Posts Tagged ‘Woodstock’

Sunday 28 December 1264: Woodstock and Kenilworth

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

This week, Henry III’s court moved from Worcester to Woodstock, where the king celebrated Christmas. It would seem that the arrangements for the feast were more lavish than usual: the sheriff of Oxfordshire supplied 30 oxen, 100 sheep, five boars and nine dozen fowls; salted venison was brought from Wiltshire; salmon and lampreys were sent from Gloucester; six tuns of new wine were transported from Bristol, thirteen tuns from Northampton; and the bailiff of Woodstock provided charcoal and brushwood. In all, purchases for the feast amounted to £205, more than double what Henry had spent the year before. Christmas robes would be provided for lord Edward’s wife, Eleanor, and her household. While the king was at Woodstock, he also ordered repairs for the wall of the park and his chaplains’ chamber, as well as the planting of 100 pear saplings. (CLR 1260-67, 152-66; Wild, ‘A captive king’, TCE XIII, 49; Close Rolls 1264-68, 8)

At Woodstock, there was yet another attempt to order the northern royalists to come to the king, with the assurance that the northern leaders loyal to Simon de Montfort would not molest them; this was linked to the promise of discussions about the liberation of lord Edward, who would not be required as a hostage now that peace had been restored. At the same time, de Montfort was given still more power and privilege. Porchester castle was committed to him; lord Edward was said to have granted to him the county, castle and honour of Chester; and the earl of Derby was instructed to deliver the castle of the Peak to de Montfort. (CPR 1258-66, 397-8)

According to one chronicle, while Henry held Christmas solemnly at Woodstock, Simon de Montfort celebrated in his own castle of Kenilworth, surrounded by many knights. He was said to have at least 140 paid knights in his household (another chronicle gives the number as 160), with many more, devoted to him, who joined him when he went to war. Fortune smiled on everything he did, and the whole of England, apart from the far north, was subject to him. Everything in the kingdom was controlled by de Montfort, and the king could do nothing without his supervision. (Flores, II, 504; Rishanger, in Ypodigma Neustriae, 537)

The battle well, on the hill outside Evesham, the traditional site of Simon de Montfort’s death in battle, on 4 August 1265.

The battle well, on the hill outside Evesham, the traditional site of Simon de Montfort’s death in battle, on 4 August 1265.

Year’s end

This is where we have to leave the year 1264, with Simon de Montfort at the peak of his success. He ruled the country, having defeated the king’s army, deterred the threat of invasion, withstood the threats of the papal legate, and finally imposed peace on the barons of the Marches. The king was his puppet, the heir to the crown his hostage. Representatives of the nobility, church, counties and towns had been summoned to the parliament which would meet in January 1265, to endorse the new regime’s programme, as set out in the Provisions of Westminster. The events of Christmas week, however, show the weaknesses of this apparent triumph. The royalists of the north continued to disregard de Montfort’s instructions. Magnates like the earl of Derby were being pushed aside. De Montfort and his family were appearing increasingly greedy and arrogant, monopolizing power and the spoils of victory. De Montfort was making enemies, and when lord Edward escaped from captivity, he was soon able to assemble the army which would defeat de Montfort at Evesham in August 1265.

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 23 September to Saturday 29 September 1257

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

During this week, Henry left the Welsh march and set off eastwards back to Westminster. On  24 and 27  September, the fine rolls show him still at Worcester. By 29 September, he was at Woodstock. What a relief to enjoy once more the comfort of a major royal palace.  By far the most interesting entry on the fine rolls this week relates to a concession Henry made at Worcester on 27 September. This was to give John fitzAlan easier terms on which to repay a debt of 10,000 marks (£6666) which he owed the king. John was paying this debt off at the rate of £100 a year, £50 at Easter and £50 at Michaelmas.  Henry now allowed him to miss the payment due at Michaelmas 1257, the reason for the concession being that John was remaining in the king’s service in Wales.

John fitzAlan was a great baron of the Welsh march, being lord of Oswestry and Clun. He was also lord of Arundel in Sussex. His descendants indeed became earls of Arundel. How was it then that he owed such an astronomical sum to the king?  The answer is that  he had inherited the debt. The 10,000 marks had actually been offered King John back in 1214 by John fitzAlan’s uncle, William fitzAlan in order to be allowed to enter the fitzAlan inheritance. William died in 1216 and was followed by his brother, John fitzAlan, who died in 1240. Neither of them paid a penny towards the 10,000 marks.  When our John fitzAlan (the son of John who died in 1240), came of age in 1244, he might have hoped he too would be exempted from paying the debt, if not pardoned it all together. After all it originated in what was surely one of King John’s  most tyrannous exactions. Not a bit of it. Henry III demanded that John pay the debt. True he was allowed first to pay at the rate of £200 a year, and then (as we see in 1257) at the rate of a £100, but these were still substantial sums.  Nor was that all. When John had  succeeded in 1244, his relief was not the statutory £100 laid down in Magna Carta but a whopping £1000.  In his treatment of John fitzAlan, Henry seems to have been returning to the worst days of his father. What on earth was going on? I hope to answer that question before too long in a new fine of the month.      

For the membrane covering this week, click here (the John fitzAlan entry is 28 down).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 July to Saturday 28 July 1257

Friday, July 27th, 2012

King Henry’s itinerary in these two week can be followed in the fine rolls.  Down to 20 July he is found at Woodstock. On 24 July he is at Coventry and on 29 July at Lichfield. For the membrane covering the period, click here.

Henry was on his way to Chester to meet the army he had summoned for his campaign against Llywelyn. Preparations were now in full swing.  On 18 July 100 good archers were summoned from Sussex and a 100 good lancers from Northamptonshire. There was, however,  an important change of plan. On 13 July Llywelyn had attacked Richard de Clare’s lordship of Glamorgan.  The result was that on 18 July Henry decided to split his army and place a substantial force in south Wales under Richard’s command. Henry was also anxious on another front, one he had very much to heart. There was more trouble in Scotland where factional disputes were threatening the peace of the young king Alexander, who was married to Henry’s cherished daughter Margaret. On 20 July Henry sent envoys to Scotland to try and settle the disputes.  On the same day we find that Queen Eleanor was on her way to stay at Nottingham. This journey, hitherto unexplained, was almost certainly connected with events in Scotland. Eleanor felt as strongly about the welfare of Alexander and Margaret as did Henry. In 1255, when they had been under threat before, she had gone all the way to Scotland with Henry to effect their rescue. On that occasion, Henry and Eleanor had broken their journey at Nottingham. This year, Eleanor probably saw it as a base from which, if necessary, she could go further north. In fact, Eleanor did not stay at Nottingham long, although the  windows of her apartments there had been glassed, and the walls  wainscoted, plastered and adorned with a painting of the story of Alexander. She found the air not to her taste (an issue on which she was always sensitive) and moved to  the Ferrers castle of Tutbury, which was then, through a wardship,  in her own hands.

The fine rolls in these two weeks, show the usual common law business holding up well  with twenty-two writs being purchased to initiate or further legal actions. There is, as usual, a wide variety of other business. On 20 July at Woodstock, Henry, allowed Agnes, the widow of Stephen Bauzan, whose death at the hands of the Welsh had triggered the campaign, to have the royal manor of Wooton in Oxfordshire for six years, a nice act of compassion.  At Coventry, on 24 July, the ex sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire, Robert de Grendon, was allowed to pay off his arrears, which amounted to £484, at £20 a year.  How had he run up such a large deficit and why had he been allowed to do so? It would be interesting to research these questions, which could be posed concerning several other sheriffs at this time. There was also an important fine made by the Jewish community. Elyas Bishop, a London Jew, had just been removed from his position as ‘priest of the community of Jews of England’ for having allegedly tried to defraud Henry III’s brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and now, of course, king of Germany.  Despite its title, the position of ‘priest’ or ‘archpriest’ was a secular office held under the crown, the holder being responsible for carrying out the king’s orders with respect to the Jewry. Now Elyas’s brothers, Cress and Hagin, on behalf of the Jewish  community, offered the king three marks of gold (so the equivalent of thirty marks of silver) to ensure that Elyas never recovered the office and that henceforth the priest should be appointed by ‘common election of the aforesaid community’. It is interesting to see how the idea of that royal officials should be elected was embraced by the Jewish community just as much as it was by the Christian. It might seem strange that Henry III gave way to the request that the priest be elected,  but it had one great advantage.  If the priest was elected by the community, then the community could be penalised for his misdemeanours. Parliament’s demand to elect the king’s chief ministers, which Henry consistently rejected, was a rather different matter. For the fine, see nineteen from top on the membrane. The marginal note says the fine was by the community of the Jews of London, but the body of the fine makes clear it was by the community of the Jews of England.

Next week on to Chester.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 July to Saturday 14 July 1257

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Woodstock, while his army assembled to meet him at Chester in the first week of August. Material on the fine rolls, as it did last week, illustrates the law relating to property rights in marriage. On 14 July the king made a concession in favour of the Warwickshire knight, John of Ladbroke. John had married an heiress, namely Joan, daughter of Richard de Baresworth.  Although Joan had been married before, and her inheritance would eventually pass to the children of her first marriage,  John was entitled to control that inheritance during her lifetime. What, however, would happen after her death, for she had indeed now died? Here everything depended on whether there had been offspring from the marriage. If there had not been, then Joan’s inheritance would pass at once to the offspring  her first marriage. If, however, Joan and John had produced a child, even if it was now dead, then John was entitled to keep the inheritance for his own lifetime.  In legal terminology, this was called tenure ‘by the courtesy of England’. What the entry on the fine rolls shows (no.832) is that John was indeed in this fortunate position. The only misfortune was that, having control of Joan’s inheritance, meant that he had also to shoulder the debts to the crown, which Joan had inherited from her father. These included debts owed the Jews, which had been taken into the king’s hands, and which, so John said, were to be paid off at £1 a year. John’s complaint was that the exchequer was now forcing him to pay the whole debt, and was disregarding the terms allowing payment at the rate of £1 a year. The king, therefore, ordered the exchequer to allow John to recover those terms. The king added ‘if this is true’, so the exchequer had some  leeway, but there was evidence to back up John’s story. The pipe rolls, the annual audit of money owed the crown, do show that Joan’s first husband had been allowed to pay the debt off at £1 a year. The pipe rolls for this year, that is for 1256-1257 (for the membrane, click here), by contrast,  show  John himself paying in  £1 16s 8d, in other words he was having to cough up  more than a  £1.  In the pipe roll for 1257-1258,  John does just pay in £1 so his complaint had some effect.  The debt itself was a large one, amounting to £97, which made it  important to secure terms for its repayment.

One further point of interest is that writ to the exchequer, on John’s behalf,  is said in the  fine rolls to be ‘per’, that is authorised by Laurence de Manneby.  Evidently  Laurence was John’s contact at court, and it was he who saw the concession through.  Laurence was a king’s clerk and brother and, as the fine rolls show (CFR 1255-6, no.77; 1257-8, no.997) to Hugh de Manneby, who was at this time earning an evil reputation as sheriff of Northamptonshire.  I do not know the connection between Laurence de Manneby and John of Ladbroke. Has anyone any clues here?  How did those fair in their petitions who did not have these connections?

Next week the king gets ready for his Welsh campaign.

For the membrane with  the writ in favour of John of Ladbroke, see four from bottom here.

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!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 September to Saturday 18 September 1261

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Henry remained all this week at Windsor. He had heard that Simon de Montfort,  Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and the bishop of Worcester, Montfort’s old friend, Walter de Cantilupe, had summoned three knights from each county to meet them at St Albans on 21 September to  discuss the common affairs of the realm.  Their aim manifestly was to rally support for the insurgency, and then perhaps to  advance on Windsor itself, not twenty-five miles away. Faced with this threat, on Sunday 11 September, Henry took action. He did not, however, bravely march out of Windsor towards St Albans  to  confront this usurpation of royal authority, which was what the summons amounted to. Instead,   he ordered, by letters, his sheriffs to ensure that  that the knights came on 21 September  to Windsor instead. There they would take part in peace negotiations between Henry and the nobles. They would see from the results, Henry averred, how he intended nothing save what would make ‘for the honour and common utility of our kingdom’.

There is much that is mysterious about  this famous episode. We do not know how the three knights were chosen in the first place, nor indeed whether any came  either to St Albans or to Windsor.  The rival summonses, however, reveal the political importance of the knights, and mark a  stage in the process by which they  appeared in  parliament.  Henry’s assembly indeed could be regarded as a parliament. So much is revealed in a letter, probably written this week, by the justiciar, Philip Basset, to the chancellor, Walter of Merton, a letter which also shows the efforts to ensure that individual barons as well  attended the royal rather than the Montfortian assembly.  Basset had learnt that Roger de Somery,  lord of Dudley in the west midlands, intended to go to St Albans if he did not receive a letter of summons from the king. He, therefore, urged Merton to get the king  to write to Somery summoning him to his forthcoming ‘parliament’. Basset added helpfully that Somery was at his manor Berkshire manor of Bradfield. Basset’s plea gives an interesting insight into  Henry’s own involvement in affairs. Basset clearly thought the decision  had to be made by the king, and that Merton, as chancellor, could not simply write on his own authority.

Philip Basset was clearly at this time not at court, and was presumably trying to uphold the king’s authority in the provinces.  Henry, himself, as we have said, had clearly decided not to go out himself to confront the rebellion. There is, however, a sign in this week that he was contemplating a move.  On 11 September, the day he wrote to the sheriffs summoning the knights to Windsor, he also ordered repairs to Oxford Castle, Woodstock, and his Northamptonshire houses at King’s Cliffe and Geddington to be ready by Michaelmas. This may indicate that Henry intended to  be there at  the end of the month.

The fine rolls of this week shed interesting light on the situation.   The number of writs purchased to initiate or further the common law legal procedures picked up from the low of the week before. They numbered a respectable thirty-two.  It is very noticeable, however, that not one of these came from  Berkshire, or from the surrounding counties of Buckinghamshire, Surrey, and Hampshire.  The one from Middlesex was cancelled because the purchaser, for an unexplained reason,  did not have the writ.  It seems highly likely that this reflects  the disintegration of royal authority in the home counties.  

One pleasure for Henry in these traumatic times was to exercise in  Windsor great park. That alone made Windsor a much more congenial a place to stay than the Tower of London.  But how secure was the park?  The fine rolls show the issue came up this week, perhaps as a result of Henry’s own inspection.  On 18 September, the constable of Windsor, was ordered to sell the alder and birch in the park, and spend the resulting money making good the defects in the park’s  enclosure.