Rebellion, 1233-4

Source: Roger of Wendover’s Flowers of History, Comprising the History of England from the Descent of the Saxons to A.D. 1235, trans. J. A. Giles, 2 vols. (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1849), vol. II, pp. 566-569, 581, 586
( [accessed 4 August 2011]:

[pp. 566-569]

[A.D. 1233]

How the king dismissed some of his ministers from his court.

The seventeenth year of king Henry’s reign he held his court at Christmas at Worcester, where, by the advice of Peter bishop of Winchester, as was said, he dismissed all the native officers of his court from their offices, and appointed foreigners from Poictou in their places. He also dismissed William de Rodune, a knight who carried on the duties of Richard the grand marshal at his court. By the same person’s advice the king also dismissed Walter bishop of Carlisle, from his office of treasurer, and then took from him a hundred pounds of silver, and also spitefully deprived him of some trusts, which he the king had by his own charter confirmed to him for life. All his former counsellors, bishops and earls, barons and other nobles, he dismissed abruptly, and put confidence in no one except the aforesaid bishop of Winchester and his son Peter de Rivaulx; after which he ejected all the castellans throughout all England, and placed the castles under the charge of the said Peter. The bishop then, in order to gain the king’s favour more completely, associated with himself Stephen de Segrave, a yielding man, and Robert Passelewe, who kept the king’s treasury under Peter de Rivaulx; and he entirely ruled the kingdom with the assistance and advice of those men. The king also invited men from Poictou and Brittany, who were poor and covetous after wealth, and about two thousand knights and soldiers came to him equipped with horses and arms, whom he engaged in his service, placing them in charge of the castles in the various parts of the kingdom; these men used their utmost endeavours to oppress the natural English subjects and nobles, calling them traitors, and accusing them of treachery to the king; and he, simple man that he was, believed their lies, and gave them the charge of all the counties and baronies, as also of all the youths of the nobility, both male and female, who were foully degraded by ignoble marriages. The king also entrusted them with the care of his treasury, with the enforcement of the laws of the country and the administration of justice. In short, judgment was entrusted to the unjust, laws to outlaws, So preservation of peace to the quarrelsome, and justice to those who were themselves full of injury, and when the nobles of the kingdom laid complaints before the king of the oppression they endured, the said bishop interfered, and there was no one to grant them justice. The said Peter too made accusations against some of the other bishops of the kingdom, and advised the king to avoid them as open enemies.

How the marshal remonstrated with the king.

By these and like injuries, high and low were alike oppressed, and earl Richard, marshal of the kingdom, seeing this, and that the laws of the kingdom were being destroyed, was incited by his zeal in the cause of justice, and, in company with some other nobles, boldly went to the king, and, in the hearing of numbers, reproached him with having by ill advice introduced these foreigners of Poictou to the oppression of the kingdom and of his natural subjects, and to the subversion of the laws and liberties; he therefore humbly begged of the king at once to put a stop to such abuses, owing to which, his crown and kingdom were in imminent danger of destruction; he moreover declared that, if he refused to amend matters, he and the other nobles of the kingdom would withdraw themselves from his councils as long as he held communication with these foreigners. To this Peter bishop of Winchester replied, that his lord the king was surely allowed to summon as many foreigners as he chose for the protection of his kingdom and crown, and as many and such men as would be able to reduce his haughty and rebellious subjects to their proper obedience. The earl Marshal and the other nobles being unable to obtain any other answer, left the court in dismay, and made a fixed determination one with another to fight for this cause, which concerned them all, till their souls were separated from their bodies.

Of the thunder-storms.

In the same year, on the 23rd of March, dreadful thunderings were heard, followed by inundations of rain throughout the whole summer, which destroyed the warrens and washed away the ponds and mills throughout almost all England; and in the ploughed and harvest fields and other unusual places in different parts, the water ran about in rivulets and formed into lakes in the midst of the crops, in which, to the astonishment of many, the fishes of the rivers were seen; and mills were standing in various places where they had never before been seen. In the same year, on the 8th of April, about the first hour of the day, on the confines of Hereford and Worcester, there appeared four spurious suns round the real sun, of different colours, some of a semicircular form and others round. These suns formed a wonderful spectacle, and were seen by more than a thousand creditable persons; and some of them, in commemoration of this extraordinary phenomenon, painted suns and rings of various colours on parchment, that such an unusual phenomenon might not escape from the memory of man. This was followed in the same year by a cruel war and terrible bloodshed in those counties, and general disturbances happened throughout England, Wales, and Ireland. About the same time in the month of June, two immense snakes were seen by the inhabitants near the sea-coast in the southern part of England, fighting in the air, and after a severe struggle one overcame the other, and putting him to flight, pursued him to the bottom of the sea, where they were both lost to sight.

The election of the archbishop of Canterbury annulled.

About the same time, master John, surnamed le Blund, was elected to the archbishopric of Canterbury. It was divulged at Rome, that after his election he had received a thousand marks of silver as a present from Peter bishop of Winchester, besides another thousand marks which that bishop had lent him to help him in obtaining his promotion, and it was therefore evident that the friendship of the said bishop was rather injurious than beneficial to him; besides this the said John, it was reported, had confessed at Rome that he held two benefices, to which the cure of souls was entrusted, in opposition to the decrees of the general council, whereby he incurred the charge of presumption. But, inasmuch as the election of three of the archbishops of the church of Canterbury had been annulled lately, the aforesaid church had been for a long time without a pastor, he therefore gave permission to the monks, who had come with the rejected archbishop elect, to choose master Edmund, a canon of the church of Salisbury, as the pastor of their souls, in order that a metropolitan see of such importance might not be any longer without a pastor, and at the same time sent him the pall. The monks however resolved not to accept of him or of any one else, except by the consent of their whole community.

Of discord which arose between the king and the nobles of the kingdom.

All this time Peter bishop of Winchester and his colleagues had so perverted the king’s heart with hatred and contempt for his English subjects, that he endeavoured by all the means in his power to exterminate them, and invited such legions of people from Poictou that they entirely filled England, and wherever the king went he was surrounded by crowds of these foreigners; and nothing was done in England except what the bishop of Winchester and this host of foreigners determined on. The king then sent letters, and summoned all the earls and barons of the kingdom to come to a conference at Oxford on the feast of St. John; but they refused to come at his summons, both because they feared treachery from these foreigners, and on account of the anger which they had conceived against the king for his having summoned all these foreigners in contempt of them the said barons. On their refusal being carried to the king by special messengers, he became much enraged, and ordered a decree to be passed by which he could compel them to attend his court. It was then decided that they should be summoned thrice, in order to see if they would come or not. At this conference a certain brother of the order of Preachers, who was preaching the word of God in the presence of the king and some of the bishops, plainly told the king with a loud voice that he would never enjoy a lasting peace till he dismissed Peter bishop of Winchester, and Peter de Rivaulx his son, from his councils. Many others who were present also told the king the same; whereupon he sent word to the nobles aforesaid to come to a conference at Westminster on the 11th of July, when he would consult with them as to any amendment which ought to be made by right. The nobles however, having heard that numbers of these robbers, equipped with horses and arms, continued to arrive from time to time on the king’s invitation, and seeing no signs of tranquillity, declined to attend at the appointed day, and, by special messengers, demanded of the king the immediate dismissal of Peter bishop of Winchester and his other counsellors the nobles of Poictou, otherwise they would, by common consent, unite to drive him as well as his evil advisers from the kingdom, and proceed to choose a new king.

How the king banished some of his nobles.

The king, as well as his whole court, were struck with dismay, and were in great alarm lest the error of the son should be worse than that of the father, inasmuch as the nobles were determined to drive him from the throne of the kingdom. The aforesaid bishop Peter then advised the king to make war against his rebellious nobles, take their castles from them, and give them to the Poictevin nobles, who would defend the kingdom against these traitors. The first against whom the king vented his rage was Gilbert Bassett, a nobleman, whom he deprived of a certain manor which he had received as a gift from king John; and when he asked the king to restore him his rights, the latter called him a traitor, and threatened that if he did not leave his court he should be hung. He also ordered Richard Siward, a bold knight, to be made prisoner and brought before him, for having, as he said, married the sister of the said Gilbert without his permission. Being also suspicious of all the other nobles and men of rank in the kingdom, he demanded hostages of them, and sent orders to them by his warrants to give up to him before the 1st of August such and so many hostages, by which all suspicion of rebellion on their parts would be removed from his mind.

[p. 581]

[A.D. 1234]

Of the expedition against Shrewsbury.

After this, during the octaves of the Epiphany, the earl marshal and the Welsh chief Llewellyn collected all the forces they could muster, and penetrating a good distance into the king’s territory, spread fire wherever they went; so that, from the confines of Wales as far as the town of Shrewsbury, there was not a place that escaped their ravages; they then burned the town of Shrewsbury and then returned home with valuable booty. King Henry, during all these proceedings of his enemies, was lying inactive at Gloucester together with the bishop of Winchester, for he had not a military force sufficient to oppose them, therefore he retreated, overcome with shame, to Winchester, leaving all that district exposed to the ravages of the enemy as was plainly evident; it was a dreadful sight to travellers to see the corpses of the slain, which were almost numberless, lying unburied and naked in the roads, affording meals for the beasts and birds of prey, the stench from which had so corrupted the air that the dead killed the living. And so hardened was the king’s heart become against the marshal, owing to the evil advice he listened to, that, although the bishops advised him to make peace with that nobleman, who only fought to obtain justice, he replied that he would never come to any terms with him, unless he begged his mercy with a halter around his neck, and acknowledging himself a traitor.

[p. 586]

[A.D. 1234]

How the king dismissed the bishop of Winchester and the Poictevins..

About this time, on the fourth Sunday in Lent, which fell on the 9th of April, a council was held at Westminster, at which the king, the earls, and barons, and the lately consecrated archbishop, with his suffragan bishops, assembled to make proper provisions for composing the disturbances in the kingdom. The archbishop then in company with the bishops and other prelates present, approached the king, and gave him his advice as well as that of the bishops concerning the desolate state and imminent danger of the kingdom, and repeated to him the disadvantages which had been set forth to him at the conference held a little while before. He also boldly told the king, that, unless he very soon abandoned his errors, and made peace with his faithful subjects in his own kingdom, he, the archbishop, with all the other prelates present, would at once pronounce sentence of excommunication against him and all the other opposers and perverters of peace and tranquillity. The king dutifully listened to the advice of the prelates, and answered with humility, that he would yield to their counsels in everything; and then, finding out his error, after a few days he ordered Peter bishop of Winchester to go to his bishopric, and attend to the cure of souls, and thenceforth on no account to meddle with the affairs of the kingdom. He also ordered Peter de Rivaulx, to whose pleasure the whole of England was subjected, without fail to give up the royal castles to him, to render an account of the royal money, and immediately to leave his court, declaring with an oath that, if he were not a beneficed person, and admitted to the rights of the clergy, he would order his two eyes to be torn out. He also expelled all the Poictevins, as well from his court as from the charge of his castles, and sent them away to their own country, ordering them never to show their faces to him again. He then, in his eager desire to bring about a peace, sent Edmund, archbishop of Canterbury, with the bishops of Chester and Rochester, into Wales, to make arrangements for peace with Llewellyn and Richard the earl marshal. Having thus dismissed all his evil advisers, he recalled to his service his natural subjects, and submitted to the advice of the archbishop and bishops, hoping by their assistance to bring back his disturbed kingdom to its proper state.