Posts Tagged ‘writs’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Friday 12 October to Saturday 20 October 1257

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Henry arrived at Westminster on Friday 12 October, having travelled up from Windsor. On the twelfth,  according to his custom, he fasted.  On the thirteenth he celebrated, for it was the greatest day in his religious year, the feast of the translation of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. How wonderful to celebrate it, with masses, candles, offerings at the Confessor’s shrine, and feasts for magnates and thousands of paupers, now the great new church he was building  in the Confessor’s honour was nearing completion in its eastern arm and transepts.   The new church dominated the Westminster scene, proclaiming to all the power of the Confessor and the protection he afforded to his greatest disciple.  Something of the celebrations of this day can be glimpsed in the orders Henry issued to prepare for the feast.  These included the procurement of  6000 fresh herrings, 2000 place, 5000 merlin, up to 20,000 lampreys.

John Maddicott, in his great book, The Origins of the English Parliament, p.472 suspected that Henry held a parliament at this time. He was right to do so for the Abingdon chronicle states this specifically. The meeting of parliament helps explain the large amount of fine roll business done in this week. Between 14 and 20 October, no less than thirty-three writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased,  the highest score achieved, I think,  this year. As someone with connections with the Lake District, it is nice to see a writ purchased by  Juliana, widow of William of Derwentwater: no.1004 in the translation, and in the images below, thirty-two entries from the bottom (according to my count).

The week witnessed the consummation  of the one success of the summer’s campaign in Wales, although it was the result of the endeavours of  Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, rather than the king. On 18 October, the Welsh prince, Maredudd ap Rhys did homage to Henry, in Richard’s presence. Two days before,  Henry had rewarded Roger Bigod earl of Norfolk (probably for his good service in Wales) with a gift of ten great oaks to help build a chapel at Hamstead  Marshall in  Berkshire.  Hamstead  was a  manor of the Marshal family, which  Bigod had inherited through his mother on the death of the last Marshal earl. Next year, in 1258,  it was Roger Bigod, who was to lead the march on the king’s hall at Westminster, which precipitated the political revolution.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 16 September to Saturday 23 September 1257

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

During this week, Henry III continued his slow journey back from north Wales to Westminster.  The fine rolls show him on 20 September at Wenlock  (Much Wenlock),  where he pardoned one of his servants, Elyas Marshal, a debt on account of his good severance in Wales.  The rolls next show Henry, on 24 September, at Worcester.   For the membrane covering the period, click here. The entry at Wenlock is seventeen down.

Henry had, therefore, travelled from north to south down the length of the Welsh border. He was thus able to monitor the situation in the March as well taking as good a route back to Westminster as any.  In fact, Henry had plenty of time before his arrival at Westminster, where he wanted to be by the feast of Edward the Confessor on 13 October. Other evidence shows he stayed for much of the period between 12 and 20 September at Much Wenlock, where doubtless he enjoyed  the hospitality provided by the monks of the priory. Very few people sought Henry out in the Welsh borderland to buy the usual writs to initiate or further the common law legal actions. Most of those who did come were locals. Indeed between 15 and 24 September, of the ten writs purchased, one was for Lincolnshire, one for Staffordshire, one for Herefordshire, and all the rest for Shropshire.      

Nest week, the king reaches his palace of Woodstock.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 9 September to Saturday 15 September 1257

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

During this week, Henry began his journey home from Wales. His aim was to be at Westminster for the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor on 13 October. The journey  disrupted fine roll business because none at all is recorded between 30 August, when Henry was at Deganwy, and 13 September when he was at Chester.  At Chester, however,  between the 13 and 15 September, there was a revival of the normal judicial business with half a dozen writs to initiate or further common law legal actions being purchased.  There was also one other highly profitable transaction, although it also pointed forward to the revolution of 1258.  At Chester, the king reached an agreement with the executors of the late bishop of Ely, William of Kilkenny.  In return,  amongst other things, for the promise of 2000 marks (£1333), he allowed them to have all the corn due to be harvested from the late bishop’s manors. A marginal note added later records what Henry did with this extremely valuable windfall. The executors gave 1000 marks of it to the Lord Edward at the Temple in London at the feast of St Martin 1257. This money was then used (although the note does not say so) to help finance Edward’s war in Wales, which was fair enough. It is the fate of the other 1000 which was extraordinary. This, the note indicates,  was given on 9 April 1258 to the queen’s uncle, Thomas of Savoy. The date is immensely significant because it was right at the start of the revolutionary parliament which was to strip the king of power.  News of the gift evidently  reverberated round the parliament for it soon reached an appalled Matthew Paris at St Albans.  For many it epitomised the king’s profligate generosity to his foreign relatives.  What made it worse was that Thomas was not even any longer a useful ally.  He had arrived in England on a litter, his health broken down and his ambitions in tatters, after  his capture and imprisonment by the citizens of Turin.  Although the Savoyards were not themselves attacked in 1258 (the fire was concentrated on the king’s Poitevin half brothers), the gift  to Thomas, at such a sensitive  time, must have contributed, in no small measure,  to the general dissatisfaction  expressed at the parliament with Henry’s rule. One final point. As far as can be seen,  the exchequer was never informed of the debt owed by the executors of the late bishop of Ely. It was dealt with entirely by the wardrobe. This is why the note of payment was made in the margin of the fine rolls. This by passing of the exchequer was something else the reformers intended to stop. 

For the entry, click here (and count down nine entries from the top).

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 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 13 May to Saturday 19 May 1257

Friday, May 18th, 2012

At the start of this week Henry moved from Merton to Westminster where he was to remain for well over a month. The week was a sad one, for it probably saw in Westminster abbey the funeral of Henry’s beloved daughter Katherine.  On 16 May, Henry assigned £51 to John, his almoner, for the funeral’s expenses. If this money went in giving alms to the poor for Katherine’s soul, as seems likely, it suggests that around 10,000 paupers were fed on the day of the funeral. 

The king’s presence at Westminster had a dramatic effect on business recorded in the fine rolls. In the week before at Merton, only eleven purchases were made of writs to initiate or further legal actions according to the common law. In this week at Westminster the number was twenty-seven. Clearly litigants knew the king was coming to Westminster and decided to wait for his arrival,  rather than seeking him out at Merton. This does raise the question as to why Henry’s government never devolved the power to issue the common law writs to the judges at Westminster,  rather than making everyone get them from the chancery which, of course, followed the king.  The solution adopted in the next century for the chancery itself to become fixed at Westminster was, to my mind, less satisfactory.  The twenty-seven writs were for litigation in a range of counties, which shows again the common law was genuinely common and was not just for the south-east.  Lincolnshire easily tops the list with ten writs, and one wonders whether one envoy had been sent to secure them for all the litigants, although admittedly they are not placed on the roll in a single block.  After that, there were three writs for Northamptonshire, two for Kent, Berkshire and Wiltshire,  and one for Essex, Devon, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire.

The roll also has something on the aftermath of the persecution of the Jews of Lincoln for allegedly crucifying a Christian boy (‘little Saint Hugh’) in their town in 1255. On 18 May  William de Kivelingho offered the king a mark of gold (through the sheriff and the justice of the Jews, Simon Passelewe) ‘for the house which Vives of Norwich, Jew, hung for having, as was said, crucified a boy at Lincoln, held in Brancegate in the parish of St Martin in Lincoln’.  The ‘as was said’ is interesting and like other entries in the rolls in this period suggests increasing doubt as to whether the event really had taken place. This entry is  no 648 in calendar and bottom but one of this membrane.  Note also the drawing in the margin designed perhaps to mark the entry.

For Henry and the Jews of Lincoln in 1255 see the fines of the month for January and February 2010.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Saturday 22 April to Sunday 28 April 1257

Friday, April 27th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Merton priory, which was both an honour and a burden for the monks.  The fine rolls  have a fascinating variety of business. The king  issued twelve writs to initiate or further common law legal actions.   He also accepted  six fines of gold, and another of 50 marks of silver, which he earmarked for the purchase of gold. The silver was offered by the prioress and nuns of Wherwell abbey in Hampshire for custody of their abbey during the vacancy which would be caused by the imminent resignation of their abbess Euphemia.  Amongst the fines of gold, were two, of  one mark of gold apiece, from Gerard de Evinton and Henry of Pembridge to secure their appointments  as respectively sheriffs of Surrey/Sussex and Hereford.  The amounts involved were hardly large (a mark of gold was the equivalent of ten marks of silver) and reflect how little financial gain could be made from the office of sheriff now that the king was taking so large a slice of the profits for himself.  Two fines of gold were from Lincolnshire men seeking inquiries into the value of their lands. This was because they maintained they were being forced by the sheriff to take up knighthood as having an income of £15 a year whereas in fact, so they said, their income was less. Next week we shall see the results of such inquiries.  The whole policy  of enforcing knighthood in this way was tremendously unpopular.  Designed as it was to help fund the army Henry III was to supposed to send to conquer Sicily, it meant gentry lords throughout the country suffered from the madness of this policy.  In fact, after his failure to secure funds for Sicily at the recent parliament, Henry was at last beginning to have doubts about the enterprise, not before time.  On 24 April from Merton, ‘because he is not sure whether the business of Sicily is to proceed or not’, he ordered Master Rostand, who was collecting the Sicilian taxation from the church, not to make any further payments to anyone on pain of losing all he possessed in the realm. What this meant was that Rostand was no longer to pass the proceeds of the tax to the numerous Italian merchants, who had loaned money to Henry and the papacy,  or not until, as Henry said,  it was clear the business could proceed ‘with some effect’. Since the tax had been authorised by the papacy, Henry hardly had the authority to issue an order of this kind, and its effects are unfair. The Sicilian farce still had a long way to run. Next week Henry moved to Windsor castle.

The Wherwell fine is seventeen from the top on the membrane covering this week.

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

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Henry III’s great parliament opened on or soon after 18 March. On 18th March itself  the witnesses to a royal charter were merely the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, and an assortment of household officials. But in the ensuing days, charters were witnessed  by Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, Peter of Savoy, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Worcester and Norwich.  The stated purpose of the parliament was to say good bye to Richard of Cornwall who was about to leave England for his coronation as king of Germany. On 27 March Henry sent an order about the equipping of 100 ships gathering at Yarmouth for the voyage.  No more, however,  is heard of Henry’s enthusiastic but impractical  idea of actually accompanying his brother.  The second purpose of the parliament was to consider Henry’s appeals for funds to support his Sicilian project, the project that is to put Edmund his second son on the throne of Sicily.  To stir the emotions,  Henry  (according to Matthew Paris) paraded the twelve year old Edmund in Sicilian robes before the assembly  and begged it not to let him down.

Henry could take comfort from the fact that the parliament brought a large increase in fine roll business. Whereas in the previous week there had been only three items of business, in this week there were seventeen. These included thirteen fines for writs to initiate or further common law legal actions, and four fines of gold. Two of the latter were for respite of knighthood, one for exemption from jury service, and one, worth two mark of gold or twenty marks of silver, from the Kentish knight, Nicholas of Lenham, for a charters conceding him a market and fair, and a free warren. As the charters, issued on 18 March show the free warren (essentially a private hunting park) was to be for all of Nicholas’ s manors which included Lenham and Lamberhurst in Kent and Redenhall in Norfolk.  The market and fair were to be at Hunton in Kent. The establishment was not, however, very successful.  An inquiry of 1312 said the market had never been held and the fair was only worth 3d a year. See the Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs, edited by Samantha Letters. Nicholas’s fine is the twentieth entry from bottom the bottom of this membrane (click here). It would be interesting to know whether Nicholas of Lenham  attended the parliament and saw Edmund in his Sicilian robes. Would such tactics work?  Read next week’s blog to find out.

For this parliament, see J.R. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament 924-1327, pp.471-2.

Nicholas of Lenham, it may be noted, fought against the king at the battle of Lewes.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 February to Saturday 17 February 1257

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Henry III spent all this week at Westminster.  At its start, the bishop of London, the bishop of Lincoln, the elect of Salisbury, Richard earl of Cornwall, and Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester all appeared at court. On 11 February Simon obtained a recognition that custody of lands in Toddington in Bedfordshire  belonged to him rather than the king. Toddington, has of course, given its name to a service station on the M1 from which there are pleasant views over surrounding fields. Simon held the manor as part of Eleanor’s dower from the lands of her first husband, William Marshal earl of Pembroke.  With major players at court, Henry now took an important decision. On Monday 12 February he sent out the writs summoning the lay and ecclesiastical magnates to  meet him in London at mid Lent (18 March).  The writs announced that Richard was to leave immediately afterwards to take up his kingship in Germany. Henry, therefore, wished to have discussion with his prelates and magnates ‘about great and arduous affairs touching ourselves and our kingdom for the common utility of you and us and all our kingdom’.  These affairs included, although it was not said, the Sicilian enterprise.  The archbishop of Messina had now arrived in England from the papal court to stir Henry into action. On 15 February Henry ordered the exchequer to give him fifteen marks to distribute to knights and others coming with messages from Sicily.  Action for Henry meant  more than anything else securing a tax from parliament. Without it there was no hope of him  ever sending an army to Sicily to wrest control of the kingdom.  Making the case for such a tax would therefore by high on the agenda of the parliament summoned for mid Lent.

The fine rolls reflect Henry’s need for taxation to fill his coffers in this  Magna Carta world. On 13 February, Henry took the homage of Henry of Lexington (or Laxton), the bishop of Lincoln, for the lands he had inherited from his elder brother, the former royal steward, John of Lexington. The bishop’s relief or inheritance tax was £5, which was strictly in accordance with  Magna Carta. This laid down £5 as the relief for a knight’s fee which was all that John held from the king. John’s estates, however, were far greater than this single fee. Orders to put the bishop in possession of John’s  properties were sent to the king’s officials in London and six counties.  A relief of much larger size might seem to have been justified but was prevented by Magna Carta. The fine rolls of this week also underlined the necessity of a tax  in another way for there were only two of the fines of gold from which, as we have seen, Henry was hoping to support his Sicilian army. If this pattern continued it would be worrying indeed.  See future blogs to find out what happened to the gold treasure.

For the bishop of Lincoln’s fine, count up eleven from bottom on the membrane and no.434 in the Calendar.

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

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Henry began this week at Merton priory where he was doubtless sustained by both the alimentary and spiritual ministrations of the monks. On Friday 23 December he returned to Westminster to celebrate Christmas. The move is perfectly illustrated on the fine rolls where the last entry on membrane 18 ends ‘witnessed by the king at Merton on 23 December’  and the first on membrane 17 ‘witnessed by the king at Westminster on 23 December’. The Latin, with the abbreviations expanded and placed in square brackets,  is respectively T[este] R[ege] ap[ud] M[er]ton’ xxiii  die Dec[embris] and T[este R[ege] apud Westm[onasterium] xxiii die Dec[embris].

The chronological confusion which had overtaken the fine rolls during the political crisis is illustrated by the third entry on membrane 17 which concludes  ‘witnessed by the king at the Tower of London on 9 December’.  This confusion makes it hard to know how many writs associated with the common law legal actions were purchased between 18 and 24

December.  During the week Henry was busily preparing his Christmas festivities for which see next week’s blog.