49. PARLIAMENTARY AND OTHER WRITS (1275-95)

(A) Parliament of 1275

Edward, by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine, to the sheriff of Middlesex, greeting. Whereas, for certain particular reasons, we have prorogued our general parliament[1] ... at London with our prelates and the other magnates of our realm ... until the morrow of the Sunday after Easter next; we command you that you summon to the same place, on the morrow of the Sunday after Easter aforesaid, four knights from your county of the more discreet and lawful, and likewise from each of the cities, boroughs, and trading towns[2] of your bailiwick six or four citizens, burgesses, or other good men, to consider, along with the magnates of our kingdom, the affairs of the said kingdom. On our part also you are without delay to have those letters of ours that are addressed to various persons in your bailiwick given or sent to them. And by no means neglect to do this and to give us full information touching the execution of this mandate at the term aforesaid. By my own witness at Woodstock, December 26, in the third year of our reign.

(Latin) Stubbs, Select Charters, pp. 441 f.

(B) The New Customs (1275)

William de Valence, earl of Pembroke, to all faithful in Christ before whom the present writing may come, greeting in the Lord. Whereas the archbishops, bishops, and other prelates of the kingdom of England, as well as the earls and barons, and we and the communities of the said kingdom, at the suggestion and request of the merchants, have for a variety of reasons unanimously granted, for ourselves and our heirs, to the magnificent prince, our dearest lord Edward, by the grace of God illustrious king of England, m. for each sack of wool and m. for every three hundred wool-fells, which make a sack, and 1m. for each last of hides exported from the kingdom of England and the land of Wales, to be henceforth collected in each port of England and Wales, both within liberties and without: [therefore] we, at the request and suggestion of the aforesaid merchants, grant, for us and our heirs, that the same lord king and his heirs shall have within each of our ports in Ireland, both within liberties and without, m, from every sack of wool and m. from every three hundred wool-fells, which make a sack, and 1m. from every last of hides exported from the land of Ireland, to be collected by the hands of wardens and bailiffs of the said king; saving to us the forfeitures of those who, without the licence and warrant of the said lord king [given] by his letters patent and signed with the seal provided for that purpose, shall presume to take wool, wool-fells, or hides of this sort through our fiefs, where we enjoy liberties, [for export] out of Ireland. From which [articles] the said lord king and his heirs shall collect and keep the half-mark from wool and wool-fells and the mark from lasts of hides in the manner aforesaid; yet so that in each of our ports, where the writs of the aforesaid king do not run, two of the more discreet and faithful men of those ports shall be elected, and they, having taken an oath with regard to the seizure of wool, wool-fells, and hides in the said ports until the merchants of wool, wool-fells, and hides aforesaid have their warrant under the seal of the lord king provided for that purpose, shall faithfully collect and receive the said custom for the use of the said lord king, and shall therefor be answerable to him. In testimony whereof we have set our seal to the present writing. Given in the general parliament of the lord king aforesaid, at Westminster, on Sunday, the feast of St. Dunstan the Bishop, in the third year of the reign of the same king.[3]

(Latin) Ibid., pp. 443 f.

(C) Subsidy of 1282

The king to the sheriff of Warwick and Leicester, to the citizens, burgesses, merchants, mayors, bailiffs, and commmunities of the cities, boroughs, and trading towns, and to all other men of the aforesaid counties, greeting. Whereas we have sent our beloved John of Kirkby for the sake of orally explaining to you on our part and in our name, and of expediting through you, certain arduous and especial concerns of ours, which we have entrusted to him: we command and firmly enjoin you, in the fealty and affection by which you are bound to us, that you place firm trust in the same John with respect to the said matters and carry them out in all ways. Moreover we have enjoined the same John without delay to inform us concerning your response and your willingness. In testimony whereof, etc. By witness of the king, at Chester, June 19.[4]

The king to his beloved and faithful the mayor and citizens of Hereford, greeting. For the courteous subsidy that you have promised us for the sake of our present expedition into Wales — concerning which we have been informed orally by our clerk, John of Kirkby, whom we sent to you on this account with our letters of credence — we are exceedingly grateful to you, and through the grace of God we will indemnify you in this respect at an opportune time. But since at the present moment we greatly need the money, we command and firmly enjoin you, in the fealty and homage[5] by which you are bound to us, and according to the instructions drawn up under the seal of our clerk aforesaid and delivered to our sheriff of Hereford and to you, to cause the money of the aforesaid subsidy to be levied in all haste and paid to the same sheriff; so that it may be brought to us as we have commanded him through other letters of ours, and so that we may have it by the morrow of All Saints at the latest. And by no means neglect this, as you cherish your bodies and all that you have in the kingdom. And strive especially to prevent such an occurrence as that we and our army should presently retreat from the region of Wales through default of that payment of money, on which we are placing full reliance. By witness of the king, at Denby, October 28.

(Latin) Ibid., pp. 456 f.

(D) Parliaments of 1283

The king to the sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, greeting. Whereas Llewelyn, son of Griffith, and his accomplices, the other Welshmen, to us enemies and rebels, have so often in our own time and in the times of our progenitors, kings of England, disturbed the peace of our kingdom ... ,[6] we command and firmly enjoin you to summon to Northampton on the octave of St. Hilary, before us or before such of our faithful men as we may care to depute for this matter, all those of your bailiwick fit and able to bear arms who have land worth 20 and who are not with us on our Welsh expedition; also four knights from each of the aforesaid counties, having full authority [to act] on behalf of the communities of the same counties; also from each city, borough, or trading town two men similarly empowered on behalf of their communities — in order to hear and do what on our part we shall cause to be explained to them. And you shall not presume, through love, favour, reward, fear, or any other consideration, to grant pardon or postponement to any one of your bailiwick who has arms worth 20 and is fit and able to bear arms. Nor by any means shall you, on the aforesaid account, summon before us, or before our faithful men aforesaid, any one who does not have land worth more than 20, although he may be fit or able to bear arms. And through the four knights aforesaid you are to inform us, or our faithful men aforesaid, on the day and [at the] place aforesaid, of the names of all those whom you thus summon. And you are to have there the names of those four knights and this writ. And as you cherish your life and all that you have, do not fail to attend to all these matters. By witness of the king, at Rhuddlan, November 24 [1282].

Similar mandates to the sheriffs of Nottingham, Derby, Shropshire, Stafford, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Essex, Hertford, Buckingham, Bedford, Somerset, Dorset, Surrey, Sussex, Warwick, Leicester, Oxford, Berkshire, Kent, Middlesex, Northampton, Rutland, Lincoln, Cornwall, Devon, Wiltshire, Hereford, Worcester, Gloucester, and Hampshire, that they should summon, etc., at Northampton. And to the sheriffs of York, Cumberland, Westmorland, Northumberland, and Lancashire that they should summon, etc., at York.

The king to the venerable father in Christ, John, by the same grace archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England, greeting. Whereas Llewelyn ... ,[7] we command and urge you to summon to Northampton ... your suffragans and the abbots, priors, and various other heads of religious houses, as well as proctors from the deans and chapters of your collegiate churches and [those] of the suffragans in your dioceses. And you are to be present on the same day and at the same place to hear and do what in this connection we shall cause to be explained to you and to them for the sake of the public good; also to give us your advice and assistance....

Similar letters of the same date addressed to the archbishop of York, to summon his suffragans, etc., before the king at York on the aforesaid octave, or before faithful men whom the king, etc.

The king to the mayor and sheriffs and the whole community of his city of London, greeting. We are exceedingly grateful to you for having liberally granted to us, as a subsidy for our expedition in

Wales, a thirtieth of all your movable goods; aside from those which were excluded from the fifteenth recently granted to us, and excepting [the goods of] those three hundred persons in the aforesaid city who gave us a subsidy[8] for the sake of the warlike expedition aforesaid, on condition that our magnates would decide to grant the same. And we wish you to know that the same magnates, with respect to themselves, have granted and ratified the subsidy of the said thirtieth, as on our part they were requested to do. And since, as you know, we greatly need the money for the sake of our expedition aforesaid, we have assigned ...[9] to lay and assess the said thirtieth and to collect it through themselves and through you, the mayor and sheriffs aforesaid. And so we command you in the said matter to be obedient, responsive, serviceable, and helpful to the same men ... , according to the instructions which on our part they will give you. In testimony whereof, etc. Witnessed as above, February 28.

The king to the knights and freemen and the whole community of the county of Hampshire, greeting. We are exceedingly grateful to you for having, through the four knights sent to Northampton on the part of the community of the aforesaid county, courteously agreed to give us a subsidy for the sake of our present expedition in Wales, to the same amount as our magnates should provide and agree upon as a subsidy of this sort. And whereas the same magnates ... have agreed upon a subsidy to us of a thirtieth ... , we have assigned ...[10] to lay and assess the said thirtieth and to collect it by their own agency and with the sheriff of the aforesaid county. And so we command you.... By witness of the king at Rhuddlan, February 28.[11]

The king to the mayor, citizens, and sheriffs of London....[12 ]And since we wish to have a deliberation with our faithful men as to what should be done with the aforesaid David ... , we command you to cause two of the wiser and fitter citizens of the aforesaid city to be elected, and to send them to us so that they shall come before us at Shrewsbury on the morrow of Michaelmas next, to talk with us concerning this and other matters. And by no means fail to do this. By witness of the king, at Rhuddlan, June 28.[13]

(Latin) Palgrave, Parliamentary Writs, I, 10-16.

(E) Subsidies of 1294

The king to the knights and freeholders and the whole community of the county of Cumberland, greeting. Whereas the earls, barons, knights, and all other men of our kingdom have now courteously and graciously given us as a subsidy for our war ... a tenth of all their movable goods, with the exception of those exempted from the fifteenth recently granted to us in the same kingdom[14] ... , we have assigned our beloved and faithful Thomas of Newton, Robert of Whiteridge, or one of them, together with a certain clerk, to lay and assess and to levy and collect the said tenth in the aforesaid county, and to bring it to our exchequer and there pay it at the following terms.... And so we command you....[15] By witness of the king at Westminster, November 12, in the twenty-second year of our reign.

The king to his beloved and faithful Robert of Ratford, greeting. Whereas our citizens and good men of London have graciously conceded to us as a subsidy for our war the sixth of their movables,[16] thus setting an example to the other men in our demesne towns for granting a similar subsidy, we have commissioned you to seek a sixth of this sort from each of our demesne cities and other towns in the counties of Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire according to the assessment of the tenth already granted in our kingdom. And so we command you that, taking with you the sheriffs of the [respective] regions, you personally go to each of our demesne cities and other towns and on our part diligently urge and effectively induce the men of the said cities and towns — by whatever means you consider desirable — to give us the aforesaid sixth according to the aforesaid assessment. And you are without delay to report to us, or to our treasurer and our barons of the exchequer, what you accomplish in this undertaking. In testimony whereof we have caused to be drawn up these our letters patent. By witness of the venerable father [William, bishop of Bath and Wells], November 21, in the twenty-third year of our reign.[17]

(Latin) Brady, Treatise of Boroughs, pp. 63 f.

(F) Parliaments of 1295

Edward, etc., to the venerable father in Christ, R[obert], by the same grace archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England, greeting. Whereas, with regard to certain arduous affairs touching us and our kingdom, as well as you and the other prelates of the same kingdom, which we are unwilling to settle without your presence and theirs, we wish to hold our parliament and to have a conference and discussion with you concerning these matters, we command and firmly enjoin you, in the fealty and love by which you are bound to us, to come to us at Westminster on the first day of the month of August next, or in any case within the third day following at the latest, in order with us to consider the said affairs and to give us your counsel. And by no means fail to do this. By my own witness at Whitchurch, June 24. By writ of the privy seal.

Similar mandates to the archbishop of York, to the bishops, abbots, and priors, to the masters of the order of Sempringham and of the Knights of the Temple in England, and to the prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England, as noted below: namely....[18]

The king to his beloved and faithful brother Edmund, earl of Lancaster, greeting. Whereas, with regard to certain arduous affairs touching us and our kingdom, as well as you and the other nobles and magnates of the same kingdom, which, etc. (as above): we command and firmly enjoin you, in the fealty and homage by which you are bound to us, to come to us, etc. (as above to the end). Witnessed as above.

Similar mandates individually by letters close to the following earls and barons: namely....[19]

The king to his beloved and faithful Gilbert of Thornton, greeting. Whereas, with regard to certain arduous affairs touching us and our kingdom, as well as you and others of our council, which, etc. (as above): we command you in the fealty and love by which you are bound to us, etc. (as above in the mandate for the bishops to the end). Witnessed as above.

Similar mandates to the justices of both benches,[20] the itinerant justices, the justices assigned as deans,[21] the men sworn of the council, the barons of the exchequer, and the other clerks of the council whose names are noted below: namely....[22]

The king to the sheriff of Northampton, greeting. Whereas we wish to have a conference and discussion with the earls, barons, and other nobles of our realm concerning the provision of remedies for the dangers that in these days threaten the same kingdom — on which account we have ordered them to come to us at Westminster on the Sunday next after the feast of St. Martin in the coming winter, there to consider, ordain, and do whatever the avoidance of such dangers may demand — we command and firmly enjoin you that without delay you cause two knights, of the more discreet and more capable of labour, to be elected from the aforesaid county, and two citizens from each city of the aforesaid county, and two burgesses from each borough, and that you have them come to us on the day and at the place aforesaid; so that the said knights shall then and there have full and sufficient authority on behalf of themselves and the community of the county aforesaid, and the said citizens and burgesses on behalf of themselves and the respective communities of the cities and boroughs aforesaid, to do whatever in the aforesaid matters may be ordained by common counsel; and so that, through default of such authority, the aforesaid business shall by no means remain unfinished. And you are there to have the names of the knights, citizens, and burgesses, together with this writ. By witness of the king, at Canterbury, October 3.

Similar letters addressed to each of the sheriffs throughout England under the same date.

The king to the venerable father in Christ, R[obert], by the same grace archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England....[23 ]Wherefore, since darts cause less injury when they are foreseen, and since your fortunes, like those of the other citizens of the same kingdom, are greatly concerned in this affair, we command and firmly enjoin you, in the fealty and love by which you are bound to us, that on Sunday next after the feast of St. Martin in the coming winter you personally be present at Westminster; first summoning (premunientes) the prior and chapter of your church and the archdeacons and all the clergy of your diocese, the said prior and archdeacons to be present along with you in person, the said chapter [to be represented] by one fit proctor, and the said clergy by two — which proctors are to have full and sufficient authority from the said chapter and clergy to concern themselves, together with us, with the rest of the prelates and magnates, and with other inhabitants of our kingdom, in considering, ordaining, and deciding how such dangers and premeditated evils are to be obviated. By witness of the king, at Wingham, September 30.[24]

The king to his beloved and faithful kinsman, Edmund, earl of Cornwall, greeting. Whereas we wish to have a conference and discussion with you and with the other magnates of our kingdom to provide ways to meet the dangers that in these days threaten our entire kingdom, we command and firmly enjoin you, in the faith and love by which you are bound to us, to be present in person at Westminster on Sunday next after the feast of St. Martin in the coming winter, in order to consider, ordain, and decide, together with us, the prelates, and the rest of the magnates, and with other inhabitants of our kingdom, how such dangers are to be obviated. Similar letters to those noted below: namely....[23]

(Latin) Palgrave, Parliamentary Writs, I, 28-31.


[1] Note that in this and the following writs parliamentum is used as a synonym of colloquium, meaning a conference or deliberation.

[2] Ville mercatorie, not market towns; see Ballard and Tait, British Borough Charters, II, lii.

[3] Similar letters were issued by eleven other barons named in the roll, following the language of a royal ordinance which has come down to us in French (Palgrave. Parliamentary Writs, I, 1 f.). On the taxes mentioned in this writ, see Gras, The Early English Customs System, ch. iii.

[4] Similar letters were sent to the sheriffs of all the counties but Cornwall; likewise to all abbots, priors, and men of religion in all the counties except Cornwall: Palgrave, Parliamentary Writs, I, 384.

[5] See above, p. 152, n. 8.

[6] A number of rhetorical clauses are omitted.

[7] Here and immediately below the writ uses the preceding form.

[8] Presumably the subsidy or loan taken to anticipate the parliamentary grant; cf. no. 49C, preceding.

[9] Three collectors are named.

[10] Two collectors are named.

[11] Letters resembling one or the other of these forms were sent to the other counties.

[12] The writ contains a long preamble reciting the crimes of the Welsh and announcing the capture of Prince David.

[13] Similar letters were sent to twenty other boroughs; to nineteen persons requiring their individual attendance; and to the sheriffs of all the counties ordering the election in each of two knights to represent their respective communities at the same colloquium.

[14] The parliament of this year, like that of 1290, included no representatives of the boroughs, which were dealt with by separate negotiation. In 1290 a fifteenth was obtained both within and without boroughs, but in 1294 the latter were prevailed on to give a sixth, in contradistinction to the tenth of the knights and magnates. On the significance of this precedent, and on the general character of the assemblies concerned, see Willard, Parliamentary Taxes, pp. 3 f.; Stubbs, Constitutional History, II, 255 f.

[15] The form used is virtually the same as that in the writs of 1283. Similar letters assigned other commissioners in the rest of the counties.

[16] The writ appointing commissioners to levy the sixth in London states that the subsidy has been liberally and freely (liberaliter et libenter) granted by the citizens.

[l7] Similar letters assigned other groups of collectors in six other regions; see Pasquet, Origins of the House of Commons, App. I (added by G. Lapsley)

[18] Besides the archbishop and the heads of the great orders, the list includes eighteen bishops, forty-two abbots, and eleven priors.

[19] Ten earls and fifty-three other barons are enumerated.

[20] Later known as the courts of king's bench and common pleas; but cf. no. 54E.

[21] That is to say, chief justices on the circuits; see nos. 52G, 54E.

[22] Besides Gilbert, thirty-eight persons are named.

[23] The rhetorical preamble includes the famous phrase that "what concerns all should be approved by all," but it is doubtful whether such flourishes had any constitutional significance.

[24] Similar letters were sent to the other bishops and, with the omission of the premunientes clause, to the heads of religious houses and the masters of the military orders.

[25] The roll lists eight earls and forty-one other barons.