King Henry remained at Guildford until around 26 November and then returned to Westminster, where he was to remain till early January. Henry had intended during this time to visit his castle at Marlborough, and then to celebrate Christmas at Winchester, as he often did. Urgent business, however, as he explained, kept him instead at Westminster. He was anxiously awaiting the return of envoys sent to the pope. Would they bring news that the Holy Father had modified the terms of the Sicilian business so that it could be pursued with some hope of success? Henry was also arranging the despatch of a high powered delegation (including Simon de Montfort) to the king of France in the hope of advancing the peace negotiations and thus making it all the more possible to concentrate on Sicily. And then too Henry was becoming worried about events in Scotland, where the young King Alexander was married to his daughter. Would Henry have to go north, as he had in 1255, to rescue the royal couple from their enemies?
It must have been a relief for Henry to turn from these great matters to the comforting business of the fine rolls. During these two week, around twenty four people came to court to purchase the writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. Henry’s justice remained in demand. One item on the rolls particularly stands out and will be commented on here. It bears on both the administrative processes and rituals of Henry’s kingship. It also shows how difficult it can be to capture the sense of an entry when translating it from Latin into English.
The entry is no.105 in the translation (forty-four entries down in the image) and appears as follows.
6 Dec. Westminster. For the burgesses of Bridgnorth. On Tuesday next after St. Andrew the Apostle in the forty-second year, the burgesses of Bridgnorth paid 25 m. in the king’s Wardrobe to Peter de Rivallis, keeper of the same Wardrobe, which remained to be rendered of the fine of 50 m. which they made with him a short while ago for having liberties, and, on the aforesaid day, they paid into the same Wardrobe the 10 m. which they had promised for their good coming to the king when he had last been at Bridgnorth. Order to the sheriff of Shropshire to cause the same burgesses to be quit from the aforesaid 35 m.
This entry is not in the originalia roll.
The feast of Andrew the Apostle was 30 November and the following Tuesday in 1258, when the payment was made into the wardrobe, was 4 December. The 6 December date at the head of the translation is that of the writ to the sheriff of Shropshire referred to at the end of the entry. Throughout the fine rolls it is these writs to officials which actually give the dates to the entries. The fine of 50 marks, which the burgesses made with the king, is not recorded on the fine rolls. It may be that the full way it was now recorded was to make up for that lack. The fine was evidently made on 21-22 September 1257 when Henry passed through Bridgnorth on his way home from his campaign in Wales. A couple of days later, now at Worcester, Henry issued a letter patent granting the ‘bailiffs and good men’ of Bridgnorth the right to take ‘murage’ for another three years, ‘murage’ being a toll whose revenues were devoted to works on the walls of the town. Perhaps this was the concession for which the men offered the king 50 marks, or perhaps there were other ‘liberties’, building on an earlier charter of 1227, of which there seem to be no record.
From the administrative point of view, what is interesting is the way the whole business of the Bridgnorth debt was controlled by the wardrobe and chancery, travelling with the king, rather than, as would have been normal, by the exchequer at Westminster. At the end of the entry there is the statement, provided by the editors of the fine roll, ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. This means that no information about the fine and its payment was sent to the exchequer, the originalia roll being the copy of the fine roll despatched to the exchequer so that it knew what money to collect. As a result there is no entry for this debt on the pipe roll, the exchequer’s annual audit of the money it was demanding for the crown. Instead, the only record of the existence of the debt (apart from that on the wardrobe receipt roll) was that given here on the fine roll. It is likewise the chancery writ, not the exchequer, which tells the sheriff that the burgesses are quit. The handling of the Bridgnorth debt was typical of many other debts at this time. Large numbers of fines between 1255 and 1257 – for example for town liberties (as here) and exemption from knighthood – were treated in the same way. There was no ‘constitutional’ reason for Henry bypassing the exchequer. Under its treasurer, Philip Lovel, it was never less than under his control. The point was that Henry just got his money in more quickly and simply if he had such fines paid in directly to his wardrobe. Nonetheless the reformers in 1258 thought the king’s finances would be run more responsibly if all the revenues were routed through the exchequer, a subject discussed in Richard Cassidy’s fine of the month .
The great majority of the fines paid into the wardrobe were in gold, or were in silver earmarked to buy gold, and were thus part of Henry’s campaign to build up a gold treasure to fund his Sicilian army. Another reason for making this a wardrobe treasure was that Henry could see the gold accumulating before his eyes. What a joy it must have been. By the autumn of 1257, however, as we have seen in previous blogs, the enterprise was beginning to falter. Henry was having to spend his gold treasure, minting his wonderful gold penny in order to do so. The fact that the Bridgnorth fine was not in gold, or in silver earmarked to buy gold, may reflect this situation. Henry had not quite given up, however, and these two weeks see two more fines of gold (nos.97, 102).
During the king’s visit in September 1257, the burgesses of Bridgnorth did not merely offer 50 mark for liberties. They also promised 10 marks ‘for their good coming to the king’. The Latin here, as one can see from the image, is ‘pro bono adventuo suo’. When the final checked and corrected version of the translation is put up, this passage will be altered since the ‘good coming’ is that of the king, not the burgesses. They are offering 10 marks ‘for his good coming’. But does ‘good coming’, or ‘good arrival’ or ‘good advent’ quite capture the sense of what is happening? At the very least, it sounds odd in modern English, and is another reason why we hope to provide the project with glossary. What, of course, the burgesses were giving, or in this case, promising Henry was a welcome present, one which demonstrated their loyalty, affection, and joy at his arrival. The present was designed to make his arrival ‘good’ for him, and also (in the benefits which might flow) ‘good’ for them. In some circumstances, for example when the king was returning from overseas, there might also, wrapped up in the ‘good’, be joy at the king’s ‘safe’ arrival, and perhaps there was an element of that here too, given the hazards of the recent campaign in Wales. Normally, we have no record of such gifts, because they were paid cash down into the wardrobe. It is only here, because the burgesses had exhausted (or so they must have said), their ready money in coming up with the initial 25 marks for their liberties, that we know about it. Such gifts, of course, in cash or precious objects, were integral to Henry’s kingship, as they were to that of other kings. They were made, as here, by individual towns and, on a much grander and more organized scale, by the assembled great and good of the realm, on the king’s arrival back in his kingdom. They were also accompanied by other rituals, notably welcome processions of a town’s clergy and people. When the king rode up from Windsor to Westminster, the custom was for the mayor and citizens of London to go out and meet him at Knightsbridge. They knew they were out of favour when he refused to meet them.
In such arrivals, the giving was not all one way. Quite the reverse. Henry himself might mark his coming by feeding paupers over and above his standard 100 a day, or 150 a day if the queen was with him, as she was at Bridgnorth. He would also visit the religious establishments of the town and shower them with gifts. At Bridgnorth, Henry gave nine ‘good oaks’ for work on the churches of the Franciscan friars and the hospital of Saint John, and another five good oaks to the canons of Bridgnorth chapel for the repair of their chancel and stalls. His visit also brought other work to the town. On 21 September, probably the day of his arrival, he ordered his chamber in the castle and that of the queen to be wainscoted, while the queen’s chamber was also to have new windows and a fireplace. On 25 September, having left Bridgnorth and arrived at Worcester, Henry ordered ten oaks to be sent to ‘the upstanding men of Bridgnorth’, as a ‘gift of the king’, to help with repairing the town gates. The visit, therefore, had been a success. Henry’s ‘good oaks’, he doubtless hoped, would be a perpetual memory to his piety and generosity in Bridgnorth and his concern for the security of this royal town.
The kind of ‘good arrival’, we glimpse here at Bridgnorth, must have been repeated thousands of times over during Henry’s reign. Such reciprocal rituals could bind king and realm together. But it did not always work like that. Accounts in chroniclers make very plain that donors sometimes resented having to give such presents, just as the king resented it if he deemed the presents inadequate. The ritual could set apart as well as bring together. Were the men of Bridgnorth themselves disappointed that they had to pay for their ‘liberties’, especially if these were simply for the right to levy ‘murage’, which they might have expected anyway, given the threat from Llywelyn. Did they also look askance at what they saw of Henry’ court? The keeper of the wardrobe to whom they gave their money, both at Bridgnorth and Westminster, was Peter des Rivallis, one of Henry’s most notorious Poitevin servants, who was to be dismissed by the reformers in 1258.