King Richard I, conqueror of Cyprus, crusader extraordinary (the sobriquet ‘Lionheart’ was contemporary), spent less than six months of his ten-year reign in England. Yet his crusade and his subsequent wars with the king of France which explain that absence placed the kingdom under novel pressures, which culminated under King John with the rebellion of 1215 and Magna Carta. Richard’s reign was equally consequential for the dynasty’s wider dominions. Normandy’s defences were significantly undermined, foreshadowing its ultimate loss to the king of France in 1204. Scotland, under King William, recovered its independence. William’s own sobriquet, ‘the Lion’, was not contemporary, but it was deserved.
At turns affable and intimidating, depending on his audience, Richard was domineering in the council chamber and supreme in the field of war. A master of logistics, strategy and battlefield tactics, he led from the front, aware of the risks but also of the valuable example. Outside Gisors in 1198, against all advice, he plunged into the fray, unhorsed three knights with a single lance, and then publicized the exploit throughout his dominions. Here then was a ‘great and fierce character’, as William of Newburgh put it, and he had as his helper an ‘incomparable woman’, to quote Richard of Devizes, namely the queen mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Before his arrival in England, Richard had already sent letters ordering her release from captivity; and although in her mid sixties, instead of retiring to Poitou she had gone on a progress, opening the prisons and receiving oaths of allegiance to her son and herself. Assigned an extensive dower, some of it (like Exeter) traditionally associated with queens, Eleanor was now to play a central role in the diplomacy, politics and government of the Angevin empire, acting at times as virtual regent in England. Although she interceded for John, her youngest son, she was utterly loyal to Richard on whose authority, formal and informal, her power depended.
Richard’s accession brought a temporary halt to the conflict with King Philip. The two agreed to crusade together and Richard succeeded to the Angevin dominions without difficulty. On 13 August 1189 he landed in England. On 3 September he was crowned. On 11 December he departed. Throughout the three months, preparations for the crusade overshadowed everything else. For Richard the Mediterranean hardly seemed remote. His sister had married the king of Sicily. The descendants of his great-grandfather, Fulk of Anjou, had been kings of Jerusalem. For someone often prey to a morbid sense of his own sinfulness, the spiritual benefits of the crusade, with the promise of remission of all sins, were compelling. So was the chance to exercise martial talents, as St Bernard had so often said, not against fellow Christians but against the infidels, and at a time when the issue was the very survival of the crusader state and the recovery of Jerusalem itself. (For further discussion of crusading see below, pp. 455–9.)
Richard’s commitment to the cause of Christ won him immense respect, nor was he heedless of the security of his dominions. In 1190, before his departure, he toured Aquitaine and protected its southern boundaries by arranging to marry Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navarre. Likewise he took steps to keep in check both King William of Scotland and the Welsh rulers. The five ministers on England’s regency council were trustworthy and experienced. Richard secured the loyalty of one of them, William Marshal, by marrying him to the daughter of Richard fitz Gilbert (Strongbow) thus making him a great baron in Ireland, Wales and Normandy. Richard’s overriding aim, however, was to gain the resources for his crusade. In England he received money for making men sheriffs and for conceding to heirs and claimants a wide range of lands which Henry II held in hand through wardships and forfeitures. The results were spectacular. The revenue recorded in the pipe roll of 1190 was £31,000, £10,000 more than in 1188. Yet there was also a cost. At the very top of the government Richard’s arrangements were shambolic, for the new justiciar, Hugh de Puiset, bishop of Durham, who had been appointed not from ‘zeal for justice’ but simply for the money he offered, clashed repeatedly with William Longchamp, bishop of Ely, Richard’s chancellor and protégé. Instability was also inherent in the extraordinary favours Richard bestowed on his younger brother John, who now demanded recognition as heir to the Angevin dominions. This Richard refused to concede, but he tried to kill discontent with kindness. John was already lord of Ireland and count of Mortain. Richard now married him to Isabella, whose inheritance included the earldom of Gloucester and lordship of Glamorgan. The union had long been planned by Henry II, but it is difficult to believe that Henry would have given John in addition six castles and total control of seven English counties, counties which now simply disappeared from the pipe rolls, the chief records of the exchequer.
William of Newburgh criticized Richard for dismembering his kingdom, and showing a lack of care for its subjects, criticism which shows just how powerful the Henrician model of good kingship had become. Roger of Howden remarked testily how ‘everything was for sale, counties, sheriffdoms, castles and manors’. Yet when daring councillors objected that Richard was alienating the possessions of the crown, the king merely laughed, declaring, ‘I would sell London if I could find a buyer.’ He saw nothing permanent about the concessions and resumed many of them on his return in 1194. In any case, his agenda and situation were different from his father’s. Richard was used to the decentralized form of rule in Aquitaine. The kingdom he inherited was wealthy and at peace. Instead of labouring to restore royal rights he could happily give them away to please John and fund the crusade. That crusade moreover was in many ways a triumphant success. ‘Many famous and magnificent deeds were done by him in those parts, so that he triumphed in every conflict and freed the greater part of that land from the enemies of Christ.’ So said Abbot Ralph of Coggeshall, succinctly summing up the achievement.
Richard arrived in Sicily, on his way to Palestine, in September 1190. He immediately plunged into a quarrel over the dower of his sister Joan, widow of the last Norman king of Sicily, seizing the city of Messina in the process. Then, as part of the settlement, he recognized his nephew Arthur, son of Geoffrey of Brittany, as his heir and agreed he should marry the daughter of Tancred, the new Sicilian ruler. Richard knew this would grievously offend John back home but the funds and support which the agreement gained for the crusade seemed far more important. Having wintered in Sicily, Richard sailed for the east on 10 April 1191. By the end of May he had conquered Cyprus, thus securing a valuable base to support the crusade. On 8 June he joined King Philip at the siege of Acre, before its capture by Saladin the greatest city and port of the old crusading kingdom. He drove the siege forward with a new vigour and on 12 July the city surrendered. Early in August King Philip returned to France to make good his rights to Artois following the count of Flanders’s death. Richard knew that Philip might threaten his continental dominions, but he had no intention of returning himself, a telling illustration of the two kings’ different priorities. In any case Richard with Philip had always been, as Richard of Devizes put it, like a cat with a hammer tied to its tail.
In the year and two months in which he remained in the east, Richard twice advanced to within twelve miles of Jerusalem, only to retreat because he lacked resources for a lengthy siege. However, he extended the crusading kingdom southwards, notably by taking and fortifying Jaffa, so doing much to ensure the kingdom’s survival for another hundred years. He also established his nephew, Henry of Champagne, as ruler in Jerusalem and compensated a rival candidate, Guy de Lusignan, with the gift of Cyprus, which the Lusignans were to rule till 1489. Truly no king of England had ever wielded such power on the European stage. His atrocities and exploits became the stuff of legend: the beheading of some 3,000 prisoners taken at Acre; his decisive charge at the battle of Arsuf; his jumping into the sea and leading his knights ashore to rescue Jaffa; and the silver shackles which he made for the ruler of Cyprus, thus fulfilling his promise not to put him in irons!
Richard sailed from Acre on 9 October 1191. The plots of John and King Philip made his swift return essential. But the journey was a disaster. Weather in the Mediterranean, the enemies along its shores, forced him to travel in disguise through Austria. Outside Vienna on 20 December he was taken prisoner, eventually passing in March 1192 into the hands of the Emperor Henry VI. Henry, a claimant to Sicily through his wife, was trying to wrest the kingdom from Tancred, Richard’s ally. For Richard’s release he demanded a ransom of £100,000, money he would use to conquer Sicily.
While Richard had been away, his government in England had proved incapable of keeping the peace. The principal victims were the Jews who suffered in 1190 a series of horrific attacks on their lives and properties.
Henry II’s sponsorship of the Jews, declared William of Newburgh, had disfigured his rule, here expressing a general opinion made all the sharper by the crusading fervour. There was envy of Jewish wealth, ostentatiously displayed in great townhouses, and while men needed their credit, they loathed the usury which necessarily went with it. Usury took several forms, all of them having been practised equally by Christian financiers like William Cade. The interest rate might be one or two pence a pound per week, that is 22 per cent or 44 per cent per annum. It could run from the moment the loan was contracted or, as a kind of penalty clause (this more acceptable to the church), from the moment repayment was due. Most loans were short-term and became due after a year. The loans were often secured on land, with the result that a great deal of it came into Jewish hands. Alternatively, those unable to pay often raised the money by selling land to fellow Christians, even to the point of ruin. Most of the loans were of small amounts to men of small estate. But the bulk of the money (and thus the greatest profit) was tied up in significant sums from tens to hundreds of pounds loaned to the great, loaned that is to knights, barons and ecclesiastical institutions; precisely the classes most able to make their resentment felt.
Religious intolerance gave an extra edge to this resentment. The Jews were not merely infidels. They were also the murderers of Christ. The Third Lateran Council in 1179 stressed the dangers of spiritual contamination through contact with them. Throughout Europe violent assaults on Jewish communities were on the increase – at Blois, for example, in May 1171. But it was in England that the powerful and pernicious belief originated that the Jews ritually parodied the murder of Christ by seizing and crucifying small Christian boys; the source of the belief was the alleged murder of a boy, ‘little St William’, at Norwich in 1144, after which there were further ‘martyrdoms’ at Gloucester (1168), Bury St Edmunds (1181) and Bristol (1183). On top of all this was the growing fervour over the crusade. By despoiling the Jews, those who had taken the cross could both fund their expeditions and make an early start assaulting the infidel.
By 1189 these waves of antipathy were held back only by the stout banks of Henrician power. Under Richard they gave way. On the day of the coronation the city mob and those gathered in town for the ceremony slaughtered London Jews and plundered and fired their properties. Richard was furious but his punishments for once were inadequate. Next year, with both Justiciar Puiset and Chancellor Longchamp across the Channel, similar outrages occurred at King’s Lynn, Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Stamford and Lincoln. The climax was reached at York. The Jewish community there had been established in the 1170s. By 1189 it numbered around 150 men, women and children and was dominated by two great financiers, Benedict and Josce (the former fatally wounded on the day of the coronation), whose great houses were a source of wonder and envy. There was also a celebrated Jewish scholar, Rabbi Yomtob of Joigny.
The Christian assailants, whose background and circumstances were well analysed by William of Newburgh, were led by local barons and knights heavily in debt to the Jews, often with their lands in pledge. They were joined by crusaders looking for plunder, a fanatical Premonstratensian hermit, and clergy, youths and workmen from the town; the city magnates stood aside, fearing royal reprisal. After the initial attack on their houses, the Jews found safety in the castle, only then to shut out the castellan, not surprisingly since he was Richard Malebisse, a northern baron who was himself heavily in debt. Malebisse mounted an all-out siege and by 16 March, the eve of the Jewish ‘great Sabbath’, the position in the castle was hopeless. Rabbi Yomtob persuaded his fellows to follow the course sanctioned by long precedent. Fathers cut the throats of their wives and children; Rabbi Yomtob cut the throats of the men, concluding with Josce’s and his own. A dissident group, who hoped to live by embracing Christianity, were slaughtered by the Christians as they surrendered. The murderers, combining barbarity with business, then proceeded to the minster where they destroyed the evidence of their indebtedness by burning all the ‘bonds’, the written records of Jewish loans, which were deposited there.
The massacre sent shock waves through the Jewish communities of Europe and inspired at least three Hebrew elegies. In May 1190 Chancellor Longchamp descended on York to restore order. If he inflicted no corporal penalties, he certainly confiscated the lands of murderers and imposed substantial fines. The Jews eventually returned to the city and formed one of the wealthiest English communities in the thirteenth century. For the Jews as a whole the events of 1189–90 proved but a temporary setback. Attitudes to them were far less immutable than those events implied. Admittedly even the humane and judicious William of Newburgh considered the attacks, at least on property, a judgement of God on the Jews’ burgeoning pride. Yet the attackers too, covetous and unauthorized, were evil. Their actual slaughter of the Jews seemed forbidden by the Psalmist: ‘Slay them not lest my people forget’, a passage made famous by St Bernard which was also quoted by Ralph of Diss in connection with the killings. The Jews, in short, were to be preserved as a reminder of Christ’s passion, and also as material for conversion to Christianity. If they were also to live humbly and apart, that was never compatible with their credit activities which continued to be desperately needed. In practice Jews often established reasonable working relationships both with their clients and their neighbours, hence their ability to store bonds in York Minster.
Above all, the Jews survived and flourished because they were generally protected and promoted by the king. The Jews and all their possessions had always belonged to the crown. As Henry II came to realize, the king could levy tax or ‘tallage’, as it was called, on them at will. Between 1186 and 1194 the total demanded was well over £13,333. The king could also extract money on the death of a Jew for allowing the family to succeed to his property, which was mostly composed of the portfolio of debts. Alternatively, as was done with Aaron of Lincoln, the king could retain the property in his own hands and collect the debts for himself, which meant that numerous Christians ended up making their repayments to the king. The king could also impose large financial penalties for a range of often trumped-up offences. In 1130 the London Jews owed £2,000 for allegedly murdering a sick man. The greater the exploitation, the greater too the pressure on the Christian debtors, so the king was sailing here in dangerous waters politically. But the profits were large and the king had every reason to protect their source. For this reason, a royal castle was always the resort of Jews in time of trouble. It was security as much as business which tied them to the towns.
In the aftermath of the events of 1189–90 the government developed new institutions and procedures both for exploiting and protecting the Jews. A group of officials had been appointed to deal with the numerous debts seized by the king on the death of Aaron of Lincoln. In the 1190s, described formally as ‘the justices of the Jews’, they and their successors took on a wider role. Sitting with Jews appointed by the king (the chief was called the ‘arch-priest’) they were responsible for collecting Jewish taxation and the debts owed by Christians which had come into the king’s hands. They also ordered the sheriffs to help Jews collect their debts, and provided a less prejudiced forum for Jewish litigation against Christians than that offered by local courts. Essentially a sub-branch of the main exchequer, in the thirteenth century this body became called ‘the exchequer of the Jews’. In 1194 the whole process of Jewish money-lending in the localities was also regulated, in part to prevent the kind of destruction of records which had taken place in 1190. Henceforth the contracting of loans and their repayment was to be confined to six or seven main towns under the oversight of two Christians, two Jews and clerks of the central justices. Each town was to have a chest (an archa) where a copy of the bond recording the loan was to be deposited, the other copy being kept by the Jew. All the bonds and repayments were also recorded on separate rolls. These arrangements, with some modifications (the number of towns was soon increased to seventeen), survived until the expulsion of the Jews in 1290.
The Jews had been in the eye of a more general storm stirred up by Richard’s absence and arrangements. Having sought to placate John by giving him great power, he had then provoked him by promising the succession to Arthur. It was William Longchamp who had to pick up the pieces. Having finally supplanted Puiset in June 1190 he was now justiciar as well as chancellor. He had also secured a legatine commission from the pope. Longchamp was quick-witted, courageous and completely loyal to Richard. He was also an experienced and innovative administrator. It was he who introduced for the first time to charters and writs a concluding clause, party modelled on papal practice, which gave their date of issue. (Before that only the place of issue had been included.) But Longchamp imitated his master’s arrogance and was soon widely stigmatized as a misshapen little monkey of a man, who came from Norman peasant stock and despised English customs – an early sign of national feeling! A virtual civil war in the summer of 1191, when Lincoln castle was defended by its Amazonian lady castellan Nicola de la Haye, was concluded by an agreement between John and the government which read like a treaty between two independent states. Then in September Longchamp arrested Geoffrey, archbishop of York (Henry II’s illegitimate son), and was ousted in the ensuing outcry. John was recognized as Richard’s heir. The government was taken over by an acceptable Norman, Walter, archbishop of Rouen, a change Richard himself had sanctioned back in February on hearing news of Longchamp’s performance.
King Philip’s return to France at the end of 1191 brought fresh strains. He had left as Richard’s friend and he came back as his enemy. The immediate reason centred on his sister Alice. She had long been intended as Richard’s bride and to that end had been brought up at the Angevin court. Philip indeed had agreed to resign his claims to Gisors and the Norman Vexin to their heirs. Henry II, however, had refused to allow the marriage to go ahead. Now it could. Yet Richard married Berengaria instead. There were strategic reasons for that marriage, but they only operated once Alice had been rejected, rejected because she had been Henry II’s mistress. Queen Eleanor was so opposed to the match that she herself brought Berengaria out to Richard at Messina. For all the proffered compensation, Philip remained bitterly offended. On Richard’s capture in December 1192 he offered Alice to John (whose wife could be divorced) and took his homage for all the continental lands. John falsely proclaimed that Richard was dead and demanded recognition as king of England.
In England, Queen Eleanor held the line. It was in Normandy that the real damage was done, partly because the English government, debilitated by John’s endowment and the great sale at the start of the reign, was unable to give its customary help, revenue having fallen back to an annual £11,000 – much the same as at the start of Henry II’s reign. In April 1193 Gisors, which Richard had carelessly promised to Philip if he himself died without heirs, was surrendered. ‘That famous and mighty castle’, as Gerald of Wales put it, with its 700 metres of perimeter walls (the longest in Normandy) and its great motte topped by Henry II’s state of the art octagonal keep, visible for miles as a symbol of Angevin power, had guarded the vital frontier defences along the river Epte. Philip could now consolidate his hold over much of Normandy.
In these dire circumstances Richard’s release was absolutely imperative. With England making a large though unknown contribution, enough of the £100,000 demanded was raised to secure Richard’s freedom on 4 February 1194. ‘The devil is unchained,’ King Philip warned John. On 14 March the devil landed in England and extinguished the remains of the revolt. Soon afterwards, thanks to Eleanor’s intervention, Richard restored John to favour. The condescending attitude to his kid brother (‘not a man to win a kingdom’) which had governed his policy all along had proved justified, in England at least. The situation in Normandy was not so easily restored.
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On the death of Henry II, the Lord Rhys went to war. Richard took notice. After his coronation, he journeyed to Worcester to receive the homage of the minor rulers of south Wales, and sent John, now through his marriage lord of Glamorgan, to raise Rhys’s siege of Carmarthen. Rhys indeed came under safe-conduct to Oxford only to depart in dudgeon when Richard, either standing on his dignity or pressed for time, would not come to meet him. It did not take much to set Rhys and his sons on the warpath, for they had been prospecting its possibilities in the last years of the old king. Rhys now secured both St Clears and Kidwelly on either side of the Tywi, thus cutting off Carmarthen from the sea, and in 1192 moved east and besieged Swansea. His sons, however, were grievously at odds. The intended succession of Gruffudd, the eldest, strong in Ystrad Tywi and usually supported by Rhys Gryg, was challenged by the impulsive and charismatic Maelgwn, ‘the man in the world [Gruffudd] most hated’ (as the Brut put it), who was based in Ceredigion and had the backing of another brother, Hywel Sais. In 1189 Rhys imprisoned Maelgwn, only (in 1194) to be imprisoned by him. Disputes between the brothers broke up the siege of Swansea in 1192. At least there was no blood-letting, but all this contrasted with the co-operation between Rhys and his brothers in the Deheubarth of the 1140s and 1150s.
Rhys also met violent resistance from William de Braose, Gruffudd’s father-in-law, who was the royal castellan at Carmarthen and Swansea. In 1191 William took possession of Elfael, the region north of the Wye valley, linking up his own lordships of Radnor, Builth and Brecon. In 1195 he followed this up by taking St Clears, Rhys having already lost Kidwelly. But Rhys was not finished. In 1196 he burnt Carmarthen, and then marched on Elfael where he briefly secured the new Braose fortress at Painscastle – its heroic defence by William’s formidable wife Matilda de St-Valéry (later starved to death by King John) led to the English calling the castle thereafter ‘Castle Matilda’. Rhys died next year. His magnificent successes had depended on knowing when to co-operate with the English government, and when to exploit its weakness. His son Gruffudd tried to follow in his footsteps, hurrying to seek recognition from Richard’s deputies. But he soon found himself ousted by his brother Maelgwn. The continuing quarrels between Rhys’s descendants effectively ended Deheubarth’s greatness.
With Gwynedd also divided, Gwenwynwyn, ruler of southern Powys (Powys Wenwynwyn, as it came to be called) was able briefly to take centre stage. He supplied the force which enabled Maelgwn to oust Gruffudd from Ceredigion, and in 1198 gathered his Welsh allies to eject William de Braose from Elfael by laying siege to Painscastle. But the situation was now very different from that which existed early in the 1190s. A stable and well-funded government in England was in place under the justiciar Hubert Walter. Gwenwynwyn was utterly defeated and reputedly over 3,000 Welsh were killed. Braose’s hold of Elfael was affirmed; Gruffudd, who had helped the English campaign, was restored in Deheubarth (though Maelgwn kept Cardigan); and Gwenwynwyn’s dreams of emulating Rhys were shattered for good.
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While Rhys waged war on Henry II’s death, King William opened negotiations. He was aware that in the great sale in England by far the biggest item in the shop window was a kingdom, the kingdom of Scotland. With Richard in a hurry, a bargain was quickly struck. William gave £6,666 to recover the castles of Berwick and Roxburgh and free his realm from the subjection to England imposed in 1174. No longer would William have to parade as a vassal king at the Angevin court, act as the English monarch’s virtual justiciar in Galloway, and stand in danger of forfeiting his kingdom for contumacious conduct. He had freed the realm from ‘the heavy yoke of domination and servitude’, as the Melrose chronicler later put it.
‘But alas the grief, that so great and magnificent an honour should vanish from the English crown for a price not worth naming,’ lamented Gerald of Wales. Richard’s perspective was different. If he lost a sub-king, he gained money and an ally. During the crisis of 1193–4, King William did not repeat his northern invasion of twenty years before. On the contrary, he contributed to Richard’s ransom. He still hoped to recover the northern counties, but by diplomacy rather than by force. In 1194 he peppered Richard with requests and offers and got nowhere. Next year he did better, negotiating a remarkable agreement which might ultimately have brought Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland once more within the Scottish realm. For that indeed was what Richard promised if his nephew, Otto of Brunswick, should marry Margaret, William’s daughter and heir. Richard thus hoped to instal as king of Scots his protégé Otto, who had grown up at the Angevin court following the exile of his father Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony. The cost would have been dismemberment of the kingdom, but then, as J. C. Holt has remarked, Richard probably viewed the north of England much as he regarded Gascon lordships in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
In fact the marriage never took place and the agreement came to nothing. In 1198 William’s son, the future Alexander II, was born. Frustrated if only for the moment (as he hoped) in the south, King William compensated in the north. Here Caithness, with its Norse population and fertile lands adjoining the Pentland Firth, was ruled by Earl Harald Maddadson (1159–1206). He wielded considerable power in Ross, was married to a daughter of Malcolm MacHeth (see above p. 211), and held his earldom of Orkney from the king of Norway. He rarely if ever appeared at the Scottish court: altogether a dangerous man. Constricted by the loss of Shetland in 1195, Harald resented the growing power of the crown and its vassals in Moray and Cromarty. In 1196 he invaded Moray. William responded with three expeditions during 1196 and 1197, destroying Harald’s castle at Thurso in the far north of Caithness and replacing him with a rival. The removal was not permanent and in 1202 William, having gone north once again, decided to accept Harald’s position as earl in return for a proffered £2,000. But at least he had removed the threat to Moray and asserted some authority over Caithness.
Although troubled in the closing years of his reign down to 1214 by the demands of King John and the resurgence of the MacHeths and MacWilliams (see below p. 277), King William had achieved a remarkable transformation since the débâcle of 1174. He had thrown off English overlordship and expanded his power in the north and west. That success was very much underpinned by the consolidation and development of the governmental and political structure created by King David.
After the recovery of the southern castles in 1185 and 1189, Edinburgh resumed its Davidian place as a pre-eminent royal centre, within an itinerary which continued to revolve around the traditional eastern core of the kingdom. At court, under the chancellor, there was a growing staff of professional clerks (a dozen can be identified over the reign) writing the king’s writs and charters which themselves followed the English model. In the 1170s the form king ‘by the grace of God’, little used in the pevious decade, was permanently adopted. From 1195 dates of issue were included, imitating in part the new practice in England.
William continued the policy of enfeoffing followers with land, usually in return for the service of one or two knights or a serjeant. Forty-one acts of enfeoffment are known, twenty-nine of them north of the Forth, being especially numerous between the Tay and Aberdeen. The chief beneficiaries, as before, were men of Anglo-Norman descent, as their names show: Giffard, Berkeley, Montfort, Melville, and so on. In this way William secured knight service and castle guard to set beside the foot soldiers of the common army. There was also a development of sheriffdoms so that their putative numbers increased from seventeen to twenty-three during the reign, some reflecting the expansion of royal authority to the north and west. Thus a sheriff appears in Moray in the 1170s, in Galloway in the 1190s, and, around the turn of the century, at Ayr, Nairn and Inverness. There was a growing move to commute the revenue collected by the sheriffs from kind to cash. Cash revenue was also boosted by the foundation of burghs, whose payments to the king were entirely in money. Although the great bulk of the specie was English, William enhanced his prestige and the money supply by minting his own coins, in 1195 introducing a new design based on Henry II’s short-cross penny of 1180. Both the growth in the money supply and what William of Newburgh called ‘the threat of royal power’ were reflected in the ability to raise Richard’s £6,666, some of it probably coming from a tax on land, like the geld now abandoned in England.
William also enhanced the king’s role in the maintenance of the peace, building on the way David had probably isolated certain major crimes as, in effect, pleas of the crown. In 1197, influenced again by initiatives in England, he ordered everyone in his kingdom to swear to keep the peace. In another measure of unknown date he stipulated that sheriffs should be present in lords’ courts to see that justice was done and also by implication to ensure that the crown pleas, specified as murder, rape, plunder and arson be reserved for the court of the king. That court was probably convened by the sheriffs but presided over by justiciars, who travelled their regions to hold pleas. There was one justiciar for Lothian, one for Scotland north of the Forth, and one, at least for a while towards the end of the century, for Galloway. The justiciars also heard civil pleas, partly through the development of the king’s appellate jurisdiction which apparently involved the introduction of an equivalent to the English ‘writ of right’.
Despite William of Newburgh’s comment about the threat of royal power, royal government in Scotland remained much less intrusive and pervasive than in England, and this was true of the ‘inner core’ sheriffdoms and even more of the ‘outer ring’ native earldoms and new provincial lordships. There was neither a Scottish exchequer nor any equivalent, as yet, to the common law assizes. A much higher proportion of the sheriffdoms than in England were probably in the hands of magnates. Although William reserved for himself the hearing of crown pleas (or pleas belonging to his ‘regality’, as he put it) within the Bruce lordship of Annandale, it is far from clear whether that was a general rule, and whether, in any case, it worked in practice. It is unlikely to have applied to the ‘outer ring’ earldoms, which, as in the past (like the new provincial lordships), seem largely to have been immune from royal visitations, orders and enfeoffments. This lack of pressure was vital in order to retain the loyalty of the new nobility and to sedate the resentments of the old, resentments which fed the MacHeth and MacWilliam risings. Equally important was the continuing accommodation between new and old. Native ecclesiastics acted as ministers and bishops. Patrick of Dunbar and Duncan II of Fife, earls from within the inner core of the kingdom, were important councillors, both acting as justiciars. The Barnwell annalist alleged that William and his court were ‘French’ in their way of life and that they despised the Scots, but members of the Scottish nobility were becoming ‘French’ too (see below, p. 424). The ruler of Galloway (the son of Uhtred) was often called ‘Roland’ rather than the Celtic Lachlan, had a largely Anglo-Norman household, founded the Cistercian monastery at Glenluce, married the daughter and heir of Richard de Moreville, and bore the title justiciar (presumably of Galloway itself). Before his death in 1200, he seemed to be tying the region more firmly into the kingdom. It was a kingdom far more stable politically than that subject to the pressures of Angevin kingship south of the border.
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Richard sailed from England on 12 May 1194, never to return. The struggle to recover his continental losses was rightly the supreme priority. England’s resources were vital, yet they could be secured from a distance. Richard greeted petitioners crossing the Channel to see him with glares, violent gestures and bullying demands for money. He kept the English government on its toes by sending the abbot of Caen from the Norman exchequer to stamp out the peculations of the sheriffs. When there was delay in executing one abrasive order, he threatened to dispatch his mercenary captain Mercadier. ‘You English are too timid,’ he declared.
Who would govern England for such a master? Neither Queen Eleanor nor Queen Berengaria. Richard’s mother now returned to Poitou; his wife never left the continent. Fortunately, on this occasion getting an appointment absolutely right, Richard found the ideal man: Hubert Walter, an astute politician and a brilliantly inventive administrator. Born around 1140–45, Hubert was the nephew of the chief justiciar Ranulf Glanvill and throughout the 1180s had sat at the exchequer. He was the epitome of those ministers, fertile, precise, self-confident, whose labours were reflected in Glanvill, The Dialogue of the Exchequer, and the developing forms of the chancery’s writs and charters. Hubert had accompanied Richard on crusade and been one of the first to seek him out in captivity. In May 1193 Richard insisted on his election to the archbishopric of Canterbury and in December made him chief justiciar, a post he held till his voluntary retirement in July 1198. The humane and scrupulous Bishop Hugh of Lincoln urged Hubert to lay down the justiciarship and concentrate on his archiepiscopal duties. Yet the church benefited from the combination. If Hubert was ostentatious and testy, he was also accessible (allowing monks to sleep around his bed) and sympathetic, smoothing out Bishop Hugh’s own quarrels with Richard, and trying to restrain some of Richard’s more arbitrary acts. He also took his ecclesiastical duties seriously, holding reforming councils for the provinces of York and Canterbury.
As justiciar one part of Hubert’s task was to maintain peace and dispense justice. He probably had much to do with hiving off from the exchequer in the 1190s a separate court at Westminster for the hearing of civil litigation which came to be known as ‘the common bench’ and later as the ‘court of common pleas’. He was directly responsible for devising the tripartite final concord by which agreements between litigants reached before the king’s judges were recorded thrice over, with one copy, the ‘foot’, being kept by the government for the security of both parties. The attraction of having agreements recorded in this way became another major factor in drawing litigation to the king’s courts, indeed such litigation was often initiated with the concord already in mind. No less than 42,000 ‘feet’ survive in the Public Record Office for the period to 1307, their even distribution throughout the country showing there was nothing ‘home counties’ about the common law: Yorkshire was only just beaten into first place in numbers of ‘feet’ by the most populous shire, Norfolk. Hubert Walter also tightened up procedures on the criminal side, introducing in 1194 three knights and a clerk in each county who were to hold inquests on dead bodies and keep a record of the pleas of crown the eyre was to hear. This was the origin of the office of the coroner.
A major reason for staging judicial eyres was, of course, to make money and Hubert boasted about the amounts he had raised. But the almost continuous warfare after 1194 was very different from the intermittent campaigns down to 1189, and far more voracious, especially as Richard depended very much on paid mercenaries. Hubert was full of expedients. He made the sheriffs answer for increments worth an annual £700 above the ancient farms of the counties, commissioned the justices in eyre to tallage the royal demesne, tried (without spectacular success) to revive a land tax, and appointed special officials (‘escheators’) to exploit the lands which had been seized from John’s supporters. The years after 1194 have indeed been seen by historians as marking a new stage in the financial exploitation of the kingdom, which eventually led to Magna Carta. Certainly Abbot Ralph of Coggeshall, writing in 1201, affirmed that no king had exacted more from his kingdom than had Richard between 1194 and 1199. The abbot believed that for all his crusading lustre his death was a just judgement of God. In fact Richard’s revenue between 1194 and 1198, as recorded on the pipe rolls, averaged some £25,000 a year, little different from that achieved by Henry II in his last years, and failing to parallel the striking increases in Normandy. But this came on top of the tax for Richard’s ransom, which at a quarter of everyone’s rents and movable property was by far the heaviest levied in medieval England. There was also the problem that a decreasing proportion of royal revenue was being derived from politically acceptable sources like crown lands and escheats. Although Richard had recovered control of some of the lands he had alienated in 1189, by the end of the reign he had given away royal lands worth some £2,000, in striking contrast to Henry II who jealously guarded such assets. As a result Richard had to exploit other more sensitive sources of revenue. In 1198 many widows of tenants-in-chief were made to offer money to stay single or marry whom they wished. The pressures on great barons too were increasing. Henry II’s earls, in his thirty-four-year reign, paid some £3,540 into the exchequer. Richard’s earls, in his ten years, paid in £11,231. Some of this money was freely offered to purchase land and rights which Henry would not sell. But while Hubert Walter counselled caution, Richard also demanded large sums from his barons to succeed to their inheritances and have ‘justice’ in law cases. He also inflicted swingeing penalties for offences, £800, for example, being exacted from the northern baron Robert de Ros for allowing a prisoner to escape.
There were already signs of the demands which were finally to surface in Magna Carta. One baron, William of Newmarket, defined a ‘reasonable relief’ as being £100, just like the Charter. Another, the earl of Norfolk, Roger Bigod, asked that he should only be deprived of property by judgement of his peers, in other words not simply by the ‘will’ of the king, here again anticipating the Charter. Equally striking was William of Newburgh’s comment that Richard had elevated Longchamp, a foreigner of low birth, ‘without the counsel and consent of the great men’. The implication that the king’s ministers should be natives and chosen by common consent foreshadowed a central constitutional demand of the thirteenth century. The role of great councils during Richard’s absence supported such ideas: after Longchamp’s fall the new form of government was established ‘by the common decision of the king’s faithful men’; in 1215 the Charter similarly forbade taxation save with the ‘common counsel of the realm’. Politics and government were also opening up to sections of society beyond the great barons. Knights were appointed as coroners and (in 1195) as keepers of the peace. Equally apparent was the importance of London. The refusal of the citizens to support Longchamp in 1191 was crucial to his fall, and they were rewarded by the grant of a commune, permission that is to bind themselves together in a sworn association. In 1215 the Charter formed a ‘commune of all the land’.
Between his departure from England in 1194 and his death in 1199, Richard was involved in warfare on the continent, interrupted occasionally by truces and one formal peace, that made at Louviers in January 1196. This was a war not of great battles but of attrition, fought by small bodies of troops, and centred round the siege of castles and the ravaging of land. King Philip proved ominously resilient. After facing Richard for nearly five years he still retained Gisors, building a great cylindrical tower at the castle’s south-east corner. Yet in this period Richard’s outstanding qualities were never more apparent: as a builder of castles, a constructor of alliances, a judge of priorities, a mobilizer of resources, and as a fighting knight. He recovered most of Normandy, re-took Loches on the eastern frontiers of Touraine and reasserted his authority further south by seizing Taillebourg and Angoulême.
To protect Normandy Richard built the great complex of fortifications at Les Andelys, west of Gaillon. Medieval military experts often debated whether to build castles high on hills, or down by rivers. At Les Andelys, Richard did both. He sank a wooden stockade across the Seine, fortified the little island in its middle, joined the island by bridge to a new walled town on the river bank, and then on the great limestone rock above threw up an extraordinary castle, which he called his ‘beautiful castle of the rock’, or Château Gaillard, his ‘impudent castle’. On all this Richard expended some £11,500, more than was spent on his English castles during his entire reign. He could now block Philip’s moves down the Seine to Rouen and had a base for the ultimate recovery of Gisors.
Richard’s success was also built on diplomacy. With his clear, unsentimental insight, he realized that Normandy was far more valuable than his old bases in the south. So in 1197 he conceded rights and territory in Aquitaine to bring about the marriage of his sister Joan, widow of the king of Sicily, to the count of Toulouse. He thus ended forty years of intermittent warfare and was free, as William of Newburgh put it, ‘to return untrammelled to his war with the king of France’. Richard also succeeded in prising from King Philip the counts of Boulogne and Flanders, the latter by an embargo on wool exports on which the Flemish cloth industry depended. With these alliances topped off by the elevation of Richard’s nephew Otto to the kingship, not of Scotland, but of the Romans on Henry VI’s death in 1197, the final expulsion of King Philip from Normandy seemed but a matter of time.
It was not to be. In 1199 Richard laid siege to the viscount of Limoges’s castle of Châluz, seeking to punish him for defecting to King Philip. He was struck by a crossbow bolt, and died on 6 April. There was nothing irresponsible about Richard’s last campaign, but it was in Normandy, not the Limousin, that the future of his empire would be decided. Richard was buried beside his father at the abbey of Fontevraud. The effigies, imposing and impassive, erected over their tombs still seem to radiate with the power of the dynasty. That power, however, was about to collapse.