Posts Tagged ‘Windsor Castle’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 February to Saturday 10 March 1257

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Henry III began the week commencing Sunday 25 February at Windsor.  He had to be back at Westminster by 18 March for the opening of the great parliament which would make crucial decisions about the Sicilian affair and  say good bye to Richard of Cornwall before his departure for Germany.  To fill in the intervening period, there was just time for a short tour.  Henry left Windsor on Friday 2 March and stayed over night at  the house of Henry de Bohun at Amersham.  On the evening  of the next day,  Saturday 3 March he reached St Albans abbey where he remained until the ninth. Then Henry moved on to Hertford to be entertained by his half brother, William de Valence, to whom he had given Hertford castle. After that,  Henry progressed  to Waltham abbey where he stayed from  11 to 14 March  before returning to Westminster for the parliament.

There were several reasons for this tour. One was that there was sickness at Windsor.  Queen Eleanor was ill there, as were several young nobles, including Nicholas of Seagrave, who were being brought up at  court.  Another reason was spiritual. Henry was on a  pilgrimage. He could pray for help at the forthcoming parliament before the shrine of England’s proto-martyr Alban and before Waltham’s famous Holy Cross. And there was a financial motive.  Henry was doing all he could to save money for the Sicilian affair.   What better way to reduce the costs of his daily expenditure on food and drink than by accepting the hospitality of his nobles and even more, for they could put him up for longer, of England’s  great religious houses.  Henry’s exploitation of religious houses in this way was one of the complaints made against him by churchmen in the 1250s. He was, however, aware that not everyone had their resources, and was good enough to send Henry de Bohun a cask of wine to compensate for what had been consumed at Amersham

Matthew Paris gives a wonderful picture of Henry’s visit to St Albans.  He makes no complaint about it, although Henry stayed for a week and  brought with him two of his unpopular Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, as well as his Savoyard steward, Imbert Pugeis, and another foreign relative, William de Chabanais. But then Henry’s conduct was so completely right. He offered at the great altar a ‘most noble necklace with two clasp and a cross chain’  and at the altars of St Alban and St Amphibalis most noble rings. He also gave a silver gilt cup to hold the dust found in  the recently discovered original tomb of St Alban and as well as six silken cloths, of which one was to cover the tomb and another the tombs of the hermits Roger and Sigard. Henry also gave money for work on the St Alban’s feretory.  During this visit, Matthew Paris, so he tells us, was continually with the king  at his table and in his chamber.  Henry indeed, ‘directing amicably and diligently the pen of the writer’, named for Paris the princes who had just elected Richard as king of Germany. He also named the sainted kings of England and then ran through all the English baronies he could remember of which he found there were 250.  Paris also captures Henry dealing with business.  Certain masters of the University of Oxford came before him in the chapel of Saint Oswin and made a complaint about the jurisdictional  claims of  bishop of Lincoln. They were given a day for their case to be heard at the forthcoming ‘great parliament’.  Matthew Paris added his two penny worth. He told the king  ‘secretly’ how  ruin would threaten the whole church if the  University of Oxford should now suffer the same fate as the currently troubled University of Paris. Henry showed suitable  alarm. ‘Let this not happen, especially in my time’. One is so used to Paris’s diatribes against Henry III, that it is good to be reminded of a totally different side to the their relationship.  On a visit like this to a great monastery, Henry could display a charming  combination of respectful piety, friendly accessibility and proper concern.

The fine rolls in these two weeks reflect Henry’s efforts to raise money. At Windsor on 28 February he arranged for wood to be sold from the royal forests, hoping this would raise 3000 or 4000 marks.  The fines of gold, designed to provide the treasure for the Sicilian army, continued  to come in. There were eleven in these two weeks worth some nine marks of gold, the equivalent of 90 marks of silver. In addition the abbot of Croxton, at St Albans on 5 March, offered 60 marks silver for the purchase of gold to secure the king’s confirmation of gift of land.  Henry added a further concession ‘for the sake of the heart of King John’, which was buried at the abbey. The rolls  give a perfect example of how Magna Carta had restricted royal income. On 2 March at Windsor, Henry de Blendet did homage to the king for his father’s lands.  The relief or inheritance tax he had to pay was £5. Since he held one knight’s fee from the king this was strictly in accord with Magna Carta. It was  restrictions such as these which made the king so dependent on taxation which only parliament could grant. Hence the importance of the approaching meeting.

On the membrane covering this period, the entry for the sale of wood is 10 down, the relief of Henry de Blendet is fourteen down, and for the king at St Albans on 5 March, see sixteen down.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 February to Saturday 24 February 1257

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

At the start of this week, or possibly at the end of last, Henry moved from Westminster to Windsor, going by way of Merton priory in Surrey.  On Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, his Lenten fast began, which at the very least must have meant a fish diet.   Henry  remained pre-occupied by the Sicilian project, the project that is to place Edmund, his second son, on the throne of Sicily.  In this week he gave 100 marks for the support of  Henry, the brother of the king of Castile. Henry was in England and being canvassed  as the man who might lead the army to conquer Sicily from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler. In this week, King  Henry also appointed Simon de Montfort  as his ambassador to negotiate a peace with the king of France. This too was linked to the Sicilian project since, without such a peace, a passage of an English army through France on its way to Sicily would never be permitted.  Montfort was at court at Windsor during the week and, preparatory to his mission, gained permission both to make his will and to receive his inheritance in France if the king of France would grant it to him.

It is a curious week for the fine rolls because between 16 and 26 February only six items of business were enrolled upon them.  Since a new membrane was started in the course of the week and an old one finished, one wonders whether some business was lost in the transition. By far the most striking entry – the last in the image above – concerned Amice countess of Devon. On 19 February the king made her a life grant of the royal manor of Melksham in Wiltshire in return for the traditional annual payment or farm of  a little over £48. This was a generous concession because when Melksham had been valued  in 1250 its farm had been set at £140. (See CFR 1250-1, no.1107).  Amice  was a woman of the highest status.  She was the daughter of Gilbert de Clare earl of Gloucester and his wife, Isabel,  daughter of the great William Marshal, earl of Pembroke. She was the widow of Baldwin de Redvers, earl of Devon, who had died in 1245. Since then she  had resisted pressure to take a second husband. Amice was protected by Magna Carta which laid down that no widow could be made re-marry.  She was also protected by her close relationship with Queen Eleanor and her party of Savoyards. In this year,  Amice’s son and heir,  Baldwin, was to marry a daughter of the queen’s uncle Thomas of Savoy.  The gift of Melksham to Amice was made at Windsor, Eleanor’s chief base. Almost certainly she had a hand in it, as perhaps did Peter of Savoy, who was also at court this week. Doubtless Amice was there too, as she had been at the start of January, when she received a new year’s gift of  six deer from the king.  Queen Eleanor continued to keep her eye on Melksham. In 1258,  the £48 annual farm was used to support her lady Willelma, ‘who from the childhood of the queen has served her and now, wearied in that service and worn out by old age and sickness, does not wish to follow the queen, but proposes for her better quiet  to dwell in the abbey of Lacock or some other religious house’. (See p.105 of Margaret Howell’s, Eleanor of Provence).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 February to Saturday 10 February 1257

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

This week’s blog needs to begin with a small correction. The blog for last week stated that Henry spent the whole of that week at Windsor. I was relying here on the Itinerary of Henry III, prepared by Theodore Craib of the Public Record Office,  as found in the later edition put together by English Heritage. I failed to notice  that the latter has a mistake and gives as Henry’s itinerary for February what is in fact his itinerary for March, leaving out February altogether.  As is actually clear from the fine rolls, during the week of 28 January-3 February, Henry left Windsor and returned to Westminster.

Henry spent the whole of the week  from 4 to 10 February at Westminster.  The fine rolls show his continuing efforts to build up his gold treasure to fund the campaign to place his second son on the throne of Sicily. In this week, there were thirteen  fines made in gold, of which eight  were connected with exemptions from knighthood. The most valuable fine was produced by an alliance planned between two noble houses. On Friday 9 February, Edmund de Lacy, heir to the earldom of Lincoln,  fined in ten marks of gold (the equivalent of 100 marks of silver) for permission to marry  Henry, his son and heir,  to the eldest daughter and heir of William Longespee.  As a  result of this marriage, Henry, who was to be a leading counsellor  of King Edward I,  ultimately  became  earl of Salisbury as well as earl of Lincoln.  It might be wondered why this marriage was not snapped up by one of Henry III’s foreign relations, who dominated the court in this week. On 4 February a royal charter was witnessed by three of the king’s Poitevin half brothers (Guy and Geoffrey de Lusignan and William de Valence), by the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, by two other Savoyard ministers, and not a single English magnate. The answer was that Edmund de Lacy was already part of the Savoyard circle because his wife, through the brokerage of Peter of Savoy, was Alice, daughter of the marquis of Saluzzo in North Italy and his Savoyard bride. Edmund’s mother, moreover, Margaret de Lacy, countess of Lincoln, who had played a key part in negotiating Henry’s marriage to the Longespee heiress, was  close to Queen Eleanor, as Louise Wilkinson has shown in an article about her in Historical Research.

For the image of Edmund de Lacy’s fine, count up twenty-nine entries from the bottom of the membrane on the fine roll, and see no.416 in the calendar.

Saving hard for Sicily, and hoping to accompany his brother Richard to Germany for his coronation as king of the Romans, the last thing Henry  wanted was trouble in Wales.  Yet he could no longer ignore the insurgency of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. On 10 February he issued letters of safe conduct to Llywelyn’s envoys to come and see Richard, who hoped (as Matthew Paris noted) to persuade the Welsh prince to keep quiet so as not to interfere with his departure from the kingdom. Some hope! Henry himself had done little since the start of the year to meet his growing problems. Next week’s blog will at last show him taking action.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 January to Saturday 3 February 1257

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Windsor.  There was some really joyful news. On Sunday 28 January, Henry announced (in a letter to the bishop of Hereford),  the certain intelligence that his brother, Richard, had been elected as king of the Romans.  (The election, following Richard’s acceptance of the offer in December had in fact taken place on 13 January outside Frankfurt.)  Henry ordered a robe to be given to the messenger of the bishop of Cambray who had brought the glad tidings. On the following Tuesday, after dinner at his castle of Wallingford, Richard himself heard details, which made things even better. King Ottakar of Bohemia, hitherto sitting on the fence, had given his assent to the election. Henry now entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of the occasion  and declared his intention of accompanying Richard out to Germany, obviously with the aim of attending  the coronation. This was just the kind of  pageantry Henry loved. But there was more to it than  that. His presence would  help establish Richard in Germany, thus transforming the political shape of Europe and helping forward the Sicilian enterprise; or at least so Henry might hope. In and around this week, the fine rolls show the gold  to finance Henry’s Sicilian campaign was still rolling in. Between 1 February and 7 February there were twelve fines of gold, nine of them from men seeking exemption from knighthood. One of the fines suggests that it was not always easy to acquire the gold required for the Yorkshire lord, Simon of Lowthorpe, actually paid half his fine in silver. This is thirty seven entries down (if I have counted correctly) in the image and no.400 in the Calendar.

Would Henry go to Germany? Would Richard’s  Germany kingship help the Sicilian enterprise. Read future blogs to find out.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Monday 22 January to Saturday 27 January 1257

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Perspicacious readers will already have appreciated  why this week’s blog needs to run  from Monday not Sunday. Last week’s blog mistakenly followed the calendar for 2012 not 1257 and so ran from Sunday 15 January to Saturday 21 January instead of Sunday 14 January to Saturday 20 January. In this blog we are now back on the true 1257 course.

Henry III began this week at Westminster and then, between 24 and 27 January  moved to Windsor.  Once there, he took steps to see the five chaplains  serving the castle’s chapels and the four serjeants in the garrison received their pay.

The fine rolls show the raising of the gold treasure in full swing. In these six days no less than eleven men offered the king half a mark of gold apiece for exemption from knighthood.  How effectively the sheriffs were putting pressure throughout the country on men to assume the title  or (which was preferable)  pay not to do so, is shown by the fact that these fines came from a wide sweep of counties:  Devon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire,   Hampshire, Sussex,  Cambridgeshire,   Suffolk, Leicestershire,  Rutland, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  The gold was intended to  finance an expedition to Sicily, and this week Henry, the brother of the king of Castile, who was being mooted as the possible commander of the army, was allowed to hunt at the royal manor of Havering in Essex.

Other fines of gold came from Robert of Canterbury for a die in the king’s mint at Canterbury and from  Walter de la More of Buckinghamshire to  have a pardon for a homicide. This second concession (no.383 in the Calendar)  was made at the instance of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.  (For the entry see twenty items down in the image of the membrane: http://frh3.org.uk/content/fimages/C60_54/m08.html.).  Montfort also secured in this week a charter from the king allowing him to set up a new park at his manor of Shipley in Northumberland.  Since there is no reference to a fine for this on the fine rolls, he got the concession free of charge. These favours are useful reminders of how far Montfort was back on good terms with the king before the revolution of 1258.  He was not at court this week,  but his close associate (although no relation),  Peter de Montfort,  a member of the king’s council, witnesses the Shipley charter  and it was probably  through Peter that the concessions were obtained. Other witnesses were Peter of Savoy, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence which shows how very prominent the king’s foreign relatives were at court. In 1258 that court was to break apart.

One small point of chancery practice or mispractice. No 380 in the Calendar (seventeen items down in the image) is an interesting example of an  entry being enrolled late and out of sequence.  It is a concession to Philip Basset, witnessed at Windsor on 7 November 1256. Note also the smaller hand and lighter ink from the entries before and after.  This hand and ink, however, is not found in the marginal annotation to the entry, which looks the same as those to the other entries,  a  sure sign these marginalia were done later all at the same time.  I  assume, incidentally,  that when the immediately following entry (no.381) is said to be ‘witnessed as above’, that refers back to the 27 January of entry no.375 not 7 November of  380.

Aymo Tumbert

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

David Carpenter writes:

In Henry III’s first blog for 1257, I  described Aymo Tumbert, just appointed as keeper  of Windsor castle, as a Savoyard. Since the queen was based at Windsor,  I thought that was likely since she would want the castle under one of her own countrymen, as had often been the case in the past. However, I had no precise evidence of Aymo’s nationality, and accordingly asked the leading expert on the aliens, Huw Ridgeway, whether he could supply any.

 Huw Ridgeway writes as follows:

I always considered Aymo a ‘Savoyard’. He was Constable of Tower Sept 1256-Jan 1257 and Windsor 1253-4;1257-1263 (when dismissed by Montfort). He possibly died not long after that, since there is no subsequent reference to him. He is a curious character who comes out of the blue and goes out into it.  Much associated with service to the  Queen and (in capacity as Constable of Windsor) in looking after Lord Edmund and other royal children ( eg, Cal Liberate Rolls 1251-60,p.176; 302; Close Rolls  1259-61,p.101). I cannot find, alas, independent confirmation that Aymo was actually ‘Savoyard’ by origin. I think it likely: there is no reference to his family’s landholding in England prior to 1250, which suggests ‘alien’; he first appears, more or less, in Feb 1252 as executor of Peter of Geneva (Cal. Liberate Rolls 1251-60,p.27) which makes me think that he was originally in Peter’s household and moved across to the Queen’s after Peter’s death. He is therefore, at the very least a Savoyard by association.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog for 1257

Friday, January 13th, 2012

King Henry’s situation in 1257 was very different from that in 1261. In 1261 he was struggling to overthrow the restrictions imposed on him in 1258. The kingdom was on the brink of civil war. In 1257 Henry was in full control of government. England was at peace. Henry had one major pre-occupation. This was the Sicilian enterprise. Henry  had accepted a papal offer of the throne of Sicily for his second son Edmund. The only problem was that he had to pay the pope £90,000 AND send an army out to Sicily to conquer it from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler.  Part of the money was coming from taxation levied on the church much to its fury. This was because  the pope had diverted the tax originally intended for Henry’s crusade to support the Sicilian business.  But this would raise at most half the money owed the pope, let alone finance a military campaign.  Henry desperately needed additional sums which meant trying to secure a general tax from parliament. What happened at the parliaments held in 1257, we shall see in due course. 

 The Sicilian business also impacted on relations with France. In order to concentrate upon it, Henry decided to  make peace with King Louis IX. In other words, he was prepared at last to resign his claims to his lost continental empire, which essentially meant resigning his claims to Normandy, Anjou and Poitou. Negotiations for such a settlement were to be a major theme in 1257.

With Sicily central to his thoughts,  the last thing Henry wanted  was to be distracted by events in Wales. Distracted he was, however. The rising power of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, became, in 1257, a major preoccupation.

The fine rolls in 1257 provide graphic testimony to the impact of the Sicilian business on local society. While Henry knew that only a general tax from parliament could really give the enterprise lift off, he was also trying to raise money in other ways. In particular he was assembling a treasure in gold to pay his Sicilian army, this because gold was the metal of the Sicilian currency. (For the ‘augustales’ minted by Frederick II in Sicily, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustalis.)  Central to Henry’s scheme was insisting that people who wished for concessions and favours should pay for them in gold.  These ‘fines of gold’ are recorded on the fine rolls, making the latter a key source for the accumulation of the gold treasure.  One favour in particular was being purchased in 1257. This was exemption from knighthood.  In 1256, the king had proclaimed that everyone with an income of £15 a year upwards should take up knighthood.  His aim was very largely to make money from the men prepared to fine with the king for exemption from the obligation. Alternatively they could fine for an inquiry into the value of their lands to see if they really did have the required income.   No one questioned the king’s right to impose knighthood, but his move still created resentment. There were some lords, certainly, who were attracted by the status of  knighthood, and its promise of  military activity.  But many others were put off both by the costs and the likely administrative as well as military burdens.  To have to pay to avoid them  was infuriating, the more especially as the £15 a year threshold was a low one.

The cost Henry charged for exemption or an inquiry was usually half a mark of gold. Since gold was worth ten times silver, this meant the fine was the equivalent of five marks of silver, or £3 6s 8d. It thus represented a sizable proportion of a £15 annual income.  During the course of 1257, as we will see, large numbers of potential knights came to court and made their fine. They must have asked why they had to do so in gold, thus discovering Henry’s Sicilian plans and how they were suffering from them. Most of those fining were lords of manors and members of the  gentry. They were influential locally, however much they wished to escape the burdens of knighthood. In this way the full horror of the Sicilian venture was spread through the counties of England.  What made matters worse was the saving of the gold was very personal to the king. The potential knights had to come to court to make their fine. They then had to pay the gold  in to the king’s wardrobe either at once or at stipulated terms in the future. Usually the terms were written down on the fine rolls, as was the record of the eventual payments to the wardrobe’s keeper, either Artald de St Romain or later, Peter des Rivaux. Both these men were foreigners, the latter notoriously so.  These gentry lords thus also saw how ‘alien’ was Henry’s court.  The  whole process of the making and collection of these fines  can be seen in the payments made in January 1257, with the marginal annotations ‘De finibus auri’, ‘Concerning fines of gold’.

The exchequer was not informed at all about the process, something it was left to the reformers of 1258 to put right. (See the fine of the month by Richard Cassidy)

One other aggravation was the bother of acquiring gold to make the fines. Unfortunately the fine rolls do not say in what form the gold came. Perhaps the most likely source was the goldsmiths who sold gold in foil and other forms, The cost of such purchases placed a further burden on the potential knights.

Henry III began the year 1257 at the priory of Merton in Surrey. He then moved to Westminster for the anniversary of Edward the Confessor’s death on 5 January. This feast of his patron was one of the greatest in Henry’s liturgical year and he always celebrated it at Westminster, unless abroad.  Henry was to remain at Westminster till near the end of the month.  In the first two weeks of January, the fine rolls show that there were no less than thirty-one fines of gold. Of these sixteen were for exemption from knighthood, and another six for inquiries into income.  Four fines were made for exemption from jury service.

The fine  rolls also show the way the king was entrusting major royal castles to his foreign servants. In this period Imbert Pugeis became keeper of The Tower of London and Aymon Tumbert keeper of Windsor. Both were Savoyards. Henry also increased the jurisdiction of his Poitevin castellan of Corfe, Elyas de Rabayne, by giving him control of the surrounding warren or park.  The way foreigners were in charge of the chief castles of the kingdom was one of the main complaints made against Henry’s rule in 1258.

See next week’s blog for more about fines of gold and Henry’s attempts to raise money.

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 Sunday 13 November to Saturday 19 November 1261

Monday, November 14th, 2011

For Henry this was yet another week in the Tower of London. Negotiations with his opponents were continuing at Kingston on Thames. On Monday 14 November Henry issued yet another safe conduct, this one to run till Saturday 19 November, for the barons coming to Kingston  ‘to make peace with the king’. But, as before,  Henry was  keeping up his guard. The next day he ordered his castellan of Dover and sheriff of Kent, the doughty Robert Walerand,  to receive the knights and others called into the king’s service from beyond the seas.  The fine rolls this week contain two pieces of evidence which suggest that Henry was holding sway in northern Kent. On 16 November he placed Rochester under the control of John de Grey. John’s brother, Richard, was a leading Montfortian, but John, a former steward of the royal household  remained loyal to the king. Henry was acting, so he said, partly at the request of the citizens themselves, who were so riven by faction that they had asked the king several times to take the vill into his own hands. He was also, he said, motivated by ‘the disturbances which have arisen in the kingdom and the preservation of the security of those parts’.  Henry was equally in contact with the citizens of Faversham. It was in this week that the  barons of Faversham’, as they are called in recognition of their status, agreed to pay the king 10 marks for a royal charter.  The fine can be seen at the top of this image of membrane 18 of the roll. Details of this charter and others relating to Faversham are listed on Faversham’s own website.

The fine rolls also show that, in this week, Henry had a welcome windfall of money, although less than first appears.  The next entry to that for Faversham records how Belia, widow of Petitevin of Bedford, a Jew, had paid 400 marks cash down and promised 335 marks to come, for the chattels, lands and rents of her former husband in Bedford. In fact a later entry shows that she had already given  300 of the 400 marks when the king was at Windsor earlier in the year, and only 100 marks now came at the Tower. Still this was a useful subvention  at a critical time. The fine also shows, of course, that there remained  some very wealthy Jews despite the heavy taxation of the previous decades. Belia was also far from the only Jewish widow to take on her husband’s business.

The fine rolls  continue to reflect the chaotic times. Their material is jumbled in terms of chronology and it is difficult to know how many writs were purchased in this week to initiate and further common law legal actions. Between  12 and 23 November, the number appears to be a fairly modest eighteen.

Are the negotiations at Kingston going to have any result? Read next week’s instalment.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 September to 24 September 1261

Monday, September 19th, 2011

For Henry this was another week at Windsor castle.  Wednesday 21 September, as we saw in the last blog, was supposed to be the day when three knights from each county were to come to Windsor rather than to the baronial assembly at St Albans.  While there is no hard evidence about who attended either meeting, the fine rolls do contain a remarkable, and hitherto unknown, suggestion that at least two knights did come to Windsor from Norfolk. The same entry also shows that Henry’s sheriff was at least able to exercise some authority in the county.

Since the start of August  Henry’s sheriff in Norfolk and Suffolk, Philip Marmion, had been challenged by two rival ‘keepers’ set up by the earls of  Norfolk, Gloucester and other magnates.  It was said later that, as a result, he had been unable to hold  county courts. Nonetheless, during this week  the burgesses of Norwich  were willing and able to lay a complaint  before Henry III. Their grievance was against the sheriff so he evidently had control of the town and presumably its great castle.  The burgesses claimed that they had the privilege of answering directly either to the king’s judges or the exchequer for the chattels of those convicted of felony in the town. Instead, they now alleged,  the sheriff was demanding the chattels so he could answer for them himself. (The immediate issue was over the chattels of someone who had  committed suicide through drowning.)  In response to this complaint, Henry ordered the sheriff to take two local knights, William of Stalham and Stephen of Reedham, with him, and  inquire into the value of the chattels. He was then to allow the burgesses to answer for them as they requested.

How did Henry know that these two knights could be trusted at a time when his rule in Norfolk was under  the severest challenge? The most natural answer is that they had both turned up at Windsor for the parliament on 21 September.  Quite probably they had themselves brought the burgesses’ complaint.  It would be interesting to do more research on the careers of the two men. The electronic search facility to the fine rolls, here so useful, shows at once that Reedham purchased a series of writs in the 1250s and 1260s to initiate and further law cases. Stalham secured an exemption from having to sit on juries. He was certainly a leading figure in the  Norfolk for he was one of the four knights appointed under the reforms of 1258 to inquire into abuses in the county. There is also some indication that he was connected with the earl of Norfolk, Roger Bigod. If so, his attendance at Windsor may suggest the latter’s opposition to the king at this time was not root and branch.

Apart from these encouraging signs from Norfolk, the fine rolls for this week suggest little of comfort to the king. There was a decline  to a low thirteen in the number of common law writs purchased. Again, as in the week before,  not one came from Berkshire and the surrounding counties. Meanwhile, the king promised John Mansel, who was in charge of the Tower of London, to meet the  great expenses he was incurring ‘because of the dissension between the king and his barons’.

In all he was enduring, Henry had the support of his Queen Eleanor, as a writ from this week on the fine rolls shows.   On 24 September, ‘at the instance of his beloved queen’, he made a concession to Salomon l’Evesque (the bishop), a member of a Jewish family, which she often protected. (See Margaret Howell’s book Eleanor of Provence, p.277).

Towards the end of this week, Henry made the decision to leave Windsor. For where he went, see next week’s blog.