Posts Tagged ‘Winchelsea’

Sunday 23 November 1264: two Eleanors

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

The court spent most of this week at Windsor, and at the end of the week began the planned move towards Northampton, reaching St Albans on 23 November.

Although the threat of invasion had largely dissipated, and the forces assembled by queen Eleanor had dispersed, the government continued to take precautions. The authorities in Winchelsea were instructed to continue guarding the Channel, and to prevent anyone crossing without permission. Any suspect arrivals from overseas were to be arrested and detained. It would appear that there was some justification for such measures: a ship belonging to the abbot of St Mary’s, Dublin, had been forced by rough seas to land at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight; the ship and its sailors were being held there because the bailiffs of the island had suspicions about a knight on the ship, who was being transported from Dieppe to Ireland with letters addressed to Irish magnates. (Close Rolls 1264-68, 80-1)

Preparations continued for further negotiations in France, with king Louis, the legate and queen Eleanor. The king of France’s envoys were expecting to meet an English delegation at Wissant, and escort them to the king. The French envoys were asked to wait, as the English negotiators were going with the court to meet lord Edward. The dean of Wells was then given safe conduct to go to France as an envoy. The dean was armed with a set of letters in king Henry’s name to Louis and the queen of France, queen Eleanor, Peter of Savoy, and the legate. Louis, Eleanor and Peter were asked to prevent the sale or alienation of royal rights and properties — a reference, presumably, to Eleanor’s attempts to raise money for her invasion force. The legate was asked to exercise mercy and kindness, rather than ecclesiastical coercion. The letter to Eleanor included a more personal opening paragraph, perhaps from the king himself rather than the council which spoke on his behalf: ‘Know that we and Edward our firstborn son are healthy and unharmed … we have firm hope of having secure and good peace in our kingdom, for which you may be cheerful and delighted.’ (CPR 1258-66, 388, 473-4; Foedera, I, I, 448)

Matthew Paris reports the death of William Marshal junior in 1231, showing his arms reversed. Marshal’s death left Eleanor a widow at the age of 16; she married Simon de Montfort in 1238.

Matthew Paris reports the death of William Marshal junior in 1231, showing his arms reversed. Marshal’s death left Eleanor a widow at the age of 16; she married Simon de Montfort in 1238. From BL Royal 14 C VII.

The government continued to pay special attention to the interests of the de Montfort family. Eleanor de Montfort had long complained that she had not received the full dower to which she was entitled, following the death of her first husband, William Marshal junior, earl of Pembroke. This dispute had helped to embitter relations between the de Montforts and Henry III. There was now to be an inquiry into Eleanor’s complaints against the king, by the bishops of Worcester and London, Hugh Despenser the justiciar, and Peter de Montfort. With such committed supporters of the regime to conduct the inquiry, its conclusions must have seemed rather predictable. (CPR 1258-66, 388-9; Wilkinson, Eleanor de Montfort, 106-7)

Sunday 11 May 1264: the road to Lewes

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

With the rebels having retreated from Rochester, Henry was now concentrating on the ports of the south-east coast. The Cinque Ports could provide ships for a blockade of London, and there was the possibility of bringing in troops from across the Channel: queen Eleanor had remained in France when Henry returned to England in February, and was trying to arrange for military support for her husband’s cause. On 7 May, she wrote to Alphonse of Poitiers, urging him to seize any English ships in his ports, which included La Rochelle; despite Eleanor’s appeal, and her references to the treachery of the barons who were striving to disinherit the king and his children, Alphone refused. (Howell, Eleanor of Provence, 209)

The gatehouse of Battle Abbey, 1792, by Michael Angelo Rooker

The gatehouse of Battle Abbey, 1792, by Michael Angelo Rooker

Henry’s forces began the week in Battle, then moved to Winchelsea, where they spent a few days ravaging the countryside and helping themselves to the wine in the port, before returning to Battle. Henry was making preparations for the next stage of his campaign in the south-east. According to Walter of Guisborough, while at Winchelsea Henry made peace with the sailors of the Cinque Ports and came to an agreement for their support. The London annals claim that some of the mayors and leading men of Winchelsea and the other ports came over to the king, believing that they would be well rewarded. The Worcester annals imply that it was a less amicable arrangement, with Henry taking hostages from the Cinque Ports to make them submit. (Henry had certainly taken hostages from Winchelsea, as the close roll records that he sent them back from Battle on 9 May, with instructions to summon ships, supplies and men to the king’s service.) Henry ordered the men of the Weald to assemble with arms in Canterbury on Monday 12 May. He may have intended to attack the rebel stronghold of Dover. This would effectively have left the rebels isolated in London, had it come to pass, but the king’s opponents were also on the move. (CPR 1258-66, 316, 359; Close Rolls 1261-64, 383-4; Battle chronicle, in Bémont, 376; Guisborough, 192; Gervase, II, 236; London annals, 62; Ann Mon, IV, 451)

De Montfort led the forces of the barons and Londoners out of the city on 6 May. As a hostile chronicler put it, de Montfort had gathered together a great multitude of barons, together with a countless crowd of Londoners, because the number of fools is infinite. Hearing that the rebels were advancing, Henry moved from Battle to Lewes, which had the advantage of a strong castle belonging to his loyal supporter John de Warenne. By 11 May, Henry was established in Lewes priory, while de Montfort was only about eight miles away at his own manor of Fletching. (Cronica Maiorum, 62; Ann Mon, IV, 148; Carpenter, Battles of Lewes and Evesham, 16-18)

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.