Posts Tagged ‘St Paul’s cathedral’

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 III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 2 October to Saturday 8 October 1261

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Henry III spent all this week at St Paul’s in London where he was almost certainly staying at the bishop’s palace.  The chaos of the time is reflected in the continuing collapse of fine roll business. Only nine writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased in this week. Henry was  anxious about control of the Cinque Ports. On 4 October, he ordered the men of Winchelsea and Sandwich to have nothing to do with a meeting the king’s enemies had tried to arrange. Ostensibly this was to settle a dispute between the men. In fact, as Henry said, it was to seduce them from their allegiance. The men were also told to prevent the king’s enemies bringing foreign soldiers into the country. This was not, of course, to prevent the king doing the same.

This week did, however, bring two pieces of good news for Henry.  First, he had evidently tried to summon his supporters to London, and the result was not disappointing. The witness lists to royal charters show that with Henry at St Paul’s on 4, 5 October were Boniface archbishop of Canterbury,* the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, Peter of Savoy, the marcher barons, James of Audley and Reginald fitzPeter (see the blog for 8-14 May),  Philip Basset, the justiciar,  and John Mansel. Since one charter was in favour of John de Plessis, earl of Warwick, he was probably there too.

The second piece of good news came  from the exchequer at Westminster. Henry himself had long felt that Westminster was out of bounds. With the palace there unprotected, he  feared an armed coup like that which had overturned him in 1258. But such dangers had not stopped the exchequer courageously attending to its business. Thus the  money to be raised by the fines  continued to be sent to the exchequer on the originalia rolls (the copies of the fine rolls), and we can see the exchequer setting about the business of collecting it in the annotations it made on the rolls, ‘in the roll’ meaning the debt has been put in the pipe roll: ‘s’ meaning it has been put into the ‘summonses’, the list of debts sent to the sheriffs for collection.  It was one thing to order the sheriffs to collect the debts, another for them actually to do so when their authority was being challenged by rival sheriffs set up by the insurgents. The acid test of their success was now at hand for it was at Michaelmas,  at the end of  each September, that the sheriffs were supposed to send in to the exchequer the money they had raised. What now would be the results? Henry must have wondered that more anxiously at Michaelmas 1261 than at any other time in his reign.

In the event, Henry was re-assured, at least in some measure.  He may well   have feared that nothing at all would arrive. In fact, the sheriffs and those answering separately for various towns and manors brought in  around £1580.  On the other hand, there were some black holes,  showing clearly where the king’s authority had disintegrated.  Matthias Bezill, challenged  by William de Tracy in Gloucestershire (see the blog for 24-30 July) sent nothing.  Nothing equally came from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, and most worrying of all perhaps, from Kent. No wonder Henry was concerned about the Cinque  Ports. There was also very little from Essex and Hertforshire. Still the exchequer was undaunted and vigorously set about hearing the sheriff’s accounts.  Later in the year it was to bring the rival sheriffs themselves to book, getting them to answer for their ill gotten gains. The exchequer’s buoyant spirit is reflected in the elaborate ‘A’  penned by the clerk, drawing up the memoranda roll for Michaelmas 1261, in the heading ‘Still  (Adhuc)  communia for the term of St Michaelmas’. (‘Communia’ here essentially means common or general business).

Henry himself was now facing a dilemma for 13 October was coming up. This was the greatest day in his religious year,  the feast day  of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. It was a day he ALWAYS spent at Westminster amidst splendid services and joyous celebrations. Would he go there in 1261? Read next week’s blog to find out.

*An unflattering sketch of Boniface Archbishop of Canterbury appears on the 1261-2 memoranda roll.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 September to Saturday 1 October 2161

Monday, September 26th, 2011

At last in this week Henry left Windsor.  There had been some indications that he intended to go to Oxfordshire and then Northamptonshire, thus rallying support in those counties. But if so, these plans were dropped in favour of a move far less ambitious and dangerous.  On Saturday 24 September Henry was still at Windsor. His whereabouts on Sunday 25 September are unknown. Probably he was travelling, for on Monday 26 September and for the rest of the week he is found in London, at St Paul’s. The only chronicler to notice this move is Thomas Wykes, and what he says is dramatic.

‘ After many disputes [between the king and his opponents], around Michaelmas [29 September], the king secretly entered the city of London, fearing sedition of the barons, since they refused to parliament with him’.

The reference here to a ‘refusal to parliament’ fits perfectly with the assembly Henry had summoned to Windsor for 21 September. We saw in last week’s blog some indication that knights did attend from Norfolk, but, judging from Wykes’s comment, the meeting (called a parliament at the time) was poorly attended.  It  did not encourage Henry to carry his standard into  the counties. Instead  ‘secretly’ (an indication both of his weakness and anxieties), he returned to London. The only bright spot was that Henry evidently felt secure in the city for he went not to the Tower but to St Paul’s where, in greater comfort than in the great fortress,  he almost certainly lived in the bishop’s palace.

Henry’s critical situation is  reflected in the fine rolls, where this week sees an extraordinary dearth  of business. On the roll there  are writs witnessed at Windsor on Saturday  24 September, followed by ten  undated entries. After these, the roll records in sequence a writ witnessed on Saturday 1 October at St Paul’s, two undated entries, and then an entry witnessed at St Paul’s on 5 October. In other words, this week, between 25 September and 1 October has only one item of business securely dated to it.  Although it is probable that some of the undated entries (mostly about the purchase of common law writs)   belong to this week, the impression that such business  was dwindling may not be far from the truth.  Conditions of near civil war did not encourage travel, and,  in any case, where was one to go? Given the ‘secrecy’ of Henry’s retreat from Windsor to London, many may not have known  just where the king was.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 22 May to Saturday 28 May 1261

Friday, May 27th, 2011

From Saturday 21 May till Thursday 26 May, Henry III remained at the bishop of London’s palace at Saint Pauls. The flood of litigants seeking writs to initiate and further common law legal actions continued. The fine rolls show no less than sixty such writs were purchased in these days. On Tuesday 24 May, the chancery despatched to the exchequer  a copy of the fine roll down to that date so that it knew what monies to collect.  Alongside the note  recording  this despatch,  the clerk drew a grotesque head.  In the draft translation of the roll currently on line we suggested this was might have been a caricature of Mabel, daughter of Simon de Bere, who in an adjoining entry was recorded as giving half a mark for the hearing of an assize.  Closer inspection of the image  shows the imputation is false and we are pleased to withdraw it. The head, instead, was clearly intended to mark out the note about the despatch of the roll to the exchequer.

Head drawn on membrane 10 of roll C60/58

Under the cloak of this routine business, great matters were now afoot.  The king must certainly have received the papal letter of 13 April absolving his from his oath to observe the Provisions of Oxford.  Probably too the follow up letter of 29 April had also arrived in England. This was even more crucial because it was not personal to Henry but general to the realm.  The letter empowered the  archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Norwich, and John Mansel, to absolve everyone from their oaths. At St Paul’s,  there must have been earnest debate as to when, where and how to detonate this explosive weapon. One problem concerned the addressees. The bishop of Norwich, a former royal judge, was completely to be trusted. So, of course, was Henry’s loyal, wise and courageous clerk,  John Mansel. Indeed, in this week Mansel was made constable of the Tower of London.  He was at court and central to the direction of policy. The problem was the archbishop, Boniface of Savoy,  the uncle of the queen, who had incurred the king’s displeasure over the legislation, very critical of royal government, passed at the Lambeth ecclesiastical council earlier in the month.  (See Sophie Ambler’s contribution to this blog).  On Thursday 26 May, Henry sent a proctor to Rome to appeal against the ordinances made  ‘to the prejudice of the king’s right and dignity and the liberties,  laws and customs of the realm’. The phraseology reflects royal thinking on a wider front. The king was now to take action against another set of Ordinances, the Provisions of Oxford, which  were equally prejudicial to the king and the realm. Henry could only hope (probably rightly) that Boniface would be more co-operative in the secular sphere than he was in the ecclesiastical.

In other respects, what was in the making seems very much a foreign, Savoyard plot, in which doubtless the queen herself was deeply involved. At court were her uncle, Peter of Savoy, and a host other Savoyards or Savoyard connections, including  Imbert Pugeys,  Imbert de Montferrand, Eubule de Montibus and Ingram de Fiennes.  Also there, providing muscle, were a group of Welsh marcher barons, James of Audley, Thomas Corbet, and Reginald fitzPeter.  Behind this group stood  the king’s brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and king of Germany.  He received major concessions this week, as did Henry his son. And even more vital was the  support or at least acquiescence of Henry’s own son, Edward. On his return to England,  he had seemed to sympathise with Montfort. But he had appeared for his father at the Lambeth conference to protest against any violation of the rights of the crown, and this week a concession was made ‘at his instance’.

It was this grouping  which took the momentous decision. They would detonate the papal letters and publicly denounce the Provisions of Oxford. But they would not do it in London. For all the security of the Tower, there was danger of an explosion from the heaving  and volatile populace. Instead the coup would be launched  somewhere both safe and symbolic. This was Winchester, Henry’s birthplace, and ancient seat of royal government, where the great castle dominated the small town, and ensured the loyalty of its docile inhabitants. Henry, therefore, left London on Thursday 26 May. Covering over thirty miles, that evening he reached his palace castle at Guildford.  There he remained, gathering breath, on the Friday and Saturday. On the Saturday, despite the tension all around,  the fine rolls recorded a characteristic act of  charity.   Henry, so he said,  had heard that the resources of Ralph de Heppewrth’ (perhaps Hepworth in Suffolk),  were insufficient to pay his debts to the Jews. Therefore, ‘out of compassion for his poverty’, Henry  took steps to ensure Ralph had enough to live off and was not ‘forced to beg’.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 May to Saturday 21 May 1261

Friday, May 20th, 2011

After his expedition to Kent, and recovery of Dover castle, Henry had got back to London on the evening of Saturday 14 May. He had hoped (or at least there are indications that he had hoped), to set up court at Westminster, but instead he had gone to the Tower. His stay  was brief, however,  for he left the fortress  on Sunday 15 May and spent the whole of this  week, doubtless in greater comfort,  at the bishop of London’s palace at St Paul’s. 

The return to London coincided with a large increase in the purchase of writs to initiate and further the common law legal actions. Clearly a backlog had built up during Henry’s Kentish foray, with litigants hesitating to follow  the king and waiting in London  for his return. Thus no less than 53 such writs were purchased this week, between two and three times the number usual since the start of this blog  back in March.

 The fine rolls also contain a writ in which Henry said how ‘moved’ he was ‘by the long service’ which Nicholas the Welshman, his messenger, had given him. As a result, Henry made Nicholas a life grant of a small holding in Brockton (near Sutton Maddock) in Shropshire.  Nicholas was to perform the service due from the holding, which, other evidence shows, was to find a man for Montgomery castle for fifteen days in time of war with a bow and four arrows.  Henry’s employment of Nicholas reflects, of course, how ready Welshmen were to serve the king of England, if necessary fighting against  their own people.  In Nicholas’s case one assumes that his man did not go home, or hang around idly,  once he had fired off his four arrows. One remembers, however, the case  of Hugo fizHeyr (discovered by Michael Prestwich.)  He was obliged to follow the king in war with a bow and arrow. In 1282, as soon as he saw the king’s enemies, he loosed off his arrow and went home.

In making his grant to Nicholas, Henry  stressed that he was acting within his rights and that an inquiry (which survives) had shown that the property was indeed his to give.  Henry’s assertions chimed with other statements this year. Struggling to re-assert his authority and overthrow the Provisions of Oxford, he was often at pains to stress the law abiding nature of his rule.

The need to do so was becoming more and more apparent, as the struggle intensified.  During this week, on Wednesday 18 May, Henry  warned the Cinque Ports that Simon de Montfort was ‘endeavouring to bring into the realm aliens with arms against the king to the disturbance of the peace and the grievous cost of the realm’.  This was to turn the tables on Montfort who complained vociferously  about Henry’s own attempt to bring foreign soldiers into the realm in 1260. In fact Henry was doing the same again now. On Saturday 21 May he promised a life pension to the count of  St Pol who was, or was hoped to be,  the leader of one such foreign contingent.

During this week, at the latest,  Henry must have received the papal bull issued from Rome on 13 April which absolved him from his oath to keep the Provisions of Oxford. Indeed, it may well have arrived  on or shortly before 12 May at Canterbury. On that day,  John Mansel junior, who had secured the bull from the pope and probably brought it to England, was setting off back to papal court.  The question for Henry and his advisers was when and how to detonate this explosive weapon.

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 24 April (Easter Day) to Saturday 30 April 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Last week, Henry III at last left the Tower of London and set up court at St Paul’s doubtless in the bishop’s house there. He was able to celebrate Easter Day, 24 April, at St Paul’s rather than in the great fortress. Yet that was still a terrific breach with custom. Since 1239 Henry had always celebrated Easter at Westminster Abbey. The only exceptions were 1243 and 1254 when he was in France.  Between 1230 and 1238, the pattern had been different. The great feast had then been shared between Westminster, Gloucester, Canterbury, Clarendon and (most popular of all)  Reading abbey.  The change, of course, reflected  how Henry’s devotion to Edward the Confessor had come to dominate his life.  He would always celebrate Easter beside his patron saint. How grievous now to be unable to do so.

Even worse, St Paul’s itself  was not entirely secure, as the fine rolls reveal for the first time. The usual itinerary of Henry III has him at St Paul’s for the whole period from 23 to 29 April.  Indeed it was at St Paul’s, on 28 April, as the fine rolls show, that Henry took the homage of the Nicholas de Cantilupe in return for a relief of £5 for the knight’s fee he held from the crown. This was in strict accordance with the level stipulated by Magna Carta.  But the fine rolls also show that Henry was briefly back at the Tower on the twenty-sixth.  It was from there that he issued the order  putting Elyas de Rabayne back in possession of his properties.  Evidently Elyas, the Poitevin castellan of Corfe expelled in 1258,  had acted on Henry’s invitation (see the blog for 10-16 April) and had returned to England.   Elyas may have brought vital information about the situation at Dover for next day Henry ordered money to be sent there for the expenses of his household.  He had taken the momentous decision to dash to Dover and seize the  castle.  This was not a decision he made alone for  his brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and king of Germany,  the Queen and her  uncle, Peter of Savoy, the Norman John de Plessy (earl of Warwick through marriage), and the king’s most faithful and brilliant counsellor, John Mansel,  were all at court around this time.  Leaving Mansel behind in command of the Tower, Henry  left London on 29 April and by the end of the day had reached Rochester.

The exigencies of this week may explain a falling off in the routine business on the fine rolls. Only twelve of the common law writs were sought as opposed to seventeen the week before. It will be interesting to see how far the flow was affected by the move on Dover. For Henry, of course, that was not a consideration. The vital question was what would happen which he got there. Would he manage to get control of the great castle, widely thought of as ‘the key to England’?

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 17 April to Saturday 23 April 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

So to Easter week, the last week of Lent. In fine rolls terms it seems a week very much of business as usual with seventeen writs purchased to further common law litigation. This business was so routine that usually such purchases were listed, without any indication of their precise date, and indeed, only one is dated in this week, 18 April at The Tower of London. The fine rolls, therefore, often so informative, do not reveal the momentous change that this week saw in Henry’s situation.  After having been there since early February, he at last left the Tower of London. His destination was St Paul’s where doubtless he set up court in the house of the bishop of London. Henry,  therefore, had not gone far. Westminster he clearly still felt was insecure. How galling that must have been. Throughout the 1250s (if in England), he had always spent his Easters there, celebrating the great feast besides his patron saint, Edward the Confessor. One wonders, during his long sojourn at the Tower, whether Henry dared to slip down to Westminster to gain spiritual support from his hero.

Throughout this week Henry and his counsellors must have been planning and plotting. Immediately after Easter, as we will see, Henry was to make a far more dramatic move than that merely to St Pauls.  One decision was that Queen Eleanor would remain  behind there. Thus Henry wrote to the archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface of Savoy, telling him he should be satisfied with holding  the forthcoming ecclesiastical  council not at St Paul’s but in ‘our hall of Westminster the noblest place in our kingdom’.  This was because ‘our beloved queen is staying at St Paul’s’, which would make the appearance of a great multitude of people there completely inappropriate.  Another reason, Henry added, was that the city itself needed to be fortified ‘because…’. At this point the letter breaks off and in fact the record of it is cancelled. Perhaps Henry was able to discuss the venue of the council with Boniface by word of mouth. Had he written more,  Henry would doubtless  have described the political crisis which made the fortification of the city a necessity.