1. Fines made with Henry III for the confirmation of charters, January–February 1227

In this month's fine David Carpenter throws more light on the famed policy of Henry III, influenced by the justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, to take fines for the confirmation of the charters, prompted by his assumption of full regal powers in January 1227.

⁋1In January 1227, the last restrictions on Henry III’s power were lifted which meant that he began to issue his own charters. 1 According to Roger of Wendover, ‘it was announced to religious houses and others who wished to enjoy their liberties that they should renew their charters under the new seal of the king [in fact introduced in 1218], understanding that the king reputed ancient charters to be of no moment.’ Wendover added that for such confirmations everyone was taxed not according to their means but according ‘to the estimate of the justiciar’ (Hubert de Burgh). 2

⁋2Wendover’s story, in its essence if not in its details, is confirmed by royal letters sent to all the sheriffs from Westminster on 21 January. These announced that by the council of Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, and of the earls, barons, magnates and other faithful men it had been provided at Oxford (where the court had been earlier in the month) that henceforth the king should issue charters and confirmations under his seal. The sheriffs were to proclaim that whoever held or claimed to hold lands and liberties either by gift and concession of the king’s ancestors, kings of England, or by the preceptum of the king himself, were to come before the king before the start of Lent (28 February) to show their warrant for them, as they wished to retain them or recover them. They were also to proclaim that whoever wished to obtain a charter for lands, markets, liberties or anything else should come within the same term. 3

⁋3The policy had parallels with that at the start of earlier reigns. Indeed John in 1200 had sent a writ to the justices of the bench ordering them to do nothing for anyone in any case before them on the basis of charters and letters patent of his ancestors unless they saw John’s own confirmation. 4 The financial proceeds from the confirmations John issued at the start if his reign are seen on his fine rolls 5 As befits the moderation of the minority government, Henry’s approach seems to have been less rigorous than that of his father. He demanded that warrant be shown but did not say he would disregard old charters unless confirmed. Nor is there any sign that, in practice, this was ever the case. It is also unclear how extensive and thorough the quo warranto proceedings in 1227 were. Nonetheless, as has long been plain from the published charter rolls, large numbers of individuals and institutions did seek confirmation of their charters in 1227. Indeed the volume of business, both through confirmations and charters de novo (as Hubert de Burgh and his allies reaped their rewards) meant that the charter roll for 11 Henry III became so long that that it was divided into two parts. 6

⁋4What the Fine Roll project can now make public for the first time are the financial proceeds of the policy to which Wendover referred. Since they contained no genealogical information, the fines in question were completely omitted from the published Excerpta. The total amount offered for confirmations down to the end of the regnal year on 27 October 1227 (by which time the money was drying up) was 3975 marks, or £2650, plus two palfreys. Of this, 137½ marks came from eight laymen and the men of two towns (Preston and Lancaster). 2837½ marks, and the palfreys, came from two bishops (Bath and Winchester), the Templars and Hospitallers, and thirty-three religious houses. The first fine (for 100 marks) was made by the abbot of Bury St Edmunds between 30 and 31 January. There then follow some sixteen fines in quick succession, all indicated in the margin of the roll by symbol resembling the mathematical division sign. These entries are often just records of the fine without any accompanying letter, and thus lack any precise date. The symbol ceases after fine no.121, which is just before a copy of the fine rolls (the originalia roll) from the start of the regnal year down to fine no 123 was sent to the Exchequer so it knew what money to collect. This was probably done at the end of February 1227, the fine/originalia roll down to that point thus containing the harvest from the injunction to be before the king with one’s warrant by the start of Lent.

⁋5The largest amount offered for a confirmation was the 750 marks from the bishop of Winchester (I will write about his fine next month), followed by 600 marks from the Templars, and 500 marks each from the Hospitallers and the bishop of Bath. At the bottom of the scale some small religious houses only offered five or ten marks. Despite Wendover’s assertion, some account was, therefore, taken of ability to pay although doubtless much also depended on the bargain one could strike with the justiciar. The annals of Dunstable priory confirm the size of their offer (150 marks), and explain how, along side the confirmation, they also obtained some additional concessions (as was often the case). The annals also mention a payment of twenty marks which the burgesses made to Hubert de Burgh. 7 One wonders if all the money offered is on the fine rolls, since some charters have no corresponding fines, those issued for London and Northampton being cases in point. On the other hand, its enrolled accounts do not suggest much money was paid cash down into the wardrobe (in which case there might be no record on the fine rolls). 8 . Against an annual revenue of perhaps £15,000–£20,000, the money (which was often to be paid in specified installments) was significant but not particularly substantial. My impression is that John made much more in 1199–1200.

⁋6The imbalance between lay and ecclesiastical confirmations is, of course, striking. So is the fact that, even so, many important ecclesiastics and religious houses did not come forward. One gets the impression that it was very much left to those concerned to decide whether or not they wanted confirmations. Most of the charters whose confirmations were sought were those of the Angevin kings (John in particular), but a few were those of Henry I. There is much here that could be further researched. In particular, a comparison between John’s confirmations in 1199 and Henry III’s in 1227 would be a good subject for an undergraduate or MA dissertation.

1.1. C 60/25, Fine Roll 11 Henry III (28 October 1226–27 October 1227), membrane 10.

1.1.1. 89

⁋1 Concerning the fine of the abbot of St. Edmund's. The abbot of St. Edmund's gives the king 100 m. for having the confirmation of King Henry of the whole vill of St. Edmund’s, in which the church of St. Edmund is sited, with all those dignities, liberties, customs and appurtenances which the aforesaid church held best, most freely and most quit in the time of King Edward, and for having the confirmation of King Henry of all of the land with appurtenances that Roger Caperun held in Berton’ of the honour of Nottingham and which King John, father of the king, had given to Robert de Hese for his homage and while he was count of Mortain, and which King John confirmed when he became king, and for having the king’s letters patent of protection. He is to render those 100 m. at Easter in the eleventh year. 9


See D.A. Carpenter, The Minority of Henry III (London, 1990), p. 389. Back to context...
Matthaei Parisiensis … Chronica Majora, 7 vols. ed. H.R. Luard (Rolls ser., 1884–89), iii, p. 122. Back to context...
RLC., ii, p. 207. Back to context...
CRR, I, p. 331; S. Painter, The Reign of King John (Baltimore, 1949, p. 96). Back to context...
Rotuli de Oblatis et Finibus, pp. 1–75. Back to context...
C. Ch. R. 1226–57, pp. 1–63. Back to context...
Annales Monastici, ed. H.R. Luard (Rolls Ser., 1864–69), iii, p. 106. Back to context...
Roll of Divers Accounts for the early Years of the Reign of Henry III, ed. F.A. Cazel (PRS, new series, xliv, 1974–75), pp. 53–54. Back to context...
Each fine for confimation of any kind down to entry 121 below is marked in the margin with a symbol resembling the mathematical division symbol. Back to context...