Historical Introduction

The Origins and Development of the Rolls

The Gascon Rolls proper emerged during the latter part of the thirteenth century. Until that date, the overseas possessions of the English crown had – with the exception of Normandy until its loss in 1204 – not had a separate and discrete form of enrolled or registered documentation recording their government and administration. The documents published as ‘Gascon Rolls’ for Henry III’s reign (for 1242-3, 1253-5, 1259-60) in fact contain instruments issued in Aquitaine relating to other parts of the Plantagenet dominions, as well as to the duchy itself. It was not until Edward I’s reign (1272-1307) that a continuous series of rolls entitled the Rotuli Vasconie was begun in 1273-4. They were soon to be followed by the Welsh Rolls (Rotuli Wallie) in 1277, and the short-lived Scottish Rolls (Rotuli Scotie) in 1291. Their inception gave a sharper and more clearly-defined focus to the administration of Plantagenet lands outside England, and represented a more general tendency towards both specialization and, to some degree, devolution, within administrative processes and methods of record-keeping for those dominions. Further developments were to lead to the creation of separate series of, for example, Treaty Rolls (concerning relations with foreign powers) or Roman Rolls (recording dealings with the papacy). The Gascon Rolls therefore fall into the category of English public records known as Chancery enrolments, which had begun in 1199 with the first examples of such registration of the acts of the Plantagenet monarchy.

The Form of the Gascon Rolls

The Gascon Rolls are thus enrolments by the English royal Chancery of letters, writs, mandates, confirmations, inspeximuses, and other documents issued by, and in the name of, the Plantagenet and Lancastrian king-dukes for their Gascon lands and subjects. There are some variations in the period of time covered by each roll in the series. For most of Edward III’s reign (1327-77), for example, a roll was produced annually. However, for the final years of Edward II’s reign (1317-27), for Richard II’s reign (1377-99), and for the entire Lancastrian period (1399-1461), the rolls were produced for varying terms of years. The rolls are almost entirely written in Latin. Some entries are in Anglo-Norman (French), generally forming transcripts of documents recited in entries on the rolls, or copied verbatim in the form of confirmations of documents issued by previous rulers or by officers of the administration in Aquitaine. The rolls are parchment, in generally very good condition, and the membranes of which they are composed are sewn end to end. Much of the stitching is original. Most rolls were covered by a protective thicker piece of parchment sewn to the end of each roll. The membranes vary in length generally between 60-85cm, though they become narrower by the fifteenth century.

Calendar (TNA Reference)Regnal Year(s)Calendar Year(s)Membranes
C 61/32 11-12 Edw. II 1317-19 33
C 61/33 13-14 Edw.II 1319-21 32
C 61/34 (a misplaced roll of the reign of Edward I, and not calendared here)
C 61/35 15-17 Edw. II 1321-24 37
C 61/36 18 Edw. II 1324-25 60
C 61/37 18 Edw. II 1324-25 20
C 61/38 19-20 Edw. II 1325-26 16
C 61/39 1 Edw. III 1327-28 8
C 61/40 2 Edw. III 1328-29 14
C 61/41 3 Edw. III 1329-30 14
C 61/42 4 Edw. III 1330-31 17
C 61/43 5 Edw. III 1331-32 26
C 61/44 6 Edw. III 1332-33 14
C 61/45 7 Edw. III 1333-34 12
C 61/46 8 Edw. III 1334-35 13
C 61/47 9 Edw. III 1335-36 8
C 61/48 10 Edw. III 1336-37 12
C 61/49 11 Edw. III 1337-38 65
C 61/50 12 Edw. III 1338-39 25
C 61/51 13 Edw. III 1339-40  3 1
C 61/52 14 Edw. III 1340-41 23
C 61/53 15 Edw. III 1341-42 49
C 61/54 16 Edw. III 1342-43 44
C 61/55 17 Edw. III 1343-44 20
C 61/56 18 Edw. III 1344-45 18
C 61/57 19 Edw. III 1345-46 12
C 61/58 20 Edw. III 1346-47 3
C 61/59 21 Edw. III 1347-48 18
C 61/60 22 Edw. III 1348-49 48
C 61/61 23 Edw. III 1349-50 10
C 61/62 24 Edw. III 1350-51 7
C 61/63 25 Edw. III 1351-52 11
C 61/64 26 Edw. III 1352-53 11
C 61/65 27 Edw. III 1353-54 8
C 61/66 28 Edw. III 1354-55 17
C 61/67 29 Edw. III 1355-56 15
C 61/68 30 Edw. III 1356-57 6
C 61/69 31 Edw. III 1357-58 17
C 61/70 32 Edw. III 1358-59 21
C 61/71 32 Edw. III 1358-59 15
C 61/72 33 Edw. III 1359-60 10
C 61/73 34 Edw. III 1360-61 3
C 61/74 35 Edw. III 1361-62 12
C 61/75 36 Edw. III 1362-63 27
C 61/76 37 Edw. III 1363-64 7
C 61/77 38 Edw. III 1364-65 4
C 61/78 39 Edw. III 1365-66 12
C 61/79 40 Edw. III 1366-67 15
C 61/80 41 Edw. III 1367-68 6
C 61/81 42 Edw. III 1368-69 6
C 61/82 43 Edw. III 1369-70 13
C 61/83 44 Edw. III 1370-71 10
C 61/84 45 Edw. III 1371-72 4
C 61/85 46 Edw. III 1372-73 11
C 61/86 47 Edw. III 1373-74 8
C 61/87 48 Edw. III 1374-75 6
C 61/88 49 Edw. III 1375-76 8
C 61/89 50 Edw. III 1376-77 8
C 61/90 51 Edw. III 1377 4
C 61/91 1 Ric. II 1377-78 19
C 61/92 2 Ric. II 1378-79 10
C 61/93 3 Ric. II 1379-80 10
C 61/94 4 Ric. II 1380-81 21
C 61/95 5 Ric. II 1381-82 19
C 61/96 6 Ric. II 1382-83 17
C 61/97 7 Ric. II 1383-4 13
C 61/98 8 Ric. II 1384-5 11
C 61/99 10 Ric. II 1386-87 10
C 61/100 11 Ric. II 1387-88 14
C 61/101 12-14 Ric. II 1388-91 17
C 61/102 15 Ric. II 1391-92 5
C 61/103 16 Ric. II 1392-93 6
C 61/104 17-20 Ric. II 1393-97 16
C 61/105 21-22 Ric. II 1397-99 15
C 61/106 23 Ric. II 1399 4
C 61/107 1 Hen. IV 1399-1400 29
C 61/108 2 Hen. IV 1400-01 26
C 61/109 3-5 Hen. IV 1401-04 13
C 61/110 6 Hen. IV 1404-05 6
C 61/111 7-8 Hen. IV 1405-07 12
C 61/112 9-10 Hen. IV 1407-09 17
C 61/113 11-14 Hen. IV 1409-13 20
C 61/114 1 Hen. V 1413-14 15
C 61/115 2 Hen. V 1414-15 12
C 61/116 3 Hen. V 1415-16 5
C 61/117 4-6 Hen. V 1416-19 19
C 61/118 7-10 Hen. V 1419-22 9
C 61/119 1 Hen. VI 1422-23 32
C 61/120 2-3 Hen. VI 1423-5 13
C 61/121 4 Hen. VI 1425-6 7
C 61/122 5 Hen. VI 1426-7 6
C 61/123 6-8 Hen. VI 1427-30 7
C 61/124 9-10 Hen. VI 1430-32 16
C 61/125 11-12 Hen. VI 1432-34 17
C 61/126 13-14 Hen. VI 1434-36 5
C 61/127 15 Hen. VI 1436-37 11
C 61/128 16 Hen. VI 1437-38 9
C 61/129 17-18 Hen. VI 1438-40 22
C 61/130 19 Hen. VI 1440-41 22
C 61/131 20 Hen. VI 1441-2 24
C 61/132 21-22 Hen. VI 1442-44 17
C 61/133A 23 Hen. VI 1444-45  10 2
C 61/134 24 Hen. VI 1445-46 8
C 61/135 25-26 Hen. VI 1446-48 11
C 61/136 27 Hen. VI 1448-49 10
C 61/137 28 Hen. VI 1449-50 5
C 61/138 29 Hen. VI 1450-51 15
C 61/139 31 Hen. VI 1452-53 8
C 61/140 32 Hen. VI 1453-54 9
C 61/141 33 Hen. VI 1454-55 7
C 61/142 34 Hen. VI 1455-56 3
C 61/143 35-39 Hen. VI 1456-61 15
C 61/144 1-7 Edw. IV 1461-67 4

Historical Content and Interest of the Rolls

The Gascon Rolls are among the most varied of the Chancery enrolments in terms of the themes and subjects to which they refer. A typical roll will often contain material relating to many areas of historical investigation. Apart from the more formal letters dispatched under the great seal, privy seal and other instruments, documents such as safe-conducts, letters of attorney, prise, marque, and ennoblement, commissions of array, musters, charters of town foundation and grants of liberties, confirmations and inspeximuses of letters issued by the king’s lieutenants and seneschals of Aquitaine, or by the constables of Bordeaux, notarial instruments, records of trade and commerce, largely in wine, but also relating to shipping and maritime activity, and many other forms are to be found there. In sum, the evidence of the Gascon Rolls ranges widely across the historical spectrum: it is there that one can find material ranging from high-level diplomatic activity (copies of treaties, general and local truces, appointments of, and payments to, envoys) to more localised matters (grants of exemptions and privileges to churches, monasteries, towns and bastides, of compensations and rewards to petty nobles, or orders to officers to intervene in, and some times to arbitrate and resolve, conflicts and feuds of a judicial and often violent nature). The evidence for delegation and devolution in a region far removed from the power-centre of the ruler is set out in considerable detail in the rolls. Change over time is also well illustrated: the transition from an essentially feudal relationship to one of sovereign independence is spelt out in the Gascon Rolls for the 1330s and 1340s, when Edward III severed for ever the tenurial relationship, as experienced by his immediate predecessors, with the French monarchy.

For the course of Anglo-French relations throughout the period, the Gascon Rolls, supported by the Treaty Rolls, Diplomatic Documents and Chancery Miscellanea, are an invaluable source. The shifts of emphasis within the wider conflict between England and France can be charted, and the role played by regional and local interests in that conflict can be assessed. It is intended that the edition will refer to other sources, directly relating to material recorded on the rolls (for example, petitions, financial accounting documents, both enrolled and in the forms of particulars of account - namely warrants, quittances and receipts - and notarial instruments which refer to issues and cases recorded there). As far as is possible within the constraints of the edition, such related material will be indicated and, in the case of documentation of considerable significance, included in the form of appendices.

The History of the Publication of the Gascon Rolls

The project takes as its starting-point an earlier body of editorial work which began with the appearance of Francisque-Michel’s editions of the so-called ‘Gascon’ Rolls (Roles Gascons) for 1242-54 and 1254-5 (Paris, 1885, 1896). It continued with the publication of the first separately constituted Gascon Rolls, for 1273-90 and 1290-1307, edited by Charles Bémont (Paris, 1900, 1906). The project was revived as a joint Anglo-French undertaking in the 1950s. This led to the publication in 1962 by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, of Gascon Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office [PRO], 1307-1317 edited by Yves Renouard, under the supervision of Robert Fawtier, with considerable additional input from PRO staff. Sir Hilary Jenkinson, Deputy Keeper of Public Records, and his successor, Sir David Evans, strongly supported, and secured funds for, the project. This formed part of a responsibility, which they at that time discharged, for the scholarly editing and publication of PRO records. The edition (volume IV) stayed very close to the form in which Bémont had edited the earlier rolls, although substantial appendices and footnote references to other sources in the PRO (most of them the work of Pierre Chaplais) greatly enhanced the value of the published volume.

The unpublished Gascon Rolls fall within a period corresponding to the entire course of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). This represents the greatest single gap in the current range of available published evidence for that conflict. It is something that scholars and students of many nationalities have pointed out (and lamented), and it is hoped that the publication of the rolls will form a valuable and much-needed contribution to international scholarship.

Footnotes

1. Currently missing and only available as a microfilm. Back to context...
2. A coat of arms granted to Bernat Angevin. The membrane has been removed to the safe room and labelled C61/133B on the catalogue. Back to context...