Gascon rolls for the reign of Henry V


Anne Curry (AC) in conversation with Guilhem Pépin (GP), Simon Harris (SH) and Philip Morgan (PM), August 2015.

AC: I thought I’d have a closer look at the rolls for the reign of Henry V (ten regnal years). What is interesting we only have five rolls. We have one covering year 1, one covering year 2, one covering year 3 and then they seem to have lost interest so to speak. We have two more rolls covering the rest of the reign, one for years 4 to 6 and the final one years 7 to 10. It’s perhaps a little bit unfair that I have said this because of course the rolls are of different lengths, so the 4-6 actually has 19 membranes and is the longest for the reign as a whole. But I don’t know if any of you have any views as to why sometimes we have an annual roll and on other occasions we don’t have an annual roll.

GP: It’s difficult to say because I think there were no rules. It depended on the amount of material they had to copy. And maybe it depended on the person in charge of the chancery at this period. What do you think?

SH: Well there seems to be variation. Sometimes we just have to assume someone made a conscious decision to sew together materials from different years, though it is common for materials from different years to be on different membranes.

AC: Occasionally you get very long cases, so the 19 membranes for Henry V years 4-6 do not actually contain a huge amount of business: there’s one very long case with lots of confirmations. If there is something that is going back to the time of the Black Prince (1355-7 and 1362-72), or occasionally even earlier, the entry can be exceptionally long, and made longer by repeating confirmations which themselves contain earlier confirmations.

GP: This shows how much record keeping memory there was. Bayonne documents can go right back to Edward I and cite all the evidence relevant, before adding new material. This is a tremendous testimony isn’t it to their knowledge of the past really in their ability and it presupposes there were very good filing systems so they could access these documents from the past.

AC: We know that Henry V spends the first couple of months of his reign sorting things out. On 12 June 1413 the king asks the lieutenant of Aquitaine, the seneschal of Aquitaine and the constable of Bordeaux for a full report on the lands, offices and revenues granted since the beginning of the reign of Edward III, in order to seize these into the hands of the constable of Bordeaux. The king has learnt that the excessive grants have been done in the duchy since the time of Edward III to persons not deserving them, so that no money remained for the costs of defensive and the payment of wages of officials.

In this roll Henry Bowet, the archbishop of York who has a lot of Gascon links, asks for and gets exemption. But it’s not the only time in Henry V’s rolls that you get this impression that the king is thinking ‘can I get more money out of Gascony, without much investment’. There seems to be anxiety throughout this reign over money in the duchy. By the end of it, the last roll (118) for the 7th to 10th year of the reign, Sir John Tiptoft who had been appointed seneschal in 1415 and who had taken a troop out there just before the Agincourt campaign, gets the right to be paid before everyone else.

There is quite a lot of evidence of patronage under Henry V. You spot some quite interesting cases, for instance, in the second roll a grant to the Englishman, Henry Wilmot for services he had done to the king and his ancestors. He has fallen into poverty but is granted 3d a day. Clearly a petition has been behind that. There’s also quite a lot of grants of offices. The first and second rolls of any new reign can seem boring because you are mainly seeing confirmations, but they give an insight into what people feel need confirming there.

At one time I didn’t think there was a kind of colonial administration across the areas that were under the English, but having looked as these Gascon rolls I’m beginning to think maybe there was more of it. For instance Hugh Spencer in the second roll is granted the office of the bordenage of the city of Bordeaux (an office linked to pilgrimage, to obtain the tax from the pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela. Hugh Spencer was later quite a prominent bailli in Lancastrian Normandy and a captain. William Oldhall becomes keeper of the seal and counter seal for contracts in Bordeaux by grant of the 15 January 1414. He also becomes an important captain and bailli in Normandy and I think he serves in Ireland as well. Oldhall actually hold the Bordeaux office for very long; in the next roll is granted to the Gascon Bénedeyt Espine. I assume that’s because Oldhall was going to go on the campaign to France in 1415, so we’re seeing him being moved around the administrations.

The first roll of the reign of Henry V is also interesting because there is still an army in the area, the remnants of the army that had been sent under Clarence in 1412. This is under the command of Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset. On 26 June 1415, again quite close to the beginning of the reign, Dorset is given power to receive homages in the king’s name, having been appointed king’s lieutenant in the duchy: his powers are very interesting. It parallels the tone in Normandy in the campaign of 1417-19 where commanders were given power to take homages. I’m sure the conquest of Normandy is modelled to a considerable degree on how they’ve already been organising things in Gascony. Also we know the Dorset had his chaplain and his herald with him in Gascony, from the evidence of protections enrolled on the Gascon roll.

Although Thomas, duke of Clarence, had gone home for his father’s funeral he had already held a meeting of the Three Estates of Guyenne (or Aquitaine) and had got quite a substantial tax levy out of the duchy of 12 pence per pound on all the goods of Englishman, Gascons and foreigners entering or leaving the duchy. I believe it’s thought by some historians that this was not a popular tax, that it was felt that the Gascons were having to pay too much at this point.

It also looks as though the English are pretty certain Gascony is well defended. William Clifford, constable of Bordeaux, was also appointed for eight years as captain and constable of Fronsac, the only place where the English held a garrison that was paid for by the English. He was given a thousand marks each year. Clearly the eight year appointment implied he was committed to a career in the duchy. Pay is given as a lump sum: he was not told how many troops he should hold in Fronsac. This system was a way of arranging garrisons that are not deemed to be vulnerable. You get it on the Scottish frontier at times when it’s not deemed there’s going to be any war, and you get it in Normandy after the battle of Verneuil in 1424, instead of having the usual system of organising pay and muster on a 3 monthly basis, and saying how many troops they’ve got to have and checking this via a quarterly muster. In some ways it is a form of privatisation!

The roll for the third year of the reign has several confirmations for Carlos de Beaumont, who was the alférez of Navarre (head of the army of the kingdom of Navarre) who was to serve on the Agincourt campaign with 3 men-at-arms and 12 archers. He seems to have gone to Southampton in order to cross to Normandy. The fact he had confirmations of properties indicates this was patronage in order to persuade him or to reward him for the fact that he had joined the campaign. And you get the same for Bénedey Espine, who was present at the siege of Harfleur. He gets recompense for the wine he’d given to two servants of Henry V when Henry was prince. The servants are named as Edmond Ferris and Robert Roddington. This made me think of Prince Henry not paying his bills when prince and Espine using the opportunity of the king being desperate to get support in 1415 for the campaign.

Carlos de Beaumont was summoned by Henry V to go to England again to the king for 22 July 1417: it seems that he had not indented for the campaign. We can see, in the place dating of the Gascon Rolls for 1417, the king staying at Titchfield Abbey and then moving on to Portsmouth.

Sir John Tiptoft crossed to Gascony in mid-August 1415 as seneschal, just before the Agincourt campaign. It is often forgotten that in addition to the large army that Henry takes to Normandy, he’s also sent several hundred with Tiptoft to Gascony. Perhaps this shows the king wanting to distract the French; he did not want to leave Gascony vulnerable. The protections for those crossing with Tiptoft include a number of Gascon names. They also include the illegitimate son of John Hawkwood.

When the king went to France, he appointed the duke of Bedford as keeper of the realm. This leads to the documents being dated at different places. On 16 August 1415 there’s one dated at Farnham Castle, suggesting that Bedford, keeper of the realm had been down in the Southampton area bidding his brothers farewell as they set sail. He then starts his journey back to London.

GP: The Gascons are also being asked for military equipment including siege engines. But by far the most fascinating is the warship ordered to be built at Bayonne. The king ordered it in 1417 but it was not complete in May 1419 even though there had been a levy granted, 4 pence in the pound for 4 years on goods passing through Bayonne. There survives a report in April 1419 about the size of this ship and several technical indications about it, written in English by an English man called John Alcestre, one of the deputies of the seneschal Tiptoft. Tiptoft had probably had been requested by Henry V to find out what had happened to this ship. There is no further information on the ship after May 1419. It seems that it was never built as Bayonnais asserted in a letter, and it was true, that they were too busy fighting the neighbouring Castilians who were allied to the French. Mentions of it in the Gascon rolls are present because they relate to the tax and also to the requisitioning workmen to build it.


AC: The final thing to comment on is the Treaty of Troyes of 1420 where Henry became heir to the throne of France and regent of France. It’s always interested me that there is no mention of the duchy of Aquitaine in the treaty. There has been some debate as to whether the duchy of Aquitaine was still deemed to be separate and held in full sovereignty thanks to the treaty of Brétigny-Calais. There is no mention in the Gascon rolls of the reign of Henry V of the treaty of Troyes (but there are mentions of it in the first rolls of Henry VI, about negotiations with the count of Foix). Perhaps this is simply because Henry died quite soon afterwards in 1422. The rolls were not compiled quickly enough. There are some relevant items in the first roll for the reign of Henry VI, especially the negotiations after the Treaty of Troyes between Henry V, Charles VI and Johan, count of Foix and vicomte of Béarn: this aimed at getting the oath of the count to accept the Treaty of Troyes by appointing him governor of the Languedoc. This is a very good example of how, in the post Treaty of Troyes period, Henry V operated as regent of France, drawing on the power of the French king, the French monarchy. Appointing the count governor of Languedoc and giving him also the county of Bigorre would have been a huge act of patronage and very much a gesture against the Orleanist supporters and the Armagnac party in the south. Languedoc was a very rich region. That explains partly why Charles VII was able to resist the Lancastrian government because Languedoc was also faithful and provided him with much finance.

The plan concerning the count did not prove successful in the long term, but the item in the first roll of the reign of Henry VI on the propose size of the count’s army shows how keen Henry was to gain military support. An army of 1500 men was to be mustered by Sir John Radcliffe, who was the constable of Bordeaux and captain on Fronsac, along with his fellow musterer the captal de Buch (who had been made conte de Longueville in Normandy in 1419), an interesting combination of an English official and a local lord. With the help of this army the count of Foix was supposed to conquer Languedoc.

PM: Thomas Barnaby, chamberlain of Chester, was also sometime constable of Bordeaux, another example of cross-channel administration. John Grosvenor was made constable of Fronsac: mention of the loss of lands in Wales suggests he was another cross-channel operator. He was given 500 francs per annum from the custom of wine from the Haut Pays, the land situated upstream outside the diocese of Bordeaux, the wine that was coming in for export through Bordeaux. He was related to the Grosvenors famously involved with the heraldic dispute with the Scrope family in 1386. John is not the only Grosvenor to have held Fronsac, since several did so in the fourteenth century.

GP: There is also an interesting character, John du Bourdieu, who was chancellor of Guyenne (or Aquitaine), one of the rare Gascons educated in England, he was a doctor of the University of Oxford. He was with Henry V at the siege of Harfleur, from which he wrote a letter to the community of Bordeaux and another letter almost the same to the community of Bayonne asking for wine and supplied to be sent to Henry V. He has finished his career as vicar of Harfleur and we have his will at the National Archives. His closeness to Henry V is confirmed by the fact that the latter made him vicar of Henry V. Bourdieu has been put forward as a possible author of the Gesta Henrici Quinti. His career emphasises that Gascons went to England for opportunities. According to an entry in a Gascon roll he had experienced difficulties in Aquitaine in being accepted in his post of chancellor by other Gascons, probably because he was partly seen as an outsider because of his career. So he maybe tried to find a way out, to establish new links with England and have another career outside Aquitaine-Gascony.

Currently unrated

comments powered by Disqus