Posts Tagged ‘William of Gloucester’

William of Gloucester and the Royal Mint, a contribution by Dr Richard Cassidy

Friday, October 12th, 2012

William of Gloucester had been the king’s goldsmith since 1252. His role in the royal mints and exchanges went back to May 1255, when he was granted one of the dies in the London mint. The dies of the London and Canterbury mints were traditionally farmed for a payment of 100s. a year each, which seems to have allowed the die-keepers to pocket a proportion of the profits of the coinage. In 1256, William was a member of a consortium of moneyers who took over the farm of all eight dies at the London mint.

In October 1257, as well as being appointed warden of the exchanges, William was granted a die at the Canterbury mint. He thus achieved a dominant position in control of the coinage, while continuing to receive commissions from the king as a goldsmith.

William retained his posts in the exchanges during the early years of the baronial reform period, but official inquiries into the management of the exchanges uncovered several dubious practices, suggesting that a margin of perhaps 3d. in the pound was being taken by the moneyers. This sum, the profits of the foundry, was then claimed for the crown, and the practice of farming out the dies was ended. Early in 1262, William was replaced as warden of the exchanges.

Despite this apparent disgrace, William continued to work as the king’s goldsmith until his death, late in 1268 or early in 1269. His executors’ account, in the 1272 pipe roll, includes such expenditures as £80 for painted panels for an altar at Westminster Abbey, and 20 marks for a painted canopy around the king’s bed.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Monday 1 October to Saturday 6 October 1257

Friday, October 12th, 2012

In the fine rolls for this week, the last stages of Henry’s journey home (as he would certainly have thought of it), can be followed. On Monday 1 October, he was at Woodstock, and on Thursday 4 October at Wallingford.  There he stayed in the  castle of his brother, Richard, although Richard was not there to entertain him, being now king of Germany. Next day, Henry moved on to his castle palace of Windsor. He was thus in good  time for the celebration of  the great feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, at Westminster on 13 October.  Perhaps the most significant item of business on the fine rolls this week is  the committal to the king’s goldsmith, William of Gloucester, of the king’s mint. William was in high favour because he had recently been responsible for turning  a large part of Henry’s gold treasure (for whose accumulation the fine rolls is the major source) into a gold coinage, being  almost certainly responsible for designing the splendid gold pennies which were the result.  As the image of them shows, they depicted Henry sitting elegantly on his throne, crowned and holding orb and sceptre.

For the membranes covering this week, click here. At the bottom of the first membrane shown here and the start of the next you can see the king at Woodstock,  Wallingford and Windsor, and also (nos.961-2 in the translation) the giving of the mint to William of Gloucester.  Note the contemporary stitching joining the membranes.

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

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

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

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

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

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