Posts Tagged ‘Winchester’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 29 May to Saturday 4 June 1261

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

From Guildford, where he was on Sunday 29 May, Henry moved to Chawton, later of course of Jane Austen fame. He left there on Tuesday 31 May and the same day reached Winchester. He now had plenty of time to prepare for the proclamation of the papal letters quashing  the Provisions of Oxford. The lives of medieval rulers revolved around the ecclesiastical calendar. They were deeply aware of how celebration of the  great religious festivals could give a sacral gloss to their rule before large gatherings of people.  Thus coronations and crown wearings, parliaments and proclamations were frequently time to coincide with the great feasts. [See the blog on the ‘Revealing Records’ symposium below.]  So it was in 1261 for Henry III intended to pronounce the papal letters on the feast on Pentecost. In 1261 as in 2011, this fell on Sunday 12 June.  Arriving at Winchester on 31 May, Henry thus had eleven days before  the papal balloon went up.

The journey to Winchester, not surprisingly, saw a sharp decline in the numbers of writs purchased in connection with  the common law legal procedures;  only nineteen  as opposed to sixty the week before when the king had been largely in London. The fine rolls for this week also have a fascinating order highlighting  various aspects of the king’s relations with the Jews. It was issued at the instance of Henry’s son, the Lord Edward, which reflected the fact that the Jews had been placed in some respects under his control.  The Jews owed the king 1000 marks (£666) as a penalty for an unspecified ‘trespass’. This they had been due to pay before Pentecost. Now, at Edward’s request, the payment was postponed till three weeks after the feast of John the Baptist, so to 15 July (another example of how the calendar was conceived in terms of the great ecclesiastical festivals).  Meanwhile the Jews were to recover their  chattels seized for the non payment of the debt. Henry then added a proviso. In the assessment of the  money to pay the debt, poor Jews were not to be ‘grieved’.  In intervening for the Jews, Edward was probably serving his own interests. There would be all the more of Jewish money for himself. Quite probably, he was also paid for his intervention.  But in Henry’s proviso one wonders if one sees his well known concern for the poor embracing even the poor of the Jewish community.  The importance attached to the proviso  is shown in the way  it was added to the initial record of the order on the fine rolls. Henry, however, was also casting an avaricious eye over Jewish wealth.  Before the chattels were returned,  there was to be an inquiry into what exactly was in the  ‘coffers’ or ‘chests’  of the Jews  in London and elsewhere. This was to be carried out secretly so the Jews were unaware of it, and the king was to be informed of the results.

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’.

A request for help with an entry on the Jews of Winchester

Friday, February 25th, 2011

The project team wonders if anyone can help with the meaning of an entry in the fine roll for 1251-1252.  Entry number 173 from near the start of membrane 20, with the marginal annotation ‘concerning taking an inquisition’, is an order to the sheriff of Hampshire to inquire by oath of twelve of the more law-worthy Jews of Winchester by their roll, whether a Jew, Cressus of Stamford, had violently seized and taken away from the synagogue  of the Jews in the same city ‘the apple of eve’ to the shame and opprobrium of the Jewish community. If convicted, Cressus was to give one mark of gold to the king for the trespass.  The writ was authorised by the king and ‘witnessed as above’ which indicates it was witnessed by the king at Geddington on 19 January 1252.

What, then, is all this about?   Was ‘the apple of Eve’ some kind of object within the synagogue, perhaps of ritualistic significance, hence the shame involved in its theft.   Any ideas gratefully received.

King’s doctoral students visit Winchester

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

On Saturday 29 January 2011 a group of  students from King’s, working on medieval doctorates, visited Winchester to see Henry III’s great hall in the castle and the cathedral, which they were taken round by the Guide, Tim Manners-Smith. The photograph shows the party with Tim, and includes four contributors to the Fine of the Month series, Sophie Ambler, Richard Cassidy, Michael Clasby and David Carpenter.