Trials in England noted in the Gascon rolls


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

GP: Among the trials taking place in England mentioned in the Gascon Rolls the most interesting example is the trial at Westminster, opposing Augerot de Saint-Pée against and James Hersage because the latter had obtained for life the lordship of Gamarde in 1438.  Augerot de Saint-Pée was a Basque noble from Labourd and represented there two Gascon lords of the Landes, Arnaut-Guilhem de Caupenne, lord of Osserain, and Bernadon and the lord of Cauna, near Saint-Sever.  And he represented as well two troops of men-at-arms from Dax and Saint-Sever who had besieged the Gamarde in 1435.  In 1441 the earl of Huntingdon, then king’s lieutenant of Aquitaine had granted them one thousand pounds on the revenues of Gamarde to repay them of the cost of the siege.  When Augerot appeared in Westminster, he asserted that according to the Magna Carta he should have been summoned in the Court of Common Law, not at Westminster.  And he also asserted that the places conquered in Guyenne had to be left to the conquerors and as a law of England and the law of Guyenne were different. It suggested indirectly that this case should be relocated in Guyenne.  However the king and his council nullified the grant to the Gascon lords and confirmed it Harsage on 10 March 1442. 

This decision had bad consequences and Caupenne and Cauna rallied to Charles VII after his ‘Journée de Tartas’ (his expedition to Gascony) in 1442, and Harsage, captain of the castle of Dax submitted to the same king when his castle was about to be besieged, after the town of Dax had surrendered.  He took an oath to this king and even took the white cross, the symbol of the French, so it was a case of   

We have also another trial trial copied in the Gascon Rolls and taking place in England in 1450, almost at the end of the Anglo-Gascon period.  Pey de Montferrand a descendant of the lords of Lesparre through the Soudans de la Trau family (one of them having been knight of the Garter) also requested the relocation of a trial, opposing him to the duke of Exeter, Henry Holland, for the possession of the lordship of Lesparre.  It was a very great lordship in the Médoc, near Bordeaux.  Montferrand has not been impatient, as we learn that he occupied by force in 1451 the town and lordship of Lesparre.  In fact, he did not wait for the conclusion of the trial.  But, as Bordeaux surrendered to the French on 23 June 1451, the ad hoc commission appointed by Henry VI never gathered and Montferrand did not keep his conquest.

PM: That’s a very interesting reference to Magna Carta.  Were you surprised by it Guilhem, when you saw it?

GP: Yes, particularly because it is mentioned by a king’s subject of the duchy of Aquitaine and not by the James Harsage, the Englishman.  So either Augerot was advised an English lawyer and it is quite likely, either he had made several unnoticed stays in England and he has learned about those sorts of things, because it was quite well know.  The basic principles of course, he should not have known the details of the Magna Carta.

PM: So he didn’t cite a specific cause of Magna Carta?

GP: Not, he just said that he had to be heard on a court of the common Law, and it was probably not a court of common law where he was summoned at Westminster.  But it is an interesting mention, particularly because he underlined logically enough that the legal system in Guyenne (or Aquitaine) was different from England. It is another evidence that the duchy was not a regular colony in the sense the English laws have not been applied to Aquitaine.  There was a specific legal system.  I do not known if it was the same in Ireland or Wales.


PM: Well if you work on the basis that the one big independent lordship in England has its own Magna Carta, you wonder whether Magna Carta is just applied to England, and if you’re going to extend it you would have to different charters, for instance, Ranulf III of Chester issues his own Magna Carta. What is the outcome of this case?  I mean, they just ignored his reference to Magna Carta did they?

GP: Yes it was just an argumentation in a way.  In the end it was given to Harsage as I said, and the local lords who expended a lot of money to conquer Gamarde dit it not only for the king of England, but also for their own interest. They were not happy with the outcome of the decision, and it was a bad decision in a sense, probably when the ‘Journée de Tartas’ (Charles VII’s expedition of Gascony in 1442) took place, a lot of Landais nobles whose families were faithful to the king of England since the 13th century and the 12th century sometimes, rallied to Charles VII because he was the strongest, and also maybe as they had bad experience with Henry VI”s government with that sort of decision, promoting in this case without good reason an Englishman, foreign to the place. Particularly someone like Harsage, who finally was not very courageous because he surrendered very quickly to Charles VII and he openly submitted to him.

So its particular circumstances of the threats that the French were imposing in the early 1440s.  The second case of 1450 is interesting, because it strikes me that the Hollands, who had, sort of got control of territories and this is Henry Holland, the duke of Exeter.  Maybe Pey de Montferrand felt in the opposition of such an important peer, the only thing he could do was appeal to the king in England. Pey de Montferrand must have thought that the only way to become lord of Lesparre, was to take Lesparre and to impose his authority de facto.

AC: Pey de Montferrand was married to Mary Bedford. The illegitimate daughter of John duke of Bedford?

GP: Yes, exactly and he has been married just before the death of this duke, because we learns in the Gascon Rolls that the dowry of Mary Bedford promised by her father had not been paid.  So clearly it was before his death.  And accordingly to what Anne Curry told me Pey de Montferrand’s father, the lord of Montferrand, Bertran III was in the household of Bedford.

AC: He was.  And quite an important captain in Normandy.

GP: But it’s interesting that it’s only in these final years that there seems to be a change of policy, where you do get a lot of English lords in the duchy of Aquitaine. Holding land and getting grants of land.  Even under the principality of Aquitaine of the Black Prince (1362-72), there were not that many English obtaining lands and revenues there.

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