46. LETTERS CLOSE AND PATENT (1218-54)

(A) Collection of Scutage (1218)

The king to the sheriff of Worcester, greeting. We command you that, on sight of these letters, you immediately distrain all those men of your bailiwick who hold of us in chief, and who have not brought you our letters regarding the collection of their scutage by their own hand,[1] without delay to pay you the scutage owed us, namely, 2m. from each knight's fee (scuto). And as you cherish your life and all that you have, see to it that you have all that scutage at our exchequer on Sunday next after the coming Mid-Lent. You are likewise to distrain all those of your bailiwick who have received our letters regarding the collection of their scutage by their own hand, for which they should have accounted at our exchequer at terms now passed, that on the same day, avoiding all excuse and delay, they account to us at our exchequer, under your inspection, for the scutage which they owe us. And you are there to have with you our letters which they bring you regarding the collection of their scutage by their own hand.

(Latin) Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, I, 377.

(B) Summons before the Itinerant Justices (1219)[2]

The king to the sheriff of York and Northumberland, greeting. Summon through good summoners all archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, knights, and freeholders of all your bailiwick, also four lawful men and the reeve from every vill and twelve lawful burgesses from every borough throughout your entire bailiwick, together with all other men of your bailiwick who by custom and right should come before our itinerant justices, to be at York before our justices a fortnight after St. Martin's day in order to hear and obey our precept. You are also to have brought before them at that time all pleas of the crown which have not been tried, and which have arisen since the assizes were last held in those parts before itinerant justices in the time of the lord king John, our father; likewise all attachments pertaining to those pleas, and all assizes and all pleas which have been assigned to the first assizes before the justices, together with the writs for those assizes and pleas — so that, through your default or that of your summons, none of those assizes and pleas shall fail to be held. You are also to have it proclaimed and made known throughout your entire bailiwick that all assizes and all pleas for which a day has been set, but which have not been concluded before our justices at Westminster, shall be brought thither to York before the aforesaid justices in the same state as when, by our precept, they were held over at Westminster. Also summon through good summoners all those who have been sheriffs since the last eyre of the justices into those parts, to be present in the same place before the aforesaid justices, together with the writs concerning assizes and pleas which they received during their own time [of office], and to answer concerning their own time [of office] as should be done in the presence of the itinerant justices. And you are there to have the summoners and this writ. By the witness of W[illiam] Marshal, earl of Pembroke, rector of us and of our kingdom, at Westminster, November 4. In the presence of S [tephen], archbishop of Canterbury; P[eter], bishop of Winchester; and R[obert], bishop of Durham.

Similar letters to all the sheriffs of England except [those of] Gloucester, Worcester, Hereford, Stafford and Shropshire, and Leicester and Warwick; but with variation of place, as recorded on the dorse of the letters patent.[3]

(Latin) Ibid., I, 403.

(C) Collection of Carucage[4] (1220)

The king to the sheriff of Northampton, greeting. Know that, on account of our great need and the urgent pressure of our debts, and for the sake of preserving our land of Poitou, all the magnates and faithful men of our entire kingdom have of their free will granted in common that a contribution (donum) shall be made to us: namely, 2s. from every plough-team, in so far as it was joined by the day after the last preceding feast of St. John the Baptist in the fourth year of our reign, to be collected by your hand and [the hands] of two lawful knights of your county, who shall be elected to do so by the will and counsel of all men of the county in full county [court]. And therefore we command you, firmly and straitly enjoining, that, having convoked your full county [court], you cause to be elected by the will and counsel of those men of the county two of the more lawful knights of the whole county who best have the knowledge, willingness, and ability to carry out this business to our advantage. And you, taking those [knights] with you, shall immediately cause that contribution to be assessed on and collected from every plough-team as aforesaid, excepting the demesnes of the archbishops and bishops and their peasants, and excepting the demesnes of the Cistercian order and of the Premonstratensians. And see to it that you are able distinctly and clearly to account to us at London on the day after Michaelmas next how many plough-teams there are in your bailiwick from which we ought to have that contribution. And have the money due therefrom safely collected by the hands of the two knights aforesaid and by your own; and have it sent to London on the aforesaid day under your seal and the seals of the two knights aforesaid, and safely deposited in the house of the New Temple until provision is made as to what ought to be done with it. And as you cherish your life and all that you have, concern yourself with this matter so that, on account of no assessment or collection poorly carried out by you and the aforesaid knights, we shall later need to have severe inquisition made by faithful men sent from our court, to your grave confusion and that of those men associated with you in carrying out the aforesaid assessment and collection. Witness.... Similar letters to all the sheriffs of England.

(Latin) Ibid., I, 437.

(D) Collection of a Fifteenth (1225)

The king to ... ,[5] greeting. We have assigned you as our justiciars to assess and collect for our use the fifteenth of all movables in the counties of Nottingham and Derby according to this form. Our sheriff of Nottingham and Derby will cause to be assembled before you at Nottingham all the knights of his counties on the Sunday next before Mid-Lent; on which day you shall cause to be elected four lawful knights from each hundred or wapentake — or more or less according to the size of the hundreds and wapentakes — who are to go through every hundred or wapentake to assess and collect the aforesaid fifteenth of all chattels. Nevertheless, from this fifteenth, for the benefit of archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, and other men of religion, also of earls, barons, knights, and freeholders who are not merchants, are to be exempted their books of all kinds, the ornaments of churches and chapels, riding-horses, draught-horses, pack-horses, arms of all kinds, jewels, vases, utensils, hay, and [the contents of] larders and cellars; also grain bought for supplying castles. Likewise from this fifteenth, for the benefit of merchants who pay a fifteenth from all their merchandise and movables, are to be exempted the arms to which they are sworn,[6] their riding-horses, the utensils in their houses, and [the contents of] their larders and cellars [kept] for their sustenance. Likewise from this fifteenth, for the benefit of villeins, are to be exempted the arms to which they are sworn, their utensils, their meat and fish and drink that are not for sale, and their hay and fodder that are not for sale. Moreover, those knights shall not go into the hundreds or wapentakes of which they are residents, but into other adjacent hundreds or wapentakes. Furthermore, every person, with the exception of earls, barons, and knights, shall swear to the number, quantity, and value of his own movables and also of the movables belonging to two of his nearest neighbours. And if, perchance, dissension thereby arises between him who owns the movables and his neighbours who have sworn concerning the same movables, the said knights shall seek a verdict through the oaths of twelve good and lawful men of the neighbourhood — or as many as they shall deem sufficient for a verdict in this matter — and according to that verdict they shall levy the fifteenth. But the serjeants and reeves of the lands of earls, barons, and knights — or just the reeves, if no serjeants are there — shall in the same way swear the same oath concerning the movables of their lords in each vill.[7] ... Moreover, you are to follow the same procedure with regard to the fiefs of archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, and other men of religion, except for their demesnes and their own villeins; so far as these are concerned, the archbishops and bishops shall have the fifteenth assessed and collected in the aforesaid form, and shall account for it to us at the same terms [as prescribed for the regular collectors]. And so we command and straitly enjoin you that, in the fealty by which you are bound to us, you give care and efficacious action to carrying out this matter as set forth above. By witness of the king, at Westminster, February 15.

(Latin) Patent Rolls, 1216-1225, pp. 560 f.

(E) Election of County Representatives (1227)[8]

The king to the sheriff of Northumberland, greeting. We command you that in your full county [court] you tell the knights and good men of your bailiwick to elect from their own number four of the more lawful and discreet knights, who are to be before us at Westminster three weeks after the feast of St. Michael, there to set forth on behalf of the whole county their quarrel with you, should they have one, regarding the articles contained in the charter of liberty that has been granted to them.[9] And you are to be there yourself to show cause for the demand which in this connection you made upon them. And you are to have there the names of the knights and this writ. [By witness of the king at Northampton, August 13, in the eleventh year of the reign.]

(Latin) Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, II, 213.

(F) Collection of Tallage and Levy of Ships (1227)

The king to his beloved and faithful, the good men of his towns of Nottingham and Derby, and his other good men of his boroughs and demesnes in the same counties, greeting. Whereas opportunity has been given us of recovering, by the grace of God, our heritage in the lands across the sea, on which account it behooves us, God willing, soon to embark; we have assessed an efficacious aid in our city of London, so that, by the will of all our barons[10] of the said city, we have tallaged all men, whether greater or less, through their own agency (per se). And therefore we have provided that similar aid is to be assessed through all our cities, boroughs, and demesnes; so that in every one of our demesnes all men, according to their ability, shall be tallaged through their own agency. Thus we send to you our beloved and faithful William Basset, Eustace of Ludham, and the sheriff of Nottingham and Derby, to assess the tallage in the towns of Nottingham and Derby, and in our other boroughs and demesnes of the aforesaid counties, according to the mode and form described above; and we command and urge you to render us such prompt and efficacious aid in this urgent necessity that through your aid we may the more speedily recover our rights and may recognize ourself forever grateful to you — so that, indeed, as you cherish us and our honour, you let us have half of the aforesaid tallage at our exchequer on the approaching close of Easter in the eleventh year of our reign, and the other half on the feast of St. John the Baptist in the same year. By the witness of the king, at Westminster, January 30.[11]

The king to the bailiffs and good men of Dunwich, greeting. Know that, by the counsel of our faithful men, we are making preparations, God willing, to cross the sea in our own person. Wherefore we command and firmly enjoin you that, in the fealty by which you are bound to us, you have all good ships of your port, besides those which you owe us through your promise,[12] come to Portsmouth well equipped and supplied with arms and victuals; so that at the latest they shall be there on the approaching feast of St. James the Apostle, in the eleventh year of our reign, ready to cross the sea with our body. By witness of the king, at Westminster.[13]

(Latin) Ibid., II, 208, 211.

(G) Collection of a Fortieth (1232)

The king to the sheriff of Kent, greeting. Know that the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, and clerks having lands that do not belong to their churches, [as well as] the earls, barons, knights, freemen, and villeins[14] of our kingdom, have granted to us as aid the fortieth part of all their evident movables as possessed on the morrow of St. Matthew the Apostle in the sixteenth year of our reign: namely, of grain, ploughs, sheep, cows, swine, studs, and cart-horses assigned to productive work on manors, excepting the property that the aforesaid archbishops, bishops, and other ecclesiastical parsons receive from parish churches belonging to them, from prebendal churches, from prebends, and from lands pertaining to prebends and parochial churches. Moreover, it has been generally provided by our faithful men aforesaid that the said fortieth is to be assessed and collected in this manner: namely, that from each entire vill four of the better and more lawful men shall be elected along with the reeves of those particular vills, and that by their oaths the fortieth of all the aforesaid movables is to be determined and assessed upon each person in the presence of the knights assessors commissioned for that purpose. And afterwards, by the oaths of two lawful men from [each of] the same vills, inquiry and assessment shall be made touching the fortieth of movable property possessed by the said four men and the reeves. And let it be distinctly and plainly recorded to whose barony or liberty each vill in whole or in part belongs.[15]... Nothing, however, shall be taken by way of a fortieth from any one who does not have movable property of this sort to the value of at least 40d. Now for the assessment and collection of the aforesaid fortieth in your county according to the plan aforesaid, we have assigned[16] ... , whom, immediately on sight of these letters, you shall summon before you to hear our precept, and to whom you shall at once hand our letters patent which are directed to them for this purpose and which we send you to be handed to them. Moreover, you shall cause to come before them, on the particular days and at the [particular] places which they may then deem most convenient, [the men of] the various vills of your county in order diligently to carry out this matter.... By my own witness, at Westminster, September 28.[17 ]

(Latin) Close Rolls, 1231-1234, pp. 155 f.

(H) Ordinance for the Preservation of the Peace (1242)[18]

The king to the sheriff of Worcester, greeting. Know that, for the strict maintenance of our peace, it has been provided by our council that watches shall be kept in the various cities and boroughs and in all the other vills of your county from the day of the Ascension of the Lord to the day of St. Michael: namely, in every city by six armed men at each gate; in every borough by twelve men and in every vill by six men similarly armed, or four or less according to the number of the inhabitants. And they shall keep continuous watch throughout the whole night from sunset to dawn: so that, if any foreigner passes by them, they shall hold him until morning; then, if he is trustworthy, he shall be released, but if he is suspicious, he shall be turned over to the sheriff, who is to receive and safeguard him without difficulty or delay. If, however, foreigners of this sort, on passing through, do not allow themselves to be arrested, then the aforesaid watchmen are to raise hue against them on all sides and, with the whole force of the vill and of the neighbouring vills, are to follow them with hue and cry from vill to vill until they are captured. And then they are to be turned over to the sheriff as aforesaid; yet so that no one, on account of such arrest or capture of foreigners, shall be [unjustly] molested by the sheriff or his bailiffs. And the various cities, boroughs, and vills are to be warned to carry out each of the aforesaid watches and pursuits so diligently that, by reason of their default, we shall not have to inflict severe punishment.

It has also been provided that each sheriff, together with two knights especially assigned for that purpose, shall make the circuit of his county from hundred to hundred, [visiting] also the cities and boroughs; and in each hundred or city or borough they shall cause to be assembled before them the citizens, burgesses, freeholders, villeins, and other men aged from fifteen to sixty years. And they shall have them all assessed and sworn to arms according to their [respective] possessions in land and chattels: namely, for land worth 15, a shirt of mail, an iron cap, a sword, a knife, and a horse; for land worth 10, a hauberk, an iron cap, a sword, and a knife; for land worth 100s., a purpoint, an iron cap, a sword, a lance, and a knife; for land worth 40s. or more, up to a value of 100s., a sword, a knife, a bow, and arrows. Whatever persons have less than 40s. value of land are to be sworn to falchions (falces), halberds, knives, and other small arms. For chattels worth 60m., [a man shall possess] a shirt of mail, an iron cap, a sword, a knife, and a horse; for chattels worth 40m., a hauberk, an iron cap, a sword, and a knife; for chattels worth 20m., a purpoint, an iron cap, a sword, and a knife; for chattels worth 10m., a sword, a knife, a bow, and arrows; for chattels worth 40s. or more, up to a value of 10m., falchions, knives, halberds, and other small arms. Furthermore, all who, outside the forest, can have bows and arrows are to have them; but those in the forest [are to have] bows and bolts.[19] And in the various cities and boroughs all men sworn to arms shall be obedient to their mayors, or to their reeves and bailiffs where there are no mayors.[20] In each of the other vills, moreover, there shall be established one or two constables,[21] according to the number of the inhabitants and the decision of the aforesaid [officials]. Besides, in each hundred there shall be established a chief constable, at whose command all men sworn to arms in his hundred shall be assembled; and to him they shall be obedient in carrying out necessary measures for the conservation of our peace. The chief constables of the various hundreds, moreover, shall be obedient to the sheriff and the two knights aforesaid, in coming at their command and in carrying out necessary measures for the conservation of our peace....[22 ]By the witness of W[alter], archbishop of York, at Westminster, May 20.

(Latin) Close Rolls, 1237-1242, pp 482 f.

(I) Naval Levies (1242)[23]

The king to the barons of Hastings, greeting. Whereas, on account of his continuous injuries, we are under no obligation to observe a truce toward the king of France, and whereas war between us has already broken out: we have decided, by your aid and counsel and by that of our other barons of the Cinque Ports, to assail the said king and his men both by sea and by land and to fight him in every way we can. Therefore, especially relying on your manliness and faith for willing and powerful aid in this affair, we command and urge you, in the fealty by which you are bound to us and as you cherish us and our honour, that as quickly as possible you have your ships prepared and well manned; and that, together with our other barons of the Cinque Ports, to whom we have sent the same mandate, you equip yourselves for assailing the said king of France along the coasts of Brittany, Normandy, and Boulogne, both by sea and by land, with fire and with other weapons at your command; yet so that you, on account of this our mandate, shall not presume to cause damage or injury to churches, or to any one who enjoys our protection or safe conduct — saving also to us the fifth which, as you know, belongs to us from booty acquired by you in our wars.... In testimony whereof, etc., to continue during our pleasure. By witness of the king, at Xanten, June 8.

Similar letters to the other barons of the Cinque Ports: namely, Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney, Winchelsea, and Rye. Also to the good men of Dunwich....

The mayor and sheriffs of London are ordered to send 120 foot-soldiers with crossbows to Dover — to B[ertram] de Crioyl, constable of Dover [Castle], who on the part of the king will instruct them as to what they are to do. Witnessed as above [August 2].

The bailiffs of Dunwich are ordered with the utmost haste to send to Dover five ships well filled with [sea]men and crossbowmen — as many as they can supply — to do what B[ertram] de Crioyl, constable of Dover [Castle] will instruct them on the part of the king. Witnessed as above.

A similar mandate to the bailiffs of Yarmouth for five ships. Similar mandates to the bailiffs of Ipswich, Oreford, and Blakeney for four ships [each]. Witnessed as above.

(Latin) Ibid., pp. 456, 495 f.

(J) Writs of Summons (1253-54)

The king to B[oniface], archbishop of Canterbury, greeting. Whereas we have to communicate to you certain grave and urgent matters touching our interest and that of our kingdom, which we are unwilling to settle without your counsel and that of our other magnates, we command you that, in the fealty by which you are bound to us and as you cherish us and our honour, you do not fail to be at Westminster a fortnight after St. Hilary next — in the presence of our queen, our brother Richard, earl of Cornwall, others of our council remaining in England, and yet others of our council in Gascony, whom we are about to send for [the meeting on] the same day — to hear our good will and pleasure and, together with our said council, to take up the matters aforesaid. Nor are you to delay your arrival so that you fail promptly to attend on the same day. By witness of Queen Eleanor and of Richard, earl of Cornwall, at Westminster, December 27.

The king to the sheriff of Bedford and Buckingham, greeting.[24 ]Whereas the earls, barons, and other magnates of our kingdom have steadfastly promised to be at London with horses and arms three weeks from Easter next, prepared and well equipped to advance without delay towards Portsmouth in order to cross the sea to us in Gascony [and to support us] against the king of Castile, who in strength is to make hostile invasion of our land of Gascony next summer; and whereas we have ordered you to distrain for that same [service] all men of your bailiwick who hold land worth 20 of us in chief, or of others who are under age and in our wardship: [therefore] we straitly command you that, besides all those men aforesaid, you summon before our council at Westminster a fortnight after next Easter four lawful and discreet knights from the aforesaid counties, whom the same counties are to elect for this [purpose], to represent all and several of the same counties — namely, two from one county and two from the other — to provide, along with knights of the other counties whom we have caused to be summoned for the same day, what sort of aid they will give us in so great an emergency. And to the knights and others of the aforesaid counties you yourself shall explain our needs and the urgency of our business, and you shall induce them to render us efficacious aid that will suffice for the present; so that the four knights aforesaid can make a precise response to our aforesaid council at the aforesaid term with regard to the aforesaid aid on behalf of all men of the aforesaid counties.... By witness of the queen and of Richard, earl of Cornwall, at Windsor, February 11.

Similar letters were directed to all the sheriffs of England.

(Latin) Close Rolls, 1253-1254, pp. 107, 114.


[1] The tax was often passed on to the sub-tenants. See, for example, the royal authorizations of 1223 (Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, I, 570 f.): "The king to the sheriff of Northampton, greeting. Know that we have granted to our beloved and faithful uncle, William, earl of Salisbury, that he may have from his knights who hold of him in your bailiwick his scutage for our army of Wales, in which he now is by our order: namely, 2m. from a knight's fee. And therefore we command you that you cause him to have the said scutage as aforesaid...." "The king to the sheriff of Middlesex, greeting. Know that we have granted to William, earl of Salisbury, that he may have from his freemen in your bailiwick a reasonable aid for maintaining himself in our service with our army of Wales, in which he now is by our order: namely, ant. from a knight's fee. And therefore we command you...."

[2] This is a regular form, found year after year in the rolls.

[3] That is to say, on the reverse side of the patent roll.

[4] A tax levied on the plough-team (caruca) or on the plough-land (carucata). In the present writ the former is specified; but see Mitchell, Studies in Taxation under John and Henry III, p. 133.

[5] Six collectors are named — one of many groups thus commissioned.

[6] See nos. 34, 46H.

[7] The writ here gives details concerning the safeguarding of the money and the oaths to be sworn by the knights and justices.

[8] Copies of this writ were sent to the sheriffs of sixteen counties besides Northumberland; the instructions to the sheriffs of nineteen other counties contain additional clauses with regard to the perambulation of the forest. Mandates of the previous year had called for representatives from only eight counties, to meet at Lincoln; but the assembly had been postponed because the king had been unable to be at that city in time. On the significance of these writs of summons, see A. B. White, in the American Historical Review, XIX, 735 f.

[9] The reissue of Magna Carta, which the barons had demanded in return for the grant of a fifteenth.

[10] See above, p. 103, n. 17.

[11] Similar letters were sent to most of the other counties; also commissions to the various groups of justices, together with notifications to the sheriffs.

[12] From this writ and other records it appears that various boroughs had, as the result of separate negotiation, granted the king quotas of ships for his war, and in return had been given special concessions with regard to their tallage.

[13] The entry in the roll is rather confusing, but it seems to mean that similar letters were sent to Yarmouth, Ipswich, Oreford, Colchester, Pevensey, Seaford, Lynn, Southampton, Portsmouth, and the Cinque Ports (Dover, Sandwich, Hythe, Winchelsea, Rye, Hastings, and Romney); with the writs to the latter changed to read "besides those which are owed us by way of service." Cf nos. 41B, 50C.

[14] Presumably a grant by the magnates was held to bind their tenants, free and unfree.

[15] The writ here gives details concerning the collection of the money and the transmission of the records.

[16] Four persons are named.

[17] The roll also includes the forms used for notifying the knights assessors and for commissioning the itinerant justices. Similar letters were sent to all the counties.

[18] Wrongly dated 1252 in Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 362. Cf. no. 34.

[19]Pilettos — apparently some sort of blunt arrows; cf. no. 35, art. 2.

[20] Cf. no. 39E.

[21] This seems to be the inauguration of rural constables as peace officers. On the earlier use of the word, see above, pp. 69, 82, n. 8.

[22] Details follow concerning the enforcement of these measures. Similar letters, together with the proper commissions of knights, were sent to all the counties.

[23] Cf. no. 41E, D.

[24] On the significance of this writ, see Pasquet, Origins of the House of Commons, pp. 33 f.


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