I became interested in Eleurius, who was Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Pershore from 1251 until 1264, when I was researching John de Plessis. Plessis, an obscure Norman alien, became a great man through his friendship with Henry III. At the time of the disastrous Poitou campaign of 1242/3, Thomas, earl of Warwick, died leaving his sister, Margaret, as his heiress. She was married to John Marshal but, when he died, Margaret’s marriage was awarded to the widowed John de Plessis who became earl of Warwick in her right. In 1253 when Margaret died childless, John was permitted to retain the lands of the earldom for life. He should also have been allowed to keep Margaret’s Oilly barony of Hook Norton for life too. But, following an investigation, the barony had been adjudged Terra Normanorum and the King was free to grant it in hereditary right to John so that, in time, it would pass to his son by his first marriage. The investigation had been carried out by the escheator, the Abbot of Pershore, and the sheriff and coroners of Oxfordshire, but it is not clear why they came to their conclusion. There were still Oillys in England but perhaps they adjudged that the nearest claimant lived under the power of France. It is clear that Eleurius was not a man who stayed in his abbey as he was a fellow curialis of Plessis. They witnessed charters together in September 1251 and August 1252 and the Abbot witnessed a further eight charters before February 1253. It looks as though royal pressure brought the “right result”.
Abbot Eleurius received more attention in 2012 when David Carpenter, in a paper in the English Historical Review (vol. CXXVII, no. 529, 1343-66), showed that Eleurius was originally a monk from Fécamp Abbey in Normandy who had come to England to manage the abbey’s estates but had entered royal service. From 1238 he was prior of Fécamp’s priory of Cogges in Oxfordshire. He may have been responsible for the text of the Flores Historiarum and tried to pursue a middle-of-the-road approach during the upheavals of the period of Baronial Reform.
Passing through Pershore last week, I decided to see if there were any memories of Eleurius. The Abbey was badly damaged by fire in 1223 and needed rebuilding and there was another fire in 1288. The only abbatial tomb dates from around 1476 but, in the south aisle, there are two large windows of 1870. Designed by Canon Wickenden and created by Hardman and Co, they contain fifty-two scenes of the history of Pershore and the Abbey. One shows Eleurius preaching the crusade to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. The quarter-changed red and gold arms with passant lions are held as a banner borne by an armoured knight and set into the ogival head. Eleurius, in a black robe, is represented in a standing position with another monk before the enthroned red-robed prince who has a page with a hunting hound at his feet. ( An image of the window can be seen here.)
David Carpenter writes that the Leland Pershore version of the Flores tells how ‘a monk of Fécamp’ became ‘escheator of the king of England over all of England this side of the river Trent’ and, in 1255, he was then sent ‘through all Wales on the business of the crusade and the tenth conceded to the king’, being ‘received by Llywelyn, Prince of North Wales, and other magnates of the same land everywhere honourably’. David notes that the praise of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in the Pershore Flores for 1257 echoes Matthew Paris’s sentiments (CM, v. 646–7) and wonders whether it also echoes Eleurius’s views. In turn, I wonder why Eleurius was chosen to press Llywelyn to become a crusader. Eleurius was a Welsh name and perhaps he came originally from Wales and had the benefit of being Welsh-speaking.
The Fine Rolls have many entries relating to Eleurius, as Abbot of Pershore, beginning with one in April 1251 enabling Brother Eleurius to have custody of the Abbey, having agreed to pay 132 marks. His position at court is further confirmed as, in July that year, he authorised the seisin of land in Berkshire and, by August, he was acting as the King’s escheator in a number of cases. There are many references to Eleurius in this position throughout the rest of 1251, 1252, 1253, 1254 and 1255. In September 1255, Eleurius is referred to as ‘sometime King’s escheator’. In November 1252, for a mere half of a mark, he was granted a royal charter for a market and fair at Pershore. Then, in 1256, he was pardoned of £19 which he had received of the fines and perquisites of the pleas made before him while he had custody of the king’s manors when he was king’s escheator. This is the last entry referring to Eleurius. But even before he became Abbot of Pershore, Eleurius is found in the Fine Rolls. In January 1248, as Prior of Cogges, he was excused two marks which was due for default before Justice Thirkleby.