Monday, August 16, 2010

MEDIEVAL MONDAY: King John's Accounts

For today's Medieval Monday snippet, I'm posting a few excerpts from the Pipe Rolls of King John.
There's a decent explanation of what these were at Wikipedia. but basically it was to do with keeping a record of England's finances from year to year. They're a sort of glorified accounts book, but among the figures, you find various aspects of social comment.

On November 12th 1201, John wrote to his justiciar Geoffrey Fitzpeter, 'We lost our precious stones and jewels which we were wont to wear about our neck, which Bartholomew the bearer of these presents found and freely and faithfully brought us. For his service we have given him at Berkhamstead where he was born a rent of 20 shillings, and therefore we command you that you assign the rent of 20 shillings to him without delay.
On the pipe roll for Michaelmas 1202, this appears on the Berkhamstead account.
'Et Bartholomew qui invenit et rediddit Regi lapides pretiosos et jocalia que ipse amiserat xx s. quos ei R. in redditu assignauit. Which translates to: 'To Bartholomew who found and restored to the king the precious stones and jewels which he had lost, 20 shillings which the king has assigned him in rent.'

Concerning jewels again, there is in an enigmatic entry on this same pipe roll, the meaning of which has now been lost, but hints at John's usual secretive dealings.
'Episcopus Norwic' debet c m. quia tradidit R. unum anulum cum smaragdo quem R. ei tradiderat coram aliis. Which translates to: 'The Bishop of Norwich owes 100 markes "because he handed the king a ring with an emerald which the king had handed him before others." Make of that what you will. A hundred marks is a large sum of money. It would take an ordinary hearth knight on the pay of a shilling a day almost two weeks to earn a single mark.

In the pipe roll of 1209 there is another enigmatic entry. 'Episcopus Winton' tonellum vini boni. quia no reduxit ad memoriam R. de zona danda comitisse de Albemar'. The bishop of Winchester owes a tun of good wine 'because he did not remind the king to give a belt to the countess of Aumale.' This is interesting, since historian Sidney Painter believed that Hawise of Aumale was one of John's mistresses and that her son, ostensibly called William de Forz, should in actual fact be William FitzRoy. But why the Bishop of Winchester should be in trouble for not reminding him is a matter lost in time.

We get a glimpse of the prisoners taken at Mirebeau where Prince Arthur was captured - eventually leading to him never being seen again. On the Hampshire account £8 7s 4d were charged for the maintenance and carriage of prisoners taken at Mirebeau.
'Et in corredio et carriagio prisonum captorum apud Mirebel viij li. et vij s. et iiij d.

John's interest in books is shown by an entry on the 1203 pipe roll.
'Et Johanni de Kemesie xl11j s. et x d. ad cistas et carretas ad ducendos libros R. ultra mare.
John of Kempsey was paid for chests and carts to take the king's books across the sea.

He may also have liked his garden. There's an entry for enclosing his garden at Marlborough. Et pro claudendo gardino R. apud Merleberg x li et v s. et vj d.

The pipe roll of 1208 has an entry concerning the men of Cornwall who owed 500 marks 'for having a sheriff who will treat them justly and 200 that the king will remit his ill will towards them."

Marcher lord Walter de Clifford, sheriff of Hereford, paid John 1,000 marks to look the other way - for having his good will and that no enquiry should be made upon him touching his exactions on the county of Hereford.
'Walterus de Clifford M m. pro habenda benevolentia R. et ne inquisitio fiat super eum de prisis suis in comitatu Hereford.'

I could go on forever, but I have a novel to write! However, these snippets from above go to show how fascinating, fun and informative mining the primary sources can be! I'll post some more on another occasion.

Later this week, I'll be posting a couple of out-take chapters from A Place Beyond Courage.


dolphoto said...

Could the emerald comment have been a regifting fine?

Miss Moppet said...

I've never come across the emerald ring entry before - intriguing! The bit about the jewels always makes me laugh imagining the kerfuffle there must have been when it was noticed they were lost.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

I found the entry about the Cornwall men paying for the sheriff interesting. Also, it was fun trying to read the Latin. I was surprised I remembered that much from high school! Great post, as always.

Jules Frusher said...

I love reading various rolls from the exchequer, wardrobe or chamber. I have been known to look for one specific thing and then get distracted for the rest of the morning by other entries!! Did you translate the Latin yourself?