Posts Tagged ‘Winchester’

Sunday 4 May 1264: to the south coast

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Having begun the week in Croydon, Henry continued his rapid progress. At some point, he was joined by both his brother earl Richard and his son Edward. Henry relieved Rochester castle, then moved on to Tonbridge (where he took Gilbert de Clare’s castle without opposition). He was in Battle by Saturday 3 May. The barons had left only a small force in Rochester when their main army abandoned the siege, fearing that they would be cornered in the south-east if Henry took London. Henry, however, was avoiding the capital and concentrating on the south coast. He planned either to persuade or to force the Cinque Ports to provide naval support. He could then attack London by sea, or blockade the capital and cut off its supplies. He took a step towards this form of economic warfare by ordering the bailiffs of Sandwich not to allow provisions to be supplied to Dover castle or to London.

Henry’s army was harassed by archers as it made its way through the narrow lanes of the hilly regions of the Weald. Thomas Wykes said that the archers’ attack on men in armour was futile, and they were deservedly punished by beheading; the claim that 300 were killed seems unlikely. The army also suffered from a shortage of supplies, leading to desertion. According to the Song of Lewes, Henry’s forces despoiled Battle abbey, while lord Edward extorted 500 marks from the Cistercians of Robertsbridge. The Battle chronicle partially confirms this story, saying that Henry demanded 100 marks from Battle abbey, and Edward 40 marks, as compensation for the abbot’s men’s participation in the attacks on royal troops. (Flores, II, 491; Close Rolls 1261-64, 343; Ann Mon, IV, 147-8, 451; Guisborough, 192; Song of Lewes, lines 55-62; Battle chronicle, in Bémont, 375-6)

The business recorded by the Chancery mainly concerned the lands of rebels, which were to be committed to Henry’s supporters. The magnates who were with the king had decided on the confiscation of the lands of those who had opposed him in Northampton and the siege of Rochester castle. The Exchequer’s Easter term should have begun on Monday 28 April, the morrow of the close of Easter. This was the day for the adventus of the sheriffs and the representatives of boroughs, when they paid into the Treasury their contributions for the first half of the Exchequer year. Normally, the routine business of auditing accounts and collecting cash began again on this day; the sheriff of Surrey and Sussex had been instructed to be at the Exchequer for the audit of his accounts for the previous year. But in 1264, there was no adventus, and no Exchequer business is recorded in the memoranda rolls until the end of September. (CPR 1258-66, 315-6; E 368/38 m. 15)

St Swithun’s upon Kingsgate, Winchester

St Swithun’s upon Kingsgate, Winchester

The Winchester annals give us a glimpse of the disorders happening around the country, away from the manoeuvres of the main armies. The citizens of Winchester rebelled, and seized the property of laymen and religious, collecting forced contributions. On 4 May, they rose against the prior and convent of St Swithun. They burned the gate of the priory and the church of St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate, as well as the convent buildings next to the wall. They killed some men of the priory within the monastery. There was further damage when the forces of Simon de Montfort junior sacked the city in 1265. After the war, in the autumn of 1265, the king reduced the city’s annual farm for the next twenty years, because the citizens were impoverished and buildings were destroyed and everywhere in ruins. (Ann Mon, II, 101, and IV, 450; E 368/40 m. 2d)

Meanwhile, in London, de Montfort was planning to resume hostilities. On 4 May, John fitz John and many others were knighted, and the barons and the Londoners prepared to set out to confront the royal army. (Gervase, II, 236)

Lewes 1264-2014

An impressive programme of events will be taking place in Lewes and the surrounding area, to mark the 750th anniversary of the battle. The commemorative programme is available online – there are walks, talks, plays, re-enactments, feasts, fireworks and much more.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 November to Saturday 8 December 1257

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

King Henry remained at Guildford until around 26 November and then returned to Westminster, where he was to remain till early January. Henry had intended during this time to visit his castle at Marlborough, and then to celebrate Christmas at Winchester, as he often did.  Urgent business, however, as he explained, kept him instead at Westminster. He was anxiously awaiting the return of envoys sent to the pope. Would they bring news that the Holy Father had modified the terms of the Sicilian business so that it could be pursued with some hope of success?  Henry was also arranging the despatch of a high powered delegation (including Simon de Montfort) to the king of France in the hope of advancing the peace negotiations and thus making it all the more possible to concentrate on Sicily. And then too  Henry was becoming  worried about events in Scotland, where  the young King Alexander was married to his daughter.  Would Henry have to go north, as he had in 1255, to rescue the royal couple from their enemies?

It must have been a relief for Henry to turn from these great matters to the comforting business of the fine rolls. During these two week, around twenty four people came to court to purchase the writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. Henry’s justice remained in demand.  One item on the rolls particularly stands out and will be commented on here. It bears on both the administrative processes and rituals of Henry’s kingship. It also shows how difficult it can be to capture the sense of an entry when translating it from Latin into English.

The entry is no.105 in the translation (forty-four entries down in the image) and appears as follows.

105

6 Dec. Westminster. For the burgesses of Bridgnorth. On Tuesday next after St. Andrew the Apostle in the forty-second year, the burgesses of Bridgnorth paid 25 m. in the king’s Wardrobe to Peter de Rivallis, keeper of the same Wardrobe, which remained to be rendered of the fine of 50 m. which they made with him a short while ago for having liberties, and, on the aforesaid day, they paid into the same Wardrobe the 10 m. which they had promised for their good coming to the king when he had last been at Bridgnorth. Order to the sheriff of Shropshire to cause the same burgesses to be quit from the aforesaid 35 m.

This entry is not in the originalia roll.

The feast of Andrew the Apostle was 30 November and the following Tuesday in 1258, when the payment was made into the wardrobe, was 4 December. The 6 December date at the head of the translation is that of the writ to the sheriff of Shropshire referred to at the end of the entry. Throughout the fine rolls it is these writs to  officials which actually give the dates to the entries.   The fine of 50 marks, which the burgesses made with the king, is not recorded on the fine rolls. It may be that the full way it was now recorded  was to make up for that lack. The fine was evidently made on 21-22 September 1257 when Henry passed through Bridgnorth on his way home from his campaign in Wales.  A couple of days later, now at Worcester, Henry issued a letter patent granting the ‘bailiffs and good men’ of Bridgnorth the right to take ‘murage’ for another three years, ‘murage’ being a toll whose revenues were devoted to works on the walls of the town. Perhaps this was the concession for which the men offered the king 50 marks, or  perhaps there were other ‘liberties’, building on an earlier charter of 1227, of which there seem to be no record.

From the administrative point of view, what is interesting is the way the whole business of the Bridgnorth debt was controlled by the wardrobe and chancery, travelling with the king, rather than, as would have been normal,  by the exchequer at Westminster.  At the end of the entry there is the statement,  provided by the editors of the fine roll,  ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. This means that no information about the fine and its payment was  sent to the exchequer, the originalia roll being the copy of the fine  roll despatched to the exchequer so that it knew what money to collect. As a result there is no entry for this debt on the pipe roll, the exchequer’s annual audit of  the money it was demanding for the  crown.  Instead, the only record of the existence  of the debt (apart from that on the wardrobe receipt roll) was that given here on the fine roll.   It is likewise the chancery writ, not the exchequer, which tells the sheriff that the burgesses are quit. The handling of the Bridgnorth debt was typical of many other debts at this time. Large numbers of fines between 1255 and 1257 – for  example for town liberties (as here)  and exemption from knighthood – were treated in the same way. There was no ‘constitutional’ reason for Henry bypassing the exchequer. Under its treasurer, Philip Lovel,  it was never less than under his  control.  The point was that Henry just got his money in more quickly and simply if he had such fines paid in directly to his wardrobe. Nonetheless the reformers in 1258 thought the king’s finances would be run  more responsibly if all the revenues were routed through the exchequer, a subject discussed in Richard Cassidy’s fine of the month .

The great majority of the fines paid into the wardrobe were in gold, or were in silver earmarked to buy gold, and were thus part of Henry’s campaign to build up a gold treasure to fund his Sicilian army. Another reason for making this a wardrobe treasure was that Henry could see the gold accumulating  before his eyes.  What a joy it must have been. By the autumn of 1257, however, as we have seen in previous blogs, the enterprise was beginning  to falter. Henry was having to spend his gold treasure, minting his wonderful gold penny in order to do so. The fact that the Bridgnorth fine was not in gold, or in silver earmarked to buy gold, may reflect this situation.  Henry had not quite given up, however, and these two weeks see two more fines of gold (nos.97, 102).

During the king’s visit in September 1257, the burgesses of Bridgnorth did not merely offer 50 mark for liberties. They also promised 10 marks ‘for their good coming to the king’. The Latin here, as one can see from the image, is ‘pro bono adventuo suo’. When the final checked and corrected version of the translation is put up, this passage will be altered since the ‘good coming’ is that of the king, not the burgesses. They are offering 10 marks ‘for his good coming’.  But does ‘good coming’, or ‘good arrival’ or ‘good advent’ quite capture the sense of what is happening?  At the very least, it sounds odd in modern English, and is another reason why we hope to provide the project with glossary.   What, of course, the burgesses were  giving, or in this case, promising Henry was a welcome present, one which demonstrated their loyalty, affection, and joy at his arrival. The present was designed to make his arrival ‘good’ for him, and also (in the benefits which might flow) ‘good’ for them.  In some circumstances, for example when the king was returning from overseas, there might also, wrapped up in the ‘good’, be joy at the king’s ‘safe’ arrival, and perhaps there was an element of that here too, given the hazards of the recent campaign in Wales.  Normally, we have no record of such gifts, because they were paid cash down into the wardrobe. It is only here, because the burgesses had exhausted (or so they must have said), their ready money in coming up with the initial 25 marks for their liberties, that we know about it. Such gifts, of course, in cash or precious  objects, were integral to Henry’s kingship, as they were to that of other kings. They were made, as here, by individual towns and, on a much grander and more organized scale, by the assembled great and good of the realm, on the king’s arrival back in his kingdom. They were also accompanied by other rituals, notably welcome processions of a town’s clergy and people. When the king rode up from Windsor to Westminster,  the custom was for the mayor and citizens of London to go out and meet him at Knightsbridge. They knew they were out of favour when he refused to meet them.

In such arrivals, the giving was not all one way. Quite the reverse. Henry himself might mark his coming by feeding paupers over and above his standard 100 a day, or 150 a day if the queen was with him, as she was at Bridgnorth.  He would also visit the religious establishments of the town and shower them with gifts.  At Bridgnorth, Henry  gave nine  ‘good oaks’ for work on the churches of the  Franciscan friars and  the hospital of Saint John, and another five good oaks to the canons of Bridgnorth chapel for the  repair of their chancel and stalls. His visit also brought other work to the town. On 21 September, probably the day of his arrival, he ordered  his chamber in the castle and that of the queen to be wainscoted, while the queen’s chamber was also to have  new windows and a fireplace.  On 25 September, having left Bridgnorth and arrived at Worcester, Henry ordered ten oaks to be sent to ‘the upstanding men of Bridgnorth’, as a ‘gift of the king’, to help with repairing the town gates. The visit, therefore,  had been a success. Henry’s ‘good oaks’, he doubtless hoped, would  be a perpetual memory to his piety and generosity in Bridgnorth and his concern for the security of this royal town.

The kind of ‘good arrival’, we glimpse here at Bridgnorth, must have been repeated thousands of times over during Henry’s reign. Such reciprocal rituals could  bind king and realm together.  But it did not always work like that.  Accounts in chroniclers make very plain that donors sometimes resented having to give such presents, just as the king resented it if he deemed the presents inadequate. The ritual could set apart as well as bring together. Were the men of Bridgnorth themselves disappointed that they had to pay for their ‘liberties’, especially if these were simply for the right to levy ‘murage’,  which they might have expected anyway, given  the threat from Llywelyn.  Did they also look askance at what they saw of Henry’ court?  The keeper of the wardrobe to whom they gave their money, both at Bridgnorth and Westminster, was Peter des Rivallis, one of Henry’s most notorious Poitevin servants, who was to be dismissed by the reformers in 1258.

 

The Nuns of Wherwell Abbey

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Dr Rhoda Bucknill, whose doctoral thesis was about Wherwell abbey, writes as follows about the fine, mentioned in last week’s blog, of the prioress and nuns of Wherwell to have custody of their abbey during the vacancy caused by the death or resignation of their Abbess Euphemia.  

Euphemia  died on 26 April 1257. The fine  is undated but occurs between entries belonging  to  27 and 29 April.  Since the fine was clearly made while Euphemia was thought to be still alive, the nuns presumably set off shorly before 26 April, which would fit with the time needed to travel the fifty or so miles from Wherwell to Merton priory.   Henry knew Wherwell well as it was conveniently placed to stop off at when visiting Winchester, just a few miles to the south, thus many gifts of wine and deer by the king are recorded over the forty-four years in which Euphemia was abbess, probably in return for the hospitality he received.  He was well acquainted with the ambitious building projects that Euphemia had initiated in the abbey precinct and beyond, and contributed timber from Chute Forest to assist her. His last visit was in December 1256, just four months before her death.

Henry III’s Last Blog for 1261

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Over the Christmas of 1261, did Henry III think back over his tumultuous, triumphant year? Triumphant because he had, for all practical purposes, broken the shackles fastened  in 1258 and recovered unfettered power. His conduct, however, appears un-heroic. He spent much of the year, sheltering, some might say cowering,  behind the walls of the Tower of London. On only three occasions had he dared to leave the capital. He had gone to Dover in May to secure the castle. Next month he had gone to Winchester to proclaim the papal bull quashing the oath to observe the  reforms of 1258. And then he had spent part of August and September at Windsor whither he summoned knights from the counties to attend his parliament. Meanwhile throughout England the authority of his sheriffs was being challenged by the insurgents. It is difficult to believe that either Henry’s father or his son would have behaved in this passive fashion. John and Edward would surely have toured the country bolstering the power of their local agents and punishing their opponents. Yet to all criticism, one answer is sufficient. Henry’s softly softly tactics had brought him victory. By not provoking the opposition, he had in the end disarmed it. The consequences of more abrasive tactics might well have been civil war. Henry’s personal preferences, as a ‘rex pacificus’, went hand in hand with political sense.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Saturday 20 August to Saturday 27 August 1261

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

This week was chiefly remarkable for Henry III’s extraordinary move from Windsor to the Tower of London and back.  According to the fine rolls, Henry witnessed letters at Windsor on Saturday 20 August. Yet a letter on the close rolls has him attesting on the same day at the Tower of London. Indeed it was from there that he sent ten foot archers to Matthias Bezill at Gloucester castle. Evidently he had heard of Bezill’s violent quarrel with  the rival sheriff, William de Tracy, and felt he needed reinforcements. (See the blog for 24-30 July).  Henry seems, therefore, to have travelled from Windsor to the Tower in the course of 20 August. Most  probably he made the journey by boat.  Just how long he stayed at the Tower is unclear because the dating clauses of royal letters become contradictory, testimony perhaps to the general confusion. A letter on the fine rolls has Henry still at the Tower on 23 August. Yet one on the close rolls places him back at Windsor on the  twenty-second.  Certainly he was at Windsor from the twenty-fourth onwards.

Just why Henry made this dash to the Tower is unclear. Perhaps the most likely explanation is that he felt the growth of the insurgency around Windsor made it unsafe. The last thing he wanted was to face a siege there. This then  was a flight rather like that from from Winchester  to the Tower back in June (see the blog for 12-18 June).  After a few days, Henry  returned to Windsor having been  re-assured of the situation. He was  more comfortable there than in his confined quarters at the Tower. He could also assert more of a presence than bottled up in the capital.  The hypothesis that Henry was losing control of the area near Windsor is supported by some strands  of evidence. It was from 24 August that his sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Alexander of Hampden,  received nothing from the issues of the county ‘because of the disturbance’, according to his later testimony.  The fine rolls are also interesting.  Below the letter attested on 20 August come twelve fines for writs to initiate or further the common law legal proceedings.  The fine rolls record, as was usual, omits the date of the writs, but they were presumably issued around 20 August.  Not one concerned counties in the circle around Windsor. Henry was now girding himself for war, although he still hoped to avoid it.  On 22 August, he sent letters to various foreign lords asking them to be ready to send him a total of 300 knights and  the same number of serjeants or archers. These were  to be despatched  once Henry  sent a further request. As he explained, ‘certain of our magnates have for sometime been rebels, and unless they speedily think again, we will have to take appropriate measures’.

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.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 3 July to Saturday 9 July 1261

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Another week for Henry at the Tower of London  and a momentous one.  On Friday and Saturday, 8-9 July, Henry took the decisive step of dismissing the sheriffs and castellans appointed by the baronial regime and replacing them with his own men.  It was one thing to proclaim, as Henry had done at Winchester in May, that he was no longer bound by his oath to obey the Provisions of Oxford. It was quite another to act on his new power and attempt to assert his authority throughout the country. That was what Henry was now doing.

The apparently bullish mood in which he took this dangerous step is revealed in letters Henry issued this week. He protested to the pope about Archbishop Boniface’s proceedings at the recent council of Lambeth ‘to the diminution of the state of our crown and dignity’.  He then proclaimed that his political position was improving ‘from moment to moment’.  He had taken possession of Dover, the city and the  Tower of London, together with other castles.  He held everything in peace with the ‘assent of the community’, save for certain malevolent people, whose crafty machinations, he hoped, with the help of God and the pope, soon to destroy.  To the Welsh prince Llywelyn, Henry explained that he was now absolved from his oath to govern with the counsel of the nobles and had resumed ‘the strength of royal power’

This confidence was, however, more apparent than real. Henry remained in the Tower. He evidently shrank for touring the country to give comfort and support to his new officials against the malevolent plotters. He was like a soldier who has popped his head above the trench to a fire a missile and then quickly ducks down into its protection.   Henry  also still cherished the hope that the leader of the opposition  might be deflected by diplomacy. On 5 July,  he took a further initiative designed to settle his private quarrels with Simon de Montfort by arbitration.

The growing furore provoked by Henry’s actions is revealed in the fine rolls. No business at all was recorded between 4-7 July inclusive. The whole week only saw the purchase of sixteen common law writs, far fewer than usual. Evidently people were unable or unwilling to come to court.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 19 June to Saturday 25 June 1261

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

We left Henry on Saturday 18 June at Guildford.  He had reached there on his sudden flight from Winchester, following the furore provoked by his publication of the papal bulls dissolving the Provisions of Oxford. On the Sunday, Henry moved on to Kingston, closer that is to London, where he remained for the Monday and the Tuesday. The fine rolls reveal one piece of routine business discharged at this time and also the jurisdiction of the court held by the king’s marshal. This imposed an amercement (in modern terminology a fine) of one mark for wine sold at Kingston ‘contrary to the assize’, contrary that is to the regulations on weights and measures.  Probably Henry was pausing at Kingston while he received intelligence as to just how serious the revolt against his démarche was. Doubtless he would have liked to have gone on to Westminster.  In the event, he could not.   The situation did not permit residence at this undefended palace. On Tuesday 22 June Henry was back at the Tower of London. He was in for another long stay.

The disturbance of these days is reflected in the fine rolls which record no business for 19-21 June. It was also left to a clerk checking the rolls, while drawing up the copies sent to the exchequer, to supply the date  (22 June at the Tower of London) for an otherwise undated entry.  Some of the other chancery rolls at this time are even more chaotic with writs slapped down in haphazard order.  Once the king reached the Tower, however, routine business resumed and by the end of the week twenty-two writs to initiate or further the common law legal procedures were recorded on the fine rolls.

None of those securing these writs would have seen the king personally. This was business dealt with by the chancery clerks. But one person who appears on the fine rolls this week certainly did reach the royal presence, and found a warm welcome. This was the Gloucestershire baron, Maurice of Berkeley. In March he had been one of those give an annual pension (in his case 40 marks) in order to sustain him in the king’s service.  Now he was pardoned an amercement of £5 imposed for allowing a thief to escape from his prison at Redcliffe in Somerset.  He also received (while the king was at Kingston) a gift of three oaks from the forest of Dean. This was the kind of personal concession (Henry authorised it himself) which meant so much to the recipient. Evidently the king was very keen to secure Maurice’s loyalty in the struggle, all the more so since the great earl of Gloucester, Richard de Clare, was with the opposition.

We are able to see who was with the king this week in the Tower, thanks to the witness lists of royal charters issued from there on 25 June.  There were three bishops, those of Salisbury, Norwich and London. The last two were trusted royal servants and Henry could be absolutely sure of them.  In the same category came John Mansel (in command of the Tower), Philip Basset (now justiciar), Alan la Zouche, Robert Walerand , the judge William of Wilton, and the clerk Walter of Merton who was soon to be given custody of the seal.   Then there was group of barons from the Welsh march, Maurice of Berkeley, as we have said, and also Thomas Corbet of Cause and Reginald fitzPeter.  These men supplied muscle. Finally there were two men from the Savoyard party of the queen, namely Imbert de Montferrand and the king’s steward, Imbert Pugeys. One of the charters issued on 25 June was for another Savoyard, Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury. He was granted the right to hold a weekly market at Petersfield in the great archiepiscopal property of Maidstone. The fine rolls show he paid nothing for the concession. It was pure favour. Henry was not best pleased with his wife’s uncle, following the independence he had displayed at the ecclesiastical synod at Lambeth in May. But it was vital to keep him now on side, given he was one of those to whom the pope had addressed the letters quashing the Provision.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 12 June to Saturday 18 June 1261

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Sunday 12 June at Winchester. At last Whitsunday had arrived. Henry III always celebrated the great feast magnificently, and now he had added reason for doing so.  As so often in the medieval period, a major political event was to be linked to a key  Christian festival. The event, of course, was the publication of the papal letters quashing the Provisions of Oxford.  Henry had chosen Whitsun in part because it was the first great feast on the calendar after the arrival of the papal letters.  But he must also have thought the choice deeply appropriate. At Whitsun the Holy Spirit had rushed in upon the apostles, the multitude of assembled Jews had spoken in tongues, and Peter had cried out to the throng ‘Let  all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ’.  In the service Henry would have used, the Office for the day  began  ‘For the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world’. The appointed psalm was 68: ‘Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him’.  And this was the Collect:

‘God, who at this time didst teach the hearts of the faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy holy spirit; grant us by the same spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his comfort’.

Henry, of course, would not quite have equated the papal letters with the coming of the Holy Spirit, let alone have equated himself with Christ. But nonetheless the parallels were obvious. How he must have hoped the letters would re-establish ‘right judgement’ in his own people, and make them once again respect him as their proper lord and  rejoice in his comfort and protection.

Whitsunday doubtless began with a mass for the king in the castle,  his  chapel, together with the almonry, being  filled with light from numerous candles.  At Westminster for Whitsun 1260, for which records survive,  200 pounds of wax were consumed in the chapel and the almonry on the vigil and the feast day, twenty times more than what was often the usual quota. After this private mass, Henry and his entourage would have gone down from the castle to the cathedral  for the great service. One can imagine the procession of monks which came out to meet them.  There was no bishop, for the see was vacant, but Henry had with him the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich. Quite probably his son Edward was there too, a vital sign of political strength. At any rate on this very day, the fine rolls show Henry making a major concession to his son.  After the service there was a huge feast either in the bishop’s palace or back in the great hall of the castle, which of course still survives. (See the photos on this blog.) On the vigil  and the day of Whitsun in 1260, Henry had spent over £125 on his court’s food and drink,  a sum equalling of  a whole year’s income of a minor baron, and the very rough equivalent of over half a million pounds today. This was a sum over twenty times larger than Henry might have spent on two ordinary days.

The service in 1261 was  accompanied by prolific alms giving, hence the lights in the almonry.  Henry distributed 171 pairs of shoes to paupers and probably fed many more. His usual daily quota, when the queen was with him, was 150. But at Whitsun 1260  he fed 464, and probably it was the same in 1261. Henry also knighted some of his followers and distributed  robes to the 100 or so household knights he had now retained.  Just when and how the papal letters were proclaimed we do not know, but clearly   the rituals of the day enhanced their impact, and emboldened  the king and his supporters to put them into effect. Henry acted decisively to do just that. Probably on Whitsunday itself he dismissed  the baronial justiciar, Hugh Despencer,  and replaced him with the trusty Philip Basset.  There was no clearer proof that the baronial regime was over.

After these dramatic moves, it is not clear what Henry planned to do next. In the event, the decision was  made for him.  John Mansel, perhaps the best of all his councillors, had come part of the way to Winchester, but had then turned back. Probably he returned to the Tower of London where he was in command.  In any case, there or elsewhere,  he learnt that major resistance was being plotted against Henry’s overthrow of the Provisions of Oxford. At Winchester, Henry might even be in danger. Mansel thus hurried to join the king and was with him by Tuesday 14 June. He counselled an immediate return to the safety of the Tower, and that very day Henry slipped out of Winchester castle with a small following to make his return. By the evening he had  reached Alton, and by the end of the week was at Guildford. It was a humiliating conclusion to the triumphant Whitsun celebrations.  For all the robes distributed to his knights, Henry clearly felt his forces were insufficient to meet the growing insurgency.

The dramatic events of this week are reflected in the fine rolls.  Some eighteen writs to further common law legal actions were issued, but nearly all of these were purchased on or around 13 June before the flight from Winchester.  No business was recorded at Alton on  14-15 June, nor at Guildford and Kingston between 17 and 21 June.  John Mansel, however, kept his nerve and on 17 June at Guildford saw through a striking concession  enrolled on the fine rolls. By this,  Hawise, widow of the marcher baron, Patrick de Chaworth, was given compensation for the money she was spending ‘on the  war that she wages in parts of Wales’.  A striking example of a woman in command of military actions.

Beyond these great  events, there are sharp reminders of the  fate of those outside the political process. On the back of the fine roll for this week, there is a schedule recording that the burgesses of Derby had fined with the king for 10 marks to have a charter that no Jew or Jewess should henceforth remain in their vill.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 5 June to Saturday 11 June 1261

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Henry spent this week at Winchester in preparation for holding the Whitsun feast there on Sunday 12 June. His celebrations of the festival  were always  on a grand scale, and this year they  had  an added significance. During their course, Henry intended to publish the papal bulls quashing the Provisions of Oxford. It was vital to have the strength to resist any resulting protests,  and Henry’s preparations  are reflected in a royal  order he issued on Monday 7 June. Robes were to be ready at the feast for around a hundred knights whom he had retained as members of his household. These included  fourteen knights brought from abroad  by two northern French nobles, Alard de Seningham and Gerard de Rodes, who were friends of Queen Eleanor. Eleanor had made her own way to Winchester, where she arrived during the course of this week.  In terms of fine roll business the week seems very much business as usual.  Around twenty-five writs were purchased to further common law litigation. These included five commissions to the judge, Peter de Percy, to hear cases in Yorkshire. One supposes that the litigants  had clubbed together to send someone south to get the writs. Significantly another group of Yorkshire litigants purchased a writ for a case to be heard by Hugh Despencer ‘justiciar of England’. Despencer, a confidant of Simon de Montfort, had been appointed by the baronial regime, much against the king’s wishes,  back in October 1260.  The Yorkshire litigants clearly had no  inkling that he was about to be dismissed. Nor  did the chancery clerks enlighten them.  Surprise was all.

The Round Table in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle