions  and they made a significant contribution to his gold treasure. They were, however, unpopular, and indeed featured in the  ‘the Petition of the Barons’, presented at the revolutionary Oxford parliament in 1258. It was there claimed that, as a result of the king granting such quittances, so many knights were free from appearing on grand assize juries (which had to be composed entirely of knights) that it was impossible to assemble them.  Today  one suspects that a good deal of money could likewise be raised by selling exemptions from jury service, with much the same damage to the legal processes.

Hugh de Dive’s fine appears 28 entries down on the membrane of the fine roll.

For the selling of exemptions from jury service see a famous article by Scott Waugh ‘Reluctant knights and jurors: respites, exemptions and public obligations in the reign of Henry III’, Speculum, 58 (1983), 937-86.

One footnote. It will be noticed that now we have passed the leap year of 2012, the calendar is exactly the same in 1257 as in 2012.

So on to the parliament.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 September to 24 September 1261

Monday, September 19th, 2011

For Henry this was another week at Windsor castle.  Wednesday 21 September, as we saw in the last blog, was supposed to be the day when three knights from each county were to come to Windsor rather than to the baronial assembly at St Albans.  While there is no hard evidence about who attended either meeting, the fine rolls do contain a remarkable, and hitherto unknown, suggestion that at least two knights did come to Windsor from Norfolk. The same entry also shows that Henry’s sheriff was at least able to exercise some authority in the county.

Since the start of August  Henry’s sheriff in Norfolk and Suffolk, Philip Marmion, had been challenged by two rival ‘keepers’ set up by the earls of  Norfolk, Gloucester and other magnates.  It was said later that, as a result, he had been unable to hold  county courts. Nonetheless, during this week  the burgesses of Norwich  were willing and able to lay a complaint  before Henry III. Their grievance was against the sheriff so he evidently had control of the town and presumably its great castle.  The burgesses claimed that they had the privilege of answering directly either to the king’s judges or the exchequer for the chattels of those convicted of felony in the town. Instead, they now alleged,  the sheriff was demanding the chattels so he could answer for them himself. (The immediate issue was over the chattels of someone who had  committed suicide through drowning.)  In response to this complaint, Henry ordered the sheriff to take two local knights, William of Stalham and Stephen of Reedham, with him, and  inquire into the value of the chattels. He was then to allow the burgesses to answer for them as they requested.

How did Henry know that these two knights could be trusted at a time when his rule in Norfolk was under  the severest challenge? The most natural answer is that they had both turned up at Windsor for the parliament on 21 September.  Quite probably they had themselves brought the burgesses’ complaint.  It would be interesting to do more research on the careers of the two men. The electronic search facility to the fine rolls, here so useful, shows at once that Reedham purchased a series of writs in the 1250s and 1260s to initiate and further law cases. Stalham secured an exemption from having to sit on juries. He was certainly a leading figure in the  Norfolk for he was one of the four knights appointed under the reforms of 1258 to inquire into abuses in the county. There is also some indication that he was connected with the earl of Norfolk, Roger Bigod. If so, his attendance at Windsor may suggest the latter’s opposition to the king at this time was not root and branch.

Apart from these encouraging signs from Norfolk, the fine rolls for this week suggest little of comfort to the king. There was a decline  to a low thirteen in the number of common law writs purchased. Again, as in the week before,  not one came from Berkshire and the surrounding counties. Meanwhile, the king promised John Mansel, who was in charge of the Tower of London, to meet the  great expenses he was incurring ‘because of the dissension between the king and his barons’.

In all he was enduring, Henry had the support of his Queen Eleanor, as a writ from this week on the fine rolls shows.   On 24 September, ‘at the instance of his beloved queen’, he made a concession to Salomon l’Evesque (the bishop), a member of a Jewish family, which she often protected. (See Margaret Howell’s book Eleanor of Provence, p.277).

Towards the end of this week, Henry made the decision to leave Windsor. For where he went, see next week’s blog.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 September to Saturday 18 September 1261

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Henry remained all this week at Windsor. He had heard that Simon de Montfort,  Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and the bishop of Worcester, Montfort’s old friend, Walter de Cantilupe, had summoned three knights from each county to meet them at St Albans on 21 September to  discuss the common affairs of the realm.  Their aim manifestly was to rally support for the insurgency, and then perhaps to  advance on Windsor itself, not twenty-five miles away. Faced with this threat, on Sunday 11 September, Henry took action. He did not, however, bravely march out of Windsor towards St Albans  to  confront this usurpation of royal authority, which was what the summons amounted to. Instead,   he ordered, by letters, his sheriffs to ensure that  that the knights came on 21 September  to Windsor instead. There they would take part in peace negotiations between Henry and the nobles. They would see from the results, Henry averred, how he intended nothing save what would make ‘for the honour and common utility of our kingdom’.

There is much that is mysterious about  this famous episode. We do not know how the three knights were chosen in the first place, nor indeed whether any came  either to St Albans or to Windsor.  The rival summonses, however, reveal the political importance of the knights, and mark a  stage in the process by which they  appeared in  parliament.  Henry’s assembly indeed could be regarded as a parliament. So much is revealed in a letter, probably written this week, by the justiciar, Philip Basset, to the chancellor, Walter of Merton, a letter which also shows the efforts to ensure that individual barons as well  attended the royal rather than the Montfortian assembly.  Basset had learnt that Roger de Somery,  lord of Dudley in the west midlands, intended to go to St Albans if he did not receive a letter of summons from the king. He, therefore, urged Merton to get the king  to write to Somery summoning him to his forthcoming ‘parliament’. Basset added helpfully that Somery was at his manor Berkshire manor of Bradfield. Basset’s plea gives an interesting insight into  Henry’s own involvement in affairs. Basset clearly thought the decision  had to be made by the king, and that Merton, as chancellor, could not simply write on his own authority.

Philip Basset was clearly at this time not at court, and was presumably trying to uphold the king’s authority in the provinces.  Henry, himself, as we have said, had clearly decided not to go out himself to confront the rebellion. There is, however, a sign in this week that he was contemplating a move.  On 11 September, the day he wrote to the sheriffs summoning the knights to Windsor, he also ordered repairs to Oxford Castle, Woodstock, and his Northamptonshire houses at King’s Cliffe and Geddington to be ready by Michaelmas. This may indicate that Henry intended to  be there at  the end of the month.

The fine rolls of this week shed interesting light on the situation.   The number of writs purchased to initiate or further the common law legal procedures picked up from the low of the week before. They numbered a respectable thirty-two.  It is very noticeable, however, that not one of these came from  Berkshire, or from the surrounding counties of Buckinghamshire, Surrey, and Hampshire.  The one from Middlesex was cancelled because the purchaser, for an unexplained reason,  did not have the writ.  It seems highly likely that this reflects  the disintegration of royal authority in the home counties.  

One pleasure for Henry in these traumatic times was to exercise in  Windsor great park. That alone made Windsor a much more congenial a place to stay than the Tower of London.  But how secure was the park?  The fine rolls show the issue came up this week, perhaps as a result of Henry’s own inspection.  On 18 September, the constable of Windsor, was ordered to sell the alder and birch in the park, and spend the resulting money making good the defects in the park’s  enclosure.

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 September to Saturday 10 September 1261

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Henry spent all of this week at Windsor castle.  The pressure was mounting. He must have during the the week that  Simon de Montfort, Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and the bishop of Worcester, had summoned three knights from each  county to meet them on 21 September at St Albans, less than twenty-five miles away. Would the upshot of that assembly be outright defiance of the king and the start of  civil war?  The parlous political situation impacted on the fine rolls. Only three writs to initiate or further the common law legal actions were purchased in this week, as opposed to thirty-six the week before.  Even allowing for problems of dating these writs exactly, this small  number  surely reflects the dangers of travelling to the king.

It is good to see that during this difficult time, Henry had with him that best of all his counsellors, John Mansel. Mansel had returned to court from  supervising the building works at his Sussex castle and endeavouring to win over to the king the hearts and minds of those in the area. On or around 8 September, he authorised a writ in favour of the Lincolnshire knight Ralph Darcy and his wife Philippa. After an investigation of their resources, they were to be given reasonable terms for the payment of the debts they owed Jews in Lincoln, Stamford and London.  Later  Ralph was turned into an outright enemy of the king by a far bigger concession over his  Jewish debts made by Simon de Montfort. What else could Henry do to shore up support in 1261, faced with the coming assembly at St Albans. Read next week’s blog.