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The long reign of John Lackland’s son, which began in disturbance and ended amid bitter memories, was to leave its constructive mark on nearly every branch of English life. The names of Grosseteste, Matthew Paris, Roger Bacon, Simon de Montfort, Bracton, and the young Gilbert de Clare alone would lend it distinction; and even more than its personalities, the growth of the communities of the land, the development of the common law and of legal theory, the creation of many of the precedents and forms of later English administration, combine to make it a period of first-rate historical importance. In religious matters a conflict of loyalties, the king’s filial devotion and gratitude to Rome for help rendered in the dark early days set against local feeling for diocesan and parochial welfare, determines the relations of Church and State in this country for many succeeding years. In literature, the writers of St Albans provide an example of monastic historiography scarcely equalled by later medieval generations. In art, an English school of craftsmen emerges, and architecture reaches a brief climax of res trained perfection. Above all, the loss of the northern French provinces in John’s reign is now having the effect of concentrating in the hands of the servants of the English Crown the resources of a dominion more compact and unitary than before, so that in spite of powerful cosmopolitan influences in social and governmental life we can trace during Henry’s reign, even in the baronage itself, the beginnings of English sentiment and self-sufficiency. Our polity was to prove not unlike the choir of St Peter’s Abbey at Westminster: the architect, the exemplars, may have been French, but the idiom and the crowning result were our own.

The loyal supporters of King John who gathered at Gloucester to crown a nine-year-old boy (28 October 1216) had resolved in common with many humbler ranks throughout England that the son should not suffer for his father’s sins. Those sins, or what people took for them, had given Louis of France (now besieging Dover Castle) and his supporters London and the principal fortresses of Surrey and Hampshire, in the Midlands and the North the great de Quincy bastion of Mountsorel and most of the Yorkshire castles, and in the East considerable tracts of the maritime counties and part of Cambridgeshire. Of the opposing baronage the Earls of Salisbury, Winchester, Arundel, Norfolk, Essex, Clare, and Warenne, the eldest son of William Marshal, and Peter Fitz Herbert were among the chief partisans of Louis. But the loyalists had three great assets. The foreign mercenary captains retained by John were men of experience and determination. In the hands of two soldiers of Touraine, Engelard d’Athee and Andrew Chanceaux, stood Windsor, blocking the Thames Valley, while the castles and shires of Northampton, Oxford, Buckingham, Bedford, Hertford, and Cambridge were held by the fiery little Norman, Faukes de Breaute, called “the rod of the Lord’s fury” by the indignant chronicler of the abbey which he had despoiled. Peter de Mauley, sheriff of Somerset and Dorset, Savary de Mauleon, sheriff of Hampshire, Philip Marc, sheriff of Nottingham and Derby, were, like their colleagues, the able and ruthless men demanded by an emergency. Secondly, in Earl William Marshal of Pembroke, hoary and splendid embodiment of loyal knighthood, the king’s party had a man strong enough to command the respect of the two most powerful and independent personalities in the country, Earl Ranulf of Chester and the Bishop of Winchester, Peter des Roches. To the Marshal, John on his deathbed had committed the future king, and his appointment as rector regie et regni by the loyal barons in a Council held on 39 October commanded general confidence. In the third place, perhaps most im­portant of all, Honorius III and his legate in England, Guala, left no stone unturned to support the ward of the Papacy against an excommunicated invader. Guala was given wide powers of censure and even of degradation in the case of clerks supporting Louis, and threw all his influence into making Henry’s cause the cause of the Cross, while Honorius brought pressure to bear upon Philip Augustus to withdraw his son, protected English interests in Gascony, and exhorted and expostulated with English magnates in Henry’s interests. Striking testimony to this effective aid was given in a letter which the Marshal wrote in the king’s name when the worst was over (6 November 1317), acknowledging that he had been raised “from weeping to laughter, from darkness to light, from the confinement of the cradle to the spaciousness of the kingdom”. It was no exaggeration; and Henry never forgot to be grateful.

The first act of the regency was to reissue the Great Charter (13 November 1316). Wisely under the circumstances the royal councillors refused to tie their hands by re-enacting the clauses about scutage, or by renewing the article enjoining that the farms of shires, wapentakes, and hundreds should be reduced to their old figures. The unpopular foreign soldiers specified by name in the earlier document were naturally enough retained, and a number of John’s promised restitutions and re-instatements had to go by the board. The eviction of Louis and the recovery of the lost areas were the paramount tasks. By truces made in December 1316 and January 1317, the government first concentrated its forces by withdrawing the garrisons of a number of castles in Essex and East Anglia, which stood as isolated posts in hostile territory. Louis was unable to reap the full benefit of a sacrifice so surprising at first appearances, for owing to the loyalty of the Cinque Ports he had to watch his communications, nor did he help his interests by his return to France at the end of February 1217 at his father’s summons. In March the Wiltshire and Hampshire strongholds of Marlborough, Winchester, Farnham, Odiham, and Southampton were recaptured, and it was possible to begin the siege of Mountsorel. Generous terms were offered to all who would secede, and defections from the French side began in earnest; so much so that when Louis returned on 22 April 1217, he found the young Marshal and William Longespee, Earl of Salisbury, fled from his cause, and the garrison of Mountsorel calling for assistance. He could not go north, as there was lost ground to recover in Hampshire and Sussex, and the mischievous activities of the Ports to be neutralised; but, in order to relieve Mountsorel, he despatched a column which was diverted eastwards to Lincoln at the request of Hugh of Arras, who from within the city was besieging the heroic dame Nicolaa in the castle, for months a lonely beacon of the royal cause. It was the Marshal’s opportunity. Counselled by Guala and Peter des Roches, he summoned all loyal castellans and knights to Newark (15 May 1217), whence, in hope of eternal salvation, the royalists marched to Lincoln, to force an entry and catch the beleaguerers within the walls. Ingress was effected at several points, and the fight that lasted from early morning till three in the afternoon proved a victory for the king, who at his headquarters in Nottingham had the satisfaction of learning on 19 May that Mountsorel had fallen. Mere events and the failure of his fleet to bring reinforcements led Louis to concentrate his forces in London. He was not beaten yet; sea-power, rather than land armaments, was to defeat him. A great battle in the Channel, in which Philip d’Aubigny and Hubert de Burgh destroyed the French fleet under Eustace the Monk off Sandwich, settled the issue, and Louis in London awaited inevitable siege. The Marshal, however, was prepared to treat. Negotiations, begun at Lambeth, reached their end at Kingston (12 September 1217). By the terms then agreed upon, it was stipulated that prisoners should be released and English subjects who had fought against John should do homage to Henry; that the supporters of each party should recover the lands they held before the war, though at the instance of the legate this provision was not to extend to clerks who had supported Louis; that Louis should release all his English followers from their oaths of fealty to him; and (a secret provision) that the king should indemnify the French prince for his invasion in 10,000 marks—a heavy sum when the state of the country is considered. Louis was thereupon absolved by Guala, and a little later left England (28 September 1217), the recipient of honourable terms.

 It will be well to consider the period of the Minority and the Justiciarship of Hubert de Burgh (1216-32) as a whole. During the ten years from 1217 to 1227 the formal executive passed through several stages proportionately with the king’s growth to manhood. The Marshal, acting as regent until his death in May 1219, exercised many of the functions of king, attested royal letters in his own name, and used his own seal as the seal of the kingdom, quia figillum non habuimus, as Henry was made to say. With him, coadjutor but in some sense his superior, stood the legate, the representative of Henry’s papal guardian. Evidence shows that except in very important matters of State he very sensibly did not intervene to enforce his own rights, but that a division of labour existed between himself and the Marshal. Peter des Roches had special charge of Henry, whose mother Isabella went back to Angouleme in the summer of 1217; and Hubert de Burgh, made Justiciar by John in 1215, retained at that king’s death, the office granted him during pleasure, and occupied himself largely with administration. Attestations of letters close and patent by the two latter become more frequent after November 1218, and they seem to have risen to prominence as the Marshal’s health declined. In September 1218 Guala was succeeded by Pandulf, papal chamberlain and Bishop-elect of Norwich, who had boldly stood up to John on Innocent III’s behalf in 1211. On the decease of the Marshal, therefore, the government became a sort of triumvirate. The earl on his deathbed had, in spite of the Bishop of Winchester’s protests, left Henry to the care of “God and St Peter”; thus Pandulf, theoretically speaking, combined in himself both regency and legation. What his power could be, if he chose to exercise it, we may infer from the careful instructions about the custody of the great seal, which he sent, when the Marshal was dying, to the vice-chancellor, Ralph Neville, in order to secure the collection of the revenue. But, as a matter of ordinary practice, he shared the work with the Justiciar and Peter des Roches. For nearly three years he remained, living part of the year at his Gloucestershire manor, a wise and cautious administrator, dealing tactfully with fractious barons like the Count of Aumale, arranging the details of a marriage alliance between Alexander II of Scotland and the Princess Joan, and interesting himself so much in the affairs of Poitou that after he had ceased from office he undertook a mission there on behalf of this country. On his departure in 1221 the Justiciar’s influence gradually became paramount, till by means of Henry’s partial coming of age in 1223 he had very largely superseded the episcopal tutor. Thenceforward from 1223 to 1227, and after the king’s full coming of age till 1232, Henry and Hubert jointly managed affairs, with the indignant bishop, whether on crusade or in his native Poitou, thrust into the background and awaiting the day of retribution. It is important to note that till Henry’s full majority in 1227, when the Charter Roll begins, the king and his ministers could make no grant in perpetuity. In 1218, when the first Great Seal of Henry’s reign began to run, this limitation was expressly stated: and the partial coming of age in 1223, which gave Henry the free disposal of his castles and wardships, did not remove the disability. The latter point suggests that the first or partial majority was declared for political objects, in order to recover royal rights and lands in the hands of those from whom it would normally have been difficult to extract them. Herein lies a detail of some significance when the rebellious movements of the Minority and the influence of Hubert de Burgh are considered; for the passing of the Justiciarship marks the end of the first period of the reign.

A country long disturbed is not easily brought back to peaceful ways. The government was forced to rely during 1216-17 upon John’s sheriffs and castellans who remained for the most part undisturbed in their bailiwicks. Whether they were left there out of policy or whether the ministers recognised any claim, tacit or expressed, on their part to continuity of office appears doubtful; the former seems the more likely alternative. But the return to the status quo prescribed in the Treaty of Kingston meant that many private strongholds had to change hands, and not a few loyalists were thus deprived of expected rewards. Moreover a castle was the administrative centre of a district, whether county or barony, where continuity of command and defensive organisation were often essential to the maintenance of peace. The government that ordered its resumption did not always appreciate this necessity, and there were other causes of a personal or a fiscal nature, such as the status of the new keeper or castellan, or the necessity of an account (in the case of a royal castle) between the present holder and the king, that made the transaction a difficult one. Much of the discontent, many of the acts of recalcitrancy, which culminated in the movements of 1223-4, arose from the orders of surrender. While selfish motives played their part, it is worth observing that the opposition thus engendered came from men who had done King John good service and held no specially anarchical theory of government. The Count of Aumale, Hugh de Balliol, Brian de Lisle, Robert of Vieuxpont cannot be dismissed in Wendover’s phrase as men “who found it sweet to live on rapine”. The sympathies of Ranulf of Chester in the rebellion of Rankes de Breauté were not alienated without some potent cause. Early outbreaks were not serious. Hugh de Balliol’s detention of the Mesnill castle of Whorlton and the Northumberland strongholds of Mitford, Robert de Gouy’s refusal to hand over Newark and Sleaford to Bishop Hugh of Lincoln, or the Count of Aumale’s obstinacy when bidden to give up the midland forest castles of Sauvey and Rockingham (1218-19) and the fortress of Bytham (1217-20), were instances of individual insubordination only; but there was something more than sensitiveness or the prickings of ambition behind theorisings of Earl Ranulf, Earl Gilbert of Gloucester, and Walter de Lacy in 1223 or the defiance of the de Breauté brothers next year. These were partly the consequences of a manoeuvre of Peter des Roches, partly due to the drastic methods of. the Justiciar. In proportion as Hubert de Burgh’s power grew after Pandulf’s departure, it became clear to the bishop that the only way to assert his own influence was to give Henry power in his own Council and to allow him to make himself felt in the government of his own realm. This accomplished, the Justiciar could only then maintain his supremacy by means of his personal influence over the young king, and Peter might step in, undermine that influence, and overthrow the Justiciar. The suggestion for the partial termination of the Minority seems to have been made to Honorius III by the bishop, who sent also a request that the Pope would issue instructions concerning the royal castles It was cunning, but dangerous diplomacy. The move to secure the restoration of the castles, gratified by the papal command for their surrender (April 1223), was attributed, as had been maliciously intended, to Hubert de Burgh, particularly in view of an unpopular inquest which the Justiciar launched in the king’s name (January 1223) in order to ascertain what customs and liberties were held by King John before war with the barons broke out. But his conduct subsequently did not allay suspicions of self-seeking. Two barons, Walter de Lacy and Ralph Musard, were summoned to Court to surrender the royal property in their hands; on their arrival they were made to assign to theJusticiar the castles of Hereford and Gloucester, and the unwarrantable action proved sufficient to provoke first the remonstrances and later the armed defiance of Ranulf of Chester and his confederates, who, when brought to terms, explained that their action had been directed against the Justiciar, not against the king. The other part of the bishop’s plan, however, failed, for Hubert was strong enough to survive the unpopularity created by the appointment of new custodians of the royal castles, and his influence was to last nearly ten years more, if ultimately its very prolongation was to make certain the abolition of the justiciarship in England.

Though Hubert had been unable to humiliate the Earls of Chester and Gloucester, he was at least able to strike down a disturbing force ranged in 1223 on their side. No sooner had the reconciliation of the discontented earls with the government taken place than Faukes de Breauté was charged with capital crime and sixteen additional pleas of disseisin brought against him before the Justices of Assize at Dunstable. “The great disseisor”, as Maitland called him, was a fine soldier, but a bad neighbour. His conduct when in command of the midland shires had been autocratic in the extreme. The religious he had alienated by soiling his hands with the plunder of St Albans; in 1217 he had fallen foul of the young William Marshal, and through his custody of the great de Redvers estates in the west had claimed a standing which many magnates resented. He was undoubtedly a nuisance, but 1224 was no time for the government to turn upon him, as events were to prove. The excuse for armed action was the capture by William de Breauté, Faukesbrother and castellan of Bedford, of one of the Justices of Assize who had condemned Faukes by default at Dunstable. Faukes was outlawed, Bedford besieged, and the whole activities of the government were bent upon his capture—while Louis VIII overran Poitou. The energies spent on taking Bedford and hounding Faukes out of the country might have been expended in defending English possessions overseas. But the Justiciar could not wait. At home, his conduct was criticised in dignified letters from Ranulf of Chester and more outspoken comments from Llywelyn of Wales; abroad, his action had the unfortunate effect of strengthening French propaganda against England at the Curia and creating doubt and dismay in the minds of Pope and Cardinals. When late in 1224 Geoffrey Craucumb and Stephen Lucy, Henry’s proctors, came to Rome, they found extraordinary stories about the state of England in circulation, one in particular to the effect that the English magnates were offering the throne to John de Brienne, whenever he cared to come over and take it.

The rebellion of Faukes de Breauté might have had less repercussion abroad, had not English interests in Poitou and Gascony been for some time in a serious position. Their rectification was to occupy the activities of Henry and the Justiciar for some years after 1225. On the death of John, all that remained of Poitou after the partial carrying out of the sentence of total confiscation in the period following its announcement by the French. Curia Regis (28 April 1202) was La Rochelle and its environs corresponding with the modern prefecture of Annis, Niort and the southern half of the present department of Deux-Sevres, and Saintonge. English Gascony was roughly the duchy of Aquitaine, south of Blaye; it approximately comprised the territories on the maritime side of the administrative boundary separating the modern departments of the Dordogne and Lot et Garonne from that of the Gironde, and of Gers from that of the Landes, while the Pyrenean fiefs of Soule. Bearn, Bigorre, Quatre Vallées, and Cominges formed its mountainous extremities. Over these combined terri­tories, bristling with internal strifes of local nobles against the towns of the littoral, and of one commune against another, was the English seneschal of Gascony and Poitou, the military and administrative governor, whose headquarters was Bordeaux and who sat as justice in the courts held there and at Bazas, Dax, and St Sever. This official, whose salary was 1000 marks per annum, had under him, as his treasurer and paymaster, the constable of Bordeaux, and below him a group of constables, baillis and prevots, mostly drawn from the local nobility. Preservation of the peace and collection of the Gascon tolls occupied most of the attention of the seneschal, who was often too poor and generally too busy to deal adequately with the northern province. Upon the English remnant of this area Louis VIII on his accession fixed his eyes. Owing to the truce which Honorius III arranged between Philip Augustus and Henry to last for four years from 1220, direct aggression was impossible; the towns of La Rochelle, Niort, and St Jean d’Angely held firmly to the power that favoured communal liberties, the English Crown; but in the bitter feud of the Poitevin nobles, Hugh de Lusignan Count of La Marche, the Viscount of Thouars, William Maingot, and William l’Archeveque, against these once prosperous communities, a way might be opened notwithstanding. The English government did not support its seneschals adequately. Vigorous remonstrances of Geoffrey de Neville, complaining that these ruffianly gentry were treating him like a little boy and threatening to leave unless energetic steps were taken, passed unheeded. The miserable towns were forced to write deprecatory letters on behalf of their oppressors, and the pathetic appeals of Niort for a strong governor fell on deaf ears. When, therefore, the truce was over, Louis had no difficulty in capturing the enfeebled outposts.

English apathy had been due partly to financial poverty, partly to the genuine difficulty of dealing with the shifty and attractive Hugh de Lusignan, whose family had never loved the Angevins. The situation had been greatly complicated by the vociferous appeals of the Queen-Mother for the dower-lands in southern Poitou assigned to her by King John but not restored to her on her return to France. To have given them back immediately would have been to incur the displeasure of Count Hugh, the most powerful of the Poitevin magnates; and English policy was to keep Hugh friendly as a counterpoise to the encroachments of Louis. Isabella through her claims first fell out with her old fiancé, and then, on the shallow pretext of saving him from taking a wife “in the North” (in Francia), solved the question by falling into his arms (1220). The alliance was to bring the union of La Marche and Angouleme; the continued reluctance of Hubert de Burgh to pay the dowry was to cause an alliance between Louis VIII and Hugh that, when the hour arrived, was to settle the fate of the territories which the French king and the Lusignan couple were coveting. Moreover, as Hugh and Isabella were holding Henry’s eldest sister Joan practically as a hostage for the dowry, there was nothing for it but to disgorge the lands. The right policy for Hubert de Burgh between 1221 and 1224 was to strengthen the English seneschal at all costs, hut it is clear that the way was blocked by his desire to conciliate the Lusignan and the hope that negotiations undertaken by Honorius with the French Crown for the restoration of the confiscated lands would succeed. After the loss of Poitou a commercial warfare was opened between England and France, while Hubert de Burgh manoeuvred for position. The initiative was not taken till 1229. At Christmas 1228 came a letter from the Duke of Brittany offering Henry the sovereignty of the former possessions of the Angevins in the north in return for his help in a league of Breton, Norman, and Poitevin nobles against Louis. The government, as a draft memorandum of the Council shows, took the bait seriously. The insufficient preparations made at first (Michaelmas 1229) for the expedition need not argue the Justiciar’s apathy in the matter. Henry’s angry charge of treason was beside the point, for the postponement of the sailing was as a matter of fact urged a little later by the Duke of Brittany himself, who came over in the winter to arrange further details and receive appropriate honours. In May 1230 the force set out. Its success was compromised by the landing in, and connexion with, Brittany. A descent upon La Rochelle, a quick march into Poitou, would have won the Viscount of Thouars and perhaps stabilised the unstable Hugh de Lusignan himself. As it was, Henry could not enter Poitou, owing to the movements of the French army, till June, and by that time the heroic Blanche of Castile had taken the sting out of her opponents. All Henry could do was to make a demonstration march through Gascony and thence return to Nantes, where he spent his time elegantly till his passage home on 27 October 1230.

The Justiciar’s conduct of French affairs gave a handle to his opponents and doubtless aroused the king’s suspicions, upon which the household was not slow to play. Till 1230 Henry had no personal seal of his own. On his return from France a privy seal makes its appearance for the first time in the reign, and the fact is significant. It marks the beginning of the separation of the Chancery and the Court. Whilst abroad, the royal household had conducted the administration of the expedition; more and more Henry came to rely upon it as the organ of his personal government and upon the new seal as the instrument of his private designs. It is perhaps a little early to distinguish clearly between the “national” offices of Chancery and Exchequer and the private or personal office of the king’s hospitium; yet the distinction was soon to be realised. The central administrative fact of the Minority is the growth of the king’s domestic treasury, his Wardrobe, with its staff of clerks and its own traditions and methods. Their system of account did not conflict with that of the Exchequer; normally, considerable block grants were made to the Wardrobe by the other office on receipt of a bill (billa de Garderoba) and the Exchequer would not inquire how the money was spent. But the Wardrobe was capable of overlapping the Exchequer by attracting into itself the farms of cities and boroughs, drawing upon the sheriffs for provisions, or making anticipatory drafts upon the revenues of counties. The claim made in 1258, and again later, that  into the Exchequer should go “all the issues of the land” points to the absence of what today would be called “Treasury control”, as a check on the Wardrobe’s expenditure. But there was a political side to this activity. By the revival of the Privy Seal the Wardrobe, in Professor Tout’s words, “became also a household Chancery, the more so since the Great Chancery was ceasing to be merely a court office”. The attempt to administer the country primarily through the primitive curial organism, strengthened and made efficient by clerks independent of the greater offices that were frequently in the hands of magnates, and strictly dependent on the royal will, is the groundwork of Henry’s policy. The first stage of that attempt was to be an effort to unify the domestic and public treasuries under a single household clerk by first getting rid of that tutelary anachronism, the Justiciar. The latter, the subsidiary aim, was accomplished; the former, dictated perhaps by the example of the grande Chancellerie royale or the Papal Curia, was to fail, and its failure was to perpetuate the dualism of household and national offices which underlies many of the struggles between baronage and Crown.

Two other factors may have helped the Bishop of Winchester (who returned to the fray in 1231) and his Poitevin followers to pull the Justiciar down. One turns on a point of Exchequer administration, the other concerns Anglo-Welsh relations. During John’s reign there had been a steady increase in the farm demanded from the shires, the extra payments being known as the profits. The Charter of 1215 put an end to this increment; and although the clause forbidding the profits was dropped in Henry III’s reissues, only profits from demesne manors appear on the Pipe Rolls at the beginning of the reign. At the same time an important change in the method of collecting the summonses, which began with the invention in 1207 of the “dividend tally”, whereby various individual accounts could be grouped under the sheriff’s name—a welcome simplification and a landmark in the progress from accounting by individuals to collective accounting by the shrievalty—continued to be adopted during these early years. It can hardly be a coincidence that in 1223, the date of Hubert’s rise to power and the banishment of the bishop’s protégé, Peter de Rivaux, from the Wardrobe, the profits were suddenly restored and the new method of summons dropped. The reaction lasted till the Poitevin influence began to trickle back, in 1229-30. It is clear that the methods of Hubert and the Poitevins were very different; and as it was the latter that were to become the basis of the reorganisation of the shire accounts and of their collection until the middle of the fourteenth century, it would appear that the Justiciar’s more conservative way did not commend itself as practicable. Secondly, Hubert’s policy in Wales was unsuccessful. In 1228 an English expedition against Llywelyn had failed dismally at Kerry and humiliating term had to be made. Nor did the Justiciar’s personal ambitions make for quiet. Foreshadowing the younger Despenser in Edward II’s time, he attempted to build up for himself a great territorial power in the south. Since the beginning of the reign he had held the three castles of Grosmont, Skenefrith, and Whitecastle, and in 1223 had acquired in addition the castle and honour of Montgomery. In 1227 he secured Archenfield in Herefordshire, and in 1229 the lordships of Cardigan and Carmarthen, now created into a new marcher holding by the service of five knights. At the end of 1230 the lordship of Gower was subordinated to this fee, and in the same year, on the death of Earl Gilbert of Gloucester in Brittany, he was granted the custody of the lands and the heir, and thus became virtual lord of Glamorgan. In April 1231 the Earl Marshal died suddenly, and the custody of the Braiose lands in the March, which the late earl had received from the Crown, was set free and in a little time was conferred upon Hubert. These encroachments on the pride of Llywelyn the Great produced the formidable Welsh raid of 1231, in which the Justiciar and king were quite outgeneralled. The unwelcome failure was pointed by the barons’ refusal of an aid for the Welsh war at a Council held at Westminster in March 1232—the second refusal within a year, for in March 1231 they had denied him money for a French expedition. Bishop Peter could now deal a fatal blow to the Justiciar by alleging his connivance in a series of attacks made on the property and persons of papal tax-collectors in England, which had excited Gregory IX’s indignation. Henry decided upon a change of régime. Peter de Rivaux, the Poitevin clerk who seems to have hailed from Air­vault (Deux-Sevres), had been Keeper of the Wardrobe before 1223, and was probably the nephew of Peter des Roches, now received the keeping of the Wardrobe, Chamber, and Treasury of the King’s household for life (11 June 1232), the chamberlainship of London, the custody of the King’s Jewry and of the ports and coasts of England (except Dover), and the keeping of all escheats and wardships throughout England (28 June). By 17 July he had been made sheriff for life of twenty-one counties, answering for all but two (Surrey and Sussex) at the “ancient farms”, and had received the Forest of England in keeping for life. The grant of twenty-five important English and Irish castles, and the extension of these great powers to Ireland, completed the amazing elevation. Most of these offices were exercised by deputy; but the unitary tendency is clear. Court official had triumphed over baronial minister. The Wardrobe became solitary and supreme; for Peter had received the custody of the small seal, and with that grant it had been provided that he should have “a clerk faithful to the King” as his representative in the Exchequer, to which he was exempted from rendering account. It was perhaps the misuse of this very seal in authenticating to certain magnates of Ireland the famous “blood­stained letter” declaring Richard Marshal a traitor and enjoining his capture—a letter which brought the unfortunate man to his death—that in 1 234 decisively strengthened the reaction against the Poitevins, headed by Edmund Rich, the new Archbishop of Canterbury; for it was not long before the outlawry of Hubert de Burgh, his extraction from sanctuary at Brentwood, and his imprisonment at Devizes, raised indignation against the success of the Poitevins. This was expressed by the mouth of a Dominican at a Council at Oxford in June 1233, while tidings of the picturesque but distressing incidents of the months when Hubert was a fugitive or prisoner threatened to spread serious disturbance, especially in the West, where Marshal intervention and Marcher aid had set the Welsh border on fire. For a second time within living memory the Church combined with the baronage against the Crown, and Henry was forced to restore Hubert’s lands and honours—but not his office. There is little reason to exalt the Justiciar’s policy, as did the chronicler of the friendly convent of St Albans in annotating the history written by his predecessor; there is still less reason to undervalue it, for Hubert had been a strong repressor of disorder, had, in the words of a litigant coram rege, “held the whole kingdom in his hand”; but some sympathy is due to the victim of personal hatreds and of the colder and more inhuman ruthlessness of fiscal reorganisation. With him passed the old vice-regal justiciarship; for the revival of the office in 1258 made the Justiciars Hugh Bigod and Hugh le Despenser strictly dependent upon the revolutionary Council.


Before we pass on to the period of Henry’s personal government, we may pause to regard the man round whom, little as he grasped their full significance, great events were to turn. Henry III has suffered much at the hands of political historians, chiefly as a foil to the virtues of Simon de Montfort. His fate has been largely the work of a conventual patriot with a genius for barbed and malicious anecdote, whose acidulated comments have not failed to produce their desired effect. One can hardly expect impartiality from a man who, he tells us, saw with his own eyes Henry and Geoffrey de Lusignan, as they strolled in the abbey orchard at St Albans, being pelted with stones, turves, and green apples by a miserable Poitevin clerk newly presented to the Crown living of Preston. To Matthew Paris the king was a self-contradictory mixture of caprice, craftiness, and childish simplicity, a subject for many an admirable story, though it was perhaps too cruel to make St Louis after the failure of the Taillebourg campaign restrain the Gascons from deriding him, with the contemptuous words: “let him alone, let him alone... his alms and masses will deliver him from all danger”. Yet in fact one artist failed to understand another. There was little in common between the robust raconteur and the refined, distinguished figure represented upon Peter Cosmati’s lovely tomb at Westminster. Henry’s great passion was for building, decorating, and the collection of beautiful things of every kind. Probably the first king of finely educated taste since Alfred of Wessex, a connoisseur to the finger-tips, he enjoyed nothing so much as buying or getting made in considerable quantities images, jewels, plate, relics, pictures, and rich stuffs of all kinds. The nature of the cloth, the setting of the jewel, the style of the ornamentation he would specify with minute care. These treasures did not go, as might be thought, solely to decorate the households or persons of his relatives; they were for the most part destined as gifts for the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, the focus of his ardent religious life; for the former ward of the Papacy by his genuine devotion merited a better place in Dante’s vision than the delectable valley of the late-repentant. He built madly, to his own impoverishment and our perpetual gain. In the twenty-five years between 1245 and 1270 he had erected the fabric of Westminster Abbey (excluding the seven western bays of the nave), the chapter house, that portion of the cloister that leads to it and those of its bays that are attached to the south aisle of the early part of the church. Within, he had built the shrine of St Edward with its wonderful decorations, had brought to breathing life the beautiful figure sculpture in the arcades, introduced the Cosmatesque mosiac into the floor of the presbytery, tiled the chapter house with the finest pavement of the kind now extant, and probably ordered the painting of the splendid re-table now shown in the southern ambulatory of the choir. On the river-bank he had amplified and trans­formed the Palace buildings, and had beautified St Stephen’s Chapel, the Westminster parallel of the Sainte Chapelle which he had longed to carry off’ to England “tout droit”. Windsor Castle he had greatly magnified and strengthened, and had carried out structural alterations in seventy-five per cent, of the royal manors throughout the country. Work on such a scale could only be conducted through a large staff, both clerical and technical, and under Henry III there emerges for the first time in our records an organisation which, as Mr Lethaby has observed, it would be no anachronism to call a firm working under royal direction. The craftsmen, who were the masons and carpenters attached to the Palace, were directed by a clerk of the works, at first by Odo the Goldsmith, later by Odo’s son, the more famous Edward of Westminster, who, aided by William of Haverhill, acted as the administrative head of a little school of art. Edward and William were not only “Keepers of the Works at West­minster”, they were also—a significant point—Treasurers of the Exchequer. It seems that a special board or “Exchequer” was established at West­minster, and there is evidence that the money from fines was devoted to the expenses of the fabric and perhaps paid in to the separate abbey account kept there. This special accounting fell upon the keepers in addition to their ordinary Exchequer duties, and when it is remembered that the senior colleague was responsible for the Windsor operations as well as for the fabric of royal castles and manors, and that all instructions to workmen went through him, it will be realised what a weight lay upon his shoulders. It is pleasant indeed to read of the king ordering his favourite flower, the rose of Provins, to be painted on the dealbated walls of the queen’s chamber, or carved in the exquisite spandrels of the eastern wall arcade in the abbey; giving instructions on the colour of wainscoting, ordering stars to be stencilled on backgrounds of azure or vert, or specifying the motet to be sung at Christmas. No other medieval monarch has revealed himself so intimately in the records of his Chancery; but there was another side to these aesthetic activities, and judgments of taste are no substitute for wise and equable authority or the keeping of plighted word. Ingenuous and trusting, taking things at their decorative value, Henry plunged into transactions which would have horrified his grand­father and doubtless were to sharpen the critical faculty of his eldest son; then, in order to extricate himself, he had to temporise, sometimes even to prevaricate, and often in the end to call in his farther-sighted brother, Richard of Cornwall, to get him out of the mess by some convenient com­promise.

Piety and magnificence are stamped upon the years of his personal government. Both brought him, scarcely foreseeing, into the storms of European politics. Already in 1225 his marriage had been in contem­plation. Overtures for a suitable daughter had been made to the Duke of Brittany, to Leopold VI of Austria, to the King of Bohemia, but without result. In 1235 he asked Count Amadeus IV of Savoy for his niece Eleanor, the daughter of Raymond Berengar IV, Count of Provence, and sister-in-law of Louis IX. The marriage took place in 1236 with far-reaching results. A special Wardrobe, a subordinate household, was organised for the new-comer, whose expenses grew as time went on; more important, the Savoy connexion introduced to England Eleanor’s two uncles, Boniface, who was to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1245, and Peter, his brother, who was to play a useful part in public life. With another uncle, William, the elect of the see of Valence (ob, 1238), came the able clerk Peter d’Aigueblanche, a cadet of the house of Briançon, who in many ways epitomises the “alien” in thirteenth-century England. For several years the Keeper of the Wardrobe, then Bishop of Hereford, negotiator of the marriage of Richard of Cornwall with Sanchia of Provence, collector of papal taxes, diplomatist sent on missions to Louis IX and Alfonso X of Castile, administrator in Gascony, liberal benefactor of his cathedral and staunch upholder of the liberties of his see against the citizens of Hereford, who cordially disliked him, the Savoyard succeeded through that sheer, ruthless vitality and address which was always effective with the king. But on the whole Savoy brought little discredit on Henry, except in so far as it transmitted papal de­mands during three difficult years of poverty. Archbishop Boniface, whom the chronicler of the superbly exempt St Albans disliked because he did not always respect conventual liberties, was a moderate man, anxious for reform. Peter, although he may have extracted more than was his due in getting the earldom of Richmond (1240), the wardenship of the Cinque Ports (1241), and the honours of Tickhill and Hastings (1249) together with several lucrative wardships, was the colleague of Simon de Montfort on missions in 1254 and 1257, took part in the action of the Barons against the Poitevins, and joined in their letter to the Pope against Aymer de Valence (1258). It was otherwise with the children of Isabella and Hugh le Brun. After their mother’s decease in 1246 (Hugh died in 1242) William de Valence, Geoffrey, Guy, and Aymer de Lusignan accepted Henry’s hospitable invitation to make their home in England, and came over, William, Guy, and Geoffrey to get allowances of £500 a year at the Exchequer, Aymer to be first educated at Oxford, and then, through an intrigue with the Papacy, foisted upon the monks of St Swithin as Bishop-elect of Winchester. Records of grants in Charter and Patent Rolls show that William was the only one to acquire in perpetuity really large territorial interests, the chief being the castle and lordship of Pembroke which he got through his wife, Joan de Mountchesncy, whose mother was one of the Marshal co-heiresses. What alienated the English magnates was the way in which the Poitevin brothers absorbed wardships, marriages, and escheats, or in Aymer’s case, benefices, and so accumulated sufficient funds to buy themselves a place among the nobility. The best example of this tendency was the purchase in 1255 jointly by William and Aymer for 5000 marks of the marriage of young Gilbert de Clare, Earl Richard of Gloucester’s son, with their niece Alice. The de Clares were bigger game than anything to be found in Poitou.

But if Henry was an admirable relative, he was still more ambitious for those nearest to him. Dynastically, European rulers formed a single family of wide ramifications, and the maintenance of the balance of power against his French relations was the guiding principle in Henry’s match­making. The marriage of his sister Isabella to the Emperor Frederick II (1235) was the first step in this direction; the next the attaching of Brabant by the projected union of prince Edward with the daughter of its duke. The proposal (1247-8) failed, but the need of securing the renouncement of Castilian claims upon Gascony, and perhaps (after the first attempt at an alliance) the weaning of Alfonso X’s mind from the project of the Empire, led Henry to make sure of his southern neighbour, and Eleanor of Castile became Edward’s wife (1254). The crowning move was towards the very throne of Caesar, which that prince of negotiators and confidential clerks, John Mansel, and the Earl of Gloucester secured for Richard of Cornwall from the electors at a high price. To provide Edmund with the crown of Sicily, offered to and refused by the cautious Richard, seemed worth a debt entered with a few strokes on the papal merchants’ ledgers. Henry’s relations with St Louis are an interesting example of his mentality and policy. Till 1258 he never gave up the idea of recovering Normandy and Anjou; he was easily enticed into the unsuccessful coalition against Louis headed by Hugh and Isabella de Lusignan as a protest against the homage exacted by Alphonse of Poitiers in his new appanage of Poitou and Auvergne (1242). Forced to a truce in 1243, he made no attempt to conclude any sort of peace until 1250, but the proposal seems to have been quickly dropped and the regime of truces continued. At first his humiliation in 1242 rankled, and he warned Boniface of Savoy to have no friendly dealings with the French king; but it was impossible to bear personal resentment for long against that fountain of courtesy, whose court foreshadowed in a distant way that of Louis XIV in the leadership of contemporary chivalry and literature. In 1253 Henry asked to be allowed to pass through French territory, and the benign Louis, in acceding to the request, came to meet him and laid the blame for any estrangement that might exist between them upon his barons. The graceful act was followed next year by the substantial present of an elephant, that drew large crowds to see it in London; Henry doubtless preferred the jewelled brooch in the form of a peacock which Queen Margaret more appropriately sent. A curious by-path of Henry’s diplomatic relationships were the negotiations with Duke Sculius of Norway about compensation for losses suffered by Norwegian traders at the hands of English pirates during John’s reign. The friendly interchange of notes may have indirectly led to the English Benedictine mission to Norway, of which Matthew Paris was himself a member.

Europe, from the monarch’s point of view, was a family system and marriage the way to prominence; she was also one Church which Henry was pledged by his feudal contract to aid and counsel against the worst enemy, secularism. In judging the crisis in the Church in England which the ecumenical struggle of Pope and Emperor was to provoke, it is essential to avoid exaggeration. Englishmen have seldom had a true notion of the meaning and purpose of the papal monarchy, and in the thirteenth century monastic chroniclers were no exception. Matthew Paris, who spoke slightingly of the work of the Friars, could not fully grasp the needs of the universal Church-State. Many of its abuses he castigates sternly and well. With incomparable verve he would attack incompetent papal presentees, the usurious transactions of papal merchants in England, the non-obstante clause in papal bulls; but his outlook never comprehended the fiscal implications of Innocent III’s great ideal, nor grasped the necessity (from the curial point of view) of supporting the central organi­sation which alone could give it practical form. Henry, though he had become Frederick’s brother-in-law, viewed it with sympathy, while at times disapproving of the new methods of the Curia during the critical pontificate of Innocent IV. But his gratitude for indispensable help in the past did not make his disapproval whole-hearted enough to be effective; he lacked the power of loyal and respectful remonstrance which enabled Louis IX to keep the Gallican Church above the oncoming tide; and the suspicion of his compliance with papal demands in order to secure his own nominees to the episcopate was strongly founded. By 1240 it was becoming clear that parochial welfare and the rights of patrons—the two, it must be allowed, not always synonymous—were seriously threatened, whether by the contributions demanded for the war against Frederick, which formed the subject of the Berkshire rectors’ protest that year (1240) and of the letter of the English bishops to Innocent IV in 1247, or by Innocent’s licences to hold in plurality, exemptions from residence, and provisions, the recurring theme of Bishop Grosseteste’s indignation. The tension with the Curia was all the more painful because in Rome lay the only hope of purification and reform in a Church which stood sorely in need of a periodical tonic. In 1236 the Legate Otto had held a Council at London for this end, and its salutary canons against the immorality and ignorance of the lower clergy and the lack of proper procedure in the Courts Christian, attacked abuses which find frequent mention in English diocesan canons of the early thirteenth century. Ottobono’s constitutions of 1268 envisaged similar deficiencies. Their reform was the aim of all pastoral spirits who, like Robert Grosseteste, combined devotion to Rome with the conviction that the care of souls was the mainspring of the Church’s life.

Yet practical reforming activity was outweighed by the constant drain of subsidy and tithe, and by the treatment of the benefice with cure of souls as a source of emolument like an exhibition or scholarship. In 1226 patrons had been put on their guard by the request, transmitted by the Legate Romanus, for two prebends from every diocese and a monk’s share from every monastery, in order to subvent curial needs and to stop the system of gratuities in suits at Rome. The magnates, following the French example at the Council of Bourges, refused with misplaced hilarity; for the poverty of the Curia was to make itself felt far more severely later on. Before 1245 there was clerical taxation in plenty and reluctance felt to contribute against a man for whom people had much sympathy in England; but taxation alone would not have provoked the protests of the crucial years (1245-57). Letters of expostulation to Innocent IV in 1246 stated that the promised action had not been taken to remedy the English grievances presented at Lyons alleging that Provisions up to “60,000 marks a year” were being made, in return for which a twentieth had been granted by the prelates. The protest drew from Innocent IV the threat of excommunication upon the prelates, whereupon the king, pacified by a papal grant of the commutation of crusaders’ vows, gave way, and the twentieth was levied. Pressure was brought to bear upon Archbishop Boniface, who owed his position largely to papal influence, to take a year’s revenue of all churches vacant within the province, and, in addition to this and the collection of the annual tribute of 1000 marks, the system of Provisions continued unabated. Although Innocent in a moment of difficulty was prepared to relax the amount of Provisions, the alliance of Curia and King, which cemented itself after 1249, effectively prevented any steps being taken. The condominium of Pope and King in the English Church was sealed by the grant to Henry in 1250 of the crusading tithe for three years, to be paid when the king was ready to start. Henry was not prepared to move till 1252, and in the meantime he received the commutation of vows which amounted to a large sum. In 1250 came Frederick Il’s death, which revived at the Curia the old plan of uniting Sicily to the papal dominions. This under­lay the offer of the Sicilian Crown, which Henry accepted for Edmund, and for this the taxation of the clergy was extended from three years to five, while in return for a highly problematical payment of £100,000 from the Curia when Henry started on the expedition of recovery, the English king was to stand surety for the immediate debts of the Holy See, reckoned at 134,541 marks. The next Pope, Alexander IV, made Henry renounce the claim to the £100,000. If ever a man was in the grip of an impossible bargain, it was Henry III; and meanwhile Westminster had to be continued, the expenses of the Gascon expedition of 1253 met, and a Welsh campaign paid for. We have emphasised these demands because the taxation of clerical spiritualities has an important effect on the procuratorial representation of the clergy. From 1226, the year when convents and chapters were represented, through 1237, 1240 when the bishops pressed for the presence of archdeacons, 1254 when representatives of the diocesan clergy were summoned, 1255, 1257, to 1258, the convent and the diocese are becoming articulate, and the secular church borrows and adopts the capitular impulse in the religious orders, that started with Citeaux and Premontré and was generalised by the decree of the Lateran Council of 1215. From Benedictines and Austin Canons as much as from the mendicant orders this constitutional development may have been transmitted, till it culminated in a fully representative Convocation.

Under grievances partly administrative, partly financial, the magnates, too, were uniting. From 1240 to 1258 the Wardrobe was in foreign keeping. Owing to the campaigns of 1242-3 and 1253-4, receipts and expenses had almost doubled since the period of its English custodians, Walter of Kirkham and Geoffrey of the Temple (1234-40). Once more it was tending to confuse with its own operations the work of both Chancery and Exchequer. Royal employees like Edward of Westminster and William of Haverhill, whose activities we noticed above, were not men to draw the line carefully. It has been pointed out that the succession of Chancellors who held office from 1244 to 1258 were not persons of high ecclesiastical dignity or aristocratic standing. They were efficient servants under Henry’s thumb. It was perhaps the desire to avoid this type of official just as much as their grievance at the way in which money grants were spent that led the magnates in 1244, the year of Ralph Neville’s death, to make the grant of a subsidy after the Gascon expedi­tion the occasion of a demand for a new Chancellor who was to be chosen with their assent. What Stubbs called “the demand of a ministry” was the embodiment of this spirit. Henry complied with the letter of their request, but not with the intention; and the result was the complaint of 1248 that the offices of State as well as the Chancery were in the hands of unworthy servants of the Crown, removable at pleasure. Henry promised to make their offices permanent, but the arrangements for a yearly- appointed Chancellor, and for the scrutiny of his office, made in the Oxford Parliament of 1258, suggest that the promise was not kept. Behind these demands lay, naturally enough, common reluctance to grant the subsidies required in 1238, 1242, and at the other times, in addition to the normal feudal taxation. The king’s farms, escheats, and ward­ships, the whole bundle of rights later known as the praerogativa regis, were enough, it was argued, to support the king; and it may be remembered that the tenth and fifteenth were not yet established as a fully regular institution in return for which redress of grievances was automatically granted. But there were more far-reaching causes of complaint binding together the magnates, which till 1258 could only find expression in the demand for the confirmation of the Great Charter, a shadowy advantage in general, however much particular clauses of the 1225 reissue might benefit individual litigants in the courts. Then, in the Petition of the Barons at Oxford, just as in the articles of the Church Synod at Merton the same year, were formulated specific complaints, beside which the grumbling against aliens, against gracious aids and papal collectors, was of little account. The simple tenor of these was that a great bureaucracy was getting out of hand, the creation of Angevin method and experience over-reaching itself; and the attempt was made to capture the whole mechanism of government, to bring back the aristocratic regime of great officials, in this instance made responsible to the baronial Council, and to put the household system in a subordinate place. The magnates at last saw that force was needed, and decided that that force should be a sworn, association into which the king together with his relations must enter by oath in order to restrain his own servants and be guided by the community of his people. For while Henry had been emulating the Sainte Chapelle or dreaming of Sicily and the Holy War, profound developments in the organisation of society and in the relation of the law to these developments had been taking place. These, the legal and constitutional changes which they demanded, and the result of the attempts to make them effective, constitute the interest of the years 1258-72.


To attribute, in common with several monastic chroniclers, the baronial movement of 1258 to 1267to the desire to expel the alien, to secure office for the king’s “natural” councillors whom he had forsaken, and to curtail extravagant expenditure, would be to neglect deeper causes arising primarily from the greater articulation of community life and from the fact that the social groups now realising themselves were finding a voice and, to a limited extent, a policy. These potent forces, evoked by the increasing contact of government with society, operated on the side of a party many members of which would have denied their efficacy or their existence. That they did so operate was due partly to the genius of one section, perhaps of one leader, in the baronial ranks, partly to the influence, or contemporary lawyers and jurists who had no intention of putting back the clock to the hour of rigid feudalism. The liberal school of constitutional historians has seen in the movement the first steps taken towards representative government by Parliament. At the present, emphasis tends rather to be laid upon the drastic and revolutionary character of the new control, and upon the positive efforts made in the direction of reforming local government and of ameliorating the tenant’s relation to his lord. Neither, at the one extreme, representation in the three annual parliaments projected, nor, at the other, mere feudal loyalty to an alien adventurer would have kept England in turmoil for four years—for research has shown that the battle of Evesham did not end the struggle—or have produced the Statute of Marlborough, and, through that enact­ment, the Statutes of Westminster I and of Gloucester in Edward I’s reign. The older view needs a new orientation.

Throughout the century the contact between individuals, whether persons or groups, and the governmental machine was being organised in many new directions. As administrative technique grows, that contact is expressed in new formulae which tend to crystallise and consolidate the bodies that make use of them. A new record, perhaps, or a new division or heading in the already existing record, makes its appearance, and the novelty at once betrays some change in the methods or personnel of the central or local authority. The great consolidating factor of the first forty years of Henry III’s reign is the steady increase in the number of the original writs. In Glanvil’s treatise thirty-nine were to be found; in a list contained in a Cambridge manuscript of the early years of Henry’s reign, which Maitland summarised, there are fifty-eight; and in a later register, also at Cambridge, dating before the Provisions of Westminster (1259) but later than 1236, one hundred and twenty-one. It is the great time of judicial invention, and the learned clerk, trained in utroque jure, is beginning to make himself felt. The great contemporary jurist Bracton laid down that full effect should be given to a writ, even if its form was unusual, as long as it was not directly contrary to law; and even then, if by special favour an unusual form was devised, the judges must uphold it, provided that the Council had not expressly dissented. The procedure of the Curia Regis throughout its various expressions—the court coram rege, where are heard the pleas that follow the king, the bench, where pleas of land and many conveyances take place, and the courts of the justices on General Eyre and other business—hardens under the need of dealing discriminately with the various writs of the Chancery, which now, with the increase of judicial remedies, becomes every day more departmentalised, as the creation of the Hanaper in 1244 bears witness. In the early part of John’s reign the judges of the various curial bodies were re-absorbed among the king’s familiares; the distinction between the placita coram rege and the placita in banco was in its essence neither one of personnel, nor of the forms of action, nor even of superiority and inferiority. The coram rege court differed in its atmosphere, was the older and more primitive organism, more equitable and so more authoritative, for the Council was close in the background, and the king himself was the fountain of justice. But the clause of the Charter forbidding common pleas from following “our court” and the multiplication of writs, emphasised the distinction between it and the other body, a distinction that comes into being before 1234 when special rolls headed placita coram rege appear, while the king’s minority and the primarily administrative character of the Justiciarship sent the pleas into the hands of professionals who found it necessary to discriminate between the forms of action. A prominent factor in the crystallising process was the extension of the writ of trespass. More and more cases of which the fiction of violence (vi et armis) could be predicated came to be taken coram rege, and after the rebellion of 1263-7, when suits for recovery of lands under a special writ called talem qualem and innumerable cases of personal injury were heard, the land pleas were very largely sent into the bench. Not that Assise et jurate could not be heard coram rege—so late as 1268 we have a roll with this particular heading—but the coram rege jurisdiction extended primarily to such cases when evoked from other courts, unless they directly touched some right of the Crown or were brought by prominent tenants-in-chief. The rise to supremacy of the coram rege tribunal in Henry’s reign is marked, perhaps sealed, by the extension after 1265 of the writs of certiorari calling up to the king’s judges the processes of suits heard locally. Hand in hand with this centralising development went a marked increase of judicial visitation in the counties. The questions asked on the General Eyre multiply; the chapters cover not only felony and the proprietary rights of the Crown, but also details of local administration. A stream of questions, to be settled by local recognition, pours forth from the Courts and the Exchequer. Domesday Book and the Black and Red Books of the Exchequer are not enough; material is being accumulated, by feudal collections and by local inquests, for that amazing Edwardian anthology of fees, the Liber Feodorum, and the Exchequer Court, though its investigations are strictly concerned with the claims of Pipe Roll accountants from year to year, has by 1236 started a record of its own, to which administrators can refer. All this great activity involving local response has, just as much as the well-known expedients for the assessment and collection of taxes on movables and for the defence of localities, brought to the fore the County Court, with its two great public assemblies (magni comitatus) and its ordinary monthly meetings, its juries which, in Maitland’s words, “distill the fama publica” and, most of all, its committee of four, sometimes six, knights who scrutinise the presentments of the hundreds at the Eyre, bear its record to Westminster when summoned there, and are supported by contributions from the townships as a permanent, not a mere temporary institution. It has brought, not indeed to his decline, but to new professional status, the county knight of local standing who fills the office of sheriff, presiding over his deputy and a staff of literate and often calligraphic clerks. The military defender of the shire now sits in an office in the castle, surrounded by rolls, tally-bundles, and chests. The Exchequer has made him responsible for all the debts owed to the king in his shire saving those of towns or liberties in his bailiwick that account directly the Exchequer. In his hands, fuller than any other man’s, is the execution of all writs from the Courts and from the Exchequer, with again the exception of those franchise-holders that possess the retornum. His is the duty of proclaiming and publishing royal charters and commands, the summoning of all juries, the collections of fines and amercements, the enforcement of the payment of feudal dues. But the great responsibility laid upon his shoulders and on his bailiffs and officers has brought again the problems of 1170 in acuter form. The shrievalty was indispensable; but by the middle of the thirteenth century it was riddled with grave abuses. We have only to go to the capitula itineris, the Petition of the Barons in 1258, or to the questions and solitary return of the Inquest of that year, to see what these abuses could be. Against this royal specialist poor men had little chance of local action. The appeal was formidable, only a last resort; and the General Eyre came too infrequently.

No less conscious and articulate a community was the borough. The great early period of charter-giving was over; but the transference of fiscal and commercial privileges to new urban centres, the great multiplication of seignorial boroughs and the grant of the return of writs, carry on the advance. Most valued of all were the privileges of being able to exclude the Sheriff. The non-intromittat clause in borough charters for­bade him to interfere in urban affairs; the clause conferring the retornum brevium gave the borough the right to execute the precepts of the king’s writs. The first communities to receive this were Canterbury and Colchester in 1252; and, in the time of the king’s worst need (1256-7), the privilege was sold to no less than seventeen boroughs. These and earlier grants had brought with them the institution, generally unmentioned in the charters, but implicitly recognised in the address of the royal writs sent to cities and boroughs, of a mayor and “good” men or councillors. Though before 1215 London alone was authorised by charter to elect a mayor, in nine other leading cities and boroughs the right had been assumed and was taken for granted. Other towns followed quickly. But burghal growth had brought its social evils. The essence of a borough was, as Professor Tait has explained, burgage tenure, “tenements held by low quit rents and freely transferable”. Ease of conveyance and considerable freedom of devise (except where the retrait lignager was customary) led to the accumulation of burgages in the hands of rich families, and commercial privileges, especially those of the gild merchant, gave rise to divergent interpretations of the share of taxation to be borne by various elements in the community. We find, from the middle to the end of the thirteenth century, movements of the “poor” and “lesser” or “middle” (madiocres) men against the “rich” or the “old legal men,” in explanation of which Dr Unwin pointed to the forced loans on account of taxation through which the leading burgesses had become creditors of the rest. “The movement of resistance to this kind of oppression”, he observed, “was combined with an attempt to maintain or re-establish the gild principle of equal shares in the monopolies and privileges of local trade, which the enter­prise and capital of the richer gildsmen had set aside”. It is significant that the baronial movement under Simon de Montfort should have roused the lesser gildsmen in London, whose example spread to other towns and involved, as Wykes tells us, almost all the communia mediocris populi regni Angliae.

Change was invading the feudal groupings of society. Of the three types of private jurisdiction, baronial (the court of the honour or barony), franchisal (the private hundred court), and domanial (the court of the manor), the first was now definitely on the decline. The military tenants of the honour were more and more tending to hold directly of the king; military service in person was becoming increasingly harder to enforce, and in honour courts, like that of Ramsey, the attendance of suitors had seriously fallen off. The more the subdivision of the fees, the greater the difficulty of regulating the repartition of suit and of exacting payments in lieu of service. The history of scutage in Henry’s reign witnesses to the growing weakness of the power of feudal lords over their military tenants. New avocations and distributions of fees had made the levy so complicated and the reduction of the servitium debitum which had taken place in John’s reign had caused such great loss to the Crown, that fining tended to become the normal procedure of the Crown vassal; and after 1257, from which date onwards no further scutage was taken by Henry III, it became the sole alternative to service. The honour, divided and subdivided, still hangs together, even though it may escheat to the Crown, but only because the Exchequer, on the look-out for extra burdens, will have it so. Perhaps the only real remnant of the old personal service is found in the organisation of the staffs, the familiae of great magnates, consisting or knights valets, bachelors, esquires, and clerks, often men of standing and experience in their counties, who are enfeoffed with lands in the honour, and, unable to fly their own pennons like the bannerets, adhere to the persons of the great, from whom they have received or will receive the dignity of knighthood. The failure of the central baronial authority to solve the problems of suit is leaving for revision by royal provision and ordinance much in feudal custom that is tangled and obsolete. On the other hand franchisal rights—both view of frankpledge and the three­weekly court—are living realities, because they are profitable. It is these that the Crown, as the Inquiry of 1255 indicates, is beginning to regard with watchful eye. Even within the private hundred the king is claiming certain rights, so that ultimately the jurisdiction of the territory attaching to the immediate centre of the liberty, the banlieu, will become, as at Ramsey and Glastonbury, the only sphere from which he may be excluded. Within liberties, as without, the problem of administrative misgovernment is growing serious. The liberty is a financial asset more than a moral liability, and the bailiffs of the alien franchise-holder are no better and no worse than the officials of English barons like Richard de Clare. Once more, as in the case of the royal officers, a supervising authority is lacking, and to plead against the very convener of the private hundred is a practical impossibility.

The change in the old feudal relations, the product of peace, commercialism, and education—for we are on the threshold of an age when, owing to new collegiate institutions, education becomes more downspread—is registered in the growth of the common law built up upon the practice of the King’s Court. The system in its transition is described for us by Henry de Bracton, who collected in his Notebook leading cases from the rolls of Martin de Pateshull and William de Raleigh, and in his work on the laws of England wrote our first standard textbook of English litigation. His portrayal emphasises the importance of the writ and the dependence of English law on decided cases. He shows that the remedies given by English law are not yet limited; to meet new cases in which it was thought advisable that an action should be granted, the Chancery clerks could issue brevict magistralia. The same inventive faculty has been at work filling up the gaps between the earlier possessory and proprietary Assizes. Novel disseisin and Mort d’Ancestor cannot cover contingencies now arising from leases and succession. The law is moving away from the rigidities of feudalism, and its pilots are the judges of the King’s Court. Termors have claimed and won a new protection; to evade the rule that litigation about proprietary rights must begin in the lord’s court, the writs of entry, suggesting a flaw in the present tenant’s title, have been devised. To supplement Mort d’Ancestor, the actions of Aiel, Besaiel, and Cosinage have come into being; new forms have been found to protect the lands of minors from waste; and litigants are flocking to the new trespass actions where the jury decides on a point of fact raised in the pleading rather than on the question put to the recognitors in the writ that started the process. It should not surprise us to find the author of this great treatise among the justices specially employed by the reformers of 1259, or mitigating the rigours of the treatment meted out to those reformers after the fall of Kenilworth in 1266. It is natural that those who had most contact with representative forces in the counties should not be bound by oligarchical prejudice, nor, in an age when divine right was growing, bow down before the image of Godhead upon earth.

In fine, conditions were ripe for the rise of a middle element in society. Could it make its influence felt upon the government which had unknowingly called it into being? Paradoxically enough, the baronial movement was to provide an answer. There was everything that was oligarchic about its inception. At the Easter Parliament that met at London from 9 April till 5 May 1258, the king, who had asked for relief in his bank­ruptcy after an unsuccessful expedition in Wales, was confronted by Roger Bigod on behalf of the baronage with the demand for the banishment of the Poilevins and the appointment of a commission of reform as the one and only condition of a grant. Henry perforce accepted, and a Council of Twenty-four, half royal, half baronial nominees, was appointed, which evidently set to work before the adjourned Parliament assembled at Oxford at the beginning of June. Their report and an account of the action taken in accordance with it are embodied in the memorandum of the Council known as the Provisions of Oxford, shewing what their plans were. At the immediate moment, the appointment and swearing-in of an official Justiciar, Treasurer, and Chancellor, and of new native-born guardians of the royal castles; for the future, an inquest into the misdeeds of local officials, regulations on the conduct of newly-appointed administrators and of nominees to the shrievalty and escheatorships, and recommendations for a series of reforms in the household and the Change of London, and for three annual parliaments. Most important of all, the baronial Twelve had overcome the Poitevin resistance on the Council to the extent of recommending the election of a body of fifteen as a standing organ of government, who were to meet at the three annual assemblies of Michaelmas, the Purification, and the first of June, another body of twelve chosen by the barons on behalf of the whole community. Another committee of twenty-four was chosen to treat of an aid. This new arrangement, which gave the dominating voice to the barons (they had nine representatives on the fifteen), was set in motion on 26 June, when four electors appointed by the Twenty-four were to make their choice. By 4 August the new arrangements had been made and the king issued letters patent promising to observe whatever the Council of Fifteen might decide. That body some time in July adjourned to London and met daily at the New Temple as a sort of statutory commission. On 18 October the king issued in French and English the decree calling upon all men to swear that they would hold and defend the arrangements made by the Council. It is important to realise what these arrangements or “establishments” (wetnesses) were. The Council was not a body of the old type, but a new, all-controlling, revolutionary committee. It controlled the Great Seal, through the Justices kept in close touch with the Exchequer, and was the authority that authorised the payment of debts or of important grants and the appointment of financial custodians. It took the task of local reform very seriously. The Justiciar Hugh Bigod was sent out into the counties to follow up the Inquest into administrative grievances taken by the four knights in each county, and both before and after Michaelmas heard complaints, presented probably by written petition, of royal and seignorial misgovernment. At the Michaelmas Parliament the Sheriffs were changed and the new personnel was chosen uniformly from the knights who conducted the Inquiry of the autumn. They were appointed “in the manner provided by the magnates of the Council: that is, they each took an oath to avoid extortions, and to act in effect as custodes or “keepers,” not asjirmarit, i.e. persons who farmed out the hundreds or wapentakes and had the sums calculated to be so obtained reckoned in their account by the Exchequer as part of the proficuum. This prohibition of the letting of bailiwicks became a reality in 1264, as a sheriff, charged in 1267 with more than he could pay, was to claim. In Hilary term, 1259, we find the four knights electing one of their number to be sheriff. The new form of election was to be a vital issue in the forthcoming struggle with Henry.

In the spring of 1259 occurred the first serious difference of opinion in the Council. The returns of the Inquest, of 1258 and the records of the Justiciar’s circuit must have made it clear that abuses in baronial liberties still needed amendment. Outside the liberties, the king had taken the steps prescribed; within, no measures had been taken. This was evidently the reason for the passionate charge made by Simon de Montfort against Richard de Clare, that the latter was not carrying out a policy of common agreement. The outburst led his friends to remonstrate with the Earl of Gloucester, and the magnates issued an undertaking (March 1259) to allow the abuses of their own officials to be corrected. But the slowness of the magnates to set their own houses in order was in all probability the factor that provided in the autumn of 1259 the protest of a body termed by theBurton Annalist the “Community of the bachelery of England”, an association of lesser country landowners serving on the staffs of the great magnates and now attending them at Westminster whose aims were clearly in harmony with those of Simon de Montfort in the spring. In accordance with this pressure there was added to the enactment which the Council had for long, probably ever since August 1258, been preparing, a number of administrative clauses, which were published as an integral part of the Provisions of October 1259 (commonly known as the Provisions of Westminster, but called by contemporaries “The Provisions of Oxford” as they completed the work of the Oxford Parliament). These clauses, so far from weakening, strengthened the control of the Council over the King by establishing a financial committee with strong judicial representation to sell the wardships, to consider questions of tallage, and to help the Justiciar and Exchequer in the appointment of sheriffs for the coming year. The Council was to delegate two or three of its numbers to be with the king in the intervals between its plenary sessions. In local government the committee of four knights was to be used to observe and inquire into the conduct of royal and seignorial officials, and to form a reserve for the shrievalty, the personnel of which was to consist of members of the Vavasour class. The administrative clauses were largely conceived in the interest of this grade. In addition an Eyre of grievances was to be undertaken by visiting commissions of two justices and a member of the Council in each one of six areas, and procedure by complaint was once more to be adopted. The records of this circuit, till it was cancelled in June 1260, bear full witness of the need for reform that existed. The legal clauses of the Provisions completed and added to an already published interim enact­ment of the Barons called the Providentia baronum Angliae (March 1259), They aimed at simplifying, and relieving some of the burdens connected with, suit to the lord’s court, at protecting the rights of minors, determining the frequency of pleas of dower and advowson, and dealing with the problems of distraint and grievances arising from the sheriff’s tourn. A composite measure, like the earlier Statute of Merton, many of its clauses were based on previous rulings or determinationes; it gathered together the various tentative towards legal advance, and, as we see from the Plea Rolls, was eagerly resorted to by litigants.

The next three years were to mark the rise to definite leadership in the baronial party of an already prominent member. His memorial cross at Evesham today terms him, in the words of a contemporary poet, Protector gentis Angliae. Simon de Montfort embodied so fully the spirit of the Provisions, that their survival seemed to hang upon his success or failure. Yet in 1258, and perhaps the early part of 1259, Richard de Clare and the Earl Marshal, Roger Bigod, stood equal with him in the Council, He represents the turning away of the movement from oligarchy, whose aim was simply the restriction of the Crown, to constructive aristocracy based upon more deeply sunk foundations. He was great and heroic because of his sympathy with all that was best in the political thought of his day—the constitutionalism of Grosseteste, the later and mature reflections of Bracton—and because he saw the possibilities of self-govern­ment latent in English local institutions. Stubbs’ magnificent dictum that he “had had genius to interpret the mind of the nation” scarcely overstates the truth. This local sympathy evidently underlay his quarrel with Richard de Clare, though personal reasons doubtless contributed, for, while attracting the devotion of his inferiors, Simon antagonised his equals. His relations with Henry III had cast a shadow on the lives of both men. He was feared above all others by the king who had sent him to govern Gascony and failed to support his too drastic policy (1248-52), who, by uncertain handling of affairs in that province, had endangered his interests in the south of France, who had, he thought, denied his wife the full dowry due to her, and by his evasions of the Charter was threatening his rights in the honour of Leicester. Private motives mingled with public, but public were uppermost in his mind. By 1260 the new consti­tution had begun to fail. Henry started the fight against the Provisions, in which he succeeded first in shaking off the central control of the baronial nominees (1260-1) and then in getting rid of the Justiciar and the locally-appointed sheriffs. The Peace of Paris (to which we shall refer later) had brought support to his cause; the Curia listened to his com­plaints and granted him absolution from his oath to the Provisions (13 April 1261). He was strong enough to publish his freedom from all restraint in May 1262; but the Provisions, the bone of the whole contention, were reissued in January or February 1263, and not till 1264, when their repudiation by the Court had become an established fact for more than six months, were they submitted to the decision of Louis IX and proclaimed by him derogatory to the royal dignity. The reason for this long interval of obstinate bargaining and manoeuvre is to be found partly in the strong local appeal of the administrative provisions, partly in the rift in the baronial ranks which carried, one section, anxious for compromise and no rupture, gradually over to the point of view of Henry and Edward, partly in the desire of the government not to cross the new Earl of Gloucester, young Gilbert de Clare, who was on Leicester’s side. But by May 1263 Simon de Montfort had seen that war was inevitable and Edward had won over powerful support in the Welsh Marches. The story of the recourse to arms and the baronial victory of Lewes (14 May 1264) we need not tell, but shall pass immediately to the acts of de Montfort’s administration (1264-5).

These are in harmony with the steps taken at the instance of the lesser landowners in 1259, rather than with the Acts of the Parliament of 1258 before Simon’s supremacy had become unchallenged. For immediate security, guardians of the peace were appointed in each shire, and four knights, after the precedents of 1254 and 1261, were summoned to meet the king in Parliament on 22 June. In that assembly the king was placed under the tutelage of a Council of Government of nine persons, nominated by three electors chosen by the barons. Three Councillors were to be in constant attendance (here there is an echo of 1259) and by their advice the ministers and wardens of royal castles were to be appointed. The Provisions were confirmed and later (13 December 1264) issued at Worcester as “The Charter made to the Community of England”. They contained, it is important to observe, additional clauses that later made their way into the Statute of Marlborough. The immediate task of the government was that of defence against the queen, who was threatening an invasion from France; hence it was not till 20 January 1265 that it was possible to hold a prolonged parliament in which the affairs of the disturbed March could be settled, the position of Edward (still in confinement) determined, and the legality of the new settlement provided for. The writs for this gathering were sent to fifty-five abbots, twenty- six priors, five earls, and eighteen barons; and general summonses went to the Sheriffs for two knights from each county, and to boroughs for two of the “more discreet, lawful, and worthy burgesses”. Legal records of the time leave no doubt as to the sympathy of many prominent urban centres with the earl’s movement. This great step formed a precedent for the Council of 1268 held just before the legatine Assembly, when a selected group of cities and boroughs sent representatives. The new form of government was strictly dependent upon harmony among the electores, and this was not to be. Personal friction, as his later conduct was to shew, rather than grounds of policy divided Gilbert de Clare, one of the electores with the Bishop of Chichester and Simon, from his great colleague. In the early months of 1265 the young earl intrigued with the Marchers, and in May 1265 Edward saw his chance. Raising his adherents in Cheshire and Shropshire while Simon de Montfort was engaged in Wales, he took Gloucester by the promise of pardon to its garrison if they surrendered. Simon’s summons of his eldest son from Pevensey to Kenilworth was not in time to be of aid. Edward forestalled him, marched on Kenilworth and crushed the younger Simon, then turned to defeat and slay the father at Evesham (4 August 1265).

But the baronial movement was by no means dead. The reckless and extraordinarily haphazard granting away of the confiscated lands of the rebels after Evesham provoked the bitter resistance of the Disinherited, and the formation of independent centres of resistance at Kenilworth, Axeholm, and Ely, that pillaged the countryside in sullen despair. That the government was brought to a better mind and to a recognition of the magnitude of the problem caused by the grants was due in part to the pacific intervention of the Legate Ottobono after Kenilworth hadfallen (1266), in part to the fine, if impulsive, action of Gilbert de Clare. After the siege of Kenilworth the legate was prominent in securing the terms of the Dictum which laid down the principle “no disherison, but repurchase”. Rebels were allowed to buy back their lands from loyalist grantees at a rate proportionate to their degree of guilt, which had to be judicially determined. But the terms were very hard, and recourse was not generally had to the process till the autumn of 1267. By that time a new step had been taken. In 1265 and 1266 Gilbert de Clare had shown his sympathy for the rebels—he had been one himself—by restoring without lines or re-purchase many of the lands of Simon de Montfort’s supporters which his bailiffs had confiscated after Evesham. After the Dictum had been published he entered into an understanding with John d’Eyvill, the soul of the defence of Ely, and concerted with him a rebellion which brought the government to its senses. While the king was at Cambridge, Gloucester seized London, whither the Disinherited came flocking to him quasi ad tutorem, and John d’Eyvill slipped out of Ely to join him. Held up at Stratford (Essex) the king was in a serious quandary, as his frantic calls for help from overseas show; but King Richard ‘of Almain ’ succeeded in bringing the parties together, and a pardon for all Gloucester’s very large mesnée was granted, together with  protection for all Disinherited (virtually exiles before) coming to make their peace with the king. Then and only then was it possible to send out into the counties a special Eyre to apply the terms of the Dictum equitably and mercifully. Surviving records of this circuit testify to the widespread nature of the disturbance, to the fact that locally the rebellion (as was the case in 1381) had been largely directed against the official classes loyal to the king, that it had been supported by large numbers of the lower clergy and not a few abbots and priors, and that a considerable following of county gentry, not bound to the baronial side by feudal ties, had thrown in their support on the side of their great upholder.

If Simon de Montfort’s action had failed, it had at any rate brought English local government a step further along its path. The discoveries made in the inquests and trials to which, directly or indirectly, it had given rise, formed an essential preliminary to the great investigations of Edward I. The action of the country knights, the earl’s sympathy with their grievances and reliance upon their co-operation, pointed the way to that most characteristic of English regional institutions, the Justice of the Peace. Legally, the advance made was of high importance. The in­separable connexion that must exist between administrative inquiry and legislative enactment had been demonstrated. The clauses of the Provisions of October 1259 dealing with suit, the sheriff’s tourn, fines for beaupleder, and distresses, were the outcome of the experience of enlightened lawyers like Roger de Thurkelby, Gilbert de Preston, and Henry de Bracton, whose sympathy for the movement is clearly apparent. It was through them that the Statute of Marlborough, reasserting the principles of 1259, became an enactment which, in Maitland’s words, “in many ways marks the end of feudalism”. In foreign affairs the baronial Council had, largely through the work of Simon de Montfort, concluded the active negotiations which had been going on for five years with France (1254-9). The Treaty of Paris (December 1259), which is largely his work, terminated the English claim, that damnosa haereditas, upon Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, Maine, and Poitou; the French king ceded to Henry his rights in the bishoprics and cities of Limoges, Cahors, and Perigord; the Agenais was to remain provisionally in French hands while Henry was to receive the revenues of the province in the form of an annual rent; and the restored rights as well as the already existing English possessions in Gascony were to be held as fiefs from the French Crown. In addition, Louis undertook to pay Henry the upkeep of five hundred knights for two years. The second and third of these stipulations were to lead to trouble in later reigns, and a satisfactory settlement of them was never reached; in a sense the Hundred Years’ War dates from the disputes arising out of these promised restorations. But the surrender of the claim to the northern territories helped to complete for England the nationalising process which their loss had begun; and the definition of the position of the English King in regard to the French Crown constituted, from a French point of view, an “acte de haute politique”, as the late M. Auguste Longnon termed it, an essential step in the formation of French national unity. Both carried the two countries forward to the time when their community of institutions and culture weakened and each was to make its characteristic contribution to the European order.