Posts Tagged ‘St Edward the Confessor’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 16 September to Saturday 23 September 1257

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

During this week, Henry III continued his slow journey back from north Wales to Westminster.  The fine rolls show him on 20 September at Wenlock  (Much Wenlock),  where he pardoned one of his servants, Elyas Marshal, a debt on account of his good severance in Wales.  The rolls next show Henry, on 24 September, at Worcester.   For the membrane covering the period, click here. The entry at Wenlock is seventeen down.

Henry had, therefore, travelled from north to south down the length of the Welsh border. He was thus able to monitor the situation in the March as well taking as good a route back to Westminster as any.  In fact, Henry had plenty of time before his arrival at Westminster, where he wanted to be by the feast of Edward the Confessor on 13 October. Other evidence shows he stayed for much of the period between 12 and 20 September at Much Wenlock, where doubtless he enjoyed  the hospitality provided by the monks of the priory. Very few people sought Henry out in the Welsh borderland to buy the usual writs to initiate or further the common law legal actions. Most of those who did come were locals. Indeed between 15 and 24 September, of the ten writs purchased, one was for Lincolnshire, one for Staffordshire, one for Herefordshire, and all the rest for Shropshire.      

Nest week, the king reaches his palace of Woodstock.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 9 September to Saturday 15 September 1257

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

During this week, Henry began his journey home from Wales. His aim was to be at Westminster for the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor on 13 October. The journey  disrupted fine roll business because none at all is recorded between 30 August, when Henry was at Deganwy, and 13 September when he was at Chester.  At Chester, however,  between the 13 and 15 September, there was a revival of the normal judicial business with half a dozen writs to initiate or further common law legal actions being purchased.  There was also one other highly profitable transaction, although it also pointed forward to the revolution of 1258.  At Chester, the king reached an agreement with the executors of the late bishop of Ely, William of Kilkenny.  In return,  amongst other things, for the promise of 2000 marks (£1333), he allowed them to have all the corn due to be harvested from the late bishop’s manors. A marginal note added later records what Henry did with this extremely valuable windfall. The executors gave 1000 marks of it to the Lord Edward at the Temple in London at the feast of St Martin 1257. This money was then used (although the note does not say so) to help finance Edward’s war in Wales, which was fair enough. It is the fate of the other 1000 which was extraordinary. This, the note indicates,  was given on 9 April 1258 to the queen’s uncle, Thomas of Savoy. The date is immensely significant because it was right at the start of the revolutionary parliament which was to strip the king of power.  News of the gift evidently  reverberated round the parliament for it soon reached an appalled Matthew Paris at St Albans.  For many it epitomised the king’s profligate generosity to his foreign relatives.  What made it worse was that Thomas was not even any longer a useful ally.  He had arrived in England on a litter, his health broken down and his ambitions in tatters, after  his capture and imprisonment by the citizens of Turin.  Although the Savoyards were not themselves attacked in 1258 (the fire was concentrated on the king’s Poitevin half brothers), the gift  to Thomas, at such a sensitive  time, must have contributed, in no small measure,  to the general dissatisfaction  expressed at the parliament with Henry’s rule. One final point. As far as can be seen,  the exchequer was never informed of the debt owed by the executors of the late bishop of Ely. It was dealt with entirely by the wardrobe. This is why the note of payment was made in the margin of the fine rolls. This by passing of the exchequer was something else the reformers intended to stop. 

For the entry, click here (and count down nine entries from the top).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 August to Saturday 8 September 1257

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

These were the weeks of Henry III’s campaign in Wales, all be it a campaign of a very static nature. Its basic outline can be seen from the fine rolls, if you look at the relevant membrane. Here, five items from the bottom, is a letter witnessed by the king at Chester on 18 August: T’ R’ ap’ Cestr xviii. die Aug, that is  Teste Rege apud Cestr’ xviii. die Augusti. The next entry, four from bottom, the letter  is witnessed by the king ‘in castris apud Gannok’ (in the fields at Deganwy)  on 30 August. And then the next shows him back at Chester, the witness clause having the date 13 September.

Other evidence shows that Henry arrived at Deganwy on 27 August and stayed there till at least 4 September. At Deganwy, of course, was the great castle which Henry had built to hold down his Welsh conquests between the Conwy and the Dee. The castle stood proud, high above the Conwy estuary, and glared westwards towards the great mountain ranges in the heart of Gwynedd. For images, click here.

Henry, however, as the witness clause in the fine rolls shows, did not stay in the castle but in the fields round about.  There he probably lived in a great pavilion lent him by the earl of Gloucester.  Doubtless the castle was full masons, for one object of the campaign was to repair and augment its defences. Another was to ravage the land of  Llywelyn and his supporters. Matthew Paris gives a vivid picture of Henry, riding about ‘elegantly’ in armour under his dragon standard, encouraging his knights, although whether this amounted to more than wishing them well as they set out on their chevauchées  one may doubt. Henry had also much bigger schemes. These were the conquest of Anglesey and the division of what was left of Gwynedd west of Conwy between Llywelyn’s disaffected brothers. To that end, he had summoned shipping both from Ireland and the Cinque Ports. Henry’s ambitions, therefore,   were just as great as those of his son, the future Edward I. The difference was that Edward actually carried them out. Indeed, present on this campaign, he may have learnt something from his father’s failure.

For fail Henry did. In a letter to the earl of Gloucester from Deganwy on 4 September, he explained that he was going home.  The shipping had not arrived for the invasion of Anglesy and winter was approaching. Given that it was only  the first week of September, this was hardly a complete excuse, and Henry was clearly embarrassed by the decision. He explained to the earl (who had been far more successful in South Wales), that the decision had been taken  on the advice of the magnates present with him. It was not at all what he would have wanted, indeed it  was ‘repugnant’ to him. He was determined to return next summer and finish the job. Meanwhile  (which was not said in the letter),  Henry realised with relief that he could get back to Westminster in time for the feast of Edward the Confessor on 13 October, as both Matthew Paris and the Dunstable annalist noted. Indeed perhaps the desire to do that was another reason for abandoning the campaign. Nonetheless, Henry was serious about coming back. He was under pressure from Edward and the marcher barons; but he also felt deeply on his own account about preserving his Welsh conquests.  Preparations for the campaign of 1258 went on through the winter.

Returning to the fine rolls, it is interesting to see that the campaign brought an almost complete stop to the usual business.  Clearly no one sought the king out at Deganwy to buy the usual writs to initiate and further legal actions.  There is only one item of business recorded at Deganwy, itself the only business on the roll between 18 August and 13 September. This was, on 30 August, to allow the baron, Philip de Columbars [one of two Colombières near Bayeux in Normandy] to pay his £100 relief to enter his inheritance  on easier terms  as a reward for the service he was giving in the Welsh army.  The £100 relief, was, of course, in line with what was laid down in Magna Carta. It will be interesting to see how business picks up as Henry returns to Westminster

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 29 April to Saturday 5 May 1257

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

For Henry III and Queen Eleanor, this was a week of tragedy. Around 3 May, their daughter Katherine died. She had been born in 1254 and was, so Matthew Paris tells us, ‘mute and incapable but very beautiful in face’. Henry was deeply attached to this his last child.  He had ordered a silver image of her to be put up on the shrine of Edward the Confessor at Westminster, when she was ill in 1256. A few days later he gave a present of  ‘a good robe’  to the queen’s  messenger  who arrived with the ‘good news’ of her recovery.  It is highly likely that Katherine died at Windsor, for there the queen had always been based with her children. If so, Henry was probably present since on or shortly before 29 April he had arrived at Windsor from Merton priory.  Curiously enough, he seems to have left immediately after Katherine’s demise for on 3 May he was at Chertsey and on 5 May back at Merton. He stayed there till 14 May, when he returned to Westminster both for Katherine’s burial in the Abbey, and the feast of Pentecost.  Whether the queen accompanied Henry to Merton is doubtful. According to Matthew Paris, she was utterly devastated by her daughter’s death, and wasted away in bed at Windsor, seemingly beyond the help of doctors.  Absence, however, did not weaken the bond between king and queen. When Henry himself fell ill towards the end of the month, worry over the queen and grief over his daughter were, according to Paris, contributory factors. When a decade later, Henry commissioned the splendid retable for the High Altar of Westminster abbey, one of the miracles depicted was Christ raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead.  Included in the scene, standing over his daughter, is Jairus himself, and behind Jairus, with her arms around him, is Jairus’s wife (the figure now largely lost). Is this how Henry and Eleanor stood grieving over Katherine? The scene on the Retable was deeply personal. Christ had not raised their daughter from the dead, but he could certainly raise her now into the life hereafter.

 For the retable, although not alas with a detailed shot of the miracle in question, click here.

After this tragedy, one scarcely has the heart to turn to fine rolls business, yet again this is an interesting week.   When he arrived at Windsor, Henry conceded easier terms on which the master and brethren of the hospital of Dover could repay their debts.  He did this ‘moved by charity’ and to sustain their work. Was this pious act a way of seeking God’s favour in Katherine’s illness?  Henry also took steps to see the queen got her financial cut from the money offered him in fines. The rolls continue to reveal the consequences of the campaign to get those with incomes of £15 a year and upwards either to take up knighthood, or, which was more the aim, to make fines in gold to be exempted from doing so.  In this week, the ex sheriff of Warwickshire-Leicestershire, William Mansel, had to make two fines of half a mark of gold because inquiries, paid for by the victims, had shown he  had wrongly returned two men as liable for knighthood,  when their incomes from land were actually  worth  only £5 and £7 10s. One cannot help feeling the sheriffs were being damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. On the one hand, they were being punished for carrying out the measure too rigorously and on the other for not doing it rigorously enough!

For the image of the membrane covering this week, click here. For Henry back at Merton, read next week’s blog.

Henry III’s Christmas Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 December to Saturday 31 December 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Westminster.  There is no fine roll business dated to it, but the other chancery rolls show something of how Henry celebrated Christmas. Thus  he ordered the custodians of various royal forests to catch, salt and carry to him for the feast  a total of 160 does. Henry issued this order on 4 December from the Tower of London, and was still unclear about his movements for  the game was simply to be sent to him it time for Christmas  wherever that might be.  Clearly Henry felt the political situation might still confine him to the Tower.  Fortunately, as we have seen, the storm clouds cleared, and on 10 December it was from Westminster that Henry issued orders for the purchase of 171 pairs of shoes, half at 5d a pair and half at 4½d, shoes with which, he, his queen and their children would  make their Christmas gifts to paupers. Doubtless numerous paupers were also fed. In 1259, when in Paris, Henry fed 450 paupers on the vigil and feast day, as well as burning 171 pounds of wax, 75 of them in the chapel and almonry.  We may be sure that on Christmas day 1261 Westminster Abbey was filled with light from Henry’s tapers. Henry also distributed robes to over sixty of the men, mostly nobles and household knights, to whom he had owed his victory. The costs of the celebrations stretched the royal budget. Henry  admitted that there was no money  for the purchases made in London against the feast, and told the mayor and sheriffs to promise payment from  the farms they owed at Easter and Michaelmas in 1262.  Still, Henry must have felt it was essential to put on a big celebration, both to proclaim his victory and thank God and man for it.

            It may be suggested that, as part of his thanks,  Henry now made a momentous decision about Westminster Abbey.  His return to Westminster in December 1261 had been after a long absence. Indeed, he  had not lived there since January 1261.  Now, having come to Westminster for Christmas, he  stayed there till 10 February. He was able once again to inspect the progress of the  great building. He was able once again to pray beside the shrine of Edward the Confessor, the patron saint to  whom above all, interceding at God’s right hand, he owed his triumph.  A long period of proximity to the Abbey and the Confessor, an overwhelming desire to thank the latter for his freedom, and by that very token  the power and the leisure to do so, all these things resulted in Henry’s decision to commission  from the Cosmati marblers in Italy  a magnificent shrine base to hold aloft the golden casket holding the Confessor’s body. The Italian reference  also thanked the pope for his support in the great struggle.  The shrine base, with its surrounding pavement, is thus the first of the Cosmati works in the Abbey. It is the product of a very precise moment in Henry’s career. It is his thank offering for his recovery of power in 1261.

Westminster Abbey and the Shrine of Edward the Confessor

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 9 October to Saturday 15 October 1261

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Henry III began this week at St Paul’s in London, where he was almost certainly staying in the palace of the bishop.  He had around him a large body of supporters including the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, the earls of Hereford and Warwick, the marcher barons, James of Audley and  Reginald fitzPeter, and such leading ministers as Philip Basset, justiciar of England and John Mansel.  The chronicle written by the London alderman, Arnold fitzThedmar, adds that the king’s brother, Richard, earl of Cornwall and king of the Romans, was  at St Martin le Grand, while the queen herself was with the king at St Paul’s. Also in London, presumably staying at his palace in the Strand,  was the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, who, thanks to Henry’s munificence,  was lord of both Pevensey in Sussex and Richmond in Yorkshire.  Meanwhile, up river at Westminster the exchequer was bravely at work, receiving revenue  from loyalist sheriffs and beginning the work of hearing their accounts.

The trouble was that in and around London there were also large numbers of insurgent barons and knights, including in all probability, Simon de Montfort.  Meanwhile, out in the counties the king’s sheriffs were being challenged for control by rival officials set up by the opposition.  Henry now faced a difficult decision. Did he dare go to Westminster on 13 October to celebrate the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor? At Westminster, where palace and abbey were  unprotected, he would  be vulnerable to the kind of armed coup which had overthrown him in 1258.  Yet, on the other hand, 13 October was the day in his religious year. He always celebrated it at Westminster besides the sainted body of his predecessor.  The year before, in 1260, his household records show he fed 5016 paupers around the great day and spent some £200 on a stupendous feast,  the very rough equivalent of two million pounds in modern money (at least according to my conversion ratio).  Entertainment for the guests was provided by the  Cinque Ports who were ordered to send  boats with trumpeters to play water music on the Thames. But that was 1260. What would happen if Henry went in the very different circumstances of 1261?

In the event Henry did go. The dating clauses of his letters place him at St Paul’s on 12 October, and on 13 October at Westminster. Henry was probably encouraged  by a relaxation in the tension, for fitzThedmar’s chronicle avers that before the feast of the Confessor the ‘dissension’ between the king and the barons was ‘pacified’. He adds, however, that the ‘peace’ did not last.  The truth of that is very apparent in Henry’s conduct. On 13 October he was at Westminster. But for all the spiritual balm radiating from the Confessor’s body, he did not stay there. The very next day he was back in London, and back not at St Pauls but at the Tower of London.  Evidently the situation had taken a turn for the worse. The bishop’s house at St Paul’s was itself now thought insecure. Only within the walls of the Tower could Henry feel safe.

On the fine rolls between 8 and 18 October only thirteen items of business were enrolled. All were entries, undated as usual, about the purchase of writs to initiate and further common law legal procedures.  Just how many of these writs  were issued in this week, and how many in the next, we cannot know, but whatever the breakdown, the numbers are comparatively small, and almost certainly reflect the uncertain situation.  Historians of the future will have to do a great deal of work to establish just who was purchasing these common law writs and engaging in the subsequent litigation. In this week, one name does stand out, that of Matthew of Kniveton in Derbyshire. He offered half a mark for a writ ad terminum, a writ that is which gave his law case a time to be heard before the king’s justices. The search facility for the fine rolls show that Matthew purchased similar writs in  October 1258 and January and May 1261. Matthew was a remarkable man.  Through a whole series of purchases, he was engaged in building up a landed estate, raising his family  from the free peasantry into the ranks of the knightly class.  The charters which recorded his endeavours were later copied into a family cartulary,  published as The Kniveton Leiger, ed. A. Saltman (London, HMSO, 1977).  In the forthcoming civil war, Matthew was involved with his lord, Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby in  pillaging property in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, although, unlike his lord, he escaped the consequences, and made his peace with the post Evesham regime.  That this canny and ambitious man, in the fraught situation  in October 1261, was prepared to come to court and purchase a writ to prosecute a law case, suggests he was confident that peace would  soon be restored.  For whether that confidence was justified, see the following blogs.

Henry’s Residence at the Tower of London in 1261

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Whilst Henry III’s lodgings at the Tower would probably not have been as lavishly decorated as at his other major residences of Westminster, Clarendon and Winchester, there is still plenty of evidence to show that it was comfortably appointed. During his stay in 1261, he and his family would have lodged in the royal apartments, built early in his reign, to the south of the White Tower overlooking the river Thames. These, and the adjacent Great Hall, had been smartly whitewashed on their exterior in the late 1230’s, and shortly afterwards, this was complemented by the whitening of the keep, later known as the White Tower. The great round turret, today called the Wakefield Tower, is the only part of Henry’s private accommodation to survive at the Tower. Its scale, and the beauty of the architectural spaces within, hint at the former splendour of the king’s lodgings. We know from detailed accounts in the Liberate Rolls how some of the king’s and queen’s rooms at the Tower were decorated.  Queen Eleanor’s chamber within the king’s apartments was to be painted with false pointing and embellished with flowers. Another room was to be whitewashed and painted with roses.  The window shutters of the Great Hall were painted with the king’s arms. The chapel in the Wakefield Tower was to be glazed with a great window, and painters were paid 19 shillings and sixpence to adorn its walls. In 1238, Henry ordered that a ‘good and suitable’ screen be made and situated between his chamber and this chapel. It is very likely that Henry received visitors in the first floor chamber of the Wakefield Tower during his stay in 1261, and one wonders if the decorations installed over twenty years before would still have shone as brightly. Perhaps, if the candlelight were subtle enough. Henry was much concerned with the embellishment of chapels at the Tower, as elsewhere. He and his queen worshipped in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula to the north of the inner ward, and this was decorated accordingly. Large glass windows were ordered in 1240, and beautiful stalls for Henry and Eleanor were installed. Polychrome sculptures, painted panels and possibly a wall painting of St Christopher were added, together with a magnificent rood. The carved Crucifixion on top of the rood was flanked by ‘two handsome cherubim’ standing to the left and right. A characteristically personal request was added that they should have ‘joyful and smiling faces’! Henry’s passion for the story of Edward the Confessor did not weaken at the Tower of London. In the same year, he ordered that fine painted sculptures of St Edward handing his ring to St John the Evangelist be installed in the chapel of the same name, in the White Tower. Alas, nothing of this magnificent decoration now survives.

Posted on behalf of Jane Spooner, Curator (Historic Buildings) at the Tower of London.