Posts Tagged ‘writs’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 December to Saturday 17 December 1261

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Henry III began this week at Westminster.  After his long sojourn in the Tower, what a relief to be back at his great  palace. Once more he could pray beside the shrine of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor, and survey the magnificent abbey he was rebuilding in his honour. Surprisingly, however, Henry’s stay only lasted a few days. On 14 December he left for Merton priory in Surrey, a religious house where he often stayed.  Conceivably, after his long absence, the palace of Westminster was not ready to receive him.  He would enjoy the hospitality of the Merton monks before returning to Westminster  for Christmas.

As we saw from last week’s blog, on 7 December Henry had  proclaimed the ‘form of peace’ agreed with his opponents.  But the agreement was far from universal. At Merton on Friday 16 December, Henry issued an appeal to those who had yet to seal the document, urging them  to do so. If they could not come in person, they could just send their seals.

The list of the recalcitrants  was  the same as it had been on 7 December. In the order given  it was as follows.

Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk

John de Warenne, earl of Surrey,

Simon de Montfort, earl of Leiecester

Roger Mortimer

Hugh Despencer

William Bardolph

John de Burgh

Henry de Hastings

John fitzJohn

Robert de Vipont

William de Munchensy

John fitzAlan

Nicholas of Seagrave

Geoffrey de Lucy

How many of these men actually responded to the call to  seal the agreement we do not know, but what we do know is that they never acted as a body to oppose it. That for Henry was enough.  Inaction amounted to acceptance, acceptance of his recovery of power and the effective abrogation of the Provisions of Oxford.  Just to hammer home the point, on 11 December Henry sent envoys to the new pope Urban IV, asking him to renew his predecessor’s absolution from the oath to obey the Provisions,  Provisions which had been issued ‘manifestly to the depression and diminution of royal power’.

Only one man stood out  against this feeble acquiescence: Simon de Montfort.  According to the friendly and well informed annals of Dunstable priory, having heard that his erstwhile allies  had capitulated, ‘he left England, saying that he preferred to die without land than be a perjurer and depart from the truth’.  This was the defining moment in Simon’s career, the moment when he showed he was not as other men.  Unlike everyone else, he would not abandon the Provisions.  He would only return to England if they were resurrected. When he did return in 1263 it was to lead a movement which aimed to do just that.

The fine rolls continue to reflect the uncertainty of this period. Things were far from back to normal.  The fine rolls, like the other rolls of the chancery, continue to record business in a jumbled chronological order. The dearth of those  seeking the writs to pursue the common law legal actions continued. Only four such writs were purchased between  dated entries on 12 and 23 December. In one writ on the fine rolls, issued on 12 December,  Henry rewarded a man who, morally and materially, had been crucial to his recovery of power.  This was Philip Basset. Basset was  a wealthy and respected magnate. In the subsequent  civil war he was as defiant in defeat as he was magnanimous in victory. He refused to surrender at the battle of Lewes, and was captured covered in wounds. After Evesham, he did all he could to alleviate the lot of the disinherited. It was immensely important for Henry’s cause in 1261, that he had a man of this calibre on his side, and indeed could appoint him as justiciar, in effect the chief minister of his regime.  What made Basset’s stance all the more significant, was that years before, in 1233 he and his older brother, Gilbert Basset,  had joined Richard Marshal, earl of Pembroke’s rebellion against the crown. Philip then was no pliant,  unthinking loyalist. Henry’s concession on 12 December itself reached back to the events of 1233, since when Philip had succeeded Gilbert as lord of the Basset estates. Henry now pardoned Philip the £9 4s 4d owed for the farm of High Wycombe (a chief Basset manor held from the crown)  for the first part of the financial year 1232-3. The concession appears 6th from the bottom on the fine roll. The reason was that Gilbert had been unable to receive the money ‘because the king had taken [High Wycombe] into his hand at the aforesaid time by reason of the war waged between the king and Richard earl Marshal’. So, for the king. Philip’s loyalty in 1261 wiped away the last stain  disloyalty of 1233.  Philip would not have looked at it like that.  Rebellion in 1233 had been justified. In 1261 it was not.

Would Henry get to his palace and abbey at Westminster for a happy and peaceful Christmas?  Read subsequent blogs to find out.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 27 November to Saturday 3 December 1261

Monday, November 28th, 2011

A very tense week for Henry III, as he waited on peace or war in the Tower of London. At Kingston on  Thames on 21 November, his envoys and those of his opponents had negotiated a ‘form of peace’. But would it prove acceptable?  Simon de Montfort was now leading the fight to reject the terms, given they meant  relinquishing control of the king and thus the overthrow  (as Simon would have seen it) of the Provisions of Oxford. At Runnymede in 1215 it had taken three days for the terms of Magna Carta to be accepted by the barons assembled at Runnymede.  John issued the Charter on 15 June and it was only on the nineteenth that peace was declared. Now it was taking much longer for this week saw no formal ratification and announcement of the 21 November settlement. The fine rolls continue to reflect the turmoil.  Between 26 November and  10 December only seventeen writs to initiate and further  common law legal actions were purchased, a pretty paltry number for a fortnight. Would there then be war or peace. Would Henry III win or Simon de Montfort? Next week we really do find out!

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 6 November to Saturday 12 November 1261

Monday, November 7th, 2011

For King Henry, as the kingdom  balanced uncertainly between  war or peace, this was yet another week in the Tower of London. How he must have hated being confined there.  The continuing collapse of fine roll business testified to the uncertainty of the times.  Between 5 November and 12 November only seven writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased.  One membrane of the rolls was sufficient to cover everything on the rolls between 26 October and 15 November.

In this week there was one substantial piece of business.  The prior and convent of Hyde abbey in Winchester offered 100 marks to have custody of their properties during the vacancy which would be created by the death or resignation of their current abbot. They paid the money, the fine rolls noted, to a merchant of Genoa for the crossbows bought from him for the king’s use.  Henry, however, still hoped to avoid firing off his armoury. On 8 November yet another safe conduct (this one lasting till 12 November) was given to barons coming to Kingston for peace negotiations.

From the witness list of a royal charter, we know  who was with Henry in the Tower on Monday 7 November.[1] The Savoyard kinsmen of the Queen (who almost certainly there too)  were very apparent.   Peter of Savoy, Peter de Chauvent, and the king’s steward, Imbert Pugeys, sometimes  called Imbert of Savoy, all witnessed the charter.  Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury, was probably present as well since the charter was in his favour.   The official element was headed by John Mansel and Philip Basset. Also present  was the bishop of Salisbury, Giles of Bridport. He and Mansel we later find acting as envoys of the king in the negotiations and doubtless they were already filling that role.   Giles of Bridport’s splendid tomb still survives in Salisbury cathedral.

Another witness to the charter was  Hugh de Vere, earl of Oxford. He was the poorest earl and not a man of much political weight, but  his presence may well reflect a role in the negotiations.

Henry was surrounded by wise heads. Would they be able to broker peace?

[1] This charter was actually copied at the end of the final membrane of the charter roll for the previous regnal year, another indication of the chaos in the chancery for which see also the blog for 23-29 October.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 30 October to Saturday 5 November 1261

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

For Henry this was another week within the walls of  the Tower of London.  The chaos of the time, in which the kingdom hovered between war and peace, is reflected in the fine rolls. Between dated items on 26 October and 5 November, there are just nine entries relating to the purchase of writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the forms of the common law. The total number is pathetically small for what would normally be a busy time of year. In 1260 some  thirty-seven writs of similar type were purchased between the same dates.  Of the nine writs, there were two apiece from Cumberland, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, plus one form Wiltshire.  The absence of people coming from the midlands and the south east is striking and must testify to conditions in those areas.

At the end of last week, Henry had given safe conduct to barons coming to Kingston to discuss terms of peace.  If negotiations took place, they had no immediate result, and the safe conduct was later renewed, as will be seen in subsequent blogs. Meanwhile Henry prepared for war. On Friday 4 November he asked for a list of the foreign soldiers retained at Witsand (near Boulogne), and arranged for them to receive eight days pay. He also promised that either he or Edward, his son, would come to Dover so that they could safely enter the kingdom.  Evidently, at this crucial time, Edward was very much on side. His presence at Dover would certainly have given me a lot more confidence than that of his father!

For hiring soldiers money was vital and Henry was short of it.  On 27 October  he had ordered the keepers of the  vacant bishopric of Winchester to send him cash ‘day by day’,  evidently thinking  of what they would shortly be receiving from the Michaelmas rents.  Money, however, was not just for soldiers.  God was more powerful than man, and Henry’s way to God was through Edward the Confessor. On Monday 1 November, he ordered the exchequer to assign 100 marks to the works on the Confessor’s abbey at Westminster.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 23 October to Saturday 29 October 1261

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

As the kingdom hovered between war and peace, Henry spent another week at the Tower of London. On 28 October, a hopeful sign, he issued a letter of safe conduct, as he had the week before, to the barons coming to Kingston on Thames ‘for the reformation of peace on the contentions which have arisen between us and them’. The conduct was to last for a week, and they were to come without alms. 

The chaotic situation is reflected in the relative paucity of people coming to the Tower to purchase the writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the forms of the common law, although it is difficult to put precise numbers on this.  The purchase of such writs is noted on the fine rolls. Occasionally the entry is dated either on the fine rolls, or on the originalia rolls, the copies of the fine rolls sent to the exchequer. But in the great majority of cases the entries, which often are brought together in long runs,  are not dated at all so one has to judge their approximate dates from the dated entries either side.  Between dated entries on 24 October 1261 and 4 November 1261, some fourteen writs were purchased, hardly a high number for considerably more than a week. Only two writs were purchased from the counties in the south east, one being for Berkshire and one for Essex. 

One thing the chancery clerks had to do in this week was  to begin a new set of rolls on which to record their business. This was because 28 October was the start of the new regnal year, Henry III’s fourty-sixth, and all the rolls ran for regnal years. The clerks, therefore, had to begin new fine rolls, charter rolls, patent rolls, close rolls and liberate rolls. This was less onerous than it seems. One just had to remember to stop writing on the  membranes of the current rolls on 27 October and continue the entries on a new membranes, thus beginning what would become the roll for the new year. It would be interesting to know when the membranes were sewn together to make the rolls, as they now exist. Was that done during the course of the year, or at its end?  Early in Henry’s reign it had sometimes been the practice to write splendid headings in capitals at the start of the first membrane of each new year.  For example, the heading for  the fine rolls of Henry III’s second regnal year. But gradually the clerks could not be bothered, and often, although a space was left usually for a heading, no heading was actually written up. One can see this to be the case for the fine roll of 46 Henry III. However, a  heading, or rather a footer, in large letters proclaiming  its year was written at the end of the roll for 45 Henry III.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 16 October to Saturday 25 October 1261

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Henry III spent the whole of this week in the Tower of London. He was preparing for war. On and around 18 October he asked over a hundred of his supporters to join him in London by the end of the month with horses, arms and as many troops as they could raise.  He was also summoning  soldiers from abroad. The count of St Pol, he hoped, would come with 60 knights.  Henry’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, wrote advising a  careful check as to where these foreign forces could safely land, adding that he would soon be with the king to give advice on the subject. If the Cinque Ports gave difficulty, not to worry. He could arrange a  landing elsewhere.  Henry was also taking steps to strengthen his castellans and explain his case. He sent Philip Basset and others into the counties with the message that the king wished to give justice to everyone in the kingdom and preserve everyone’s rights.  The rival sheriffs  were  not to be obeyed. Yet if Henry was preparing for war he hoped for peace.  A party within the opposition hoped so too.  On 20 October Henry gave safe conducts to the barons coming to Kingston between 29 October and 1 November with a view to making peace over the contentions which had arisen. The only condition was that they should come without arms.

The fine rolls reflect the king’s efforts to reward and strengthen his supporters. Thus Henry made  Baldwin de Lisle, earl of Devon, one of those summoned to come with horses and arms, keeper of the manor of Swineston (in Calbourne) in the  Isle of Wight. This was a manor of the bishop of Winchester which was  in the king’s hands as the bishopric was vacant.  Baldwin was to take a 100 marks a year from the revenues to make up the annual pension given him by the king, and answer for the remainder at the exchequer.  If war broke out,   the men of the manor were to  ‘assist the earl in the defence of those parts and in keeping the king’s peace’.

One of Henry’s complaints at this time was that the sheriffs put in place by the opposition were preventing people seeking the king’s justice.  That may well  explain the small numbers we have seen coming to court in the last few weeks to purchase writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the common law.  Of the counties about which Henry was concerned particularly this week,  no writs  were purchased by people from Surrey, Sussex, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire  although one or two  brave souls did come from Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.

War or peace? See next week’s blog.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 9 October to Saturday 15 October 1261

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Henry III began this week at St Paul’s in London, where he was almost certainly staying in the palace of the bishop.  He had around him a large body of supporters including the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, the earls of Hereford and Warwick, the marcher barons, James of Audley and  Reginald fitzPeter, and such leading ministers as Philip Basset, justiciar of England and John Mansel.  The chronicle written by the London alderman, Arnold fitzThedmar, adds that the king’s brother, Richard, earl of Cornwall and king of the Romans, was  at St Martin le Grand, while the queen herself was with the king at St Paul’s. Also in London, presumably staying at his palace in the Strand,  was the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, who, thanks to Henry’s munificence,  was lord of both Pevensey in Sussex and Richmond in Yorkshire.  Meanwhile, up river at Westminster the exchequer was bravely at work, receiving revenue  from loyalist sheriffs and beginning the work of hearing their accounts.

The trouble was that in and around London there were also large numbers of insurgent barons and knights, including in all probability, Simon de Montfort.  Meanwhile, out in the counties the king’s sheriffs were being challenged for control by rival officials set up by the opposition.  Henry now faced a difficult decision. Did he dare go to Westminster on 13 October to celebrate the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor? At Westminster, where palace and abbey were  unprotected, he would  be vulnerable to the kind of armed coup which had overthrown him in 1258.  Yet, on the other hand, 13 October was the day in his religious year. He always celebrated it at Westminster besides the sainted body of his predecessor.  The year before, in 1260, his household records show he fed 5016 paupers around the great day and spent some £200 on a stupendous feast,  the very rough equivalent of two million pounds in modern money (at least according to my conversion ratio).  Entertainment for the guests was provided by the  Cinque Ports who were ordered to send  boats with trumpeters to play water music on the Thames. But that was 1260. What would happen if Henry went in the very different circumstances of 1261?

In the event Henry did go. The dating clauses of his letters place him at St Paul’s on 12 October, and on 13 October at Westminster. Henry was probably encouraged  by a relaxation in the tension, for fitzThedmar’s chronicle avers that before the feast of the Confessor the ‘dissension’ between the king and the barons was ‘pacified’. He adds, however, that the ‘peace’ did not last.  The truth of that is very apparent in Henry’s conduct. On 13 October he was at Westminster. But for all the spiritual balm radiating from the Confessor’s body, he did not stay there. The very next day he was back in London, and back not at St Pauls but at the Tower of London.  Evidently the situation had taken a turn for the worse. The bishop’s house at St Paul’s was itself now thought insecure. Only within the walls of the Tower could Henry feel safe.

On the fine rolls between 8 and 18 October only thirteen items of business were enrolled. All were entries, undated as usual, about the purchase of writs to initiate and further common law legal procedures.  Just how many of these writs  were issued in this week, and how many in the next, we cannot know, but whatever the breakdown, the numbers are comparatively small, and almost certainly reflect the uncertain situation.  Historians of the future will have to do a great deal of work to establish just who was purchasing these common law writs and engaging in the subsequent litigation. In this week, one name does stand out, that of Matthew of Kniveton in Derbyshire. He offered half a mark for a writ ad terminum, a writ that is which gave his law case a time to be heard before the king’s justices. The search facility for the fine rolls show that Matthew purchased similar writs in  October 1258 and January and May 1261. Matthew was a remarkable man.  Through a whole series of purchases, he was engaged in building up a landed estate, raising his family  from the free peasantry into the ranks of the knightly class.  The charters which recorded his endeavours were later copied into a family cartulary,  published as The Kniveton Leiger, ed. A. Saltman (London, HMSO, 1977).  In the forthcoming civil war, Matthew was involved with his lord, Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby in  pillaging property in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, although, unlike his lord, he escaped the consequences, and made his peace with the post Evesham regime.  That this canny and ambitious man, in the fraught situation  in October 1261, was prepared to come to court and purchase a writ to prosecute a law case, suggests he was confident that peace would  soon be restored.  For whether that confidence was justified, see the following blogs.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 2 October to Saturday 8 October 1261

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Henry III spent all this week at St Paul’s in London where he was almost certainly staying at the bishop’s palace.  The chaos of the time is reflected in the continuing collapse of fine roll business. Only nine writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased in this week. Henry was  anxious about control of the Cinque Ports. On 4 October, he ordered the men of Winchelsea and Sandwich to have nothing to do with a meeting the king’s enemies had tried to arrange. Ostensibly this was to settle a dispute between the men. In fact, as Henry said, it was to seduce them from their allegiance. The men were also told to prevent the king’s enemies bringing foreign soldiers into the country. This was not, of course, to prevent the king doing the same.

This week did, however, bring two pieces of good news for Henry.  First, he had evidently tried to summon his supporters to London, and the result was not disappointing. The witness lists to royal charters show that with Henry at St Paul’s on 4, 5 October were Boniface archbishop of Canterbury,* the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, Peter of Savoy, the marcher barons, James of Audley and Reginald fitzPeter (see the blog for 8-14 May),  Philip Basset, the justiciar,  and John Mansel. Since one charter was in favour of John de Plessis, earl of Warwick, he was probably there too.

The second piece of good news came  from the exchequer at Westminster. Henry himself had long felt that Westminster was out of bounds. With the palace there unprotected, he  feared an armed coup like that which had overturned him in 1258. But such dangers had not stopped the exchequer courageously attending to its business. Thus the  money to be raised by the fines  continued to be sent to the exchequer on the originalia rolls (the copies of the fine rolls), and we can see the exchequer setting about the business of collecting it in the annotations it made on the rolls, ‘in the roll’ meaning the debt has been put in the pipe roll: ‘s’ meaning it has been put into the ‘summonses’, the list of debts sent to the sheriffs for collection.  It was one thing to order the sheriffs to collect the debts, another for them actually to do so when their authority was being challenged by rival sheriffs set up by the insurgents. The acid test of their success was now at hand for it was at Michaelmas,  at the end of  each September, that the sheriffs were supposed to send in to the exchequer the money they had raised. What now would be the results? Henry must have wondered that more anxiously at Michaelmas 1261 than at any other time in his reign.

In the event, Henry was re-assured, at least in some measure.  He may well   have feared that nothing at all would arrive. In fact, the sheriffs and those answering separately for various towns and manors brought in  around £1580.  On the other hand, there were some black holes,  showing clearly where the king’s authority had disintegrated.  Matthias Bezill, challenged  by William de Tracy in Gloucestershire (see the blog for 24-30 July) sent nothing.  Nothing equally came from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, and most worrying of all perhaps, from Kent. No wonder Henry was concerned about the Cinque  Ports. There was also very little from Essex and Hertforshire. Still the exchequer was undaunted and vigorously set about hearing the sheriff’s accounts.  Later in the year it was to bring the rival sheriffs themselves to book, getting them to answer for their ill gotten gains. The exchequer’s buoyant spirit is reflected in the elaborate ‘A’  penned by the clerk, drawing up the memoranda roll for Michaelmas 1261, in the heading ‘Still  (Adhuc)  communia for the term of St Michaelmas’. (‘Communia’ here essentially means common or general business).

Henry himself was now facing a dilemma for 13 October was coming up. This was the greatest day in his religious year,  the feast day  of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. It was a day he ALWAYS spent at Westminster amidst splendid services and joyous celebrations. Would he go there in 1261? Read next week’s blog to find out.

*An unflattering sketch of Boniface Archbishop of Canterbury appears on the 1261-2 memoranda roll.

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.