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Published by the University of Manchester at 

THE UNIVERSITY PRESS (H. M. McKechnie, M.A., Secretary) 

23 Lime Grove, Oxford Road, MANCHESTER 




T. F. TOUT, LiTT.D., D.Litt., LL.D., F.B.A. 

Late Honorary Profesior of the Uni-versity 








All rights reser'ved. 


In his preface to Volume III. of this book, my husband outlined 
his scheme for Volume V, He planned that it should include 
" the later history of the small seals and of the organisation 
necessary for their employment," and " an account of some non- 
royal households for the study of which sufficient material 
remains, notably those of queen Philippa, the Black Prince and 
the dukes of Lancaster " ; also various appendices, corrigenda 
and addenda, and the index to the whole work. 

By May 1929 he had substantially completed the part of this 
volume which he had planned to write himself, namely, the 
chapters on the later history of the small seals. The final re- 
vision, more especially of the diplomatic portions of these, alone 
remained to be done. Upon the latter, he consulted, as he had 
always intended to do, Mr V. H. Galbraith, Reader in Diplo- 
matic in the University of Oxford, who suggested the lines on 
which the subject could be brought up to date. In consultation 
with him, Dr. Dorothy M. Broome carried out this considerable 
work of revision, which often involved reference to the sources. 
She rewrote much of the third section of Chapter XVI. and 
modified the diplomatic passages of Chapter XVII. She also took 
the chief responsibility for the selection of the seals for illustration 
and the arrangement of the plates, and made all the drawings in 
the text. My husband was able during the summer to read and 
approve the final version, and had the satisfaction of seeing the 
bulk of the book, namely, his own chapters XVI. and XVII., 
sent to press in September 1929. He died on October 23. 


Some years ago my husband had decided that the sections on 
the subsidiary households should be written by others. He 
entrusted the account of the household of the Black Prince to 
our daughter, Dr. Margaret Sharp. She had already worked on 
the subject, and my husband was anxious to incorporate the 
results of her researches in full. He hoped that Miss Broome 
would write the section on the queens' households, and she 
collected material with this end in view. However, she was so 
fully occupied with the revision of the diplomatic passages that 
in August 1929, with her cordial assent, he asked my sister, 
Professor Hilda Johnstone, if she would undertake this section ; 
she at once agreed to do so, and Miss Broome kindly placed at 
her disposal such material as had already been collected. There 
remained a study of the households of the dukes of Lancaster, 
but in the circumstances he thought it best to omit any detailed 
treatment of this subject, as its preparation would occasion delay. 

The present volume completes the text of the book, but my 
husband found that its length made impossible the inclusion of 
the large index, and therefore arranged that it should appear in 
a sixth and final volume, which, it is hoped, will follow shortly. 
This will include, in addition to the index, tables of wardrobe 
receipts and expenditure, lists of the chief ojB&cers of the Crown 
to 1399, a supplementary bibliographical list of abbreviations, 
and a list of addenda and corrigenda to the whole work. 

The volume here presented is therefore mainly according to 
plan. It is, as my husband wished it to be, a joint efiort rendered 
possible by the co-operation of " a syndicate of old pupils." He 
was proud and touched to find the readiness of their co-operation. 
Miss Broome's work has been of vital service. She was occupied 
for six years in helping my husband, for five months after his 
death she continued to give her whole time to the book and 
since then no inconsiderable part of it, and he would have wished 
again, as in the preface to Vol. III., to express his appreciation 
of her work and to record his indebtedness to her. The volume 
has gained much from her aptitude and skill in research and her 


familiarity with exchequer records. Her work on the technical 
detail of diplomatic, her unselfish and ready acceptance of the 
labour of revision in the place of further independent investiga- 
tion of the queens' households, her willing assumption of 
additional responsibility in seeing Chapters XVI. and XVII. 
through the press since my husband's death, have been 
invaluable. To his friend and pupil Mr. Galbraith he was 
deeply grateful for so cheerfully giving his time in the midst of 
his other work. My husband particularly appreciated the help 
Miss Johnstone gave him, by undertaking at short notice the 
section on the queens' households, for which she collected a great 
quantity of new material. It was a joy to him that her labours 
and those of our daughter should be linked with his own. 

To Dr. Tait, the Chairman of the Manchester University 
Press, I owe warm personal thanks for generously offering, 
inmaediately after the death of his intimate friend, to read all 
proofs of his book. He could have done him no more valuable 
service. As editor, his labours have been great, lavished without 
stint or measure. The University Press has stood the close 
friend of the work throughout. To its secretary, Mr. H. M. 
McKechnie, my husband could always turn for indefatigable 
assistance, and I am peculiarly indebted to him for his advice 
and assistance since my husband's death. 

The aid of his friends, both past and present members of the 
staff of the Public Record Office, and the help of many others, 
rendered both personally and in their published work, gave my 
husband pleasure and comradeship. In this volume, as in his 
earlier ones, he has made it his practice to acknowledge in the 
foot-notes their individual help. To each of them I want to 
convey the special gratitude he would have delighted to record, 
none the less warmly though they are not mentioned by name 

Mary Tout 

Hampstead, September 1930. 



PREFACE ....... v-vii 


-7 Section I. The Privy Seal and its Keepers under Edward 

III. AND Richard II. . . . . 1-54 

Need for considering privy seal in isolation and not only 
as part of the general machinery, 1. Separation of con- 
troUership of wardrobe from custody of privy seal, 1-2. 
The policy of Baldock and the temporary subjection of 
privy seal to chancery, 3. Privy seal in early years of Edward 
III.'s reign, 3-5. Richard Bury and the increasing im- 
portance of the privy seal, 5-6. Bury's position before 
and after 1330, 6-7. Robert Ayleston's keepership, 8. 
Robert Tawton, 8-9. William de la Zouch, 9-10. Richard 
Bentworth, 10. The years 1327-1338 as the second epoch 
in privy seal history, 10-11. A new position claimed for 
the privy seal in the Walton ordinances, 11-12. Privy seal 
instruments of direct force, 12-13. Breakdown of Walton 
scheme, 13-14. Position of keeper Kilsby, 14-15. Keeper- 
ship becomes a quasi-political office, 15-16. Kilsby's 
position at home and abroad in 1340, 16-17. Appointment of 
John Oflford as keeper, and of John Thoresby as his deputy, 
17-18. Offord takes over the office, often still extra curiam, 
18-19. His diplomatic work, 19. Thomas Hatfield made 
keeper of the privy seal and bishop of Durham, 19-20. 
Appointment of Thoresby to be keeper of the privy seal, 
20-21. Efficiency of privy seal office during siege of Calais, 
21-22. Thoresby's subordinates and his strong position, 
22-23. Simon Islip, keeper of regent's privy seal, 23-25. 
His appointment as keeper of king's privy seal, 25-26. In- 
creased glory of the privy seal, 26-27. Keepership of Michael 
Northburgh, 27-28. His diplomatic functions, 28-30. 





Keepers and staff frequently extra curiam, 30-31. Arrange- 
ments for office during Northburgh's absences, 31-33. Henry 
Ingelby keeps the hospicium privati sigilli, 33-34. Keeper- 
ship of Bramber and the appointment of Winwick as his 
successor, 34. Changes in the privy seal office may be 
connected with other administration changes, 34-35. Family 
and ability of Winwick, 35-36. The importance of his 
keepership, 36. Winwick's foundations, 36-37. Bucking- 
ham's experience at the wardrobe, exchequer and privy 
seal of Thomas of Woodstock, 37-38. He becomes keeper 
of the king's privy seal, 38-39. William Wykeham as 
keeper of the privy seal and chief minister of the king, 39-42. 
Peter Lacy made keeper, 42-43. Privy seal permanently 
extra curiam, 43. Lacy's ecclesiastical preferment, 43-44. 
Nicholas Carew the first lay keeper, 44-45. John Fordham 
made keeper, 46-47. William Dighton, 47-48. William 
Skirlaw 48-49. John Waltham, 49-50. Privy seal definitely 
recognised as third ministry of the crown, 50-51. Edmund 
Stafford, 51-52. Strength of his position, 52. John Prophet, 
clerk of the privy seal, as clerk of the councU, 52-53. Guy 
Mone and Richard Clifford, 53-54. Privy seal essentially 
ministry of state with no tendency to relapse into household 
office, 54. 

Section II. The Office, Household and Staff of the 

Privy Seal ...... 54-112 

Object of present section, 54-55. Stages of development 
indicated in previous section, 55-56. Position of keeper 
abroad affects his position at home, 56. Tradition of 
hostility to privy seal dies away, 56-57. The privy seal's 
function as warranty for chancery and exchequer action, 
57-58. Its more important function of issuing instruments 
with "original" force, 58-59. Keeper becomes third 
minister of state with special influence on council, 59. 
Privy seal becomes to council what great seal was to parlia- 
ment, 59-60. Rise of the signet and other means of authenti- 
cation, 60-61. Why parliament never acquired a seal and 
the council did not until 1556, 61. Beginning of judicial 
powers of chancery and privy seal, 61-62. Growth of privy 
seal keeper's legal work, 62-63. Privy seal office becomes an 
" inferior chancery," 64. Preservation of pri\'y seal archives, 
64-65. Forgeries of the privy seal, 65-66. Distinction 
between officium and hospicium, 67-68. Household of privy 
seal becomes a permanent establishment normally in London 
or Westminster, 68-69. The meaning of hospicium priuaii 
sigilli, 69-70. Was it the abode of the keeper ? 70-71. 
Residence in hospicium not compulsory, 71-72. Normal 
location of hospicium, 72-74, Modest requirements of privy 



seal office, 74. Personality of clerks of the privy seal, value 
of Hoccleve's writings, 74-75. Compilation of list of clerks 
on permanent staff, 75-76. Privy seal office provided a life 
career to regular staff, 76. Normal number of clerks, 76-78. 
Keeper's personal clerks and dependents, 78-79. Personal 
clerks or "probationers" of the four chief clerks, 79-81. 
Understaffed office receives help from chancery clerks, 81-82. 
Increase of normal business, 82-83. Change in methods of 
maintenance and remuneration as business grew, 83-84. 
Gradual institution of daily wage for privy seal clerks, 84-85. 
Manner of their payment, 85-86. Significance of particulars 
of Dighton's and Tirrington's wage accounts, 86-87. Queries 
and reflections suggested by them, 87-88. Continuance to 
privy seal clerks of wardrobe allowance for robes, 88-89. 
Payment to clerks of extra expenses incurred, and of war 
wages, 89-90. Opportunity of exacting perquisites within 
the office, 90. Tendency to treat clerks with less liberality, 
91-92. Sinecure appointments, 92-93. Clerks seldom given 
lucrative offices, 93-94. Prospects of promotion in church, 
94-95. Preferments of Ingelby and Winwick, 95-96. Dis- 
tinguished career of John Prophet, 96-97. Dighton's more 
ordinary progress, 97-98. The average clerk's career, 98-99. 
Clerks engage in business on their own account : Ingelby's 
business interests, 99-100. Winwick's business dealings, 
100-101. Restricted opportunity of promotion to other 
departments, 101. Chance of clerks' association with 
council, 101-103. Development of the " secondary " in the 
office, 103-105. Little nepotism within the office, 105. 
Family connections of privy seal clerks, 105-106. Hoccleve, 
the official failure, 106-108. Brighter side of privy seal 
clerk's life, 108-109. Hoccleve's ability and application to 
the dailv task : his formula book, 109-110. 


AND RICHARD II. ..... 110-112 

Section III. Descbiption and Diplomatic of the Privy 

Seals ....... 112-142 

Purpose of section, 112-113. Elements of the ordinary 
privy seal writ, 113. The bill of privy seal, 113-114. Special 
notes added to writs and bills : appearance of surname of 
responsible clerk in lower right-hand corner of face of bills 
and writs; letters of privyseal, 115. Elaboration of privy seal 



writs during fourteenth century, 116. Language of privy seal 
instruments, 116. Methods of folding and sealing privy seal 
instruments, 116-118. Changes introduced between 1337 and 
1346, 118-120. Evidence of privy seal diplomatic, 120-121. 
Evidence of " original jurisdiction " of privy seal, 121-122. 
Different ways in which the great seal was affixed, 122-126. 
Charters, 122. Letters patent, 122-123. Letters close, 
123-125. Essential difference between patent and close 
letters and rolls, 125-126. Formal charter falls into disuse, . 
126. Original classification of documents modified, 126-127. 
Method of attaching privy seal to letters patent, 127-128. 
Method of attaching it to letters close, 128-129. Use of 
privy seal in place of great seal, 129. Significance of ex- 
pression " sealed in the form of charters " applied to a group 
of documents issued under privy seal in 1306, 129-130. 
Distinctive colour of wax used by each office, 130-131. 
Colour of wax used for privy and other small seals, 131-132. 
Cost of making privy seal matrix, 132-133. No extant 
specimens of privy seal of John or of Henry III., 133-134. 
Size and type of Edward I.'s privy seal, 134. Edward II. 's 
privy seals as prince and king, 135-136. Edward of Windsor's 
privy seal and its use during interregnum, 136. Edward 
III.'s first privy seal, 136-137. New privy seal adopted in 
1338, 137. The privy seals of 1340, 137-138. A larger 
privy seal adopted in 1356, 138-140. The new privy seal 
made in 1360-61, 140-141. Privy seals paid for by 
exchequer in 1361, 141. Privy seal of 1356-60 taken into 
use again in 1369, 141-142. Privy seal of Richard II., 142. 

f Section IV. The Small Seals in some other Lands . 142-160 

Reason for study of small seals in other lands, 142-143. 
The small seals in France, 143-149. Fourteenth-century 
secret seal of French kings, 143-144. Comparison of clercs 
du secre with privy seal clerks, 144-145. Fundamental 
difference between English and French secretariats, 145-146. 
Confraternity of French notaries, 146-147. Purchase and 
distribution of parchment in French administration, 147. 
Position and duties of secretaries of sceau du secre, 147-148. 
Radical difference between French and English administra- 
tive systems, 148-149. The small seals in Scotland, 149-152. 
EarUest surviving Scottish records, 149-150. First appear- 
ance of small seals in Scotland, 150-151. Succession of 
clerks and keepers of Scottish privy seal, 151. Separation 
of secret seal from chancery, 151-152. Small seals of Aragon, 
152-158. Material available, 152. Household ordinance of 
Peter the Ceremonious, 152-153. Peter's four types of 
great seal, 153. Custody of his small seals, 153-154. Earliest 
Aragonese secret seal, 154-155. Peter's various secret 



seals and signet, 155-156. Use of paper and of red wax in 
Aragon, 156. Custody of small seals separate from custody 
of great seals in both England and Aragon, 156-157. Use 
of title of chancellor for keeper of Castilian small seal, 157- 
158. Work so far done on French and Imperial small seals, 
158. Late organisation of custody and administration of 
small seals, 158-159. Value of study of small seals, 159. 
Universal use of small seals, 159-160. The usual custodian 
of the secret seal, 160. 



Section I. The Secret Seals . . • .161-181 

Secretum and priuatum synonymous in thirteenth century, 
161-162. Boxes "under the secret seal" deposited with 
the Templars, 162. Sealing of enclosures, 162-163. Was 
the privy seal or was a new seal used for this purpose ? 163- 
164. Confusion of privy and secret continues under Edward 
II., 164-165. Warrants under the secret seal, 165. Three 
proofs that this secret seal was not the privy seal, 165-167. 
Clearer differentiation between the secret and privy seals, 
167-168. Edward II.'s use of this secret seal, 168-169. 
Reasons for emergence of secret seal, 169-170. Nature and 
description of secret seal, 170-171. Edward III.'s first 
secret seal, 171. His second, 171. Secret seal develops 
diplomatic of its own, 171-173. Use of paper for secret 
seal documents, 173. Signet begins to be used officially 
for secret seal, 173-174. Edward III.'s third secret seal, 
174-175. His fourth, 175-176. His fifth, 177. Secret seal 
becomes obsolete under that name before the death of 
Edward III., 177. Confusion between different types of 
secret seal in later years of Edward III., 177-178. Custody 
of secret seal, 178-179. Secret seal at all times the seal of 
the chamber, 179. Receiver of the chamber the keeper of 
the secret seal, 179-181. Secret seal never had an office, 181. 

Section II. The Geiffin Seal .... 181-192 '^ 

Description of griffin, 181-182. Its institution, purpose, 
and duration, 182. Chancery reluctantly accepts warrants 
under grifiin, 183-185. Exchequer more reluctant than 
chancery, 185-186. Narrowness of griffin's scope, 186-187. 
Survival of griffins among chancery warrants, 187-188 ; 
among exchequer archives, 188-189. Custody of griffin seal. 



189. Custody of chamber archives affects custody of griffin, 
189-190. Griffin normally kept either in Tower or at West- 
minster, 190-191. Abolition of the griffin, 191-192. 

y^ Section III. The Signum ..... 192-194 

Its first appearance, 192. Varied character of correspond- 
ence under signum, 192-193. Its continued use in 1341- 
1344, 193. References to it become rarer and finally cease, 
193-194. What was the signum ? 194. 

V Section IV. The Signet under Richard II. . . 195-211 

Origin of term signet, 195. Use of term secret seal in chief 
chanceries of Europe, 195-196. "Signet" ousts "secret 
seal " from common speech in England, 196. Was the third 
French seal a signet ? 196-198. Philip IV.'s small seal, 
198-199. Secret seals of John II. and Charles V., and signet 
of Philip of Valois, 199-200. Usage of signet crystallises 
into set forms, 200. Method of affixing signet in Richard 
II.'s reign, 200-201. Type of signets of Richard II., 201-204. 
Anne of Bohemia's signet, 204. Gold the metal of signet 
matrix and its chain, 204-205. Diplomatic of the signet, 
205. Signet warrants sent jointly to three chief ministers, 
205. Ebb and flow of signet warrants to chancery, 205-206. 
Other signet documents, 206-207. Constitutional signifi- 
cance of ebb and flow of use of signet, 207. Limitation to 
sufficiency of signet as warrant, 207-208. No extension of 
signet use 1397-99, 208. Complaints against signet, 208- 
209. Signet letter an intermediate link between king and 
privy seal office, 209-210. Richard II.'s last uses of his 
signet, 210. Richard bestows signet on Henry of Lancaster, 

' Section V. The Secretary and the Signet Office under 

Richard II. . . . . . . 211-230 

Official secretary of king comes into being, 211-212. Posi- 
tion of signet during Braybrooke's secretaryship, 213-214. 
Secretary Bacon, 214. Widespread use of signet in Bacon's 
time and his preferments, 214-216. Further development 
of signet office under Medford, 216. His rewards, 216-217. 
Signet letter declared inadequate warrant for chancery 
action, 217. Silence of records about Medford's activity 
after 1385, 217-218. Medford's arrest, imprisonment and 
release, 218-219. The secretaryship in abeyance or obscurity? 
219-220. John Macclesfield's position, 220-221. Roger 
Walden becomes king's secretary, and reorganises signet 
secretariat, 221. Signet brought into fuller use, 221-222. 
The notarial instruments recording Irish submissions of 



1395, 222-223. Walden goes to England, leaving John 
Lincoln in charge in Ireland, 223. Lincoln becomes secretary, 
223-224. Signet in last years of Richard II., 224-225. 
Clerks sign certain documents issued under signet, 225. Its 
development helped by previous experience of its early 
members, 225. Intimate relations between privy seal and 
signet, 225-226. Signets and secretaries of queens, princes 
and nobles, 226. Signet and secretary follow in footsteps of 
privy seal and its keeper, 226-227. In fifteenth century 
secretary usually became keeper of privy seal, 227. First 
lay secretary, 227. Development of " signed bills," 227-228. 
Abolition of signet office, 228. From John to Henry VIII. 
history of petty seals repeats itself, 229. Fate of sign- 
manual, 229. Significance of failure of sovereign to preserve 
a personal seal, 229-230. 



Section I 
The Queen's Household ..... 231 

(a) Scope of the survey, 231-232. (b) General organisation 

and staff, 232-264. Eleanor of Provence as queen consort and 

queen mother, 232-233. Special interest of her household 

organisation, 233. Her oflficials, 234-235. Changes on the 

accession of Edward I., 235-236. Household of Eleanor of 

Castile, 236-239. Geoffrey of Asphale, keeper, and his 

relations with Archbishop Pecham, 236-238. Walter of 

Kent and Hugh of Cressingham, stewards, 238-239. Queen 

Eleanor's exchequer, 239 ; Household of Margaret of France, 

239-241. Account with details of queen's exchequer, 

240-241. Household of Isabella of France, queen of Edward 

II., 241-250. The four stages of its development, 241. 

First stage, 1308-24, 241-244. Her chief officials, 242. 

Her great and privy wardrobes, 242-244. Second 

stage, 1324-27, 244-24^7. Third stage, 1327-30, 247. 

Fourth stage, 1330-58, 247-248. Oxendon, Newbury, 

Ravenser, and other officials, 248-249. Inventory of 

Isabella's possessions, 249-250. Household of Philippa of 

Hainault, 250-259. Its records and structure, 250-251. 

Her council, 251-252. Linking up of local with central 




administration, 252. Fusion of offices of receiver-general 
and treasurer, 252-253. Rise in status of the cofferer, 
253-254. Accounts of John of Eston, 255-256. Chief 
officials, 256-258. The queen's wardrobe at La Reole, 
London, 258-259. Household of Anne of Bohemia, 260-263. 
Her chief officials, 260-262. Her council, 262. Her ex- 
chequer, 262. Her wardrobe at La Reole, 262-263. House- 
hold of Isabella II. of France, 263-264. (c) Fmancial re- 
sources and methods, 264-284. Traditional prerogatives, 
especially queen's gold, 264-267. Dower lands and supple- 
mentary grants, 267-28L Revenues of Eleanor of Provence, 
267-270. Improved position of Eleanor of Castile, 270-27 L 
Complaints against her ministers, 271-272. Her finances 
in 1289-90, 272. Dower of Margaret of France, 272-273. 
Dower of Isabella of France, 273-274. Grant of Ponthieu 
and Montreuil, 274. Confiscations in 1324, 274-275. 
Triumph and expansion in 1327, 275. Surrender of 1330, 
and gradual rehabilitation, 276-277. Ponthieu and Montreuil, 
277-278. Dower and revenues of Philippa of Hainault, 
278-280. The king resumes responsibility for her expenses, 
280. Dower of Anne of Bohemia and Isabella II. of France, 
280-281. General conclusions, 281-282. Suggested ex- 
planations of financial deficiencies, 282-284. (d) The house- 
hold secretariat and the queen's seals, 284-289. The 
secretariat and its equipment, 284-286. Seals of officials, 
286. Seals of Eleanor of Provence, 286-289. Seals of the 
queens of Edward I., 287-288. Seals of Isabella, queen of 
Edward II., 288. Seals of Philippa, 288-289. Seals of 
Anne of Bohemia, 289. 

Section II 


Part I. The Central Administrative System of Edward, 

The Black Prince ..... 289-400 

Territorial position. In England, 289-291. Abroad, 291-292. 
Prestige, 293. Evolution of a centralised system of govern- 
ment from the household, 294-295. Influence of king's 
clerks, 295-296. Local administrative units, 296. Earldom 
of Chester, 296-297. Principality of Wales, 297-298. Duchy 
of Cornwall, 298-299. Contact between local and central 
government, 299-300. Government of Gascony, difficulties 
and problems, 300-301. Principahty of Aquitaine, 301-302. 
An example of the problems of Gascon government, the 
question of sealing, local seals and the great seal of England, 
302-304. Sealing in principality of Aquitaine, 304-306. ''•'^' 

Summary, 306. 


Sources of information, their general characteristics, 306. 
Records of the Black Prince's administrative system. Local, 
306-308. Central, (a) accounts, 308-309. (b) Registers of 
letters, 309-311. (c) Petitions, 311-312. National archives, 
312. Chancery records and special collections, 312-313. 
Exchequer records, 313. Summary, 314. 

The early household. The dependent wardrobe, 314-315. 
Keepers of the wardrobe, 315-316. Controllers and keepers 
of the seal, 317. Stewards of the household, 317-318. The 
master of the household, recorded duties, 318-319. Char- 
acter of the office, 319-320. Nicholas de la Beche and 
Bartholomew Burghersh, 320-321. Other officials, 321-322. 
The normal council of the Black Prince and his council as 
regent, 322-323. Summary, 323. 

Financial organisation. Need for permanent headquarters, 
323. The establishment of the exchequer, 324. Peter 
Gildesburgh as keeper of the exchequer and receiver, 325- 
326. His successors, 327. Peter Lacy as receiver-general, 
327-328. Alan Stokes, 328-329. The sphere of activity of 
the receiver-general, 329-331. The exchequer as a financial 
office, 331-332. As a court of pleas, 332. Perhaps a secre- 
tarial department, 332-333. Its buildings, 333-334. Minor 
officials, 334-335. The prince's financial system, 335. 
Auditors, 335-336. Personnel of auditors, their appoint- 
ment by king and by prince, 336. Their relations with the 
national exchequer, 336-338. Influence of national exchequer 
throughout prince's financial system, 338. The national 
exchequer and the prince's accounts, 338-340. The national 
exchequer and the collection of debts due to the prince, 
340-342. Other relations with the exchequer, relations with 
the chancery, 342. 

The wardrobe. Survival and change in character, 342-343. 
The wardrobe of the household, confusion with the great 
wardrobe, had it headquarters ? 343-344. Dignity, 344-345. 
Financial resources, 345-346. Military expenditure, 346. 
The wardrobe in Aquitaine, 347-348. Scope of wardrobe 
activities, 348-349. Personnel, 349. 

The great wardrobe. Difficulties in tracing its early history, 
349-350. Development, 350-351. Headquarters in London, 
352-354. The sphere of the great wardrobe, 354-355. The 
chamber of arms, 355-356. 

The chamber. Its sphere, 356. A privy purse, 356-357. 

Resources, 357-358. A chamber of lands, 358-359. Ex- 

, penditure, 359-360. Lay officials, 360. Receiver of the 

-bhamber, 360-361. Minor officials, 361. Headquarters, 

361-362. Comparison with the king's chamber, 362. 



The prince's revenues, 362-363. Supplementary grants, 
363-364. Financial resources of the prince of Aquitaine, 
and the position of the household, 365-367. 

Secretarial organisation. The relation between central and 
local machinery, 367-368. Non-existence of a great seal, 
368-369. The privy seal, dual nature, 369. Status of the 
office, 370. Notes of warrant for issue, 370-371. Homout, 
ich dene, 371-372. Growth of office of privy seal, 372. 
When did the seal go out of court ? 373. Registration of 
letters, 373-374. Sealing during absence, 1346-47, 1355- 
1357, 374. Sealing during absence, 1363-71, 374-375. 
Secretarial organisation in Gascony and the prince's great seal, 
375-377. The privy seal in Gascony, 377-378. Personnel 
of secretariats, 378-379. Secretaries, 379-380. Clerks- 
registrar, 380-381. Secret seal and signet, 381. Summary 
and comparison Avith royal practice, 382. 

The council. General significance, 382. Unity and fluidity, 
383. Reasons for prolonged importance, 383-384. Ex- 
periment and definition, 384. Petitions, 384-385. Member- 
ship, 385-386. Chief of the council, 386-387. The position 
of John Wingfield, 387-388. 

The governor of the prince's business, 388-389. Possible 
association with the office of steward of lands, 390-391. 
Devolution in the stewardship, 391. Devolution and 
centralisation, 392. Keepers of fees, 392-393. Government 
during absence, 394-395. Administration from Westminster 
and London, 395-397. Executors, 397-398. Uncertainty 
as to the political attitude of the prince, 1371-76, 398-399. 

Paet II. The Diplomatic of the Black Pbince's Central 

Secretarial Departments .... 400-431 

Baronial diplomatic, 400-401. Scope of survey, 401-402. 
Sources of surviving original letters, 402-403. Sources of 
transcripts of letters, 403-404. The sphere of the privy 
seal, 404. Seal and privy seal, 405-406. Parchment and 
paper, wax and language, 406. Titles, 406-408. Dating. 
By regnal years, 408. By the Christian year, 408-410. 
The wording of charters and formal letters patent, 410-412. 
Of ordinary letters patent, 412. Of letters close, bills and 
warrants, 412-413. Notes of warrant and names of clerks 
on original letters, 413. Formulae used in the chancery of 
Aquitaine, 413-415. Instruments under the secret seal, 
415. Instruments under the signet, 415-416. 
Sealing. Pendent privy seals in England, 416. The privy 
seal as counterseal, 416-417. Pendent privy seals abroad, 
417. The great seal of Aquitaine, 418. Closed instruments 



of privy seal. Early method, 418-419. Later method, 419. 
Seals plaque on face, 420. Secret seal and signet, 420. 
Description of seals. The privy seal iised by the Black Prince 
while duke of Cornwall, 421. The first privy seal used 
while prince of Wales, 422-423. Second privy seal as prince 
of Wales, and its identity with privy seal used abroad, 1355- 
1357, 423-424. Privy seal used in England, 1360-62, and 
perhaps later, 424-425. Privy seals used abroad in 1360 
and later, 425-426. Another privy seal, perhaps used after 
1369, 426-427. Contrast between the privy seals of king 
and of prince, 427. The great seal of Aquitaine, 427-428. 
Secret seals and signets, 428. Unidentified seals, 428-429. 
Summary and comparison with the king's usage, 429-430. 
Comparison with John of Gaunt's secretarial arrangements, 


HOLD ....... 431-440 

I. Stewards of the household, 432. II. Chamberlains, 
432-433. III. Masters of the household, 433. IV. Governors 
of the prince's business, 433. V. Keepers or treasurers of 
the wardrobe, 433-435. VI. Controllers of the household, 
435-436. VII. Keepers of the great wardrobe, 436. VIII. 
Keepers of the seal, 436-437. IX. Clerks of the privy seal, 
437-438. X. Receivers-general, 438-439. XL Receivers of 
the chamber, 439. XII. Steward of the lands of the chamber, 
439. XIII. Stewards of lands, 439-440. 

Plate I 




To face 445 





Payment of Wykeham's salary . . . . 41, n. 1 

Signed writs and bills . . . . . 114, n. 1 

Opening of closed privy seal instruments . . . 117, n. 3 

Slit privy seal writs of queen Isabella . . . 120, n. 6 

Sealing oi the libellus famosus .... 124, n. 2 

The -pvivj seal of 1356 . . . . . 139, n. 3 

Device of second secret seal of Edward III. . . 171, n. 4 
Date of letter to chancery concerning warrants under the 

griffin seal ...... 183, n. 1 

Earliest use of siffnetum ..... 197, n. 1 

City of London Museum matrix of " signet of Richard II." . 204, n. 4 

Braybrook's custody of Richard 11. 's signet . . 212, n. 2 

Recent history of the signet .... 228, n. 2 

The Gascon accounts and history of Richard Fillongley . 365, nn. 3, 5 



Precautions taken in 1354 for custody of privy seal . 32, n. 2 

Privy seal transmitting enclosure sealed with secret seal, 

1292 ....... 163, n. 2 

Secret seal writ ordering issue of privy seal writ to procure 

a writ of great seal ..... 168, n. 1 

Letter of secret seal with similar instruction . . 169, n. 1 

Letter proving identity of secret seal and signet, 1354 . 175, n. 4 

Petition and reply showing signet as link between king and 

privy seal office ..... 209, n. 3 

Extract from issue rolls concerning early secretary's hono- 
rarium ....... 211, n. 2 

Extract from issue rolls concerning John Lincoln's reward 

for services in Ireland in 1395 .... 223, n. 5 

Writ to the treasurer and barons of the exchequer to enforce 

payment of debts due to prince of Wales . . 340, n. 6 

Extract from grant of land by Black Prince to St. Olaves, 

Old Jewrv, London ..... 354, n. 1 



The Privy Seal and its Keepers under 
Edward III. and Richard II. 

In discussing the interaction of administrative and political 
history under Edward III. and Richard II., there has been occasion 
to say a good deal about the privy seal and its keepers, and to 
suggest the gradual evolution of the seal from a private instru- 
ment of the household to a public instrument of state. We must 
now attempt to elaborate the history of this development. Some 
repetition of what has been said before will be unavoidable, but 
we cannot properly work out the history of the pri\y seal if we 
merely treat it as a part of the general machinery of government. 
We must also consider it in isolation, and trace the process by 
which it became the centre of a new office of state, a new ministry 
rather than a mere branch of the household. 

Already under Edward II. there was a tendency towards the 
officialisation of the privy seal, for the ordainers tried to take the 
seal out of court as well as to Limit its operations. Their policy so 
far prevailed that, in 1312, Edward II. was compelled to separate 
the keepership of the privy seal from the controllership of the 
wardrobe, and to recognise in Roger Northburgh the first in- 
dependent keeper of the pri^y seal. This baronial nominee, 
responsible to his creators, had under him a stafi of four clerks, 
writing for the seal, and remained with his clerks for long periods 
extra curiam, notably when attending meetings of council. Even in 
court he was a check, if not a spy, on the king's actions. Accord- 


2 THE PKIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

ingly the seal ceased to fulfil its original purpose of expressing 
primarily the king's personal wishes. In revenge the king set up 
another instrument by which he could give effect to his will. The 
result of this we shall see when we study the history of the secret 
seal. Yet for twelve years the crown continued to oppose the 
claim of the baronage to control the privy seal, and repeatedly 
strove to evade carrying out the ordinance which had separated 
its custody from the controllership of the wardrobe. By 1316, 
Edward II. was strong enough to combine once more the two 
offices in the person of Thomas Charlton. Then came the baronial 
reaction in the York parliament of 1318, in which the principles 
of the ordinances were vindicated by the expulsion of Charlton 
from the controllership. He was permitted to retain the custody 
of the privy seal. That the separate custody of the seal in itself 
involved no radical consequences is clear, since the Household 
Ordinance of 1318 definitely laid down that the keeper of the 
seal, his office and his clerks were still to be a section of the house- 
hold, and that their salaries, allowances and status were to be 
those of the other wardrobe clerks. Yet this connection with the 
court gradually tended to become more nominal than real, and 
in the heyday of his triumph Edward was still dissatisfied with 
the situation. In 1320 the controllership and the keepership were 
once more combined under Kobert Baldock, and, when Baldock 
became chancellor in 1323, the union of the two offices was main- 
tained by conferring both of them on Robert Wodehouse.^ But 
Wodehouse gave up the privy seal after a few months, before 
he vacated the controllership of the wardrobe. With the former 
resignation the two offices were permanently separated. Thus an 
innovation forced upon a reluctant king by a rebellious baronage, 
after eleven years of struggle, was accepted by the monarch at the 
height of his power. He was now apparently satisfied that the 
secret seal would be a sufficient instrument of his personal wishes. 
It followed that the officialisation of the privy seal went on the 
faster, since that was now the accepted policy of all parties. 

^ See above, ii. 271. When I wrote that passage I was ignorant that Wode- 
house was made keeper of the seal as well as controller. However, M.R.K.E. 
105/153 makes it clear that he received the double appointment. He remained 
controller till Oct. 19, 1323, when he was appointed keeper of the wardrobe. 
He resigned the privy seal a little before this, because on Oct. 3 we find Mr. 
Robert Ayleston keeping it ; C. W. 124/6699, printed by Conway Davies, p. 578. 


Eventually an officialised seal tends to go out of court, and the 
stages of this process we shall see worked out in the two reigns 
which we now have to study. Yet ofl&cial conservatism remained 
strong, and relics of the original status of the privy seal still sur- 
vived after it had effectively become a seal of state, and its keeper 
a public minister of the crown. 

Baldock's acquiescence in the separation of the two offices, 
which he had held simultaneously for three years, was, no doubt, 
the more complete because he seems to have had a plan of his own 
for the privy seal. His sub j ection of the privy seal to the chancery, 
so that as chancellor he could control both the greater and the 
lesser secretarial offices, has already been described.^ It had, 
perhaps, an ultimate and permanent effect in helping to dis- 
sociate the privy seal from the wardrobe. More immediately it 
resulted in three chancery clerks in succession being appointed 
keepers of the privy seal. Had the policy been persevered in, it 
might have led to the setting up in England of a single great 
chancery, like the chancery of France, whose officers controlled all 
the sealing departments of the state. But the fall of Edward II. 
and the death of Baldock again opened the door to change. What 
would be the policy in relation to the privy seal of an administra- 
tion inspired by the ideals of the lords ordainers and bitterly 
hating Baldock and all his works ? 

Unfortunately the history of the privy seal in the early years 
of Edward III.'s reign is so obscure that a categorical answer to 
that question can hardly be given. A privy seal was, however, so 
necessary a part of the administrative machinery that the young 
king was at once provided with one, regardless of the precedent of 
the only previous minority, when there had been no privy seal 
until after Henry III. had personally assumed the government. 
That precedent, indeed, had been ignored already during the 
interregnum, when Edward of Windsor, ruling as regent jointly 
with his mother, had used his own privy seal as his instrument of 
government. 2 The first keeper of the new privy seal was Richard 
Airmyn, a chancery clerk, who had begun his official career as a 
clerk in the office of Edward II. 's privy seal. His brother William 
had transferred him to the chancery, but he had shared in William's 

1 See above, ii. 304-10. 
2 See above, ii. 309-10, and n. 1 ; iii. 2, 6. 



troubles under Edward II., and only came back from exile in the 
train of Isabella and Mortimer. His appointment was doubtless 
due to the influence of William,^ and shows a curious acceptance, 
by the leaders of the revolution, of Baldock's policy of staffing the 
privy seal with chancery clerks. But, after about a year of office, 
Richard retired to the keepership of the domus conversorum,^ 
leaving little evidence of his activity as keeper of the privy seal. 
Airmyn's successor, Adam Limber,^ broke the habit of pro- 
moting chancery clerks to control the domestic chancery of the 
crown. Limber belonged to the group of clerks from North 
Lindsey, which was so conspicuous in the royal service all through 
the fourteenth century. In Michaelmas term, 1309-10, he was the 
personal clerk of Ingelard Warley, keeper of Edward II.'s ward- 
robe.4 He was a king's clerk in 1310,5 and in 1311 was trans- 
ferred from the wardrobe to the exchequer, acting until 1322 as 
king's remembrancer.6 Then he was sent to Gascony as constable 
of Bordeaux,' where he remained until 1324,^ practically seneschal 
by reason of the illness, or incompetence, of the nominal holders 
of that office.9 After Edmund of Kent went to Gascony as king's 
lieutenant, Adam was sent back to England to collect forces for 
its defence, though he returned to Gascony in 1325, when Edward, 
the king's son, was its Again in England in 1326, his 
loyalty to Isabella and her son procured for him the keepership of 
the privy seal in succession to Airmyn. He is known to have been 

^ See above, ii. 218 ; iii. 3. 

2 The extreme dates which refer to Richard as keeper are March 1, 1327, and 
Feb. 18, 1328. I suspect he acted from the January parliament of 1327 to the 
eve of the Northampton parliament of April 1328. 

3 He is generally styled in records, " Adam of Lymbergh," but his name un- 
doubtedly comes from Great Limber, near Caistor, on the northern slope of the 
Lindsey wolds. 

* I.R. 149/1. 5 c. Pap. Reg. Let. ii. 81. 

6 In Cal. Inq. vii. 383, an old comrade in 1333 describes Limber as clerk in 
the wardrobe of the king's household from 1312 to 1315. His memory as to dates 
must have failed him, but his evidence confirms the testimony of the issue rolls. 
He was appointed remembrancer on Oct. 8, 1311; C.P.B., 1307-13 p 392 

' PL Edw. II. p. 397. ' 

8 G.C.R., 1330-33, p. 101. 

* His successor as constable was appointed on April 1 ; PI. Edw. II. p. 398. 
See above, iv. 74, for his longer stay abroad. 

" Adam left Gascony on Oct. 18, 1324, to coUect troops. He returned on 
May 10, 1325 ; C.G.R., 1330-33, pp. 100, 226, which shows he was not paid his 
expenses in 1330-31. Compare, however, ib., 1323-27, p. 603, which shows 
Adam in England in Aug. 1326. 


in office from early in 1327 to September 1329,^ but nothing very 
distinctive is recorded of his acts, and he was still regarded as a 
subordinate wardrobe official. While Limber was keeper, bishop 
Burghersh, the treasurer, was accused of having the privy seal 
completely under his control, so that the habit of obedience to the 
head of the exchequer survived in Adam after his own with- 
drawal from that office. ^ It is clear that during his custody the 
privy seal counted for little in the administration. At last he was 
removed to the gilded exile of the chancellorship of Ireland,^ 
returning home in 1334 as a baron of the exchequer,* and ending 
his career in 1339 after he had completed twenty-eight years of 

With Limber's successor, Richard Bury, a new epoch in the 
history of the privy seal began. There is no need to tell once 
more the story of Bury's remarkable career.^ His early advance 
suggests analogies with that of Limber.^ But as regards personal 
influence. Bury has a closer affinity to Robert Baldock. Both 
Baldock and Bury passed from the wardrobe to the privy seal, 
both made that office the half-way house to the chancery, and 
both enjoyed the implicit confidence of their sovereign. A proof 
of the increasing importance of the privy seal is that it was now 
thought promotion for the keeper of the wardrobe to be entrusted 
with the privy seal, for its earlier keepers had only held the same 
status as the controller of the wardrobe. In contrast to his short- 
lived predecessors. Bury held office for three years and a half, 
apparently from September 1329 to April 1333,'' We have seen 

1 He was probably appointed in Jan. 1327, and acted up to Sept. 23, 1329, 
that is, while Robert Wodehouse and Richard Bury were keepers of the ward- 
robe. He was " nuper custos " in April 1331, when he received a partial and 
belated payment of his expenses " extra curiam " ; I.R. 258/6. The wages and 
expenses of himself and his clerks were still not fully discharged in Jan. 1338, 
when he received a payment on account ; 46. 297/24. 

2 Rot. Pari. ii. 45-46. 

3 C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 82. This appointment was on Feb. 26, 1331. He was 
reappointed on July 16, 1334 ; ib. p. 568. 

« C.P.R., 1334-38, p. 46. 

5 See above, iii. 25-27, 43 ; iv. 74, 76. 

^ See above, iv. 74, n. 4. 

' These dates are conjectural, but I suspect that Bury received the custody 
of the privy seal immediately after he gave up the keepership of the wardrobe on 
Sept. 23, 1329, and that he only resigned on going to Avignon about April 7, 
1333 ; E.A. 386/11. We know that he was still keeper on Jan. 2, 1333 ; ib. 

6 THE PEIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

how he associated himself with William Montague in building 
up a court party in the household, which gained over the good- 
will of the pope, organised the coup d'etat of Nottingham Castle, 
and made Edward III. king in fact as well as in name.i Yet 
the keeper of the privy seal still worked by subterranean rather 
than by open channels. He still regarded himself as an officer 
" about the court," in contrast to the chancellor and treasurer, 
who concerned themselves with " the public affairs of the king- 
dom." 2 Under the conditions of Edward HI.'s minority, the 
king's confidant enjoyed little influence over the great officers 
of state. It is clear that bishop Burghersh, now chancellor, 
controlled the official acts of the privy seal under Bury with 
the same domineering violence that he had, when treasurer, 
shown in his dealings with Adam Limber.' 

In such circumstances the keeper of the privy seal was 
almost forced into duplicity. While Bury was conspiring with 
Montague to release his master from bondage, the magnates 
were complaining that Mortimer was using " writs of the targe " 
to exact fines, ransoms and unpopular foreign service.* Accord- 
ingly, it was not until after the fall of Mortimer that Bury's 
position was secure enough to enable him to employ the privy 
seal to further the interests of the prerogative. He then came 
into the open as a trusted servant of the king, the " beloved 
clerk " whose attendance at court was indispensable. When 
between April 4 and 20, 1331, Edward III. paid his sudden and 
mysterious visit to France, Bury accompanied his master to his 
secret interview with Philip VI. at Pont-Sainte-Maxence, mark- 
ing each stage of the journey by dated letters of privy seal.^ 

1 See above, iii. 27-28. 

2 Philobiblon, ch. viii., where Bury is made to speak of the facilities which his 
official position gave him to collect a store of books. The distinction is drawn 
between " various offices about the court " and " those concerning the public 
affairs of the kingdom, namely, the offices of chancellor and treasurer." The 
distinction is a contemporary one, and holds good whether or not Bury himself 
wrote the Philobiblon. 

^ See above, iii. 17. 

* Rot. Pari. ii. 52-53. " Item le dit Roger, par son dit royal poer, fit mander 
lettres desouz la targe as plusours grantz chivalers et autres q'ils venissent au 
roi, queu part q'il feust : et a lur venue les fist charger q'ils s'addressassent 
d'aler en Gascoigne, ou q'ils feissent fyns et raunsouns a sa volonte." This was 
one of the articles of Mortimer's condemnation. 

^ See above, iii. 9, 57, n. 1. The king's itinerary abroad has been reconsti- 
tuted by M. Deprez (Preliminaires, pp. 74-76) largely from the privy seals 


But Bury was also employed by Edward on duties quite outside 
those of his own office, notably in certain financial matters that 
suggest some connection with the increasingly important king's 
chamber. Thus, on the journey to Pont-Sainte-Maxence, Bury 
financed the expedition, mainly with moneys borrowed from 
the Bardi, and sent in elaborate accounts of his expenses, which 
are still preserved among the wardrobe accounts. ^ Yet again, in 
December 1332, we are told that " the king cannot be without 
the presence of his beloved clerk, Richard Bury, both because 
of things pertaining to the custody of the privy seal and for other 
reasons." 2 This suggests why one projected mission of Bury 
to Avignon did not take place. But before long he was certainly 
employed in France, and he was at Avignon between February 
and November 1333.^ We may infer that he, on leaving England, 
laid down the privy seal without any intention of resuming it, 
for, being appointed dean of Wells soon after, he then obtained 
a papal indult for non-residence for three years that he might 
study at some university.* However, he never used this per- 
mission, for, on October 14, he was papally provided to the 
bishopric of Durham, He thus passes away permanently from 
the history of the privy seal, though later he served Edward as 
chancellor, treasurer and diplomatist up to 1342. For us his 
special claim for consideration is that he raised the importance 
of the office of the privy seal. 

The extreme difficulty in determining who held the keeper- 
ship of the privy seal between 1333 and 1338 should warn us not 

drafted by Bury. He does not, however, mention Bury's participation in the 
journey, though he notes Wniiam Montague's attendance on the king. 

1 Enr. Accts. (W. and H.) 2/34. See, for details, above, iv. 236, and nn. 4 
and 5. The whole story brings out clearly the interdependence of the privy 
seal, the wardrobe and the chamber. 

2 C.G.R., 1330-33, p. 517 ; compare E.A. 383/12, " tarn propter ea que ad 
custodiam eiusdem sigilli pertinent quam ob alias causas carere non possumus." 
Thus, C.P.E., 1330-34, p. 98, appointed him and Sir Antonio di Passano to borrow 
the enormous sum of £50,000 in the king's name. The commission was " vacated 
by surrender," but it shows the extent to which he was empowered to deal with 
finance. He was soon in actual receipt of £8000 from the Bardi ; ib. p. 96. 

^ Deprez, Preliminaires, p. 94, n. 2. 

« C. Pap. Peg. Let. ii. 392. This is dated Aug. 25, 1333, when Bury was 
still at Avignon. He had been appointed to Wells by John XXII., who had 
already given him an indult for non-residence as being engaged in the king's 
service. Was the licence to study more than a more plausible excuse for absence 
from his deanery ? 

8 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

to exaggerate the immediate results of Bury's energetic tenure 
of the office. Between April 1333 and March 1334 I have found 
no record specifying by name the keeper of the privy seal. It 
is even possible that Bury himself was nominally continued as 
keeper during his mission to Avignon, perhaps resuming its 
duties after his return. The first mention that I have found 
of another keeper is on March 3, 1334, when Eobert Ayleston 
is described as holding that office.^ We know Ayleston already 
as an obscure keeper of the privy seal in 1323-24, some ten years 
before.^ After that he went back to his old office, the exchequer, 
acting as baron from 1324 to 1332, and as treasurer from March 
29, 1332, to February 3, 1334.3 It is strange that Ayleston 
should revert from the great office of treasurer to the inferior 
office of keeper of the privy seal, and the transition is the more 
remarkable since his successor as treasurer was Richard Bury 
himself, now bishop of Durham. My doubtful conclusion is 
that Bury may have continued in nominal charge of the seal, 
even when abroad, and that Ayleston, as treasurer, acted for 
him. When Bury returned, he exchanged offices with Ayleston. 
These special circumstances make me hesitate to point the obvious 
moral, that the appointment of the treasurer of the exchequer 
to keep the privy seal is an even more striking proof of the grow- 
ing estimation of that office than had been the appointment of 
the retiring keeper of the wardrobe to be keeper of the privy seal 
in 1329. But Ayleston could only have held his new office for 
a few weeks, for he was already dead on March 21, 1334, on 
which date a fresh presentation was made to a prebend at 
Hastings " void by the death of Mr. Robert of Ayleston." ^ 

The darkness that shrouds the succession to the privy seal is 
not yet lightened. We have no record of the date on which Robert 
Tawton began to act as keeper in 1334, though we know that he 
remained keeper of the wardrobe until July 30 of that year.^ 

1 C.C.R., 1333-37, pp. 198, 209, mandate to Ayleston to surrender to the 
exchequer muniments touching Scotland. Was this a transfer of privy seal 
documents to exchequer custody, or had Ayleston simply omitted to surrender 
them when he handed over the mass of exchequer records on relinquishing the 
treasury ? 

2 Above, ii. p. 305. 

3 lb. ; C.P.B., 1330-34, pp. 266, 511 ; Foedera, ii.839. 
« C.P.R., 1330-34, pp. 528, 547. 

^ For Tawton's work at the wardrobe and his earlier career, see above, 
Iv. 77-78. 


There may well have been some overlapping on transference 

from one post to another. But Tawton, an old servant of the 

martyred Stapeldon, was a man whom Edward III. delighted to 

honour,^ and it is significant that the transference of Tawton 

from wardrobe to privy seal is the second instance of such a 

promotion. How long Tawton remained keeper it is hard even 

to guess. A dark entry in the rolls of parliament for 1339 says 

that during his keepership he unjustly persuaded the king to take 

possession of the temporalities of the provostship of Wells, but 

leaves us ignorant as to when this seizure took place. ^ It looks as 

if he held the privy seal until his death, for he is described as 

keeper on October 28, 1334, and on February 4, 1335,^ and his 

death took place soon after the later date, since on February 22 a 

presentation was made to a prebend vacated by his death, and on 

the same day the writ for his post-mortem inquest was issued.* 

The next keeper was Mr. William de la Zouch, of whose earlier 

and later career we have already spoken.^ Like Tawton, he was 

promoted from the wardrobe, but while Tawton was keeper of the 

wardrobe, Zouch was only controller. From his resignation of the 

controllership on April 1, 1335, we may date his appointment to 

the privy seal, and the extreme duration of his custody of that is 

fixed by his appointment as treasurer of the exchequer on March 

24, 1337.^ We have record evidence that he was acting between 

November 30, 1335,' and March 18, 1337,8 on which latter date 

he was granted 1000 marks for his "faithful and laborious services 

in Scotland, which he does not cease to render, in retaining men- 

^ Foedera, ii. 866-867, shows Edward's successive attempts in 1333 to 
procure for Ayleston and Tawton a provision to the bishopric of St. Andrews. 

2 Rot. Pari. ii. 109-110 vaguely dates Tawton's action as " au temps q'il 
porta le prive seal." He was already provost in 1333 (C. Pap. Reg. Let. ii. 
387), but his possession of this sinecure was disputed. See, for the whole question, 
T. S. Holmes' Register of Ralph of Shrewsbury, I. lix-lxviii. It may have been 
Tawton's vengeance on his opponent. 

3 I.R. 279. 

* C.P.R., 1334-38, p. 79, records a presentation on that date to a prebend 
voided by his death. For the writ for his post-mortem inquest, see Cat. Inq. vii. 
451. His brother succeeded to his small property in Devonshire. 

^ For Zouch's career see above, iii. 43-44, 55, 116-118; iv. 81, especially 
n. 4, and 396. 

6 C.P.R., 1334-38, p. 409. 

' C. Pap. Reg. Let. ii. 524, where he is called " queen's clerk and keeper of 
the king's secret seal," in a letter of the queen asking the pope to prefer him. 

^ LR. 294 shows an overlap, for he is called keeper on May 7, though his 
successor was acting on that date. 

10 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

at-arms and others with him," Such services stood in the way of 
Zouch's performing the routine duties of his ofl&ce. Thus, on June 
29, 1336, the king, who was at Perth, did not know where his 
keeper of the privy seal was, and therefore was unable to send a 
warrant under that seal to his chancellor in England, but was 
compelled to send instead a writ of secret seal to obtain an im- 
mediate patent for a grant of lands.^ Zouch came of warrior 
stock and was especially busy against the Scots, retaining his 
martial habits even when archbishop of York.* 

The next keeper was Mr. Eichard of Bynte worth, that is, of 
Bentworth, Hampshire. We find him acting from April 28, 
1337,3 to July 2, 1338.^ A doctor of civil law, his early career was 
that of an ecclesiastical lawyer. However, in 1315 he was sworn 
on Edward II. 's council,5and in 1334,andfor the next three years, 
he was mainly employed as a king's clerk in important missions 
to Scotland, France and the papal curia, his salary indicating that 
he was a man of high rank.^ He was still holding the privy seal 
when on May 4, 1338, he was elected bishop of London. He 
received his temporalities on May 24,' and was consecrated on 
July 12. As bishop-elect he was transferred, on July 6, from privy 
seal to chancery.^ On December 8, 1339, he died. 

With Bentworth's retirement from the keepership the first 
stage in the history of the privy seal under Edward III. came to an 
end. Though it is difficult to trace accurately the work of the 
privy seal during the first twelve years of his reign, or even to give 
precisely the periods of office of each keeper, we may well believe 

1 The writ in C.W. 1330/22 is printed in Maxwell-Lyte's Great Seal, p. 104, 
with interesting comments. 

2 For his part in the battle of Neville's Cross see Lanercost, p. 350, and 
Anonimalle Chron., pp. 24-27. 

3 C.C.R., 1337-39, p. 130. lb. p. 157, he is called "the king's clerk and 

* lb. p. 442 : Order to exchequer to pay his wages within the court and his 
daily expenses without it, according to a bill of the keeper of the wardrobe. 
Compare ib. p. 291, a mandate of Feb. 6 to the keeper of the wardrobe, to pay 
wages of 20s. a day when out of court and the ' ' accustomed wages and fees 
within court." 

5 lb., 1318-23, p. 503. 

6 See, for instance, G.P.B., 1330-34, p. 664 ; ib., 1334-38, pp. 3, 23, 157, 
301, 347. He also served on commissions at home ; ib., 1334-38, p. 143. His 
salary was always at the high rate of 13s. 4:d. a day in England and 205. a day 
beyond seas, with an allowance for expenses ; C.C.E., 1333-37, pp. 285, 546-547, 

^ C.P.R., 1338-40, p. 86. s Foedera, ii. 1047. 


that, as a public instrument, it was becoming increasingly im- 
portant. Its keepersliip was at least a stage higher in the official 
hierarchy than it had been ; its clerks men of greater capacity 
and promise, and its action looked upon with less suspicion than 
under the ordainers ; it was, indeed, moving towards the position 
of a lesser office of state. Yet the clerks of the seal still had their 
quarters in Westminster palace,^ and were still " staying con- 
tinually " with the king. 2 All the keepers continued to be de- 
scribed as household clerks, resident continually with the king ; 
they took wages and allowances from the wardrobe ; and both 
Bentworth and Bury only went out of the household when they 
were promoted to the chancery and treasury. Two new conditions 
were, however, now imposed upon this seal. A new role was as- 
signed to it by the Walton ordinances, and the French war took 
it away from England for years together with the king. It was, 
besides, to be administered by the ablest and most radical of 
Edward's officers, William Kilsby. Not unnaturally a new era 
dawned in its history. 

The story of the Walton ordinances has already been told,^ 
and there is no need here to do more than recapitulate, in outline, 
the part assigned by them to the privy seal. Both chancery and 
exchequer were to be, in a sense, subject to its control by an 
extension of the principle of requiring warrants under privy seal 
as the condition precedent to the issue of chancery writs or of 
exchequer payments. Chancery was forbidden to issue writs, 
outside ordinary routine, without authorisation under the privy 
seal. This, in effect, threw upon the privy seal the obligation, 
already largely assumed, to draft the substance, even the phrasing, 
of a multitude of chancery writs. The chancery clerks were 
content, as a rule, to copy, or translate, the words of their warrant, 
and it followed that those who fixed the form of the writs were, in 
the long run, likely to suggest the policy underlying them. In the 

1 See E.A. 469/13, which shows that from 4-7 Edward III. there was a 
" camera clericorum de priuato sigillo sub scaccario," the door of which was 
then under repair. I owe this reference to Miss Ivy M. Cooper. The significance 
of this must not be strained. Residence with the king was incompatible with 
residence at Westminster. I suspect " camera " here only means the head- 
quarters of the office. 

2 For instance, Henry Ingelby in 1341, and Reginald Donington in 1342 ; 
C.P.B., 1340-43, pp. 119, 392. 

* See above, iii. 69-71. 

12 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

same way tlie exchequer was forbidden to make payments without 
either a chancery writ of liberate, warranted by privy seal, or a 
direct privy seal mandate. To ensure compliance with these 
requirements, privy seal warrants for issue were to be enrolled and 
counter-rolled, and both rolls and counter-rolls were to be pro- 
duced at an annual audit before a special auditing committee. 

There was nothing in these provisions to make the keeper of 
the seal a minister of state, like the chancellor or the treasurer. 
On the contrary, his special function was not to collaborate with 
the officers of state, but rather to check, control and criticise their 
action in the interests of the royal prerogative. The most in- 
genious sections of the Walton ordinances were those which com- 
bined the old machinery of the wardrobe secretariat with the new 
machinery of the glorified and enlarged chamber.^ By them the 
keeper of the privy seal and the clerk of the chamber were given 
joint supervision and control over the ordinary ministers of the 
crown. It is unlikely that this control was ever effective ; it is not 
even certain that it was ever brought into operation. Yet the 
idea underlying it was clearly to use the privy seal to safeguard pre- 
rogative interests by keeping a strict watch over the great officers 
of state. Put in the terms of the moment, the practical problem 
was how to carry on the war. That problem could be most easily 
solved by subjecting the ministers of state to the combined control 
of chamber, wardrobe and privy seal. The ministries remained in 
England ; the household and the privy seal went abroad with the 
king. In effect it was the control of the state by the household, 
and the chief instrument of the household was the privy seal. 

Other conditions complicated the problem of the position 
of the privy seal. The Walton ordinances dealt simply with it 
as a source of warrants to chancery and exchequer ; but already 
it had become a normal method of directly declaring the royal 
will. Those writs, which had direct or original force, were at 
least as numerous as, and a great deal more important than, 
those which simply set in motion the machinery of the chancery.^ 
Action by writ of privy seal was becoming so common, within 

^ For the expansion of the chamber at this period, see above, iv. 238-311. 

* It is unfortunate that M. Deprez in his Etudes de diplomatique anglaise 
bases his account of the privy seal almost exclusively on chancery warrants, 
and so tends to obscure the more vital and original aspects of its operations. 


certain limitations, that men were beginning to see in action 
through the privy seal as much a matter of course as action 
inspired by writ of chancery. Though there was still some 
suspicion of the writ of privy seal interfering in legal proceedings, 
we seldom now read of the complaints of the abuses of the privy 
seal which were so common under Edward I. and Edward II. 
We have seen how the writ of privy seal was ousting the chancery 
writ of liberate as a mandate for exchequer issues. Already the 
summoning of councils, even great councils, by privy seal had 
become usual,i leaving the great seal for the convocation of 
solemn parliaments. And the daily transactions of the king's 
council came so often to be enforced by writs of privy seal that, 
before long, the office of privy seal was largely utilised as a 
council secretariat, just as chancery supplied parliament with 
the clerks who recorded its proceedings, carried out its routine 
work and formulated its methods of conducting business. As a 
result of such developments, the keeper of the privy seal was 
becoming a third minister of state, to be named with, though 
after, the two traditional great ofl&cers. There is an obvious 
confusion here, for there is a plain incompatibility between the 
privy seal as a control of ministers and the privy seal as a minis- 
terial office. Could an inchoate ministry of state control effect- 
ively the well-established offices the chancery and exchequer ? 
Was not the task imposed upon the privy seal at Walton an- 
tagonistic to its natural development towards independence as 
another office of state ? 

The Middle Ages were not logical, and contradictory tend- 
encies lurked in other departments than that of the privy seal. 
Moreover, immediate practical conditions overbore any possible 
theoretical considerations. Inevitably then the particular cir- 
cumstances of the moment postponed the solution of theoretical 
questions until quieter times. All other considerations were 
subordinate to that of carrying through the campaigning in the 
Netherlands and compelling the ministers in England to supply 
the king and his soldiers with the sinews of war. As the means 
of controlling and coercing the chancery and treasury, which 

^ Under Edward II. councils had apparently often been summoned under 
privy seal, especially when the king was at a distance from the spot where they 
were to meet ; see instances in Conway Da vies, pp. 574-576. 

14 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

were left at home in England, the scheme of the Walton ordi- 
nances seemed admirably designed, the more so since the whole 
privy seal staff, and the effective part of the chamber staff, were 
in attendance on the king in the Netherlands. Yet the stream 
of mandates that flowed from Brabant to Westminster failed 
to produce the desired results. Chancery and treasury could 
not send the king what it had not got, and there appeared no 
way of stimulating them into greater activity. Accordingly the 
Walton policy of control broke down almost as soon as it was 

The development of the privy seal as a third ministry fared 
otherwise. The very fact that the energetic Kilsby received 
the seal at the moment of the king's departure to the Nether- 
lands showed that Edward intended to make his favourite 
chamber clerk the autocrat of the administration overseas. 
Following the precedent of Edward I. and John Benstead in 
1297-98, Kilsby was given the custody of the great seal, which 
accompanied the king abroad, even though its chancellor re- 
mained in England. This made Kilsby, in Mr. Kingsford's 
happy anticipation of modern phrase, " at once minister in 
attendance and the king's private secretary." ^ We might go 
further and call Kilsby the " sole minister " or the " prime 
minister " of the king abroad. How thoroughly he did his work 
we have seen already. ^ There is no wonder that the foreign 
allies who thronged Edward's camp and court called Kilsby 
the king's chancellor, and Kilsby was not likely to be displeased 
by such an address. Anyhow, he is styled " William Kilsby 
our chancellor," in a royal letter of which he doubtless had the 
drafting, and in an indenture between the king, the keeper of 
the privy seal and the keeper of the wardrobe (Norwell, called 
" our treasurer "), on the one hand, and on the other various 
merchants to whom jewels were issued by way of wages.^ Nor was 
this without precedent. Had not great Petrarch called Richard 
Bury chancellor when he was only keeper of the privy seal ? ^ 

1 See the late C. L. Kingsford's valuable paper on " John de Benstede and 
his missions," in Essays in History -presented to R. L. Poole, ed. H. W. C. Davis 
(Oxford, 1927), pp. 332-359, especiaUy pp. 335-337. 

2 See above, iii. 84-87, and especially pp. 99-100 and notes. 
» Chan. Misc. 30/8 ; Anc. Deeds, L.S. 303. 

* See above, iii. 100, n. 2. 


Beyond the Pyrenees, was not the keeper of the small seal 
habitually called a chancellor ? 

Kilsby's custody of the two seals meant that he controlled 
both the whole staff of the privy seal office, which had followed 
him abroad, and the group of chancery clerks which had gone 
with the great seal to the Netherlands. ^ Among the privy seal 
clerks was John Winwick, and conspicuous among the chancery 
clerks was Dr. John Thoresby, king's notary. Both these men 
we shall hear of again as keepers of the privy seal. Moreover, 
Kilsby was still closely bound to his old comrades of the chamber, 
notably to Thomas Hatfield, his successor as clerk of the chamber, 
and to John Ofiord, who, though not specifically connected with 
the chamber, was in the Netherlands with a staff of clerks, learn- 
ing, doubtless, how to take Kilsby's place when he vacated the 
keepership. Kilsby had, therefore, an exceptionally strong 
group of fellow-workers, but he alone of the clerks belonged to 
the little band that controlled policy. Small wonder that, with 
everything at his feet, he even, upon occasion, imported some of 
the technique of the privy seal ofiice into the drafting of chancery 
writs. 2 Kilsby was thus more than a third minister of state ; 
he was the sole minister of state controlling policy, and his man- 
dates to chancellor and treasurer in England were simple injunc- 
tions to carry out the king's wishes and supply him with the 
necessary funds. Moreover, the precedent set in 1338 for con- 
ferring on the keeper of the privy seal the custody of the great 
seal when the king was abroad was faithfully followed for the 
next twenty years. It was last observed in 1359-60 in the 
double keepership, in France, of Winwick,^ who, as a clerk of 
the privy seal, had had the advantage of personal contact with 
the working of KUsby's dual charge in the Netherlands. No 
wonder the net result was the consolidation of the keepership 
as a quasi-political office, and the employment of privy seal 
writs in diplomatic and other business of high importance. The 
wonder is that it took another generation to complete the process. 
But this was the result of mediaeval conservatism, in no wise 
mitigated by the fantastic role claimed for the keeper in the 
Walton ordinances. These had ceased to be operative before 

^ See above, iii. 85-87. ^ ggg above, iii. 86, n. 7. 

3 See above, iii. 222-223, 225-227. 

16 THE PRIVY SEAL oh. xvi 

Edward left the Netherlands, and neither the king nor Kilsby 
showed the slightest desire to revive them during the consider- 
able span of curialist predominance that followed. 

Back in England with Edward III. in February 1340, Kilsby 
received expenses for himself and clerks extra curiam from Febru- 
ary 20 to May 26.^ His position was obscured by the Stratfordian 
reaction, and it is, perhaps, significant that he did not return to 
Flanders with the king in June. However, little help came from 
the English ministers, and soon the king called back Kilsby to his 
councils. It would be interesting to know what happened to the 
privy and great seals between Edward's departure in June and 
that of Kilsby more than a month later. ^ We only know that, 
when he reached the Netherlands, he was again made keeper of 
the two seals, and became the instigator, or chief agent, of the 
king's bid for freedom in November 1340. To recount in detail 
Kilsby 's share in that project would be to tell a tale already told.^ 
But his simultaneous custody, from November 30 to December 14, 
of the great seal, of the privy seal and of the rolls of chancery * 
must not be regarded as an indication that he aspired to be sole 
minister in England as beyond the sea. Rather it was as the agent 
of the most violent acts of the angry king that Kilsby took the 
lead, denouncing archbishop Stratford to the Londoners in the 
Guildhall,^ or making his way to Canterbury, on pretext of a 
pilgrimage, to entice Stratford out of sanctuary, and summon 
him in the public streets to cross the seas to Brabant.^ Naturally 
the behaviour of Kilsby excited the severest opposition. Parlia- 
ment was, indeed, so hostile that he only escaped its denunciations 
by his silent withdrawal from the parliament chamber. Inevit- 
ably the victorious opposition demanded the appointment of 
ministers in parliament, and, borrowing the very language of the 
ordainers, insisted upon the nomination of un clerk couenable pur 
garder son priue seaU In the view of the conservative magnates 

1 M.B.E. 203/96d. 

2 He was preparing to depart with his men and horses on July 24 ; C.C.R., 
1339-41, p. 434. 

» See above, iii. 119-133. 

« Foedera, ii. 1142. b Murimuth, p. 118. 

® Lit. Cantuar. ii. 226-231, where prior Eastry gives a vivid account of 
Kilsby's scandalous and undignified behaviour. 

' Rot. Pari. ii. 128. In this petition the keeper of the privy seal figures on 
the list after the keeper and controller of the wardrobe, but, in the petition that 


he was still a mere officer of the household, without right to take 
a place among the magnates of the land.^ 

Despite the estates, Edward retained Kilsby as keeper of the 
privy seal. He was no longer able to pose as a leading minister, 
but he took part, at the head of a considerable force, in the king's 
early winter campaign in Scotland in 1341, though he was back 
in London by January 18, 1342. Between that day and June 4, 
Kilsby received from the wardrobe expenses for himself and his 
clerks, being extra curiam at London and elsewhere for the king's 
council for ninety-two days. ^ On the latter date he vacated the seal, 
certainly not in disgrace but rather because he preferred to take a 
prominent share in the projected campaign in Brittany. ^ With this 
his political career came to an end. His subsequent adventures as 
soldier and pilgrim have little relation to administrative history. 

A successor to him was found in Mr. John Offord, archdeacon 
of Ely, his close associate in the Netherlands in 1338-39.* Since 
then, Ofiord's main occupations had been diplomatic. He was 
sent straight to the papal court at Avignon, where, from May 
1339 to May 1340, he was king's proctor.^ On April 5, 1342, he 
was made chief commissioner to treat with the French for a truce,^ 
and on May 24 he was sent, with others, to the Netherlands to 
negotiate with Edward's allies there.'' This embassy was, how- 
ever, diverted from its purpose as soon as it had crossed the 
Channel, when, at the request of a papal envoy, Offord alone, on 
the authority of a writ dated June 4, was despatched to France to 

officers should be sworn to keep the law, he is put before the keeper of the ward- 
robe. In both he is placed among the officers of the household. 

1 See above, iii. 131-132. 

« M.B.E. 204/82 : " Domino Willelmo de Kildesby, custodi priuati sigilli, 
moranti de precepto regis apud Londinium et aUbi extra curiam ad consilium 

ipsius domini regis per iiij xij dies per vices, inter xviij™ diem Jan. anno xv° et 
iiijro diem Junii proximum sequentem, percipient! per diem xxs. pro expensis 
suis, iiij xij. ?i." He was still acting as keeper on May 15; C.P.R., 1340-43, 
pp. 432-433. 3 See above, iii. 162-163, 169. 

* M.B.E. 203/134d. shows Offord received 2 marks a day for wages and 
expenses of himself and his clerks, and also wages for nine men-at-arms, from 
July 22, 1338, to May 27, 1339. See also above, iii. 160, n. 2. His name derives 
from the Huntingdonshire Offords, with both of which he had relations ; G.G.R., 
1330-33, p. 473 ; ib., 1337-39, p. 164. 

s M.B.E. 203/121 shows that, from May 28, 1339, to May 27, 1340, at least, 
he was " procurator regis in curia romana," receiving for his office 50 marks 
in the wardrobe. 

6 Foedera, ii. 1191. ' Ib. ii. 1196. 


18 THE PEIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

treat for peace.^ There is no doubt that Oiiord was also appointed 
in absence keeper of the privy seal on Kilsby's retirement on the 
same June 4, 1342, for on that day Mr. John Thoresby was as- 
signed by king and council to keep the privy seal " while Mr. John 
Offord, keeper of the same seal, was engaged on the king's business 
beyond sea." ^ It is seldom up to this date that we can fix 
precisely by record evidence the appointment of a new keeper 
and the outgoing of his predecessor. 

During Offord's absence the whole burden of the seal fell on 
his deputy. The clerks and office of the seal were plainly with 
him, and he received the normal twenty shillings a day for his 
expenses and those of his clerks from June 4 to 24. On this later 
date Offord seems to have come back from a short and unsuc- 
cessful mission, and to have taken over the seal and clerks from 
Thoresby. At least more normal means were provided for the 
maintenance of the office. We learn, however, that Offord was 
still seldom in court. Between June 24, 1342, and May 31, 1343, 
he was away 150 days, at the council in London, and elsewhere 
on the king's business, drawing the usual twenty shillings ex- 
penses for each of these days.^ Similarly, between May 31, 1343, 
and April 10, 1344, he was much out of court, chiefly at London 
for the council.* Thus in less than two years this nominal 
household officer was 428 days out of court — more often, indeed, 
out of court than within it. We know that during the earlier part 
of the former period he was in Brittany with the king's expedition, 
between October 5, 1342,^ and March 2, 1343.^ Between these 

^ Foedera, ii. 1199, from the French roll. It is much to be wished that the 
Public Record Office would lighten the path of the diplomatic historian by 
calendering these French rolls, now unhappily named " treaty rolls." 

2 M.B.E. 204/161 : " Magistro Johanni de Thoresby, clerico assignato per 
regem et consilium suum ad portandum et custodiendum sigillum regis priuatum, 
dummodo magister Johannes Dufford, custos eiusdem sigilli, extitit in 
negociis regis in partibus transmarinis pro expensis suis et clericorum eiusdem 
sigilli a iiij° die Junii anno regis xvi° usque xxiiij™ diem eiusdem mensis, 
utroque die computato, per xxi dies, percipienti per diem xxs. . . . xxi^i." 

3 M.B.E. 204/82 : " Johanni Dufford, clerico, custodi priuati sigilh, assignato 
per regem ad morandum ad consilium ipsius regis apud London, et ahbi extra 
curiam circa negocia ipsius domini regis per cl. dies . . . cl. li." 

« lb. 204/83d. 

^ Foedera, ii. 1212, the date when he received the great seal on shipboard at 

* lb. ii. 1220, the date when he restored the great seal to chancellor Parving 
at Westminster. 


dates Ofiord, like Kilsby before him, kept both the great and the 
privy seals, and was accompanied in his wanderings beyond sea 
by the clerks of his office. He followed the usual fashion of serv- 
ing as a banneret with a considerable retinue, but his chief work 
was perhaps the negotiation of the truce of Malestroit.^ Even 
when back in England, he was, as we have seen, still more often 
the minister of state, attending councils outside the court, than the 
household servant, following the court from place to place. The 
council had so far become a council of government that it met, 
normally at London, outside the court. The privy seal was 
already so important as the seal normally used for giving executive 
force to conciliar action that it was more necessary for its keeper 
to be with the council than with the court. OfEord may have been 
exceptional, but the precise details we have of his movements 
show how the keeper was becoming a minister of state. 

No doubt Ofiord's special value as a diplomatist enhanced the 
tendency, already strong, for the keeper of the privy seal to be 
more often out of court than within it. Appointed by papal 
provision to the deanery of Lincoln, Ofiord was, within six months 
of his return from Brittany, sent on a strong special embassy to 
Avignon to treat of a final peace with France. His description in 
the writ of appointment as keeper of the privy seal shows that 
there was no intention of making this foreign service involve his 
resignation. 2 To the hopeless quest of peace was later added the 
more practical demand for a dispensation for a double marriage 
between the reigning houses of England and Brabant.^ He was 
long at Avignon without discharging either mission. The length 
of his stay must have resulted in other hands being called upon 
to keep the privy seal. Of his subsequent distinguished career as 
chancellor and archbishop elect, and of his death from the plague, 
we have spoken already.* 

Thomas Hatfield, the chamber clerk who had succeeded Kilsby 
as receiver of the chamber, and had been constantly in attendance 

1 Murimuth, p. 130. 

^ Foedera, iii. 18. In this act, dated August 3, he is " magistrum J. de 
Offord, decanum Lincolnie at custodem priuati sigilli nostri.'" See also above, 
iu. 160, n. 2. 

* Foedera, iii. 25. In this act, dated October 26, Offord is " dilectum secre- 
tarium nostrum." He was still at Avignon on January 20, 1345 ; ib. p. 27. 
Thoresby was among his associates. 

* See above, iii. 160-161, 206. 

20 THE PEIVY SEAL oh. xvi 

on Edward both, at home and abroad/ was promoted from that 
office to the keepership of the privy seal. We have positive 
record that by October 12, 1344, it was known at Avignon that 
he was already acting as keeper. ^ Like his predecessors, he was 
followed to the wars by a contingent of men-at-arms. We know 
little of his activities as keeper, the only occasions on which he 
received that name in the close rolls being when mandates were 
issued to the keepers of the wardrobe to pay him his accustomed 
wages and expenses out of court.^ Before he went out of office 
he was on May 8, 1345, elected by the unwilling monks as bishop 
of Durham, in succession to a former keeper, Kichard Bury. 
The pope ignored the election, but appointed him by provision.^ 
It is perhaps symptomatic of the increasing dignity of the privy 
seal that Hatfield retained its custody for some time after his 
election and provision. He was still keeper on June 23, but on 
July 3 Edward III. went to Flanders. Hatfield, forced to stay 
in England for his consecration, had to give up the seal, being 
consoled, perhaps, by being put on the council of regency.^ This 
loose and lay-minded official had a long career as a bishop, dis- 
tinguished only by his munificence as a builder in his cathedral 
and castle, and as carrying out at Oxford some of his prede- 
cessor Bury's literary schemes. He obtained from Clement VI. 
a qualified exemption from the jurisdiction of the archbishop 
of York, but remained constantly at variance with him. It is 
interesting that, later on, his metropolitan was his successor at 
the privy seal, John Thoresby. 

Thoresby's earlier and later careers are well known to us.^ 
Since 1341 he had been keeper of the chancery rolls,' and he 
was the first chancery clerk to keep the privy seal since Eichard 

1 For him, see above, iii. 87, 114, 169 ; iv. pp. 257, 287-288. He had never 
taken " a degree in science," and was later described as " fearing not the rod 
of discipline"; C. Pap. R. Pet. i. 472. Yet the papal chancery sometimes 
describes him as " master" ; ib. Let. iii. 79. 

* C. Pap. R. Let. iii. 11, summarises a letter from Avignon, dated October 12, 
addressed to him as "keeper of the secret seal," and another of November 21 
as " king's secretary." Both these phrases mean, I think, to a clerk of the 
papal curia, keeper of the privy seal. 

3 C.C.R., 1343-46, pp. 511 and 536. The dates were April 6 and June 23, 

* See above, iii. 220 and n. 3. 

5 C.P.R., 1343-45, p. 487. 

6 See above, iii. 85-86, 115, 168-169, 176, 206-207, 212, 214-217, 442 ; iv. 123. 

7 C.C.R., 1341-43, p. 118; Foedera, ii. 1151. 


Aii'myn.^ However, his early experience had included the 
direction of the chamber of his original patron, archbishop 
Melton, and he had been in close association with the last three 
keepers of the privy seal, acquiring direct insight into his new 
duties when, in June 1342, he had acted as temporary keeper 
during Offord's absence abroad. The definite appointment of 
Thoresby may be safely dated July 3, 1345, the day Edward III, 
began his short and abortive Flemish visit, which lasted until 
July 30. Thoresby accompanied his master and, like Kilsby 
and Offord before him, combined the custody of the great seal 
with that of the privy seal, receiving the great seal on July 3, 
when on shipboard at Sandwich, and returning it to chancellor 
Sadington on July 30 at Westminster. ^ Next year he similarly 
accompanied Edward on his memorable march through Normandy 
to the gates of Paris, witnessing the victory of Crecy and the 
long siege of Calais, attended, of course, by his armed comitiua. 
On July 2, 1346, Oiford, now chancellor, delivered to Thoresby 
the great seal before the altar of Fareham church and received 
from him the " seal of absence." All through the expedition the 
great seal seems to have been reserved for emergencies, and the 
mass of correspondence between the king and the administration 
in England, drafted by Thoresby, was authenticated by privy 
seal. Such correspondence was, of course, impossible while 
Edward was marching up the Seine valley, but it reappeared 
when he settled down in fixed quarters before the walls of Calais. 
During the siege of Calais the dual government of the English 
regency and of the officials attending the king worked more 
satisfactorily than at any other time, as is well illustrated by 
the letters of privy seal sent from before Calais to the author- 

^ See above, ii. 306, n. 1 ; and v. 5-6. 

2 Foedera, iii. 50, 53. In the earlier close roll endorsement the name of the 
recipient of the great seal is not mentioned, but in the latter it is definitely 
said that Thoresby, " custos priuati sigilli regis," transferred the great seal to 
the chancellor. I feel sure that Oflord, on joining the regent's council on 
July 1, surrendered the privy seal, and that Thoresby at once succeeded him. 
The omission to mention his office on July 3 was probably accidental, but 
possibly Thoresby's appointment was not complete at the earlier date. It 
is certain, however, that he kept both seals on and beyond the sea, and was 
paid £60 on October 14, 1345, as expenses " extra curiam " and as wages for 
liimself and his men-at-arms. He also obtained (I.R. 336/4) part payment of 
his arrears in NorweU's time, i.e. from July 11, 1338, to May 17, 1340 ; Enr.Accts. 
{W.and H.) 2/2, 15, 37. This was, of course, long before his keepership. 

22 THE PRIVY SEAL en. xvi 

ities in England. The presence, with Thoresby, of the whole 
staff of the privy seal secured the efficiency of the office as a 
single secretariat attached to the king's person.^ Its activity 
can be traced, not only in the numerous surviving writs of privy 
seal of the period,^ but also in the records in the issue rolls of 
the wages and expenses of Thoresby, his clerks and his troop 
of soldiers.^ The mechanism, which worked indifferently while 
the king was moving from place to place, ran smoothly enough 
throughout the long stay of Edward before the walls of Calais, 
when the administration hitherto used for the army was de- 
veloped to complement the administration left behind in England. 
Under such conditions the privy seal and its office proved quite 
competent to discharge the functions of the chancery as well 
as to keep the administration with the king in close and har- 
monious touch with the regency. Without design, or conscious- 
ness of innovation, the privy seal approached more and more 
towards the status of a new ministry of state. 

Thoresby's position was eminently strong. He had under 
him such competent and rising clerks as Bolton and Newbold, 
Ingelby and Winwick, the two latter being of considerable im- 
portance in the growth of the privy seal. To them we must 
add the veteran John Carlton, a man of thirty years' experience 
in the office, and raised from it to be a member of the king's 
council beyond the seas. Kilsby himself was with the army 
until his death at Calais in September 1346. Another ex- 
keeper, Hatfield, now bishop of Durham, was present, while 
a third, John Offord, controlled the secretariat in England as 
chancellor. So well equipped was the privy seal office that it 
could go on by itself, even in the absence of its chief. When 
personal liaison between the home and beyond seas governments 
was required, sometimes Thoresby himself went over to England. 
Thus, in September 1346, out of a delegation of five household 
officers, sent to inform the parliament of the victory of Calais, 

1 For all these points, see also above, iii. 164-170, and the authorities there 
quoted in the notes. 

2 Notably in the writs printed by Viard and Deprez, Chronique de Jean le Bel, 
ii. pp. 337-352. 

' See especially, Wetwang's wardrobe accounts in E.A. 390/12. See also 
I.R. 339, 340. Many of the references are conveniently brought together in 
Wrottesley's Crecy and Calais. 


one was Thoresby and another was John Carlton. In England 
Thoresby seems to have continued to issue writs of privy seal 
despite the fact that the king himself was still before the walls 
of Calais. 1 On his return to Calais, he went away, in October, 
on what proved an abortive mission, to treat before two cardinals 
with " our adversary of France." ^ Before February 19, 1347, 
he was once more back in England, reporting " certain secret 
matters touching the king " to the council at home,^ and on yet 
a third occasion was sent from Calais to London, receiving each 
time a grant for expenses.* Thoresby was still in office when, 
on May 23, he was appointed bishop of St. David's by papal 
provision.^ He was described as keeper, even in August,^ but 
before his consecration, on September 23, the privy seal had 
passed from him to Mr. Simon Islip. Of Thoresby's subsequent 
glories as chancellor and archbishop of York, enough has already 
been said. His career was more distinguished than that of any 
previous keeper of the privy seal. 

Simon Islip was an Oxford doctor of laws and a canon lawyer 
by profession until the favour of archbishop Stratford brought 
him into the king's service through the channel of diplomacy. 
Engaged in 1345 on the king's council,' he came into prominence 
as a member of the council of regency for Lionel, the king's son, 
during Edward III.'s absence beyond sea in 1346-47. His 
position on the board of regency is further evidence of the grow- 
ing tendency to regard the privy seal as an ordinary part of the 
machine of state, for he owed his appointment to the fact that he 
had been made keeper of the regent's special privy seal. Earlier 
regents had had their lesser seal for official purposes. But this 
seal seems to have been their personal seal, though used 

1 See above, iii. 168, nn. 2 and 3. 

2 Foedera, iii. 92. 

^ C.C.R., 1346-49, p. 238. His associate this time was Ralph, baron of 

* I.R. 339/32, 41, 44. On the last occasion the amount was £100. 

* C. Pap. R. Let. iii. 240, where the provision describes him as " bishop 
elect," a phrase suggesting an earlier election. 

* G. Pap. R. Let. iii. 218; cf . 225, where he is also called by the papal chancery 
" keeper of the secret seal." Edward III.'s petition for his reservation for the 
deanery of Lichfield more accurately describes him as keeper of the privy seal ; 
ib. Pet. p. 115. 

' C.P.R., 1343-45, p. 536. He was granted an annuity of 50 marks " that 
he might better support the charges thereby incumbent upon him." 

24 THE PEIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

freely for the authentication of state documents. Ordinarily, 
the sons of Edward III. had not both great and privy seals. 
They had but one seal, with one keeper and one sealing 
office, and that single seal was of the privy seal type. When 
the king's son, however tender were his years, became regent, 
he needed a great, as well as a privy, seal. This great seal 
was supplied by the seal of absence kept by the chancellor. 
Similarly the personal seal of the young regent took the place of 
the privy seal, and, as we have seen, the " regent's warrants," 
which go back to the thirteenth century,^ were documents issued 
under these seals. 

Despite these precedents, there was a modest element of 
innovation in the sealing arrangements for the regency of Lionel 
of Antwerp in 1346-47. To begin with, a special seal for Lionel 
as keeper was made and paid for by the exchequer. ^ Moreover, 
an " office of the keeper's seal " was set up as a government 
department, which was provided with the wax and parchment 
necessary for its operations at the cost of the king's wardrobe. 
Secondly, over this new office a special keeper of the regent's seal 
was set, and the choice for this post of so experienced and able a 
king's clerk as Mr. Simon Islip,^ and his appointment as one of the 
select council of regency, show that both the personal and the 
official importance of the position were strongly stressed. As far 
as possible, Islip's position was assimilated to that of the keeper 
of the privy seal, though he was officially styled " keeper of the 
regent's seal," and the seal itself, a seal of the privy seal type, was 
called the " regent's seal." Moreover, Islip received exactly the 
same wages as the keeper of the privy seal when out of court, 
namely, twenty shillings a day. These wages were paid directly 
from the exchequer, which, as from Henry III.'s time onwards,^ 
discharged many of the functions of the wardrobe, whenever the 
wardrobe accompanied the king beyond sea. Though the regular 
office and the four clerks of the privy seal went abroad with 

1 See above, iii. 165-166. 

2 See above, iii. 166, n. 1. On February 17, 1347, this was paid for by the 
exchequer to the keeper of the wardrobe. The new privy seal, ordered in 
1340, was not paid for until January 20, 1346 ; I.R. 336/25. 

* For the possibility of Islip holding a similar position during Lionel's brief 
regency in 1345, see above, iii. 166. He was certainly, as in 1346-47, a promi- 
nent member of the council of regency ; Foedera, iii. 50. 

« See above, i. 266-267, 276, 294 ; ii. 4-5. 


Thoresby, Islip had an adequate staff to man his " ofl&ce of the 
regent's seal." The obvious inference from these facts is, as we 
have just said, that the privy seal had now become so normal a 
part of the state machinery that the administration at home was 
not properly equipped unless it had some instrument correspond- 
ing to it. It was a real advance when the exchequer directly 
provided for the support of the office. We shall see that the 
precedent was not forgotten during the next generation. 

The fact that Islip was paid by the exchequer enables us to date 
the period during which he was responsible for Lionel's seal, namely, 
from June 21, 1346, until September 27, 1347.i His attendance 
at Westminster was only interrupted by a mission to Scotland and 
the north in June to July 1347.2 The approaching consecration 
of Thoresby to St. Davids made necessary a new appointment 
to the privy seal of the king, and the appointment of Islip 
as Thoresby's successor is evidence of his success in his previous 
office. Henry Chaddesden succeeded Islip as keeper of the regent's 
seal apparently on September 16, 1347. ^ But his tenure of office 
was short, for the dual government from Westminster and Calais, 
which had worked without a hitch, continued only until the sur- 
render of Calais. 

Conversations for a truce with France followed the capture of 
Calais, and Islip's presence was required to take up the custody 
of the seal and assist in the negotiations. Accordingly, he was 
allowed a grant of £200 for the cost of his travelling equipment.* 
Like Thoresby, he was from the beginning responsible for the 
great as well as the privy seal, and he reached Calais in time to 
participate in the conclusion of the truce sealed on September 28, 
1347.^ A month later he crossed the channel to Sandwich with 

1 I.E. 339/16, 33, 38. See also above, iii. 165-166, and 165, n. 4. 

2 I.R. 339/16. 

3 lb. 341/6. This is the date given in the issue roUs, but it suggests either 
that Chaddesden did not immediately enter office on his appointment, since 
Islip is recorded as being paid up to September 27, or else a careless scribe. 
Chaddesden was " nuper custos " on December 17, 1347 ; ib. 340/21. Thoresby 
is then described as "nuper custos priuati sigiUi et etiam magni sigiUi coram 
Calesia"; £?.^. 390/12, f. 84. 

* I.R. 340/16, 24: "in subsidium apparatus sui nuper eunti versus regem 
apud Caleys ad portandum priuatum sigUlum regis." 

5 Foedera, iii. 136-138. He is described as " magister Symon de Islep, 
custos sigiUi regii secreti." But this was a document drafted by the two medi- 
ating cardinals, who naturally used the formula customary in the Avignon curia. 

26 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

the king. The dual government formally ended when, on October 
15, chancellor Ofiord handed over to Islip his seal of absence and 
when, next day, Islip surrendered the great seal to its natural 
custodian.^ Henceforth Islip's sole office was the keepership of 
the privy seal. It is significant that his 20s. a day allowance was 
to be paid to him from the wardrobe whether he was outside or 
within the court. The exact date of his retirement is unknown 
because, on his becoming keeper, he nominally drew his wages 
from the wardrobe, so that the invaluable testimony of the issue 
rolls becomes indefinite as to dates. ^ We may feel pretty sure 
that he resigned the seal some time in the autumn or early winter 
of 1349, when he became archbishop of Canterbury. ^ 

The times were depressing. Since archbishop Stratford's 
death a year earlier, his two successors, Offord and Bradwardine, 
had died of the Black Death. But luckier than his predecessors, 
Islip survived the plague, and sat on the throne of St. Augustine 
until 1367.* As archbishop, however, he is outside the ken of the 

1 Foedera, iii. 139. 

^ We know that Islip was still keeper when, on June 20, Thomas Clopton, 
keeper of the wardrobe, was instructed to account with him for his wages and 
pay him 20s. a day for time past and henceforth, " so long as he has that custody " ; 
C.C.R., 1349-54, p. 34. The exchequer continued in fact to pay Islip, but its 
payments were charged to the keeper who received them by " the hand of " 
Islip. The dates covered by the payments were no longer a concern of the 
exchequer. The exchequer itself made such a payment on October 3, 1349, 
to keeper Clopton " per manus magistri Simonis de Islip, custodis priuati sigilli, 
super vadiis et expensis suis " ; I.R. 350/1. This seems good evidence that he 
was still keeper. He was consecrated archbishop on December 20, 1349. 
Yet there were payments on May 3, 1350, for Islip's wages, robes and expenses, 
when, as a consecrated archbishop he is curiously described as "Mr. Simon de 
Islep " ; ib. 354/8. These may, therefore, have been payment for arrears. 
But an entry of February 14, 1351, first definitely describes Islip, still called 
by his personal name, as " nuper custos " ; ib. 355/31. Yet Northburgh was 
already keeper before November 11, 1350. See below, p. 27, n. 7. We may 
feel reasonably sure that Islip was still acting on October 3, 1349, and quite 
certain that he had ceased to act by February 1351. 

^ Bradwardine died on August 26, and the " conge d'elire " was issued on 
September 3. It must have been speedily acted upon, for the bull of provision 
was issued at Avignon on October 7, apparently after knowledge of the election 
had reached the curia. 

* For Islip's early and later career see my article in the D.N.B., published 
in 1892. This must be used with caution, by reason of both its omissions 
and commissions. The former include most of his record as an administrator. 
As regards the latter, I should not now associate his name with the Oxfordshire 
but with the Northamptonshire Islip. It is doubtful whether he can be safely 
identified with the Simon Islip who, early in the century, was a fellow of Merton 
College, Oxford. No one now believes that he wrote the Speculum regis Edwardi, 



administrative historian, save when, upon occasion, he opposed 
the king with an energy which showed that his former service to 
the state had not destroyed the independence of his outlook. i 
The glory of the privy seal was great when it seemed an inevitable 
step towards the chancellorship, and when two of its former 
keepers held the two archbishoprics. It is, perhaps, not too 
fanciful to suggest that the concession made in 1353, by which 
the northern primate was allowed to bear his cross erect in the 
southern province, was due to the good feeling existing between 
Islip and Thoresby, going back to the days when they were 
colleagues as keepers of small seals of state. 

The next keeper of the privy seal was Master Michael North- 
burgh, a kinsman of the Roger Northburgh whom we know as the 
first keeper of the privy seal not also controller of the wardrobe,^ 
and who, old and blind, remained bishop of Lichfield until he 
died in 1359. Michael was a master of arts and doctor of law.^ 
He seems to have been an ecclesiastical lawyer who made his 
career as a king's clerk through the channel of diplomacy. Envoy 
at Avignon in 1345,* he was, on May 10, 1346, made a member of 
the king's council.^ This valiant clerk took part in the whole of 
the Crecy campaign, which he described in two interesting letters 
preserved in Avesbury's chronicle.^ From 1347 onwards he was 
constantly engaged on diplomatic work, and it may well be that 
this preoccupation retarded his appointment as Islip's successor, 
as it certainly prevented his discharging in person his duties as 
keeper.'' Even his election to a bishopric did not stop his diplo- 

If an archbishop Simon wrote that tract, he was certainly Simon Meopham, 
perhaps the only archbishop of the reign who was not a king's clerk before he 
became a bishop. 

1 See, for instance, above, iii. 207-208. 

2 See above, ii. 286-287. 

3 C. Pap. R. Let. iii. 60. This was before 1343, when he became canon of 

* lb. iii. 16. His biography has been written in the D.N.B. by Mr. C. L. 

5 C.P.R., 1345-48, p. 80. His wages as counsellor were to be received from 
the exchequer, and amounted to 50 marks a year when in England, and 100 
marks abroad, with robes of the suit of clerks of the household. He received 
those wages in 1348 ; I.R. 344. In 1352 his annual fee was £50 " quamdiu 
ipsum de consilio regis fore contigerit " ; ib. 364/12. 

6 Avesbury, pp. 357-360, 367-369. 

' The earliest reference I have found to Northburgh as keeper is in an issue 
to the keeper of the wardrobe, dated November 11, 1350: " per manus magistri 

28 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

matic activities, and he retained the privy seal until the end of 
1354.1 jje jiad preferments exceeding the ordinary pluralism 
of a favourite king's clerk, besides other exceptional sources of 
income, such as exchequer grants and private allowances from 
societies who found it worth their while to cultivate the goodwill 
of the king's confidant.^ Elected bishop of London on April 23, 
1354, he was at once confirmed and put in possession of his 
temporalities, though not consecrated till fifteen months later.^ 
He died in 1361, leaving a good library of law books * and a 
reputation for liberality. 

Northburgh's keepership is of some importance for two reasons. 
It shows that the keeper could be frequently absent from his 
charge, and also to what an extent the office of the privy seal 
could now function by itself in the absence of its chief. His 
missions abroad emphasise the fact that the keeper was already 
a third minister of state ; the plans for the use of the seal in his 
absence prove that the ofiice was now a well-staffed and organised 
department. Let us consider these two points in turn. 

Northburgh's diplomatic functions need not be dwelt upon 
at length, but they are important from his constant absorption 
in them. Soon after his appointment, he was, on September 3, 
1350, sent with others to Dunkirk to treat with count Louis of 

Michaelis de Northburgh, custodis priuati sigilli." As it includes the cost of 
sojourns " extra curiam," both in England and beyond sea, it throws back 
his appointment for a considerable time ; I.R. 355/10. 

^ He was still keeper on February 19, 1354, when he received an instalment 
of his wages; E.A. 392/12. He was also described as keeper on August 26, 
1354, when he was elect and confirmed bishop of London ; C.W. 1334/7. 

2 See, for instance. Lit. Cantuar. ii. 317, where the monks of Christ Church, 
Canterbury, gave him, on November 3, 1353, a pension of 60s. a year " merita 
ejus recollentes {sic) sperantesque ejus consilium et auxilium in futurum." The 
editor's naive suggestion that Northburgh was " adviser of the convent " vies 
with the monks' description of him as "doctor of laws" in suppressing the 
essential fact that this was a bribe given to conciliate a leading minister of the 
crown. A petition of the commons, granted in 1410, that chancellor, treasurer 
and privy seal should not receive presents, was not uncalled for ; Rot. Pari. 
iii. 626. 

^ When bishop elect and confirmed, Northburgh was not even in minor 
orders, as his indult to receive " minor and major orders from any catholic 
bishop " shows ; C. Pap. R. Let. iii. 522. 

* These he left to his kinsman, Michael Free, sometimes called Michael 
Northburgh, a youth of illegitimate birth, for whose welfare and ecclesiastical 
preferment the bishop showed great anxietv ; C. Pap. R. Pet. i. 220, 258, 
267, 355. 


Flanders.^ He was still in " the parts of Calais " when he was 
paid some of his expenses ^ and joined by Tirrington, one of his 
clerks. 3 So late as December 20, one of his servants was paid 
for coming from Calais, bringing letters addressed by Northburgh 
to the council.* His sojourn abroad lasted for sixty-seven days, 
for which he received, in addition to his pay of twenty shillings 
a day, allowance for his passage to and fro, the cost of messengers 
sent by him to the court at Avignon, and a gratuity of a second 
twenty shillings a day " because of the great expenses which he 
had incurred." ^ In 1351 Northburgh stayed longer in England, 
receiving expenses for attending council, and going on a mission 
to York between May 9 and June 4.^ In 1353 his time was 
divided between attendance on the council at London and two 
more journeys to Calais,' where efforts were being made, under 
papal mediation, to enlarge the truce with France into a per- 
manent peace. Northburgh and his clerks seem to have been 
charged with the work of drafting and with the preservation 
of the documents drawn up.^ The negotiations, however, 
dragged badly, and early in 1354 Northburgh had leisure to go 
to Cheshire, between February 20 and March 30. Thence he 
was again dispatched to Calais for the great business, receiving 

1 Foedera, iii. 202. He was called "secretarius noster," and was associated 
with Sir Robert Herle, captain of Calais, and the old privy seal clerk, Mr. John 
Carlton, now dean of Wells. The persistence with which Northburgh is called 
" secretarius " is no new thing. He is far from being the only keeper who, in 
official English records, is constantly called " the keeper of the privy seal and 
king's secretary"; C.P.R., 1350-54, pp. 178, 301, 362. Bramber, the receiver 
of the chamber, is also called secretary, and more properly, because he kept 
the secret seal. See later, pp. 34, 180. 

2 I.R. 355/10 records payments of his expenses " tam extra curiam in negociis 
regis in partibus Anglie quam alibi in partibus transmarinis et repassagiis 

' lb. 352/12. Tirrington was " missus in negociis regis versus partes do 

* lb. 355/24. " Roberto Payn, valetto magistri Michaehs de Northburgh, 
nuper venienti de partibus de Caleys cum litteris eiusdem magistri Michaelis 
directis consilio domini regis." 

^ lb. 355/40, His business was " ad tractandum cum hominibus Flandrie 
et Ispannie." 

« lb. 359. 

7 E.A. 392/12, £f. 37d, 65d, etc. These journeys were between Feb. 24 
and March 15, and between Oct. 27 and Dec. 14. In the whole time of the 
wardrobe account, Northburgh received expenses "extra curiam" both at home 
at 13s. 4d. and abroad at 20s. a day. 

8 See, for instance, C.G.B., 1354-60, pp. 83-84, and I.R. 374/19. 

30 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

expenses on the foreign scale between March 20 and April 12.^ 
The truce was prolonged on April 6,^ and the provisional results 
of the negotiations were submitted to the parliament of April- 
May, 1354, at which Northburgh was in attendance.^ When 
the commons unanimously expressed their agreement with the 
project of a perpetual peace with France, Northburgh directed 
a notary to embody this opinion in an instrument drafted in 
public form.* He was at once sent back to Calais, being now 
bishop-elect of London, and thence went to Avignon, receiving, 
besides his wages, allowances for a horse to take records and 
other documents to the Roman court respecting the treaty 
with France. 5 But the great embassy proved fruitless. This 
failure to secure peace concluded Northburgh's ofl&cial career, 
though he retained nominal control of the seal until at least 
August 26, 1354.6 

The habitual absences of Northburgh were in nowise unpre- 
cedented. Under Edward I. Benstead had been sent on missions 
extra curiam almost as freely as Northburgh. In the initial days 
of Michael's kinsman, Roger Northburgh, the keeper and his 
clerks were almost always at London with the council, while 
the king lived a wandering life in the north. Such absences 
from court were recognised when, in Limber's time as keeper, 
the issue rolls recorded payments to him for the wages and 
expenses of himself and his clerks remaining with him outside 
the household.' Keeper Zouch, in 1336, was allowed wages at 
20s. a day, a large sum plainly intended to cover the cost of the 
staff as well as that of the keeper. ^ The long absences of king 
and household abroad, during the early campaigns of the great 
war, retarded this tendency by compelling residence in court. 
But after 1346 it was exceptional for Edward III. to be abroad 
for long periods. Thereupon the movement out of court went 

^ I.E. 374/10. The embassy to treat for peace with France was empowered 
on March 30. Besides Northburgh, it included only the bishop of Norwich, the 
earl of Huntingdon and the captain of Calais ; Foedera, iii. 275. 

2 lb. iii. 276-277. 

3 See above, iii. 173. « Bot. Pari. ii. 262. 
5 I.E. 374/19. « C.W. 1334/7. 

' I.R. 297/24. " Ade de Lymbergh . . . xxvii libras ... in garderoba 
debitas de vadiis et expensis suis et clericorum dicti sigiUi secum morantium 
extra curiam de tempore Ricardi de Bury." This was in 1328-29, though the 
wardrobe keeper's biU was drafted in 6 Edward III. and payment was only made 
in 1338. 8 jji_ 290/23. 


on with accelerated pace, the more easily since the office of the 
privy seal had already become a necessary cog in the wheel of 
state. That meant that the clerks of the seal no longer dwelt 
at court with the wardrobe staff, but formed, as we shall soon 
see, a self-contained hospicmm of their own, whose normal 
location was in London or Westminster. 

During Michael Northburgh's prolonged divorces from the 
seal and office, temporary arrangements had to be made to 
provide for its daily business and the maintenance of the staff. 
This was not difficult, since both the office and the hospicium 
were regularised, and the two senior clerks of the seal, John 
Winwick and Henry Ingelby, were men of experience, intelli- 
gence and character, perfectly able to take upon themselves the 
burden of the administration of the department. At first, 
almost automatically and naturally, the subordinates occupied 
the place of their absent chief. Thus, on May 11, 1351, the 
exchequer issued, directly to Winwick and Ingelby, sums of 
£46 : 13 : 4 and £20 respectively, in " aid of the expenses which 
they had sustained at their own cost, in abiding at the king's 
court with the privy seal, when its keeper was away on the king's 
business." ^ As the period of Northburgh's absence was, as 
we have seen, sixty-seven days, this amounts, within 6s. 8d., 
to the normal twenty shillings a day which the keeper received 
for the expenses of the seal. It showed some enterprise to incur 
an expense which, in the fourteenth century, was a very large 
one, and the fact that the king reimbursed them is creditable 
to him or to his exchequer. Winwick had his reward when, 
on the occasion of Northburgh's visit to York in the same year, 
he was allowed the official twenty shillings a day for keeping 
" master Michael's household " between May 9 and June 4.2 

^ I.R. 358/4. " Johanni de Wynwyke et Henrico de Ingelby, clericis de 
priuato sigillo, in denariis eis liberatis in auxilium expensarum suarum que 
idem Johannes et Henricus penes regem cum priuato sigillo pro diuersis vicibus, 
custodis eiusdem priuati sigilli alibi in obsequio regis existentis, ad sumptus 
proprias morantes sustinuerunt, videlicet eidem Johanni xlvi^i. xiij5. iiij(i et 
prefato Henrico xxZi." It is unfortunate that the date of the keeper's absence 
is not specified in the writ. In the instance immediately following nearly six 
months elapsed between the absence and the payment, so we may safely place 
the absence some months earlier in the first instance. 

2 lb. 359. " Johanni de Wynwyk, clerico de priuato sigillo, moranti apud 
Londonias in absentia magistri Michaelis de Northburgh, custodis eiusdem 
sigilli, tenendo hospicium dicti magistri Michaelis tempore quo missus fuerat 


32 THE PKIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

Similarly, in 1354, te received the same daily sum for the period 
between February 20 and March 3, during which Northburgh 
was absent " in the parts of Chester," and again for twenty-four 
days when the keeper was at Calais, between March 20 and April 
13.1 The amount paid to the keeper when he was running the 
hospicium in person was thus bestowed upon his substitutes 
while he was away. Some restraint, however, came to be im- 
posed upon their freedom of action. 

When, in August 1354, Northburgh went on his final mission 
to Avignon, further precautions were taken for the custody of the 
privy seal. These are described in detail in a signet letter, ad- 
dressed to Thoresby, now archbishop of York, but still chancellor.^ 
As usual, the deputy keepership was given to Win wick and Ingelby, 
or to one of fchem, but with discretionary power severely fettered. 
Northburgh surrendered his seal to the chancellor, who was to 
place it in a bag, seal the bag with his seal, and deliver the sealed 
bag to the nominal keeper of the seal. When the seal was re- 
quired, the bag was to be opened by the appointed deputy in the 
chancellor's presence, the seal abstracted and used and then 
sealed up again at once afterwards. Both chancellor and deputy 
keeper were charged that nothing involving expense was to be 
sealed without the king having been previously informed. This 
was, in effect, the inverse method to that so often adopted when 
the great seal was taken abroad. But the privy seal was even 

in nuncium regis versus partes Eboraci." This sum was paid on Dec. 2, 1351. 
It may be significant that, at the time Winwick thus took charge, the writ was 
issued authorising reimbursement of the expenses incurred by Ingelby and 
Winwick on the occasion of the absence of the keeper referred to in n. 1 above. 
Was a definite promise of payment needed to make Winwick take up this second 
responsibihty ? 

1 I.E. 374/10 (first entry under 16 June). 

2 C.W. 1334/7 is worth quoting in full. " Depar le roi. Tres reverent piere 
en Dieu. Come par noz autres lettres eons mande a nostre cher clerc mestre 
Michel de Northburgh, eslyt de Londres confermez, gardein de nostre priue seal, 
qe pour cause qil est ore procheinement a aler en nostre message vers les parties 
de dela, qil face liuerer a vous meismes mesme le seal a demurer desouz vostre 
seal en la garde de nos chers clercs Johan de Wynewyke et Henri de Ingelby, 
ou de lun de eux, si volons qe, receuz du dit eslyt nostre dit seal et ent faite la 
liueree pur demurer en garde, come desus est dit, il soit ouert de temps en temps, 
en la presence de vous meismes, pur deliuerer les choses ad toutes les foitz qe 
busoign serra, sibien celles qe nous touchent come les autres touchanz la deliuer- 
ance de nostre poeple, issint toutesfoitz qe rienz ny soit fait parentre vous et 
eux qe soit chargeant, sanz nous premerement ent auiser. Donne souz nostre 
signet a nostre manoir de Clipstone en Shirwode, le xxvi jour daugust " (1354). 


more completely under the chancellor's control than the great 
seal beyond sea had been under the control of the keeper of the 
privy seal. Thoresby, years before the keeper of the privy seal in 
charge of the great seal, was now by this strange turn become the 
keeper of the great seal in charge of the privy seal. It was another 
approach towards the treatment of the two seals as part of a 
common centralised secretariat. Here again the office clearly 
counted for more than the keeper. There was some ingenuity in 
making the chancellor the custodian of the seal which was 
normally used as a check upon his action. In a way it seems as 
though Baldock's policy were coming back by the accidents of 
the situation. 

We learn that Henry Ingelby kept the hospicium priuati 
sigilli immediately after this, from August 29 to September 21, 
but that he only received 13s. 4d., instead of the customary 20s. 
a day for the expenses of the household.^ One would naturally 
infer that he, rather than Winwick, was selected to keep the 
privy seal under Thoresby's direction : but perhaps the inference 
is unsound. However that may be, the system set up by the 
signet letter soon came to an end. By November 27, 1354, we 
know that the privy seal had been transferred to the custody of 
Thomas Bramber,^ and we need have little hesitation in putting 
back the beginning of his keepership to near that St. Matthew's 
day when Ingelby ceased to hold the hospicium. It is worth 
remembering also that it was no longer the hospicium of Master 
Michael, but the hospicium of the privy seal. After 1360 such 
payments to clerks keeping the hospicium cease to be recorded. 
The grants to the keeper were simply for his wages, or, sometimes, 

^ I.R. 375/20, " Henrico de Ingelby, tenenti hospicium priuati sigilli a 
xxix° die Augusti usque festum sancti Mathei per xxix dies in denariis sibi 
liberatis pro expensis eiusdem hospicii, capienti per diem xiiis. iind., xiiiiZi." 
This entry is obviously incorrect somewhere, for there are 24, not 29, days 
between Aug. 29 and Sept. 21, and the total of £14 is too small a sum for 24 
days even at 13s. 4d. a day, but it is not easy to suggest wherein the error lies. 
The payment was made on Dec. 19, when Bramber was already keeper. Perhaps 
Ingelby was several times chosen to keep the household of the privy seal. Be- 
tween 1350 and 1371 he was keeper of the domus conuersorum, whose premises 
enabled him easily to lodge the clerks of the seal. See also above, iii. 214, and 
for his business relations later, p. 99. After his resignation in 1371, the keeper- 
ship went to the chancery clerks, and the house became the hospicium of the 
rolls' office of chancery. 

* Foedera, iii. 344. 


34 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

for his wages and those of the clerks serving under him. The 
disposition of them was no longer a concern of the exchequer. 
The hospicium was sufficiently regularised to function inde- 
pendently, and it was the keeper's business, not the king's, to 
provide for its custody when he was unable to superintend it in 
person. But we must reserve for later discussion the exact nature 
and attributes of the hospicium priuati sigilli. 

We must now return to the succession of the keepers of the 
privy seal, resuming at the moment when Northburgh gave place 
to Thomas Bramber, known to us already as clerk and receiver of 
the king's chamber.^ The keepership of the secret seal was, as we 
have seen, an incident of the receivership of the chamber, so that 
Bramber already had experience which would make it easy for 
him to deal with the privy seal. But he held the privy seal only 
for about a year. We know that he was still in office on October 
7, 1355, when he received vadia guerre on the expectation that he 
and his warrior comitiua would follow Edward III. to Calais. ^ 
But that expedition never materialised, and it was his successor 
who, with his men, followed the king on a winter journey to 
Scotland.^ Already, on November 27, that successor, John 
Winwick, was in office. We have little information as to the part 
Bramber played in the development of his department, but it is 
unlikely that he made much impression. He was the only keeper 
since Kilsby who did not attain episcopal rank. For this his 
trouble with the pope, and his early death, may well account.^ 
His appointment has interest as a rather belated reversion to the 
chamber clerk type of keeper, especially as the precedent thus set 
was soon followed in favour of a more distinguished personality 
than Bramber. 

It is difficult not to connect the changes we are now recording 
with other and more important administrative movements which 

1 See above, iii. 219, iv. 258-259, 262-263, 285. He delivered a chamber 
account in October 1352 (C.P.R., 1350-54, p. 355). 

2 I.R. 377/87 shows him as keeper receiving a prest on Sept. 26, and ib. 379/2 
as receiving on Oct. 7 vadia guerre " versus partes transmarinas." 

3 Winwick, on Nov. 27, 1356, was present as keeper at Westminster when 
the great seal was transferred from archbishop Thoresby to Edington, bishop of 
Winchester; Foedera, iii. 344. Compare I.R. 379/17, which shows Winwick as 
keeper receiving vadia guerre " versus partes Scocie " on Dec. 9. 

* For Bramber's short subsequent career and his trouble with the pope in 
1357, see above, iii. 210, 237. He was dead before Oct. 24, 1361. 


were taking place in the same year, 1356. Among these were the 
fundamental readjustments of office involved in the abolition of 
the chamber lands/ and the transference of the great seal from 
Thoresby to Edington, one of the first acts witnessed by Winwick 
in his official capacity of keeper. Again we may suspect, though we 
shall never be able to know, that the guiding hand of the new 
chancellor directed all these developments towards a single end. 
Winwick's own appointment, which we are fortunate in being 
able to date so precisely, is in itself another incident of all these 
shiftings of place, while the succession as treasurer of a person 
so insignificant as John Sheppey, bishop of Rochester,^ suggests 
that quieter times were expected in the exchequer than under the 
reforming and masterful Edington. Stability was now more im- 
portant than innovation, for the great war had been renewed in 
earnest in 1355 and was the main business of the next five years. 
Both in the conduct of the war and in the development of his 
office, Winwick's keepership was epoch-making. His career is 
typical, and it is a misfortune that he has not yet found an ade- 
quate biographer. He belonged to that smaller landed class 
which produced so large a proportion of mediaeval officials. A 
Lancashire squire's son, he took his name from the parish of 
Winwick, near Warrington, though his father, William Winwick, 
lived, and owned property, at Huyton, near Liverpool, where he 
was buried with his wife and several kinsfolk.^ John became a 
king's clerk, and by 1339 had already served the king long enough 
for his merits to induce the king to restore to his father, William 
Winwick, the chattels which he had forfeited for failing to appear 
before the king's bench to answer to a charge of homicide of which 
he had been acquitted.'* His ability first became conspicuous 
during the king's Netherlandish campaigns of 1338-41,^ and in 
the 1343 campaign in Brittany. He was then one of the four 
clerks of the privy seal, and he remained for the rest of his life 

^ See above, iv. 303-305, especially the remarks on Edington's relation to 
these changes. 

2 Sheppey became treasurer on Nov. 28, 1356, the day after Edington was 
made chancellor; C.P.R., 1354-58, p. 479. 

3 C. Pap. R. Pet. i. 355-356. This information is given in John Winwick's 
petition to the pope, dated 1360, for the confirmation of his foundation of a 
chantry in Huyton Church in memory of his father, mother and other relatives 
there buried in St. Michael's chapel. 

* C.P.R., 1338-40, pp. 215-216. See above, iii. 85. ^ I.E. 331. 

36 THE PEIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

attaciied to that office. He had the usual reward in livings, pre- 
bends, pensions and grants, the most important of his prefer- 
ments being the treasurership of York, so often occupied by 
administrators, and the rich rectory of Wigan in his native county.^ 
He was active in financial operations, both on his own account 
and on the king's, farming on a large scale the revenues of rich 
Lancashire landlords, such as the Butlers of Warrington and the 
Hoghtons of Hoghton. Altogether he was a most prosperous and 
successful official. We have seen how often he had been put in 
charge of the office in the absence of the keeper, his only rival for 
such duty being Ingelby. It needed but a small step to raise him 
to the headship. Yet it was the first occasion, in forty-five years 
of its history, that a clerk of the privy seal had been appointed to 
its keepership. 

There was little in the first four years of Winwick's keepership 
that is specially worth recording here. His importance began in 
the autumn of 1359, when he went overseas with the king, ac- 
companied by his four clerks, and attended his master at every 
stage of his last great campaign, until his return in May 1360. We 
have seen already that for the whole of this period Winwick was 
keeper of both great and privy seal, that he was attended by 
clerks of chancery as well as clerks of privy seal, that he, helped 
by his notaries, was the foremost in conducting negotiations and in 
drafting treaties, and that the treaty of Bretigni was so largely his 
work that the French officially described him as king's chancellor 
in their draft of the treaty.^ We have seen also that much of the 
advantage won in his presence at Bretigni was lost by the negoti- 
ators of Calais. But the treaty marked the end of Winwick's 
career. He returned with the king in May, and on the last day of 
that month withdrew from the court for good, though he con- 
tinued to receive wages until July 12, the date, no doubt, of his 

Like so many other officials of the period, Winwick had a 
magnanimous side to his character, which showed itself not only 

^ The restoration of his father's chattels was "in consideration of good 
service long rendered by John de Wynquik, son of the said William " ; " especi- 
ally since he came to parts beyond the seas " ; ib. p. 216. C.C.R., 1341-43, pp. 
84, 200, 300, shows that he was abroad under both Norwell and C usance, keepers 
of the wardrobe. 

2 See above, iii. 222-223, 225-227. 


in the family chantry,^ a memorial so usual as almost to escape 
notice, but in a grander scheme for the establishment of a college 
at Oxford. " Desiring to enrich the English church with men 
of letters," he aspired to found a college of scholars who should 
study canon and civil law, and lecture on these subjects, a certain 
portion of them being ordained priests. 2 But the scheme came 
to nothing, though receiving royal and papal approval. The 
cause of the breakdown is said to have been the greediness of 
his heirs. 
>^ Winwick's place was at once taken by John Buckingham, 
' whom we know already, first as keeper of the great wardrobe 
and then as successively controller and keeper of the wardrobe 
of the household.^ It was now clearer than ever that the privy 
seal was not only a post of higher dignity than any household office, 
but even more, for Buckingham had quitted the wardrobe to be a 
baron of the exchequer, and was for the first time brought into 
relation with the privy seal by being appointed to keep the privy 
seal of Thomas of Woodstock, the nominal regent of England 
while his father and elder brothers were fighting the French 
beyond seas. Thus the home government, like the administra- 
tion following the king, was exactly constituted on the lines of 
the precedent of 1346-47, when Simon Islip kept the seal of the 
regent Lionel of Antwerp.* We have seen how Buckingham 
administered this ofiice ; how, unlike Islip, who had the full 
twenty shillings, he had to be content with 13s. 4d. a day; how, 
the wardrobe being beyond sea, he had to take these wages 
directly from the exchequer, and how he was more formally 
a minister of state than even Islip had been.^ Part of the con- 
scious effort to make each branch of the dual ministry as self- 
sufficing as possible was that Buckingham had by his side John 
Wei wick, B.C.L., the king's notary,^ one of the most senior and 
distinguished clerks of the privy seal, and kinsman of William 
Tirrington,' as well as a humbler assistant in John Bamburgh, 

1 See above, p. 35, n. 3. 2 C. Pap. R. Pet. i. 101. 

^ See above, iv. 381, n. 4, where his appointmeiits are summarised and refer- 
ences given to the places where they are treated; notably above, iii. 218, and 
iv. 133-135. 

« See above, iii. 165-166. 5 gee above, iii. 222-223. 

« C. Pap. R. Pet. i. 120, 254, 258, 260, 281, 288. 

' lb. p. 259. 

38 THE PEIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

who seems not to have been one of the king's privy seal clerks, 
but to have been called in, possibly in extreme age and in- 
firmity, to help stafi the temporary ofiice of the regent's privy 
seal.^ To make the precedent of 1346-47 more complete, 
when Winwick came home to die after the treaty of Bretigni, 
Buckingham stepped into his place, just as Islip was transferred 
from the custody of the regent's seal to the custody of the king's 
privy seal, when Thoresby was raised to the chancery. Indeed, 
with Islip and Thoresby still holding the two archbishoprics, 
it was not a precedent likely to be forgotten.^ 

Buckingham was appointed to keep the regent's seal on 
October 11, but his wages only ran from October 28, 1359, the 
day Edward left England, to May 18, 1360, the day of the king's 
return.3 There was, apparently, a short gap before he was trans- 
ferred to the king's seal, but he was needed at Calais for the final 
treaty of peace, and received special allowance for his passage, 
stay, return and repassage for his men and horses.'* Like Islip, 
he was supposed to draw his wages as keeper from the wardrobe, 
and the venerable pretence was continued of crediting the keeper 
of the wardrobe with the sums issued to Buckingham from the 
exchequer, recording that the wardrobe received them " through 
his hands." This went on until November 18, 1360.^ After 

1 I.R. 403/41, a payment to John Bamburgh, clerk, lately assigned to attend 
the privy seal of the keeper of England, for his "rewardum" and for wax, 
parchment and other necessaries for the oifice of the said seal. Cf. Exch. of 
Bee, War. for I., 6/41, the privy seal order for this payment. Was he the John 
Bamburgh who, in 1358, was granted £5 a year towards his sustenance because 
" he has become so feeble that he can labour no longer " and had long rendered 
good service to the king and queen Philippa ? The identification is doubtful. 
In 1362, John Bamburgh was important enough to be a witness to the treaty of 
Castile, which Tirrington had reduced to public form ; Foedera, iii. 657. 

2 I.R. 407/24. See above, iii. 223. 

^ lb. 407/25. There are 204 days between these dates, but Buckingham 
only received wages for 104 days. 

* lb. 407/26, " Johanni de Bukyngham, custodi priuati sigilli regis, in 
denariis sibi liberatis per manus Johannis de Maydenbury, tam pro expensis 
suis eundo versus Caleys pro tractatu pacis inter dominum regem et Johannem, 
regem Francie, et ibidem morando et redeundo, quam pro passagio et repassagio 
hominum et equorum suorum." Maidenbury was serving as his personal clerk 
when he kept the regent's seal. 

5 lb. 402/5. My statement in iii. 238, n. 3, that Wykeham in 1365 was the 
first keeper to receive wages direct from the exchequer is therefore erroneous. 
While the overlap between the two wardrobes of Farley and Ferriby lasted, 
Farley was credited with his wages ; see above, iv. 146-147. After Farley 
ceased, Buckingham's payments came from the exchequer, except for debts to 


that date, however, the exchequer recorded the disbursement 
of Buckingham's wages in his own name, without the wardrobe 
as intermediary, and that method was adhered to for the future. 
It was only a matter of form, yet in an age when forms counted 
for a good deal it was a step further towards freeing the privy 
seal from its dependence on the wardrobe, to allow its keeper 
and clerks to take their pay directly from the exchequer. With 
the disappearance of the item of wages of the privy seal staff 
from the wardrobe accounts, almost the last link binding the privy 
seal to the household seemed broken. The change gives the 
administrative historian the advantage of being able to ascertain 
from the issue rolls the dates of service and the emoluments of 
the keeper of the privy seal and his clerks. Buckingham re- 
ceived wages for himself and his clerks until June 9, 1363. ^ On 
the previous January 25, he had been consecrated bishop of 
Lincoln. 2 He held that see until 1397, when, resisting a forcible 
translation, he retired to a monastery and died the next year. 

On June 10, 1363, William Wykeham replaced Buckingham 
as keeper of the privy seal, and retained the office until October 
27, 1367.^ There is no need to describe with much detail his 
acts as keeper. It would, indeed, be impossible to do so, since 
at no time was his sole, or even main, function the keeping of 
the privy seal, and for more than the last month of office he 
duplicated the post with that of chancellor. He was, for all 
practical purposes, the chief minister and confidential adviser 
of the king. As such, his departmental activities in the privy 
seal office were naturally less important than if he had been 
occupied only in keeping the seal. Though his imposing positioo 
enhanced the glory of the privy seal, it did nothing to strengthen 
it as a separate branch of the administration. To some extent 
it involved reaction, for the great fact about Wykeham was 
that for all this period he remained a member of the inner circle 
of the royal household, which suggested a revival of the curial- 
istic control of Kilsby's keepership. But Wykeham, though 

the wardrobe ; I.R. 411/6. We have also on record the payments to the keepers 
of the regent's seal from the exchequer, when the wardrobe was abroad with 
the king. i I.R. 415. 

^ For the difficulties attending his promotion, see above, iii. 254-255. 

^ These are the extreme dates between which Wykeham received his 20s. a 
day as pay. 

40 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

distrusted and unpopular as a greedy upstart and a creature of 
court favour, was no Kilsby. He was a conservative-minded 
administrator, whose outlook rapidly changed with prosperity 
and power. His importance is general, not departmental. We 
have already said all that we have to say about his general policy 
during these years,^ so that there remains only the simpler task 
of examining the ways in which this general policy affected, 
directly and indirectly, the history of the privy seal. 

As clerk of the king's chamber and keeper of his secret seal, 
Wykeham had, since 1361, been constantly resident at court and 
had become the king's confidential adviser before he took charge 
of the privy seal. While recent keepers had generally lived " out 
of court," and had become more and more departmental ministers, 
Wykeham continued for the whole of his keepership the mode of 
life which he had already adopted, and combined with his new 
office the numerous posts previously given to him. So incon- 
siderable an element was the privy seal among these, that Wyke- 
ham received no wages in respect to it for his first two years as 
keeper. At last, on March 14, 1365, his finances were regularised 
by a curiously phrased writ ordering the exchequer to pay him 
20s. a day, the customary wages of the keeper of the privy seal, 
" notwithstanding the fact that he continues to be of the inner 
household of the king, because, besides the office of the privy 
seal, he has endured and will have to endure daily excessive 
labours and charges as regards divers ofl&ces connected with the 
king's private afiairs with which he has specially charged him." ^ 
This emphasises Wykeham's exceptional position. Normally 
the 20s. a day was supposed to be paid only when the keeper 
and his clerks were extra curiam, though, as a matter of fact, 
it had in recent years been paid without much regard to the 
place of the keeper's residence. If not wages, the payments 
were a supplementary contribution analogous to the chancellor's 
fee. Even now the grant was only for such time as Wykeham 
continued to hold his other ofiices in addition to his keepership 
of the seal, although actually he drew his 20s. a day for the whole 

1 See above, iii. 235-239. 

2 G.P.R., 1364-67, p. 97. This writ is later described as " breue regis 
currens de magno sigillo " ; I.R. 430/11. The word vadia was avoided; the 
20s. a day were " pro laboribus et sumptibus excessiuis " of William. 


period of his keepership.^ Originally a concession to Wykeham's 
particular circumstances, this method of paying the keeper of 
the privy seal was adopted in future as the normal one. 

Wykeham's anomalous keepership was something unique, 
suggestive of his being confidential first minister by royal favour 
and influence rather than by reason of the combination of offices 
held by him. Ten years later, when Wykeham had fallen into 
such difficulties that he had to receive a patent of pardon from 
Richard II. in 1377, the writ of the young king, issued with the 
advice of his first parliament, describes him as " clerk of the 
privy seal, chief of the secret council and governor of the great 
council," 2 and implies that Simon Langham, the chancellor, and 
John Barnet, the treasurer, were but tools in the hands of this 
power behind the throne, in whom his sovereign placed unlimited 
confidence. The details of his action during these years belong, 

^ The issue rolls record meticulously the dates of the payments made to 
Wykeham and the periods which they covered. The first payment was made 
on March 2, 1365, for, according to the issue roll, the period between July 11, 
1363, and February 28, 1365 ; but the roll calculates that there were 628 days 
between these dates, and records that Wykeham was paid £628. The actual 
number of days between those dates is 598, however. The explanation seems 
to be that the first date, July 11, was a slip, for the writ of March 14, 1365, 
ordered payment from June 10, 1363. As the payment is recorded under 
March 2, there was presumably a previous writ to the same effect. The words 
of the entry are " Willelmo de Wykeham, custodi priuati sigilli regis, et preter 
ofiicium illud attendenti circa diuersa officia tangentia priuata negocia domini 
regis de quibus dominus rex ipsum specialiter onerauit, cui dominus rex xx 
solidos diurnos ad scaccarium pro laboribus et sumptibus excessiuis quos idem 
Willelmus in dictis oflSciis sustinuit et in dies sustinere oportebit per litteras 
suas patentes nuper concessit, eo non obstante quod idem Willelmus de intrin- 
seca famiha regis moratur " ; I.R. 421. Another payment soon followed, on 
July 25, for the period of 140 days between March 1 and July 18, 1365; ib. 
423. Here the arithmetic is right ! Later payments were on July 26, 1366, 
ib. 427/25 ; on October 24, 1366, between March 10 and 14, ib. 430/11. The last 
payment was " venerabili patri WiUelmo, episcopo Wintoniensi, nuper custodi 
priuati sigilli domini regis, in denariis sibi liberatis," etc. ; £299 from January 1 
to October 27, 1367, " quo quidem die Petrus de Lacy recepit officium supra- 
dictum " ; ib. 433/13. The phrasing of the writs varies to some extent. Thus, 
that on July 28, 1366, quotes the wording of the patent of appointment on 
March 14, 1363, which is described as " breue currens do magno sigillo." Once 
the payment was made " quandiu officia et onera subierit predicta " ; ib. 427/25. 
Sometimes the last words ran " eo non obstante quod idem Willelmus de intrin- 
seca familia regis morari diuersis temporibus contigerit " ; ib. 427125, 430/11. 

^ Rot. Pari. iii. 388. " Predictus episcopus, existens clericus priuati sigilli 
et capitalis secreti consilii ac gubernator magni consihi." The language of the 
long writ {ib. pp. 388-390) is doubtless exaggerated and used with a purpose, 
but it is unintelhgible if Wykeham had not been generally suspected of 
working behind the throne with almost unlimited authority. 

42 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

as we have seen, to general history rather than to the depart- 
mental history of the privy seal. The instructive thing to re- 
member is that most of the violent acts which brought about 
Wykeham's fall were done, not when he was chancellor, but when, 
ostensibly at least, his chief office was that of keeper of the privy 

We are already aware of the enormous rewards which Wyke- 
ham received from a grateful master in the way of ecclesiastical 
preferment. Yet Edward had such difficulties in establishing 
him as bishop of Winchester that more than a year elapsed 
between his election and his consecration. For the whole of this 
time he kept his curious combination of pohtical and household 
offices. Made chancellor on September 17, 1367, consecrated 
bishop on October 10, he vacated the privy seal only on October 
27. He maintained in the higher office the extensive authority 
which he had so long enjoyed. There was no opportunity, in 
these circumstances, for his successor to the privy seal to attain 
Wykeham's eminence. The mediocrity of the iEortunes of the 
privy seal for the rest of Edward III.'s reign shows to what a 
limited extent Wykeham had influenced the future of the office. 
Just as Kilsby failed to make the privy seal the permanent 
control of the chancery and treasury, so did Wykeham, elevated 
to the chancery, stop any tendency to make it the concealed 
chief ministry of the crown. Despite all temporary deflections, 
the privy seal pursued its inevitable course towards becoming 
a ministry of state. 

On October 27, 1367, Peter Lacy became keeper of the privy 
seal. He was an elderly man, long a clerk in the household of 
the prince of Wales, and for the last twenty years the prince's 
general receiver in England.^ As the financial head of the prince's 
household, he was, during his master's long absences abroad, 
the administrator of his finances and his natural attorney and 
representative. 2 After the fashion of the time. Lacy was a king's 
clerk as well as the prince's clerk, and all through his career 
divided his service between his two masters.^ Accordingly, 

^ " Receptor principis in Anglia " ; Foedera iii. 839. For details of his 
service to the prince, see below, pp. 327-331. 

2 See, for instance, C.C.R., 1349-54, p. 240. 

^ C.P.R., 1350-54, p. 442, shows him described as king's clerk as early 
as 1353. 


he remained the prince's receiver throughout the four years for 
which he kept the king's privy seal.^ His twofold allegiance 
is the more interesting since the absence of the Black Prince in 
his principality of Aquitaine lasted the whole of Lacy's keeper- 
ship, and must, we imagine, have imposed upon Lacy special 
obligations. His tenure of the privy seal was not, apparently, 
eventful, and the reduction of the keeper's allowance to 13s. 4d. 
a day shows that the exchequer secured a slight economy by his 
appointment.^ This sum was paid reasonably regularly, with the 
limitation, henceforth usual, that in the event of arrangements 
being made for the continuous stay of the keeper and clerks in 
the household, the payment should cease. As no such arrange- 
ments ever materiaHsed, the formula, though long retained, was 
meaningless, the wages being paid invariably. So slow was the 
oj9&cial mind to appreciate that in fact, if not in name, the privy 
seal was now permanently extra curiam.^ 

Yet it was recognised that the privy seal was a seal of state. 
When, for example, on the renewal of the French war in 1369, 
the king desired once more to be described on his seals as king 
of France as well as king of England, the old seals with the double 
title were surrendered by the exchequer to the chancellor, 
William Wykeham, who, retaining the great seal himself, gave 
the seals of the two benches and the exchequer seal to their 
respective custodians and the privy seal to keeper Peter Lacy.* 
Thus was the fiction maintained of the chancellor's control over 
all state seals. 

Lacy's modest ecclesiastical preferment stands in glaring 

1 See for instances in both 1368 and 1369, Devon, Issue Rolls, Henry III. to 
Henry VI. p. 192. 

2 See, for instance, I.R. 436/21, recording a payment on December 9, 1368, 
" Petro de Lacy, clerico, custodi priuati sigilli regis, cui dominus rex liberari 
mandauit xiijs. et iiijrf. per diem pro expensis suis et clericorum suorum sub 
ipso deseruencium in officio supradicto, quousque de continua mora per ipsum 
custodem in hospicio regis facienda fuerit ordinata." 

^ As late as 1377, Nicholas Carew was mentioned with " others of the house- 
hold " as " de familia regis " ; Foedera, iii. 1069. But as the treasurer was 
similarly described, the point cannot be stressed. In a vague way, all the 
king's ministers might be regarded as " of his household." 

* Foedera, iii. 869. This was on June 11, 1369, and the result of a resolution 
of parliament a few days earlier. The control of the chancellor over the privy 
seal is perhaps something of a novelty. Such comprehensive control is directlj 
contrary to Fleta's doctrine of the independence of the chancellor, even under 
Edward I. 

44 THE PEIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

contrast to the unbounded pluralism of his predecessor. Up 
to 1349 he held only a single parish church, probably Northfleet 
in Kent, which he retained until his death, but in 1349 a prebend 
at Chichester was allowed him by the pope.^ He later combined 
Northfleet rectory with two prebends, but was compelled by the 
pope to resign the latter as the condition of his being allowed a 
canonry at Lichfield. ^ While he was in residence at his Kentish 
rectory, it was sometimes necessary for batches of letters of privy 
seal to be taken to him there that he might affix the seal to them.^ 

Lacy lost the privy seal as a result of the anti-clerical action 
of the parHament of 1371, which, as we know,^ petitioned for 
certain offices of state to be held only by laymen justiciable 
in the king's court. Thereupon Wykeham and Brantingham 
yielded up the chancery and treasury to laymen, and Lacy, not 
long after, resigned the privy seal.^ He retired to Northfleet, 
where he died in 1375, and was there commemorated by a fine 
brass, still fortunately surviving.^ 

In agreement with the wishes of parliament, Lacy's successor 
was a layman, the first layman who had ever kept the privy seal. 
This contradiction in terms, the lay clerk of the privy seal, was 
Nicholas Carew. He was not a man of great mark. Though 
holding ofifice for six years, until the death of Edward HL, he 
never so much as attained the rank of knighthood. His name 
suggests a West Country or West Welsh origin, but his local 
attachments were all in Surrey, where he acquired, through his 

1 C. Pap. R. Pet. i. 155. There is a curious later memorandum in the close 
roll, printed in Foedera, iii. 912, showing that Wykeham " nuper cancellarius " 
surrendered on March 28, 1371, not only two great seals, as was natural, but 
also " duo priuata sigilla quibus idem rex nuper utebatur," which had till then 
remained in his custody during the king's commission. One was " secretum 
Edwardi regis Francie et Anglic et domini Hibernie," and the other "secretum 
Edwardi regis Anglie domini Hibernie et Aquitanie " ; see also below, 
p. 139, n. 3. 

2 C. Pap. R. Pet. i. 454. This was the result of a petition, on the roll of the 
prince of Wales, addressed to Urban V. His epitaph shows he died possessing 
also the prebend of Swords, in the church of Dublin ; see below, n. 6. 

3 I.R. 439/35 witnesses to official business transacted in Northfleet rectory 
in the payment recorded on March 29, 1370, to " Johanni de March, valetto, 
misso versus le Northflete Petro de Lacy, custodi de priuato sigillo domini 
regis, cum diuersis litteris eodem sigillo sigillandis." 

* See above, iii. 266-267. * See above, iii. 267, n. 4. 

6 The inscription is " Hie jacet dominus Petrus de Lacy, quondam rector 
huius ecclesie, prebendarius de Swerdes, cathedral(is) DubUn(ensis), qui obiit 
xviijo die Octobr., anno domini m.ccclxxv. Uia uite mors." 


marriage with Lucy Willoughby, two manors in the parish of 
Beddington, near Croydon, one coming by inheritance from his 
wife's father, and the other by purchase from his wife's first 
husband. Thus estabhshed as a Surrey squire, he was county 
member in the parliament of 1360,^ and was the ancestor of the 
Carews still represented in the female line by the owners of 
Beddington Park.2 The old rate of 20s. a day for the expenses 
of the keeper and his clerks, until order was taken for their 
continual estabhshment in the household, was now substituted 
for the daily 13s. 4d. thought sufficient for Lacy. Carew first 
received wages, £40,^ on August 19, 1371, which, at the normal 
rate, implies little more than a month's tenure of office. As 
salaries were generally in arrears, it is not unlikely that he had 
held office since the events of March. He was paid wages imtil 
June 24, 1377, three days after Edward's death, being apparently 
too pliant or insignificant to be displaced either by the Good 
Parliament or by the Lancastrian triumph following upon its 
collapse. As one of the executors of Edward IIL's will,* he 
was much occupied in carrying out its provisions during the next 
few years, though he was again knight of the shire for Surrey 
in the first parhament of Richard IL, which met on October 13, 
1377.^ In company with other confidants of the late king, he 
was appealed to by Alice Ferrers as having certain knowledge 
of the untruth of the charges brought against her.^ He drew 
up his own will in 1387, by which he left considerable legacies 
to the church of Beddington and for other religious purposes. 
In 1391 he died, and was buried in Beddington church. The 
experiment of a lay keeper was not repeated.'' 

1 Return of Members of Parliament, i. 165. 

2 Brayley and Britton, History of Surrey, iv. 52-53, 62. The tomb of his 
son, the Nicholas Carew the younger of the early patent rolls of Richard II., 
is figured in ib. 62, from the brass in Beddington Church. He died in 1432 
" senex et plenus dierum." 

3 I.R. 442/18 ; cf. 451/5. 

* Nichols' Royal Wills, p. 63. One of his brother-executors was bishop 
Buckingham of Lincoln, his predecessor as keeper. 

^ Return of Members of Parliament, i. 199. There is a note that he was 
" loco militis." His son also represented Surrey in various parliaments between 
1394 and 1417. 

^ Rot. Pari. iii. 13. Her appeal to Carew has a special point when we realise 
that he was himself in that parliament. It did not prevent her condemnation. 

' There was some convenience in the lay keeper. See, for instance, the 
curious letter written by Carew to the chancellor, ending " sachaunt, sire, qe 

46 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

The insignificance of the two last keepers of Edward III.'s 
privy seal is further proof of how little Wykeham's special 
position had affected the office. But in the new reign it was 
thought worth while to secure for the privy seal a man of higher 
official status. He was John Fordham, who, though unimportant 
as a king's clerk, had become prominent as " secretary " of the 
Black Prince since 1375 at least. He was also one of his executors,^ 
and had been transferred to the important position of general 
receiver and keeper of the privy seal in the shortlived household 
of Richard of Bordeaux as prince of Wales.2 On June 26, 1377,^ 
he was made keeper of the privy seal of the young king, and re- 
tained this post until December 12, 1381, the eve of his consecra- 
tion to the bishopric of Durham,'* 

Perhaps it is an indication of some decreasing importance of 
the keeper of the privy seal as a minister, that Fordham's name, 
like the names of his two immediate predecessors, occurs seldom in 
the records and chronicles. Further, when the first parliament 
of Richard II. petitioned that, during the minority, the chief 
officers of the crown should be nominated in parliament, the 
magnates controlling the council allowed this for chancellor and 
treasurer, steward and chamberlain, but put the keeper of the 
privy seal into a secondary category of posts reserved by the 
king for " his personal choice." s Subsequently, as we have seen, 

nul des clers du priue seal voille escrire de ceste matere pur dute de irregularite." 
This is printed in Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 58-59, and seems to have concerned a 
matter in which it was uncanonical for clerks to act. Sir Henry suggests that 
his "assistants" were in "holy orders," though clerkship, of course, did not 
imply any " orders " at all. A similar trouble was avoided in the chancery 
of Aragon, where the chancellor was nearly always a bishop, by the appoint- 
ment of a vice-chancellor, " vir fidelis et sapiens et in iure civili peritus post 
cancellarium proponatur vinculo alicuius sacri ordinis minime alligatus ; ut, si 
forte quid per cancellarium in criminaUbus fieri non poterit, per istum sup- 
pleatur " ; Finke, Acta Aragonensia, i. xlv. 

1 For Fordham's earlier career, see above, iii. 330; C.W. 1339/13, makes 
Richard speak of him as one " qui nobis et genitori nostro celeberrime memorie 
per magna tempora deseruuit." Compare C.P.R., 1381-85, p. 362. He is 
caUed king's clerk in 1374 ; ib., 1374-77, p. 76. For his benefices in 1374, 
see C. Pap. R. Let. iv. 189. 

2 See above, iv. 189-191, where a summary of his account is given. 

* See above, iii. 330. 

* This took place on January 6, 1382. He was appointed by provision on 
September 9, 1381, and received his temporalities on October 23. For his 
later history, see above, iii. 436. 

* See above, iii. 335-336. 


this position was modified, all the early parliaments of Richard 
II. recognising the privy seal as one of the five principal offices of 
the crown. In the worst days of the continual council, all five 
were free to transact the routine business of their office, independ- 
ently of the control of the special council of regency. Fordham 
was peculiarly devoted to his young master. He sent his clerk 
to Avignon to inform the pope of his coronation, ^ and he stood by 
him in the Tower in the earlier stages of the Peasants' Revolt. ^ 
He suffered for his loyalty, incurring such unpopularity with the 
London mob that it raided his house in the Strand, though the 
only harm it did was in stealing his wine.^ 

Fordham's successor at the privy seal was William Dighton, 
who took up office on December 13, 1381.* His career is a replica 
of that of John Winwick, though he showed little of his pre- 
decessor's energy and power of rising to the occasion. Dighton 
spent a long life in the ofiice of the privy seal. The son of a priest 
and an unmarried woman, he needed papal dispensations to make 
him eligible to receive holy orders and the modest share of livings 
and prebends that fell to his lot.^ He was a clerk of the privy 
seal by 1356,^ so that he had served under Winwick a quarter of 
a century before his own promotion to the keepership. In 1380 
his seniority was recognised by a mandate that his wage of 7|d. a 
day, hitherto paid by the wardrobe, should henceforth be paid 
directly by the exchequer.' Similarly, when Dighton became 
keeper, the exchequer was ordered to pay him the " accustomed 
wages of his office, so long as he shall stand in office, until order 

1 I.R. 465/5. The clerk was William Broxham, who received a gift of 
20 marks for this service. 

2 Anon. Chron. p. 139, which, by anticipation, calls him " elit de Durreme." 

* lb. p. 141 : " Et pluis alerount al place del evesque de Chestre pred la 
esgUse de seint Marie de Lestronde ou f uist demurrant sire Johan Fordham, elit 
de Duresme et clerk del priuee seal, et rolleront tonayls de vine hors de soun 
celer et beyverount assez et departirount saunz pluis male fair." This clemency 
was not due to consideration for Fordham, but to the prospect of more 
attractive booty and vengeance from John of Gaunt's manor of the Savoy, 
near at hand. 

* C.C.R., 1381-85, p. 35 : " When by the king's command he took upon him 
the keeping thereof." 

^ C. Pap. R. Pet. i. 37, 420. This later petition was in 1363, and he describes 
himself as " the king's secretary." 

8 I.R. 380/22 : a gift of 20s. to each of the four clerks, made on August 24, 
1356, Dighton being third in order of seniority. Compare ib. 387/7. 

' Ib. 475/13. 

48 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

be taken for his continual abode in the royal household." ^ He 
seems, however, only to have been appointed as a stop-gap, for 
within eight months a more imposing person was put in his place. 
Thereupon Dighton resumed his old position as a clerk of the 
seal, with 7|d. a day as wages. He was, however, now described 
as " secondary," a title hereafter used to designate the chief of 
the four clerks. ^ 

Dighton's supplanter was a man of higher status. We have 
already spoken of most aspects of the career of Walter Skirlaw, 
a canonist, a protege of archbishop Thoresby and a chancery 
clerk long employed in the diplomatic side of that office.^ He 
now became keeper of the privy seal, acting from August 9, 1382,* 
to October 24, 1386.^ With him the keeper of the privy seal again 
becomes one of the most active and powerful of the Idng's minis- 
ters. The circumstances of the time gave great scope for Skirlaw's 
diplomatic activity abroad, and he was also in attendance on the 
king, both at home and abroad, on several important occasions. 
Thus he was employed at Calais, early in 1384, negotiating for a 
peace with France which was not realised, accompanied by two 
clerks of his office, Guy Rockcliffe and Roger Elmham,^ and in 
the autumn of that year he was paid his expenses for attending 
the king in Picardy at a date not specified.' Early in 1385, 
Skirlaw visited Paris on a diplomatic mission, attended by 
the same two clerks.^ In the summer he attended Richard II. 
on his abortive Scottish campaign, accompanied by an armed 
comitiua of thirty esquires and thirty archers.^ Finally he elo- 
quently explained to the October parliament the reasons which 
had induced the king to appoint Pole earl of Suffolk, Vere mar- 
quis of Dublin and his two uncles dukes of York and Gloucester.^" 

1 C.C.R., 1381-85, p. 35. 

" For Dighton as secondary, see later, p. 104. 

^ For Skirlaw's earlier career, see above, iii. p. 400. 

^ "In vigilia sancti Laurencii"; Exch. of Receipt, Warrants for Issue, bu. 
12, file 83 (dated Oct. 21, 6. R. II.). 

^ His successor received wages from this day ; I.R. 515/17. 

« I.R. 499/16, 502/7, 9, 18. 

' lb. 505/8. The entry is dated November 5, 1384. There seems no other 
evidence of Richard's visit to Picardy. 

« lb. 505/23. « lb. 508/12. 

^^ Rot. Pari. iii. 205. He is described as " doctor egregius, eloquens et 
discretus, magister Walterus Skirlaw, custos privati sigilli, Coventriensia et 
Lichfeldensis episcopus electus confirmatus." 


Such advocacy of the king's most unpopular acts stamped him, 
as much as Fordham, as a thoroughgoing partisan of Richard 
and the court. It was, therefore, inevitable that the triumphant 
barons in the parliament of 1386 should deprive him of office.^ 
Papal provision had made Skirlaw bishop of Lichfield and soon 
translated him to the richer see of Wells. His consecration as 
bishop was of extraordinary splendour and was graced by the 
presence of the king.^ However, a dispute with Richard, with 
reference to his translation, soon brought about a permanent 
coolness between the king and Skirlaw, This resulted in an 
approximation of Skirlaw to the side of the opposition. It was 
baronial influence that resulted in his further translation to 
Durham, when Fordham's royalism was punished in 1388 by his 
degradation to Ely. Save for a little diplomatic work abroad, 
Skirlaw's public career ended with his loss of the privy seal. He 
was henceforth absorbed in the work of his bishopric, where his 
liberalities won for him a great reputation.^ 

The solemn removal, in parliament, of the three great officers 
of the crown, on October 24, 1386,^ was a ministerial crisis of 
quite a modern type. As this involved their successors' appoint- 
ment in parliament, it went without saying that the new officials 
would be men in whom the estates had confidence. At first sight, 
therefore, it seems strange that the keeper of the privy seal should 
be a permanent member of the civil service, namely, John 
Waltham, keeper of the chancery rolls. He, like Skirlaw, was 
brought into the chancery by archbishop Thoresby, his great- 
uncle, being a member of the numerous clan which first found 
places in that office through Thoresby's care for his kinsmen and 
compatriots.^ It is a striking illustration of a fact already noticed 

1 See above, iii. 413. ^ Monk of Evesham, p. 60. 

^ For Skirlaw's later career, see iii. 436. For his munificence at Durham, 
see his life by Professor Tait in the D.N.B. 

* The new keeper, Waltham, took wages from that date; I.R. 515/17. 
They were the usual 20s. a day ; ib. 518/10. 

^ For Waltham's family, and his relation with the Thoresby clan, see above, 
iii. 215-216. He must be carefully distinguished from other John Walthams, 
not only from his father, a layman, and his uncle, sub-dean of York, but also 
from John Waltham, sacristan of the chapel of St. Mary and the Angels, York, 
and John Waltham, one of the king's carters. The passages that show the 
distinctions are C.P.R., 1381-85, pp. 315, 442, 495, 518, 529. For his position 
at the privy seal, see above, iii. 413, 430 ; for his attitude as a chancery reformer, 
ib. pp. 442-444 ; and for his later work as treasurer, ib. pp. 461-462. 


50 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

elsewhere that many of the leading chancery clerks, perhaps 
through their duties as the permanent officers of parliament, 
were constitutional rather than curialist in their sympathies. 
But Waltham's tenure of the privy seal, lasting until May 3, 1389, 
had on him exactly the contrary effect that the office had had on 
Skirlaw. Waltham's friendship with the opposition was destroyed 
after his three years at the privy seal, while Skirlaw, the mouth- 
piece of the court as an official, assumed as a prelate the ordinary 
attitude of the magnate. Witliin two years Waltham was again 
in office. During his later career, as treasurer and as bishop of 
Salisbury, he was, as we have seen, the man above all others 
whom Richard II. delighted to honour, both in life and in death. ^ 
The fact of Waltham's appointment in parliament brought 
home more clearly perhaps than before the establishment of the 
privy seal as the third ministry of the crown. The petition of the 
commons on which the new appointments were based begged the 
king to nominate in parliament " sufficient officers," to wit, 
chancellor, treasurer, keeper of the privy seal and steward of the 
household, and also the other lords of his great and continual 
council. 2 The king granted this petition, except as regards the 
steward, and immediately, without consulting the council, chose 
a steward from the courtier ranks. This left only " three ofl&cers," 
an advance on the doctrine of 1380, when the keeper was only one 
of " five officers," the fifth being of course the chamberlain. The 
keeper of the privy seal was thus definitely recognised as the 
third officer of the crown, the commons' abandonment of the 
claim to nominate household officers emphasising the distinction 
between them and the privy seal keeper, who, not so long ago, 
was reckoned with them and even after them. The baronial 
triumph in 1386 secured, therefore, the constitutional position of 
the keeper of the privy seal,^ and in 1388 the Merciless Parliament 
definitely picked out these " three officers," chancellor, treasurer 
and privy seal, to review the principal royal courts, namely, the 
chancery, the two benches and the exchequer.* All through 

1 Above, iii. 461-462. The bishop of Worcester kindly informs me that, 
according to West. Abbey MSS. 5262A, November 18 was the date on which 
the anniversary of his death was observed. ^ Rot. Pari. iii. 221. 

* The " trois officers le roy, cest assavoir, chauncellor, tresorer et gardeyn de 
prive seal," were ex-oflScio members of the commission. 

* Eot. Pari. iii. 250. This was a commons' petition which received the 
royal assent. 


Waltham's tenure of office, the importance of the privy seal and 
its dependence on the estates were constantly brought out. Thus 
Waltham took a conspicuous part in the work of the special com- 
mission set up in 1386, received the appeal of the opposition lords 
in 1387 at Waltham Cross, and had a hand in the chancery re- 
forms which chancellor Arundel was then carrying through. So 
little departmental jealousy had he that he acquiesced in the 
transference of the custody of the ancient records of the privy 
seal to the chancery.^ Final evidence of his popularity was his 
consecration as bishop of Salisbury during the session of the Cam- 
bridge parliament in 1388 ^ that the estates might witness the 
promotion of their nominee. Inevitably, under such conditions, 
he yielded up office when the king, on May 4, 1389, dramatically 
asserted his intention of governing as well as reigning. ^ 

We have examined the cautious steps by which Richard, after 
the great stroke in 1389, restored the exercise of the prerogative. 
Of the three ministers who now replaced the baronial partisans, 
only one could be regarded as unpledged to the constitutional 
tradition. This one, Mr. Edmund Stafford, who, on May 4, 1389, 
became keeper of the privy seal,* was far from belonging to the 
upstart courtier crowd to which Richard alone gave his full con- 
fidence. He was a man of higher birth than any keeper since 
Zouch, being, as we have seen,^ the son and heir of that Richard 
Stafford who was the trusted intimate of the Black Prince.^ He 
had enjoyed the possession of his father's estates since 1380, had 
been dean of York since 1385, and before that had made a dis- 
tinguished career for himself as chancellor of Oxford University, 
a doctor of canon law and a practitioner in the ecclesiastical 
courts. But he had taken little share in politics or official life, and 
was, perhaps, the only keeper of the privy seal in this reign who 
was not a professional administrator. There is nothing in his 

1 See above, iii. 442, n. 1. ^ Monk of Westminster, p. 189. 

^ See above, iii. 454-455. I.E. 524/3 shows that Waltham, bishop of Salis- 
bury, was paid his 20s. a clay up to and including May 3, the day on which 
Richard claimed his own in the council, " quo die exoneratus fuit ab oificio 
predicto." His later change of policy has already been noticed. 

■* I.R. 524/17. Stafford's wages began on May 4, " quo die constitutus erat 
ad officium predictum." 

^ For a summary of his career and an estimate of his position, see above, 
iii. 462-463. 

* For PJchard Stafford, see above, iii. 334, 344 ; and below, p. 390. 

52 THE PRIVY SEAL oh. xvi 

record that suggests either corruption or subservience, and he 
seems to have been of the type content to do the daily task and 
follow implicitly the commands of the superior officer. Accord- 
ingly, he faithfully accommodated himself to the gradual develop- 
ment of the king's policy. 

Stafford was the only one of the ministers and " lords of the 
great council " who did not surrender his office in parliament 
on January 20, 1390.^ As all at once received them back, no 
political inference of value can be drawn from this act, except, 
perhaps, that it affords evidence of the exceptional strength of 
Stafford's position. In an ordinance of March 8, 1390, as to 
council procedure, the keeper of the privy seal was given the 
special function of examining bills or petitions of lesser moment, 
with the help of such of the council as happened to be present. ^ 
This suggests the strengthening of the privy seal as an office 
parallel and supplementary to the chancery, and the delegation 
of certain types of unimportant business to it. The privy seal 
was increasingly becoming a sort of secondary secretariat for 
work not appropriated by the chancery. At the same time 
John Prophet, a clerk of the privy seal since 1386, emerged as 
clerk of the council, with the result that the privy seal office 
stood to council in much the same relation that chancery stood 
to parliament. 2 However limited in numbers were the working 
councils of these years, the keeper of the privy seal was as indis- 
pensable a member of them as the chancellor and the treasurer. 
Such growth of departmental business meant that the privy 
seal was more " out of court " than ever. Thus in 1394-95, 
when Richard II. made his first Irish expedition, Stafford and 
the privy seal remained at home in England. In consequence 
the king corresponded with ministers and council under his 
signet.* Now that the privy seal had become so largely official- 
ised, this newer instrument was needed to perform the functions 

1 See above, iii. 460. 

* A.P.C. i. 18. Chancery, exchequer and common law matters were to be 
respectively referred to their appropriate offices. 

^ See above, iii. 466-467. 

* A.P.C. i. 55, 57. Again in 1399, keeper Clifford remained in England 
during Richard's second Irish visit. Henry IV. and later kings faithfuUy 
followed these precedents ; ib. i. 121, 129, 130, 135, 143. Consequently the 
keeper no longer followed the king as a matter of course, though he might be 
called to his side ; ib. i. 129. 


which the privy seal had originally discharged. Stafford had 
his reward for unquestioning service when, early in 1395, he was 
both elected and provided to the bishopric of Exeter. He was 
consecrated on June 20, but retained the privy seal until February 
16, 1396, when he was succeeded by Guy Mone.i Made chancellor 
on October 23, 1396, his complaisance under Richard's autocracy 
in 1397-99 was as complete as his acceptance of his constitutional 
rule before that date.^ In the same spirit of submission to 
authority, he adhered to Henry of Lancaster in 1399. 

For his two last keepers of the privy seal Richard II. went 
back to the ancient tradition of promoting household servants. 
Stafford's immediate successor, Guy Mone, king's clerk,^ had been 
receiver of the king's chamber since June 13, 1391, and belonged, 
therefore, to the type of Kilsby and Hatfield. He difiered from 
them in retaining his receivership almost as long as he remained 
keeper of the privy seal.* On February 16, 1396, by the king's 
command, he took upon himself the keeping of the privy seal, 
though it was not until June 18 that chancery issued its mandate 
to the exchequer to pay him his usual wages " until order shall 
be taken for his continual abode in the Idng's household." ^ 
Unlike Stafford, he earned promotion by subserviency, and 
was made successively bishop of St. Davids and treasurer. He 
was succeeded at the privy seal by Richard Clifford,^ who had 
won the king's favour as a clerk of his chapel in the evil 
days before 1388, and had been condemned by the Merciless 
Parliament. One of Richard II. 's first acts after assuming 
power was to establish Clifford as keeper of the great wardrobe. 
From this post he was, on November 14, 1397, nominated Mone's 
successor,' though he was allowed to combine the privy seal 
with the great wardrobe until February 2, 1398, and probably 

1 C.G.R., 1392-96, p. 469. 

2 For the later stages of Stafford's career, see above, iv. 7-8, 45, 49-50 
and 62. ^ For Mone's general history, see above, iv. 8, 49. 

* Until February 1, 1.398. C.P.R., 1396-99, p. 317, gives the limits of his 

* O.C.R., 1392-96, p. 469. The repetition of the formula is meaningless, 
and, as earlier, is in no wise suggestive of any intention of restoring the privy 
seal of office to residence in the household. 

'' For his career, see above, iii. 430, 464 ; iv. 49, 385. 

' C.C.R., 1396-99, p. 259, a mandate of April 20, 1398, ordering the exchequer 
to pay him arrears of his wages and fees from November 14 last, when he was 
advanced to be keeper of the privy seal. 

54 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

later.i He remained in office until the fall of Richard II., when 
he promptly went over to Henry of Lancaster. He died in 1421 
as bishop of London. If he was, as is generally said, one of 
the Westmorland Cliffords, he was, as regards family as well as 
career, a close parallel to his predecessor, Edmund Stafford. 

Although the history of the privy seal for the last ten years 
of the reign showed that its keepers were devoted to the royal 
policy, the office continued to be essentially a ministry of state 
and showed no tendency to relapse into an office of the household. 
This comes out in the delicate balancing of the ministerial and 
official elements in the sort of inner council of royal confidants 
to which Richard II. assigned the delicate business of assessing 
fines from persons excused from attendance before the council. 
The three officers of state, chancellor, treasurer and privy seal, 
were matched by the three chamber knights who were Richard's 
special favourites. ^ Even a devoted minister, eager to carry 
out the royal wishes, could not get as near the king's heart as 
his unofficial dependents. Early in this chapter, we learnt 
that Richard Bury assigned the service of the privy seal to the 
household. By the fall of Richard II. it had definitely become the 
third ministry of state. A king strong enough, like Richard, 
to control his chancellor and treasurer, could dominate his keeper 
of the privy seal. But the office was now definitely out of court, 
and the omission from the mandate for the payment of Clifford's 
salary of the time-honoured phrase threatening a revival of 
residence in court ^ is proof that facts had at last overcome even 
the stubborn conservatism of the mediaeval official, so loath 
to adapt his forms to changing order. 


The Office, Household and Staff of the Privy Seal 

We have, perforce, in tracing the history of the keepership of 
the privy seal from the ordinances of 1311 to the deposition of 

1 See above, iv. 382, 386. 2 A. P.O. i. 76. 

3 C.C.R., 1396-99, p. 259, orders wages to be paid " so long as he shall 
stand in office." The old formula was used in the similar order on behalf of 
Mone in 1396 ; see above, p. 53, n. 5. 


Richard II., already said much about the functions of the keeper, 
about the staff with which he worked and about its organisation 
both as an oiSice for business purposes and as a household for 
keeping up some sort of corporate life. Our business in the 
present section is to deal with these matters more systematically 
and completely, setting forth what has to be said not so much 
in its historical development, as in a synthetic picture of 
the whole privy seal system as it was in the latter half of the 
fourteenth century. Before we approach the questions involved, 
it will be well to summarise such of the conclusions of the pre- 
ceding section as tend to illustrate the adaptation of staff and 
office to meet the varying aims which at different times the privy 
seal was expected to fulfil. 

In our last section we saw how the office of the privy seal, 
instituted as a household secretariat, slowly shook itself loose 
from the household and became an independent office of state, 
the third great ministry of the crown. There was an inter- 
mediate stage, the stage represented by the Walton ordinances, 
in which the function of the privy seal was neither wholly domestic 
nor wholly political, when it served as a control on the great 
political officers to compel them to execute the policy of their 
master rather than their own or that of the aristocracy. But 
this use of the privy seal was only imperfectly attempted, and 
never had any real chance of success. The conditions of the 
great continental war required, for many years, a division between 
the ministry in England and the ministry which followed the 
king to his wars overseas. Of the ministry attendant on the 
crown the keeper of the privy seal and his staff formed the 
nucleus. Every function of government had to be discharged 
by them. Just as, under normal conditions, every administrat- 
ive function fell upon the chancellor, the " secretary of state 
for all departments," so during the war the keeper of the privy 
seal became the second chancellor for all such business as had 
to be dealt with by the king abroad with the advice of his im- 
mediate followers. The habit of entrusting to the keeper of 
the privy seal the great seal, as well as the privy seal, and of 
strengthening his modest staff with some of the best brains from 
the office of the chancery, completed his establishment as a 
second " secretary of state." He and his augmented office 

56 THE PEIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

discharged the duties which in modern days would fall to the 
secretaries of state for foreign affairs and for war. 

This development of the keepership into a general administrat- 
ive office abroad had a repercussion on the position of the keeper- 
ship at home. An ambitious minister was unlikely to be con- 
tented with a position in his own country inferior to that which 
he held when in personal attendance on his master beyond seas. 
Inevitably he was called upon in England to perform many of 
the functions which he was accustomed to perform abroad. The 
immense growth of administrative machinery, and the inadequacy 
of a single office to act as the sole secretariat of state, furthered 
the development of the keepership into a permanent political 
office. The keeper of the privy seal gradually took upon himself 
nearly all the duties of the chancellor, though his position was 
subordinate rather than co-ordinate. There was absolutely no 
attempt to legalise, or even at first to recognise, this. It was the 
result of the march of events, and had the advantage of enabling 
the whole ground of state affairs to be covered without the estab- 
lishment of a fresh administrative office. The dignity of the 
chancellor was unimpaired, while he and his staff were relieved of 
much of the detail that otherwise would have fallen upon their 

Under these changed conditions, the old tradition of hostility 
to the privy seal died away, though it was long before men cleared 
from their minds all suspicion of the privy seal being used to 
deflect matters of justice from their ordinary course. Thus, in the 
parliament of October, 1377, the commons combined with a new 
complaint against the signet their old grievance that the law was 
often delayed by letters of privy seal, and were informed that the 
law on these matters should be carefully executed.^ There were 
similar complaints in 1378 in the parliament of Gloucester, 2 In 
1379 the commons' remonstrance became more definite. They 
stated that letters of credence imder the privy seal had been sent 
by various courtiers to different parts of the realm to seek for 
money for the king's use. These letters had the queues — strips of 
parchment on which the address was normally written — blank, 
and the persons accredited with them wrote thereon the names of 
any persons they chose, and sent them the letters, affirming that 
1 Rot. Pari. iii. 23. 2 lb. iii, 44. 


the king demanded of them sums of money, and summoning 
before the king's council those who refused to pay.^ The petition 
was granted. In the same parliament the burgesses of Calais 
complained that the butchers had been driven out of their share 
of the market hall, though their right to this had been secured by 
charter, on the pretext of a letter of privy seal sent to the treasurer 
of Calais. 2 On similar lines was the petition of the commons of 
1383 that no commission from the chancery, or letter of privy 
seal, should disturb the property of any subject without due trial, 
and that such commissions should be forthwith cancelled.^ 
Gradually, just as under the first two Edwards the great seal 
was upheld as the constitutional instrument against the encroach- 
ments of the privy seal, the privy seal came to be maintained as a 
constitutional seal against the signet, the instrument of arbitrary 
prerogative. An early result of this was the claim made by the 
commons of 1386, who impeached Michael de la Pole, that the 
keeper of the privy seal should be nominated in parliament along 
with the chancellor and treasurer. The king granted the petition, 
and on October 24, 1386, John Waltham, late keeper of the 
chancery rolls, became keeper of the privy seal with the good- 
will of the opposition.* With the breaking up of that opposition, 
the complaints against the privy seal became ancient history. 
Within its sphere the privy seal was now fully recognised as an 
integral part of the machine of state. 

To classify the functions of the privy seal beyond a certain 
point is not easy, for the mediaeval conception of afiairs of state 
was so vague that it is hard to fix definite bounds to the com- 
petency of any government office. We have said enough of its 
function as warranty to chancery for the issue of letters of great 
seal. This side of its activity, overstressed by modern scholars 
generalising too much from the great masses of surviving " chan- 
cery warrants," became increasingly formal in the later years of 
our period, when the organisation of the signet office made the 
writ of privy seal a mere link in a lengthening chain of formalities. 
Almost, perhaps quite, as important was the privy seal's function 

1 Rot. Pari. iii. 62. 2 lb. iii. 67. ^ 7^, iii_ 152. 

* His wages begin on that day ; Stubbs, G.H. ii. 497, records the changes in 
the chancery and treasury, but omits to mention that in the privy seal, not 
reaUsing the importance of the step then taken. See also above, iii. 413, 442. 

58 THE PEIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

as warranty to the exchequer for issues, for in the generation 
succeeding the Walton ordinances the writ of privy seal came 
near to superseding the chancery writ of liberate which had 
earlier been necessary to open the money bags of the treasurer. 
That late in the fourteenth century importance was still attached 
to privy seal warrants is seen in the attempt of the commons of 
1389 to restrain the issue of pardons for murder, treason and rape 
under the great seal without a preliminary mandate under the 
privy seal. Their action led to legislation setting forth that " no 
pardon for treason or other felony pass the chancery without 
warrant of privy seal, except in cases when the chancellor can 
issue such pardons by virtue of his office, without mentioning the 
matter to the king." ^ But the privy seal office had much more 
important work than the issue of " warrants " to set other de- 
partments in motion. The real strength of the ofiice resided in 
the original force of instruments under privy seal.^ Apart from 
their importance in communication with foreign courts, and, to a 
less degree, with private persons, they, unlike signet letters, were 
regarded as perfectly constitutional and legitimate within certain 
limits, and a large amount of general business was transacted by 
them. Slowly also there grew up a rough sort of division of labour 
between the chancellor and the keeper of the privy seal, the 
general principle being that greater matters were authorised by 
the great seal, and lesser matters by the privy seal. Before 
Edward III.'s time most orders of moment involved a writ of 
great seal, and general commands under the privy seal only were 
unconstitutional, if not actually illegal. Under Edward III. and 
his grandson the privy seal, released from the household, became 
the appropriate seal for many minor purposes, though the great 
seal was still often thought necessary for high affairs of state and 
even more for matters of law.^ But concurrent jurisdiction of 

1 Maxwell-Lyte, p. 23 ; Statute 13 Ric. II. 2 (c.l.) in Statutes of the Realm, 
ii. 69. 

2 See above, pp. 12-13. 

* See for example the statute of Northampton, which forbade a writ of privy 
seal impeding the process of the common law ; Stat, of Realm, i. 259 (c. viii.). 
Accordingly in 1335 a royal writ ordered the sheriff of Yorkshire to proceed 
with the outlawry of Hugh Lowther, who had " cunningly demanded a writ of 
privy seal to supersede the " exigent " contrary to the provision of the statute 
of Northampton that no order should be given by great or little seal to impede 
the common law " ; G.C.R., 1333-37, p. 531. 


two offices and the use of one as a control on the other proved to 
be difficult in practice. 

The keeper was at last, early in the reign of Edward III., 
definitely recognised as one of the three chief ministers of state, 
to be named wdth, though still after, the chancellor and treasurer. 
These three began to form a committee, either by reason of their 
offices, or as a permanent committee of council, to which the final 
decision in many important matters was delegated. Not only was 
the keeper, like chancellor and treasurer, an indispensable member 
of council. He had special influence on council, since its secre- 
tariat was largely under his control. ^ The reason for all this was 
that council was still regarded as an advisory, not as an executive 
body. As a matter of fact, the council of the fourteenth century 
was largely responsible for the administration of the kingdom. 
Yet it had no way of making itself felt, no authority to issue an 
executive order. To do this required a sealed document, and all 
seals were seals of the king. Resolutions of council, to be oper- 
ative, had to be embodied in writs, emanating from either the 
great or the privy seal. It was the common possession of seals 
which closely bound together the chancellor and keeper. True, the 
treasurer had his seal also, but he was limited to finance, and for 
general administration his seal had not the currency of the great 
and privy seals. Thus the custodians of great and privy seals 
were the source of all general administrative instruments, outside 
the financial and the judicial spheres. 

The great seal summoned parliaments,^ and parliamentary 
statutes were often promulgated under writs of great seal.^ But 
councils, great and ordinary, came to be regularly summoned by 
privy seal ; and the execution of conciliar resolutions, now 
beginning to be called ordinances, was by writ of privy seal.^ By 
this time, both parliament and council felt the need of recording 
its transactions. As neither had a secretariat of its own, the 
former had recourse to the great and the latter to the privy seal. 
The clerks of the two sealing offices were also appointed to give 

1 See above, p. 13. ^ lb. 

3 It was customary to send out to the sheriffs exemplifications of statutes 
under the great seal, often with orders for the publication. This continued the 
practice by which charters of liberties were earlier promulgated. See R. L. 
Poole, " The PubUcation of Great Charters by the English Kings," in E.H.R. 
xxviii. 444-453. * See also above, p. 13. 

60 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

their aid to the deliberative bodies in the management of their 
business. Thus chancery clerks arranged the composition, the 
business, the payment and the record-keeping of parliament, 
while privy seal clerks dealt similarly with the business of the 
councii. Just as chancery clerks received parliamentary petitions, 
and acted as clerks of parliament and clerks of the commons, so 
privy seal clerks acted as messengers and agents of the council, 
kept its minutes, drafted and signed its resolutions, until one of 
its senior clerks became the clerk of the council. Struck by the 
constant conciliar use of the privy seal, scholars have often main- 
tained that the privy seal was in a special sense the seal of the 
council. This view cannot be substantiated. However much the 
council used the privy seal, it did not exercise direct control over 
it and did not use it exclusively. Many of the more important 
resolutions of council were given effect to by writs of great seal, 
as is proved by the large proportion of letters patent and close 
that are annotated as warranted 'per petitionem concilii or per 
concilium. So long as both chancellor and keeper of the privy 
seal were active members of the council, the employment of the 
one seal or the other was a matter of convenience that depended 
upon the nature of the authorised act. If the privy seal was used 
more than the great seal, it was because the majority of acts of 
council were of the sort that naturally gave rise to a writ of privy 
seal. To this must be added the fact that a secretariat, in this 
instance drawn from the privy seal, had a natural bias in favour 
of its own means of authentication. Yet in spite of all, the privy 
seal can almost as little be called the seal of the council as the 
great seal can be called the seal of parliament. Moreover, as the 
fourteenth century advanced, other royal seals arose, notably the 
signet, whose keeper, the secretary, sat in council. However 
little traditional, the signet had the merit of expressing the per- 
sonal wish of the king, who, after all, was the authority responsible 
for all executive acts. We shall have later to treat of signet and 
secretary,^ but we must note that, for Richard II. 's reign at least, 
the council had upon occasion so much control over the great seal 
as to employ it to invalidate mandates under the signet. ^ More- 
over, the end of our period saw the growth of devices that some- 

1 For all the alternative small seals, see later, Chapter XVII. 
2 See above, iii. 469, for a case of this sort in 1393. 


times did away with the necessity of sealing at all. The royal sign 
manual, the initials, or fully written out autograph of the king, 
began with Edward III.,^ and became frequent under Richard II., 
as an authentication of executive acts. At other times the signa- 
ture of the clerk of the council or of all the members present 
supplied the lack of a seal. 

The great fact, never to be forgotten, is that the king governed 
the country and, whatever advice he took, was ultimately re- 
sponsible for all executive acts. The primary function of council, 
like the primary function of parliament, a glorified council, was 
not executive or judicial, but consultative or deliberate. Bodies 
which advised rather than enacted had no need of a seal. Ac- 
cordingly, we have never had a seal of parliament, and all through 
the middle ages we never had a seal of the council. No doubt 
it was to a large extent make-believe to pretend that both 
parliament and council possessed no executive function. Parlia- 
ment was constantly trying to control or to regulate the executive, 
though rarely with much success. The council of Edward III. 
and Richard II. was almost as much an executive body as the 
council of the Tudors. Yet the limited governing council of 
Henry VIII. and Edward VI. managed, like its mediaeval pre- 
decessors, to get on without a seal. Only in the reign of Philip 
and Mary was a council seal at last, in 1556, instituted.^ This 
was the formal recognition of the fact, patent for generations, 
that the king's council was the executive ministry of the realm. 
The wonder of it is that the council had done without a seal 
for so long. 

We have often seen that, even in the fourteenth century, no 
clear distinction was made between deliberative, executive and 
judicial functions. With the extension of the importance of the 
privy seal, it was inevitable that it should acquire some place 
in the judicial system of the country. Like chancery, it issued 
writs, and writs of chancery were the beginning of all legal 
actions. Already the chancery was accidentally becoming a 
law court as well as the chief department of state, and it seems 
natural to expect that the minor office of state should j)articipate 

1 See, for example, Foedera, iii. 657. 

^ See for this subject the valuable article on "The Seal of the Privy Council," 
by Professor L. W. Labaree and Mr. R. E. Moody, in E.H.R. xliii. 190-202. 

62 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

in this new development. Special circumstances, however, 
retarded the growth of the judicial functions of the privy seal. 
When the original suspicion which its operations excited had 
abated as regards general administrative business, the old feeling 
of the danger of the interference of the privy seal with matters 
pertaining to the common law still survived. We see it mani- 
fested in the petition of the commons of 1371 against the inter- 
ference of the privy seal with the course of justice. ^ Nevertheless, 
the keeper of the privy seal, like the chancellor, had some sort 
of jurisdiction gradually thrust upon him, especially in matters 
imperfectly cognisable by the common law. Thus, in 1349, the 
king was so much occupied that all persons who had business 
to prosecute before him that concerned the common law were 
instructed to have recourse to the chancellor, while all those 
who were pursuing before the king matters of special grace were 
directed to apply to the chancellor or to the keeper of the privy 
seal. 2 In this way the chancellor gradually acquired that juris- 
diction which was later styled equitable, and almost from the 
beginning shared it with the keeper of the privy seal. In effect, 
as in general administration, so in legal, the more important 
cases went to the chancellor and the less to the keeper. Accord- 
ingly, we have growing up slowly, side by side with the judicial 
court of chancery, a similar judicial aspect of the office of the 
privy seal. 

The injunction of 1349 was often acted upon. Sometimes 
" petitions of grace " were directly referred to the keeper of the 
privy seal ; at other times the king himself sent a petition to 
the keeper for his examination.^ Certain members of the council 
assisted the keeper in his deliberations. The keeper was beginning 
to exercise judicial functions with the help of assessors, when 
the council ordinances of 1390 involved further change.* Again 
as in 1349 business was divided between chancellor and keeper. 
But, while there was no qualitative division in 1349, in 1390, 

1 Rot. Pari. ii. 308. 

2 Foedera, iii. 181 : " alia negotia de gratia nostra concedenda penes eundem 
cancellarium sen dilectum clericum nostrum custodem sigilli nostri privati 
prosequantur." The two ministers are to report to the king the things that 
cannot be done without him, along with their advice on the matter, so that the 
ultimate decision in doubtful cases remained with the king. 

3 See instances of both sorts in Baldwin, King's Council, p. 258. 
* See above, iii. 465-466. 


no doubt as the result of ascertained facts, " business of great 
charge " was left to the chancellor, while " bills of less charge " 
might be treated before the keeper of the privy seal and members 
of the council then present. ^ Professor Baldwin properly points 
out that these bills meant matters of small importance, and not 
the causes of poor men — so that even now we have no real 
adumbration of the Tudor " court of requests ", although the 
keeper's services were often called upon, probably because it 
was cheaper to refer things to him than to the chancellor. The 
petitions which, under this ordinance, went to the keeper are 
such that no hard-and-fast line can be drawn between them 
and the petitions addressed to the chancellor. 2 Probably the 
two ministers had substantially concurrent jurisdiction, a juris- 
diction by no means limited as yet to " equity " cases. The 
natural tendency, of course, was stUl for the bigger causes to 
go to chancery, which, if more costly, was more authoritative, 
learned and certain. The lesser cases, which went to the privy 
seal, tended to be largely the cases of suitors of modest means. 
But there is no need to pursue a theme which would take us far 
beyond our period. Not until the reign of Henry VII. does the 
" court of requests " appear as a separate, though modest, court 
of justice, different from the council, its parent. It was less 
clearly differentiated from the privy seal, whose keeper was its 
presiding officer and whose writs were its means of initiating 
and executing its proceedings.^ The last complaint against 
the privy seal referred to its interference with the process of 
common law. These complaints had not long ceased when the 
privy seal became the source of a law court. The parallel 
between chancellor and keeper was then even more complete 
with the keeper sitting as a judge in a court in which proceedings 
were initiated and executed by writs of privy seal. 

1 Nicolas, A.P.C. i. 18b, cf. 84-86. 

- See instances in Baldwin, pp. 259-260. But I cannot quite grasp his dis- 
tinction between " council (privy seal) " and " council in chancery." We must 
be cautious in giving too clear definitions to vague tendencies. Jurisdiction 
was still delightfully mixed up, even more so than was administration, between 
different and conflicting authorities. 

* See for all this I. S. Leadam's Select Cases in the Court of Bequests, 1497-1569 
(Selden Soc, 1898) and particularly Mr. Leadam's Introduction. Compare also 
W. S. Holdsworth's History of English Law, i. 207-211. It was bitterly assailed 
by the common lawyers and ceased to exercise effective jurisdiction after 1642. 

64 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

Thus the office of the privy seal became a " second chancery " 
and an inferior " office of state," relieving the overburdened 
chancery of some of its less important administrative and judicial 
functions. But it never quite attained the position of either 
of the two traditional offices of state, the chancery and the 
exchequer. Both in order of merit and in importance, it was 
distinctly third. It remained useful as a link between the two 
state offices and the two offices which continued curialistic, the 
stewardship and the chamberlainship. Together these five 
constituted the " five great offices," which, by Richard II. 's 
time, were as often spoken of as the " three great offices "in an 
earlier generation. Yet the privy seal had greater affinity with 
the chancery and exchequer than with the largely domestic 
offices of the steward and the chamberlain, even though it had 
not their independence and self-sufficiency. Clerks of the privy 
seal were inferior in status, emolument and prospects to the 
staffs of the older offices, while it was still promotion for the 
keeper of the privy seal to be made chancellor or treasurer. 

How imperfectly the office of the privy seal appreciated its 
new status may, perhaps, be illustrated by its incuriousness as 
to the preservation of its archives. During the very period 
that its power was in the ascendant, indifference in this matter 
seems to have increased, although at all stages the office seems to 
have paid little attention to mandates directing it to preserve 
or enrol documents. A file of drafts of the year 1322,^ and 
occasional references to rolls of the privy seal,^ suggest an obliga- 
tion to enrol writs something after chancery fashion. Indeed, 
on several occasions distinct injunctions to enrol certain types 
of documents were laid upon the office. Thus in 1326 chancellor 
and keeper were jointly ordered to enrol all writs for payments 
or liveries made at the exchequer, and send them as estreats to 
that office. The chancery estreats survive from a much earlier 
date ; those of the privy seal, if they were made, which seems 
doubtful, have absolutely disappeared.^ Again, in 1338 the 

^ Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 26-27, refers to Exch. Misc. 4/11 as a "file of the year 
1322, consisting of rough drafts, prepared by the clerks of the privy seal, of 
writs and letters to be sent to various persons, including the chancellor, or, in 
his absence, the keepers of the great seal. Others have been dispersed." 

^ See above, i. 34 and n. 1 ; ii. 304-305. 

3 Maxwell-Lyte, p. 27. 


Walton ordinances directed that all privy seal warrants should 
be enrolled/ but if ever such enrolment was attempted, the 
results do not survive, even in a fragmentary shape. More than 
that, enrolment was certainly not practised in the privy seal office 
in the reign of Richard II, The proof of this lies in the fact that 
in 1385, two writs of privy seal were enrolled in chancery on the 
close roll " because no register is kept in the office of the privy 
seal." 2 In the light of this lack of business method, if not of real 
negligence, we can well understand the issue of a mandate in the 
very next year that the records of the privy seal for the reign 
of Edward III. should be transferred to the keeper of the rolls 
of chancery, and the acquiescence in the order of so vigorous a 
keeper as John Waltham.^ This was also a curious anticipation 
of the modern policy of concentrating archives in a single de- 
pository, by which the successors of the keepers of the rolls of 
chancery, the masters of the rolls, have become responsible for 
the custody of all the archives of the state. The surviving 
fragments of privy seal archives have reached us mainly from 
the chancery and exchequer, both of these ofiices having had 
the excellent habit of filing the privy seals which they received 
as warrants for the issue of writs and payments. In similar 
ways, acts of council executed by writ of privy seal come to us, 
not directly from the privy seal office. 

We have spoken already of early forgeries of the privy seal. 
With the increasing vogue of the privy seal under Edward III. 
and Richard II., such forgeries were, not unnaturally, still common. 
A few instances can be given at random, but a more meticulous 
examination, especially of judicial records, would no doubt add 
largely to their number. In 1328 John Eton was imprisoned at 
Oxford for the offence of forging the privy seal.* In 1333 Richard 
Batyn, a clerk of Wycombe, confessed to having counterfeited it. 
He was arrested at Wycombe, but his confederates effected his 
release by violence. He then fled to Abingdon, and was slain 
there in an attempt to resist recapture.^ A curious result was a 

1 Above, iii. 72-73, 78. 

2 C.C.R., 1385-89, pp. 32-33, " Pro eo quod registrum in dicto officio 
priuati sigilli non habetar." This close roll memorandum is printed in full in 
Maxwell-Lyte, p. 27. 

3 C.C.R., 1385-89, p. 196. See also above, iii. 442, n. 1. 

4 C.C.R., 1328-30, pp. 264-265. ^ C.P.R., 1330-34, pp. 494, 499, 503. 

66 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

conflict between the ecclesiastical and the temporal jurisdictions. 
While the king pardoned the homicides who were only executing 
lawful orders, the diocesan, Burghersh of Lincoln, excommuni- 
cated them for laying hands upon a clerk.i The council requested 
the king to write to the bishop to remove the sentence, but we are 
not informed of the upshot of the affair. Another forger of the 
privy seal was Daniel Burgham, who was imprisoned in 1335 in 
the Marshalsea, on this charge. The evidence against him was 
doubtful and he was released on bail on condition of appearing 
before the king's bench in the autumn. Meanwhile he purged 
himself of offence by serving in the campaign against the Scots.^ 
This leniency does not seem to have had good results, for in 1345, 
ten years later, a commission was appointed to arrest men who in 
large numbers stayed in secret places with counterfeits of the 
great and small seals, and daily sealed with them charters of 
pardon and other forged letters and writs.^ A wider syndicate of 
forgery was investigated in the winter of 1367-68, when various 
commissions were appointed to arrest numerous conspirators for 
forging seals and money, both English and continental, among 
whose misdeeds was the forgery of the king's privy seal.^ There 
was still some distinction drawn between the criminality of 
imitating the two seals, for the Statute of Treasons of 1352, which 
declared forgery of the great seal to be treason, implied by omis- 
sion that it was not treason to counterfeit the privy seal. Similarly 
the keeper of the privy seal was not included among those ministers 
to slay whom was accounted treason.^ 

Let us now turn to the main subject of this section, and collect 
what we can learn of the clerks of the privy seal, beginning with 
their corporate capacity as the office of the privy seal and their 
social relations as the household of the privy seal. Then we may, 

1 Bot. Pari. ii. 73, where the culprit is called Hautyn, but the text cannot 
always be trusted. 

2 G.C.R., 1333-37, p. 503. 

3 C.P.E., 1343-45, p. 589. The original in Pat. No. 214, 19 E. III. pt. ii. 
m. 13d runs "plures contrafactores tam magni quam parui sigillorum nos- 
trorum . . . litteras patentes sigillo nostro contrafacto ac alias litteras et breuia 
false fabricata sub utroque sigillorum contrafactorum consignarunt et indies 
consignant." By a ludicrous slip in ii. 294, n. 2, I spoke of the king's " daily 
seal." The third line should run " great and little seals and daily seal with 

* lb., 1367-70, pp. 50, 51, 63, 66, 68, 135. 
s Stat, of Realm, i. 320 : Eot. Pari. ii. 239. 


thanks to the quantity of information that survives, go on to speak 
with considerable particularity of the individual clerks. 

We have already had occasion to say something of both the 
officium and the Jiospicium priuati sigilli. The office was the place 
where the clerks worked ; the household the place where they 
lodged and took their meals. At first both qfficium and Jiospicium 
were part of the king's own household. But even in the earliest 
times the exigencies of business, and in particular the attendance 
of the keeper at councils held far away from court, necessitated 
the finding of other places than the court for the privy seal clerks 
to work and live in. The fourteenth century's strong tendency 
to centralise government in a fixed " capital " made Westminster 
the most usual place for both office and household. Yet at least 
four stages had to be traversed before a firm establishment there 
was attained. We may pass lightly over the first stage, when the 
privy seal was the instrument of the chamber and its staff con- 
sisted of chamber clerks. In the second stage, under Henry III., 
the privy seal was transferred to the wardrobe and wardrobe 
clerks succeeded chamber clerks. During the latter years of 
Edward I., when the custody of the seal had become a definite 
obligation of the controller, certain specific wardrobe clerks 
were appointed to write for the seal. Whenever the controller 
went out of court, there was a controller's clerk who undertook 
his work as director of privy seal business.^ As early as this, two 
wardrobe clerks had special grants for writing, transcribing and 
enrolling letters of privy seal under controller Benstead's direction.^ 
Early in Edward II. 's reign there were two clerks receiving wages 
for " remaining in the wardrobe for writing letters for the privy 
seal," and a third whose functions included the safeguarding of 
its archives.^ Here we have the beginnings of the ofiice and its 
clerks, but development proceeded more rapidly after the 1311 
ordinances had directed that the custody of the seal should be 
the sole function of a keeper appointed ad hoc.'*' When the privy 
seal and its keeper Northburgh were captured at Bannockburn, 
the two clerks of the seal, who shared their master's captivity, 

1 Thus in 1300 Geoffrey Stoke, clerk of John Benstead, the controller, abode 
at court in his master's absence " for the purpose of making letters under the 
privy seal." 2 Above, ii. 69-90. 

» See above, ii. 287. * See above, ii. 195, 285-287. 

68 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

were described as personal clerks of keeper Northburgh. so vaguely 
that it is not clear whether they were clerks of the privy seal or 
not.i But by 1315 a new heading, de priuato sigillo, in the ward- 
robe accounts included allowances to two clerks of the seal, 
receiving half the amount of the fee of their master.^ At last in 
1318 the household ordinance of York revealed to us a special 
staff of four clerks " to write at the privy seal." Though still 
under the control of the keeper of the wardrobe, they formed, in 
fact, if not in name, an office of the privy seal. For some purposes 
they already constituted a separate sub-department, although 
their department was still a branch of the wardrobe. The evolu- 
tion of it into an ofl&ce " out of court," under the control of its 
keeper, was the work of the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II. 

Even before 1318 there was some tendency to establish both 
office and household out of court. We have often had occasion 
to notice the long periods during which Roger Northburgh, his 
seal and his clerks were in London or Westminster, attending on 
the council, while the king was far away.^ One consequence was 
that the wardrobe was burdened with heavy charges for the ex- 
penses of the keeper and his clerks during these absences from 
court.^ On one occasion, at least, details of the expenses are 
given for a stay of 47 days in London of the keeper and his 
clerks. They include not only food — bread, wine, beer, meat, 
fish — but the hire of a house — a hospicium.^ This payment of 
rent for a house shows that, under Edward II., the keeper and 
his clerks had no quarters of their own in Westminster palace. It 
is noteworthy also as an early employment of a phrase soon to 
become familiar, hospicium priuati sigilli. 

In tracing the history of the keepers we have often come across 
this hospicium. It is somewhat obscured to us in Edward III.'s 
early years, partly because of the lack of detailed wardrobe 
accounts, and partly because in the " particulars " of wardrobe 
expenses that remain the special charges for the privy seal and 

1 See above, ii. 294-295. 2 E.A. 37617, f. 87 d. 

3 See above, i. 287-291. 

* Maxwell-Lyte, p. 84, collects usefully some of these passages, which supple- 
ment those I have printed above, i. 288-289. 

* Maxwell-Lyte, p. 84 from E.A. 375/8, f. lid. Unluckily I omitted to quote 
this passage in my first volume. The crucial words are " per xlvij dies per quos 
fuit morando London, pro negociis predictis ut supra, ut in pane, vino, ceruisia, 
carnibus, pisce, conductione hospicii et aliis . . . xvj li. xiij s et o6." 


its clerks are lumped together with the general expenses of the 
wardrobe. The long sojourns of the privy seal abroad with the 
king, especially between 1338 and 1346, must have involved a 
constantly wandering officium and hospicium, with only occasional 
stationary periods at centres like Antwerp and Ghent. We next 
get clear light on our subject during Michael Northburgh's 
keepership between 1349 and 1354. I have already pointed out 
this keeper's absorption in diplomatic missions, and how, during 
his frequent absences from actual custody of the seal, his place 
was supplied by some of his senior clerks, such as Winwick and 
Ingelby, who were then allowed sums sufficient to enable them to 
keep up the hospicium magistri Michaelis, and later the hospicium 
priuati sigilli} By this time it is clear that the "household of 
the privy seal " was a permanent establishment, that its normal 
location was in London or Westminster, that it was usually 
" kept " by the keeper, or in his absence by a senior clerk, and 
that its cost was such that the whole, or the greater part, of the 
payments made to the keeper were in his absence transferred to 
his deputy as keeper of his household. 

The question arises of the exact meaning of hospicium priuati 
sigilli. If we could argue from the hospicium cancellarie, it 
might only mean the place where the senior clerks of the office 
had their meals, for we have certain evidence that there were 
many separate hospicia in which the chancery clerks took up 
their abode. ^ But the privy seal's normal staff of four clerks 
only formed a group much smaller than the large corporation 
of clerks who made up the household of chancery, smaller indeed 
than one section of that household, the band of six clerks who 
worked directly under the keeper of the rolls of chancery. It 
therefore seems reasonable to infer that the clerks of the privy 
seal had only one place of communal residence. There was no 
practical reason why so modest a group as these four clerks, who 
were not " fat, furred, and prosperous," nor divided into three 
different grades, like their chancery colleagues, should not all 
live together. We may accordingly interpret hospicium here 
in its literal sense of a house. Limited numbers made it easier 
for them than for the numerous and nicely graded clerks of 
chancery to keep up a corporate life. No doubt the restraint 
^ See above, pp. 31-34. * See above, iii. 446-447. 

70 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

of the hospicium became irksome to clerks of senior standing. 
Even when they were attached to the royal household, the same 
restraint was felt. Thus, so early as 1331 we find the meritorious 
senior clerk, John Carlton, given a wage of 7|d. a day, " whether 
at court or away from it," " for manifold services to the late king 
and the king, by the hands of the keeper of the wardrobe," with 
robes or their value. Coupled with the grant was the provision 
that he might " withdraw from the household, return thither 
again and stay there at board, as he will." ^ A new disruptive 
force arose in the late fourteenth century when certainly one, 
and perhaps more, privy seal clerks took to themselves wives. 
The one, Thomas Hoccleve, as a bachelor regarded the " privy 
seal," that is, I imagine, the hospicium, as his home, but was 
forced after his marriage to dwell apart in a " poor cot." Prob- 
ably both Roger Elmham and Richard Prior were among the 
clerici uxorati of the privy seal staff.^ 

Was the hospicium priuati sigilli also the abode of the keeper 1 
Here again chancery analogy is valuable. Sometimes, though 
rarely, the chancellor entertained his clerks in his own house. 
It might well have been easier for the keeper of the privy seal 
to have put up in his own home the simpler household of the 
privy seal. I have found no evidence, one way or the other, 
for the reign of Edward III., but immediately afterwards, during 
Fordham's keepership (1377 to 1381), we know that the clerks 
lived and worked with the keeper in the house of the bishop of 
Lichfield or Chester at the east end of the Strand, near the church 
of St. Mary le Strand.^ The authorities make it clear that Ford- 

1 C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 224. 

2 For Elmham and Prior see later, p. 94. 

^ The evidence is worth stating in full, (a) " Johanni Fordham ... in 
denariis sibi liberatis per manus J. Notyngham in hospicio sue juxta le Stronde "; 
I.R. 468/5, dated Aug. 5, 1378. " Hospicium suum " is practically the same 
phrase as " hospicium magistri Michaelis " quoted on pp. 31, and n. 2; 69, above. 
(6) Agreement for the release and marriage of the count of Saint-Pol, dated July 
18, 1379, and drawn up " en une chambre deinz la mansion pur le temps le dit 
sire Johan Fordham en la suburbe et diocese de Londres overtement luez . . . 
ovesque les honorables hommes et sages, sire W. de Dighton et sire Johan 
Wenlyngburgh, tesmoignes,"etc.; Foedera, vii. 227 (original edition). Dighton 
and Wellingborough were then senior clerks of the privy seal. Their transact- 
ing business with the keeper in his hospicium suggests strongly that it was both 
the hospicium priuati sigilli, and for the moment the officium also. The 
identification with Chester's Inn is practically proved by Anonimalle Ghron, 
p. 141; see above, p. 47, n. 3. 


ham's occupation was temporary, and two years later we find his 
successor, Walter Skirlaw, occupying another house in the same 
neighbourhood, namely, the house of the bishop of Bath and Wells 
in the parish of St. Clement's Danes, near Temple Bar.^ Perhaps 
it is not more than a coincidence that nearly a quarter of a 
century later Chester's Inn was definitely known as the Jiospicium 
of the seal, when the poet Hoccleve lived there ^ with other 
members of the office, notably his friends Prentice and Arundel.^ 
Moreover, Hoccleve several times speaks of going " home to the 
privy seal " in a fashion that suggests he lived in an official house 
of residence along with his colleagues.* There is a hint of a 
joyous, and not too discreet, corporate life in Hoccleve's stories of 
their drinking bouts, their late sittings and consequent difficulties 
in getting up in the morning. ^ 

It is clear that it was the custom of bishops who had large 
town houses which they seldom occupied to let them out to hire, 
and that they often found suitable tenants in ministers and high 
officials who transacted business in the place where they lived. 
Such tenancies were naturally brief, and consequently the resi- 
dence of the keeper and clerks varied from time to time. Here 
again the chancery analogy holds good, for, as we have seen, 
chancellors with no adequate homes of their own hired bishops' 
houses for themselves, and there were constant changes in the 

1 C.P.R., 1381-85, pp. 285, 322 ; the appointment of a commission to inquire 
who broke into Skirlaw's house and stole his plate. 
" Works, iii. 1/5-7. 

" At Chestre ynne, right fast be the stronde. 
As I lay in my bed vp-on a nyght, 
Thought me bereft of sleep with force and myght." 

The Regement of Princes from which these lines come was written about 1412. 
Hoccleve was then married and living in a " poor cot"; ib. 31/845 ; " Whan I 
at home dwell in my poore cote," ib. 35/940. This humble abode is certainly 
not Chester's Inn, so that we may infer that he is here giving a reminiscence of 
his bachelor days when he lived there with his brother clerks. For Chester's 
Inn see Stow, Survey of I,ondon, i. 77, ii. 193, ed. Kingsford. 
3 Works, i. 35/321-336. 

* Ib. i. 31/185. 

" And if it happid on the Someres day 
That I thus at the tauerne hadde be 
Whan I departe sholde and go my way 
Hoom to the priuee seal." 

* Ib. i. 34-5/305-320. 

72 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

various chancery clerks' hospicia.^ But it did not follow that 
because the hospicium was provided all privy seal clerks neces- 
sarily lived in it.^ Yet the existence of the hospicium, whether 
it were for the lodging or only for the board of the clerks, gives 
the final blow to the doctrine that their natural abode was in 
the household. It strengthened the early pronounced tendency 
to set up the privy seal as an office of state. Only once was 
there a keeper of the privy seal who practically was a member 
of the royal household, and he was the altogether exceptional 
William Wykeham.^ 

We have seen that the hospicium from the time of its first 
appearance in the records was always located in London or 
Westminster. By then there is also evidence of the increasing 
localisation of the office at Westminster. Up to the reign of 
Edward III. the officium moved about with the king, though even 
before there were long periods when it was out of court. Early 
in his reign we have seen that there was a chamber allocated 
to the clerks of the seal in Westminster palace near the exchequer. 
A few years later Westminster was so much the normal place 
for meetings of the council, that one reason assigned for the 
privy seal going out of court was that the keeper had to be in 
Westminster to attend such meetings. We have also seen 
already how, between June 24, 1342, and May 31, 1343, keeper 
Offord was 150 days out of court, attending the council by the 
king's order at London and elsewhere, while between May 31, 
1343, and April 10, 1344, he was staying at London for the council 
278 days.^ This being so, it is very likely that when, in 1346, 
a new pile of buildings was erected next to the exchequer of 
receipt and between Westminster Hall and the palace, the privy 

1 See above, iii. 157 and 210-212, and my " Household of Chancery " in 
Essays in History presented to R. L. Poole. Bishop Swinficld of Hereford rented 
his London house to Hamo of Chigwell, the lease providing that the bishop 
should have the right to reside there when called to London for parliaments 
and synods, and reserving a chamber for his steward ; Beg. Bic. de Sivinfield, 
pp. 467-478, C. and Y. Soc. 

2 Thus Jolm Wellingborough, clerk of the seal, who was also prebendary 
of St. Stephen's in Westminster Palace, was granted, during his tenure of the 
prebend, the houses and chambers now occupied by him in the tower called 
" le bonde hous," over the second gate of the palace : C.P.E., 1377-81, p. 410. 
Here is a late instance of a clerk whose normal home was in the king's palace, 
but it was by virtue of this prebend, not of his post in the privy seal. 

2 See above, p. 40. * See above, p. 18. 


seal clerks were afforded room hard by the new council chamber 
which soon acquired the famous name of star chamber.^ As 
the institution of the secret seal and signet ^ reduced the necessity 
of the privy seal office going constantly on its travels, letters of 
privy seal were more and more frequently issued from West- 
minster and London. 

One fact alone tended to check this process of development 
— the absence of the seal and office for long periods when 
abroad with the king. This strengthened the political im- 
portance of the seal, but kept the office in residence at court. 
When the king ceased to take the seal abroad with him, the 
tendency to keep the office at Westminster was immensely 
strengthened. After 1360, if not from 1350, there was a per- 
manent establishment in the capital, even when the keeper 
and some of his clerks happened to be abroad or in the country. 
In 1370, when Peter Lacy was residing at his country living of 
Northfleet in Kent, letters made in the office at Westminster 
were taken to Northfleet to him to be sealed.^ And when 
Richard II. paid his second Irish visit he left the privy seal and 
its office in England.^ 

The result of all this was that the office was almost as firmly 
fixed at Westminster as was its neighbour, the exchequer. All 
through Hoccleve's constant references to the work of the privy 
seal and its clerks, it is assumed that Westminster was the normal 
place of its operations.^ There is, I suspect, not the least sug- 
gestion that the privy seal ever left its headquarters. Its clerks 
lived in the western suburbs of the city ; they went to their 
office by boat ; they were as much Londoners as is the modern 
civil servant. Even the traditional formula of the writs for 
payment, hinting at the possibility of the office being called back 
to the household, began to be omitted. Enjoying fixity of tenure 
and being too humble to take sides, the clerks went on with their 

1 Baldwin in E.H.R. xxi. 15-17. 

2 See below, pp. 161-181, 195-211. 
* See above, p. 44 and n. 3. 

I.R. 439/35. 
5 See, for instance. Works, i. 102/183-186. 

" As that I ones fro Westmynstar cam 

Vexid full grevously, withe thowghtfull hete. 
Thus thowght I ' A great fole I am. 
This pavyment a dayes thus to bete.' " 


74 THE PKIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

work without regard to changes of kings, governments or even 
keepers of the seal. 

The modest requirements of the privy seal office are indicated 
by the disbursements made for its incidental expenses, up to 
about 1350 from the wardrobe, and afterwards from the ex- 
chequer. Thus in 1348 Adam Newbold, a clerk of the privy seal, 
received from the wardrobe a small grant fro officio priuati 
sigilli} In 1375-76 a similar grant was made from the exchequer. ^ 
From the exchequer also came the sums necessary for supplying 
the office with furniture and appliances, while the great wardrobe 
issued green cloth for covering the table of the privy seal.^ In 
1375 a joiner, named John Wodener, was paid for making a calcu- 
lating table and two forms for the privy seal ofl&ce.^ There were 
constant purchases of red wax, parchment, ink and other similar 
materials. Some of the entries in the issue rolls suggest sur- 
vivals of the ambulatory office of an earlier generation. Thus in 
1355 payment was made for a horse to carry the coffers of the 
privy seal, and for a pair of coffers, a sumpter-saddle and a chest.^ 
In 1359 another chest was bought by the exchequer, " for keeping 
the memoranda of the privy seal." ^ But, as we have seen, the 
office does not seem to have been successful in preserving its 
records, and it may have been inefficiency in that respect which 
called forth the order of Arundel in 1386 that documents relating 
to the privy seal of Edward III.'s time were to be surrendered by 
the office to the keeper of the rolls of chancery.' 

At last we can turn from the ofiice and the household of the 
privy seal to the individual clerks who served therein. The 
average clerk was not a person of distinction, and it was by quite 
ordinary men that the business of the department was normally 
conducted. Mediaeval administration generally depended for 
its efiiciency more on the ordinary man than on the occasional 
minister of character, so that, individually insignificant as they 
may be, these clerks have a collective importance. We have, 
especially for the latter half of the fourteenth century, a good deal 
of information about them, and it is worth while attempting to 

1 Archaeologia, xxxi. 89. 2 j ji 459/30. 

3 Enr. Ace. {W. <fe H.) 3/44 : allowance to one of the clerks of three ells. 
* I.R. 456/17, " pro uno computatorio et duabus formulis . . . pro officio 
priuati sigiUi." s lb. 379/17. 

6 lb. 397/32. ' See above, iii. 441-442. 


bring together what we know. Unfortunately it is much easier 
to amass minute details about the individual clerks than to come 
to any useful generalisations about them. We may list their names 
and the dates of their official appointments, and tabulate other 
similar facts, without knowing in the least what manner of men 
they were. We have, however, an occasional chance of making 
the dry bones of biography live by means of such copious auto- 
biographical and personal information as was left by Thomas 
Hoccleve, the one clerk of the office who won for himself an extra- 
official reputation. Hoccleve was early inspired by another 
minor government official, Geoffrey Chaucer, to take up the study 
and composition of poetry. He was no great poet, but he showed 
an honest devotion to Chaucer's example and memory, and a 
minute and appreciative acquaintance with the poets of many 
lands, whose works he imitated or paraphrased in his own 
tongue. His voluminous and very human writings have pre- 
served him some measure of fame down to our own day, and 
the historian of the privy seal has abundant reason to be 
grateful to him because he did not follow the strict rule of his 
master of suppressing personal history. Hoccleve had no indis- 
position to talk of himself and his daily work. His garrulous and 
self-regarding habit of mind gave personal touches to the most 
vapid of his compilations, and introduced a large autobiographi- 
cal element into his works. Thanks to him we are enabled, in 
this chapter at least, to turn aside from arid records of long- 
forgotten business to illustrate our subject by personal human 
touches. We have already quoted his works in illustration of the 
earlier part of this chapter. Now we shall use his reminiscences 
of the daily life of a privy seal clerk at the end of the fourteenth 
century as freely as we can. Seldom, indeed, can the investigator 
of mediaeval institutions so fully vivify the formal description of 
administrative machinery by reference to the spirit and ambitions 
of a man who was once part of it. 

Sufficient materials survive to enable us to make a list of the 
permanent clerks who wrote for the privy seal, almost from the 
moment of their first appearance in the early years of the reign of 
Edward II. down to the end of our period. The compilation of 
such a catalogue has been thought worth while in the hope that 
the particulars brought together will throw some light on the 

76 THE PKIVY SEAL ' oh. xvi 

administration of a minor department of state in the fourteenth 
century, as well as on the nature of the career and prospects of 
advancement of a minor government official of the fourteenth 
century. The fifty-four names we have collected are set forth in 
alphabetical order in an appendix to this chapter. Here we may 
attempt some generalisations arising from its study, although 
they must be given with due reserves, especially for the first half 
of the century when our material is incomplete. Only after the 
clerks' names have begun to appear regularly in the issue rolls can 
we regard our catalogue as trustworthy. Even then the list does 
not include all the clerks working in the office, but only the clerks 
on the permanent staff, the simultaneously serving " four clerks " 
whose names were set down in the rolls because they were in 
receipt of wages, robes, grants and allowances, first from the 
wardrobe, later from the exchequer. The supernumeraries, who 
did, one imagines, much of the copying work, are seldom named. 
We shall, however, be able to say a little even of them. 

One striking fact emerges from a study of these lists, namely, 
that the privy seal office offered a life career to most members of 
its regular stafE. There was no great chance of promotion outside 
the ofiice, but there were few or no instances of dismissal for in- 
competence, and certainly no clerks were driven out on political 
grounds. Accordingly, we find many instances of long careers 
spent in this obscure service. William Dighton, for example, 
wrote for the seal from 1356 to 1393, a period of thirty-eight 
years, and Thomas Hoccleve served nearly as long, acting from 
1387 to 1423, John Carlton served for thirty years between 
1316 and 1346, when he was " retained on the king's council." ^ 
The elder John Wellingborough was a regular clerk between 1377 
and 1395, and was also accredited with long service to Edward 
III. 2 He is not the only official whose preliminary service in a 
subordinate rank should be added to the more easily ascertainable 
years of his stafi service. Such apprenticeship in ofiicial routine 
seems to have been almost a matter of course with the majority 
of the clerks. Allowing for this, and considering the short average 
of mediaeval life, these periods of service are remarkable for their 

Let us next deal with the number of the clerks functioning at 

1 C.F.E., 1345-48, p. 80. * lb., 1385-89, p. 421. 


any one time. In fixing on four as the ordinary staff of the office, 
the ordinance of 1318 only recognised the number experience had 
already shown to be adequate. For the whole of our period the 
normal number of clerks was four,^ and was never formally or 
permanently increased, although occasionally, when special re- 
sponsibilities fell upon the office, a temporary addition to the 
staff was allowed. Thus in 1337-38, the time of the preparation 
for the first campaigns of the Hundred Years' War, when hostili- 
ties were also still active in Scotland, no less than seven clerks of 
the privy seal received wages from keeper Beche.^ Although in 
1338-40, when the privy seal and the office were in the Netherlands, 
no addition was made to the ordinary number of clerks, they were 
assisted by some of the chief chancery clerks who worked under the 
keeper's direction.^ But in 1340 Kilsby, in the Netherlands, had 
with him six clerks of the privy seal as well as some chancery 
clerks,* and in 1353, when the privy seal remained in England, 
keeper Buckingham allowed robes to five clerks.^ Finally in the 
Bretigni campaign of 1359-60 there were only four clerks attend- 
ing Winwick, keeper of both seals,^ but like Kilsby in 1338-40, 
" chancellor Winwick " had the help of some of the leading 
chancery clerks. At the same time there was a fully organised 
privy seal office in England.' When peace made possible the 
return to a single seal office, the complement of clerks was still 
four, the old number. In the reign of Henry IV. the number was 
temporarily increased to nine.^ But in 1444 there was drawn a 
distinction between the four or five chief clerks and the seven 

1 Prof. Baldwin, in speaking of a " staff of five clerks," under Edward III. 
{King's Council, p. 258), assigns too much authority to the document quoted 
in that very miscellaneous collection called Ordinances of the Royal Household 
(1790), p. 10. 

2 E.A. 385/5. The seven clerks were J. Westmancote, J. Etton, J. Ferriby, 
Reginald Donnington, Robert Watford, J. Carlton and Richard Castle (de 
Castello). ^ See above, iii. 85-86. 

* Above, iii. 115. See for details E.A. 389/8. The clerks were J. Ferriby, 
J. Carlton, J. Winwick, H. Ingelby, R. Watford and R. Donnington. The 
two new names were these of Winwick and Ingelby, both of whom became 
exceptionally important. 

5 E.A. 392/12, f. 40d. They were Winwick, Ingelby, Welwick, W. Tirring- 
ton and W. Bolton. The last two were new names since 1338-40. 

6 See above, p. 36, and iii. 225-226. 

' See above, pp. 37-38, and iii. 222-223. 

^ Baldwin's King's Council, p. 258. I owe to this scholar the reference to 
Council and Privy Seal, file 9, July 23. 

78 THE PKIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

under clerks wlio did the mechanical work of writing. The latter 
expected to be promoted in due course to the higher posts as 
vacancies occurred, and resented the intrusion of a stranger not 
bred up in the office.^ 

Yet, even under normal conditions, four clerks were not enough 
to transact the daily work of the office in times of pressure. No 
doubt the four clerks always had supernumerary or assistant 
clerks, as we have seen the chief clerks of chancery had. Some- 
times we learn the names of these clerks, and, on occasion, a 
little of their doings. Below the supernumeraries were the laymen 
and servants who did the rougher work of the office, among them 
being the sumpters, valets and porters of the seal. The only im- 
portant post which was held sometimes by a layman, apart from 
the keepership, was the stewardship of the household of the seal. 

From the beginning of the separate keepership, the keeper had 
clerks and dependents of his own, who, though not strictly part of 
the office staff, worked in the office and are more easily tracked 
than the supernumeraries. From Edward I.'s time onward the clerk 
of the keeper was an important person in a modest way. Thus 
Geoffrey Stokes, the clerk of John Benstead, stayed at court in his 
master's absence to write letters under the privy seal, and received 
4|d. a day for the expenses of his single horse and the wages of his 
single groom.2 Again, Roger Wingfield, who occupies a place of 
some importance in the history of the chamber, was the personal 
clerk of Northburgh when he lost seal and liberty at Bannock- 
burn.3 Men who did not receive wages from the wardrobe seldom 
have their names recorded in wardrobe accounts, so that references 
to the keeper's clerks are rare, even under Edward III., when the 
names of only two clerks of the keeper are given, both in the latter 
part of the reign.^ Under Richard II., however, seven different 
clerks of the various keepers are constantly mentioned. ^ Most of 

1 Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 33-34. 

2 L.Q.O. p. 83. No doubt Stokes' real wages came from his " dominus," 
Benstead. 3 gee above, ii. 294-295. 

* These are J. de Maidenbury, clerk of keeper Buckingham in 1360, I.R. 
401/25, and Alan Whitby, clerk of keeper Carew, in 1371-74; ib. 442/18, 
444/20, 30, 449/2, 448/2, 20, and 445/1, 11. 

5 These are (a) under Fordham, W. Bloxham (1377), ib. 465/5, 8 ; (6) under 
Dighton, W. Tanner (1380), ib. 475/13, and W. Bloxham (1381), ib. 481/22; 
(c) under Skirlaw, John Danby (1382), 493/3; {d) under Waltham, Thomas 
Haxey (1387), ib. 515/26, William Bele (1388), ib. 521/1 ; Richard des Armes 


them were clearly the personal clerks of individual keepers. Not 
one of the nine was clerk for any long period, and none was clerk 
to two successive keepers. One, William Styward, is described in 
one passage as steward of keeper Stafford, a phrase that possibly 
suggests a close connection with the hospicimn priuati sigilli.^ 
Some were employed on important missions, such as that of 
William Bloxham to the Roman curia to announce the coronation 
of Richard II. ^ None of the nine was even an officer of the depart- 
ment, and only one attained any prominence. This was Thomas 
Haxey, whose attack on the court in 1397 nearly cost him his life. 
Haxey's attachment to the constitutional party was no novelty. 
Ten years earlier he had been acting as clerk of keeper Waltham, 
whom we remember to have been forced into the keepership of 
the privy seal by the triumphant baronage.^ 

Not only the keeper but the four clerks of the seal had clerks 
of their own. John Prophet, the secondary, had a clerk in 
Robert Fry in 1394.^ After the fall of Richard II., Thomas 
Hoccleve had John Weld as his clerk, at least from 1414 to 1417, 
and possibly from 1410.^ Unlike the clerks of the keeper, these 
clerks of clerks often became clerks in their own right. The 
above-mentioned Robert Fry, for instance, was a clerk " in the 
office of the privy seal " by 1395. Even before he began to act 
as Hoccleve's assistant, John Weld was described in 1408 as 
" a king's clerk of the office of the privy seal." ^ In the same 

(1389), 521/20 ; (e) under Stafford, Thomas Boreway (1389), ib. 527/5 ; Richard 
AUerton (1394-95), ib. 549/6, 554/14, and William Styward (1393), ib. 542 (Dec. 
14), 543/15. Roger Elmham, called " unus clericorum in officio custodis " in 
ib. 499/16, was, of course, really one of the four clerks. But he acted as Skir- 
law's clerk in 1387, ib. 518/10. 

1 Styward is mentioned as Stafford's clerk in 1393, I.R. 543/15, and as 
" senescallus suus," ib. 546/15. He does not appear again till March 1, 1396, 
ib. 554/20. For " senescallus " compare ib. 532/2, where Robert Erie, esquire, 
so acted in 1390, also for Stafford, ib. 517/11. 

^ Ib. 465/5. A grant to him of 20 marks " pro eo quod nuper profectus 
fuit versus . . . dominum papam ... ad reuelandum sibi de coronatione 

3 See for Haxey above, iv. 17-19. * I.R. 546/19. 

^ The evidence for Weld's agency for Hoccleve is collected by Dr. Furnivall 
in Hoccleve's Works, pp. Iviii-lxii. In 1410 and 1412, Weld received money 
on Hoccleve's behaK. Later, Hoccleve's moneys are also paid " per manus 
Johannis Welde clerici sui." 

* C.P.R., 1408-13, p. 42, a grant of lands not exceeding four marks a year 
in value, to John Weld and Richard Prior. 

80 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

entry another clerk of the office, Richard Prior, was similarly 
described.! This strongly suggests that there were persons 
regularly employed in doing writer's work in the privy seal office 
beside the four clerks. Perhaps the slight difference between 
Weld's and Prior's description and the usual unus clericorum de 
officio priuati sigilli may in itself indicate a grade of assistant 
clerks subordinate to the four. A similar conclusion is forced 
on us when we read at almost the same time in Hoccleve of 
friends of his, and obviously colleagues in the office, whose 
names we seek for in vain in the places where clerks of the seal 
commonly appear. Such, for instance, were John Prentice and 
John Arundel, the two hard-drinking and late-lying colleagues 
spoken of in the Male Regie as vying with the poet in his mal- 
practices and yet escaping his excessive punishment.^ I have 
found no evidence that Prentice and Arundel, any more than 
Weld and Prior, were among the " four clerks " in 1406, the 
year to which Dr. Furnivall assigned this poem. The four clerks 
were then Hoccleve, Bailay, Heath and OfEord, as they were in 

Another indication in the same direction is the fact that often 
individuals claimed to have served in the office for a much longer 
period than that for which there is proof that they were formally 
" clerks of the seal." This applies to some of the most eminent 
men on our lists. Thus Henry Ingelby, only known to be a 
clerk in 1341, is mentioned at that date for his " good service 

1 For Prior's subsequent fortunes, and renunciation of his clergy, see 
below, p. 94, n. 5. 

2 Works, i. 35/321-326. 

" I dar nat seyn Prentys and Arondel 

Me countrefete, and in swich wach go ny me : 

But often they hir bed loven so wel, 

That of the day it draweth ny the pryme, 
Or they ryse up, nat tell I can the tyme 

Whan they to bedde goon, it is so late." 

Prentice and Arundel were both king's clerks, and both received wardenships 
of chapels and hospitals in the king's gift. Each writ of appointment was 
warranted by privy seal ; C.P.B., 1408-13, pp. 72, 161, 297, 332. 

3 Works, i. 60/25-26. 

" We, your servantes, Hoccleve and Baillay, 
Hethe and Offorde, yow beseeche and preye." 

Of course the number of clerks now exceeded four ; but such a passage may, 
perhaps, convey a hint of a superior position to the old four, not unlike that 
of clerks of the first bench in chancery. 


done long ago," and as having then made " continual stay in 
court." 1 Reginald Donnington, not described as one of the 
four before 1340, seems to have been already in attendance at 
court in 1327.2 Similarly, John Wellingborough the elder is 
accredited with " long service " to Edward III., though he is 
not recorded as receiving wages till 1374, and was very soon 
after this found of sufficient experience to discharge functions 
which were substantially those of the later clerks of the council.^ 
Other examples could easily be given, and the analogous establish- 
ment of the chancery, where probation under a clerk of settled 
position was usual, shows that the practice was not limited to 
the privy seal office. It was a good way of ensuring experience, 
if not capacity, and apprenticeship was, after all, the one recog- 
nised method of vocational education in the middle ages. 

Allowing for such subsidiary help, the privy seal office was 
understaffed. As business steadily increased, efforts were made 
to speed up the work by invoking outside help. We have seen, 
for instance, that under Edward II. chancery clerks had been 
called upon to aid the overburdened clerks of the privy seal.* 
Under Edward III. the regular staff was similarly supplemented. 
Even in 1370 chancery clerks wrote letters of privy seal in 
England ^ to borrow money for the king's use. When the king 
was abroad, chancery and privy seal clerks constantly shared 
the labours of the single secretarial office, directed by the keeper 
of the privy seal.^ Then a wider appeal for help was some- 
times necessary when letters and treaties had to be drafted 
after fashions strange to the English official. Thus between 1338 
and 1340 keeper Kilsby availed himself of the assistance of the 
clerks of the scabini of Ghent,' and of a clerk of the duke of 

1 C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 119. 

2 C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 392. 

3 He is first mentioned in the issue roll in 1374 (I.E. 451/21) ; but compare 
C.P.R., 1385-89, p. 421. See also later, pp. 101-102. 

* See above, ii. 306. 

5 Brantingham's Issue Roll, pp. 220, 479. 

* M.B.E. 203/98d. This was, as we shall see, in complete accordance with 
contemporary French usage. 

' lb. 203/183, " Diuersis clericis de villa de Gandauo, scribentibus diuersas 
litteras directas ad diuersas villas de Flandria . . . quia clerici regis nesciuerunt 
scribere in forma usitata in Flandria . . . per manus R. de Donyngton xls 
xxiij° Feb." Compare ib. 203/96, " Supradictis clericis scabinorum de Gandauo, 
scribentibus xxiii breuia mittenda nomine regis usque partes Francie, in denariis 

82 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

Brabant.^ He did this not only because the king's clerks were 
overburdened but because they were ignorant of the forms of 
correspondence usual in Flanders and the empire. Presents are 
recorded to notaries and secretaries of the emperor, clerks of the 
imperial chancery, and a consignator of imperial letters.^ The 
same accounts show that " letters of the emperor " were written 
under Edward's eye,^ and sealed with the imperial seal, no doubt 
by virtue of Edward's office of imperial vicar. The preparation 
of these documents also clearly came within the sphere of Kilsby's 

Fresh affairs were always arising to occupy the office of the 
privy seal. The scope of the activities of the privy seal was 
steadily enlarged during the course of the fourteenth century, 
and by the time the worst pressure of the great war was over, 
the ordinary business of the office had grown very considerably. 
Such development threw greater responsibility on the staff, 
individually and collectively, for the management of a govern- 
ment department necessarily involved more effort than the 
direction of a household secretariat. This was met, not by an 
increase of the staff, but by occasional presents and annuities 
as encouragement to the clerks to do their best. In the reign of 
Richard II. clerical work hitherto transacted in other depart- 
ments was imposed on the office. Somewhat tardily these 
extra labours were recognised, special payments being made 
in 1385 to " divers clerks of the privy seal for their labours by 
day and night." The phraseology is suggestive of extreme 
pressure.* Again, in 1393, moneys were issued to William Donne 
and other clerks in the office of the privy seal, for their labours, 
from the time of the coronation of Richard II., in writing divers 
transcripts and memoranda touching the state of king and 

eisdem liberatis per dominum W. de Kildesby, in precio x florinorum de scuto, 

^ M.B.E. 203/98d, " Hanekino, clerico domini ducis Brabantie, scribenti 
diversas litteras et munimenta pro negociis regis, de dono regis per manus 
domini W. de Kildesby £4 : 10 : 0." 

2 lb. 98d ; compare ib. 184, 196. The " consignator " was probably the 
" sigillator " " ein Beamter standig mit der technischem Manipulation der 
Besiegelung betraut " ; Breslau, Urkundenlehre, p. 407. 

^ Ib. 193, " Magistro Utrico, clerico imperatoris, et caeteris clericis sub eo 
scribentibus diuersas litteras de sigUlo imperatoris, pro rege et negociis suis." 

* I.E. 508/17, " pro laboribus suis die et nocte." 


kingdom which, before these times, had in no wise been written 
out in the privy seal office. ^ On the other hand, privy seal 
clerks were sometimes employed in other offices, as when Robert 
Fry divided his services for twelve years between the privy seal 
and the signet. ^ He finally went over to the signet altogether. 
No doubt the privy seal office felt its labour lightened by the 
institution of the signet office, but in lending its clerks to teach 
the clerks of the signet how to run their office, it lost as well 
as gained. 

One result of the multiplication of the labours and responsi- 
bilities of the clerks of the privy seal was that some readjust- 
ments were made in the matter of the allowance for their support 
and in their emoluments. Whenever keeper or clerks were 
extra curiam they naturally required compensation for loss of 
maintenance, and the analogy of the " chancellor's fee " suggested 
how that could most easily be secured. Hence, when the keeper 
and his clerks were extra curiam, a lump sum of 20s. a day came 
to be allowed to the keeper for their joint expenses. As the 
periods of absence from court became longer and more frequent, 
until it was the exception for any of the staff to be infra curiam, 
the intermittent payment became a regular one. Later, this 
traditional £1 a day was raised, and it looks as if, by the end of 
the century, the £1 itself had come to be regarded as the wages 
of the keeper. For, from the early fifteenth century, certain 
Middlesex manors were assigned to the keeper of the privy seal 
for the duration of his term of office, " for the living of himself 
and the clerks serving under him in his office." ^ Occasionally, for 
the sake of economy, the £1 was reduced to 13s. 4d., and for 
years a qualifying phrase provided that the allowance was to 
cease if the king ordered the continual abode of the office in the 
court. In origin the allowance was definitely not for wages, 

1 I.R. 543/18, " diuersa transcripta et memoranda . . . que ante hec tempora 
in officio dicti priuati sigilli transcribi minime consueuerunt." 

2 C.P.R., 1396-99, p. 463, a grant to him for twelve years' good service in 
the offices of the king's privy seal and signet. 

^ lb., 1413-16, p. 329, gives an assignment during office to the king's clerk, 
John Wakering, keeper of the privy seal, of the towns of Great Stanmore, 
Little Stanmore, Edgware and Kingsbury, for the livery of himseK and the 
clerks serving under him in his office, as other keepers of the office have had. This 
was on June 12, 1415. Between Wakering and Richard ClifEord there were three 
keepers, Langley, Bubwith and Prophet. It looks as if this assignment began 
in their days, as we have no knowledge of it under Richard II. 

84 THE PRIVY SEAL . ch. xvi 

but for the maintenance of the privy seal household.^ The best 
proof of this is that, so early as 1351, similar payments were 
made during the keeper's absence to a senior clerk who " kept " 
the household, or office, in his stead. But gradually the clerks 
established a claim for a modest wage as well as maintenance, 
though to the end of our period the initial stages of the clerk's 
career are described as " good and gratuitous service." ^ Refer- 
ences to their " great expenses " and " great bodily toil " in- 
curred in the discharge of their duties also suggest a service 
not recognised by formal wages. It was a slow business alto- 
gether, and a long time elapsed before adequate steps were taken 
to satisfy the claim. In the early fourteenth century, it was 
a matter of minor importance whether the clerks received wages 
or not. They were household officials, living in court at the 
king's expense, or in common without court at the expense of 
the keeper, in what came to be called, as we know, the hospicium 
priuati sigilli. Such wages as they received depended, not on 
the keeper, but on the discretion of the steward and treasurer, 
and varied according to the clerk's personal status, ceasing when 
the king promoted him to an adequate benefice. Down to the 
end of our period there remain traces of this method of meeting 
the clerk's necessities. But by degrees the clerks acquired the 
right to regular wages, and were virtually disconnected from the 

By the days of Kilsby and Offord, the privy seal clerk had 
already a normal wage of 7|d. a day, " allocated in the great 
roll of the household," ^ the 7|d. being increased to Is. when he 
was abroad on war service.^ Even earlier, the sum of 7|d. a 
day was recognised as the wage which the clerk in the office 
might ultimately be expected to attain, as the grant made to 
John Carlton in 1331, discussed in another connection, shows.^ 

^ When a keeper of inferior status or one also engaged on other business was 
employed, such as Peter Lacy (I.R. 236/21), or when, the privy seal being abroad, 
a smaller staff was employed to administer the seal of the regent, the reduced fee 
only, 13s. 4d. instead of £1, was sometimes paid. ^ For instance, ib. 375/20. 

3 M.B.E. 204/208-209, " Vadia sua ad vii d. et ob. per diem in magno rotulo 
hospicii allocata." It was the regular rate for a large number of household 
officers. * See below, pp. 89-90. 

^ See above, p. 70. Compare C.C.R., 1343-46, p. 57, which shows the grant 
still operative in May 1343. There is no doubt but that the " king's clerk " of 
the former entry is the clerk of the privy seal. 


Similarly in 1338 John Ferriby began to receive from the exchequer 
wages to that amount.^ The grant was, however, conditional ; 
it terminated when the king found other means of providing 
for him, notably by adequate ecclesiastical preferment. A 
generation later, William Dighton, who had a gift in 1356,^ was 
allowed wages from 1363, though no payment was made to 
him till 1369.^ He was still receiving them in 1380,^ and still 
later, after having been for a short time keeper of the seal, 
he again drew his 7|d. a day until 1391,^ and perhaps till 
1393.^ His successor, John Prophet, received exactly the same 

After the middle of the century, the daily wage of 7|d. more 
usually appears as a salary of £10 a year, payable in two in- 
stalments of £5 each at Easter and Michaelmas, The first record 
of payment made in that way is for the year 1356.^ In 1357 
all four clerks received £5 each de dono regis, ^ and in 1358 that 
gift was repeated. It may well have grown into an allowance 
of £10 a year for each clerk,i° though the problem is complicated 
by the fact that other payments were also being made to them as 
wages. ^^ Ten pounds a year is roughly equivalent to 7|d. a day, 
so that it seems as if this rate was looked upon as suitable for a 
privy seal clerk who had by long service demonstrated his com- 
petence. The £10 are described as the king's gift, and are the 
first regular payments to privy seal clerks which are normally 
entered on the issue rolls as payable directly by the exchequer. 
But the question of exactly how much the privy seal clerk 
obtained by gift and in wages is not easy to answer. Thomas 
Hoccleve, for instance, tells us, over and over again, that his 
" livelihood amounted to £4 a year," and that it was impossible 
for him to live on such a pittance, especially since his " annuity " 
— that is, his exchequer grant — was his only other source of 

1 I.R. 303/33 and 306/4. 2 75. 380/22. 

8 lb. 489/6, 438/22. * lb. 475/13. 

5 lb. 510/18, 518/1, 521/5, 527/4 and 532/14. 

« lb. 546/10. ' lb. 546/19. 

® lb. 433/10, payment to two clerks " super vadiis suis." Compare C.P.R., 
1396-99, p. 463, for 1399. 

8 I.R. 387/27. The clerks were Tirrington, Brigham, Dighton and Hilton. 

1" lb. 392/28. It was " de dono suo in auxilio custuum suorum morandis et 
laborandis in diuersis partibus." 

" lb. 384/5, 388/44, 397/21, 27, etc. 

86 THE PRIVY SEAL oh. xvi 

income.! If at one time Hoccleve had " annual rents " of his own, 
they were insignificant in amount and perhaps early dissipated. ^ 
Yet the king recognised that his clerks could not live on the 
sums doled out by the keeper, especially as, after some years of 
service, they might wish to leave the hospicium priuati sigilli, 
just as their predecessors had left the hospicium regis, so as not 
to be subjected to the restraints involved in a common home 
and table. 

Slowly payments to the clerks became, in theory as well as 
in fact, dissociated from the wardrobe. The last stage of the 
process is well represented by the change made in the method of 
paying William Dighton. Towards the end of his career, some 
years after his short-lived tenure of the keepership, an illuminat- 
ing entry in the issue rolls for 1388 records a specific direction 
by the king that Dighton's wage of 7|d. a day, which he was 
wont to receive in the wardrobe of Edward III., was henceforth 
to be paid by the exchequer annually.^ An ineradicable con- 
servatism stipulated that the wages were to cease if and when 
Dighton obtained ecclesiastical preferment. The change was 
probably of more theoretical than practical significance. The 
important modification was the substitution of an annual for 
a daily wage, although a daily salary doled out at irregular and 
often long intervals was not, in effect, different from the annual 
payments now contemplated. 

The particulars of the wages accounts of Dighton and Tirr- 
ington, surviving by some fortunate accident, prove how unim- 

^ Hoccleve's Works, iii., The Regement of Princes, p. 34/932-935 (Early English 
Text Soc, 1897). 

" In faith, fadir, my lyflode, by-side 
Thainuittee of which aboue I tolde, 
May nat exceede yeerly in no tyde 
vj mark : that sittith to myn herte so colde." 

Cf. ib. 36/974, 44/1217. The poem dates from about 1412. 

2 lb., i., The Minor Poems, 36/361-36/2. 

" Thy rentes annuel as thow wel woost. 
To scarse been, greet costes to susteene." 

3 I.R. 521/5 (Nov. 24, 1388), a royal order as to the 7^d. a day " quos idem 
Willelmus percipere consueuit in garderoba regis Edwardi, aui regis huius, pro 
vadiis suis in officio predicto, et que quidem vadia vii d. et ob. predictorum 
dominus rex nunc liberare mandauit predicto Willelmo ad scaccarium suum 
annuatim percipienda . . . quousque idem Willelmus promocionem alicuius 
beneficii ecclesiastici fuerit assecutus." Compare ib. 438/22. 


portant in practice was the change in the method of paying 
privy seal clerks' salaries. Both were allotted the usual wage 
of 7|d. a day, but so far from the money being paid either daily 
or annually, the wage was allowed to fall into arrears extending 
over many years. Dighton's accounts are the simpler to follow. 
They show that from February 24, 1363, to April 8, 1369, six 
years and forty -three days, no wages were received by him, 
so that the crown owed him as arrears for this long period 
£69 : 15 : 1|. Tirrington's accounts are more involved. There 
were arrears from May 22, 1360, to March 4, 1363,^ and again from 
July 9, 1366,2 to February 13, 1368, amounting to £49 : 18 : 4|. 
The debt would have been still greater but for the fact that, 
on March 4, 1363, he went to the curia at Avignon " on his own 
business," and only returned to the royal service, by the king's 
command, on July 9, 1366. A privy seal writ to the exchequer, 
dated December 4, 1368, seems to have failed to produce any 
cash, for Tirrington's arrears went on accumulating until a 
further £16 : 2 : 6 became due to him for the period between 
July 9, 1369, and November 14, 1370. On that last date another 
privy seal to the exchequer directed the settlement of his 
claim. ^ 

These interesting accounts suggest various queries and reflec- 
tions. Are they, for instance, isolated examples of a large number 
of similar documents, or were they unique 1 It is impossible to 
decide, but it is improbable that there were not other similar 
groups of documents, which have now disappeared. Again, how 
did the clerks live when paid no wages ? Here the answer is that 
wages counted for little as compared with perquisites and prefer- 
ment. Tirrington had some means of support in prebends at London 

1 E.A. 509/1, " quo die iter arripuit versus curiam romanam in negociis suis 

2 lb., " quo die idem Willelmus ad seruicium regis de mandato suo reuenit." 
* These particulars are contained in E.A. 509/1 (Tirrington's accounts in a 

pouch, 34-42 Edw. III.), ib. 509/15 (Tirrington's accounts in a pouch, 43-44 Edw. 
III.) and ib. 509/6 (Dighton's accounts, 37 to 43 Edw. III.). The issue rolls 
record no payments to these clerks for several years, but begin again in 1369, 
when payments to Dighton are recorded in I.R. 438/22 on June 7, and to 
Tirrington in ib. 436/24 on Jan. 29 and ib. 438/29, 30, on July 5 and 16, and ib. 
441/13 on Dec. 3, 1370. A London prebend claimed by Tirrington was disputed 
at Avignon, where he was accused of holding it by false suggestion ; C. Pap. 
Reg. Let. iv. 92. Was this the business that took him to the curia 1 If so, he 
seems to have failed. 

88 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

and Abergwili ^ and in two livings,^ all presented to him by the 
crown in 1361, and, after 1367, in the grant of the king's warden- 
ship of the king's free chapel within Shrewsbury Castle.^ Dighton 
also had his prebends and livings.^ While there is no doubt as to 
the theoretical responsibility of the wardrobe for the wages, it is 
equally clear that the only chance the clerks had of obtaining 
their money was by application to the exchequer. They must 
have felt some satisfaction in drafting the privy seals necessary 
to spur on the exchequer to make the issue. Conditions of pay- 
ment being what they were, it was a matter of indifference to the 
clerk where the liability lay, or whether he was theoretically 
paid by the day or by the year. The easy-going ways of the office, 
which gave Tirrington three years' leave of absence so long as he 
did not demand pay, are also noteworthy. They perhaps explain 
to some extent why the privy seal was so persistently under- 
staffed. To the general administrative historian it is disappoint- 
ing to find, despite the numerous attempts made in the years of 
peace to set the exchequer in order,^ the financial machine still 
functioning so indifferently as to make such scandals of deferred 
payment possible. Curiously enough, though these modest 
salaries could not be paid in peace time, as soon as the renewal 
of the French war was imminent the means to pay them were 
found. Did the increased war-subsidies of 1369 make possible the 
payment to Dighton and Tirrington of their arrears ? The whole 
story gives a practical reason why responsibility for paying the 
salaries of privy seal officers should be invested solely in the ex- 
chequer, instead of theoretically remaining with the wardrobe, a 
body with which the clerks had ceased to have any real connection. 
The primitive nature of the office and its original relationship to 
the wardrobe could still be detected, however, in the continuance 
of the allowance for robes. The only change was that in time all 
the clerks of the seal became of " sufficient estate " to be in 
regular receipt of two yearly robes, one for the summer and one for 
the winter season. For the summer robe 20s. was allowed, while 
for the thicker winter garment the grant was 26s. 8d.« Through- 
out our period the allowance for robes was payable from the ward- 

1 C.P.R., 1361-64, pp. 80, 96. 2 lb. pp. 61, 74. 

3 lb., 1364-67, p. 419. * See later, pp. 97-98. 

5 See above, iii. 239-252. s M.B.E. 204/90d. 


robe, and therefore normally figured in the wardrobe accounts.^ 
But it did not follow that the privy seal clerks were still regarded 
as wardrobe officials. Many other non-household officers con- 
tinued to receive robes from the wardrobe. Even the chancellor's 
allowance for wine remained in the wardrobe accounts to the end 
of our period.2 

Besides wages, the clerks also received various additional 
grants and perquisites, payments and allowances being con- 
stantly made for extraordinary services. A clerk who was sent on 
a mission, away from the court or his office, was pretty sure to 
receive his expenses and a " reward." In 1376, for example, Guy 
Rockclifie and John Wellingborough, junior, sent to the Bruges 
conference, were paid £20 for drafting the articles and other 
memoranda of the agreements as to the projected peace with 
France.^ During the early campaigns of the Hundred Years' War, 
when the clerks of the privy seal habitually attended Edward III. 
on his over-seas campaigns, they received vadia guerre over and 
above their vadia pads. In 1342 and 1343 the peace wages of all 
the clerks and esquires of the household were augmented by 4|d. 
a day, so that they received for the whole campaign Is. a day, the 
wage of the ordinary man-at-arms.* All four clerks of the privy 
seal were abroad from August 1342 to February 1343, and 
received this additional wage.^ Like his chief, the keeper, each 
clerk was expected to provide a certain number of soldiers, for 
whom he drew " war wages." For this same period Winwick 
received pay for five horse archers, and his comrade, Donnington, 
for two.® Similarly on the campaign of 1359-60, which the keeper 
and his four clerks also made, the four clerks each began with 
extra vadia guerre of 4|d. a day, increased after September 29 to 
Is. a day. Each had his armed following, ranging from Tirrington's 

1 For instances see E.A. 401/2 and 402/2. The payment for robes was some- 
times made by the exchequer, but always credited to the keeper of the ward- 
robe ; I.R. 384/5 ; ib. 388/25, 44. 

2 E.A. 401/2, 402/5. 

3 I.R. 459/27, " pro scriptura certorum articulorum et aliorum memoran- 
dotum de concordia tractatus pacis inter dominum regem et aduersarium suum 

* Hovsehold Ordinances, Edivard III. to William and Mary, p. 9 (1790). 

5 M.B.E. 204/108-9, " cuilibet pro incremento vadiorum suorum ad iv d. et 
ob. per diem ultra vadia sua ad vii d. et ob. per diem in magno rotulo hospicii 
allocata." The clerks were Bolton, Winwick, Donnington and Ingelby. Cf. 
also above, p. 84. 6 M.B.E. 204/1 lOd. 

90 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

contingent, sometimes of one or two esquires and six archers, 
through Ashton's two and four, and Hilton's one and six, to 
Dighton's one archer only.^ Most likely they were brigaded with 
the considerable contingent of the keeper and the other officers to 
form the fighting line, not simply guards of peaceful ecclesiastics 
transacting business in the rear of the army. More probably such 
soldiers were a source of expense rather than of profit to the clerks 
responsible for them, but, after all, it was only fair that the king's 
servants should do what they could to help fight his battles. 
Even the humdrum work within the office presented possibility 
of perquisites, though not on the noble scale that enriched the 
clerks of chancery. Fairly large sums passed through the hands of 
the clerks for buying parchment, red wax, ink, office furniture and 
other "necessaries " for their work,^ and it is far from impossible 
that the Lincolnshire pergamentarii and the London stationers 
found it expedient to attract custom by some sort of present or per- 
centage on purchases. The clerks also expected that any person 
who came to the office to obtain letters of privy seal should, in 
addition to the regular fees to the department, make a present 
to the clerk for his trouble in writing out the writ. But the great 
men on whose behalf writs were issued seldom went to the office 
in person. They sent their serving men instead, and Hoccleve 
waxed virtuously indignant at the tricks by which these flunkeys 
robbed the poor clerks of their perquisites. They used to tell the 
clerk in a grand way that their lord would show his thanks 
another day, and would likewise manifest his gratitude by pressing 
the king to grant any favour which the clerks might seek of him. 
Not only did they never come back, nor pay the poor clerk a 
penny, but they complained to their lords of the extortions of the 
clerks, and so swindled their masters out of large sums which 
they put into their own pockets. Thus the clerks both lost their 
perquisites and, when hardly able to make ends meet for want of 
them, enjoyed an evil reputation as extortioners. They dared not 

1 E.A. 393/11, f. 86d. 

2 In 1342 the exchequer was ordered to supply parchment and red wax 
whensoever any of the clerks of the seal asked for it ; Exch. of Rec, Warrants 
for Issue, bundle 5, file 30 (July 6). Sometimes the vendors of the wares got 
their money from the exchequer and sometimes the privy seal clerk himself 
obtained cash from the exchequer. Besides numerous entries on the issue rolls, 
see the passages relevant to Hoccleve's purchases collected in Works, i. Iv-lxviii. 


complain, lest these powerful servants reported against them and 
inflicted upon them still further harm.^ 

Low as were their wages and irregular as was their payment, 
as time went on the privy seal clerks tended to be treated with 
less rather than more liberality. Few grants were made until 
after a long period of " good and gratuitous service in staying 
continually with the king, not without great bodily toil and 
expenses." ^ In 1396 William Donne only got his annuity of £10 
" in consideration of his good service for the space of ten years 
and more." The assent of the council was required to secure him 
even this favour, and he had to wait another year before he re- 
ceived any payment under it.^ On two similar occasions, clerks 
had to complete twelve years' service before they obtained an 
annuity to this amount. One of these clerks was Thomas Hoc- 
cleve, who had been in office since 1387, but who obtained his 
annuity only in 1399, after the accession of Henry IV.^ Robert 
Fry received a similar grant on January 28, 1399, " for twelve 
years good service in the offices of the king's privy seal and 
signet." ^ In 1398 Hoccleve and Fry had shared with their 
colleagues, Fleet and Heath, a more precarious grant to the same 

1 Works, iii. 55-56, 1499-1554. 

" His letter he takith and forth goth his way. 
And byddeth vs to dowten vs no-thyng 
His lord schal thanken vs an other day ; 
And if we han to sue to the kyng. 
His lord may there haue al his askyng : 

And where this bribour hath no peny payed 
In oure office, he seith be-hynde our bak, 
' He payde, I not what ' : thus ben we bytrayed 
And disclaundrid, and put in wyte and lak 
Ff ul gilteles : and eeke by swiche a knak 
The man for whom the suyte is, is deceyued. 
He weneth we han of his gold receyued." 

2 C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 392, an extract from the grant to Reginald Donning- 
ton. Cf. ib. p. 119. 

3 I.R. 355/4. The grant is enrolled in C.P.R., 1396-99, p. 38, after a grant 
of December 1396. The issue roll shows that its date was April 1, 1396, though 
the first payment under it was made on May 21, 1397, and was made to recom- 
pense him for being prevented from obtaining earlier execution of the writ. 

* C.P.R., 1399-1401, p. 61. This also was payable by the exchequer and 
was " for his good service for a long time past in that office," and terminable 
on presentation to a benefice, without cure, worth £20 a year. Cf. below, p. 92. 

5 lb., 1396-99, p. 463. This grant was from the issues of Wiltshire, so that its 
payments do not figure in the issue roUs. 

92 THE PKIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

amount for one year only, and that as a windfall, derived from the 
goods of outlaws who had forfeited their possessions.^ Larger 
annuities, however, were sometimes given, and Hoccleve, in 1409, 
had his annuity raised to £13 : 6 : 8.2 In the next generation a 
clerk served the privy seal for twenty years " without fee or 
annuity," ^ 

The king's favour was not only slow to operate but was hardly 
ever unconditional. Sometimes, as to Ferriby in 1339, the grant 
for wages was only " until the lord king shall have thought fit to 
make other ordinance with regard to his condition." * Payment 
of Dighton's wages was subject to a similar limitation, " until he 
obtained promotion to an ecclesiastical benefice in the king's 
gift." ^ Macclesfield and Edmund Bayley had a £5 annual grant 
" during the war with France or until further order." ^ Hoccleve 
received his pension either for life, or until he had been promoted 
to an ecclesiastical benefice without cure of souls worth £20 a 
year.'^ From such phraseology we infer that the condition of 
things implied by the ordinance of 1318 still obtained in some 
measure, and that the natural reward for the clerk of the privy 
seal was ecclesiastical preferment. 

One easy way for the king to reward his privy seal clerks, 
though perhaps not one that particularly commended itself to the 
clerks themselves, was to confer on them some sinecure office, or 
an office in some remote district, the duties of which might be dis- 
charged by deputy. Thus, Guy Rockcliffe and Lawrence Bailay 
in succession held for life the office of riding forester in the forest 
of Galtres with power to execute its duties by deputy,^ and the 
office of raglaw in a commote in Gwynedd was several times con- 
ferred on privy seal clerks in the early fifteenth century.^ Under 
Richard II., John Gerlethorp, " one of the king's writing clerks 
under the privy seal," received grants of the custody of a Devon- 
shire park and of a small Kentish property forfeited by Robert 

1 C.P.R., 1396-99, p. 408. 2 lb., 1408-13, p. 75. 

^ He was Richard Prior, for whom see later, p. 94. 
* I.E. 306/4. 5 7t. 457/13. 

^ C.P.R., 1381-85, p. 653. The reason for the limitation was that the grant 
was payable out of the revenues of an alien house of religion. 

' Hoccleve, Works, vol. i. app. p. li. See also above, p. 91 and n. 4. 

8 C.P.R., 1391-96, p. 201. The grant to Bailay was made in 1392, on 
RockclifEe's decease. 

9 C.P.E., 1422-29, pp. 205, 475. 


de Vere.i When the sometime estate of a Yorkshire alien priory 
fell to the crown on the death of queen Joan, its life-holder, it was 
transferred in 1438 for life to Thomas Frank, clerk of the privy- 
seal, " for good service to the crown during the last twenty 
years." ^ A still cheaper method of rewarding a clerk was in 
the grant of a charter of pardon for offences committed by him 
during his official career of " good and gratuitous service." ^ 

A lucrative or important office rarely fell to the lot of a privy 
seal clerk. Hardly exceptions to this were certain grants to 
Henry Ingelby and Adam Newbold. In 1341 Ingelby was given 
" custody of the smaller piece of the seal for the recognisance 
of debts in the city of Norwich during good behaviour " in 
consideration of his " good service " and his " continual stay 
with the king as well beyond the seas as within," * and in 1348 
Adam Newbold received a grant of the same custody, with the 
difference that, by reason of his service at court, he was permitted 
to appoint first a deputy, then a successor, to discharge the duties 
of the office.^ Later, in 1350, Ingelby received the important 
keepership of the Domus Conversorum,^ which he resigned only 
in 1371,' being the last keeper of the house of converts who was 
not a chancery clerk. It is tempting to believe that when he 
kept the hospicium of the seal he sometimes lodged the clerks 
within the premises of the Domus Conversorum, just as the 
chancery clerks who held the keepership entertained there the 
clerks of the rolls. Another relatively important office was held 
by John Wellingborough the elder, who was, in 1388, given the 
office of chirographer of the common bench with the usual fees. 
This appointment was made in consideration of his long services 
to the king and his grandfather, and may, therefore, be regarded 
as in lieu of a retiring pension. The fact that it was made at 
the request of certain prelates and magnates suggests that 
Wellingborough, for all his loyal service to the crown, was in 
sympathy with the dominant majority of the Merciless Parlia- 

1 C.P.R., 1391-96, pp. 363, 580. A " writing clerk " was, I think, not one of 
the " four clerks," but a subordiaate who did the actual manual work of writing 
out writs. 

2 lb., 1436-41, p. 197. 

3 Reginald Donnington was so rewarded in 1342 ; C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 392. 
« C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 119. ^ lb., 1345-48, pp. 204, 417. 

6 lb., 1348-50, p. 475. ' lb., 1370-74, p. 128. 

94 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

ment, tlien in session.^ If this surmise is true, he is a rare 
example of an ofl&cial with political opinions, though we have 
already remarked two chancery of&cers who showed similar sym- 
pathies in the same crisis.^ 

Actually the church offered wider prospect of promotion than 
secular office. All clerks of the privy seal were eligible for 
ecclesiastical preferment, though no doubt their " clergy " was 
often nominal, and it is unlikely that many of them aspired to 
holy or even to minor orders. As in the chancery,^ the clericus 
uxoratus was not unknown, and there is a famous example of a 
married clerk of the privy seal in Thomas Hoccleve. Roger 
Elmham ^ and Richard Prior ^ were possibly others. Marriage did 
not prevent Hoccleve going on with his daily task, but it barred 
the door to promotion in the church. An occasional layman 

^ There are two patents of appointment. The earlier, dated May 12, was 
" during pleasure " and " at the request of several prelates and magnates " ; 
C.P.R., 1385-89, p. 446. This was the operative act, for an ampler grant 
" for life at the special request of many prelates and magnates of the realm," 
made on June 5, was " vacated by surrender and cancelled " ; ib. p. 421. The 
appointment is noteworthy as an instance of parliament taking an active in- 
terest in the promotion of an official at a time of acute political crisis. 

2 For the same parliament's procuring grants in favour of two chancery 
clerks, Scarborough, clerk of the commons, and Martin, clerk of the crown, 
see above, iii. 448. 

* See my " Household of Chancery " in Essays in History presented to R. L, 
Poole, pp. 82-83. 

* At one time I suspected that Roger Elmham, clerk of the privy seal from 
1384 or 1391 or later, was a married man. But I fear that my ground 
was the identification of him with Roger Elmham, clerk of the works in 1388 
{C.P.R., 1385-89, p. 379), called " king's sergeant " in 1389 ; ib., 1388-92, p. 83. 
In 1391 certain lands in Yorkshire were granted for the joint lives of this same 
Roger Elmham and Elizabeth Vancourt ; ib. p. 505. The pair were man and 
wife a few years later (ib., 1396-99, p. 160), and were probably about to 
marry when the grant was made. Uniortunately, the first-mentioned Roger 
Elmham was still a privy seal clerk on May 13, 1391, when he was sent to 
Portugal on the king's business ; I.R. 533/6. This makes it unlikely, though 
not impossible, that Roger the clerk and Roger the king's servant were the 
same person. Roger and Elizabeth were still alive in 1401 ; C.P.R., 1399-1401, 
p. 245. 

^ Prior's earlier history is referred to above, p. 80. In 1408 he was a king's 
clerk in the office of the privy seal, and in 1427, still described as " one of the 
clerks of the privy seal office," was made raglaw of the commote of Talybont, 
Merioneth ; C.P.R., 1422-29, p. 255. In 1427 he was appointed woodward 
of the commote of Penllyn, Merioneth ; ib. p. 398. In a regrant of 1428 
{ib. p. 255), Prior was called " king's sergeant." This seems another instance 
of a privy seal clerk abandoning his clergy as soon as he could get a non-clerical 
post. Matrimony was, of course, the ordinary reason for such change of 
status, but I have seen no evidence of Prior's marriage. 


at the head of the office did not lead to the introduction of the 
lay element among his chief subordinates, any more than it did 
in chancery. The only laymen allowed in the privy seal oflB.ce 
were supernumeraries of humble rank. Benefices did not fall 
so frequently to the privy seal clerk that he often had occasion to 
abandon his post because of the lure of an ecclesiastical career. 
A living or a prebend might eke out his emoluments, but high 
ofl&ce in the church seldom came his way. Not one privy seal- 
clerk became a bishop. The highest posts in the church obtained 
by a clerk of the privy seal were the two deaneries of Hereford 
and York, held successively by John Prophet, but after he had 
become something more than a mere clerk, and as a reward for 
other services. Modest benefices, sinecures which did not take 
the clerk away from his service in the oflSce, were what more 
usually fell to the lot of the clerk of the privy seal. It was a 
bitter blow to the elderly clerk when the looked-for benefice 
did not materialise. Only when weary of waiting for a living, 
and despairing of receiving one, did Hoccleve take the rash 
step of matrimony.^ Thus debarred effectively from all chance 
of ecclesiastical preferment and reduced to his small pension, 
supplemented, after nearly forty years' service, by the grant of 
a corrody which gave him sustenance for life in the priory of 
Southwick, Hampshire,^ he was not, after all, so badly off, 
but he was probably a man hard to help. 

There are a few conspicuous exceptions to the rule that im- 
portant preferment was outside the range of the privy seal clerk. 
Perhaps the most striking are Henry Ingelby and John Winwick. 
For Ingelby, the flood time came almost simultaneously with 
his appointment to the Domus Conversorum.^ In 1349-50 he 
became prebendary of York, Wells and Southwell, rector of 
Houghton -le- Spring and of Sibson, Leicestershire. Papal in- 
dulgence, obtained at the request of Edward III., exempted him 

1 Hoccleve, WorJcs, iii. 53/1450-54. 

" Ya, sothly, fadir myn, ryght so I am. 
I gasyd longe firste, and waytid faste 
After some benefice ; and whan non cam, 
By proces I me weddid atte last." 

2 A.P.C. iii. 152. This was in 1424. He lived for nearly another quarter 
of a century. 

* See above, p. 93. 

96 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

from the ordinary law against pluralities. ^ He ceased to be 
active after 1360, and though he retained the house of converts 
until 1371, he seems to have neglected its upkeep. ^ Win wick 
was even more successful. While he was still a simple clerk 
of the seal he accumulated an extraordinary number of livings 
and prebends. In 1341, the first year in which he is known to 
have been writing at the seal, he was appointed to a " modest 
prebend " in the chapel of St. Mary and the Angels at York.^ 
Next year he received the free chapel within the castle of 
Shrewsbury and the free chapel of St. Juhan's in Shrewsbury 
town.'* In 1343 the king gave him a prebend in York 
cathedral, and in 1344 presented him to a living in his native 
county, the valuable rectory of Croston in Lancashire.^ In 
1345 he received the free chapel in Clitheroe Castle, also within 
his native county.^ In 1347 he was made prebendary of Wells, 
a preferment into which the Idng forced him after law-suits 
against the bishop.' In 1349 Edward advanced him to the 
treasurership of York cathedral,^ a post almost monopolised 
by king's clerks. In 1350 he was presented to the rectory of 
Wigan, another of the richest and most important livings in 
Lancashire,^ again after a law-suit in which Edward victoriously 
vindicated his right of presentation. The hospital of St. Giles, 
Maldon, whose wardenship came into his hands in the same 
year, was a mere matter of exchange with a kinsman who had 
previously held it : i° but next year we find Winwick holding at 
the same time as his treasurership and prebend at York, prebends 
at Southwell, Salisbury, Wells, Chichester, Lincoln and Lichfield.^^ 
No wonder he was able to contemplate founding a college of 
scholars. Perhaps the greediness of his heirs which prevented 
his object being accomplished was an hereditary trait. 

If Winwick was the only clerk of the seal to make good a 

^ See, for his benefices and other ecclesiastical offices, C.P.R., 1348-50, pp. 
268, 269, 470, 474 ; ib., 1354-58, pp. 153, 430, also C. Pap. Reg. Let. iii. 241, 
252, 333, 457, 496, 503. 2 gee below, p. 99. 

3 C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 102. The " modesty " of the prebend is recognised 
by C. Pap. Reg. Let. iii. 241. * C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 479. 

5 lb., 1343-45, pp. 52, 300. « Ib. p. 486. 

' lb., 1345-48, p. 428. We must distinguish the clerk of the seal from John, 
son of William of Winwick, the elder, presented in 1347 to Winwick, North- 

8 lb., 1348-50, p. 355. » Ib. pp. 473, 496. 

10 Ib. p. 480. " lb., 1350-54, p. 179. 


career within the office, John Prophet, in a later generation, was 

the one clerk who made the office the jumping-ofE ground of 

a distinguished career. We shall speak elsewhere of his years 

of service in the office, of his good work as clerk of the council, 

and of his promotion to the new office of secretary in succession 

to Dighton.i It was new evidence of the increasing importance 

of the privy seal that its chief clerk, the secondary as he was 

soon to be called, could hold so important a post in the church 

as the deanery of Hereford, to say nothing of numerous prebends 

and benefices.2 Under Henry IV. Prophet was called away 

from the privy seal to be the king's secretary and a member 

of his council. In 1406 he went back as keeper and remained 

in that office until 1415. Meanwhile he had been transferred 

from Hereford to the deanery of York. He died in 1416. Though 

his will was proved in the court of the northern archbishop,^ he 

was buried in his Hampshire church of Ringwood, where he 

founded a chantry and where his brass may still be seen. Socially, 

he had good connections in Herefordshire and the adjacent Welsh 

March, where Sir John Oldcastle's first wife was his kinswoman, 

and where the good will of bishop Courtenay helped on his early 

promotion. Altogether, he had an honourable and successful 

course, though just stopping short of a bishopric.^ His nine 

years' tenure of the keepership of the privy seal under Henry 

IV. far exceeds the periods for which his fourteenth-century 

predecessors held office. 

Winwick and Prophet were exceptional. The possibilities of 
the office for a more ordinary person can be better studied in 

1 See later, p. 102. 

2 For the benefices he was permitted to hold with his deanery, see C.P.R., 
1391-96, p. 569, a ratification, dated May 15, 1395, of Prophet's estate as dean 
and canon of Hereford ; and Cal. Pap. Reg. Let. iv. 354. They included 
prebends and canonries at Lincoln, St. Asaph, Abergwili, Ledbury, Tamworth, 
and Crediton, a sinecure chapelry and Ringwood rectory, worth altogether 
30 marks. His dispensation allowed him two other benefices with cure of 

* It is printed in Testamenta Eboracensia, iii. 53, Surtees Soc. 

* All that is known about Prophet is collected in Wylie's Henry IV. and 
Henry V., especially in Henry IV., ii. 484 n. and iii. 295 n., 351 n. There 
were other Prophets canons of Hereford and more than one John Prophet, one 
of whom represented Hereford city in the 1391 parliament ; C.C.R., 1389-92, 
p. 513. It was probably our John Prophet who drew up a notarial instrument 
in 1376 as a notary of the diocese of St. David's ; C.P.R., 1374-77, p. 292, 
but this diocese extends to within a few miles of Hereford. 


98 THE PEIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

William Dighton, a man possessing neither the social position nor 
the ability of these two successful clerks. Dighton was the life- 
long holder of a clerkship of the privy seal, and in the midst of his 
long tenure was, for a brief period, promoted to the keepership. 
By 1352 Dighton was rector of Trimmingham, in the diocese of 
Norwich,^ and subsequently parson of Barking, Sufiolk, and of 
Ash, near Wrotham, Kent. This latter living he afterwards 
exchanged for that of Wybarton, Lincolnshire. He was also in 
1361 prebendary of Salisbury and Lincoln, ^ and in 1379 was 
nominated canon of York.^ Though ordered by the pope to 
resign the rich living of Staindrop, Durham, in 1361, he still 
triumphantly appears as parson of Staindrop in 1382,* and in 
1387 obtained the king's ratification of his estate both in the 
prebends which the pope permitted him to hold and in the church 
of Staindrop, which nearly thirty years before he had promised 
to abandon as the condition of holding the prebends.^ Thus 
Dighton overcame his special difficulty in the pursuit of plurali- 
ties, namely, that as the son of a priest and an unmarried woman, 
he required at each step of his preferment, a dispensation from the 
Holy See.^ 

Even Dighton's success is not, perhaps, a typical example 
of the career of the privy seal clerk. Let us take at random 
three or four clerks of Richard's period. Lawrence Bailay, for 
instance, clerk between 1391 and 1398,' was in the same year 
rector of Pewsey in Wiltshire and Kippax in Yorkshire.^ William 
Donne, clerk from 1387 to beyond our period, became warden of 
the hospital of St. John at Burford, and parson of Everdon in 
the diocese of Lincoln.^ John Wellingborough, the elder, clerk for 
many years under Edward IIL, and also up to 1395, was, just 
before his death, at the same time rector of Bishop's Hatfield, 
Lincolnshire, prebendary of St. Paul's, London, of St. Stephen's, 
Westminster, of Wilton, and of Crediton, as well as being por- 
tioner of Beddington, Surrey, and warden of Sherborne hospital.^*' 

1 Col. Pap. Reg. Let. iii. 474. ^ /j, iy. xix. and 63. 

3 C.P.R., 1377-81, p. 329. * lb., 1381-85, p. 170. 

6 lb., 1385-89, p. 252. « See above, p. 47. 

7 I.R. 532/16, 559/3. 

8 C.P.R., 1388-92, pp. 236, 358 (both in 1390). 

9 lb., 1388-92, p. 156. lb., 1396-99, p. 208. 
i" lb., 1391-96, p. 576. 


There were also other clerks, like Hoccleve, who never got any 
benefice. The privy seal clerk had no ready-made avenue for 
ecclesiastical promotion such as the chancery clerk enjoyed, from 
the fact that a large number of crown livings of small value were 
expressly handed over to the chancellor's nomination so that he 
might reward therewith the clerks in his office. The keeper of the 
privy seal possessed no such patronage, and if the clerks could 
more or less rely on the king, there were always numerous claim- 
ants for direct royal bounty. 

The discipline of the office was not so strict as to prevent the 
more enterprising clerks from doing profitable business on their 
own account, and thus supplementing their allowances. Again, 
we must refer to the careers of Henry Ingelby and John Winwick 
as illustrations of what a good thing could be made by a man of 
affairs out of his official position. Both these clerks carried on 
varied business operations with considerable success. 

We find Ingelby in 1347 leasing, apparently for his own resid- 
ence, the town house of the alien prior of Ogbourne,^ and in 1349, 
as executor of a deceased London clerk, he bought, with the 
consent of his fellow-executors, certain houses belonging to the 
estate in the parish of St. Bennet's, Woodwharf, also apparently 
for his own occupation.^ With the control of all this property, he 
had no difficulty in putting up the household of the privy seal 
when called upon to do so. As keeper of the House of Converts, 
from 1350 to 1371, he had, if possible, an even more assured home 
in London. So keen an eye to immediate gain had he, that he 
scandalously neglected the fabric of that House and left it in a 
ruinous state for his successor, though the sums paid to him by 
the crown for its custody were intended to cover the cost of 
its upkeep. He gave such small maintenance to the lawful in- 
mates that a Spanish convert complained that he could not keep 
himself, his wife and his children on the sum doled out to him. 
Accordingly, the king increased the amount to a living wage, so 
that the convert might " have the more willing mind to abide in 
the Catholic faith." ^ But Ingelby 's chief source of profit was a 
large practice in money lending, evidence of which lies in the 

1 C.P.R., 1345-58, p. 228. 

2 C.C.R., 1349-54, p. 234 ; Cal. of Wills in Court of Husting, i. 613. 

3 G.G.R., 1364-68, p. 444. 

100 THE PRIVY SEAL oh. xvi 

numerous recognisances of debts due to him enrolled in the close 
rolls for 1345-74, especially those of the years 1354-68. Many 
apply to Ingelby alone, but he seems to have formed, or at least 
to have belonged to, a sort of money-lending syndicate, of which 
David Wooler, keeper of the chancery rolls, and other chancery 
clerks were members. This is a novel aspect of the co-operation 
of chancery and privy seal ! As Wooler lived in Clifford's Inn, 
hard by the House of Converts, he was a close neighbour of his 
partner. After 1360 Ingelby seems to have resigned his clerkship 
of the privy seal, though he kept the House of Converts till 1371. 
The syndicate gradually broke up, and when Wooler died, Ingelby 
became his executor. 

Winwick, the Lancashire squire's son, was as keen on business 
as his Yorkshire colleague. There is no need to repeat what has 
been said already about the career of this most interesting of all 
the clerks of the privy seal. But we must record, as a supplement 
to the story of Ingelby's dealings in usury, not only similar 
activities on Winwick's part, but his specially successful business 
of farming the revenues of some of the greater landed estates 
in Lancashire. 

Winwick proved to be a competent and successful keeper of the 
privy seal, and only death prevented his attaining greater heights 
both in church and state. But for him we might well have said 
that the clerk of the privy seal had as little of a career inside his 
office as he had in the world outside it. In all the fourteenth 
century, Winwick is the one clerk who was promoted directly to 
the keepership, if we except William Dighton, whose long clerk- 
ship of thirty-eight years was broken for a few months in 1382 by 
a brief custody of the seal. Dighton seems, however, to have 
been a mere temporary stopgap, else he would hardly have been 
content to resume his old position as clerk and remain there 
until the end of his career. The third clerk who became keeper 
was earlier than either of these. He was that Richard Airmyn 
who is one of the first clerks known to have written for the privy 
seal, serving between 1314 and 1322. After five years at the 
chancery, Richard went back to the seal as its keeper in 1327-28. 
John Prophet later followed a similar course of promotion, acting 
as clerk from 1391 to 1395, then as king's secretary, finally return- 
ing to the privy seal under Henry IV. as keeper. Neither can be 


regarded as disproving the contention that Winwick was the only 
clerk of the privy seal to whom the office offered directly a high 
political career. 

The help which men like Fry and Prophet gave to the infant 
office of the signet is further evidence that the privy seal offered 
a restricted opportunity of promotion to other government 
departments. More important still, the increasingly intimate 
relations between the privy seal and the council opened up to a 
few fortunate clerks the prospect of even greater dignity, influ- 
ence and emolument. There were two ways in which the oppor- 
tunity could be obtained, either by membership of the council, 
or by helping the council in its secretarial and routine work, A 
clerk of no great position, though usually of higher rank than a 
mere clerk of the privy seal, was sometimes made a councillor, 
especially in the first half of the century, apparently for the sole 
purpose of employing his services in technical or secretarial work. 
But under Edward III. privy seal clerks began to be appointed to 
the council. One of the first to receive such an appointment was 
John Carlton, who had been working in the privy seal office at 
least as early as 1316. He was, on May 10, 1346, " retained of the 
king's council " and given, besides robes of office, a salary of 50 
marks a year when in England, and 100 marks when beyond the 
seas.^ Another was Henry Ingelby, appointed to be on the 
council in 1355.^ This is further testimony to his exceptional 

As time went on, it grew harder for government officials who 
were not ministers to become ordinary members of the king's 
council, but privy seal clerks kept open the way of entry to a sub- 
ordinate position in this strictly guarded body by helping in its 
secretarial work,^ John Wellingborough, for instance, in 1375 went 
as a messenger from the council to the king on secret business, and 
by appointment in 1377 was " attendant at our council " from the 
time of Richard II. 's coronation to that of the Gloucester parlia- 

^ C.P.R., 1345-58, p. 80. This was when Michael Northburgh and Andrew 
Offord were also promoted to the council : ib. pp. 80, 91. 

2 Foedera, iii. 1 10. 

' Prof. Baldwin's King^s Council, pp. 362-368, gives an excellent summary of 
the process. In the earlier stages he hardly draws with sufficient clearness the 
line between clerical members of the council and clerks appointed to act because 
they are likely to be useful in secretarial and technical work. Perhaps the line 
cannot be drawn with precision. 

102 THE PRIVY SEAL oh. xvi 

ment in October-November, 1378.1 Probably he served for even 
longer, but after about 1384 he was succeeded by Guy Rockcliffe, 
another clerk of the seal, as intermediary between king and 
council. Rockclifie in turn gave way, towards 1387, to Mr. John 
Prophet. Besides " travelling to various places by command of 
the council," Prophet was also " continuously remaining at the 
council." Between 1380 and 1392 he often signed the minutes of 
the council and each article of the council's instructions to the 
ambassadors to France. ^ A fee of £40 compensated him for " his 
labours and expenses in times past." In 1393 he is definitely 
described as " clerk of the council," ^ though the office was still 
so inchoate that, on the retirement of Dighton, it was thought 
advancement to appoint Prophet to the new office of secondary 
which Dighton had held. That he took his work as clerk of the 
council seriously is shown by the excellent minutes of the pro- 
ceedings of council in 1392-93, which Professor Baldwin has 
happily printed.^ The post was so personal to Prophet that no 
individual successor was found to him for the rest of Richard's 
reign. A short-lived and obscure successor may have been the 
Mr. William Lambroke, king's clerk, described in 1398 as " clerk 
of the council," ^ though not, apparently, a privy seal clerk. 
More likely Prophet continued nominally responsible, and his 
clerk, Robert Fry, acted for him. Thus Prophet became, under 
Henry IV., the first of the long line of official clerks of the council, 
until he also was appointed to the post of secondary of the privy 
seal. Henceforth there was a regular succession of clerks of the 
council. Their connection with the privy seal gradually became 
less necessary, but in the middle of the fifteenth century we still 

^ Exch. of Receipt, Warrants for Issues, bu. 12, " Nous vous mandons qe a 
nostre ame clerc, J. de Wendlyngburgh leisne, facez leuerer de nostre doun de 
lavys de nostre conseil quarante liures de regards pur cause de trauaulx et 
coustages q'il a eu puis nostre couronement encea en ce qil a este intendant a 
nostre dit conseil come il estoit ordenez. Done souz nostre priue seal a Gloucester 
le xxii jour d'Octobre, Ian de nostre regne second." Ci.I.R. 471/6 (Nov. 5, 1378). 
For other conciliar activities of Wellingborough, see I.R. 454/20, 456/10. 

2 A.P.C. i. 12b, 14b, 19, 21, 35, 41. ^ I.R. 540/20. 

* King's Council, pp. 489-504. Its authorship is made certain by the " et 
moy I. Prophete" of p. 495. We owe to Professor Baldwin the proof of the 
soundness of Sir Harris Nicholas' conjecture that Prophet was clerk of the 
council, a conjecture fiercely attacked at the time. See, besides Professor 
Baldwin's book, his article in E.H.R. xxi. 17-20. 

6 C.P.R., 1396-99, p. 358. 


have in Dr. Thomas Kent an official who was both clerk of the 
council and secondary in the office of the privy seal.^ 

Mention of the secondary reminds us that in the days of 
Richard II. the establishment of a sort of head clerkship in the 
privy seal office gave a minor possibility of promotion within 
the office to one of the four clerks by assigning him a certain 
primacy in dignity and status. Some such distinction began 
to be drawn as early as the days of Edward II. From 1319 to 
1323 we find Richard Airmyn receiving a larger allowance for 
robes than his brother clerks, though in 1315 he was treated no 
differently from his colleagues. He was clearly the chief of the 
four clerks, and we should not go far wrong in assuming that he 
held a position similar to that taken up, sixty years later, by the 
secundarius priuati sigilli.^ Such a development was inevitable 
owing to the frequent absences of the keeper from the personal 
direction of his office. Besides, as keeper and clerks, on ceasing 
to live together at court, continued their quasi- collegiate exist- 
ence in the hospicium priuati sigilli, when the keeper was away 
from the hospicium, some one else had to take his place, and 
a natural substitute would be the senior clerk. Accordingly, 
we find John Win wick keeping the hospicium in 1351 on behalf 
of the absent Michael Northburgh, and in 1354 Henry Ingelby 
similarly in charge. For Edward III.'s reign the evidence allows 
this faint suggestion of seniority, but we have learnt enough 
of the careers of Airmyn, Winwick and Ingelby to realise that 
their supremacy over their colleagues was due to something 
more substantial than seniority. They were the three clerks 
of the seal who stood out conspicuously from the general medio- 

Under Richard II. this vague and accidental supremacy 
crystallised into a definite office. We must not, however, be 
tempted to discover this office as existing early in the reign by 
misreading an entry in the issue roll of 1378 concerning Johannes 
de Wendlynburgh senior clericus de officio priuati sigilli,^ Un- 
luckily, there were two John Wellingboroughs among the privy 
seal clerks of the period, distinguished from each other as senior 

1 For details of all this see Baldwin, King's Council, pp. 366-8. Cf. below, 
p. 105. 

2 See above, ii. 304 and n. » I.R. 471/6. 

104 THE PRIVY SEAL oh. xvi 

and junior. 1 It is certain that the entry simply means that the 
senior John was a privy seal clerk. Up to 1385 he continued 
to be unus clericorum de officio priuati sigilli. Had he been 
" senior clerk," it is difficult to see why he was passed over in 
favour of Dighton in 1382, when circumstances compelled the 
election of an acting clerk to the keepership. Anyhow, we find 
that, after his brief keepership had ended, Dighton was definitely 
called secundarius priuati sigilli for the rest of his life. The 
promotion was in dignity rather than in emolument, for Dighton 
as secondary continued to draw only his modest 7|d. a day, like 
any other clerk. 2 In this office Dighton was succeeded in 1394 
by John Prophet, who, as we know, was an ordinary clerk of 
no long standing, and also clerk of the council. Though his 
official salary remained that of Dighton, the further large grant 
of £100 paid to him during the next year ^ showed that the actual 
emoluments of the post were far in excess of the nominal wages. 
After Prophet's time a regular succession of secondaries can be 
traced, and for a considerable period there was a tendency to 

^ John the elder became prebendary of St. Paul's on Sept. 15, 1377 (C.P.R., 
1377-81, p. 22), and in 1388 he was made chirographer to the common bench 
as we have already seen (above, p. 93). There was a John Wellingborough, 
subdeacon, aged 18, who was in 1333 given a dispensation to hold the living 
of Scaldwell, Northants ; C. Pap. Beg. Pet. i. 31. He may well have been 
the John Wellingborough described in 1354 as steward of the household of 
Michael Northburgh, bishop elect of London ; ib. p. 267. Northburgh was 
then keeper of the privy seal and the steward of his household, being a clerk, 
might easily have become one of the four clerks of the privy seal. John died in 
1395 at the age of eighty. John the younger, also a king's clerk, was nominated 
for a canonry at Beverley on April 4, 1379 ; C.P.R., 1377-81, p. 333. The two 
were in 1380 exchanging benefices with each other ; ib. p. 552. They may have 
been related to G. Wendlingburgh, mentioned above, iii. 154, n. 5. All these 
personages are called Wendlingburgh in contemporary documents, but that is 
simply the fourteenth-century form of Wellingborough, Northants, so that, 
following my usual rule, I have described them by the modern name of their 
town of origin. 

2 In the fifteenth century the secondary had a special allowance of fur ; 
E.A. 408/8. Maxwell-Lyte, p. 347. 

' I.R. 546/19, " Magistro Johanni Prophete, clerico, secundario in officio 
priuati sigilli regis, percipient! per diem vij d. et ob. pro vadiis suis pro tempore 
quo ipsum stare contigerit in officio predicto, prout Willelmus de Dyghton, 
clericus, qui nuper dictum officium occupauit, percepit . . . per assignacionem 
sibi factam . . . et in pecunia numerata per manus Roberti Fry, clerici sui, 
c K." This is dated Jan. 20, 1394. Prophet received another payment of the 
same sum on April 24, 1395 (ib. 553/1), and on Dec. 14, 1395, " de regardo pro 
diligentibus laboribus et custubus quos idem Johannes ante hec tempora subiuit 
et supportauit in officio priuati sigilli " ; I.R. 554/12. 


associate this office with the secretariat of the council. In 1444 
Thomas Kent, doctor of law, received £100 a year for holding 
the combined offices.^ 

Such were the career and prospects of a clerk of the privy 
seal in the fourteenth century. Allowing for all things, it was 
not an avocation attractive to the abler and more ambitious 
aspirants after government service. One proof of this is the 
limited extent to which families established themselves in the 
privy seal office. There was little corresponding to the almost 
hereditary succession of certain official families, like the Thoresby- 
Waltham-Ravenser clan in the chancery, and the Brantingham 
and Chesterfield-Derby groups in the exchequer, although there 
was a slight tendency to bring Idnsfolk into the office. The two 
Carltons, John and Henry ; the two Ferribys, John and Richard ; 
the two Winwicks, John and his less eminent brother, Philip ; 
the three Bailays, Edmund, John and Lawrence ; and the three 
Wellingboroughs, the elder and the younger John, and William ; 
show a clannishness suggesting a mild approach to the ubiquitous 
nepotism of the middle ages. But of the only two clerks who dis- 
tinctly made their mark in the privy seal, one. Prophet, intro- 
duced no kinsfolk of his name into the office, and Win wick only 
found room for one of his brothers, though using his official posi- 
tion to save his father from the consequences of his lawless acts. 

As for social status, it is hard to say from what stock or 
antecedents the privy seal clerks came. Ingelby belonged to 
a good family with landed estates in Yorkshire. His brother. 
Sir Thomas Ingelby, was a justice coram rege, and the founder, 
or aggrandiser, of the house of Ingelby which still possesses 
Ripley Park. The law was apparently even more profitable 
for him than the government service for his brother. When 
Henry went on pilgrimage to Rome in the jubilee year, he 
had a train of six horses and their grooms.^ The Winwicks be- 
longed to that class of the lesser landed gentry which played so 
conspicuous a part in the political and social history of mediaeval 
England. Others, including Dighton, the bastard of a priest, 
and Hoccleve, whose slavish attitude to life suggests a humble 
position in society, were of lower standing. Nor is it likely 
that the limited career of the privy seal often attracted men of 

1 C.P.B., 1441-46, p. 277 ; cf. above, p. 103. ^ Foedera, iii. 203. 

106 THE PRIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

higher education, or graduates of the universities. In the 
chancery such men were rare ; in the modest privy seal they 
were even more exceptional. It is unusual for a clerk of the 
privy seal to be described as magister, that is as the full graduate 
of a university in any faculty. The great majority are simply 
called dominus, like any other non-academic clerk. Probably, 
as we have already had occasion to suggest,^ most of them re- 
ceived their training by apprenticeship under one or other of 
the four clerks. But a few of them were university trained, 
as for example, Mr. John Prophet, John Welwick,^ bachelor 
of civil law and notary, and the other notaries, Adam Hilton 
and William Tirrington. The notary's technical skill in drawing 
up documents in " public form " was essential for diplomatic 
work, especially for the drafting of treaties, and in this work 
the privy seal clerks, particularly during their service abroad, 
were constantly employed, sharing in this task with the still 
more important notaries of the chancery, A man had to pass 
through a long training and a careful examination before he could 
be admitted to the position of notary, by the pope or emperor, 
or by some delegate appointed by the conferring authority.^ 
With these exceptions, the clerks of the privy seal were normally 
neither highly educated nor of conspicuous ability. The one 
privy seal clerk who won fame in literature speaks very modestly 
of his own ability and learning.* 

Once more we have to cite Hoccleve, this time as illustrating 
the daily life of the privy seal clerk. There are dangers in this 
course, because Hoccleve was a poor and disappointed man, 
and likely, therefore, to depict himself and his surroundings in 
sombre colours. As he is, however, our sole source of intimate 
information, we must take him for what he is worth. But we 

1 See above, pp. 79-81. 

2 " John de Wellewyk, B.C.L., clerk of the king's privy seal and his special 
notary " so describes himself in 1355 ; C. Pap. Reg. Pet. i. 288. 

^ For the oath and obUgations of a papal notary — and nearly all English 
notaries were empowered by papal authority — see Begistrum Ade de Orleton, pp. 
147-149, C. and Y. Soc. 

« Hoccleve, Works, iii. 75/2073-2079. 

" Simple is my goost and scars my letterure 

Mi dere maister — God his soule quyte ! — 
And fadir, Chaucer, fayn wolde ban me taght 
But I was dul, and lerned lite or naght." 


must not regard him as the type of the normal clerk. Rather is 
he an example of the clerk whose official life was a failure. His 
fluency in composition, coupled with his limited command of 
impersonal themes, led him to write constantly about his personal 
experiences, so that we need to be careful not to generalise too 
much from his gloomy pictures. Hoccleve's presentation of 
the privy seal office comes from an embittered and impoverished 
man. Weak of will, drunken, profligate and extravagant as 
long as health and money endured, suffering from bad health 
and chronic depression for the greater part of the time in which 
he was engaged in literary composition, Hoccleve was ever prone 
to emphasise the darker aspects of his fate. The daily task was 
laborious and trying. Only those who have not tried how hard 
is writing all day, year after year, can describe the copier's work 
as but a game. They are no more qualified to pass judgment 
on the clerk's labours than is the blind man to distinguish be- 
tween colours.! A writer must always work at the same time 
with mind, eye and hand. If any one fail, he has to do every- 
thing over again. The writer cannot, while at work, talk to 
his friends, nor sing a song, nor play nor jest. The craftsman, 
who can do all these things when hard at work, labours with 
gladness, but the clerk, stooping and staring upon his parchments, 
works wearily in dull silence. ^ Few but the professional writers 
know the three great troubles that arise from the writer's craft, 
pains in the stomach, the back, and the eyes. After twenty- 
three years of writing, Hoccleve's whole body was smarting 
with aches and pains, and his eyesight was utterly spoilt.^ 

1 Works, iii. 36/988-994. 

" Many men, fadir, wenen that writynge 
No travaile is : thei hold it but a game. 

It is wel gretter labour than it seemeth ; 

The blynde man of coloures al wrong deemeth." 

2 lb. 37/1009-1029. 

" This artificers, se I day by day 
In the hotteste of al hir bysynesse 
Talken and syng, and make game and play, 
And forth hir labour passith with gladnesse : 
But we labour in trauaillous stilnesse ; 
We stowpe and stare vp-on the shepes skyn, 
And keepe muste our song and wordes in." 

3 lb. 38/1023-1029. 

108 THE PKIVY SEAL ch. xvi 

The privy seal clerk appears in Hoccleve as a rather poor- 
spirited and cowardly fellow, who expected to cringe before great 
men, and even great men's servants, making it up to himself 
by posing as the patron of watermen, cook-shopkeepers, tavern- 
keepers, and the venal beauties who haunted his favourite wine- 
shops.^ Hoccleve had one solid and permanent ground of com- 
plaint in the extreme irregularity with which his annuity was 
paid.2 Apparently it required a whining ballad to the chancellor 
before the writ could be extracted which ordered the exchequer 
officers to pay him his half-yearly dues.^ This had often to be 
supplemented by appeals to the king, the sub-treasurer, or any 
other person in authority.^ Above all, Hoccleve was beset with 
the constant dread of losing his annuity altogether, as soon as he 
was too old to continue at his task.^ 

Even from Hoccleve's lachrymose muse we can perceive that 
there was a brighter side to the life of the privy seal clerk. We 
have spoken of the good comradeship and merry life of the clerks 
in the office. Clearly no rigorous control was exerted over the life 
and amusements of Hoccleve and his colleagues. There was 
plenty of time for merry-makings at the Paul's Head and the 
Westminster taverns,^ and no austere discipline prevented the 
clerks sleeping off their overnight debauch the next morning. A 

1 Works, i. 30-31/177-208. 

" Wher was a gretter maister eek than Y 
Or bet aqweyntid at Westmynstre yate, 
Among the tauerneres namely. 
And Cookes whan I cam eerly or late ? " 

2 lb. ill. 30/820-826. 

" In the schequer, he of his special grace 
Hath to me grauntid an annuitee 
Of xxti mark, while I haue lyues space. 
Might I ay paid ben of that duetee. 
It schulde stonde wel ynow with me ; 
But paiement is hard to gete adayes : 
And that me put in many foule affrayes." 

The annuity of 20 marks was granted Hoccleve on May 17, 1409 ; C.P.R., 
1408-13, p. 75. 3 Works, i. 58. 

* lb. i. 59-60, 62. s lb. iii. 31/834-847. 

6 lb. i. 29/143-144. 

" At Poules heed me maden ofte appeere 

To talke of mirthe and to disport and pleye." 

The Paul's Head tavern was on the south side of St. Paul's churchyard ; Stow, 
Survey, ii. 17. 


real spirit of good fellowship existed among the clerks of the seal, 
and at times there was enough money in the purse for a clerk to 
hire a boat to row from the Strand Bridge to Westminster Palace, 
and to treat his friends to meat and drink.^ Good comradeship 
was also to be found in official circles outside the office. Hoccleve 
perhaps looked up to Chaucer, not only as a poet, but as a brother- 
member of the household, or quasi-household, branch of the civil 
service. The dining-club to which Hoccleve belonged included 
his special friend, the " glad cheered " Henry Sumner, chancellor 
of the exchequer, who entertained the whole " court of good 
company " to dinner in the Temple on May Day, 1410.^ When 
serious troubles beset Hoccleve, he found more consideration 
from his superiors than modern business methods might alto- 
gether allow. About 1415 serious illness drove him out of his 
wits. During all those years, his annuity was regularly paid. 
When he came back to the office in 1422, cured, although he was 
looked at askance by all the outside world, his fellow-clerks 
welcomed him and certified to his sanity, while his superiors 
allowed him to resume his work, and gave him a long-coveted 
corrody on his final retirement a year or two later. 

With all his faults, Hoccleve could not have spent his life in 
idleness. The great bulk of his writings prove that he worked 
hard out of office hours, not only in verse composition, but also 
in the literary studies of which his poems are often but the echo. 
He was well acquainted with three languages, Latin, French and 
English, and was perfectly familiar with the belles lettres and even 

1 Signs of personal familiarity and sense of colleagueship may similarly be 
collected from the generally arid correspondence between members of other 
offices. Thus the chancery clerk, J. Brancaster, called his important colleague, 
David Wooler, " mon tres cher sire et frere," and signs himself " votre frere " 
and " confrater vester " ; A.C. xl/65, 66. Cf. the affectionate signature, " votre 
petit clerc, sil vous plest," of Richard of EccleshaU, the wardrobe clerk, in ib, 

2 Works, i. 64-66, gives the ballad sent by "la court de bone compaignie " 
to Sumner on this occasion. Its date is fixed to 1410 because in that year 
May Day was on a Thursday. Sumner's whole career is interesting as showing 
the strengthening of the lay element in the exchequer. In the early years of 
Henry IV. 's reign, he held subordinate exchequer posts and is described as a 
clerk. Afterwards he is called the " king's sergeant " and was advanced in 1407 
to be baron and in 1410 to be chancellor. He was also keeper of the Tower 
wardrobe and master of the mint ; see above, iv. 480. Was he the first lay 
chancellor of the exchequer and the first who began the union of that office 
with the headship of the mint ? Wylie's Henry I V. collects the details of his 
career, especially in iv. 47. 




with some of the more serious literature of his age. He was cer- 
tainly not open to the reproach, sometimes levelled against the 
literary official, of being a bad clerk and neglecting the daily task. 
There is sufl&cient proof of this in the solid quarto volume, largely 
in his hand, and now preserved in the British Museum, wherein 
are set down in business-like and orderly fashion common forms 
and typical examples of every manner of document which came 
within the sphere of the privy seal.^ If we can illustrate the lighter 
side of the privy seal clerk's life from Hoccleve's verses, we are 
equally indebted to him for this volume, the only formula book 
from which we can study in detail the methods and traditions of 
the office of which he was so long the chief ornament. In fine 
his career leaves us with a strong impression that the business 
habits of the mediaeval official differed little from those of more 
boastful days, and that even a modern government department 
might learn something from the combination of corporate feeling, 
kindly influence and sufficient devotion to the task in hand, so 
abundantly evident in the office of the privy seal five hundred 
years ago. 


Alphabetical List of Known Clerks op the Privy Seal under 
Edward II., Edward III., and Richard II. 

Ashton, Matthew. 

Airmyn, Richard. 

Bailay, Edmund. 

Bailay, John. 
Bailay, Lawrence. 

Barton, John. 

Bellano Monte, Guy de. 
Bolton, WUliam. 

Brigham, John.^ 
1 Ad. MS. 24,062. 

June 22, 1349-Dec. 

11, 1361. 
July 8, 1315-1323. 

Mar. 6, 1385-Nov. 

20, 1389. 
Feb. 9, 1391-May 3, 

Feb. 1, 1316-July 7, 

1320 and 1323. 

April 22, 1350. 
1340-Oct. 15, 1358. 

April 8, 1344-Aug. 
^28, 1359. 

I.R. 348/14. 

lb. 409/26. 

E.A. 376/7, m. 87. 

MS. Stowe, 553/1 08b. 

C.P.R., 1381-85, p. 553. 

I.R. 527/8. 


I.R. 52/16. 

lb. 559/3. 


Ad. MS. 17,362/56. 
MS. Stowe 553/108b. 
I.R. 354/5 
M.B.E 204/90d. 
I.R. 394/4. 

C.C.R., 1343-46, p. 299. 
I.R. 397/31. 

2 He is described as WiUiam in I.E. 344/28. 




Bury, Robert. 

May 15, 1357. 

I.R. 387/8. 

Carlton, Henry. 


I.R. 287/21, 

Carlton, John. 

1312-Mar. 1343. 

Above, ii. 288, 
M.B.E. 204/90d, 

Castle, Richard. 

Oct, 16, 1331-May 13, 

E.A. 385/15. 


I.R. 306/11. 

Colby, William. 


MS. Stowe, 553/25. 
lb. ; and 108b. 

Dighton, William. 

Aug, 24, 1356-1394. 

I.R. 380/22. 

lb. 546/19; cf, E.A. 


Donne, William. 

Nov. 27, 1388-June 

I.R. 52} 15. 

20, 1399. 

lb. 562/12. 

Donnington, Reginald. 


E.A. 388/5, m. 10; 

I.R. 314/5. 
M.B.E. 204/90d. 

Etton, John. 

1323-May 18, 1341. 

MS. Stowe 553/149 ; 

E.A. 388/5, m, 10, 
E.A. 388/9 f, 29. 

Elmham, Roger. 

Feb, 8, 1384-May 13, 

I.R. 499/16. 


lb. 533/6. 

Ferriby, John.^ 

1316-June 18, 1338, 

Enr. Ace. {W. d- H.) 

2/2d; ^.^,378/4, 
E.A. 388/5; 7,i?. 282/27, 

Ferriby, Richard, 


Ad. MS. 17,362/56. 

Fleet, William. 

1387-1398 ? 

Ad. MS. 4596/128. 
C.P.R., 1396-99, p. 408. 

Fry, Robert. 


C.P.R., 1396-99, p, 463, 

Gerle thorp, John. 


C.P.R., 1391-96, p. 363. 
lb. p. 580. 

Heath, John. 


Ad. MS. 4596/128, 
C.P.R., 1408-13, p, 61. 

Hilton, Mr. Adam 

Aug. 24, 1356-Mar. 4, 

I.R. 380/22. 



lb. 403. 

Hoccleve, Thomas. 


De Reg. Prin. lines 

A.P.C. iii. 152. 

Ingelby, Henry. 

1340-Mar. 25, 1359. 

M.B.E. 204/90d. 
I.R. 394/37. 

Kirkby, William, 


Ad. MS. 17,362/56, 61. 

Lucy, Thomas. 


E.A. 384/1, m. 19. 

Macclesfield, John. 

Oct. 6, 1384-June 1, 

I.R. 505/2. 


C.P.R., 1381-85, p. 


Minot, Thomas. 

Feb. 4, 1348. 

I.R. 340/27, 

Newcastle, Richard, 


Above, ii, 287. 

^ Between May 7 and June 18, 1338, he was engaged " extra curiam," 




Newbold, Adam. 
Newhay, Thomas.^ 

Prophet, Mr, John. 
Rockcliffe, Guy. 
Sheffield, Roger. 

Sutton, Walter. 
Thornham, Roger. 
Thorp, J. 
Tirrington, William 

Watford, Robert. 

Welwick, John 

(notary, B.C.L.). 
Wellingborough, John, 

the elder. 
Wellingborough, John, 

the younger. 
WeUingborough, William. 
Wenlock, William. 
Westmancote, John. 

Wilford, Robert. 

Winwick, John. 

Winwick, Philip. 

June 14, 1343-May 

26, 1350.1 
July 8, 1315-Jan. 31, 

Mar. 6, 1391-Dec. 14, 

Feb. 17, 1376-Dec. 30, 

? Aug. 1310-1320 

I.R. 329/15. 
lb. 354/15. 

Above, ii. 288. 

E.A. 376/7, m. 87. 

I.R. 536/22. 

lb. 554/12. 

I.R. 459/27. 

lb. 527/19. 

A.C. 37/93. 

Enr. Ace. (W. c& H.) 

Above, ii. 287. 
Ad. MS. 17362/56, 61. 
I.R. 294/6. 
I.R. 355/12. 
76.441/13;^.^. 509/1. 
E.A. 388/9, mm. 11, 

29 ; I.R. 181/19. 
I.R. 314/15. 
E.A. 392/12, m. 40d. 
I.R. 388/25. 
I.R. 451/21. 
lb. 508/2. 
I.R. 459/27. 

I.R. 532/16. 
I.R. 397/1. 
I.R. 385/15. 
lb. 303/36. 




Nov. 17, 1350-Dec. 3, 

1337-1338-Nov. 30, 


1353-Dec. 9, 1357. 

Feb. 7. 1374-April 22, 

Feb. 17, 1376. 

Feb. 9, 1391. 

May 3, 1359. 


Feb. 22. 1339. 

Nov. 28, 1347-Jan. 26, I.R. 340/15. 

1351. lb. 355/27. 

1340-1355. M.B.E. 204/90d. ; E.A. 

392/12, m. 40d. 
Mar. 5, 1347. I.R. 339/39. 


Description and Diplomatic of the Privy Seals 

In this section I propose to describe the general features of the 
documents issued under the privy seal during our period, the 

1 On Dec. 28, 1365, he was described as " lately in the office of the privy 
seal " ; C.P.R., 1364-67, p. 192. 

2 Spelt Newhayl in E.A. 376/7, m. 87. 

3 He died in 1392 ; C.P.R., 1391-96, p. 201. 


techmcal peculiarities of the privy seals themselves, and the 
methods by which they were afl&xed. 

To enter into a description of the elements of the ordinary 
writ of privy seal, in any detail, is unnecessary, M. Deprez 
has explained its features with such lucidity and particularity 
that it is sufficient to refer to his account, especially as the forms 
of the privy seal writ are essentially similar to those of the writs 
issued under the great seal. Normally the writ begins with the 
recital of the king's title, followed by the address to the official, 
individual or society to whom the letter is to be dispatched. 
Sometimes the name and titles of the recipient are set forth at 
length, with every attribute of dignity and honour. Thus the 
chancellor, if a bishop, is addressed as " reverent piere en Dieu," 
if a knight, as " cher et bien ame." As time went on, the 
business - like informality which distinguished correspondence 
under the privy seal tended to cut short the purely formal parts 
of the document, and to approach the question in hand with the 
least possible delay. This principle of simplification was applied 
to the concluding formalities of dating as well as to the initial 
formalities of address. As a rule the writ is specified as " given 
under our privy seal," with the place of issue and the full date, 
including the day, the month, and the regnal year. 

Gradually the process of abbreviation was pressed so far 
that from the formal writ there grew the informal bills and letters 
of privy seal. In the bill the technicalities were reduced to a 
minimum. Couched, as a rule, in the third person and neither 
reciting the royal title nor naming the addressee, it was sealed 
on the face, a little to the right of the final word, and delivered 
open.^ Sometimes the bill took the form of an addition to, or 
endorsement of, a petition from an individual, to which the privy 
seal was then applied. ^ Only absolute essentials were supplied, 
and the concluding formulae of dating were often either omitted 
altogether or so rigidly curtailed, excluding not infrequently 
even the regnal year, that the assignment of bills to their appro- 
priate chronological place is not easy, but depends largely upon 
the accessibility of the records of the process in pursuance. 

^ There are good examples of these in C.W. 909/16, 17. 
* E.g. Maxwell-Lyte, p. 53, and n. 3 ; Exch. of Eec, Warrs. for Issues, 6/36 
(Nov. 21, 1359, 33 Ed. III.). 



Bills of privy seal are first found fully developed in the reign 
of Edward III., but the minimising of formalities was begun 
much earlier. 

Writs and bills alike often bear memoranda at the foot or 
on the back. These may record when the communication was 
delivered, and the name of the bearer or of the writer ; they 
may give the gist of the content, or the name of the individual 
chiefly concerned ; they may refer to persons less closely asso- 
ciated with the same matter, or introduce other similar in- 
formation. Such notes were, of course, usually added after 
the instrument reached its destination, so that the privy seal 
ofiice was not generally responsible for them. From 1434, after 
the fashion of the French chancery, each clerk wrote his surname 
in the lower right-hand corner of the face of the writs and bills 
prepared under his supervision. The object of this was, it is 
thought, to make the clerks responsible for the correctness of 
the phraseology. At least it suggests that writs and bills were 
checked before issue.^ 

1 Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte has drawn attention to this ; op. cit. p. 34. 
But, as he was not concerned with the privy seal except in its relation to the 
great seal and therefore had no occasion to scrutinise closely the privy seals 
among the Exchequer of Receipt Warrants for Issues, he did not observe a 
phenomenon which caught my attention, and for which I have so far been unable 
to discover an explanation. This is the appearance of the surnames of privy 
seal clerks on some of the writs and bills of privy seal addressed to the exchequer 
between Feb. 2, 1360, and March 3, 1362, that is to say for two years and one 
month during 34-36 Ed. III. Although the first signed writ I have noticed is 
dated Feb. 2, 1360, the next is dated Aug. 30, 1360. There is no obvious 
reason why these particular instruments should have been signed, since they 
do not differ in form or content from their unsigned contemporaries. If all 
privy seal writs and bills issued during that period were signed, it would have 
been a temptation to suggest that intimate contact of privy seal with chancery 
in France in 1359-60 was responsible. But no privy seal writs and bills sent 
to chancery had signatures and only a proportion of those sent to exchequer 
were signed. A personal cause seems no more probable. Keeper Winwick gave 
place to keeper Buckingham only in May 1360, and Buckingham acted until 
June 1363, so that it can hardly be a method introduced by a new head of the 
office, since the practice began before Buckingham was appointed, and was 
discontinued more than a year before he was removed. Examination of the 
periods of service of the clerks is no more helpful. Ashton served from 1349 
to the end of 1361 ; Bamburgh, clerk in the privy seal office of the regent, 
from 1360 to 1361 ; Dighton from 1356 to 1394 ; Hilton from 1356 to 1361 ; 
Tirrington from 1350 to 1370 ; Hilton's name appears on no instrument 
and Bamburgh's on only four. Nor does it seem likely that the innovation 
was made at the request of the exchequer, because, as we have seen, not 
all the privy seal warrants directed thither bore a signature. Of the total 


The informal letters,'- of which comparatively few specimens 
are extant, and those for the reign of Edward III. only, are 
similar to the contemporary letters of secret seal and signet.^ 
The phrase Depar le roi, or per regem, written en vedette, that is 
to say, in a separate line at the head, prefaces the letter, and a 
short address to the recipient usually, though by no means 
always, follows in the next line before the matter of the com- 
munication is broached. The concluding formulae generally, 
though again not without exception, name the seal and set forth 
the place, day of the month and regnal year of dating. This 
letter was, as we should naturally expect, closed, and was sealed 
on the dorse like the writ of privy seal.^ Sometimes the direc- 
tion was written on the back of the letter, but usually it was 
written on the tag, the strip of parchment cut away, except for 
a fraction of an inch on the left, from the base of the letter, and 
wrapped round the letter after it had been folded, to secure it. 
The later letters of privy seal show a distinct tendency to approxi- 
mate in form to the bill of privy seal. They are still headed 
Depar le roi and retain complete the concluding dating formulae, 
but they are shorn of address, and usually state the order in the 
imperative. They are, however, closed like their forerunners, 
and there is little doubt but that they are really letters, their 
form being simply a variant of the earlier form.* 

of 175 signed writs and bills (Ezch. of Rec, Warr. for Issues, E404/6/37-42 ; 
E404/7/43 ; E404/10/66), 38 were signed by Ashton, 105 by Dighton, 27 by 
Tirrington and four by Bamburgh. How or why this one-sided temporary 
anticipation of a habit only formed three-quarters of a century later came 
about is at present a mystery. Perhaps an even greater curiosity is a privy seal 
writ, dated Dec. 6, 1361 (E404/6/39), signed Brank. This looks as though 
Brancaster, a notary attached to chancery, had signed a privy seal writ, but 
why is neither explained nor clear. 

1 C.W. 908, 913 ; Exch. of Rec, Warr. for Issues, 3/18 (July 15, 8 Ed. III.), 
4/24 (July 9, 12 Ed. III.), 4/28 (May 16, 15 Ed. III.). 

2 See below, pp. 156, 172, 205. 

^ For some account of the folding and sealing of privy seal writs and letters, 
see below, pp. 116-120. 

* C.W. 913. I venture to suggest that Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte is mistaken 
in classing as bills certain similar instruments issued under secret seal ; op. cit. 
p. 109. They are in form exactly like these letters of privy seal, being written 
in the first person and closed, and are, on Sir Henry's own showing, described 
by the recipients as letters. The fact that some of the preliminary matter 
formerly inserted is omitted is hardly, in my opinion, sufficient reason for 
regarding them as bills. 


Despite the striving after compression and precision, writs 
of privy seal tended to become more elaborate. The early writs, 
for example, those of the reign of Edward I., are, as a rule, quite 
small strips of parchment, about 6 or 7 inches long, and 2 inches 
broad. In the course of Edward III.'s reign the writs of privy 
seal, like the seal itself, grew steadily larger, and those of the 
latter part of the fourteenth century are exceedingly impressive 
and handsome. 

The language of the earliest instruments under privy seal is 
Latin, but French began to be used in the latter part of the reign 
of Edward I. M. Deprez estimates that about half the sur- 
viving Edward II. writs preserved in the chancery are in Latin 
and the other half in French. It was, perhaps, only natural 
that the quasi-private correspondence of the illiterate king, 
who could not even take his coronation oath in Latin, should 
be drawn up in a tongue which he did understand. But for 
the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II. French documents 
are distinctly in the majority, and while this steady growth of 
the use of French during the fourteenth century mainly indicates 
an increasing preference for the vernacular as opposed to the 
clerkly tongue, there is evidence that French was regarded as 
the appropriate vehicle for the privy seal and its reduplica- 
tions. It was also considered less solemn and formal, though, 
upon occasion, used for important enough documents. In 
1326, for example, a letter to the Gaseous informs them that, 
to prove to them that the said letter, written in French 
and sealed with the privy seal, proceeds from Edward II. 's 
own intention, he has sent a Latin translation sealed with 
the great seal.^ No privy seal instruments written in English 
have been found for our period. The first extant was issued by 
Henry V. at Vincennes on August 22, 1422, four days before his 

Let us now examine how writs, and the informal letters, of 
privy seal were folded and sealed. The methods were partly 
conditioned by the fact that the seal itself was what is technic- 

^ Foedera ii. 632, June 27, " Et ut vobis constat premissa de certa nostra 
conscientia processisse, mittimus vobis presentes literas nostras in Gallico 
scriptas sub priuato sigillo nostro, translatas insuper in Latinum sub magno 
sigillo nostro consignatas." 


ally described as " of one piece," as opposed to the " coin seal " 
or great seal, with its double matrix and correspondingly doubled 
impression of obverse and reverse. The privy seal's reduplica- 
tions, which we shall soon have to study, were also of this same 
type, and stand in strong contrast to the reduplications of the 
great seal, namely, the exchequer seal and the seals of the two 
benches, all of which, like the great seal itself, were " of two 
pieces." To the end of the reign of Edward III. all the seals 
of state were of two pieces, with the single exception of the privy 
seal.^ On the earliest surviving instrument under the privy 
seal, from the reign of Henry III., there is no impression of the 
seal, and even for the reign of Edward I. the seal has seldom 
been preserved. It was affixed to writs and letters on the 
dorse or back, plaque au dos in the technical language of French 
students of diplomatic, in the centre when the document was 
folded in three, to the right of the centre when it was folded 
in four. Before the seal was applied, there was partially cut 
from the base of the writ a strip of parchment, the tag, narrow 
at the junction with the body, broader at the free end. On this 
the direction was written.^ The document was then folded, 
generally horizontally once (or twice) and three (or four) times 
vertically (the number of folds depended on the size of the 
parchment, and that primarily depended on the length of the 
communication). Round this compact little packet the tag 
was wound and looped in such a way that when the hot wax 
was poured over it at the point where it crossed itself, and the 
matrix impressed, the document was closed while the direction 
on the tag was left adequately exposed. To open, either the tag 
was cut at the points at which it passed over the lower edge 
of the document, or else the seal was broken and the tag unwound. 
The first method was the easier, and was probably the usual one, 
because it was often desirable to keep the seal as intact as pos- 
sible,^ and when the tag was unwound instead of cut, part of 

1 C.C.R., 1369-74, pp. 93-94 (Rot. Pari. ii. 460 ; Foedera, iii. 868-869). 

2 A good example is in C. W. 130/7297, where we read on the well-preserved 
strip the direction " a mestre Robert de Baldoke, arcediakne de Middl., nostra 
chanceUer, par le roi." 

3 Anc. Deeds, WS. 188 (July 2, 1336), and WS. 221 (April 19, 1335), provide 
good examples of how a writ was opened without touching the seal. The tag, 
wrapped round and looped through itself, was so cut at the lower edge of the 



the middle of the seal would be removed, leaving a blank where 
it and the tag had been. Until the document had been opened, 
it was, of course, impossible to know whether the seal would be 
wanted or not. To protect the seal the better, so it seems, after 
the document had been opened and it was found necessary or 
expedient to preserve the seal, the tag, or some other scrap of 
parchment, was frequently folded and sewn over it.^ 

For some, at present unapparent but probably merely prac- 
tical, reason, in the late thirties and early forties of the fourteenth 
century, experiments were made in securing the writs and letters 
a little differently, with the final result that the older methods 
were superseded. When the document was folded, a small 
incision was made in the packet. Through this the tag was first 
inserted and then wrapped round and looped through itself, the 
seal being afterwards applied over tag and slit on the extreme 
right hand of the dorse. Exactly how the document was folded 
and the tag twisted is difficult to determine, but the accompany- 
ing diagrams (see opposite page) probably illustrate the process 
more or less correctly. The first shows the document folded and 
slit ready for the tag to be wrapped round. The second shows 
the document after the tag has been passed through the slit. 
The third shows the tag looped through itself, and the fourth 
shows the other side of the document, with the tag looped through 

writ as to leave the seal intact imprisoning two strips of tag ; the accompanying 
diagrams may make this clearer. 

Before cutting tag. 

other side before cutting 
tag at XX and x  • • • x. 

After cutting tag. 

1 A good example, out of many, is to be found in Exch. of Rec, Warr. for 
Issues, 5/34 (2nd writ dated July 18, 1355). 


itself a second time, ready to receive the wax. The dotted circle 
in diagram 4 indicates where the seal would be placed. To open, 
the tag would probably be cut at the points where it was folded 
and passed round the lower edge of the packet, i.e. at x • • • x^ and 

Diagrams illustrating the folding and securing of closed privy seal instruments after 134G. 

X ... x2 in diagram 3 and at x • • • x^ in diagram 4. The first instru- 
ment in which slits are found (four only, as it was not folded over 
horizontally sufficiently to make a double row of cuts) is dated 
March 16, 11 Edward III. (1337), but it was so folded as to 
receive the seal on the immediate right of the centre of the 
dorse,^ not over the slit. The first instrument bearing the seal on 

1 Exch. of Rec, Warr. for Issues, 3/20. 


the extreme right of the dorse is dated May 16, 1341.1 "jj^g jjg-^ 
ideas gained favour slowly, it would seem, for it was not until 
1346 that they prevailed. ^ The reason for these changes, as we 
have said, is not immediately obvious. Unlike the changes in 
fastening and sealing the Black Prince's privy seal instruments, 
which perhaps synchronised with his adoption of a larger seal,^ 
they had nothing to do with any increases in size of the king's 
privy seal.^ Indeed, identical methods of securing and sealing 
were introduced at the same time for instruments under the 
secret seal, a tiny seal compared with the privy seal,^ and were 
also used for instruments under queen Philippa's privy seal.^ 
The change in size of the seal had no effect on the size of the 
parchment used, nor was the larger seal introduced because of 
any increase in the size of those documents. The changes in 
securing and sealing seem equally unconnected with increase in 
size of either document or seal. 

The exchequer privy seals, largely mandates for payment 
addressed to the treasurer and chamberlains of the exchequer, 
and, to a less extent, the " wardrobe warrants " in the king's 
remembrancer's accounts, afiord a greater proportion of good 
illustrations of the methods of folding and sealing than do the 
chancery warrants. 

For evidence of privy seal diplomatic, since the privy seal 
office either did not keep, or did not preserve permanently, any 
systematic enrolments or registers of outgoing correspondence, 

^ Exch. of Eec, Warr. for Issues, 4/28. 
^ See also Maxwell-Lyte, p. 49. 

* See later, pp. 418-419. 

* Made in 1338, 1340, 1356, and 1360. 

* See below, p. 172. Exch. of Eec, Warr. for Issues, 4/24 (July 9. 12 Ed. III.), 
4/27 (July 5, 14 Ed. Ill), 5/29, 30. 

« Exch. of Eec, Warr. for Issues, 4/28. A fact which is of considerable 
interest and may prove to be of vital importance, is that three privy seal writs 
of queen Isabella, issued in Jan. and Feb. 1317, each have eight slits and bear 
the seal on the extreme right-hand of the dorse ; Exch. of Eec, Warr. for Issues, 
yi (? Jan., Feb. 20, Feb. 24). On two of the writs a fragment of the tag is still 
imprisoned by the remains of the seal, in such a way as to show that here, at 
least, the tag was cut and not unwound. The question is, can we argue that 
these writs are evidence that the methods were initiated by the queen's privy 
seal officials and then gradually spread to the king's privy seal ofBce ? Or, are 
the writs evidence of nothing more than a passing experiment, revived, or 
devised independently, later, for instruments under the king's privy seal ? 
Before a decision can be made, we need to find more queen's writs for the years 
between 1317 and 1337. 


we are chiefly dependent upon the surviving privy seal warrants 
issued to chancery, exchequer and wardrobe, and preserved by 
exchequer and chancery among their respective archives. So 
far we have confined our attention exclusively to these warrants, 
but we know that warranty was not the sole use to which the 
privy seal was put. From the beginning, documents were issued 
under the privy seal "in its own right " as it were, and, as we 
also know, it came to have a wide sphere of " original juris- 
diction " which was the larger, and in some ways the more 
important part of its activity.^ UnUke the conveniently col- 
lected material still extant to bear witness to the warranty 
work of the privy seal, the evidence for this other branch of its 
duties, much of it correspondence with powers abroad, is neces- 
sarily scattered among the archives of foreign courts and in- 
dividuals, and to a lesser extent among our own private and 
corporate muniment collections. Little is to be found in our 
state archives. 2 Apart from Hoccleve's formulary ^ and one or 
two other formularies and books of dictamen of the fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries, such as are to be found in Edinburgh and Cam- 
bridge and the British Museum,* the materials for a study of this 
side of the privy seal's operations are so difficult of access and so 
widely distributed that the subject requires a separate monograph. 
The treatment of the privy seal's original jurisdiction here 
must inevitably be summary and incomplete. Happily M. 
Edouard Perroy is engaged in examining and comparing the 
manuscripts at Edinburgh, Cambridge and the British Museum, 
and in tracing English privy seal correspondence now lodged in 
such foreign archives as the Paris, Vatican and Barcelona col- 
lections. From his labours important additions to our knowledge 

^ It is noticeable, as we shall realise later, that the signet in Richard II. 's 
reign also had its own considerable sphere of direct communication. 

2 The P.R.O. Ancient Deeds and Ancient Correspondence yield something. 

* B.AI. Ad. MS. 24,062 ; see, for some mention of it, above, p. 110. 

* B.M. Harl. MS. 431 ; Edinburgh University Library, MS. Laing, 351 
(some of the letters have been published by M. £douard Perroy in Le Moyen 
Age, xxix. 255-281, " Charles V et le traite de Bretigny," in 1928) : Cambridge 
University Library, MS. Dd. III. 53 (extracts have been published in Revue 
Historique, C. I. p. 51, and Hansisches Urlcundenbuch, iv. no. 855). Cf. also 
B.M. Cotton MS. Chop. E. ii. 122, 124, 141 ; &ndB.M. Harl. MS., 433, ff. 22-105 
(Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 27-28). For all except the first and last B.M. references I 
have to thank M. Perroy. For other possible privy seal formularies, see Hist. 
MSS. Com. Reports, IV. App. I., pp. 379-397 ; and below, p. 128, n. 5. 


may be expected.^ That being so, it would be premature for 
me to attempt to describe the diplomatic of that correspondence. 
But we have no reason to think that the two branches of the 
privy seal's activity we have distinguished for convenience to 
ourselves were marked by any conscious diplomatic differences. 
We may justifiably suspect that private letters to individuals and 
to foreign courts, for example, were sealed in the same way as 
the writs and informal letters sent to chancery and exchequer. 
As in its warranty business the privy seal did not need to use 
letters patent, few such are to be found in English state archives. 
The examples we have, however, suggest that the motive of 
letters patent under the privy seal was identical with that for 
letters patent under the great seal, namely, either publicity or 
permanent preservation or both. 

How like, if at all, we may now ask, was privy seal diplomatic 
to the diplomatic of the great seal ? Before we can attempt 
an answer, it will be as well to review, summarily, what we know 
of the methods of folding and sealing documents to which the great 
seal was affixed. Rules almost as rigid as those of the French chan- 
cery, 2 though not quite so logically carried out, guided the English 
chancery. The most solemn documents, such as charters, were 
sealed with the great seal pendant, attached to the parchment 
by plaited silk cords, the lacs de sole or cordelettes of the French 
chancery, inserted through holes in the parchment at the centre 
of the base, which was folded over horizontally for a short length 
to give greater strength.^ Less solemn documents had the 
pendant seal attached by what the French call a double queue, 

^ M. Perroy has been kind enough to supply me with a precis of the Edin- 
burgh MS. Laing 351 (to which he has added some notes bearing on its relation 
to the Cambridge MS. Dd. III. 53). As he has already said in print [Le Moyen 
Age, xxix. 255, n. 1), the compilation is of the late fourteenth century, some of 
the documents transcribed belonging to the time of Edward III., but most of 
them to the period of Edmund Stafford's keepership of the privy seal in the 
reign of Richard II. It would be an unwarrantable anticipation of M. Perroy's 
results to say more here than that the collection contains much correspondence 
sent to and from foreign courts, as well as other letters and writs of original 
and warrant force, and that such documents were selected as well for their 
literary merit and political importance as for their utility in furnishing precedents 
and formulae for future guidance and use. 

2 For these rules, see Morel, La Grande Chancellerie Royale, 1328-1400. 

3 The use of silken cords for charters began in England with Henry II. ; 
C. H. Hunter-Blair's Durham Seals, p. xxvii. I have found Mr. Hunter-Blair's 
elaborate treatise of the greatest use in the story of the seals. It is generally 
referred to as Durham Seals. 


that is to say, a band of parchment inserted through a cut made 
in the centre base of the document and doubled into a loop before 
receiving the wax for the seal. Many letters patent were sealed 
in this way. Documents of minor importance had the pendant 
seal attached differently. A strip of parchment, the tag or tongue, 
was partly cut ofi from the base of the document from right to left 
in such a fashion that it remained attached to it on the left-hand 
side while it was loose on the right. From this a second strip, 
the tie, was similarly cut, and almost entirely severed, to be used 
to bind up the whole neatly after sealing for safety during transit. 
Or the narrow strip may have been cut first and the broader 
one second. This is immaterial, for the result was the same. To 
the loose end of the broad strip, the seal was applied. This 
method, described by the French as sealing en simple queue, was 
the commonest way of sealing letters patent.^ The direction was 
usually written on the back of the folded document. 

How letters close, and incidentally writs, issued under the 
great seal were sealed, is a vexed question. One method is 
illustrated by surviving examples of judicial writs " plied for 
the seal " but apparently never actually sealed and issued. From 
the base of the parchment a strip was cut from right to left to 
within an inch, more or less, of the left side, just as if the docu- 
ment were being prepared for sealing open en simple queue. 
Then the document was folded horizontally and rolled tightly 
vertically to make a small neat spool. Round this the partly 
severed tag or tongue was wrapped and looped through itself 
to secure the package. To the tongue, as near to the spool as 
possible, the wax was applied on both sides and the seal im- 
pressed, so as to prevent opening without either cutting off the 
tongue or smashing the seal and scraping away enough of the 
wax to allow the tongue to be drawn back through its loop. 
The direction was written on the tongue towards the free end.^ 

1 Maxwell-Lyte, p. 300. Mr. H. E. Salter in Cartulary of the Hospital of St. 
John the Baptist, Oxford, ii. 410 (Oxford Hist. Soc), gives an interesting diagram 
of the folding of letters patent sealed en simple queue. His specimen is not a 
"writ close," as his reviewer in E.H.R. xxxi. 526 says. It calls itself a letter 
patent, it was left open, and it was enrolled on the patent roll. 

2 These problems are discussed at much length in Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 302-306 ; 
of. his frontispiece, fig. 5. See also E.H.R. xxxvii. (1922), pp. 269-272, where, in 
the course of a review, Mr. C. G. Crump states briefly his views on the question 
of how the great seal was applied to letters close. 


No evidence has yet been brought together which would 
settle the question whether the more elaborate correspondence 
under the great seal, with foreign courts and with individuals, 
sent close, was sealed in the same way. There is, moreover, 
no getting away from the fact that some letters close were pur- 
posely left open, being sealed then, usually, en sitnple queue. 
When such were enrolled, the memorandum et erat patens was 
often, but not invariably, added at the end of the enrolment. 
A document addressed to one, or several, showing all the diplo- 
matic formulae of a letter close, was sealed open either because 
the instructions it contained were to be followed in every recur- 
rence of the conditions with which they dealt, so that the seal 
must be kept comparatively intact in order to prove the letter's 
validity,! or else because the matter was to be published more 
or less broadcast, when again an unbroken seal was necessary 
to show adequate authority for the publication. 2 A letter was 

1 For an example, see C.C.R., 1341-43, p. 131, a letter dated May 1, 1341, 
and addressed to the prioress and convent of Amesbury. Cf. Exch. of Bee, 
Warr. for Issues, 6/41, a document dated May 10, 1361. See also the references 
in n. 1, p. 126 below. 

* I think that the " libellus famosus " of 1341, issued under the great seal, is 
a case in point (see above, iii. 128). Each letter, dated either Feb. 10 or 12, was 
addressed to one individual or to a small group of people, and the enrolment of 
the letter sent to the bishop of London, with a memorandum as to how many 
others received a similar letter, was made in the close roll. The letter sent to 
the dean and chapter of Exeter can still be seen, with part of the seal adhering 
{Chapter of Exeter MSS. v. c. iv. no. 2227), and a few years ago I examined 
it. It seemed to me then, that although like the enrolment of the letter ad- 
dressed to the bishop of London it showed all the diplomatic formulae of the 
ordinary letter close under the great seal, it had been sealed open " en simple 
queue." I therefore drew the conclusion that, while the " libellus famosus " 
had been written in the form of a letter close, it had been sealed like a letter 
patent, because it was to be given wide pubhcity, although the memorandum 
" et erat patens " had not been made at the end of the enrolment. But when 
I was reconstructing this section in 1929, I began to doubt whether I had been 
justified in my conclusion. So, at my request. Dr. B. Wilkinson was kind 
enough to look at the Exeter letter for me and to supply me with certain par- 
ticulars. Later in the same year, when passing through Exeter, Miss Broome 
also took the opportunity of seeing it (here I should like to thank the Rev. H. E. 
Bishop, librarian of the chapter library, for the kindly facilities he gave to both 
Miss Broome and Dr. Wilkinson). We are all three agreed that the Exeter 
letter was sealed patent. The whole document measures 17|" x 16|". The 
tongue is llff' x lf"-2" (roughly, the parchment was not cut evenly), and IJ" 
were doubled back underneath from the free end before the wax was applied. 
The size of the fragment of wax still left is about 2^" x 1 f ', The length of tongue 
between its root and the left-hand edge of the seal when perfect (the impression 
can quite clearly be made out) measured SJ". That is to say, only 2|" of the 


by nature a closed communication, and in the beginning closed 
communications under the double-faced great seal seem always 
to have been so sealed as to necessitate the destruction of the 
seal in opening. But since, for certain reasons with which we 
are fanuliar, it was sometimes desirable to have an unbroken 
seal, the device was adopted of keeping the letter open, and 
sealing it in one or other of the two ways we have just described.^ 
In explanation of this procedure the clause " In evidence of 
which we have caused these our letters to be made patent " was 
inserted in conclusion. Thus, the essential differences between 
letters patent and letters close are that the patents contained 
this special clause and were normally addressed to everybody, 
being of public, general, permanent or recurrent application. 

tongue were covered by the seal, which projected beyond the end of the folded 
tongue from just below the arm of the enthroned figure. On the face of the 
tongue, immediately below the cut from the body of the letter, is the direction 
" Decano et capitulo Exonie per regem de pupplicando." Only the word 
" decano " remained uncovered after the application of the seal, and the last 
word of the sentence extends over the folded part of the tongue. (I have noticed 
only one letter patent with a direction on the tongue, namely, one under griffin 
seal ; C.W. 1337/22.) On the dorse of the letter, 3" from the left side, at right 
angles to the lower edge, is the direction " Decano et capitulo Exonie." On 
the dorse of the tongue, 51" from the root, at right angles to the edges, in no 
danger of being covered by the wax, was written " littera regis ad pro- 
sequendum versus episcopum Cantuariensem in quibus (sic) continetur manda 
remanda modicum ibi prius (?) in pera serpens in gremio, etc." The roughness 
of the edge of the lower left corner of the document, for 1^", suggests that a tie 
may once have been present. My final conclusion, therefore, is that the " libellus 
famosus " was drafted as a letter close and was intended to be sealed close, but 
that when it came to be made up ready for sealing, in view of the fact that the 
contents were to be made public, it was decided to seal the letter open. The 
absence of the note " et erat patens " from the enrolment lends point to this 
argument, for the enrolment would be made before the letter was engrossed ; 
had the decision to seal it open been made in the first instance, the fact would 
no doubt have been recorded as in the normal way. All these letters issued 
in Feb. 1341 were in Latin and were sealed with the great seal, but on March 4, 
1341, duplicates were issued in French under the privy seal. That addressed 
to the bishop of London is enrolled on the same close roll as the earlier letter 
under great seal directed to him, with the marginal " Quedam littera missa 
diuersis prelatis Anglie contra archiepiscopum Cantuariensem " ; Close Roll, 
168/38d. No one has yet noticed this, as far as I am aware, and although the 
calendarer has indicated that the second group of letters were in French, he 
has not pointed out that they were sealed with the privy seal ; C.C.R., 1341-43, 
p. 113. That a letter issued from the privy seal office could still be enrolled on 
the close roll of chancery in 1341 is of considerable interest. It forges one more 
link in the chain of proof against the privy seal having kept any systematic 
enrolment or register of correspondence. 
1 See above, pp. 122-123. 


whereas the closed letters contained no clause specifying the 
manner of their make-up, were addressed to one person or to a 
certain group of individuals, being of private, restricted or 
temporary interest. Therefore, in essence, the patent rolls 
are rolls in which letters described as made " patent " and 
addressed omnibus or uniuersis et singulis are enrolled, the close 
rolls are rolls in which letters to individuals, ordinary closed 
correspondence, were enrolled. But we cannot say that any 
one method of seahng ought to be used solely for any one form 
of document, for, as we have just seen, some of those addressed 
to individuals have more than a passing significance and required 
unassailable proof of their authenticity. Nor can any fixed 
differentiation of acts be based on the make-up. ^ 

Thus, in process of time, sharp distinctions became somewhat 
blurred from motives of practical convenience, though, in general, 
instruments were still divided after the old fashion into charters, 
letters patent and letters close. The only difference, as the 
fourteenth century grew older, was that the highly formal charter 
was used comparatively rarely, and much business that earlier 
would have given rise to a charter was transacted by letters 
patent. Finally the charter became obsolete, although the 
letter patent, which took its place, was popularly called a charter, 
as it is to the present day. 

The efiect of such modifications was that the original subdivi- 
sion of non-charter documents into letters patent and close lost 
something of its meaning. The multiplicity of enrolments tended 
in the same direction. When documents were enrolled together 
for local reasons, as in the Gascon, French and Roman rolls, 
or because they had some particular motive, as in the fine rolls 
or the liberate rolls, inevitably patent and close documents 
were enrolled in the same roll. We must remember, too, that 
the chancery had no equivalent to the memoranda rolls of the 
exchequer. It therefore entered in its enrolments of outgoing 
correspondence, not only notes of various proceedings within 
the office, but also copies of some of the communications received, 2 

1 Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 306, 392. My statements in earlier volumes must be 
modified in accordance with these my later conclusions. 

2 For example, recognisances, indentures, transferences of the great seal 
from one chancellor or keeper to another, writs and letters of privy seal and 


just as officials of the receipt of the exchequer in the same way 
sometimes used the issue and receipt rolls to record events and 
transactions having nothing to do with either receipts or issues. 

Moreover, some sections of chancery developed a language 
of their own which cut across the traditional use of the office. 
Thus, the hanaper department, whose business it was to give 
out writs and receive the appropriate fees, classified documents 
according to the fees payable for them. Since letters close, 
in the nature of things, did not require the payment of a fee for 
their sealing, the hanaper took no cognisance of them. It re- 
garded instruments as " charters of the great fee," " charters 
of the little fee " and simple " writ," and in one year took fees 
for 399 " charters," 34 of the " great " and 365 of the " little 
fee." The charter roll of this year only recorded 62 " charters." 
Clearly " charter " meant one thing to the hanaper, and something 
rather different to the department of the rolls.^ 

No real analogy existed between the methods used for sealing 
with the great seal and those used for sealing with the privy 
seal, despite the fact that letters patent under the privy seal, 
of course, followed the universal way of sealing letters patent, 
namely, either en simple queue or en double queue.^ But one 
inconvenience inevitably attended the pendant use of the privy 
seal. A pendant seal postulated a stamp on each side of the 
hanging mass of wax. The counter-seal, the impression on 
the reverse side of the wax, made it more difficult to tamper 
with the document without detection. The privy seal, having 
no counterseal, when used pendant had to have the reverse left 
blank, though usually it was roughly rounded by finger prints, 
or neatly moulded into a sort of truncated cone.^ Three examples 
at least, of original letters patent under the privy seal are in the 

even ordinances. But enrolment in the close roll did not make of the " libellus 
famosus " issued a second time under privy seal a letter close under the great 
seal {C.C.R., 1341-43, p. 113 ; see above, p. 124, n. 2) nor did it convert the 
Walton ordinances sent to the chancellor along with a writ of privy seal (C.C.R., 
1337-39, p. 525 ; above, iii. 143) into letters close under the great seal. 

^ See for this, my " Household of the Chancery " and the references there 
given, in Essays in History presented to R. L. Poole, pp. 71-72. 

2 I have not seen an example of letters patent under the privy seal with the 
seal attached by lacs de soie ; cf. Maxwell-Lyte, p. 390. 

3 B.M. Harl. Ch. 43. B. 8 furnishes an admirable example, as do many of 
the privy seals in the P.R.O. 


British Museum/ and a number of the original privy seals in 
the Public Record Office are also letters patent. Of these we 
may specially point out four.^ To them may be added two 
indentures under privy seal in the British Museum.^ Among 
the most famous of " indentures under privy seal " was the copy 
of the treaty of London of 1359 sent to France.* It is no longer 
extant, but from it all known texts of that treaty have been 
derived.^ Marked differences, on the other hand, are to be 
observed with regard to letters close. I have nowhere seen a 
letter of privy seal sealed after the manner of letters close under 
the great seal.^ The privy seal, being of one piece, was norm- 
ally plaque au dos. All the writs and closed letters of privy 
seal I have examined have the seal applied thus on the dorse. 
Also, since the privy seal was so much smaller than the great 

^ i. Harl. Ch. 43. B. 8, " ad recipiendum ad pacem omnes homines de Morauia 
qui ad pacem venire voluerunt." It is dated Aberdeen, July 18, 1296, " sub 
priuato sigillo nostro," and contains the usual patent formula " in cuius rei 
testimonium has litteras nostras fieri fecimus patentes." 

ii. Ad. Ch. 11,307, dated before Calais, March 6, 1347. These are both 
mentioned by Deprez, Etudes de diplomatique anglaise, pp. 48-51, who sum- 
marises the former and transcribes the latter. 

iii. i.F.C. iii. 19, " Edward . . . a touz conestables et leur tenantz, etc. . . . 
en paiis de Uluester," dated March 10, 1370. 

2 Ancient Deeds, WS. 642 ; A. 3256 ; A. 15105 ; WS. 630. The seals still 
attached to these documents are discussed, and the last two are reproduced, 
below, pp. 138-140, 141-142 and n. 1, and Appendix, plate II. no. 3, plate III. 
no. 1. 

^ Ad. Ch. 7378, and Harl. Ch. 43. E. 39. I have not seen any charters issued 
under the privy seal ; cf. below, pp. 129-130. 

* Cosneau, Les Grands Traites de la Guerre de Cent Ans, pp. 31-32, " En tes- 
moing desquelles choses en cestes lectres endentees, demorant dans la dicte 
partie de France, le roy d'Angleterre a fait mectre son seel priue." It is clear 
from the text of the treaty that the reason for using the privy seal was the 
strong desire of all parties to the agreement to keep it private. 

* In addition to the two texts M. Cosneau has used, one of the fourteenth 
century and the other of the seventeenth century (op. cit. pp. 2-3), there is a 
third, of the fourteenth century. This copy of the treaty, the only one in 
England as far as I know, is in a collection of letters and memoranda (compiled, 
I am disposed to think, in the privy seal office) once among Lord Leconfield's 
muniments (Hist. MSS. Com. Reports, VI. p. 301, no. 25). Through the instru- 
mentality of Mr. C. Johnson and the kindness of Dr. F. Bock, who was generously 
permitted to use the MS. by the bookseller in whose possession it recently was. 
Miss Broome has been able to look over the MS. and in the process noted this 
treaty. Mr. Johnson pointed out that it also contains a copy of the treaty of 
Guines, or Calais, of 1354, the text of which seems otherwise quite unknown. 
The MS. has now been purchased by the John Rylands Library (it is classified 
as Rylands Latin MS. 404). [See E.H.R. xlv. 353-372]. 

* See above, pp. 123-126. 


sea], the whole seal was used for all classes of documents, 
whereas motives of economy led to the use of a part only 
of the great seal, such as the " half seal " or even less, on 
certain writs.^ A further difierence in the use of the two seals 
is illustrated by the unique form of the bill of privy seal, already 
described. 2 The many references in wardrobe accounts afford 
an easy way of showing how far from uncommon were letters 
close and patent under the privy seal.^ 

In addition to the normal uses of the privy seal, use was 
sometimes made of it in an emergency in place of the great seal.* 
Such emergencies only arose when the king and the great seal 
were so widely separated that no reliance could be placed on a 
writ of privy seal reaching chancery in time for an instrument 
under great seal to be issued. They became more frequent when 
the chancery ceased to follow the court. This was one of the 
considerations which led to the subdivision of the administra- 
tion into two self-sufficing sections, each with the appropriate 
seals, when Edward III. was out of his kingdom on campaigns 
or other business. Generally, documents so sealed with the 
privy seal were of minor importance. There is, for instance, 
no evidence of charters having been issued under the privy seal 
even in exceptional circumstances. A group of documents said 
to have been sealed " in the form of charters " with the privy 
seal while Edward I. was in Scotland, were not real charters. 
Edward was anxious to make provision for the three children 
of his second wife, Margaret of France, and on August 31, 1306, 

1 Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 304-309, 348. The possibility of sealing with the great 
seal " plaque au dos " must not be overlooked. Dr. Broome has called my 
attention to several files of Exch. of Eec, Warr. for Issues (E404/7/44, 47, 48 
especially) which contain many chancery writs bearing traces of yellowish white 
wax on the extreme right hand of the dorse. 

2 See above, pp. 113-114 ; cf. below, p. 173, for notice of similar bills of secret 

8 See for instance MS. Tanner, 197/59, which records on March 14, 1311, 
the payment " Johanni de Tunstal, nuncio, deferent! litteras regis sub priuato 
sigillo, unum videlicet patentem et alium clausum, domino H. de Godard, 
tenenti locum justiciarii North Wallie." Compare JUS. Ad. 8835, f. 103, 
" Galfredo de Badeneye, nuncio, deferenti vi litteras clausas sub priuato sigillo." 
Gross, Select Cases on the Law Merchant, i. 76, Selden Soc, instances a " letter 
patent under secret seal " of 1300, ordering all persons to deliver to the keeper 
of the great wardrobe the wares he may desire. In 1300 " secret seal " in all 
probabihty means " privy seal." 

* Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 20, 389-390. 


three letters were drawn up " sealed in the form of charters by 
the king's command, by writ of the targe." ^ They were " sent 
to the chancellor out of Scotland " and were then, according to 
the memorandum on the patent roll, " sealed with the great 
seal in the above form {i.e. in the form of letters patent), and the 
said charters under the targe were sent to the wardrobe under 
the chancellor's seal." Thus, documents drafted in court under 
the privy seal were later issued as letters patent under the great 
seal and were enrolled in the patent roll, the privy seal documents 
afterwards being sent for safe custody to the wardrobe. The 
expression selees en forme de chartres clearly means nothing more 
than that the original documents sent from Scotland under the 
privy seal were sealed open or patentwise.^ 

Another difference between sealing with the privy seal and 
sealing with the great seal was in the colour of the wax used. 
Each office, in fact, had its distinctive colour or colours, and in 
chancery the quality of the act was indicated not only by the 
fashion of the sealing but also by the colour of the wax on which 
the matrix was impressed. Green wax was used on all exchequer 
writs,^ and green and white wax were used by the chancery of 
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries according to the import- 
ance of the document. Sealing with silken cords required green 
wax, or wax coloured with verdigris, " Greek green," the sign 

^ Targe was, of course, another name for the privy seal ; see above, ii. 
283-284, 324-325. 

^ Cf. above, p. 127, for the meaning of the word charter to the hanaper. 
See also C.P.R., 1301-1307, p. 460 ; and Maxwell-Lyte, p. 42. The original 
text, from P.R. 34 Edw. I. m. 10 (C.66/127), runs as follows : " Fet a remembrer 
qe totes les lettres susecrites f urent enuees au chaunceler hors Descoce, selees 
en forme de chartres, et par comaundement le roi par bref de la targe e puis 
furent selees du grant seal en la forme susecrite, e les dites chartes (sic) suz 
la targe furent enuees a la garderobe, desuz le seal le chaunceler." 

3 Matthew Paris testifies to this ; Hist. Major, v. 720, " Institutus tunc 
dominus Thomas de Wymundham . . . thesaurarius ad scaccarium, ubi con- 
signantur brevia de viridi cera." For later testimony see Mirror of Justices, 
pp. 36-7 (Selden Soc.) : " En eel place {i.e. del escheqere) estoit assigne i seale 
i gardien pur fer ent aquitaunce de chescun paiement qe avoir le voleit e 
sealer les brefs e les estretes souz cire vert." See also Wright's Political Songs, 
p. 151 (Camden Soc), " Greythe me selver to the grene wax," and p. 152, 
" Ther the grene wax greveth under gore." In the Irish exchequer green wax 
was also used ; see C.P.R., 1388-92, p. 387, confirmation of a grant to Robert 
Eure, under the Irish great seal, of the office of the chancellor of the green wax 
of the exchequer of Ireland. In the exchequer of Chester both green and un- 
coloured wax were used, and this latter was not specially reserved for ' ' chancery ' ' 
business, the exchequer being also the chancery ; see later, Ch. XVIII. § 2. 


of perpetuity.! por letters sealed en simple queue white wax 
was always used, the white generally being yellowish in tinge. 
Letters sealed en double queue were usually sealed with white 
wax, occasionally with green. Letters close and most writs 
were probably normally sealed with white wax. The privy 
seal, on the other hand, used only red wax. 

Wardrobe accounts and issue rolls alike record purchases of 
white or green wax for the chancery ,2 green wax for the exchequer, 
and red wax for the wardrobe and small seals. ^ The evidence 
of the innumerable impressions of the privy seal, surviving intact 
or in fragments, shows that, in fact, red was the invariable privy 
seal colour. Red wax was always used for documents emanating 
from the wardrobe, and for the writs of the secret, the griffin, 
the signet, and the other varieties of small seals which grew up 
during the fourteenth century.* Red was also the colour of the 
wax used for the privy seals of the queen,^ of the king's sons, 
of the magnates, lay and ecclesiastical, and of the great ecclesi- 
astical corporations.^ Nor was it in England only that red wax 
was used for small seals. One of the innumerable points of 
resemblance between English and French official methods of the 
fourteenth century is that red wax was nearly always employed 
for the French sceau du secret and invariably for the French 

^ Richard I. was the first king who habitually used green for solemn charters. 
See Durham Seals, p. xxiii. 

2 See, for instance, L.Q.O. (28 Edw. I.), p. 359, " Eodem domino Willelmo 
pro m'lv lib. cere albe emptis, preter illas cxij lib. cere, quas habuit de domino 
Radulpho de Stoke, clerico magne garderobe regis, pro cera viridi et viridi 
greca ad ceram viridem faciendam, emptis similiter per eundem pro brevibus 
clausis et patentibus ac etiam cartis diversimodis per tempus predictum con- 
signandis, xxxij li xix s. ij d. et 06." White wax, used for the mass of 
writs, was bought in bulk. Green wax was either purchased in small quantities, 
ready coloured, or " Greek green " was bought and mixed with white wax 
to give it a green colour. For the white wax of the normal writ of chancery, 
compare Mirror of Justices, p. 158, " Abusion est qe les ministres del eschecqere 
eient jurisdiction dautre chose qe des denersleroi . . . saunz bref originall de 
la chauncellerie souz blanche cire." 

3 A few instances at random may be given. " Pro factura xij Hbrarum cere 
rubee pro priuato sigillo regis, vi s." ; M.B.E., T.R. 201/8d. " Pro cera rubea, 
incausto et aliis necessariis pro priuato sigillo " ; I.R. 409/7. Compare ib. 
417/5 ; Chanc. Misc. IV/3, 5. 

* See, for these reduplications of the privy seal, later, Ch. XVII. 

* Add. MS. 35,294, f. 613, " cerea rubea empta ad priuatum sigillum domine 
regine." See also Ch. XVIII. 

* For instances of the latter see Durham Seals, p. xxii. For others see later, 
Ch. XVIII. Vermilion was used to colour wax red. 


signets. 1 The most distinguislied of all European small seals, 
the papal " fisherman's ring," was also applied to red wax.^ 
The methods of administration were the same all over western 

The matrix of the privy seal, from its size and nature, was 
much less costly to make than those of the greater two-faced 
seals. A few illustrations, taken from royal and other small 
seals, will make this clear. In 1306 the cost of material and 
manufacture of a privy seal in gold, made by William de Kele, 
goldsmith of London, for Edward I.'s second queen, Margaret 
of France, was only sixty-five shillings.^ Simon de Kele, another 
member of the same family of London goldsmiths, was paid 
100 shillings for casting a certain seal for the new king in the 
early months of Edward II. 's reign. The small cost, and the 
fact that the wardrobe " burdened itself " with that cost, suggest 
that this seal was Edward II. 's new privy seal,^ did not a later 
entry show it to be the small " seal of absence," made for use 
while the king went to Boulogne to be married.^ This seems 
to have been much the same type as the seal of Lionel of Antwerp, 
keeper of England in 1347,^ and as that of Thomas, the king's 

^ Morel, op. cit. pp. 251, 254. M. Morel's only instances to the contrary 
are of two charters of 1384 and 1385, each sealed by both great and secret seal, 
and both of green wax. 

2 Giry, p. 654. 

* E.A. 369/11, f. 58d. " Willelmo de Kele, aurifabro Londonensi, pro 
quodam sigillo priuato auri facto per eundem pro domina regina in precio x 
denariorum auri de moneta regis Francie ponderantium iiij s. auri liberatorum 
eidem pro eodem sigillo et pro factura eiusdem, quolibet denario valente 
vi s. et vj d. sterling, apud Westmonasterium, xiiij. die Oct. anno eodem — 


* lb. 313115, f. 2. " Et idem dominus Walterus (Reginaldi) in indentura 
sua fatetur se recepisse c s. de scaccario pro denariis prius liberatis Simoni de 
Kele, aurifabro Londonensi, super quodam sigillo regis fundendo, quos tamen 
denarios non recepit in scaccario, set quia garderoba ponit dictos denarios 
in exitu super dictum Simonem, ideo dicta garderoba gratis se onerat de 

* lb. m. 46, "Simoni de Keyles, de prestito ad fundendum pro quodam 
sigillo faciendo ad regimen regni Anglie dum dominus rex fuerit extra regnum 
Anglie, et super facturam eiusdem sigilli per manus proprias apud Lond. 
quarto decimo die Januarii, c s." However, in the wardrobe account of 1 
Edw. II., in Pipe, 16 Edw. II. 168/50, is an entry " unacum denariis solutis 
pro emendacione parui sigilli regis, ipso in partibus transmarinis existente." 
See also in ib. the entry " Simoni de Kele, aurifabro Londonensi, de prestito 
super quodam nouo sigillo fundendo et faciendo pro regno Anglie et alterius 
sigilli parui de una pecia pro comitatu Pontiuii, xiiij K." 

* I.R. 339/35, " pro fabricatione sigilli Lyonelli, custodis Anglie." 


son, keeper in England in 1360, which cost only 66s. 8d.i Under 
Edward III. a privy seal, provided in 1340, was not completely 
paid for till 1346, when the balance of £5 was disbursed. ^ William 
Morton, goldsmith of London, received £3 in August 1356 for 
" making a certain seal for the king," ^ and in December of the 
same year John Chichester, goldsmith of London, was paid £8 
for making a privy seal.* Later an additional expense was 
incurred, as for example in 1362, when that same John Chichester 
received, on June 3, 32s. 6d. for making a chain for the privy 
seal and for the weight of the silver found by him for enlarging 
the said chain. ^ Variations in price may be explained by the 
increasing size of the seal. They were also influenced later by 
the fact that gold came to be used for the matrix instead of silver. 
Under Edward III. the privy seal and its chain were always made 
of silver, but as time went on the more precious metal seems 
to have been preferred. Thus, under Henry IV., a " privy seal 
of gold with a chain and riddle, two verges long," cost the king's 
chamber £10, while " a pair of great seals in gold " cost in the 
same reign £50.^ 

Now let us describe the various known privy seals of our 
period.' We have seen that the history of the privy seal begins 
under John, though such an instrument was possibly in existence 
under Henry 11.^ Unluckily we have no certain knowledge of 
the nature of John's privy seal, though it has been plausibly 
suggested that it was the same as the counter seal inscribed 

1 I.R. 400/17. 

2 lb. 336/25, " Johanni de Taunton de London, in persolucionem o 
solidorum sibi liberandorum pro factura priuati sigilli regis " ; a discharge in 
1346 of a mandate of Easter term, 1340. 

3 See below, p. 140, n. 2. * Ibid. 

* I.R. 411/20, "tarn pro factura cathene priuati sigilli domini regis quam 
pro pondere argenti per ipsum pro elargacione dicte cathene inuento " ; cf. 
Devon, u.s. p. 177. Yet when, in 1363, Buckingham, on leaving office, delivered 
his seal to the chancellor to be deposited in the exchequer, it was " sine catena," 
Kal. and Inv. Exch. i. 200. A chain of gold bought of Chichester for the 
secret seal cost £10 : 6 : 8 ; I.R. 384/4. The weight of the chain was that of 
sixteen Florentine nobles. ® Rot. Pari. iv. 312. 

' Specimens are reproduced in the Appendix to this volume. 

« See above, i. 150-167, 147-150. 


secretum Johannis which John used before he became king.^ 
Neither do we possess surviving specimens of the privy seal of 
Henry III., though we know that it was a shield of arms with 
the " circumscription " of the seal of the exchequer, ^ though 
the meaning of the " circumscription " is obscure.^ We know 
also that it was made of sUver and that, though the seal itself 
had disappeared thirty years after Henry's death, the purse of 
silk in which it had been kept still survived among the treasures 
in Edward I.'s wardrobe.* We are, therefore, forced to begin 
our description with the seal of Edward I., though our scanty 
information suggests that the unknown earliest seals were of 
the same type as their known successors. Of these we have a 
complete series from the reign of Edward I. 

Students of diplomatic tell us that the size of the seal was an 
index to the importance of the act sealed with it, or of the owner.^ 
If this be true, and in some measure, at least, it is, the importance 
of the English privy seal grew steadily between the reigns of 
Edward I. and Richard II., since at each demise of the crown, 
and at nearly every other change of the seal, the seal tended to 
be made a size larger. The normal size of Edward I.'s privy seal 
was about 1 inch, or 25 mm., in diameter, though smaller impres- 
sions of 23 or 24 mm. are not uncommon. The seal was a " seal 
of arms," representing on a shield the three leopards of England. 
Along the border was the inscription secretum regis edwardi.® 
It was suspended on a chain of silver. '^ 

^ This is the suggestion of Mr. Hunter-Blair in his Durham Seals, p. xxxi. 
This " secretum " is figured in ib. plate F. No. 6. 

2 Foedera, i. 244, " breuia vero nostra de scaccario sigillabuntur interim 
quodam priuato sigillo cum quodam scuto de armis nostris cum circumscriptione 
sigilli de scaccario " (1242). 

* See above, i. 241. 

* L.Q.G. p. 351, " Una bursa de serico que est in uno forcero de corio, 
que bursa billata est in hunc modum : Istam bursam dedit regi electus sancti 
Augustini." " Et in eadem bursa fuit sigillum argenti secretum, quod fuit regis 
Henrici, patris regis Edwardi." Perhaps the seal itself was stolen by the 
burglars of the wardrobe treasury in 1303 and never recovered ; see above, 
i. 290. 

* Douet d'Arcq, op. cit. I. xxiii. " En these generale, la grandeur du sceau 
indique son importance." 

* Examples (a) B.M. Harl. Ch. 43. B. 8, July 18, 1296, described above ; 
of. Durham Seals, plate E. 4 : (6) P.B.O. Museum (Case H, 76 a), Exch. of Rec, 
Warr.for Issues, 1/2 : (c) E.A. 368/15, 7, dated Lanercost, Oct. 30, 1306. 

' This cost 3s. in 1297, when it was delivered to keeper Benstead ; Maxwell- 
Lyte, p. 41. For the seal see below, Appendix, plate I. no. 1. 


The earliest privy seals of Edward II. are about the same 
size as those of his father, and average 24 mm., though full 
specimens run to 25 mm. These seals, however, are not strictly 
royal privy seals, for we are expressly told that these early letters 
were sigillate priuato sigillo quo utebamur antequam regni nostri 
gubernaculum suscepimus.'^ They were, in fact, really stamped 
with Edward's privy seal as prince of Wales. This was a " seal 
of arms " representing the three leopards of England with a 
label of three points. The inscription seems to have been le 
SEEL EDWARD Ki USE EN GARD, that is, "the Seal of Edward which 
he uses in the wardrobe." ^ There is a writ thus sealed of so 
late a date as August 25, 1307. However, from that day Edward 
II. had a proper privy seal. As Edward I. died on July 7, it 
must have taken about fifty days to get a new seal ready and 
send it to the young king in Scotland. This seal was identical 
with that of his father in inscription and in the arms on the shield, 
but it was somewhat larger, 28 mm. in diameter instead of 25 mm., 
and the shield was slightly wider, 13-14 mm. instead of 12-13 mm.^ 
How long it remained in use is not clear, for, although the privy 
seal seems to have been recovered after each of the two occasions 
on which it was lost,^ by November 1316 another privy seal 
matrix had superseded this first one. It is, therefore, just pos- 
sible that the loss of the seal at Bannockburn involved the cast- 
ing of a new one. The second matrix had the same diameter as 
the first, and the same arms and legend, but the shield was an 

1 O.TF. 56/6684. 

2 E.A. 370/10 gives the best example I have found, but it is very brittle and 
badly crumbled. The inscription is not very complete, but seems to run : 
LE : see[l[ [e]dw(a)ed : k(i [vsb]en) gard. But perhaps ki est en gard is a 
better reading. When I first examined the seal, nearly twenty years ago, only 
the letters I have put in square brackets were missing ; now those I have put in 
curved brackets are also lacking. See below, App., plate I. no. 2. The illiterate 
prince had a French inscription on his seal, but French was already the normal 
tongue of the privy seal office. The royal type of " secretum " was imitated very 
extensively, and to most persons their " secretum " was their only seal. Thus 
Ingelard Warley, keeper of the wardrobe 1309-14, had a seal inscribed SECRETtJM 
INGELARDI DE WARLEE ; Exch. of Bec. Wardrobe Debentures, etc., E. 404/481. 

3 There is an excellent impression in Anc. Deeds, WS. 643, and a good one in 
Scots. Docs. 95/10. For the first see below, App., pi. I. no. 3. 

* See above, ii. 294-295, 303. Too much stress must not be laid on the state- 
ment in Cont. Trivet, quoted in ii. 295, n. 4, and 324-325, n. 5. But if the 
chronicler told the truth, Edward disregarded the pledge given to the Scots by 
the knight who brought it back to England. 


acutely pointed one.^ Wlien the seal was lost again, in the rout 
of Byland, a humiliating proclamation to the sheriffs warned them 
not to give credence to recent letters under privy seal as it had 
been lately lost. Twelve days later, another circular announced 
that the seal was found and had been all the time in safe custody, 
so that there was no reason for suspecting documents bearing it.^ 
Edward II. 's son, Edward of Windsor, used before his acces- 
sion to the throne a privy seal of 25 mm. When, after the collapse 
of his father's power, the younger Edward was, on October 26, 
chosen keeper of the realm by the magnates, we are told by one 
of the close roll memoranda,^ so precious in instructing us in 
the technicalities of official methods, that the duke began to 
exercise his rights under his own privy seal, then in the custody 
of Robert Wyvill, his clerk, " because he had no other seal for 
rule at that time." The duke's privy seal continued to be ex- 
clusively employed for the whole of his regency, October 26 
to November 23, when, after Edward II. 's capture, it was as- 
sumed that " the power of the said keeper ceased from the king's 
return into the realm." This meant that the new government 
had obtained possession of both the great and privy seals of 
Edward II. and was, therefore, no longer compelled to use the 
duke's privy seal. However, when Edward II. was deposed 
and the duke became Edward III., the new king again employed 
his privy seal as duke, though now apparently only for the issue 
of letters under the privy seal. This use of Edward's ducal privy 
seal went on from January 25 to February 10, 1327.'* The first 
extant writ sealed with the proper privy seal of Edward III. is 
dated February 11, 1327,^ so that the engravers did not lose 
much time. The new seal was 30 to 32 mm. in diameter, 
the size of Edward II. 's privy seal, or perhaps a little larger.^ 

^ There is a good impression of it in Exch. Accts. 68/2/40 (Berwick, Nov. 22, 
1316), and in Exch. of Mec, Warr. for Issiies, 1, there are good traces of it, 
measuring 28 mm. in diameter, on instruments dated Scrooby, Nov. 29, 1316, 
and York, Nov. 3, 1322. Blank impressions of the seal are often 30 mm. in 
diameter. See below, App., plate I. no. 4. 

2 C.C.B., 1318-23, p. 682. 

3 lb., 1323-27, pp. 655-656 ; Foedera, ii. 646. 

* C.W. 136/1-74. Of these, no. 4 is expressly " datum sub priuato sigillo quo 
utebamur antequam suscepimus regni nostri gubernaculum." 

5 lb. 136/73. 

* Examples are to be seen in Exch. of Mec, Warr. for Issues, bundle 2, the 
king to Robert Wodehouse, May 22, 1330 (31 mm.) ; ib., bundle 3, March 2 and 


The arms and inscription were the same as on the privy seals 
of Edward I. and Edward II., but the shield was flanked on 
each side by a small fleur-de-lys and was surmounted with a 
crescent. This seal continued in use for nearly twelve years, the 
last surviving writ bearing its impression being dated April 23, 

The departure of Edward III. to the continent in July 1338 
was preceded and attended by many ministerial and political 
readjustments. Among the minor changes was the adoption 
of a new privy seal. On April 25 orders were issued to all 
sheriffs to exhibit in full county court the impressions of this, 
which alone was to be used on and from that date.^ The first 
document that I have noticed bearing it is dated April 27, so 
that little time was lost in putting the orders into force. The 
new seal was 35-37 mm. in diameter, 5 mm. bigger than its pre- 
decessor,^ the fleur-de-lys and crescent of 1327-38 were replaced 
by a Gothic scroll pattern between the shield and the inscription 
round the rim, and the inscription became secretum edwardi 


Within two years the march of events made the new seal 
obsolete. In January 1340, Edward assumed the title of king 
of France, with the immediate object of gratifying his Flemish 
allies. At the Flemings' request, says a chronicler, Edward 
changed his arms, the impressions of his seals, the greater and 
the lesser, and the style of his letters.^ The new regnal year, 
14 Edward III., which had begun on January 25, 1340, was to 
be described as the fourteenth of Edward's reign in England, 
and the first of his reign in France. On the king's return to 
England in February, he summoned a parliament and announced 

April 16, 1338. An example of 1335 is photographed in Durham Seals, plate E. 8, 
and one of 1332 in Shadwell and Salter, Oriel College Records (Oxford Hist. Soc), 
App. vii. plate 2. The fleur-de-lys and crescent are more conclusive evidence 
of the date of this writ than the argument in n. 2, p. 292, where it is printed. 

1 Exch. of Eec, Warr. for Issues, bundle 3. See also App., pi. I. no. 5. 

2 Foedera, ii. 1031. 

^ Exch. of Bee, Warr. for Issues, bundle 3. A comparison of the writs in this 
bundle establishes the certainty of the change. The smaller seal is on writs 
dated Feb. 22, March 2, April 1 1 and 23 ; the larger on those of April 27, May 
1 and 8, June 11 and 26, and Aug. 1. 

* It is figured in Durham Seals, plate E. No. 9. See also below, App., pi. I. (6). 

* Bridlington, p. 148, " impressiones sigillorum suorum maioris et minoris 
. . . variavit." 


in the writs that he would justify before the members the as- 
sumption of his new title. Simultaneously, he sent letters close 
to sheriffs, justices and lords of the greater franchises, announcing 
that he had " provided certain seals, the great and the privy, 
the impressions whereof he wishes to be known throughout all 
the realm." He, therefore, sent with his letters schedules 
containing impressions of the new seals, and ordered them to 
be shown publicly in full county court and elsewhere, directing 
the various officers to show them in the public places within 
their jurisdiction.^ 

The first privy seal of Edward as king of France and England 
measures, in good impressions, 38 mm. or 1| inches in diameter, 
and is, therefore, slightly larger than its predecessor. It is 
a " seal of arms," but the shield displays the lilies of France 
(two, one, two) quarterly, first and fourth, with the leopards of 
England, second and third, and bears the inscription secretum 
EDWARDi REGIS FRANCIE ET ANGLIE. The spacc between the 
shield and the inscription is, as in the 1338-40 seal, taken up by 
a Gothic scroll, slightly less elaborate than in the previous seal, 
because of the larger size of the shield of arms with its fourfold 
division. 2 By October 1340 it had been replaced by another 
similar but not identical matrix, in which the quarterings of 
the French arms showed the lilies semes (instead of the five in the 
former matrix), the Gothic scroll was more elaborate, and the 
shield yV inch narrower. ^ The legend was the same. This matrix 
remained in use until 1356 and impressions of it are not uncommon.* 

In 1356 a still larger seal, 48 mm. or If inches in diameter, 
replaced the seal of the previous sixteen years. Why a new 
privy seal should have been introduced just then is not clear, 
but there is no doubt whatever that it was. As far as is 
known, there survives only one comparatively whole wax 
impression, attached en simple queue to letters patent dated 
8 November, 30 Edward III. (1356), for the years between 

1 Foedera, ii. 1115 ; C.C.R., 1339-41, p. 457. For payment for this seal see 
above, p. 133. 

2 There is a good example, dated Feb. 14, 1340, in Anc. Deeds, LS. 303 ; see 
Appendix, plate II. no. 1. It is also figured in Durham Seals, plate E. no. 7. 

3 Anc. Deeds, WS. 639, 640 ; see Appendix, plate II. no. 2. 

* In addition to those cited in n. 3 above, there is an example in Ad. Ch. 
11, 307 (Birch, op. cit. i. 83, no. 711). The text of this is printed by Deprez, 
Etudes de diplomatique, p. 50. 

§ m PRIVY SEAL OF 1356 139 

1356 and 1360,^ when another change was made. The 1356 
specimen, in which the shield is as perfect and as sharply 
defined as on the day it was impressed, though the base and 
left side are broken, and the legend is gone except for frag- 
ments of the letters glie on the right of the top of the seal,^ 
is sufficiently complete not only to enable us to describe the 
matrix in detail, but also to prove that the privy seal matrix used 
between 1356 and 1360 was again employed from 1369 to 1377. 
The shield bore the lilies of France and the leopards of England 
quarterly, was flanked and surmounted by crowns, and was 
surrounded by delicately elaborate Gothic tracery and an in- 
scription which read secretum edwardi regis francie et 
ANGLIE.3 The matrix was probably made in the summer of 

1 Anc. Deeds, WS. 642. Traces and fragments of it, some of them good, are 
to be found on a number of privy seal documents extant for the period, 1356-60. 
Maxwell- Lyte, p. 43, n. 10, quotes especially G.W. S. 368, 910. See also Exch. 
of Rec, Warr. for Issues, 5/34, 35 ; 6. In file 36, of bundle 6, the traces on 
several writs, dated Feb. 3, March 5, and Sept. 8, 33 Ed. III., show that the 
first word of the legend is secretum and the last anglie. See p. 142 n. 

^ When first this seal was examined, the letters sec were decipherable on 
the left of the top, but the edge was very brittle, and in the subsequent attempt 
at repair and preservation, they were unavoidably obliterated. 

^ When, some twenty years ago, I drew up the rough sketch upon which 
the present section is based, I had no knowledge of the privy seal made in 1356. 
My attention was first called to it by the mention of it in Maxwell-Lyte, p. 43. 
Since the publication of Sir Henry's book, however, the impression classed as 
Anc. Deeds, WS. 642, has been discovered. This was brought to Miss Broome's 
notice by Mr. D. L. Evans, of the P.R.O., who kindly compared a provisional 
list of privy seals for reproduction with the card catalogue of seals in the P.R.O., 
and suggested possible additions. Sir Henry has been good enough to examine 
this impression with Miss Broome and to discuss the question of its relation 
to the surviving impressions of the privy seal in use from 1369 to 1377. He 
agrees with her as to its inscription, and, therefore, that the seal of 1356 
may not, as he at first supposed, be identified with a privy seal described 
as bearing the legend secretum edwardi regis francie et anglie et 
DOMINI hibernie. This means that neither of the privy seals delivered by 
Wykeham to the king on March 28, 1371, and at the same time handed over by 
the king to the treasurer to be kept in the exchequer treasury, has been identified ; 
C.C.R., 1369-74, pp. 287-288 ; Foedera, iii. 912. It may be that the clerk 
making the memorandum on the dorse of the roll did not trouble to verify the 
inscriptions of the seals, and that actually the privy seals surrendered were not 
inscribed as stated there. On the face of it the clerk seems to have adapted 
the inscriptions of the great seals to meet the requirements of the privy seals — 
that is to say, he suppressed dei gratia, began with secretum, and merely 
altered the cases of the other words to make grammar. Whichever these 
privy seals were, the 1356-60 seal was not one, for — and with this again Sir 
Henry is in agreement — the absolute identity of the surviving impressions of 
the privy seal for the years 1369-77 with this 1356 impression and the frag- 
ments indicated above in n. 1, is entirely convincing evidence that the 1356 


1356, because the earliest surviving instrument issued under 
the new seal is dated August 22, 1356,^ and because on December 
16, 1356, on the authority of a privy seal mandate of that Michael- 
mas term, John Chichester, goldsmith of London, was paid £8 
for making the king's privy seal.^ 

In the treaty of Calais of October 1360, Edward III. renounced 
the title of king of France. Fresh seals were necessarily struck 
to meet the changed situation. The new privy seal was a hand- 
some instrument, just 50 mm., or 2 inches, in diameter, and, 
therefore, exactly double the size of the privy seal of Edward I. 
The lilies of France (semes) were still quartered with the leopards 
of England, and the arms surrounded by an elaborate Gothic 
border. Over the shield, and on each side, was the device of a 
crown. Above the right crown and below the left, there was a 
bearded head,^ while below the right crown and above the left 
there was a double rose. The chief innovation was the inscrip- 
tion, which ran edwardus dei gra[tia] rex anglie d[omi]n[u]s 
HiBERNiE ET acq[ui]tanie.'* The omission of " secretum " 
was a new departure, as was the introduction of " Dei Gratia " 
and the lordships of Ireland and Aquitaine. There was good 

matrix was used again after the resumption by Edward III. in 1369 of the title 
king of France ; see below, pp. 141-142. I have carefully revised this section in 
the light of Sir Henry's volume, and corrected with its aid various shortcomings, 
but I feel bound to say that our independent work over the same ground has 
led to substantially the same results. I have published the section now for 
the sake of completeness and because it approaches the subject from a some- 
what different view-point from that of Sir Henry, but a certain amount of 
repetition of Sir Henry is inevitable. I cannot forbear expressing my thanks 
to him for the help derived from using his detailed and valuable study, and his 
personal interest in my own work. 

^ In G.W. 368/23216, there are five writs of this date, four showing traces 
of having been sealed with the smaller privy seal. After that date the traces 
are of the larger seal only. The only extant Exch. of Rec, Warr. for Issues 
for 30 Ed. III. are a writ from chancery and a signet letter ; the earliest ex- 
chequer warrant under the privy seal is dated July 18, 31 Ed. III. ; Exch. of 
Rec, Warr. for Issues, 5/34. 

2 I.R. 384/4. Record of payment on August 2, 1356, to William Morton 
for making a " certain seal " for the king {I.R. 380/20) is interpreted by Sir 
Henry Maxwell-Lyte as payment for the new privy seal. But, apart from the 
fact that the rapidity of this payment might be a little suspicious if it were 
for the new privy seal, there is the evidence of this more precisely recorded 
payment to Chichester — apparently unknown to Sir Henry — which seems clear 
and indubitable. * Was Edward III. himself the model ? 

4 Shadwell and Salter, Oriel College Records (Oxf. Hist. Soc), pp. 295-296, 
print an act under this seal and describe it with a facsimile in Appendix vii. 
plate iv. 1. See also Durham Seals, plate E. 3, and below, App., plate II. no. 4. 


reason for the omission of " secretum," for there had long been 
a secretum which was not the privy seal, but was already largely 
accepted as an alternative to it. On the ground that Edward 
had a right to use his mother's arms, there was some justification 
for the retention of the French arms, though it suggests possible 
difficulties as to the execution of the treaty.^ 

This seal was used until 1369, when, as we know, Edward III. 
again took the title of king of France. It may well have been 
the seal for which, on June 19, 1361, the exchequer paid John 
Chichester, goldsmith, of London, £7 : 18 : 8, " for making two 
seals of silver for the privy seal of the lord king." ^ If so, the 
king paid his seal-maker more promptly than he often had on 
previous occasions. This payment has greater interest in sug- 
gesting that it was now necessary to have the privy seal in 
duplicate. At the same time, keeper Buckingham was paid 
37 shillings in compensation for the privy seal which the king 
had made obsolete by his adoption of a new seal after the treaty.' 
Disused seals seem to have been a perquisite of the keeper, and 
Buckingham on receiving this grant evidently left the superseded 
seal in the office, for in 1369 it was again taken into use. 

As a result of the renewal of the French war in 1369, and 
Edward III.'s resumption of the title of king of France, the 
current seals, including of course the privy seal, were by order 
of parliament deposited on June 11 in the exchequer, when 
the chancellor delivered an old set of seals, describing Edward 
as king of France, to their respective keepers. Among them 
a " seal of one piece," appointed for the office of the privy seal, 
was delivered to the keeper of the privy seal, Peter Lacy.^ This 

1 The importance attached to the arms is minimised by the story in Geoffrey 
Baker (Chron. p. 66) of what Philip VI. said when Edward III. first assumed 
the French arms and title. " Quod, inquit, cognatus noster arma gorit quadrata 
de armis Francie et Anghe compaginatis, non nobis displicet, pro eo quod 
pauperiori nostre parentele bachalario partem armorum nostrorum regalium 
libenter concederemus deferendam ; set quod in suis sigiUo et Uteris prius 
nominat se regem Anglie quam Francie, et primum quarterium suorum armorum 
cum leopardis anteponit quarterio lilaito nos angustiat." 

2 Devon, Issue Rolls, Henry III -Henry VI., p. 175. The source of this 
is I.E. 408/28. 

* I.R. 408/28, " In recompensacionem priuati sigilli quod rex fecit mutari 
tempore quo concordia facta f uit inter ipsum dominum regem et regem Francie, 
quod quidem sigillum eidem custodi quasi de feodo suo pertinebat." 

* Foedera, iii. 868-869 ; Rot. Pari. ii. 300, " Unum aliud scilicet de una 
pecia pro officio priuati sigilli ordinatum." 


was none other ttan the privy seal which had been used from 
1356 to 1360, as careful comparison of the surviving wax im- 
pressions attached to documents dated between 1369 and 1377 
with the extant impressions for the earlier period proves.^ 

The privy seal of Richard II. was even more magnificent than 
the later seals of his grandfather. In size it was 58 mm. in diameter 
and was inscribed secretum ricardi regis francie et anglie. 
The arms of France and England, quarterly, were surmounted 
by an open crown and supported by two lions couchant. Each 
of these beasts held up a large ostrich feather transfixing a scroll. 
Examples of this fine seal are much more numerous than are 
examples of the privy seals of preceding reigns. ^ To the end 
privy seals retained the royal arms. They vary in size from the 
2| inches of Henry V. and Henry VII. to the 1| inches of James I., 
and the 3 to 4 inches of later monarchs, that of Victoria being 
3| inches. The privy seal was abolished in 1884,^ but the keeper, 
curiously enough, was not. The high rank in the ministerial 
hierarchy of this nominal keeper of a non-existent instrument 
still testifies to the importance of the ofiice in bygone days.* 


The Small Seals in Some Other Lands 

I have already, in more than one place,^ suggested that medi- 
aeval administrative institutions generally, and such technicalities 

1 See above, pp. 138-139, and compare the different impressions in Ancient 
Deeds, A. 15105 (1370) ; Ancient Deeds, A. 3256 (1375) ; Ancient Deeds, WS. 
642 ; Exch. Accts. etc., bundle 68, file 5 No. 2, file 6 No. 3 ; Exch. of Rec, 
Warr. for Issues, bundles 5, 6, 9, 10 ; Brit. Mus. L.F.G. iii. 19, legend not 
preserved ; Archives Nationales, J. 919, described in Douet d'Arcq (op. cit. 
iii. 267), No. 10029, as " environ 45 mm.," but it is a fragment of which the 
legend is destroyed. See below. Appendix, plate II. no. 3. 

2 For examples see (a) Ad. Ch. 7378, xxxvi. 187, a, b, c ; (6) P.R.O., 
SB. 2, 72, and Ancient Deeds, WS. 630 ; (c) Douet d'Arcq, op. cit. No. 10,034, 
from Arch. Nat. J. 644, No. 19. See also Durham Seals, plate E. No. 2, and below, 
App., p]. III. no. 1. " 47-48 Vict. c. 30, § 3. 

* The Deputy Master of the Mint has kindly informed me that no privy 
seal matrices were engraved for Edward VII. and the present King. In the 
ceremonies of resigning and receiving seals of ofiice at each change of govern- 
ment, the privy seal of queen Victoria is now given up by, and passed to, the 
Lord Privy Seal. 

» See especiaUy, above, i. 7-8, 15, 19, 30-31, 148-155, 229-231, andii. 312-313. 


as the use and custody of seals throughout the western world, 
followed certain definite lines, and that they can be studied 
much more profitably in comparison than in isolation. Let 
us now apply this principle a little further, and illustrate the 
growth of the English small seals by some selected foreign ana- 
logies, beginning, as is only natural, with some consideration 
of the arrangements made in contemporary France for the 
administration of the French king's secret seal, which, as we 
have seen, was the French equivalent to our privy seal.^ 

The fourteenth century secret seal of the French kings was, 
like the English privy seal, a " seal of arms," the ecu seme de 
France naturally taking the place of the leopards of England. 
The size of the seal increased as time went on and as the seal 
became more solemn and official and more richly ornamented 
with crowns, symbols of the evangelists, elaborated borders 
and the like.^ It is curious that while our privy seal was, appar- 
ently from the beginning, inscribed wdth a legend of which the 
first word was secretum, no sceau du secret of the first three Valois 
kings bore any legend at all. In the invariable employment of 
red wax, in the methods of fixing the seal to the document, and 
generally in the verbal formulae of the instruments, there is a 
remarkable similarity between English privy seals and French 
secreta. Though substantially used for the same purposes as 
the English privy seal, the French secretum was even more 
thoroughly official. In particular, certain letters close, which 
would have been sealed with the great seal in England, were in 
France almost invariably sealed with the secret seal.^ Inevit- 
ably, a seal in such continual official use could not remain in the 
king's personal custody, and, as the seat of government became 
more and more centred in Paris, could comparatively seldom 

^ I have based my comparison upon the material provided in M. Morel's 
Grande Chuncellerie Royale, especially pp. 62-68, 80-84, 244-250, and in particu- 
lar the very valuable documents published in his " Pieces justificatives." As 
the secret seal is only incidentally part of M. Morel's subject, he is naturally 
fullest when dealing with it in its relations to the chancery, and nowhere discusses 
its administration at length apart from this. P. Viollet, unfortunately, only 
devotes a few lines to this subject in Histoire des institutions politiques et adminis- 
tratives de la France, ii. p. 141, though the little he says is of great value. 

* Morel, op. cit. pp. 262-266. Philip VI. 's secreta were about 26 mm., 
John's 33 mm., Charles V.'s 40 mm. in diameter. 

^ L. Delisle, " Notes sur les sceaux des lettres closes," in Bibl. de V 2 cole 
des Charles, 4*^ serie, t. ii. pp. 533-537 : Giry, Diplomatique, p. 653. 


be in the same place as tlie monarch. As early as 1312, it had 
its official custodian. It was, as Bardin's chronicle tells us, the 
secretum sigillum cuius custodiam habebat cambellanus} and the 
importance of the French chamberlain of this period throws 
into the shade the infant dignity of the English keeper of the 
privy seal. But it is important to note that the French keeper, 
like the English one, was a member of the royal household. In 
France as in England, the chamberlain was conspicuous among 
the knightly or lay members of the hotel du roi. The main 
difEerence was that the English keeper was an ecclesiastic, while 
the French one was a layman. 

The French counterparts of the clerks of the privy seal were 
the clercs du secre, the later secretaries, who first appear in records 
in 1316, but whose origin goes back at any rate to the days of 
Philip the Fair.^ In numbers, emoluments, dignity and prospects 
the French secretaries were the superior, the four clerks of the 
privy seal of Edward III. cutting a poor figure in comparison 
with the eighteen secretaries of the regent Charles in 1359.^ 
Their division into eleven clerical and seven lay secretaries 
admitted into the management of the secret seal a non-clerical 
element a century before the English privy seal office lost its 
exclusively clerical character, though the lay element was due, 
not to a premature development of French anti-clericalism, but 

^ De Vic et Vaissete, Hist, generate de Languedoc, t. x. preuves, col. 30 ed. 
Privat. M. Morel's defence of this text against the scepticism of M. Giry 
(Diplomatique, p. 653) and other earlier writers is convincing, and may perhaps 
be strengthened by the arguments in my text. There are very numerous 
examples, both in this country and abroad, of seals being in the custody of 
chamberlains. For instance, within Britain, the seals for the various districts 
of North Wales, South Wales and Cheshire were normally kept by the chamber- 
lains of Carnarvon, Carmarthen and Chester. This usage was continued by 
the Act of Union, 35 Hen. VIII. c. 26, 6-20, which put the seven seals for the 
grouped marcher districts centring round Brecon and Denbigh in the charge of 
the chamberlains of Brecon and Denbigh. Bowen, Statutes of Wales, p. 104. 
Cf. also Eot. Pari. iii. 268 quoted below, p. 209, n. 3. Compare the English 
" chamberlain of Scotland," whose sphere became gradually narrowed down 
to Berwick, almost the only Scottish town that remained permanently under 
English rule. Cf. also below, pp. 148-149, 160. 

2 Morel, pp. 62-63. 

^ lb. pp. 515-516. Not all of these, however, served at the same time. There 
were no more than three " notaires suivant le roi " in 1316, only one of whom 
was a secretary. In 1350 there were two secretaries at court, one civil and one 
criminal. But four other notaries " followed the king," Viollet, ii. 141. There 
were constant complaints of the excessive number of secretaries. See e.g. the 
Ordonnance Cabochienne of 1413, pp. 144-145, ed. Coville (1891). 


to a nicer sense of ecclesiastical propriety than that which obtained 
in England. 1 The eighteen sols jparisis, which the French secre- 
taries received for each day of service, were a nobler reward 
than the sevenpence halfpenny a day wages of the clerks of the 
English privy seal. All through our period, the French secre- 
taries retained that close personal connection with the king and 
his court which the English clerks lost when they were virtually 
removed from the household, about the middle of the fourteenth 
century. In consequence the French secretariat offered a wider 
career to the ambitious. From it arose directly the later secre- 
taries of state, and the modern ministers. 2 Long before this 
process had matured, the English privy seal office had become 
a narrow and self-contained department of secondary importance 
cut off from the main current of English political life. Yet, for 
all that, it was the stock from which the secretarial and signet 
offices arose, and, therefore, an indirect source of the modern 
secretary of state. 

The essential distinction between the French dercs du secre 
and the English privy seal clerks lies in the fundamental difference 
between the English and French secretariats. Since the days 
of Philip the Fair, the French kings had possessed a single central- 
ised secretarial department, served by officials of a common type 
subject to the chancellor as their official head, who early developed 
a strong corporate tradition. In England, on the other hand, 
each depart.ment of state had its own secretarial staff practically 
unrelated to any other. ^ The clerks of the chancery, of the 
exchequer, of the two benches, and of the household, wardrobe 
and chamber, formed for each office a self-contained and self- 
sufficing unit. By the middle of the fourteenth century the 
clerks of the privy seal had separated themselves from the ward- 

^ The lay element in France was due partly to the fact that the office of 
keeper of the great seal was open to laymen since the days of Philip the Fair, 
but mainly owing to the regard paid in France to the canonical prohibition of 
the clergy taking part in criminal justice ; Morel, p. 55. It must not be for- 
gotten that the keeper of the French secret seal was always a layman, a 
chamberlain. ^ VioUet, ii. 141. 

* Maitland (Introd. to Memoranda de Pari. p. xxxvii) describes the chancery 
of 1305 as a " general secretarial bureau." This is an over-statement. There 
was not, even under Edward I., such a general bureau in England. In view of 
the writing done by Benstead, not to mention his predecessors, for the privy 
seal, to say nothing of the organised chancery of the exchequer, it is wrong to 
say that the chancery " does nearly all the king's writing for him." 



robe clerks. We have seen that Henry IIL made spasmodic, 
but unsuccessful, efforts in the direction taken by Philip the 
Fair. Edward I., however, never thought it worth his while, 
and Baldock's attempt, under his weak son, to upset the depart- 
mental system by setting up a chancery of the French sort, was 
not persevered in by Edward IIL^ The very fact that political 
development was more advanced in England than in France 
would have made it extremely difficult for even an Edward I., 
had he been so minded, to have emulated the policy of Philip 
the Fair. 

After 1238 the English chancery was so far cut off from the 
household that it had a staff of clerks of its own. The com- 
parative lateness with which the French curia regis split up into 
distinct offices of state resulted in the chancery remaining in 
complete association with the royal household until 1321, and 
even then being only partially separated from it.^ This persist- 
ence of household control led to a strong group of royal notaries 
growing up in France with interests and traditions of their own. 
As time went on, the inevitable but gradual differentiation of 
the government departments compelled the French king to risk 
breaking up the unity of the corporation of notaries by attaching 
various members to various courts, but tradition was too firmly 
established to be weakened. The notaries assigned to write 
for the parliament or the Chambre des Comptes, those still at- 
tached to the court, and those delegated to work under the direct 
jurisdiction of the chancellor, remained members of the same 
body.^ Whether they wrote at the Chambre des Comptes or at 
the Chdtelet, they continued to take their pay and their allowances 
from the chancellor himself, or from the household. 

In 1352 the royal notaries set up a confraternity which held 
its meetings in the convent of the Celestins at Paris. For this 
society there were prescribed special religious services, corporate 

1 See above, ii. 312-313. 

2 The important ordinance of 1321, which defined the later position of the 
French chancery, is printed in Morel, pp. 490-492. Several previous ordinances 
had prepared the way for this separation, see ib. pp. 487-490. 

* Already, in 1321, Philip V. distinguished the notaries " avecques nous " 
and those " avecques nostre chanceUer ou avecques aucuns de nos gens qui ont 
le droit de commander et de faire faire lettres " ; Morel, p. 492. Even by 1291 
there were six notaries " qui devoient estre avec le chancelier " ; ib. p. 117. 
They corresponded to our chancery clerks in the stricter sense. 


banquets, common funds and organisation, periodical meetings, 
sobriety of dress and gravity of deportment. So powerful did 
the college become that the king handed over to its two proctors 
the arrangement of the rotation in which its members discharged 
some of its official functions.^ He also approved of the resolu- 
tion of the college that extraordinary payments due to notaries 
and secretaries should no longer be paid to the officers who did 
the work, but should be pooled and divided on general principles.^ 
More than this, when the secretaries and notaries complained 
that they could not get their wages, either from the household 
Chambre des Deniers or from the national Chambre des Comptes, 
they were allowed to appoint one or two receivers from among 
themselves, empowered to lay hands upon the fines and other 
dues levied in parliament and to pay their colleagues from this 
source.^ There is no trace of jealousy between the notaries 
attached to the different offices. Even the separate interests 
of the clerical and lay notaries could not destroy their keen 
esprit de corps. Thus the French king's scribes remained, all 
through the fourteenth century, one body with strong traditions 
and an organisation powerful enough to impose the wishes of 
the college on the king himself. 

The same centralising bureaucratic spirit, which made a single 
corporation of the writers for the different offices, also insisted 
on the supply of parchment to all the departments of court and 
state coming from one purchasing bureau. It was characteristic 
of the survival of the primitive curialist element in the midst 
of the many radical innovations of Capetian autocracy that the 
authority to buy and distribute was vested in the treasurer of 
the chapel of the royal palace in Paris, the Sainte Chapelle.* 

The secretaries who wrote for the sceau du secre were the best 
paid and the most dignified and influential members of the 
powerful corporation of French civil servants, whose unity 
typified so well the oneness and indivisibility of the monarchy. 
Yet their splendid position, as notaries attached to the king's 

1 Morel, pp. 534-537. 2 lb. pp. 551-555. ^ lb. p. 531. 

* lb. pp. 473, 485. In England each department gradually tended to buy 
its parchment where it would, and to pay for it separately, though we still find 
the fourteenth century exchequer buying parchment, etc., for the privy seal 
as well as for its own purposes ; see I.R. 397/1, and 409/7. This was in 1359 
and 1361. 


person, did not prevent their sharing in the corporate life of 
their class, for they were notaries first and secretaries afterwards. 
Drawing up the king's confidential correspondence was not 
their only function. A large number of documents emanating 
from the household required the apposition of the great seal, 
and these, it seems, were written by the secretaries, and authen- 
ticated by their signatures,^ just as the letters of great seal asked 
for by parliament and the Chambre des Comptes were prepared 
by royal notaries especially deputed to write for these services. 
Indeed the secretaries, like the other notaries, seem to have been 
liable to be told off by chancellor or king to discharge any task 
within the sphere of the great chancery. The audiencier, whose 
work to some extent corresponds to that of our clerk of the 
hanaper, was commonly a secretary and not a notary of chancery, 
although he was almost entirely concerned with chancery business. 
As a special concession, secretaries need not, unless so disposed, 
take their turn with the ordinary notaries in doing the writing 
work for the Friday sessions of the Chambre des requetes de VJidtel. 
If their occupations in the court kept them away, they were 
still entitled to have their share in the profits which the notaries 
derived from these gatherings. ^ Thus, though the French secret 
seal was no seal of chancery, the clerks who wrote for it were, 
like all other scribes of the administration, subject to the juris- 
diction of the chancellor, and, in a sense, within the chancery 

Our conclusion, then, must be that, underneath apparent 
similarities, there was a radical difference between the English 
and French administrative systems. While the former was 
worked by small groups of clerks disconnected from each other, 
and belonging to self-contained departments, the latter was 
administered by a single great corporation of writers, controlled 
by the chancellor, and even when some were set apart for work 
in a special office, they were liable to be called away from it as 

^ There is a curious instance in Morel, pp. 514-515, where is printed a 
" mandement " of the Regent Charles, of 1359, signed by a secretary, though 
under the great seal, and addressed to the " audiencier," a chancery officer. 

* Morel, p. 536, " Secretarii nostri . . . sedeant si velint, et si non sedeant, 
cum ipsi sint continue propter litteras clausas et alias multipliciter onerati, ac 
eciam impediti . . . participent cum suis sociis sedentibus in dictis lucro 
sive collationibus cartarum, ac si ipsi de facto cum eisdem sederent." 


the interests of the general service required.^ The English 
system was more individual, the French more collegiate, more 
logical, more unified. The abiding connection of the French 
government departments with the court, and the comparative 
weakness of the opposition to the central power beyond the 
Channel, help to explain the difierences in the administrative 
development of the two countries. There was hardly a French 
equivalent to the clerk of the privy seal. Much less was there 
a French equivalent to the office of the privy seal. These dis- 
similarities became increasingly evident as the fourteenth century 
grew older. The fact that the clerks of the secret seal in France 
worked in the chamber under the chamberlain made them more 
like the English chamber officers, especially the receiver of the 
chamber, who was also clerk or keeper of the secret seal. The 
chambre du roi played an even smaller part in the French system 
than Edward III.'s chamber in the English, 2 and between the 
signet and the great seal, the province of the French secret seal 
became somewhat restricted. One result of this may have been 
the slight interest shown in its conduct. Only with the organisa- 
tion of the signet office and the establishment of a specialised 
king's secretary at the head of it do we find, at last, any kind 
of English counterpart to conditions in France. The multi- 
plicity of the French secretaries and the unity of the English 
secretariat prevented the parallel from being a close one even 

We may turn from France to Scotland, whose administrative 
institutions, at their source those of a great fief, a glorified Chester 

^ We must not forget numerous English instances of clerks being borrowed 
from one department by another. But a chancery clerk lent in time of pres- 
sure to write for the privy seal remained a chancery clerk, and it was no part 
of his business to transfer himself as it would have been his official duty in 

- In the Ordonnance Cabochienne (pp. 120-121, 1891 edition), which is a 
characteristic expression of French ideals of sound government, the chamber- 
lains are those who are responsible for acts of secret seal. The secretaries 
are in innumerable cases mentioned as writing and signing the acts which the 
chancellor is to seal with the great seal. 


or Durham, were modified during the fourteenth century by- 
rulers conscious alike of Scottish nationality and Scottish inde- 
pendence. Unluckily, the only continuous Scottish records 
surviving for the centuries before the fifteenth are the exchequer 
rolls, beginning in 1264, and the register of the great seal, begin- 
ning in 1306.^ To work out the beginnings of the small seals 
of Scotland is, accordingly, difficult. Little notice has so far 
been paid to the subject of Scottish administration. Few 
Scottish historians have interested themselves in it, and fewer 
still have investigated it comparatively, though without com- 
parison little good work can be done. What is offered here is a 
mere outline, superficial and provisional, of the process by which 
the Scottish small seals seem to have developed, but if it calls 
the attention of Scottish historians to the wealth of material, 
surviving from the times of the first Stewart kings, for the study 
of the administrative history of Scotland, it will have served its 

When small seals first began to appear in Scotland is not clear. 
What is sometimes described as the secretum of Alexander III. 
is not a secretum at all, and the signetum regis Roberti, described 
as the signet of the victor of Bannockburn, may possibly not 
go back beyond Robert II. or Robert III.^ Not that there is 
anything unlikely in Alexander III. having had a privy or a 
secret seal, but there is no proof that he had. Reformers of 
Scottish administration saw the need of such a seal, as is clear 
from the plans submitted to Edward I. for the government of 
Scotland by the English " according to the ancient customs 
of the land." ^ A privy seal was to be provided, and was to be 
carried and kept by one of the wisest and most discreet of the 
realm, " for if this office be well governed, it is the key and the 

1 Eotuli Scaccarii Eegum Scotorum, I. (1264-1359), II. (1359-79) and III. 
(1379-1406) ; Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, I. (1306-1424). The basis 
of the Scottish system was the king's household, and so long did the household 
retain its control that the Scottish " exchequer rolls " are more like our ward- 
robe accounts than our exchequer enrolments. 

2 Henry Laing's Descriptive Catalogue of Impressions from Ancient Scottish 
Seals (Bannatyne Club, 1850) is the work of a seal-engraver and not a historian. 
His identifications of early seals must be regarded with some suspicion. 

^ See Mary Bateson's Scottish King's Household, where she reprinted from 
the Juridical Review of Edinburgh (1901-1902) two papers explaining and largely 
translating a manuscript in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, with suggestive 
and illuminating comments. 


safety of the great seal and the prevention of all the errors which 
can arise between the king and his baronage," ^ The chancellor 
was not to issue any writs out of chancery, except writs, of course, 
without special mandate of the king's privy seal. The date of 
the issue of this document is supposed to be about 1306, and 
the success of Robert Bruce soon swept away any chance of its 
being executed. It cannot, therefore, be regarded as evidence 
of the existence of a Scottish privy seal at that time, and sur- 
viving imprints of secretum regis Roberti may quite as well belong 
to Robert II. or Robert III. as to the great Bruce, though there 
is every probability that Robert I. established or continued the 
use of an instrument already generally familiar. ^ 

We can trace a vague succession of clerks and keepers of the 
Scottish privy seal from David II. 's time onwards.^ Some of 
these later attained high positions, notably John Lyon, keeper 
of the privy seal in 1370-76, who, though apparently a clerk 
to begin with, became thane of Glamis, married Joan, the daughter 
of king Robert II., and rose to be chamberlain of Scotland, His 
murder in 1381 is one of the most famous deeds of violence of 
the time. To be named after Lyon was Mr, Duncan Petit, 
archdeacon of Glasgow, a wardrobe clerk who acted as keeper 
of the privy seal between 1379 and 1389, and became chancellor 
of Scotland in 1398, Both these keepers of the secret seal are 
often described as acting, secretario in remotis agente, as if the 
normal keeper was the king's secretary, who later, of course, 
kept the king's signet. 

Quite clearly in the next century the two seals were distinct, 

^ This looks, at first sight, as if Edward I, had anticipated the Walton 
ordinances, or at least that those ordinances only set down what had long been 
customary, and suspicion of the document is increased by Miss Bateson's 
statement that the date of the manuscript is about 1340, two years after the 
issue of the Walton ordinances, and a time when ideal plans for the government 
of Scotland might still attract English statesmen, though there was little chance 
of their being put into operation. 

* John BaUiol had a secret seal, affixed in 1302, long after his deposition, to 
a letter addressed by him to Philip the Fair. It is described in Douet d'Arcq, 
No. 10, 254, as a round seal of 30 mm. diameter. It was a shield of arms with 
the rampant lion of Scotland. 

^ Among them were John Lyon, Duncan Petit, Walter Wardlaw, archdeacon 
of Lothian, secretary of David II. in 1364, Reginald Crawford, 1390-1400, 
and Walter Forster, 1402-1404. The best material for these early keepers and 
secretaries is in the lists of " auditores compotorum " contained in the rolls of 
the Scottish exchequer. 


for both the keeper of the secret seal and the secretary were 
normal members of the Scottish privy council.^ The separation 
of the secret seal from the chancery is proved by a separate 
enrolment of letters under the secret seal, though this is no 
longer extant, until after 1488.^ In this respect the Scottish 
office showed itself more businesslike than the English office 
of privy seal. Otherwise its methods and scope were similar 
to those of its English counterpart. The tendency to call the 
seal secret more often than privy suggests French or other 
continental influence. Before 1362 there was some sort of 
secret seal office, for in that year a payment was made to a 
" writer for the secret seal," ^ and there was besides a clericus 
rotulorum domini regis, responsible for the archives of state and 

From Scotland to the Spanish Peninsula is a far cry, but there 
are few more instructive comparisons than that between the 
small seals of England and those of the kingdom of Aragon. We 
are fortunate in possessing, in the wonderful archives of the 
crown of Aragon at Barcelona, a considerable proportion of 
which is accessible in print, abundant information as to the nature 
and operations of its small seals. For the fourteenth century, 
when English relations with the " count-kings " of Catalonia and 
Aragon were constant and intimate, we are particularly helped 
by an instructive household ordinance issued in 1344 by Peter IV. 

^ Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, i. x. (1489). 

2 Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, i., 1488-1529 (1908). The first 
entry is " Ther are the Irez that I selet sen my lordis passing to Aberdene." 
The Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum begins in 1306, and is also 

^ Rot. Scacc. Regum Scot. ii. 116, " Et Johanni de Allycrum, acribenti 
secreto sigillo, de certa conventione facta inter ipsum et dominum regem de 
terminis retroactis, xx K." 

* lb. This officer, the Scottish equivalent to the English " custos rotu- 
lorum cancellarie," was also a permanent member of the Scottish king's 


the Ceremonious. In many ways this invites contrast and 
comparison with Edward II.'s household ordinance of 1318.^ 
The main difierence between them is that while Edward IL's 
ordinances were concerned only with household offices, excluding 
altogether chancery and treasury, every branch of the adminis- 
tration of the state was dealt with in Peter's legislation. The 
explanation of this difference lies in the fact that the whole 
government of the Aragonese kingdom was vested in the house- 
hold, the throne and court being the only things in common, 
and, save in relation to them, the chief elements of Peter's 
realm, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and Mallorca, were absolutely 
cut off from each other, mth their separate estates, laws and 
traditions. Accordingly Peter's ordinances group the Aragonese 
state under the heads of the household offices, dealing respectively 
with the mayordomens, the chief officers, and the offices of the 
camarlenchs, the canceller and the maistre racional, corresponding 
to our chamberlains, chancellor and treasurer. 

Numerous as were the small seals of Edward III., those of 
his Aragonese contemporary were at least equally complicated, 
while Peter's great seals were far less simple than the great seals 
of Edward III. Peter had in the course of his reign three or 
four different types of great seal, including a bulla of gold, a 
bulla of lead, a great seal of majesty and a " common seal " 
{sello comun). All these were, as is natural, kept by the king's 
chancellor, who was assisted by a numerous and elaborately 
organised staff, described in detail in the section of the ordinances 

^ These "Ordenacions fetes per lo molt alt senyor En Pere Terc Rey Darago, 
sobra lo regiment de tots los officials de la sua cort," were printed in 1850 by 
P. de Bofarull y Mascaro in Coleccion de Documentos ineditos del Archivo general 
de la Corona de Aragon t. v. pt. ii. pp. 7-266. Like Edward II.'s ordinances, 
they were issued during a contest between king and barons, but the victories of 
Boroughbridge (1322) and Epila (1348) soon turned in each case the scales in the 
king's favour. Edward's triumph was of brief duration, while Peter was able 
to rule on the lines laid down by his ordinances until his death in 1387. For 
comments on the ordinances see notably Finke, Acta Aragonensia, i.-iii., especially 
the illuminating introduction to vol. i. A systematic study of the Aragonese 
household was published in 1914 by Dr. Finke's pupil, K. Schwartz, in his 
Aragonische Hofordnungen im 13. und 14. Jahrhundert, one of the Abhandlungen 
zur mittleren und neueren Oeschichte. For the seals see also F. de Sagarra y de 
Siscar, Apuntes para un estudio de los sellos del Rey Don Pedro IV. de Aragon 
(1895), and the same writer's magnificent and richly illustrated Sigillografia 
Gatalana (1916), which contains full descriptions and numerous photographs of 


dealing with the chancellor.^ With this may be usefully com- 
pared the English chancery ordinance of 1388-89.2 The employ- 
ment of red wax for all these seals of chancery emphasised to 
contemporary opinion the fact that they too were household 

The earliest of the Aragonese small seals can be traced back 
to the days of James 11. (1291-1327), but they had become 
numerous and important by the time of Peter the Ceremonious. 
They are dealt with in his household ordinance in the section 
treating of the duties of the chamberlains (camarlenchs), who 
were two in number so that one could be away from court if 
necessary. The chamberlains' chief charge was the custody of 
the king's person and the king's chamber. Both were knights, 
and when both were together at court, one took precedence over 
the other and had the keeping of the secret seals, a care which 
in his absence passed to his colleague. The modesty of the king's 
secretarial work is indicated by the fact that there were only 
two clerks in the secretarial office. They not only wrote the 
king's secret letters and all documents sealed by the secret seal, 
but also saw to their registration, even registering letters written 
by the king's own hand, " if that be our will." They had, as 
well, to act as clerks of the king's council, and were, therefore, 
required to be " good and sufficient notaries for the office of the 
secretariat." One of them was always to be in attendance at 
court. Thus, the stafi of the secret seal on duty at any one time 
consisted of one chamberlain to direct the work of the office and 

^ Ordenacions, pp. 208-211, " de la manera de sagellar ab segells de cera e 
ab bulla." The chancellor (canceller), who was responsible for the great seals, 
was normally a bishop or archbishop and a doctor of laws. Under him was a 
vice-chancellor, " lo qual sia doctor en leys apres lo canceller sia posat, qui no 
ligat de negun ligam de sacre orde per tal que 90 que per aventura per lo canceller 
en cas que fos archebisbe o bisbe o altre prelat o clergue, qui en criminals coses 
fer no poria, per aquest sia supplit " ; ib. p. 113. Compare Finke, Acta 
Aragonensia, i. xliv-v, " Vir fidelis et sapiens et in jure civili peritus . . . 
vinculo alicuius sacri ordinis minime alligatus ; ut si forte quid per cancellarium 
in crimininalibus fieri non poterit, per istum suppleatur." There was also a 
protonotary to compose and register the letters, to whom apparently the actual 
care of the seal normally pertained. There were also permanent and assistant 
scribes (scribans), messengers and a " calfudor de la cera " for pendant seals. 
The latter also provided paper covers for the seals stamped on paper documents. 
Very elaborate rules for seaUng with each of the chancery seals are also given. 

* See above, iii. 443-446, and B. Wilkinson's Chancery under Edward III., 
pp. 217-223 (M.U.P.), where a good text of the ordinances can be read. 


one secretary to write, seal and register the acts. Simplicity 
in administration could go no further. Some, but not all, of the 
secretaries were important enough to have seats on the king's 
council along with the chancellor, vice - chancellor and the 

Peter IV. 's grandfather, James II., who reigned over Aragon 
from 1291 to 1327, was the first Aragonese sovereign who is 
known to have had a secret seal. No impression of this has been 
preserved, but we know that it was much smaller than any of 
the three great seals which he possessed,^ and that it was especially 
used for mandates. It accompanied him on his journeys when 
he left his great seals behind him. Besides this secret or privy 
seal, James II. had a sigillum annuli nostri secretum, which 
doubtless stood to his secret seal as Edward III.'s secret seal 
stood to his privy seal, and was the forerunner of the signets. 
Thus, these smaller instruments made their appearance almost 
simultaneously in England, France and Aragon. 

For Peter IV.'s long reign (1336-87), the small seals of 
Aragon may be completely studied. Modern Catalan anti- 
quaries recognise that the king always had more than one 
of them at his command. There was, for instance, the lesser 
and the greater secret seal, the segell secret menor and the 
segell secret mayor. Besides these, Peter possessed a secrecius 
sigillum, nostre segell pus secret.^ All these were kept by the 
chamberlain and were often used to authorise the chancellor 
or protonotary to use one of the great seals. ^ The secret seals 
were not always with the king, for when Peter left Barcelona 
for a time in 1358, his secret seal remained there with his secretary. 
Besides them, Peter had a personal signet, his sello del anillo, 
which he kept in his own custody, and sometimes used when 
directing his chamberlain to employ one of the secret seals. It 
was regarded as expressing the personal wish of the king, and was 
therefore, like its English equivalents, employed as a warrant 
to the chancellor as well as to the secretary. The chancellor 
was forbidden to seal letters of perpetual privilege or grants of 
jurisdiction and lands, unless he had received verbal orders from 

^ Finke, i. Ixxxviii-ix. 

2 Sagarra, Apuntez para un estudio de los sellos de Don Pedro I V., pp. 123-124. 
* Sagarra, p. 160, quotes an instance of a letter of secret seal, ordering the 
protonotary to seal a document with the bull of gold. 



the royal mouth, or a mandate sealed by the segell de nostre 


The ordinary secret seal was, as we might expect, a " seal of 
arms." The sello del anillo was octagonal in shape, each side 
measuring only 5 mm.^ In the exclusive use of paper before 
the end of the thirteenth century for the documents issued under 
the small seals, the Aragonese were far in advance of England. 
Paper was also used by them to a fair extent for documents issued 
from chancery. As in every other country, so in Aragon, red 
was the appropriate colour for the wax employed for the secret 
seals, though the red lost much of its symbolical value since it 
was, as we have seen, employed for the seals of chancery as well " 
Red was also a colour of distinction in the Empire, whose greatest 
magnates did not scruple to obtain charters extending to them 
permission to use that colour.^ 

To the student of English administration the most interesting 
point of likeness between England and Aragon is the separate 
custody of the great and small seals, for he is not blinded by the 
continental habit of describing any sealing office as a chancery. 
That habit is responsible for the frequent and gratuitous as- 
sumption that all seals were in consequence necessarily under 
the control of the " chancery," an assumption which postulates 
a unity of secretarial organisation that, despite the example of 
France, is the exception rather than the rule.^ An excellent 
corrective to this erroneous opinion can be found in the fact 

1 Ordenacions of 1344, u.s. p. 115. 

2 Sagarra, u.s. plate ix. No. 17. ' See above, p. 154. 

* Bresslau, Urkundenlehre, p. 933 (1889). The habitual use of red wax in 
the imperial chancery began with Richard of Cornwall. 

5 A survival of this point of view causes so careful a scholar as Dr. K. 
Schwartz to write such sentences as the following : " Geradezu eine Ausnahme- 
steUung nehmen in der koniglichen Cambra die scrivans secrefaris ein. Sie 
unterstehen dem Camerlench, dem alles, was zur Cambra gehort, zu Gehorsam 
verpflichtet ist, aber auf ihre Tatigkeit hat der Camerlench so gut wie keinen 
Einfluss," and " Die Scrivans Secretaris gehoren ihrem Amte nach zur Kanzlei, 
und ihrer Tatigkeit nach zur Cambra." Yet his own facts show that there was 
a completely organised, though very small, " secretariat " for the small seals, 
and a similar one for the financial seal. But he cannot get out of his mind 
the idea that there must be a " chancery " which either did, or ought to, deal 
with all sealing. Professor Finke is similarly influenced. Rightly emphasising 
the independence of the secret seal of the chancellor, he yet speaks of it as a 
" Zweig der Kanzlei," when his facts prove the contrary. Even in Bresslau's 
great Urkundenlehre, there is more than a suggestion of the same idea ; see 
below, p. 158, n. 1. 


that in the fourteenth century in Castile the secretarial organisa- 
tion in charge of the secret seal was actually called the " chancery 
of the secret seal," and was clearly distinct from the office ad- 
ministering the great seal. 

In documents of the most formal nature the keeper of the 
Castilian small seal was given the title of chancellor of the secret 
seal. Thus in 1362 Matthew Fernandez, sigilli secreti domini regis 
cancellarius el in omnibus regnis suis notarius, reduced to " public 
form " a treaty of alliance between Peter the Cruel and Edward 
III.i Again, a further treaty and other pacts between the same 
CastUian king and the Black Prince in 1366-67 were subscribed 
on the part of the former by the same Mathaeus Fernandi, can- 
cellarius secreti sigilli domini regis, "^ a formula which in other 
documents is varied into chanceller de nostre priue seal and can- 
cellarius nostri regis Castellae jprivati sigilli.^ Another holder 
of the same office appears later in the correspondence of Peter's 
supplanter, Henry of Trastamare, with the Black Prince. This 
claimant to the throne of Castile wrote to Edward on the eve 
of Najera under his secret seal,* and a few months later Henry's 
alliance with Louis of Anjou against the English was witnessed, 
among others, by the chancellor of his secret seal.^ We must 
not overstress these titles, knowing, as we do, that two English 
keepers of the privy seal, Kilsby and Winwick, were called 
chancellors in formal documents because they happened at the 
moment to be keeping their master's great seal along with the 
privy seal in parts beyond the sea.^ There is obviously need 
of a more meticulous comparison of the custody of the small 
seals in England and Castile than can be attempted here. The 

1 Foedera, iii. 672, 674. In 1364 M. Fernandez, still chancellor of the secret 
seal, witnessed a ratification of the alliance, " nostro regio sigillo plumbeo et 
propria manu nostra signatus." Twenty years earlier, the negotiators for the 
marriage of Edward III.'s daughter, Joan, to Peter in his youth, included, not 
the chancellor of the secret seal, but the chancellor of Castile ; ib. iii. 22, 26, 46. 

2 Ib. iii. 800, 802-807, 821. 

3 Ib. pp. 801-803 and 825, where the " puritatis " is surely a misreading 
for " priuati." Was the substitution of " privy " for " secret " a concession 
to English usage ? In the index of the Record Commission Foedera counsel 
is darkened by Matthew Fernandez being simply described as chancellor. 

* Delachenal, iii. 557. 

5 Ib. iii. 562, " Gometio Garcie, cancellario sigilli secreti domini regis." 
By a regrettable slip, when referring to this passage above, i. 155, n. 1, I wrote 
" king of Aragon " when I ought to have written " king of Castile." 

« See above, iii. 87, 226. 


administration of fourteenth century Castile does not, in fact, seem 
to have been studied so thoroughly as that of contemporary 
Aragon, and there is no real Castilian counterpart to the mediaeval 
archives of Barcelona. 

We must resist the temptation to wander further in unfamiliar 
fields by attempting other comparisons between the English 
small seals and their foreign equivalents. The subject is the 
more attractive since so little attention has apparently been paid 
to it. In the standard manuals of the last generation, such as 
those of Bresslau and Giry, the small seals themselves receive 
little attention, and the problems of their custody, operation 
and relation to the " chancery " of the great seals have hardly 
been raised outside France. Giry's work leaves little to be 
desired, and it has since been amplified by Morel, but although 
Giry knew all that was necessary as to the French secretum, his 
curiosity scarcely extended beyond his own country. Bresslau, 
while recognising that the judicial seals of the empire were kept 
independently of the imperial chancery, has nothing to say about 
the custody of the small seals, and most students of his book 
would conclude that they were kept in the chancery, just like 
the great seals.^ It looks as if little precise information were 
procurable. Certain it is that the organisation of the custody 
and administration of those seals came long after their first 
appearance in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. 
Another conspicuous small seal, the famous fisherma.n's ring, 
the secretmn of the papacy, was already employed by the middle 
of the thirteenth century under Clement IV. in 1265,^ but it 
was not until nearly two centuries later that the organised office 
for the issuing of briefs under the fisherman's ring was established, 
in the days of Eugenius IV., and put under a specially appointed 

^ See, for instance, Urkundenlehre, p. 949, where he distinguishes between 
" die eigentliche Secreten, die der Obhut der Kanzleibeamten anvertraut waren " 
and " die wirkliche Geheimsiegel — zumeist Rings — die der Siegelbesitzer selbst 
in personlichem Gewahrsam behielt." The distinction of secret seals and signets 
is, of course, sound, as is the view that the latter were in the personal custody 
of their possessor. But the tacit assumption that " secreta " were normally 
chancery seals is surely beyond the mark, whatever may have obtained in the 

2 Giry, p. 692, gives early instances, e.g. in 1263 a letter to kinsmen and 
familiars was issued, " non . . . sub bulla, sed sub piscatoris sigillo quo Romani 
Pontifices in suis secretis utuntur." It was already, therefore, of some standing, 
and perhaps one of the earliest of secret seals. 


cardinal secretary for briefs. ^ Other sniall seals may be assumed 
to have had a similar experience. 

In conclusion we may, perhaps, again emphasise the fact, 
already often stated, that a study of the small seals gives valu- 
able evidence of the similar origin of most mediaeval adminis- 
trative institutions and of their similar, roughly simultaneous, 
development in different lands. This similarity of origin and 
development needs to be emphasised the more because we are 
still apt to read back into the institutions of the middle ages a 
" national " element of which those times were themselves utterly 
unconscious. The late appearance of these " secrets " and 
" signets " does not prevent their having a common origin in 
the ruler's household. Indeed, partly because they were so 
late a growth, except in a few of the more advanced states, they 
hardly ever got out of the household. In this, as in other matters, 
conditions, experience, ideals and the general methods of realising 
them, were much the same in every country, and we must be on 
our guard against allowmg national self-complacency to see 
something unique and local in organisations which originated 
and developed in much the same ways all over western Europe. 
In every state of any importance, the late thirteenth and early 
fourteenth centuries saw the growth of the two types of " small 
seals " — the privy or secret, which we have already discussed, 
and the more intimate secret or signet, best represented perhaps 
by the signet ring, which we shall consider for England in our 
next chapter. 

Neither in origin nor in development can the two types be 
separated absolutely. They were invariably, and in a special 
sense, household seals, even in lands where the household origin 
of the chancery had been almost forgotten. Such " secret seals " 
grew up not only in the great kingdoms but also in all the smaller 
states, and in the households of subjects as well as in the estab- 
lishments of monarchs. Under Charles II. the Angevin kings 
of Naples had not only a small secret seal, but also some sort of 
special registration for letters sealed by it.^ The fourteenth 

^ Giry, pp. 699-701, where a reproduction of the fisherman's ring seal is given, 
showing how it, like the ordinary " privy seal," was used to close the letter. 

* See Inventatio cronologico dei Registri Angioini, pp. 67, 195-208. There 
was a " quaternus litterarum sigillatarum sigillo paruo secreto." I am indebted 
for this reference to Dr. Margaret Toynbee. 


century nobleman in England came to use his one-faced " privy- 
seal " constantly, and his two-faced great seal less and less. The 
more conservative-minded and tradition-loving magnates of the 
church, while adopting the new fashion, yet retained the old. 
Up to the last century the archbishop of Canterbury had his 
two-faced great seal, his one-faced small seal, and his signet, the 
last of which only in recent times ceased to be used for official 
acts of minor importance. To this day every English bishop 
has his great and his small seals. 

Wherever there was the secret seal, there was the chamberlain 
its keeper, except in England. The indisposition of fourteenth 
century England to entrust the custody of a seal to lay hands 
made it the one exception to the rule, though the chamber clerk 
keeper, acting under the chamberlain, was not a remarkably 
different development. Not only in France and in Aragon, but 
also in the great fiefs of the French and Imperial crowns, the first 
chamberlain was constantly associated with the custody of the 
secret seal, as, for example, in the Netherlandish dominions of 
the Valois dukes of Burgundy.^ So, too, did the chamberlain 
of the count of Holland keep the count's secret seal.^ Almost 
equally general with the assignment to the chamberlain of the 
charge of the secret seal was the tendency to make that charge 
independent of the chancellor. 

^ See above, iv. 263, and G. Huydt's article in the Melanges Henri Pirenne, 
pp. 264-265. 

* See J. Cuvelier, Les Origines de la fortune de la maison d' Orange- Nassau, 
Acad. Royale de Belgique, Classes des Lettres et Sciences morales et politiques. 
2« s^rie, t. xvi., fasc. ii., 1921. 




The Secret Seals 

A new phenomenon presents itself early in the fourteenth century. 
Side by side with the privy seal we find that there existed a 
" secret seal " which is demonstrably different from it. 

In the thirteenth century the phrase " secret seal " only 
occasionally occurs in English records, and it is pretty certain 
that for the greater part it was merely a synonym for privy seal. 
Even when this particular seal came to be invariably described 
as priuatum we must never forget that its matrix had the word 
secretum, not the word 'priuatum, engraved upon it.^ In much 
the same way the French king's sceau du secret was sometimes 
accidentally described as his sceau prive. More commonly the 
terms " secret " and " privy " were used interchangeably to 
describe the small seals of individual English magnates. The 
wonder is that the royal secretum was so seldom called secret seal 
in English official documents. When the word secret was used, 
it was generally in addressing foreign chanceries, which in their 
turn sometimes described the English privy seal as a secret seal. 
This confusion of privy and secret continued all through the four- 
teenth century, and we have constantly to be on our guard 
against it. Moreover, we shall frequently have to note that, even 
when rare or non-existent in insular records, it survived in the 

^ The " secretum argenti quod fuit regis Henrici, patris regis Edwardi," 
preserved among the wardrobe jewels in 28 Edw. I., was most probably a 
privy seal ; L.Q.G. p. 351. It was, I believe, the seal stolen from the wardrobe 
treasury in 1303 ; see above, i. 290. 

VOL. V 161 M 

162 THE SECRET SEALS ch. xvh 

loose speech of chroniclers, and not seldom in official corre- 
spondence from the papal curia. 

A different practice arose in the last years of the reign of 
Edward I., in the use of a secret seal as a cachet, or stamp, for 
sealing up documents, in a fashion suggestive of this secret seal 
being different from the privy seal employed to authenticate 
them. Possibly the introduction of the practice may be put even 
earlier. We have seen that on November 18, 1234, Henry III. 
issued a mandate to the treasurer of the New Temple to 
deliver to Hubert de Burgh certain charters and muniments 
belonging to Hubert which the king had committed to the 
Templars' custody in divers boxes " under the secret seal." ^ 
These boxes may have been secured from observation by a 
cachet called the secret seal, but the privy seal might equally 
well have been used for that purpose, and secret seal here may be 
simply a variant for privy seal. Whatever is the real explanation, 
it would be rash to argue from an isolated occurrence. 

Among the chancery warrants, towards the end of the reign 
of Edward I., we find not only writs of privy seal properly so 
called, but various documents transmitted by the king to his 
chancellor, as means of helping him to draft the instrument 
which the writ of privy seal had ordered him to prepare. Con- 
spicuous among these enclosures are the petitions which gave 
rise to the writ of privy seal. It often saved trouble to transmit 
a lengthy petition along with a short writ of privy seal directing 
the chancellor to base his letters or writ upon the petition. The 
first petition preserved among the chancery warrants owes its 
preservation to such circumstances. ^ 

No sooner had the fashion of transmitting enclosures become 
common than the habit of sealing up these enclosures under the 
secret seal was formed. The first surviving example of this is 
found in a writ of October 6, 1291, in which Edward I. informed 
his chancellor that Oliver Sutton, bishop of Lincoln, had ap- 

1 Above, i. 290 and n. 1. C.P.R., 1232-47, p. 81. 

2 C.W. 2/121. The writ of privy seal is ib. 2/120 : " Rex dilectis clericis 
suis," etc., ordering " quod, inspecta petitione interclusa, scribatis justiciariis 
Hibernie tenorem responsionis quam invenietis in dorso petitionis predicte." 
This is dated Carnarvon, August 13, 1283 ; of. 2/171 which encloses 2/172, 
letters patent of the nuns of Godstow, dated November 1283 ; cf. ib. 3/235, 
246, " litteras quas vobis mittimus presentibus interclusas," and 4/318. 


pointed an abbot of St. Mary's in the Fields, Leicester, by his 
letters patent, quas vobis transmittiynus sigillo nostro secreto con- 
signatas.^ Other similar examples survive from only a slightly 
later date.^ Subsequently, we have evidence of a similar practice 
in France, but there the seal used as a cachet for enclosures was 
the ordinary secretum, the French equivalent for the English 
king's privy seal.^ 

We have not sufficient evidence to determine whether the 
secret seal thus employed as a cachet was, or was not, the same 
as the privy seal. None of the early enclosures bears clear traces 
of the imprint of a seal, and although some of the later ones do, 
the impress is exactly the same size, namely 1 inch, as the privy 
seal of Edward L* A further difficulty arises from the fact that, 

^ C.W. 4/357. There may have been an earlier instance of the same 
practice in a writ quoted in Avesbury, pp. 291-294, dated 1291. It is addressed 
by Edward I. to the dean and chapter of St. Paul's, and enclosed letters of 
submission by the Scots, sent " sub sigillo secretarii nostri presentibus appenso." 
The writ, tested by the treasurer, looks like an exchequer writ. Perhaps the 
formula should rather run " sub sigillo secreto nostro," or " nostri secreti." 
It is hard to conceive of a secretary keeping a seal in 1291, unless it be the 
privy seal. 

^ lb. 4/380, " Edwardus, etc., cancellario, etc. Quia recepimus homagium 
dilecti et fidelis nostri Radulphi de Gorges pro terris et tenementis de quibus 
Elena de Gorges defuncta, que de nobis tenuit in capite, f uit saisita in dominico 
8U0 ut de feodo die quo obiit, eo quod idem Radulphus proximus heres eius 
est, et plene etatis existit, prout nobis constat per recordum inquisitionis inde 
facte quam nobis sub sigillo vestro transmisistis, et quam vobis remittimus 
sigiUo nostro secreto consignatam, vobis mandamus quod per breue nostrum 
magno sigillo nostro consignatum, terras et tenementa predicta prefato Radul- 
pho sine dilatione deliberari mandetis, prout in casu consimili alias fieri con- 
sueuit. Datum sub priuato sigillo nostro apud Farndon, v. die Martii, anno 
regni nostri vicesimo " (March 5, 1292) ; cf. ib. 5/384, 389, 394, 396 and 401. 

3 Ordonnances des rois de France, i. 670, from a household ordinance of 
Philip V. of November 16, 1318, which commands that the receivers of letters 
of request for justices " baiUeront a cell de nos chambellans qui portera le 
seel de nostre secret, et il les enclosera sous iceluy seal." 

* C.W. 20/1883, an inquest forwarded, "sigillo nostro secreto signatam," 
December 29, 1300. This has a 25 mm. seal print on the back ; ib. 2023 a 
letter of the canons of Northampton, dated January 7, 1300, forwarded along 
with no. 2032, " sigillo nostro secreto signatas," which also seems to have had a 
25 mm. seal on its back ; ib. nos. 2058 and 2059. Later instances tell the same 
ambiguous tale, e.g. C.W. 53/5259 (33 Ed. I.) ; ib. 55/5464, a petition trans- 
mitted " sigillo nostro secreto signatam," dated March 6, 1306, has on its back 
a 24 mm. red seal imprint, exactly the same size as the privy seal imprint on 
no. 5463. So also have ib. 56/5532 and 5533 dated November 18, 1306. Not 
only the "secret seal " of the king was thus used, but those of individual magnates 
or officials were similarly employed as a cachet. For an instance see Roles 
Gascons, iii. 342-343, where Edward I. asks his brother Edmund of Lancaster, 
then his lieutenant in Gascony, to transmit certain documents to the count 

164 THE SECRET SEALS ch. xvn 

numerous as are the surviving documents transmitted under tlie 
secret seal, there are also a fair number of enclosures forwarded 
under the privy seal. For example, on November 3, 1300, the 
king sent from Carlisle to his chancellor quandam inquisitionem 
priuato sigillo nostro consignatam, and later on a number of other 
inquisitions were similarly transmitted.^ Among them was one 
sent sigillo nostro secreto consignatam.^ Moreover, a writ of 1293, 
ordering the chancellor to seal with the great seal certain letters 
indusas 'preseyitihus secreto sigillo nostro signatis, is definitely 
described as sub dido sigillo nostro priuato.'^ 

Sir Henry Maxwell -Lyte regards the writ last quoted as 
settling the question,* but it is, perhaps, unsafe to throw the 
weight of proof on a single instance. My own conclusion is that, 
in the face of such obscure and conflicting testimony, it is im- 
possible to say definitely that there existed in the latter years of 
Edward I. a secret seal which was different from the privy seal. 
The probability leans slightly in favour of privy and secret still 
being two names for the same thing, as they certainly were under 
John and Henry III.^ If there was a separate secret seal, it was 
used exclusively as a cachet. 

Under Edward II. our doubts as to the identity of the secret 
and privy seal become gradually resolved.^ It is true that some 
confusion of privy and secret continues throughout the reign, and 
that there are notable instances of it in the manifestos of the 

of Savoy and others, " per litteraa patentes, vestro at eorundem consulendorum 
sigillis pendentibus sigillatas et postmodum sub vestro sigillo secreto inter- 
clusas." Here a document under pendant seal is hidden away under secret seal. 

1 C.W. 22/2189b; cf. ib. 22/2193, Nov. 7, 1300, which speaks of a tran- 
script having been sent to the chancellor " desouz nostre priue seal." Ib. 
22/2208a relates to an inquest sent " priuato sigillo nostro consignatam " 
from Rose Castle, Nov. 15, 1300 (this has a 25 mm. seal on the back). Ib. 
22/2208d, dated Oct. 14, 1300, relates to inquests " priuato nostro sigillo 
consignatas." Ib. 22/2210, dated Nov. 15, 1300, relates to an inquisition 
" priuato sigillo nostro consignatam." 

2 76. 22/221 la. This is dated Nov. 16, 1300, the day after the date of 22/2210. 

3 Ib. 5/421. 

* " This appears to be decisive as to the identity of the secret seal with the 
privy seal in 1293 " ; Maxwell-Lyte, p. 101. 

^ They meant the same also in May 1300, when Ralph Stokes, clerk of the 
great wardrobe, produced before the fair-court of St. Ives, " aliam literam 
patentem secreto sigillo domini regis signatam " ; Gross, Select Cases on the 
Law Merchant, i. 76, Selden Soc. 

« See also above ii. 291-292, 297, 324-325. 


baronial opposition. Thus the barons, in their well-known 
assembly at Sherburn in Elmet, in 1321, drew up a document in 
which they spoke of the custos sigilli secreti, when it is perfectly 
certain that they meant the keeper of the privy seal.^ And a 
little later, in July 1321, the articles against the Despensers 
accused them of appointing as secreti sigilli custos Robert Baldock,^ 
whom we know to have been then keeper of the privy seal. 
Moreover, during the early years of Edward II. a large number 
of documents were transmitted from king to chancellor enclosed 
under the privy seal. 

A new type of document is seen in 1312-13, and may well 
have had an earlier origin. Examples are extant in the series of 
chancery warrants which now begins with file 1328. This file 
1328 is exclusively devoted to " warrants under the secret seal." 
The earliest in date are five writs of the sixth year of Edward II., 
July 1312 to July 1313. These are followed by the more nimierous 
warrants of the immediately succeeding years. The first of the 
series is a mandate of the king to the chancellor, Walter Reynolds, 
bishop of Worcester, that he should amend letters, presenting 
clerks to certain benefices, in accordance with the changes which 
the king had made in letters already sent by the chancellor for 
the royal approval. It is donez souz nostre secre seal au pare de 
Windesores, and dated February 8, 1313.^ There are a sufl&cient 
number of documents so authenticated in the immediately sub- 
sequent months to show that this was no isolated phenomenon.* 

In appearance and method of fastening, writs and letters of 
secret seal are exactly similar to the ordinary privy seals of the 
period. Yet three circumstances make it demonstrable that 
this " secret seal " was something different from the privy seal. 

^ Bridlington, p. 63. 

^ lb. pp. 66-67. This usage did not quite die out till the end of the four- 
teenth century ; see below, p. 177. 

3 C.W. 1328/1. It is worth noting here that the detailed wages of " nuncii " 
bearing letters in the period February- July 1311, contain no reference to 
" letters under secret seal " ; MS. Tanner, 197. In 1313 they were a novelty. 

* The distribution of instruments under "secret seal" in the file is nos. 
1-5, 6, Ed. II. ; nos. 6-34, 7 Edw. II. ; nos. 35-104, 8 Ed. II. ; nos. 105-111, 
9 Ed. II. ; nos. 112-114, 10 Ed. II. ; nos. 115-126, 11 Ed. II. ; but a large 
number are under the seal of the queen and other persons, for example of " our 
dear valet," Oliver of Bordeaux. Some examples of these are printed in 
Deprez. See also A.C. xlv. nos. 176, 177, 207, for correspondence with the 
earl of Pembroke in 1313, et seq. 

166 THE SECRET SEALS ch. xvn 

Firstly, the size of the seal is not the same. We have seen 
Edward II. 's privy seal was 28-30 mm. in diameter. The im- 
pressions of his secret seal vary from 26-28 mm., so that while 
they cannot always be clearly distinguished from impressions 
of the privy seal, they are, as a rule, slightly smaller.^ 

If, however, a matter of 2 mm. is a difference rather too fine for 
certainty, the second circumstance admits of no doubt whatever. 
The same file contains a writ under the secret seal, dated May 
13, 1318, addressed to the keeper of the privy seal, instructing 
him to draw up " such letters as are appropriate " to announce 
to the monks of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, that the king has 
given to one of his clerks a corrody which Robert Conseye, 
deceased, had held in their house.^ This is manifestly an order 
to draw up a letter under the privy seal, and cannot, therefore, 
have been authenticated by that seal. Yet conclusive as is its 
testimony, we are further bewildered by finding an undoubted 
writ of secret seal ordering the chancellor, on June 15, 1322, to 
draw up a letter under the great seal granting Ralph Basset of 
Drayton the manors of Hambledenand Market Overton, Rutland,^ 
forfeited by Bartholomew Badlesmere. In the patent roll of 
the year this patent is described as originating " by privy seal." * 
So it looks as if the chancery ofiicials still did not think the 
difference between privy and secret seals sufficiently important 
to take pains to avoid confusing the one with the other. Again, 
on the same file is a writ of secret seal, dated at Yarm, October 

1 M. Deprez says (op. cit. p. 74) : " Le diametre du sceau (secret) 0-035 est 
plus petit que celui du sceau prive." The fact is precise, but the measurement 
of the seal at this date is erroneous. In the same passage M. Deprez, as often 
elsewhere, attributes certain characteristics to the secret seal without noting 
specifically that they are equally true of the privy seal. 

2 C.W. 1328/4686. See, for the text, above, ii. 297. 

3 C.W., 1329/6053. 

* C.P.R., 1321-24, p. 135. The patent, arising from another secret seal 
act of June 14 (C.W. 1329/6052), is rightly enrolled as " by writ of secret seal " ; 
C.P.E., 1321-24, p. 133, and indeed doubly enrolled, for the act of ib. pp. 183-184 
clearly also refers to the same document. It is possible that there was also a 
privy seal drawn up, as there certainly was sometimes (e.g. C.W. 1330/4772 is 
a secret seal of August 5, 1321, dated Clipstone and addressed to the chancellor, 
which gave rise to a patent, also dated August 5, 1321, described as warranted 
" by privy seal " in C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 164). The original letter of secret seal 
refers the chancellor for further particulars to a letter of privy seal " sicome a- 
piert plus pleinement par lettres souz nostre priue seal queles vous en vendront." 
Clearly then a letter of privy seal was sent to the chancellor as well as the writ 
of secret seal. 


7, 1322, addressed to Baldock, only described as archdeacon of 
Middlesex, but actually keeper of the privy seal at the time, 
ordering him to direct the keepers of the great seal to prepare 
a writ to restore certain contrariant lands to a repentant clerical 
rebel. 1 This privy seal is not, so far as I know, in existence, 
but a letter close, dated at the same place and day, instructs 
the keepers of contrariant lands in Wiltshire to make this restitu- 
tion. This writ is warranted " by the king on the information 
of Master Robert Baldock." It is curious that no secret seal 
warranty should be mentioned. The phrase rather suggests 
that Baldock either sent the secret seal to the chancery or saved 
himself trouble by repeating the order by word of mouth. 

The third certain proof of the secret and privy seals being 
now different is the fact that, on July 19, 1314, Edward II., then 
at York, issued writs under his secret seal, though on the same 
day he was forced to issue writs of privy seal under the privy 
seal of queen Isabella, because his own privy seal was not avail- 
able,2 being in fact in the hands of the Scots. Clearly Edward 11. 
had his secret seal with him when he had not his privy seal. 

During the next few years the differentiation between secret 
and privy seals becomes even clearer. The keepership of the 
privy seal was now, as we have seen, a definite office, and the 
long tenure of it by Robert Baldock, archdeacon of Middlesex, 
supplies several examples of the separation of the two small seals 
from each other. The earliest instance is a writ under secret 
seal, dated June 15, 1322, in which Edward II. instructed his 
" dear clerk " Baldock to draw up letters addressed to the sheriffs 
of Oxon. and Bucks, to seize a certain malefactor.^ The im- 
plication is here obvious that Baldock was being ordered, as 
keeper, to issue a writ of privy seal to that effect. This mandate 
was soon followed by the first document which, on the face of it, 
is necessarily a writ under secret seal ordering the keeper of the 

1 C.W. 1329/59 ; see below, p. 168. 

2 lb. 1328/56, 57 ; July 19, York, " datum sub secreto sigillo nostro," 
and " donne souz nostre seal secret " ; and ib. 58, July 19, York, " datum 
sub priuato sigiUo Isabelle regine Anglie, consortis nostre carissime, priuato 
sigillo nostro a nobis remote. " This file contains many writs authenticated 
thus by Isabella's privy seal. 

* Ib. 1329/6055. The regnal year is not given, but the presence of the 
king at Hathelseye, where an undoubted act of 1322 also dated June 15 
{ib. 6053) was issued, makes the year pretty certain. 

168 THE SECRET SEALS ch. xvii 

privy seal to draw up a writ of privy seal in order to procure a 
writ under the great seal. This is the writ of October 7, 1322, 
to which we have just referred.^ Three years later, a writ of 
secret seal associated the chancellor himself, Baldock, with the 
keeper of the privy seal in drawing up a letter of privy seal.^ 

Clearly, then, in the latter part of Edward II. 's reign the secret 
seal was in constant use. Perhaps its most significant appear- 
ance was on documents dealing with matters which the king 
specially wished to be carried through for personal reasons. 
Thus, in 1324, Edward sent a writ of secret seal to the barons 
of the exchequer, in the course of which he informed them that 
he wrote under the secret seal in order that they might know 
he had the particular business nearly at heart. ^ Nor was it 
only for such purposes that Edward II. used the secret seal 
where his father would have used the privy seal. Ordinary 
mandates of original force were in Baldock's days largely authen- 
ticated by secret seal. Thus, in 1322 and 1323, we find the king 
communicating directly under secret seal with the pope, with 
the bishop of Winchester, who was at Avignon, with the queen, 
with his niece, lady Despenser, and her husband, the younger 
Hugh, his chamberlain, with the officers of the crown and house- 
hold, and with the merchants of the society of the Bardi.* The 

1 Above, p. 167. It is, perhaps, worth transcribing for its form, if not 
for its substance. " Edward," etc., " a nostre cher clerc, mestre Robert de 
Baldok, ercediakne de Middlesex, saluz. Nous vous mandoms qe par lettres 
Bouz nostre priue seal facez maunder en couenable forme as gardeins de nostre 
graunt seal, quils, par bref souz meisme nostre seal, facent maunder au vis- 
counte de Wiltes. et a Robert de Hungerford, gardeins des terras forfaites a 
nous en dit countez, qe des deux carues do terre od les appurtenaunces en Lye 
et Bisshopestre en meisme le counte, les queux Johan de Bradeford, chappe- 
lein, ad purchace a terme de sa vie du priour de Farlegh' et de I'abbesse de Lacok 
pur un certein rendaunt par an, et les queux sont pris en nostre mein par lencheson 
qe le dit Johan estoit adheraunt {aherdaunt in ms.) a Thomas Mauduyt, jadis 
nostre enemy et rebel, il facent oster nostre mein et soeffrent le dit Johan meisme 
la terre tenir, come il fist deuant tanqe ils en eint autre mandement de nous. 
Donne souz nostre secre seal a Yarm, le vii^ jour de Octobre, Ian de nostre 
regne xvi^i^." 

2 C. W. 1329/7087, " Edward to R. de Baldock and H. de Clif," dated April 2, 
1325. This is printed in Deprez, op. cit. pp. 76-77. It is additional evidence 
of the effort made by Baldock to combine the privy seal with the chancery. 
See above, ii. 308-309 and PI. Edward II. pp. 166-168. 

3 M.R.K.R. 97, breu. dir. bar., Hil. term, m. lid. (Feb. 19, 1314), " Et qe 
vous sachez qe nous auoms ceste busoigne a cuer, nous vous escriuoms souz 
nostre secre seal." 

4 MS. Stowe, 553/87, 94b, 106b, 130 ; 3IS. Ad. 995/34. 


secret seal was equally commonly employed, alternately or 
conjointly, with the privy seal for warranty work. Thus it set 
in motion the machinery which was to result in a writ of great 
seal for presentations to churches, commissions of oyer and 
terminer, grants of safe conduct and the like. When used con- 
jointly, it simply added to the complication of an already cum- 
brous machine, and the fact that a large proportion of secret 
seal chancery warrants are simply mandates to the keeper of 
the XJrivy seal to send an instrument under his seal to the chancellor 
to issue a writ of great seal, shows that this increase of elaboration 
was now usual. ^ No doubt the new step added to the fees paid 
by seekers after writs, and was, therefore, favoured by the 
official. It enabled the king to dash off a short letter, enclosing 
with it the bill or petition that had reached him, and leaving 
it to the office of privy seal to do the rest. Yet in many ways 
the only excuse for such vain repetition can be that the keeper 
of the privy seal was so often away from the king's person that 
he was, like the chancellor, in constant need of receiving in- 
structions from his master in writing. Sometimes he was so 
closely associated with the chancellor that, as in the example 
quoted above,^ one mandate under secret seal addressed to the 
two of them was enough. Had that state of things continued, 
there would have been much to be said for realising Baldock's 
ideal of fusing great and privy seals in a common secretariat. 
It incidentally follows that the place of issue of a writ of privy 
seal was no longer good evidence for determining the king's where- 
abouts, any more than was the place date of a writ of chancery. 
What were the reasons for the emergence of tliis secret seal, 
which was not a privy seal, in the reign of Edward II. ? The general 
political reasons have been dealt with already in previous volumes.^ 
We must be careful, however, not to assign to any one cause what 
was the result of a variety of converging motives. A main cause 
was doubtless the removal of the privy seal from the care of the 
controller of the wardrobe to that of a keeper ad hoc, by the 1311 

1 C.W. 1336/44, a letter of secret seal, ma.y be transcribed as an instance. 
" Depar le roy. Nous vous inandoms qe sur la bille quelle nous enuoioms a 
vous close dedesuz cestes, facez faire lettres souz nostre priue seal directes a 
nostre chancellier, si especiales come vous purrez, solom ce qe la ley le voudra 
soeffrir. Done souz nostre secre seal a nostre park de Wodestok, le xv. jour 
daugust." 2 Above, p. 1G8. ^ Above, ii. 291, 324-325. 

170 THE SECRET SEALS oh. xvii 

ordinances. This step had the more far-reaching effect since, 
as we have seen, the special keeper was, in the critical years 
following the ordinances, constrained to abide constantly in 
London with his clerks, in close attendance on the ordainers, 
and on the council which carried on their traditions. Naturally, 
in such circumstances, the king felt the need of a seal directly 
under his personal control. He, therefore, devised a new seal, 
an invention all the easier because of the already existing signet 
of the French court, and strove with all his power to make it 
replace the old privy seal, the control of which he despaired of 

There is no evidence, that we know of, of documents sealed 
with this secret seal before 6 Edward IL, July 131 2- July 1313, 
that is to say, until after the separation of the keepership of the 
privy seal from the controllership of the wardrobe.^ But another 
circumstance must not be forgotten. The expansion and the 
strengthening of the king's chamber, was, as we have seen already, 
the chief protective measure taken by Edward and his friends 
against the ordainers. Now the secret seal was certainly in later 
times the seal of the chamber, and if it is not over-rash to attribute 
policy to Edward II. and his early favourites, the growth of the 
secret seal and the growth of the chamber may surely be co- 
ordinated aspects of that policy.^ 

We know little of the nature and description of the early 
secret seal. That it was always impressed on red wax goes 
without saying, for red wax was invariably used for all small 
seals. That its impression suggests a slightly smaller seal than 
the privy seal we have already remarked. Fortunately there still 
survive, on a writ of secret seal of 1314, crumbling relics of wax 
which indicate a seal one inch in diameter, and show a man on 
horseback within Gothic tracery. The legend may be read with 
good probability as sigillu[m] secretu[m] d[omi]n[i] regis 
EDWARDi.^ Despite the Latin legend of the matrix, the surviving 
writs of Edward II. 's secret seal are all written in French. 

1 See above, p. 165. ^ gee below, pp. 178-181. 

3 I have supplied in square brackets the letters necessary to extend the 
contracted inscription of the seal. Maxwell-Lyte, p. 102, first revealed the 
existence of this seal from a writ now in Ancient Deeds, WS. 572. Compare 
A.C. 49/20, 21. For early " secreta " in other lands, see Chap. XVI. § 4. They are 
analogous to our privy seals ; our " secretum " approaches the foreign signets. 


Under Edward III. the secret seal had a fluctuating history. 
During the greater part of his minority there is no evidence that 
he possessed such a seal.^ The secret seal might naturally have 
disappeared with the chamber estate and other innovations of 
the Despensers. But Edward III. began to revive the power of 
the chamber before his minority was ended, and the secret seal 
had reappeared even earlier than the signs of renewed chamber 
activity are discernible. Gradually it assumed five different 
shapes : 

I. The first form of Edward III.'s secret seal belongs to the 
latter part of the minority. It is met with on a few documents, 
two of which survive among the chancery warrants. The later 
one is dated October 7, 1330, and bears on its dorse the impression 
of a seal of 25 mm. in diameter. ^ There is no evidence that this 
matrix was used after that date. 

II. The second secret seal of Edward III. is first met with on 
a letter of August 5, 1331, and remained in use up to April 18, 
1338, at least. ^ It was an exceedingly small seal of only 10 mm., 
and was probably actually a signet ring of the king's.* With its 
appearance there are signs that the secret seal, like the privy seal 
before it, was working out a diplomatic of its own, tending to- 
wards informality and simplicity. The earliest documents 
sealed by this second secret seal of Edward III. are more like a 

^ " It is very doubtful whether he had any secret seal during the first year 
or two of his reign " ; Maxwell-Lyte, p. 103. 

2 C.W. 1330/2. 

3 lb. 1330/3 ; and (old numbers) 10, 741 ; 10, 748 ; 10, 764. 

* Maxwell-Lji^e, p. 103. Compare p. 105, quoting from the patent roll the 
discharge to Robert Mildenhall, keeper of the privy wardrobe in the Tower, 
in respect to articles in his charge dehvered by command to the king or else- 
where. " Una piere quarre dun saphir ewage oue un chiualrot oue un toret 
dor pour ycel, lequel estoit nostre secre seal, liuere a Richard de Grymesby 
(1351) " printed in C.P.B., 1350-54, p. 129. This looks like the surrender of 
an obsolete signet, or rather its despatch to Grimsby, a goldsmith, for alteration. 
I suspect that the reference is to this 1331-38 signet, kept by Mddenhall, who 
was a chamber as well as a privy wardrobe officer (see above, iv. 452-454), 
and we know that the secret seal was the seal of the chamber. If my surmise is 
correct, then it is noteworthy that, despite its smaller size, the seal of 1331-38, 
like the secret seal of 1314 (see above, p. 170), contained the figure of a man 
on horseback. This would mean that the secret seal had its definite type, the 
man on horseback, just as the privy seal represented the royal arms. The 
Latin version of " saphir ewage " (see Mildenhall's " recepta jocalium " in E.A. 
392/14) is " saphir aquaticus." " Saphir d'eau " is a term still used by 
French jewellers for the paler varieties of the gem stone called iolite. 

172 THE SECRET SEALS ch. xvii 

friendly note than a formal writ,^ and soon the type came to be 
described as letters. Like the informal letters of privy seal ,2 
these secret seal letters were prefaced by the phrase Depar le roi 
written at the head in a line all to itself. The enumeration of the 
royal titles and the name and office of the addressee were re- 
placed by the formula Saluz et bon amur, or Reuerent piere en 
Dieu, or Tres cher et foial. Not infrequently the conclusion 
omitted the regnal year, running in form done souz nostre secre 
seal a Clipston le v« jour Datigst. These letters, and the writs of 
secret seal, were folded, encircled by a tag, and later slit, like con- 
temporary privy seal writs and letters other than letters patent ; 
they had the seal applied in the same place, and they would be 
opened in the same way.^ The omission of the address was 
compensated wholly or partially by the direction written on the 
tag. A letter dated March 13, 1335, has on the tag the words Al 
euesqe de Duresme, nostre chaunceller. Par le roi.^ Later on the 
letters became even less formal, not to say curt, for the phrase 
Saluz et bon amur was sometimes shortened to Saluz, the briefly 
stated reason for writing was often dispensed with, the order was 
expressed in the imperative, and not infrequently the initial 
Depar le roi was left out. Quite evidently no hard and fast rule 
was observed. 

Side by side with instruments thus phrased, older fashions of 
composition persisted.^ In the early part of the reign a good 
many writs of secret seal still recited all the king's titles, and the 
greeting to the recipient similarly rehearsed his name and dignities. 
They invariably concluded with the formula " given at," followed 
by the place of origin and the full date, and were obviously based 
upon the ordinary writ of privy seal. When addressed to the 
keeper of the privy seal or to the chancellor, they left the office 
concerned little to do except to copy out the document received, 
or to translate its substance. The writ of secret seal, however, 
rapidly fell out of use, the last known to Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte 

1 I quote from Maxwell-Lyte, p. 103, who prints in full the earliest example 
(C.W. 1330/3) of this new secret seal. In the other text printed by Sir Henry, 
pp. 103-104 (ib. 1330/8), the regnal year is also given. 

* See above, p. 115. 

3 See above, pp. 116-120. 

4 Maxwell-Lyte, p. 104, from C.W. 1330/8. 

5 Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 108-109 ; see C.W. 1330/49. 


being dated November 18, 1352.i It was superseded by the type 
of letter we have just described. The third form of communica- 
tion under secret seal was the " bill," identical with the bill of 
privy seal, 2 except that, when the bill took the form of an addition 
to a petition, the seal was sometimes ajB&xed on the back.^ In 
the latter part of Edward III.'s reign secret seal documents began 
to be written on paper, but the use of paper was so unusual that 
the chancery sometimes thought it worth while to record the 
fact.* Perhaps the increased intimacy of relations with Aquitaine 
and Spain, where paper had long been in common use, was re- 
sponsible for its more frequent employment in England. 

During the currency of this second secret seal of Edward III. 
the word signet began to be used officially as a synonym for 
secret seal. Thus, on November 14, 1337, a mandate to chancellor 
Robert Stratford, instructing him to draw up letters of acquittance 
under the great seal in favour of Nicholas de la Beche, is described 
as done souz nostre signet.^ Yet the form of the writ is precisely 
that of the ordinary secret seal writ sealed with the 10 mm. 
secret seal, the trace of the wax is the exact size of that seal, 
and the enrolment of the letters patent issued in pursuance 
recorded the warrant for them as per hreue de priuato sigillo,^ the 

1 MaxweU-Lyte, p. 109 ; it is in C.W. 1333/51. 

* See above, pp. 113-114. 

s See Anc. Pet. nos. 9250 and 11354 (Maxwell-Lyte, p. 108 and n.), but 
cf. ib. 11334. 

* C.P.R., 1361-67, p. 321 ; " by letter of secret seal on paper." Examples 
of " secret seals " on paper are to be found in C.W. 1334/51, " priue signet," 
and in ib. 1336. Later on paper almost replaced parchment for signet letters. 

s C.W. 1330/44. This writ has the "old number" of 10,416. It is not 
very easy to give exact references to these files. The " old numbers " refer 
to series now broken up and are now in no wise consecutive. The more recent 
plan of numbering the items of each file consecutively and separately had not 
been fully carried out when most of my notes were made nearly twenty years 
ago. Even the existing arrangement of writs under the signet and other 
small seals leaves something to be desired. ' Some of the documents are really 
privy seals, as, for instance, 1331/21, and others, such as 1330/1, are given under 
the seal of G. Talbot. But 1330/19, under William Montague's seal, " because 
we have not our privy seal with us," or 1330/35, under Henry Ferrars' seal, 
" because we have no seal near us," approach, though somewhat irregularly, 
the secret seal type. File 1331 has also its confusions, 1331/21 (August 26, 
17 Ed. III. i.e. 1343) having, for instance, the 38 mm. privy seal upon it. Of 
course, it may have been stamped by the privy seal later, and be a secret seal 
instrument after all, or " secret " may have been used inadvertently instead 
of " privy." Many documents on these files are informal letters of secret seal. 

« C.P.R., 1331-33, p. 553. 

174 THE SECRET SEALS ch. xvn 

phrase which the conservative chancery preferred to signet as 
an alternative description of the secret seal. It may, therefore, 
be safely inferred that " our signet " is here simply an equivalent 
expression for " our secret seal." This is not the first time the 
term signet was applied to the secret seal. As far back as 1329, 
before the second form of the secret seal of Edward III. had been 
adopted, Edward III., in a letter to John XXII., requested the 
pope to give credence only to certain privy seal and signet letters 
as expressing his real wishes, in terms which can only mean that 
signet letter, even at that date, was an alternative expression 
for letter of secret seal.^ It is not impossible that the resemblance 
of this second secret seal of Edward III. to a signet ring may have 
made the indifferent use of the terms " secret seal " and " signet " 
more natural. 

III. The inconveniently small size of the 1331-38 secret seal 
matrix may well have precipitated the adoption of a larger one, 
the first surviving impression of which is on a document dated 
Ghent, November 22, 1339, not long before the king's assumption 
of the title of King of France.^ This seal, though quite small, was 
about half as large again as its predecessor, being 15 mm. instead 
of 10 mm.3 It was, apparently, used for a great many years, 
from 1338 to 1354, and if, as is probable, it resembled earlier 
secret seals in not being inscribed with the king's titles, there was 
no necessity for it to be changed when Edward began to call him- 
self king of France and England. The great and privy seals had 
to be changed because of the legends they bore, if for no other 
reason. While generally referred to as the secret seal to begin 
with, it was not uncommonly called the signet, although there 
was given, upon occasion, an apology or explanation for the use 
of the latter term. There was also, as earlier, often a definite 
implication that the signet was a natural vehicle for expressing 
the personal wish of the king. Thus, in 1342, when Edward 
promised that the second baron of the Dublin exchequer should 

1 E.H.R. xxvi. 332. See also above, iii. 28. 

~ C.W. 1330/51. Unluckily the year is not given, but the day, month and 
place make it fairly certain. 

3 It is the same size as one of the signets of Richard II. in the centre panel 
of which was engraved a crown. Richard seems to have had at least two, and 
possibly three, matrices so engraved, though whether they were used con- 
currently or only consecutively, is not certain ; see below, pp. 202-203. 


not be lightly removed from ofl&ce, lie sent to the Dublin office a 
writ in which he declared that the baron was not to be removed 
" without the king's special mandate under his seal called signet." ^ 
Towards the end of its course, on the other hand, this seal was 
more often described as the signet and only rarely as the secret 

IV. The fourth secret seal of Edward III. is first found on a 
letter sent, on July 16, 1354, from the king to bishop Trelech of 
Hereford. In it Trelech's attention was specially called to the new 
seal of which the king wished him in future to take cognisance. ^ 
Another letter, dated Lyndhurst, July 23, 1354, was done souz 
nostre nouel signet.^ This new signet is, even more certainly than 
its predecessor, demonstrably identical with the secret seal, for 
a third letter, dated July 27, at Clarendon, only four days later 
than the second of the two documents we have just cited, was 
" given under the secret seal," while in the body of the letter the 
seal with which it was going to be authenticated was described 
as cesti nostre signet.'^ From this date until the end of 1367, this 

^ C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 311. Compare E.A. 391/1/ld., "per quandam 
litteram de sigillo suo de signat' (sic) " (1346), or ib. 391/4 and Pipe 194/43 (1374), 
" sigillum vocatum le signet." 

2 Registru7n J. de Trillek, pp. 224-225, C. and Y. Soc. 

3 C.W. 1334/3. The year is conjectural, but Edward III. was at Lyndhurst 
on July 23, 1354. It is probably in reference to this seal that M. Deprez says 
(op. cit. p. 88) " vers 1355 commence a apparaitre le signet." This is a con- 
siderable post dating. 

* Ib. 1334/4. I transcribe the letter, which is also printed in Maxwell- 
Lyte, pp. 105-106. " Depar le roi. Reuerent piere en Dieu. Nous auoms 
done a nostre cher clerc Richard de Thome la prouende del auter de seint 
Estephene en Beuerle, pur quele il lui couient pleeder en nostre droit. Si 
voloms et vous mandoms qe nulle ratiticacion en soit faite pur nul mandement 
qe vous est venuz ou purra venir, souz nul de noz sealx nen autre manere, 
si ce ne soit souz cesti nostre signet. Done souz nostre secre seal a Claryndon, 
le xxvii jour de Juyl." This important text conclusively proves the identity 
of the new signet with the secret seal. Most probably this was the secret seal 
for which a chain of gold was paid for on December 16, 1356 ; I.R. 384/4 
" eidem Johanni {i.e. de Cicestria) fabro Londonensi, pro una cathena de auro, 
ponderis xvi nobilium Florentinorum, empta pro secreto sigiUo, x li. vi s. 
viii d." A long chain was commonly attached to these " seals of one piece " 
to prevent them from being lost, and to facihtate their being carried about 
and used. Compare E.A. 394/16/14, a roll of liveries from the great wardrobe, 
" Eidem {i.e. Ricardo de Kareswell' cissori domini nostri regis) in cameram 
domini nostri regis pro sigillo suo secreto imponendo unum loculum de Roo " ; 
this was in 1363-64. The chancery warrant quoted illustrates clearly the use 
of this seal to authenticate the special personal acts of the king, and, with 
C IF. 1334/3, seems to suggest that this signet was a novelty requiring explana- 
tion in July 1354. It is almost implied that acts authenticated by it should 

176 THE SECRET SEALS ch. xvu 

seal authenticated a large number of instruments indifferently 
described as issued under the signet, or under the secret seal. 
The seal is also called nostre priue signet on March 3, 1361,^ 
nostre signet seal on July 19 of the same year,^ and le signet de 
nostre anel on April 13, 1362. ^ The chancery, moreover, con- 
tinued until 1366 to record instruments warranted by this seal 
as authorised fer litteram de priuato sigillo. Then it began to 
describe the warrant as litteram de sigillo vocato le signet, and 
finally as litteram de signeto.^ 

The new signet, or secret seal, was 25 mm., or one inch, in 
diameter, rather different in size and type from the minute secret 
seals of 10 mm. We are fortunate in the survival, in the Public 
Record Office, of three examples of the new signet.^ The centre 
is an oblong panel of | by ^ inch bearing the figure of a horseman, 
surrounding which are fleurs-de-lys within Gothic tracery. The 
legend is signetum regis anglie et francie.^ 

override those sealed with the ancient and constitutional seals. On August 18, 
1363, Urban V., writing to Edward III. with regard to a request for certain 
irregularities to be condoned, says, " As the pope sees by the king's secret seal 
(signo secreto) that he has the matter much at heart, he will grant the request 
if possible " ; C. Pap. Reg. Let. iv. 3. This is a striking instance of the personal 
character of the new seal. " Signum " may perhaps be better translated 
" signet " than " seal." 

1 C.W. 1334/53. 

2 76. 1335/1, no. 1. This was originally written "Done souz nostre secret 
seal," but a contemporary hand struck out " secret seal " and wrote over it 
" signet." Another proof of the identity of the two terms. 

» lb. 1335/50; cf. Ancient Deeds, A. 13,638. There is a letter of Sept. 1, 
1372, in C. W. 1336/32, " done souz le signet de nostre anel en nostre nief appelle 
la Gracedieu en les dounes." The " signet of our ring " may well have been 
a different matrix from " our signet seal." 

* Maxwell-Lyte, p. 107. 

5 Maxwell-Lyte, p. 106 ; and Anc. Deeds, WS. 636, 637, 638 ; see below, 
Appendix, plate IV. no. 1. 

" Douet D'Arcq, iii. no. 10,028, describes a seal of this type, 28 mm. in 
diameter, affixed to a letter of 1366 from Edward III. to Charles V. about the 
ransom of his late father, John II., and said to be sealed with " nostre secre 
seal." The horseman surrounded by fleurs-de-lys can easily be made out, 
but unluckily the legend is indistinct. One would think that, in writing to 
the actual possessor of the throne, Edward would hardly have used a seal 
describing himself as king of France. Perhaps the legend had been altered 
after the treaty of Calais (Maxwell-Lyte, p. 106), or more probably a replica, 
except for the necessary change of legend, had been made. Douet D'Arcq, iii. 
10,030, mentions another signet, 30 mm. in diameter, engraved with a man's 
head, three quarters to right, surrounded with arabesque and without legend 
(either it had been destroyed, or the matrix may not have been inscribed). 
This authenticated a letter of July 30, 1362, from Edward III. to John of 


V. The one-inch signet of 1354 to 1367 was not the only- 
signet or secret seal employed during these years. Side by side 
with it a smaller seal, more the size of the second and third secret 
seals of Edward III., was used. The traces of it on documents are, 
however, very difierent from the traces of those seals, for, unlike 
them, it was impressed on a pointed Greek or Latin cross of red 
wax, at the junction of the arms. This seal, or a similar one, was 
used for the rest of Edward III.'s reign.^ But concurrent use 
with it of the one-inch seal became less frequent, and after a 
period of uncertainty, during which the old confusion between 
" signet " and " secret seal " obtained, it gradually appropriated 
to itself the name of king's signet. A process of differentiation 
seems to have been going on, by which the term secret seal came 
to indicate the one-inch seal, and the term signet the smaller seal 
embedded in the waxen cross. The process was, however, ended 
by the one-inch seal dropping out of use altogether, so that, 
when Edward III. died, the small signet alone remained active. 
This was the signet which the moribund king ordered to be affixed 
to his last will along with his great and privy seals, to give it all 
the force that a document could possess. ^ The history of the 
signet under Richard II. we have relegated to a later section all 
to itself. For the moment it is enough to say that the secret seal 
became obsolete, under that name, before Edward III.'s death. 
If the term were still used, it was generally in the old sense of 
privy seal, especially in correspondence with foreign chanceries, 
and in the chronicles. So long as the privy seal bore the legend 
secretum regis, such a use of the term was bound to occur. Peter 
Lacy was, in 1369, called in an official document custos secreti 
sigilli,^ and John Fordham, in 1379, was styled " keeper of the 
king's secret seal," in a royal letter warranted " by letters of 
the king's signet ring." * Yet, in the petitions of the Gloucester 

France, asking John to pay 60,000 crowns of his ransom to the prince of Wales, 
and the letter is said to be " done sous le signet qe vous savez." I am unable 
to assign to this seal its place in the series I have attempted to describe, and 
it may have been a private signet, adopted by mutual agreement for confidential 
communication between the two kings, and therefore intelligible enough to 
them though puzzling to us. 

1 See, for example, Am. Pet. 9250, 11334, 11354. 

2 Nichols, Royal Wills, p. 64. 

3 Kal. and Inv. of Exchequer, i. 222. 
« C.P.R., 1377-81, p. 328. 


178 THE SECRET SEALS ch. xvn 

parliament of 1378, and in the answers to those petitions, the term 
secret seal was used when it was obvious that both estates and 
government meant the " signet," ^ and as late as 1390, bishop 
Wykeham referred to the signet ring as the secret seal.^ The 
confusion, in the latter period of Edward III.'s reign, between 
the two types of " secret seal " we have just considered, was 
probably intensified by the use of other signets than the one we 
have described. There were also two other " secret seals " used 
at diSerent times in this reign, each of them with an independent 
history. They were the " secret seal called the griffin," and the 
mysterious seal called the signum, which we shall discuss in other 
sections of this chapter. Doubtless further investigation would 
add to their number, for any ring might be used to seal letters. 

There is little specific information to be gathered about the 
custody of the secret seal of the fourteenth century. It was in 
precisely the same position as the privy seal of the thirteenth 
century. We may conjecture that the same reasons which 
account for the barrenness of the records of the former century 
as to the custody of the privy seal, account also for the silence 
of fourteenth century documents as to the custody of the secret 
seal. The privy seal in the thirteenth century and the secret 
seal of the fourteenth century had no organised office. The seal 
was the king's personal affair, and its custody was an incident 
of the functions of some high domestic of the household in con- 
stant attendance on his person. In the reign of John the " small 
seal " was regarded as especially appropriate to chamber business,^ 
and it remained the seal of the chamber until responsibility for 
it passed from the chamber to the wardrobe. When, later on, 
the privy seal came under some measure of public control, the 
need of a more domestic seal was felt so acutely that another 
small seal, the secret seal, was set up. This happened during 
the very time, 1311-12, when in France the king's secret seal 

1 Eot. Pari. iii. 44, " Le roi ne voet mye qe par brief ou lettre de grant 
ou priue seal ou del secret seal," etc. 

2 Wykeham's Register, ii. 424, " sigillum secretum suum, videlicet annulum." 
Letters of secret seal were mentioned in wardrobe accounts so late as 17 Ric. II., 
e.g. E.A. 403/22, f. 17. Compare MS. Ad. 35, 115, f. 45, for 16 Ric. II., when, 
in September 1393, " nuncii " were paid for going on messages, " tarn cum 
litteris secreti sigilli . . . quam cum litteris senescalli et thesaurarii hospicium 
tangentibus." In both, the signet was clearly the seal in question. 

3 See above, i. 103-105. 


was in tlie custody of one of his chamberlains. The administra- 
tive evolution of the two kingdoms was so similar that we should 
suspect the disposition of the new " secret " seal in England to 
be not unlike that of the French secret seal. In earlier volumes ^ 
a few facts have been put together which strengthen that sus- 
picion into a plausible conjecture. We may, indeed, feel con- 
vinced that the secret seal was at all times the seal of the chamber, 
for it came into existence just at the moment when the chamber 
was first strengthened in the interests of the crown, to counter- 
balance the establishment of baronial control over the privy 
seal, and was specially used in business relating to the chamber. 
It suffered some eclipse on the fall of the Despensers, which 
incidentally destroyed the system of a chamber estate, but it 
was revived in greater strength when Edward III. began to tread 
in his father's footsteps by setting aside lands for chamber 
administration. So successful, temporarily at least, was this 
policy that the resultant heavy demands on the secret seal led, 
in a short time, to the institution of a second chamber seal, 
specially for the authentication of documents dealing with the 
administration of the estate. This was the " secret seal called 
the griffin," already referred to and to be considered in our next 
section. 2 The griffin seal normally remained with the chamber 
office in England, while the secret seal proper itinerated with 
the chamber accompanying the court.^ But the older secret 
seal suffered no real restriction of power from the concurrent use 
of the griffin seal. On the contrary, its scope as the general seal 
of the chamber was ampHfied. 

During the years immediately following on the revival of 

1 See above, ii. 324-326, 360, for Edward II., and iv. 261-264, for Edward III. 
The special chamber seal is not unique or confined to royal households. French 
bishops used a special sceau de la chambre besides their ordinary seals ; 
Douet d'Arcq, Inventaires, i. xxviii. Under Edward II. there was a king's 
chamber at Berwick issuing bills " under the seal of the office of the chamber 
in Scotland " ; C.C.R., 1339-41, p. 82. But the Scottish chamber was chiefly 
a financial ofiice, and in view of the restricted sphere of its activity this seal 
corresponds somewhat to the English exchequer seal. For the universality 
of the commitment of the custody of the king's secret seal to a chamberlain, 
see also above, p. 100. 

2 See above, iv. 261-264, and below, pp. 181-192. 

* Evidence of this is that during Edward's long absences abroad 1338-40, 
June-November 1340, 1342-43, no writs warranted by secret seal appear in 
the calendars of patent and close rolls. When the king was back in England, 
they reappear, though always sparingly ; cf. also above, p. 175, n. 4. 

180 THE SECRET SEALS ch. xvn 

the chamber estate and the establishment of the griffin seal, 
there is, as we know, some documentary evidence that the re- 
ceiver of the chamber was also the keeper of the secret seal,^ as 
we had more than suspected earlier. Unluckily, the first author- 
ity is the papal register, and we have often had occasion to doubt 
the accuracy of the Avignon chancery in giving to foreign clerks 
the precise official titles which they enjoyed in their own country. 
From this source we learn that Thomas Hatfield, receiver of the 
chamber from 1338 to 1344, was, in the latter year, described 
as clerk of the secret seal.^ His successor, Robert Burton, was 
never given that title, but Thomas Bramber, the next receiver, 
was called clerk of the secret seal in 1349, in a petition sent to 
the pope on his behalf by the English king, who was more likely 
to know his correct title than a papal chancery clerk.^ On the 
same day that Bramber was granted his canonry, another canonry 
went to his brother receiver, Richard Norwich, who was also 
described as clerk of the king's secret seal.* But there is nothing 
strange in this, for there were often two receivers, and they might 
easily assume joint-custody of the seal. Besides, Bramber was 
just vacating and Norwich just entering office, so that the over- 
lap need not be a source of trouble. Direct English official 
evidence shows the accuracy of the papal clerks, for in the year 
1353-54, the wardrobe account records a grant of robes to 
Norwich as clerk of the secret seal.^ But just as we feel certain 
that we see the truth, the light fails. Although we have suggested 
that William Wykeham succeeded Norwich as receiver of the 
chamber and keeper of the secret seal,® we have no definite 
evidence, and after Wykeham the receivership fell into, and 
for the rest of the reign remained in, lay hands of comparative 
obscurity. In spite of the fact that the French secret seal had 
been kept by a layman since the days of Philip the Fair, some 

^ For the receivership of the chamber, see above, iv. 255-263. 

* Cal. Pap. Beg. Pet. i. 11. He is also called " secretary " as are his suc- 
cessors, but that must not be stressed, as secretary was still used on occasion, 
in the sense of confidant. 

^ lb. i. 182. It shows how little surnames derived from places suggest the 
place of birth or origin of the holder, that Bramber is always described as 
" of the diocese of Norwich." 

* 76. i. 183. The date of the grant is October 15. 

^ See above, iv. 134, 262. E.A. 392/2 is the only household account which, 
to my knowledge, contains evidence of the existence of an officer whose special 
business was with the secret seal. * See above, iv. 262. 


positive evidence is necessary to convince us that these lay- 
receivers kept the secret seal. 

Not impossibly this period saw the growth of the official 
secretaryship which we find in existence, without the least 
suggestion of its being a novelty, soon after the accession of 
Richard II. By that time the secret seal had been merged in 
the signet. Even at the end of Edward III.'s reign, official 
quarters still looked on the signet with suspicion. On the eve 
of the meeting of the Good Parliament, chancery hesitated to 
enrol an appointment under the signet until it had been authenti- 
cated by the great seal,^ and whoever kept the secret seal had 
no organised office at his disposal, but was forced to rely on out- 
side help for some of his secretarial work.^ 


The Griffin Seal 

Besides the five varieties of secret seal of Edward III. described 
in the foregoing section, there were, as we there pointed out,^ 
two other secret seals, the griffin and the signum, used for short 
periods during his reign, which cannot be regarded simply as 
different forms of the same seal. For that reason, it has seemed 
best to me to give special and independent consideration to 
them. In this section, therefore, I propose to deal with the 
griffin seal. 

In describing the landed estate reserved by Edward III. to 
his chamber, I have already had occasion to say something about 
this seal,* which was called the griffin because it bore the effigy 
of a griffin, particularly fierce-looking, on an oval panel 16 mm. 

^ C.F.B. viii. 343. " And be it remembered that this letter, sealed with 
the king's signet, was sent to J. Knyvet, the chancellor, to be sealed with the 
great seal." 

* E.A. 391/20, a payment to William Hawksworth, clerk of the chamber, 
of 20s., " de dono regis pro factura diuersarum commissionum et breuium 
tangentium cameram domini regis" (134:9-50). Mildenhall, who presumably 
was responsible for the employment of Hawksworth on this job, was only the 
deputy of the absent receiver. 

3 See above, p. 178. * See above, iv. 276-279. 

182 THE GRIFFIN SEAL ch. xvii 

by 12 mm., within Gothic tracery. The matrix was small and 
oval, being roughly 24 mm. x 23 mm., less than a square inch in 
area, that is to say, and of course, like all household seals, it was 
impressed on red wax.^ It was distinguished from the other royal 
seals by being absolutely without any legend. A short-lived " little 
signet " of the griffin used by Philip V.^ has been suggested as a 
possible model for this seal, but the design may have been adopted 
in compliment to Edward III.'s intimate friend, William Montague, 
whose family arms were a griffin.^ The griffin seal was first used 
in 1335 and continued in use until nearly the end of 1354. It 
was called into existence as an alternative to the secret seal. The 
constant absence of this seal with the king in Scotland, the North 
and France, during the years immediately succeeding its insti- 
tution disclosed the convenience, if not the actual need, of the 
office controlling the chamber lands, necessarily limited to Eng- 
land, having a seal of its own ready to hand. It is true that 
under Edward II. the " secret seal " had been adequate for the 
business connected with the chamber estate, but Edward II. 
seldom left England. Besides, the privy seal was not then so 
much officialised as it was later. Up to 1338 the griffin was 
employed concurrently with the secret seal in writs affecting 
chamber lands.'* From 1339 it aspired to a sole jurisdiction over 
the estate with such success that, upon occasion, the secret seal 
was used only as a warrant to set the griffin seal in motion.^ But 
the fact that the griffin was warranted by secret seal implied 
some control of secret seal over griffin. In 1346 its sphere was 
technically widened to embrace all chamber business,® but the 
surviving writs suggest no actual extension of its scope. A 
certain amount of effort was also necessary to induce con- 
servative departments of government, like the exchequer and 
chancery, to accept mandates under the griffin seal as equivalent 
in authority to those of the privy or secret seals. 

1 It is figured in Durham Seals, plate E. 10. See below, App. pi. IV. no. 2. 

2 Maxwell-Lyte, p. 110 ; Perrichet, La Grande Chancellerie de France, p. 399. 
No example of this " petit signet du roy an griffon," used in 1320, is known. 
It is hard to believe that a seal in use by 1335 was suggested by a griffin device 
of John, king of Bohemia. 

3 See Nicolas, Le Siege de Karlaverok, p. 40, where his grandfather's shield 
of the griffin rampant is figured ; and Archaeologia, xlviii. 356. 

* C.P.R., 1338-40, p. 66. ^ See also below, p. 188. 

6 Above, iv. 277, quoting M.R.K.R. b. d. b., Hil. t. 20 Ed. III. 


The chancery was easier to deal with than the exchequer, 
and it looks as if, as early as October 1337, the king had taken 
steps to impress on that office its obligation to accept warrants 
under the griffin seal as adequate authority for the issue of writs 
of great seal. He sent a letter of secret seal, dated October 12, 
1337, to Robert Stratford,^ bishop of London, who was then 
chancellor, in which he informed him of the extensive reserva- 
tion to the chamber of knights' fees, advowsons, escheats, for- 
feitures and other profits, notably in Holderness and the Isle of 
Wight, and ordered him henceforth to make no presentations 
or other letters patent or close regarding these lands, save by 
special royal mandate under the secret or the griffin seal. This 
was to give the new and the old chamber seals a concurrent 
jurisdiction, but it was not enough to satisfy the officers specially 
concerned with the chamber lands. As the time approached 
for the king to start with his army to the Netherlands, the men 
of the chamber petitioned that, since the king had appointed 
his griffin seal to be a warrant to the officers of the chamber and 
of the lands appurtenant to the chamber all over the realm, it 
should please him to send letters of privy seal to his chancellor 

1 The document is printed in Maxwell-Lyte, pp. 110-111, from C.W. 1336/56, 
without any comment or suggestion as to the year. Before I had seen the 
letter in print, I had conjectured (above, iv. 277, n. 3) that it had been written 
in the year 1341, " the first year the king was in England after the consolidation 
of the chamber lands." Unluckily, not having before me the text of the letter, 
but only some rough notes, I had not taken in the significance of the address 
" reuerent piere en Dieu," which certainly postulates an episcopal chancellor. 
But the chancellor on October 12, 1341, was Sir Robert Bourchier, a layman, 
who could not possibly have been so addressed. He was followed by a succession 
of lay chancellors, the first clerical chancellor after him being John Offord, who 
was the chancellor in 1346 (from October 12), 1347 and 1348. In the first 
two years he was only dean of Lincoln and unlikely to be called a reverend 
father in God. But on September 24, 1348, he was provided by the pope to 
the archbishopric of Canterbury, and the appointment may conceivably have 
been known in England eighteen days later. Or, some action may have been 
taken by the monks of Canterbury by virtue of a conge d'elire addressed to 
them on August 28 ; G.P.R., 1348-50, p. 148. But Offord died of the plague 
before consecration in any case. Even if we assume that an unconsecrated 
archbishop-elect could properly be so addressed, the date is too late, for the 
letter describes a condition of the chamber estate outgrown before 1348. If 
the chancery, like the exchequer, had resisted the griffin seal, it would certainly 
have received communications like those addressed to the exchequer ; see 
later, pp. 185-186. My present feeling, therefore, is that the year is most 
probably 1337, when Robert Stratford was chancellor. The years 1338 and 
1339 are excluded because the king was abroad, and so personal a seal as the 
secret seal was not likely to be employed at Westminster while he was away. 

184 THE GKIFFIN SEAL ch. xvn 

instructing him that all commissions, warrants, letters and 
acquittances, made or about to be made under it, should be 
ratified by patent under the great seal. The king's answer was 
a direct mandate to chancery under the privy seal, instructing 
it to carry out the request of the chamber and to base the 
necessary writs of great seal on the orders received by them 
under the griffin seal.^ The date, July 9, 1338, and the place, 
Walton, are significant. Three days later Edward issued the 
Walton ordinances, and a week later he sailed from Walton to 
the Netherlands. 2 This order to chancery was plainly a part 
of the general scheme for the government of the realm during 
his absence beyond sea. Henceforth the griffin seal was not 
an alternative, but rather the compulsory, warranty for all acts 
concerning the chamber lands. ^ 

The result of this correspondence was the complete accept- 
ance by chancery of the griffin seal, although the chancery clerks 
only slowly gave full recognition to the novel seal, by record- 
ing at the end of the enrolment of certain communications the 
fact of warranty by the griffin. Thus a writ, dated May 21, 
1343, warranted by a writ under the griffin seal of the same date, 
is described in the close roll as warranted jper i-psum regem.^ So 
is another writ of 1345.^ Nevertheless, so early as 1341 there 
is timid mention of a warranty " by the king and by writ under 

1 Both the chamber petition and the resultant writ of privy seal are printed 
in Maxwell-Lyte, p. 110. The king sent to chancery the petition along with 
the privy seal mandate by which he confirmed it. 

* See above, iii. 68. 

* This attempt to connect the two mandates to chancery, printed by Sir 
Henry Maxwell-Lyte, is suggested, with all reserves, as a hypothesis which 
assigns to each of them their place in the chronological development of the 
griflSn seal and makes it more intelligible. In printing the act of October 12, 
after the act of July 9, Sir Henry has virtually suggested that it is later in date, 
and has therefore fallen into the same difficulty which led me to commit a 
similar error in my third volume. 

* Maxwell-Lyte, p. 112, who prints the relevant griffin seal on p. Ill, and 
says of it : " Except for the dated clause at the end, this might pass for a writ 
of privy seal." For the resultant writ close, see C.C.R., 1343-46, p. 58. Those 
using Sir Henry's book would have been grateful if references to the calendars 
as well as to the rolls had been given by him, though, of course, his precise 
indications of roll and membrane enable them to be found in the calendars 
with a little additional trouble. 

5 C.C.R., 1343-46, p. 517. Yet this writ tells the monks of Evesham, its 
recipients, that, on the money due for the custody of the abbey being sent to 
Burton, receiver of the chamber in London, they will receive " letters of acquit- 
tance under the seal called GrifEoun." 


the seal of griffoun,'' ''- and by 1344 and 1345 records of warranty 
"by letter of tbe secret seal called Griffoun''^ or "by letter 
under the seal called le Griff oun,''^ become fairly common. For 
the next eight or nine years the thin stream of them rarely ceased 

The exchequer was much more reluctant than the chancery 
to accept the griffin seal and all its implications. To the chancery 
an additional " small seal " in no wise trespassed upon the 
supreme authority of the great seal. But to the exchequer the 
griffin seal involved the withdrawal of the authority of the 
exchequer seal from those chamber lands in which the exchequer 
was already deprived of jurisdiction and revenue. Its position 
was the stronger since no serious difficulties had arisen before 
Edward's departure for the Netherlands. A few months later, 
the regency found it necessary to initiate a long series of instruc- 
tions to the department before it was willing to acknowledge 
the validity of the new seal. The process began in 1339, when 
two writs of February 28, and March 6, in almost identical terms,* 
instructed the exchequer that when letters under the grijOBin 
seal were brought to it by any ofiicer of the chamber lands, it 
was to make allowance for liveries and payments contained in 
the same, since the king wished such letters to be regarded as 
sufficient warranty. 

No more was heard on the subject until after the king's return. 
But the irregularities complained of still went on, for on May 
5, 1340, a chancery writ renewed the order of 1339 with greater 
detail and in more peremptory terms. Not only were the treasurer 
and barons ordered to make allowances for all payments made 

1 C.C.R., 1341-43, p. 158. Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte, p. 112, speaks of a 
"marked unwillingness " of the chancery clerks to call documents under the grifl&n 
seal " writs," and of their preference for calling them " letters." Yet so early 
as 1341, as the mention in the text shows, this reluctance could be overcome. 
I do not feel sure that the ofiBcials cared much about such distinctions as " writs " 
and " letters," except, perhaps, where the informal type of letter was concerned. 

« lb., 1343-46, p. 617. » lb. pp. 304-305. 

* lb., 1339-41, pp. 25 and 31. The later writ is printed in Foedera, 
ii. 1076. Both were, of course, " teste custode." The February writ was 
warranted by writ of privy seal, sent over from Flanders. Yet the calendar 
says it was " by council." The March writ has the same attestation and 
warranty. Both were therefore equally authoritative. The February writ 
was duly copied out by the exchequer in the Memoranda Koll {M.R.K.R. 116, 
breu. dir. bar., Mich, t., m. xxiij), however little attention it paid to its injunc- 

186 THE GRIFFIN SEAL ch. xvn 

by chamber officers under the griffin seal, they were also instructed 
not to make assignments of any things which the king had re- 
served to his chamber. Chamber officers, it appeared, duly 
instructed to pay their profits into the receipt of the chamber 
in the Tower of London, had been ordered to pay the same 
profits in another place by assignment of the treasurer and 
barons. 1 Financial stringency and the administrative crisis 
that soon followed doubtless gave the exchequer the opportunity 
of further evasion, for when things had settled down, there came, 
on March 13, 1341, a reissue of the order of March 6, 1339, in 
identical terms. ^ Perhaps, however, the repetition of the order 
was only confirmatory, it being considered that the personal 
mandate of the king would have greater influence than the order 
of the regent. Nevertheless, it seems to have had little effect, 
for the mandate was renewed on August 25 of the same year,^ 
and again on January 3, 1342.'* These seem to have been obeyed; 
anyhow there was no further repetition of them. 

Thus, after over three years' struggle, the exchequer was re- 
luctantly driven to recognise the validity of the chamber as an 
office of receipt and the force of its instrument the griffin seal. 
We have seen already ^ that it in no wise abated its hostility to 
the withdrawal of the chamber lands from its jurisdiction, and 
that, half-triumphant in 1349, it succeeded in 1356 in getting rid 
for ever of both the chamber lands and the griffin seal. But the 
story of a struggle which no longer centred round the validity 
of the griffin seal need not be repeated here. 

The special interest of the griffin seal was the narrowness of 
its scope. We have had departmental seals already in the 
exchequer seal, and in the three fourteenth-century innovations, 
the secret seal of the chamber and the seals of the two judicial 
benches. But in the griffin seal we have for the first time a 
subdepartmental seal. Its sphere of action was confined to that 

1 C.C.R., 1339-41, p. 405. This is also warranted by privy seal; C.W. 

* lb., 1341-43, p. 28, printed in Foedera, ii. 1152. The only difference is 
in the date and the substitution of " teste rege " for the " teste custode " of 
the document in ib. ii. 1076. 

3 C.C.E., 1341-43, p. 215. 

* Ib. p. 331. This writ, more precisely its privy seal warranty, was dated at 
Melrose. Of course its real date of issue was considerably later. 

5 Above, iv. 297-300. 


branch of the chamber which dealt with the reserved lands, but 
even so, it is difficult to define its powers because, as we have 
seen already, there was in reality only one chamber. There 
was no such thing as a separate " chamber of lands." The 
estate, and the stafi which administered it, existed for the benefit 
of the chamber and were indivisibly part and parcel of it. Thus 
the grifiin seal illustrates both the growth of departmentalism 
and also the increasing sense of unity in the royal administration, 
the two contradictory tendencies of fourteenth-century adminis- 
trative development. Despite its limited range, and despite 
the long struggle necessary to secure recognition for it, the 
griffin seal was, for nearly twenty years, an active organ of 
administration. The proof of this lies in the constant refer- 
ences to it in the chancery rolls, and still more, in the consider- 
able number of surviving instruments authenticated by it. The 
most copious crop of originals is now to be found in two files of 
chancery warrants, numbered 1337 and 1338, exclusively devoted 
to warrants under the griffin seal. There are 176 of them, ranging 
in date from 17 to 28 Edward III., with one mandate which is 
conjecturally assignable to 14 Edward III. The warrants for 
24 Edward III. are the most numerous, there being 47 of them, 
and only one other year, 25 Edward III., is represented by as 
many as 20. The great majority are, as one would expect, 
mandates to the chancellor to draw up letters, patent and close, 
on business having relation to the chamber lands and their 
administration. There are a few petitions and schedules, sent 
on to the chancery under the griffin seal, along with a letter 
requesting that the relevant instrument be drafted in the light 
of these particulars. There is also one mandate to Thoresby as 
keeper of the rolls of chancery. 

Besides griffin writs and informal letters, there are some 
" bills of the griffin," phrased after the fashion of " bills of privy 
seal," and like them sealed on the face, with billa de griffoun 
written in a line by itself below, just above the edge of the parch- 
ment. At the other end of the scale are the letters patent under 
the griffin seal, to which the seal was attached ew simple queue.^ 

1 There are instances in E.A. Supplementary, 662/1, but none of the seals 
is perfect and some are the merest fragments now. These letters patent are 
mainly quittances for receipts by the hands of Robert Mildenhall and WiUiam 
Rothwell. A fine example of a patent under griffin seal is in C.W. 1337/22. 

188 THE GRIFFIN SEAL oh. xvii 

Many of these doubtless had original force, but in important 
matters it was often found expedient for them to be " exempli- 
fied," confirmed or superseded by corresponding instruments 
under the great seal. The grifiin letters were then practically 
pushed aside by the letters patent of chancery. All writs and 
" letters under the griffin seal " except patents, had the seal 
applied to the back, but unlike the contemporary letters and 
writs of privy seal and secret seal, usually towards the left 
lower edge, not on the extreme right centre. Only one or two 
documents are slit for the insertion of the tag before the appli- 
cation of the wax. The older method of securing, given up by 
the privy and secret seals by 1346, seems to have been preferred 
by the griffin.^ 

There survive a good many other instruments under griffin 
seal besides those in the chancery warrants. Most of them are 
in the exchequer accounts relating to the wardrobe and house- 
hold, especially the " documents subsidiary to the accounts of 
the chamber." Of particular interest is the group contained 
in E.A. 391/8, " documents subsidiary to the accounts of the 
chamber 20-27 Edward III," chiefly writs under the great, secret 
and grifiin seals. It shows the curious way in which chamber 
writs were divided between the secret and the griffin seals that 
this collection includes documents authenticated by both seals. ^ 
That a seal so impersonal as the griffin seal should be the alter- 
native to the secret seal which was still regarded as voicing the 
individual wishes of the sovereign, is interesting. Some of these 
instruments under the griffin seal are warranted by the secret 
seal.^ Another file of griffin seals includes writs and letters 

It has all tho forms of a patent and is written in Latin, concluding with " In 
cuius rei testimonium has litteras nostras fieri fecimus patentes. Datas apud 
Westmonasterium sub sigillo nostro de griffon " etc. 

^ I have found one writ dated Nov. 4, 1354, slit and sealed on the extreme 
right dorse {E.A. 662/1) ; thirteen so slit and sealed for the years 1350, 1353, 
and 1354 (C.W. 1338/36, 75-82, 84, 86, 87, 88) ; and one dated Feb. 17, 1350, 
slit and sealed on the extreme left of the dorse {ib. 1338/4). Cf. also E.A. 391/8, 
for seven writs slit and sealed on the right dorse, and another slit but sealed 
in the old position. 

2 Of these E.A. 391/8, a letter of Nov. 30, 1346, " souz nostre secre seal," 
shows traces of a 25 mm. seal. Most of the impressions on these documents are 
mere scraps and outlines. 

^ Ib. the third document on the file is a writ of griffin seal warranted " per 
litteram de secreto sigillo." 


patent subsidiary to the accounts of Hugh Tyrrell, keeper of 
Radnor Castle, when this Mortimer stronghold was in the king's 
hands between 1336 and 1343, and handed over to chamber 
administration.^ Among these collections are some fine, though 
by no means perfect, impressions of griffin seals. There are 
others in E.A. 662.2 

Of the custody of the griffin seal little is known, less even than 
about the custody of the secret seal. The starting-point of the 
examination of its custody is the fact that it was a seal for the 
administration of a scattered estate in England, and, therefore, 
could only be of much use if it were normally kept within the 
country. We might, therefore, expect it to be kept in the head- 
quarters of the chamber in England, the Tower of London up to 
1348, and, after that, in the new chamber in Westminster Palace 
appointed for hearing the chamber accounts.^ Before 1348, we 
have record of persons paying in money to the receiver of the 
chamber in the Tower and obtaining from him quittance of their 
debts under griffin seal. A fair inference, therefore, is that these 
receivers, notably Kilsby,^ Hatfield, Burton and Mildeiihall, 
either had charge of the griffin seal at such times or that it was 
kept somewhere in the Tower accessible to them. But Kilsby 
left the chamber ; Hatfield and Burton were taken away to serve 
in the chamber itinerant with the court beyond sea, and Milden- 
hall, never more than a deputy in this relation, became specialised 
to the service of the privy wardrobe and, therefore, remained in 
the Tower when the chamber was transferred to Westminster. 

Under normal conditions the custody of archives went to- 
gether with the keeping of the seal. Now the care of the chamber 
archives had, since 1335, devolved on Henry Greystock, the 
senior steward till 1349 and after 1349 the sole steward of the 
chamber.^ When in 1348 the chamber headquarters were moved 

1 E.A. 20/8. 2 See above, p. 187 n. 

3 See above, iv. 282. 

* The following instances may be cited : (a) under Kilsby (1335), C.C.R., 
1333-37, p. 455 ; (6) under Hatfield (1343), C.P.R., 1343-45, p. 23 : (c) under 
Burton (1343-45), C.C.R., 1343-46, p. 517 ; C.P.R., 1345-48, pp. 95, 207, 253 ; 
(d) under MUdenhall (1347-51), C.P.R., 1345-48, pp. 252-253 ; C.C.R., 1349-54, 
pp. 181, 318. Mildenhall acted, not as keeper of the privy wardrobe, but as 
locum tenens for receiver Burton, abroad with the king. See above, iv. 259- 
260, 452-453. 

^ Above, iv. 269. 

190 THE GRIFFIN SEAL ch. xvn 

from the Tower to "Westminster, Greystock was ordered to sur- 
render these archives to the exchequer, in whose custody the few 
that have survived remained thereafter. It is, therefore, natural 
to suggest that Greystock, the steward, was a possible alternative 
to the receiver as the keeper of the griffin seal, especially since the 
commission to Greystock in 1347 included the obligation to enrol 
letters under the griffin seal.^ But the difiiculty is that there is no 
definite evidence in this matter, that I can find. All we know is 
that the griffin seal remained fairly active between 1348 and 
1354, and must, therefore, have been in some definite custody. 
But we must remember that the secretarial department of the 
chamber was never adequately organised. We have seen that 
the chamber had to call in exchequer and chancery clerks to 
assist in its secretarial work,^ and had no specialised secretariat 
until long after the griffin seal had disappeared along with the 
chamber lands. Yet the fact that in 1350 a letter of secret seal 
was warrant for a writ of griffin seal shows that the latter had a 
status of its own. 

Whoever had charge of the griffin seal, there is little doubt 
that it tended to be kept in the Tower of London or at West- 
minster, where the majority of the instruments under it were 
issued. Writs issued from the Tower are rare after 1343, while 
those from Westminster begin then and become increasingly 
numerous. Yet it was not unusual for the griffin seal to be taken 
away from its headquarters, notably to various chamber manors 
not too far from London. Thus we find it used at Carisbrooke 
on July 16, 1343, at Brill on December 22 in the same year, on 
behalf of the king's tenants there. ^ It followed the king to 
Porchester and Yarmouth in June and July 1346. Whether it 
followed him on the Crecy campaign is doubtful, but it was 
operative in the camp outside Calais in November 1346, and 
remained there until Edward took the town. Afterwards it 
stayed in Calais itself, attesting numerous writs until October 

* C.P.R., 1345-48, p. 299. But a writ or informal letter to Greystock in 
1352 under the griffin seal excites doubts as to whether he kept the seal which 
was used in correspondence with him ; E.A. 391/8. 

2 Above, iv. 278-279. 

^ C.W. 1337/5. Did this result in the commission of Jan. 6, 1344, to Grey- 
stock and others to inquire as to the right of the steward of the adjacent forest 
to demand money from the men of Brill to exempt them from the " expeditatio 
canum " ? (C.P.R., 1343-45, p. 184). 


1347.1 This is the only time that it is known to have gone abroad, 
and it is hardly an exception to the general rule, since so much of 
the administrative machinery was concentrated round the camp 
and court of the king at Calais, where there was what was called 
" the king's chamber on this side of the sea." ^ The griffin seal 
was back at Westminster before November 10, 1347, and for the 
future was normally established there. But in May 1349 it 
attested several writs at Woodstock, and in the autumn of that 
year was operating at Mortiake, Rotherhithe and Orsett. In 
April 1350 it issued writs at Windsor, in June at Henley in Surrey, 
in September one writ at Hertford in an unusual and unofficial 
hand. There were later excursions to Rotherhithe, Windsor and 
Carisbrooke, where the last writ was issued on July 20, 1354, 
The end of the series, dated November 20, 1354,^ was issued from 

Once the scheme of substituting a fixed annual income for the 
chamber estate was launched, in the Michaelmas term of 1354, 
there was, apparently, no further need of the griffin seal. Set up 
for a specific purpose, it had small temptation or encouragement 
to encroach upon the jurisdiction of other seals. Nor was it 
sufficiently ambitious or powerful to enlarge, by venturing into 
unexplored territory, the claim staked out for it in the first place. 
When the original necessity for it had disappeared the griffin seal 

1 C.W. 1337/39-42, 44-48. The writs before or at Calais are dated Nov. 6, 
1346, and Feb. 4, June 3, July 9 (three), Oct. 1 and 2, 1347. One of them, no. 42, 
is printed by Deprez, p. 87. It orders, on July 9, 1347, letters patent of safe con- 
duct to a prisoner made by W. Kilsby. Nos. 44-46 are similar writs respecting 
three other prisoners of Kilsby. They were doubtless issued under the griffin seal, 
because Kilsby, who had been very active during the campaign, had died early 
in Sept. 1346, before the army reached Calais. See above, iii. 169, n. 7, where 
the words " and before Calais " must be deleted as an error. His estates were, 
somewhat tardily, taken into the king's hands {C.P.R., 1345-48, pp. 242, 300), 
and administered by the chamber, owing to his debts to the chamber. Hence 
the employment of the griffin seal, both in warranting the two patents men- 
tioned above and on the writ issued from Calais. Clearly Kilsby's captives 
were an important part of his possessions. M. Deprez's account of " les mande- 
ments sous le sceau de griffon " (op. cit. pp. 86-88) is impaired in value by his 
not realising that the griffin was a chamber seal, and by his suggestion that it 
operated all through Edward III.'s reign. 

2 Above, iv. 280. 

* These statements are based on the places and dates of the griffin writs and 
letters in C.W. files 1337 and 1338. I cannot explain the significance of the 
movements indicated in the text, but they warn us not to stress overmuch the 
permanent keeping of the seal by the chamber office at Westminster. 

192 THE SIGNUM ch. xvn 

had not made itself so indispensable as to be retained and diverted 
into other channels of activity. Although the period of final 
experiment was long, lasting fourteen months in all from December 
1354 to January 1356, and the winding-up process, after the formal 
abolition of the estate in January 1356, slow, the use of the 
griffin seal was presumably discontinued before the close of 1354. 


The Signum 

We have now to deal with a mysterious small seal of Edward III. 
It appears first in the detailed accounts of William Norwell, 
keeper of the wardrobe from July 11, 1338, to May 28, 1340.i 
They reveal the fact that, during Edward's long absence abroad 
between 1338 and 1340, he made constant use of a seal called 
signum. In the whole of these accounts, I have found no refer- 
ences to the secret seal, though there are plenty to littere secrete 
emanating from the court, without more specific indication of how 
the letters were sealed. The accounts mention letters issued under 
the great seal, under the privy seal and suh signo only.^ Letters 
under the great seal, however, are at first mentioned rarely,^ 
and practically all the letters entrusted to mmcii, whose wages 
are entered in the accounts, were sub priuato sigillo or sub 

Edward III.'s correspondence sub signo was of widely varied 
character. He wrote sub signo to his wife, to his eldest son, the 
duke of Cornwall, to his chancellor, to his treasurer, and often to 
Kilsby, his keeper of the privy seal, who was abroad with him for 
nearly the whole of this period. He corresponded under the same 

1 M.B.E. 203. 

2 There is no doubt about this. Sub signo is written in full without any 
sign of abbreviation whatever. Sub priuato sigillo is generally unabbreviated. 

3 There are some on ff. lid, and 117d. On 117d record is made of payments 
to Henry Corfe and other nuncii on Jan. 25 for expenses incurred in taking 
letters of great seal to various magnates and sheriffs in England, " unacum 
impressionibus sigillorum priuati et magni." These are clearly the impressions 
of the new seals adopted by Edward after assuming the title of king of France. 
After this, references to letters of great seal become commoner. 


seal with the communities of Bruges and Ghent, and with the 
two cardinals, who w^ere constantly at hand with offers of media- 
tion.^ Letters sicb signo were only less numerous than those sub 
priuato sigillo. The signum was also constantly used in the days 
of keeper Cusance, May 1340 to November 1341,^ when, however, 
letters are recorded as issued under the secret seal as well as under 
the signum, implying that the two phrases indicated different 

The next detailed wardrobe accounts, drawn up by Richard 
Eccleshall, locum tenens of Robert Kilsby and Walter Wetwang, 
successively controllers, testify to the use of the signum in the 
period from November 25, 1341, to April 10, 1344.^ Here also we 
find record of littere regis sub signo sent to the two queens, Philippa 
and Isabella, to the chancellor and treasurer, the earl marshal, 
the earl of Northampton, the keeper of the wardrobe and many 
others.* In this account, however, there is abundant evidence 
of the use of the secret seal as well as the signum. Edward now 
corresponded with the communes of Ghent, Bruges and Ypres,^ 
with the archbishop of Canterbury and others,^ under the secret 
and privy seals. During this period, the secret seal and the 
signum may be regarded as equally employed. 

A few years later, the balance changed. From the accounts 
of John Buckingham for 1353 ' it is clear that the signum was 
still used, but references to it are rare. On the other hand, letters 
of secret seal are referred to frequently, and many nuncii were 
recorded as sent out with them, or in negociis regis secretis,^ 
which probably means the same thing. Yet only one messenger 
was dispatched with letters sub signo, addressed to the arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Winchester and John 

1 M.B.E. 203, ff. 109d 115, 118d. 

* E.A. 389/8, royal letters to Cusance when " extra curiam ", often sealed 
" sub signo ". 

3 M.B.E. 204. 

* lb. 204, ff. 94, 94d, 98d, lOld, etc. Isabella also had her " signum " 
with which she sealed a charter to Coventry ; cf. below, p. 194, n. 2. She had 
as well a '" signetum," which looks as if it were not the same ; E.A. 393/4. 

^ M.B.E. 204/94, " Francekino de Gaunt deferent! litteras regis sub priuato 
et secreto sigillis communitatibus villarum de Gaunt, Bruges et Ispres." 

« Ib.i. 99, lOOdand 101. 

' E.A. 392/2, " compotus Johannis de Bukyngham, custodis garderobe 
domini regis, de eadem garderoba, anno xxvii°," etc. 

8 lb. 392/2, £f. 45d, 46, 46d. 


194 THE SIGNUM ch. xvn 

Beauchamp.^ In the accounts for subsequent years I have noted 
no references to the signuni at all.^ 

The question is, what was this signum ? What was its relation 
to the secret seal ? I am inclined, on the whole, to think that 
the signum of these accounts represents the third secret seal of 
Edward III., which, as we have seen, was adopted at Ghent in 
1339.^ The coincident use of the new seal and the new phrase at 
the time of Edward's long visit to the Netherlands makes this 
view the most probable. If there were no other evidence than 
that afforded by Norwell's accounts, the identification would 
seem certain. The diflS,culty is that in later accounts signum 
and secret seal are mentioned side by side. There is, however, 
no great improbability of the two terms being used synonymously 
for the same thing. Secret seal was an expression so customary 
that it is hardly likely to have been driven out by a new phrase. 
It is perhaps significant that so long as this 15 mm. seal was em- 
ployed, that is, up to about 1352 or 1353, so long does signum 
occur in English records.'* After 1354 we find the term alternating 
with secret seal no longer signum but signetum. Yet so late as 
1363, Urban V. spoke of Edward's signum secretum, in a passage 
which confirms our impression that signum was but a synonym 
for secret seal. If the signum and the secretum of this period were 
different seals, we may perhaps say that, while the signum was 
a 15-mm. seal, the secretum was represented by those mysterious 
seals of larger size to which I have already referred. In that case 
the signum was, so to say, the signetum in the making. 

1 E.A. 392/2, f. 46d. It should, however, be remembered that the " titulus 
de nunciia " in this roll is very short, extending over barely more than two folios. 
The whole sum paid to " nuncii " was only £9:19:6, and not one " nuncius " 
sent with letters under the privy seal is mentioned. Subsequent wardrobe 
accounts are also very meagre under this title. The inference is that the 
messengers bearing letters under the great and privy seals received henceforth 
their wages and expenses elsewhere than from the wardrobe, or if from the 
wardrobe, that the details were hidden away under such heads as " garderoba," 
or " vadia," in the "rotuli hospicii," which record day by day the total sums 
paid under these categories, but give no particulars of the persons who received 

2 Queen Isabella's " signum " is referred to after her death in 1358 ; E.A. 

3 Above, pp. 174-175. * C.W. 1334/3. 


The Signet under Richard II 

In the first section of this chapter we traced the beginning, 
and gradual spread, of the use of the term "signet" in the reign 
of Edward III., and found reason to believe that the term was in 
its origin nothing more than a synonym for that " secret seal " 
which we have sought to distinguish from the privy seal. Practi- 
cal and theoretical reasons combined to make it desirable to 
describe the new personal seal of the monarch by some less 
ambiguous term than the well-worn one of secretum. The privy 
seal, the original secretum, had now become a " seal of govern- 
ment." Its custodian was one of the king's chief ministers of 
state, and its use was hedged about with solemn forms that made 
it unable to discharge any longer its early function of expressing 
the king's will. Yet, as we know, it retained the word secretum 
on its matrix. In view of these facts, " secret seal " was a 
bad name for the more personal seal of the monarch. But 
there were other reasons which made a different name for it 
desirable. With all their insularity, English kings and states- 
men were compelled to take account of the names and forms that 
prevailed among neighbouring states with which they had most 
frequent diplomatic intercourse. The use of the term " secret 
seal " in the chief chanceries of Europe, notably in the court of 
the Valois kings,^ and in the papal curia, was very definitely 
tied down by the fourteenth century to indicate an official seal, 
the equivalent of our privy seal. 

In France the " secret seal " was, as we have seen, an integral 
part of the official system. Similarly, at Avignon the papal 
secretum of the " fisherman's ring " was normally affixed to 
definite classes of diplomatic instruments. The intimate re- 
lations of friendship and hostility between England, Avignon 
and France made it practically inconvenient to use " secret 
seal " in England in a sense diametrically opposed to that current 
on the continent. As a matter of fact, the fourteenth-century 
English official, ecclesiastically trained and curialistically minded, 

1 See above, pp. 143-149. 


could hardly shake himself free from the current continental 
significance of the term " secret seal," But the usage of the 
French court also offered a term better fitted to express the 
idea involved in this English late and restricted application of 
the term " secret seal." The secret seal in England was called 
signet, because that was the name by which the analogous seal 
in France was known. Behind the French custom lay the fact 
that from time immemorial, in all parts of the civilised world, 
the signet finger ring, bearing some recognised device of its 
wearer, had been habitually impressed on wax to authenticate 
documents conveying personal wishes and commands. In the 
course of a few years " signet " had ousted " secret seal " alto- 
gether from common speech in England, though down to the end 
of Richard II. 's reign, " secret seal " was still occasionally used 
in official documents as an alternative for signet, ^ and even 
sometimes in old-fashioned non-official circles as the equivalent 
for the privy seal. 

At first sight my position may seem directly antagonistic 
to that of M. Morel, who strongly maintained that the " royal 
signet " of France was something absolutely distinct from the 
sceau du secret, and declared erroneous the view, hitherto taken 
by all writers, that signetum and sigillum secreti were synonymous. ^ 
For the early Valois period in France it must be admitted that 
M. Morel has proved his contention up to the hilt. In a masterly 
examination of the instances of the French secret seal given in 
Douet d'Arcq's great collection for the reigns of Philip the Fair 
and the first three Valois kings, M. Morel makes it clear that in 
France, as in England, there was for this period an official seal 
of government, the sceau du secret, and besides, a personal seal 
of the sovereign, which he calls the signet royal. 

Already in the later days of Philip the Fair, there was a 
personal royal seal in France distinct from the official " great " 
and " secret " seals. Bardin's famous and much-disputed text ^ 
speaks not only of the great seal quo cancellarius sigillare con- 
sueverat and of the above-mentioned secret seal cuius custodiam 

1 For examples Ad. MS. 35,115/45, and E.A. 403/22, f. 17. In both these 
late Ricardian wardrobe accounts the " nuncii " are paid for taking letters 
of secret seal, and there is no reference to the signet. It is certain, however, 
that the signet is meant. 

2 Op. cit. p. 260. ^ See above, p. 144, n. 1. 


habebat cambellanus, but also of the parvum sigilluni quod rex 
ferre solebat. The separate existence of the three seals is absolutely- 
clear, since, according to Bardin, all of them were employed to 
authenticate the act suppressing the parliament of Toulouse in 
1312. Are we justified in calling this third seal a signet ? M. 
Morel believes we are, though he is not very convincing when 
he argues that the small seals of St. Louis and Philip IV. were 
called signet and reads the S. L. of the former and the S. I. G. 
of the latter as probably standing for signetuyn and not for 
sigillum. He is the less convincing since he gives no instances 
of the use of the term signet in France before 1349,^ and at the 
same time admits that the personal seal of John of Valois in 
1362 bore the legend sigillum secretum, and that of Charles V. 
in 1371 the legend seel secret. True, M. Morel makes an attempt 
to demonstrate that in the fourteenth century secretum sigillum 
and seel secret are to be distinguished from sigillum secreti and 
sceau du secret, and that the former meant personal " signet " 
and the latter the official " secret seal." But how about the 
use of terms like signetum secretum, signet secret, which a mere 
reference to Ducange will show to have been usual in the four- 
teenth century in France as well as in England ? Is signetum 
any more originally than a synonym for sigillum 1 M. Morel 
seems to go rather too far in applying the categories of the 

1 I have not been able to find " signetum " in any text earlier than the four- 
teenth century. It is not, so far as I know, used in England before the reign of 
Edward III., nor in France before that of John. Edward III. had a signet by 
1337, and for his mother's signet or " signum," see above, p. 193, n. 4, and E.A. 
391/4, " et aliud breue de sigillo vocato le signet." The examples of the use 
of the term given in Ducange, Glossarium mediae et infimae Latinitatis are all 
posterior to the middle of the fourteenth century, and the earlier ones show 
it to be at that period a mere synonym for " secretum." For examples, 1359 
" donne a Nantes souz nostre signet de secret^'' Lobineau, Hist. Bret. ii. col. 
409 ; cf. ih. col. 638 : " Le signet secret de noz chevances." These are exactly 
parallel to the English passages quoted in the preceding chapter. The instance 
of signet, as sharply differentiated from seal, given by Ducange, is a Scottish 
example of Robert III., "Statutum est quod quilibet baro . . . habeat sigillum 
proprium . . . et quod sigilla sint et non signeta sicut ante ista tempora fieri 
consuevit," Stat. Rob. III. cap. 1, 5. Soon after the middle of the fourteenth 
century, the chancellor of the University of Paris was in the habit of sending 
the successful candidates for the licence on the higher faculty an invitation to 
receive the licence. This invitation was called his "signetum," because it was 
sealed, " signeto quodam cancellarie . . . que cedule communi nomine in 
studio et civitate Paris, signeta vocantur " ; Denifle-Chatellain, Cart. Univ. Par. 
ii. 683-684. 


fourteenth century to the facts of the thirteenth, and it is perhaps 
safer to recognise that " secret seal," " small seal," " signet " 
and the rest were all in the first place absolute synonyms, only 
becoming differentiated later. The question is largely one of 
names rather than facts, and M. Morel has done admirable service 
in pointing out that all these small seals originate in personal 
stamps, rings, annuli signatorii, signets, or what you will, of the 
sovereign, and that their history is a process of successive redupli- 
cation. M. Morel stresses this process as being one of so many 
dedoiiblements successifs du signet. It would perhaps be more 
historical to describe the evolution of the small seals of England 
and France as so many duplications of the secret or privy seal, 
if only for the reason that signet, both in France and in England, 
seems a definitely fourteenth-century term. M. Morel might 
have gone even further back and made the great seal itself an 
early example of a " duplication of the signet," for it is admitted 
that the origin of all seals is in rings of the signet type. However, 
whatever we call the early private stamps of St. Louis or Philip 
IV., they are clearly of what is called later the signet type. 

Philip IV. 's small seal was a round stamp of 15 mm. exactly 
the same size as the signets of Edward III.'s middle period, 
1339-52. Its image of the rampant lion distinguishes it from the 
" shield of arms " used as the " secret seal " for letters close ; 
and M. Morel is clearly right in identifying it with the parvum 
sigillum of Bardin. Moreover, the separation between the seals 
was the result of unconscious evolution and not of definite policy. 
Even M. Morel's capital distinction of an official and a private 
seal was only gradually brought about, and it is unlikely that the 
men of the fourteenth century were more than half conscious of 
it. Let us distinguish between the distinctions we make for our- 
selves and those made by contemporaries, not so logical as to 
mind calling two things by the same name. Thus the name 
" secret seal " long clung in both countries to what it is more 
convenient for us to call the signet, and under Edward III. and 
his French contemporaries " secret seal " and " signet " were 
only struggling slowly towards differentiation. This explains the 
legends of the seals of John II. (1362) and of Charles V. (1371).i 

^ See above, p. 197. M. Morel rather quaintly says of these two, " C'est 
un signet royal qui, bien que portant la legende sigillum secretum, n'est pas 


Whatever may have been the custom in the courts of St. Louis 
and Philip IV., the personal seal was certainly, as M. Morel proves, 
called the signet under Philip of Valois. In 1349 a secret seal of 
that king forbade the treasury to pay oflS.cers except for periods 
of effective service, si nostre petit signet que portons n'y estoit 
plaque et apparent} 

For the reigns of John II. and Charles V., M. Morel makes it 
clear that signet was a term in frequent use. An instrument of the 
former period, issued in 1345, was sealed cum paruo signeto 
nostra quod deferimus, a phrase taking us back to Bardin, and an 
instrument of Charles V., issued in 1370, was authenticated by 
nostre signet et nostre seel du secret.^ In the latter years of Charles 
V.'s reign, no " letter of gift or payment " was valid unless 
authenticated by a special signet established in 1379.^ The 
ordinary signet was described as celuy de quoy le roy seele les 
lettres qiCil escript de sa main. Later, it generally appeared on the 
same document as a more official seal, a use rightly regarded by 
M. Morel as being not so much an authentication by sealing as an 
equivalent for the royal signature. Thus, the signet in France 
never quite lost its original character of a personal seal of the 
crown, and the numerous and various signets employed tended to 
keep up its primitive and unofficial status. The reduplication of 
the lesser seals was worked out similarly in England and France. 
In the thirteenth century there was one personal seal of the 
sovereign, indifferently called secret seal, privy seal, small seal, 
but not, so far as I know, signet. This personal seal became 
official, so that the king had to employ a new private seal of his 
own, as did Philip IV. by 1312 and Edward II. after the promul- 
gation of the 1311 ordinances. There does not seem to have been 
the constitutional significance in the French duplications that 
we suspect lay in the English, but from the point of view of 

le moins au monde un sceau du secret. C'est le signet royal, malgre la legende 
seel secret." No doubt it is convenient for us to call them signets, but the 
legends remind us that the fourteenth century was not so clear-headed as 
M. Morel. All these " small seals " are identical in origin, and the difference 
in fourteenth-century usage does not, despite M. Morel, prove difference in 
origin. ^ Morel, op. cit. p. 267, from Ordon. ii. 302. 

■" This signet is reminiscent in some ways of the griffin seal of Edward III. 
" Nous avons un signet pour mettre es lettres sanz lequel nul denier de nostre 
dit domaine ne sera paye " ; Ordon. vi. 381. 
3 Morel, pp. 260-261. 


administrative machinery the results were the same in both 
countries. Let us now examine the English signet more closely. 
By the accession of Richard II. the usage of the signet had 
already crystallised into certain elementary set forms, and with 
his reign there begins an unbroken series of signet letters pre- 
served among the chancery warrants. ^ There is only one signet 
among the surviving warrants for exchequer issues, and it is 
dated April 14 (1385).2 But towards the middle of the reign, 
signet warrants began to be addressed to the keepers of the privy 
seal, though all those surviving for these last few years of the 
fourteenth century are contained in a single file.^ At first there 
was, for a few weeks, an abnormal use of the signet. It was 
easier to provide a signet in a hurry than a privy seal. For the 
privy seal a special matrix had to be cut, but any engraved gem 
or ring was suitable for a signet. Such a signet was used by the 
little king on the very day of his accession, on a warrant to chan- 
cery, dated Kennington, June 22, 1377, and donne souz le signet 
de nostre anel en absence de nostre priite seal.^ Other early signet 
warrants of the reign tell the same tale, the Latin formula being 
data sub signeto anuli nostri in absencia priuati sigilli nostri.^ No 
instrument issued sub signeto nostra without apology for the lack 
of a privy seal survives for a date earlier than July 10, 1377.® 
It was plainly a matter of indifierence whether privy seal or 
signet were used, so long as the king was a child with no will of 
his own. But the traditionalism of the public service was too 
strong to be influenced by such considerations. As soon as a 
privy seal could be made, it was put into use. 

The method of affixing the signet was unchanged. A cross of 
red wax, "udth four, usually equal, arms, was made on all instru- 
ments to which the seal was to be applied en placard or plaque 
au dos, the signet then being impressed on a blob of wax at the 
intersection of the arms. The average size of the cross was about 
67 mm. by 67 mm. but sometimes it was as small as 60 mm. by 
60 mm., or even 50 mm. by 50 mm., and as large as 100 mm. by 
100 mm. Oftener than not, perhaps always, a fender of twisted 

1 C.W. 1339. * Exch. of Rec, Warr.for Iss^les, bundle 14. 

' Warrants for the Privy Seal, P.S.O. 1/1, all of them informal letters. There 
are neither writs nor bills among them. These warrants only begin when 
John Waltham was keeper of the privy seal, namely, in 1386. 

4 C.W. 1339/1. » lb. 1339/2. « lb. 1339/8. 


rash was imbedded in the wax, both when the seal was applied en 
double queue as well as when it was en placard and plaque au dos.^ 
These precautions against detachment were probably adopted lest, 
without something of the kind, so small a seal should flake off 
altogether. The early introduction and quickly won popularity of 
paper for signet instruments may have been responsible for the use 
of such devices. Yet the danger of loss or damage seems equally 
possible from parchment as from paper, for if the one was too 
flexible and brittle, the other might well be too stiff. It must also 
be confessed that, although no cross or fender was used for the 
small 10-mm. second secret seal of Edward III.,^ the cross was 
used for the small secret seal or signet which came into being 
in the second half of the reign, and ultimately superseded the 
larger one-inch " new signet" or secret seal of 1354-67.^ Besides, 
some of the crosses were so thin as to have furnished little or no 
protection. All these suggestions, indeed, may very well be vain, 
and the true explanation still to seek. Though the impressions 
of Richard II. 's signet are mostly destroyed, its one-time presence 
on all instruments sealed on the back or face is witnessed by still 
adhering fragments, or by a stained shape, of the waxen cross. 
The same method of sealing, used in France from a somewhat 
earlier date, prevailed all through the reign of Richard II. It 
supplies a quaint instance of the minute similarities in method 
of the administrations of the rival realms on opposite sides of 
the Channel.* 

The sequence of Richard's signets, if sequence there were, 
cannot be determined in the light of our present knowledge. 
Later, if further and more exact evidence is discovered, it may 
be possible to assign them to their chronological order and limits. 
But very likely, indeed almost certainly, if the truth were known, 
we should find that Richard used several signets contempor- 
aneously. Fortunately, although we cannot say this is the first 

^ I do not remember having noticed the signet applied " en simple queue," 
or attached by " lacs de soie." 

2 Above, pp. 171-174. ^ Above, p. 177. 

* The imprint of the French signet is figured in Morel, op. cit. p. 295, fig. 10. 
The document, dated February 1375, was really given " soubz le seel royal 
ordene en labsence du grant," which was apposed " en simple queue," and the 
signet, as so often, served merely as an additional authentication. Butler's 
warrants in C.W. 1644 show that the seal of the king's butlers of Richard II. 's 
time had a similar cross of wax, but with much shorter arms to it. 


and this the second, here this began and that ceased to be used, 
we have indication, in the better-preserved specimens, of the 
design and inscription of some of Richard II. 's signets. The 
documents to which these specimens are attached, although some 
of them are so sadly mutilated as to be almost completely in- 
decipherable, also serve as guide to the period of activity. Records 
of payments made by the exchequer for the engraving of royal 
signets contribute a little more about their design, the material 
of which the matrices were made, and the dates at which they 
were in use. In May 1378, the issue rolls record the payment to 
a goldsmith for a signet of gold with the letter R, weighing in 
gold forty shillings and eightpence, and for the making of the same 
six shillings and eightpence.^ I am not sure that an impression 
of this signet is in existence, but the exchequer description may 
not impossibly apply to one of two almost identical matrices, 
two impressions of each of which have recently been found in the 
Public Record Ofl&ce,^ among some common pleas documents. 
Both matrices bore an open crown on a round centre panel, en- 
circled by the legend r(ex) anglie et francie, but one was 
smaller than the other. The smaller of the two had a total 
diameter of 13 mm., a crown of 6 mm. wide, and its legend en- 
closed in twisted-rope-like rims. The larger of the two had a 
total diameter of 15 mm., a more ornate crown 8 mm. wide, and 
its legend enclosed in plain rims. Three of the four impressions 
are surrounded by a thin, loosely twisted rush fender, and all 
were imposed at the intersection of the arms of a cross. The 
two smaller, and one of the larger, impressions, are on letters 
addressed to Robert Bealknap, chief justice of common bench, 
and the other larger impression is on a letter addressed to Walter 
Clopton, chief justice of king's bench. Now Bealknap was dis- 
missed, and Clopton was appointed in January 1388.^ It looks, 

^ I.R. 468/2, " pro uno signeto aiiri cum littera R, ponderante in auro xls. 
v'md., et pro factura eiusdem, vis. viiicJ." Cf. Rot. Pari. iv. 312, where a gold- 
smith's widow demands, for debts incurred by Henry IV., " item pur la faisure 
d'un signet d'or pur le secretaire, xiiis. iiiicJ." The cheapness of the signet is 
again worth noting, for at the same time the making of the privy seal cost £10, 
and the great seal " in two pieces," £50 ; see above, p. 133. 

2 Since the publication of Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte's book, in which I have 
read the account of Richard II. 's signets (u.s. pp. 112-117) with great profit. 
My attention has been drawn to these new signets by Mr. Jenkinson and Mr. 
Galbraith. See below, App. pi. IV. nos. 3, 4. ^ Above, iii. 422-423, 429. 


therefore, as if the smaller matrix were the earlier of the two, 
and as if it had later been replaced by the larger one sometime 
before January 1388, though there is the possibility of the two 
having been used concurrently. The letters themselves are either 
so mutilated, faded or inadequately dated as to defy immediate 
identification. Careful and minute investigation may succeed in 
establishing approximate if not actual dates for them, when the 
periods of the currency of the seals might be narrowed down to 
within more exact limits, but at present it is not practicable to 
be more precise. A further complication is contributed by the 
fact that Douet d'Arcq describes a signet authenticating a letter 
of 1399 as round, 15 mm. in diameter, bearing a crown and the 
fragmentary legend . . . ncie-anglie.^ This sounds much like 
an impression of the second of the two matrices we are considering. 
The difficulty is that the legend seems transposed. But if the 
matrix used in 1399 was not the 15-mm. matrix of the early part 
of the reign, it was obviously so similar that we shall probably 
not be far wrong in regarding it as a direct successor of the earlier 
one. In effect, then, there appears to have been in use all through 
Richard II. 's reign a signet of the type represented by these four 
early and one late impressions, and it does not seem too great a 
stretch of imagination to believe that the signet paid for by the 
exchequer in 1378, and described in that office as bearing the 
letter R, was the earliest of the matrices on which the first word 
of the legend. Rex, was abbreviated to R. How many matrices 
for this signet were made in the course of the reign is matter for 
speculation, but our present scanty evidence seems to account 
for three. 

Another signet used by Richard belongs to a rather different 
type. The earliest impression of it occurs on a document dated 
October 15, 1384, and is figured, though not very clearly, in Mr. 
Hunter Blair's Durham Seols.^ The seal measures about 15 mm., 
say fth of an inch, in diameter. Across the middle the name 
RICHARD is inscribed, and both above and below there is a triangle, 
with a tiny Gothic flourish inside and on the left and right outside, 

1 Douet d'Arcq, iii. 268, no. 10,035 ; see also above, p. 174, n. 3. 

2 Durham Seals, plate E, No. 13. Cf. Maxwell-Lyte, p. 113. The seal is ex- 
hibited in the P.R.O. Museum, case H. 80. It comes from C. W. 1343/18 and is a 
warrant in favour of Sir Baldwin Raddington. See below, App. pi. IV. no. 5. 


By 1395 another signet, of an altogether different type, was in 
use. The matrix was a little larger than any of those we have 
already noticed, say 19 mm., or |", in diameter, and was the first 
signet matrix to imitate the privy seal in representing a " shield of 
arms." On it were engraved the mythical " arms of Edward the 
Confessor," which Richard had now made his own, impaled with 
the lilies of France and the leopards of England quarterly, and a 
legend which reads S.R. (Sigillum regis) anglie et francie.^ 
This signet Richard called " our own personal signet of St. 
Edward," and he continued to use it until the end of his reign. 
Very likely it was the gold signet ring which, on September 29, 
1399, after his abdication in parliament, he took from his finger 
and placed on the finger of his supplanter, Henry of Lancaster. ^ 
It was possibly the signet which accompanied the king and John 
Lincoln to Ireland earlier in the year. But so late as 1397, we 
have evidence of the use of one more signet, said to have been 
inscribed le roy richard.^ If this description, given by the 
king himself, is accurate, the matrix must have been a different 
one from that inscribed richard only.* Queen Anne also had 
her signet and secretary, her signet being occasionally used by 
the king when his own was not available.^ The signet matrix 
and chain were made of gold, though the matrix and chain of the 
privy seal were still made of silver.^ One of the first acts of 

1 Dip. Docs. Exch. 317, 326 ; Scottish Docs. 92/5, 95/12. I am indebted for 
these references to Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte. See App. pi. IV. no. 6. 

* See below, p. 210. 

3 C.W. 1354/24; MaxweU-Lyte, p. 117. 

* See above, p. 203. The B.M. possesses a modern red wax impression, 
taken from a bronze matrix in the City of London Museum, which is described 
in Detached Seals and Impressions, 1911-15, clvii. 3, as an " impression of the 
signet of Richard II." It is 40 mm., or 1|^", in diameter. There is a narrow centre 
panel, the length of the matrix, showing a crowned standing figure holding a 
fleur-de-lys sceptre in the right hand, and in the left hand, across the front of 
its person, a shield (12 mm. x 13 mm.) bearing the three leopards of England. 
Over the left shoulder of the figure, and between its feet, is a fleur-de-lys. On 
each side of the panel is intricate Gothic moulding and tracery, beyond which 
is the legend eicardus dei gratia rex anglie, interspersed with what appear 
to be roses and wheatears. The whole is enclosed in a finely beaded rim. The 
material of the matrix, bronze, and its size, so much greater than the signets 
we have just described, seem to preclude the possibility of its being a signet, and 
further, the arms on the shield and the legend suggest doubts as to its being a 
matrix for any seal of Richard II. For what seal then was it made, and for 
which king, Richard II. or Richard III. ? 

5 C.W. 1354/5, 6, 7, 15 ; Maxwell-Lyte, p. 115 ; above, iii. 459, n. 2. 

* See above, p. 133, and n. 5. 


Henry IV, was to pay for the making of a gold signet for the 

The diplomatic of the signet need not detain us long. 2 The 
rules of the office of the secret seal, in which the signet originated, 
were faithfully followed. Elaborate writs, based upon writs of 
privy seal, had become nearly obsolete before Richard's day.^ 
The instruments issued under the signet were mainly littere de 
signeto and bille de signeto, analogous to the informal letters and 
bills under privy seal,* except that the signet letters almost always 
omitted the year. From 1386 some of them were signed in the 
lower right-hand corner of the face, by a clerk of the signet, just 
like some of the warrants imder privy seal which were signed by 
one of the four privy seal clerks between 1360 and 1362.^ The 
problem is, why was this done ? The simplest theory is that the 
person signing acknowledged responsibility for the communica- 
tion, or admitted to having checked it before issue. But if this 
is the real explanation, why, we are tempted to ask, did not the 
privy seal adopt such a useful precaution in the fourteenth 
century, instead of merely experimenting with it ? Why, also, 
were not all signet letters signed ? There does not, at present, 
seem to be any satisfactory solution. 

Though documents under the signet were not seldom sent 
directly into chancery, thereby replacing privy seal warrants, 
many letters of the signet were warrants to the keeper of the 
privy seal to issue privy seal warrants to chancery. Besides the 
signet letters sent individually to the three chief ministers, a 
number of signet letters sent into chancery were addressed 
collectively to all three, as to a sort of permanent committee of 

It is worth while tracing the ebb and flow of signet instruments 

1 See above, p. 202, n. 1, an extract from Rot. Pari. iv. 312. 

^ The materials most accessible for its study are now in C.W. 1339-55; 
P.S.O. 1/1. But scattered evidence is to be found in other classes of documents 
in the P.R.O. 

^ One example of a signet writ is addi'essed to the chancellor and orders the 
nomination of the keeper of the privy seal, John Fordham, to a prebend in 
Wells cathedral; C.W. 1339/15. The language is Latin and Fordham is curi- 
ously described as " custos secreti sigilli," a phrase that probably carelessly 
echoes the formula of a papal bull which authorised certain royal nominations 
to prebends. The date is Feb. 13, 1379, '" sub signeto anuli nostri." 

■* See above, pp. 113-115. 

6 See above, p. 114. « C.W. 1339/50. 


under Richard II., especially among the Chancery Warrants, 
where the largest mass of them is found. There we can dis- 
tinguish three periods. For the first six years of Richard's 
reign, one file suffices to contain the surviving signets. During 
that time the signet was used much as it had been under Edward 
III. Then came a period of great activity. There are two files 
for 7 Richard II., four for 8 Richard II., six for 9 Richard II., 
and two files for 10 Richard II., or, more precisely, from June 
to October 1386, when there is a sudden and abrupt stop.^ After 
a spell of apparent inactivity, the signet was used again as 
warranty for the great seal. But, if we may judge from the 
extant warrants, not nearly so frequently as in the previous 
period, for from August 1387 to the king's deposition at Michael- 
mas 1399, one file sufl&ces to contain them all. 2 Substantially, 
then, the vogue of the signet warrants for the great seal was 
from June 1383 to October 1386. This period produced fifteen 
files, of which ten are for the years June 1384 to June 1386. As 
the signet warrants decrease in number, the privy seals increase, 
so that, while three to five files suffice to contain the privy seal 
warrants for each of the years 5 to 12 Richard II., twelve files 
are devoted to those of 13 Richard IL, 1389-1390. 

We must not, however, forget that there were many other 
signet instruments issued besides those addressed to the chancel- 
lor, the treasurer and the keeper of the privy seal. The signet 
letter, which had direct force, and was not simply a warrant for 
the issue of another instrument, is not represented at all in the 
chancery and privy seal collections. For instance, all letters 
written by Richard II. to his council were given under the signet, 
a habit continued by his successors,^ and how many were directed 
to other courts, corporations and individuals can only, at this 
stage, be imagined. But this is no reason why the varying 
numbers of surviving signet instruments found on the chancery 
files for the different years of Richard's reign should not be 

1 It is hard, therefore, to believe the statement of Cont. Eul. Hist. iii. 360, 
that Richard ordered chancellor Arundel to seal the commission of 1386 by the 
signet. " Huic commissioni oportuit regem consentire, praecepitque Thomae 
cancellario predictam commissionem sigillare, quod et factum est ad mandatum 
suum sub signeto." 

2 C.W. 1354. File 1355 consists of miscellaneously dated instruments. 
* Nicolas, O.P.C. i. 57. 


regarded as correctly illustrating the rise and fall in the use of 
this seal. 

We have pointed out before that the ebb and flow of the use 
of the signet by Richard II. possess an obvious constitutional 
significance. The sparing use of the signet in the years 1377- 
1383 shows that, during the minority, it was simply one of the 
ordinary cogs in the wheel of the administrative machine. The 
enormous extension of its use from 1383 to 1386 suggests that 
it became the favourite seal of the young king while he was 
learning how to be a personal ruler. The privy seal had become 
hopelessly officialised : its custody was often in hands likely 
to be guided by the opposition leaders ; it no longer, in any real 
sense, expressed the monarch's individual will. Richard ac- 
cordingly employed the signet where earlier kings would have 
used the privy seal. Whether by design or accident, the result 
of his policy was inevitably the supersession of the privy seal 
by the signet. A glance at the calendars of the patent rolls of 
the reign confirms the impression conveyed by the surviving 
warrants under the signet. We are struck at once by the fre- 
quency with which the patent under the great seal was issued 
on the authority of the signet without the intermediate link of a 
warrant of privy seal. This is especially noticeable in the years 
immediately preceding the first effective opposition to Richard 
in the parliament of October 1386. The organisation of the 
baronial opposition in that memorable assembly was soon fol- 
lowed by the decline of the use of the signet. With the triumph 
of the lords appellant, the signet fell back into its former sub- 
ordinate position. 

Chancellor Arundel's refusal to recognise the signet as a 
warrant for the great seal, and the overriding of the signet by 
the great seal for several years after, are matters on which all 
has been said that need be said.^ Even when the king employed 
the signet only as the first stage in setting the great seal in motion, 
the keeper of the privy seal had then no scruple in drafting his 
privy seal instrument on different lines from those suggested 
as the royal pleasure under the signet.'^ In all such cases " the 

^ See above, iii. 417, n. 1, and iv. 41-42. 

2 See H. Hall, Formula Book of Diplomatic Documents, pp. 105-106, where is 
printed a signet letter of Jan. 26, 1391, instructing keeper Stafford " par avys 


advice of the king's council " was regarded as sufficient warrant 
for countermanding the king's pleasure. 

Perhaps it was Richard's prudent self-restraint that led him, 
in the years of the re-establishment of his authority, to suffer 
without remonstrance these limitations to his use of the signet. 
Even after his complete triumph in 1397, there is little evidence 
that the signet was restored to the position it had held during 
the rule of Michael de la Pole and Robert de Vere. It was 
extensively used, as we have seen, when there was some obvious 
utilitarian reason for its employment, as when Richard was in 
Ireland. But since the great and privy seals were as much 
under Richard's control as the signet itself, there was no reason 
for disturbing official tradition by otiose innovations. The 
signet was vitally important to Richard only in the years when 
he had incomplete control over chancery, exchequer and privy 
seal. When all offices of state and household were equally 
dependent on the king, the distinction between political and 
household administration ceased to have much more significance 
than it had in France. 

We can trace the fluctuations of feeling in the complaints 
which the use of the signet provoked under Richard II. In 
the early years of the reign the murmurs of the commons con- 
tinued as of old. The privy seal was still looked upon with 
suspicion, but the signet was now associated with it in popular 
disrepute. Thus, in the first parliament of the new reign in 
October 1377, the commons petitioned that the law was often 
delayed by letters of the privy seal and the secret signet, and 
were answered that the statutes on these points were to be 
strictly observed.^ Moreover, in 1378 the commons at Gloucester 
complained of justices being hindered in performing their office 
and of individuals being summoned to attend the king's council 

de nostre counseill " to base upon it a warrant to chancery under privy seal. In 
tlie signet letter Richard asked for a grant of 6d. a day from the exchequer of 
Carmarthen to one of the archers of the royal livery. But the writ of privy 
seal, dated May 28, Westminster, changes " exchequer of Carmarthen " into 
" our exchequer [of Westminster]," charging the latter with the payment. It 
also alters the terms of the signet letter in other respects. The resultant 
patent, with the same date and place as the privy seal, was a mere translation 
of the French privy seal into Latin. By printing these three writs in succes- 
sion as nos. 110, 111 and 112, Dr. Hall makes this point very clear. 
1 Eot. Pari. iii. 23. 


by letters under great, privy or secret seal.^ The complaints 
specially directed against the signet only begin after the abuse 
of it by the crown in the years between 1383 and 1386. Although 
the vigorous action taken in 1386 by the ministers appointed 
by the commons made petition and legislation unnecessary, the 
Merciless Parliament of 1388 once more emphasised the feeling 
of the estates by forcing the crown to embody in a statute the 
petition that no letter of the signet or secret seal should be sent 
out to the disturbance of the law and the damage of the realm.^ 
The comparative rarity of signet letters after this period 
shows that the action of the administration had even anticipated 
the declaration of the commons. The effect, in this relation, of 
the restoration of the king's authority in 1389 is brought out by 
the petition of the Westminster parliament, which met on January 
17, 1390, that no charters of pardon should pass the chancery 
without a warrant of the privy seal. The king accepted this 
request, save in the cases where the chancellor could grant such 
pardons by his oflS.ce, without having to speak to the king about 
it. But both petition and answer recognised the new inter- 
mediate link of the signet letter between the king and the ofl&ce 
of privy seal. The signet letter was required, however, to be 
endorsed, by the chamberlain or the vice-chamberlain, with 
the name of the parties requesting the pardon, and it was insisted 
that such letter be sent and directed to the keeper of the privy 
seal. 3 The recognition of the signet letter for this particular 
type of business probably indicates a tendency towards its 

1 Rot. Pari. iii. 44. I have suggested previously that " signet " is here 
meant by the phrase "secret seal." The "secret signet" of ib. iii. 23, makes 
this practically certain. 

2 Ib. iii. 247 ; Stat. 11 R. ii. cap. x. 

* Ib. iii. 268. The petition runs : " Et soient chargez le chamberleyn et 
souz-chamberleyn, le chamberleyn sur peyne de M. marcz, I'outre sur peyne 
de D. marcz. Et en chescun bille endosse et enseale desouz le signet et envoye 
al gardeyn de prive seal, suit mys le noun de celuy qe demande la chartre : et 
qe nul chartre passe le chanceller sanz garrant de prive seal." The king replies : 
" Et que tiel bille {i.e. signet letter endorsed by chamberlain or sub-chamberlain 
with name of petitioner) soit envoie et directe al gardeyn de prive seal. Et 
que nul garrant de prive seal soit fait pur tiel chartre avoir, sinoun que le gar- 
deyn de prive seal eit tiel bille endosse ou signe par le chamberleyn ou souz 
chamberleyn, come desus est dit. Et que nul chartre de pardon de treson ne 
d'autre felonie, passe la chauncellerie sanz garrant de prive seal, forseque en 
cas ou le chanceller le puisse graunter de son ofifice, sans ent parler au roy." 
The chamberlain and sub-chamberlain were certainly not then keepers of the 
signet, but they were still apparently regarded as ultimately responsible for it. 
VOL. V p 



general acceptance for all purposes which served the king's 
object. One of Richard's last acts of sovereignty, as he travelled 
through Wales from Ireland on his fatal journey to Flint, was 
to scatter pardons and releases under the signet to his special 
liegemen of the principalities of Wales and Chester. ^ 

Among the charges brought against Richard in the parliament 
which recognised Henry IV. was one to the effect that Richard 
compelled the sheriffs of the realm to swear, in addition to their 
ancient oaths, that they would obey all his mandates under the 
great and privy seals, and also letters under his signet. 2 Richard, 
moreover, authenticated his testament after the French fashion, 
namely, with the great seal, the privy seal and his signet. 
When at the last stage of all, Richard, " with a cheerful counte- 
nance," announced in the Tower his desire to release parliament 
from its allegiance, and declared that if it lay with him, the duke 
of Lancaster should be his successor, " as a sign of his intention 
and wish in the matter, he took the ring of gold of his patent 
signet from his finger, and put it on the finger of the duke." * 
The signet symbolised, to the monarch to whom symbols counted 
for so much, the very essence of personal sovereignty. When 
Henry of Lancaster challenged the throne in full parliament, as 
" descended in the right line of blood from Henry III.," and the 
estates tumultuously declared him to be their Idng, his first 
royal act was to show to the estates the signefc king Richard had 
handed over to him as a token of his wishes. ^ Before the parlia- 

1 Rot. Pari. iii. 442. 

2 lb. iii. 420. " Quod vlcecomites per totum regnum suum ultra antiquum 
et solitum juramentum jurarent quod omnibus mandatis suis sub magno et 
privato sigillis suis ac etiam literis sub signeto suo quotienscumque eis directe 
fuerint obedirent." Cf. Walsingham, Hist. Angl. ii. 231. 

3 Rot. Pari. iii. 421 ; Nichols, Royal Wills, p. 201. Henry V.'s will was 
" sigillatum cum magno et privato sigillis ac signeto ipsius nuper regis, unacum 
quodam codicilio in quadam cedula paperea manu eiusdem nuper regis scripto 
et signeto suo de I'egle signato " ; Rot. Pari. iv. 299. This is not a novelty. 
Cf. the wills of Edward II., Nichols, Royal Wills, p. 64 ; the Black Prince's, 
ib. p. 76, and Henry of Grosmont's, ib. p. 86. 

* Rot. Pari. iii. 417. " Et in signum sue intentionis et voluntatis eiusmodi, 
annulum auri de signeto suo patente de digito suo tunc ibidem extraxit et 
digito dicti ducis apposuit, desiderans hoc ipsum, ut asseruit, omnibus regni 
statibus innotesci." 

5 lb. iii. 423. " Et statim ut idem rex ostendit statibus regni signetum 
Ricardi regis, sibi pro intersigno traditum sue voluntatis ut premittitur expres- 
sum, prefatus archiepiscopus dictum Henricum regem per manum dexteram 
apprehendens, duxit eum ad sedem regalem predictam." 


ment separated, it cancelled all pardons and releases made under 
the signet or other such petty seals of the late king.^ 

The Secretary and the Signet Office under Richard II 

In the early days of Richard II. an official secretary of the king 
is clearly distinguishable for the first time. We have the certain 
testimony of the issue rolls that between August 20, 1377, and 
May 16, 1381, the office of king's secretary was held by Master 
Robert Braybrook, that Braybrook was then succeeded by John 
Bacon, who acted between May. 16, 1381, and January 26, 1385, 
and that to both these clerks was assigned a regardum, or, as 
we should say, an honorarium, approaching £25 a year in amount.^ 
At no point in our period was an important administrative 
innovation more unlikely than in the first few months of the reign 
of the boy king. We must, therefore, be prepared to admit 
either that an official secretary had already been in existence 
for some short time at least, and that Braybrook was simply 
his successor, or else that a new officer was appointed to meet 
the special conditions of the minority. There is something to 
be said for both these propositions. Unluckily, after careful 
investigation, no positive evidence that there was an official 
secretary under Edward III. can be educed. But we may 
venture to suggest that the tendency to limit the term secretary 
to the chamber clerks responsible for the secret seal, or for its 

1 Eot. Pari. iii. 442. " Et touz les pardons et releases faitz desouz le signet ou 
autres tielx petites sealx, ou par bouche du dit nadgairs roy, soient repellez 
tout outrement." Pardons and releases under the great seal were, however, 
to be respected, though the interests of the new prince of Wales were involved. 
2 The whole passage is worth quoting, though it refers more particularly to 
Bacon than to Braybrook. It is in I.E. 505/24, under the date March 18, 1385. 
" Johanni Bacon, secretario regis ... in persolucionem iiij xviij lib. ipsum 
contingencium de regardo sibi faciendo, videlicet inter xvj'" diem Mail, anno 
quarto regis huius, et xvj>" diem Januarii, anno viij° . . . per quod quidem 
tempus idem Johannes stetit occupatus in officio predicto, et quod quidem 
regardum idem dominus rex liberare mandauit dicto Johanni pro eo quod 
alias tale regardum aUocatum fuit venerabili patri Roberto, episcopo London., 
pro rata temporis inter xx™ diem Augusti, anno primo, et xvjm diem Mali, anno 
quarto, quo tempore dictus episcopus stetit in officio supradicto." 


successor, the signet, may well be an indication of the gradual 
evolution of an official keeper of the signet for such custody. 
Perhaps the need of a responsible person to keep the boy king's 
personal seal, which he himself was not in a position either to 
use or to look after, may have led the council of regency to in- 
stitute the office, especially as, for the first few weeks of the reign, 
the young king's signet was used in the place of the privy seal 
until a new privy seal could be made for him. In the choice 
of the man for secretary there is evidenced clearly a wish to place 
the control of the signet, like the control of the privy seal, in the 
hands of one of the young king's personal followers. Braybrook, 
a licentiate of law and a well-beneficed clerk, sprang from a 
considerable knightly family in Northamptonshire. A kinsman 
of Richard on his mother's side, and one of the princess Joan's 
intimates,^ he was particularly suited to keep the personal seal 
of the young king.^ 

^ See above, iii. 330, n. 5. 

" I do not share Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte's hesitation (" it seems possible," 
op. cit. p. 114) as to Bray brook's having had the keeping of the seal. Unfortun- 
ately, Sir Henry missed the significance of I.R. 505/24, on which I rely to some 
extent. But there is other evidence which, to my mind, settles the question. 
Sir Henry (op. cit. p. 114) quotes from A. P. 9204, 9205, a document of 1380 
in which the king ordered chancellor Sudbury to honour a petition from John 
Faulkner, enclosed, to present " son frere Howel Amadoc " to the " petite 
eglise " of Liddiard MiUicent, Wilts. This " bill " of the signet is sealed with 
the seal of Sir Aubrey Vere, " par cause qe nostre clerc et nostre signet ne sont 
pas presentz a ceste foiz." The patent appointing Howel to Liddiard is dated 
December 4, 1380, at Northampton ; C.P.R., 1377-81, p. 561. A reasonable 
inference is that, according to normal chancery custom, the date of the signet 
communication was also December 4, or possibly a day or two earlier. Now, 
king and chancellor were at Northampton for the parliament which broke 
up on December 1, and remained there till December 6, when the expenses 
writs were issued. Braybrook only returned to London from the continent 
on December 1, and was not Likely to have hurried to Northampton when 
the king's return was so imminent. The use of Aubrey's seal is thus ex- 
plained by Braybrook still not having returned with his seal to the king. 
The use of Aubrey's seal shows the truth of my guess, in iii. 356 above, that he 
was already chamberlain in early December. I now feel confident that he was 
acting all through the Northampton parliament. It is significant that in the 
absence abroad of the secretary and the under-chamberlain, Burley, the respon- 
sibility for acts normally under the signet devolved on Vere as chamberlain. 
The signet was not yet quite dissociated from the chamber. Sir Henry rightly 
points out that the patent of presentation quotes no warrant, as " small 
churches " could be disposed of by the chancellor without warrant. A curious 
small point is that John Faulkner, surely an Englishman by his name, should 
have had a Welsh brother in the clerk Howel ap Madog of Newcastle. A 
further point of interest is that, although the document under the signet con- 
tains all the diplomatic formulae of informal letters under privy, secret, and 


For the first three weeks the signet, described as le signet de 
nostre anel, was habitually used to seal documents normally 
issued under the privy seal. But as soon as the new privy seal 
was ready, the signet ceased to be thus employed, and there is 
no evidence that during Braybrook's secretaryship the signet 
was more important than it had been in the later years of Edward 
III. There is not even the suggestion that the secretary had 
necessarily to be in close attendance at court. Indeed, of Bray- 
brook's three and three-quarter years of office, more than nine 
months were spent almost consecutively on the continent, where 
he had been despatched on two missions, which resulted in 
the marriage of the young king with Anne of Bohemia. The 
first mission, which took Braybrook to the court of Anne's 
brother, Wenceslas, king of the Romans and of Bohemia, lasted 
from June 18 to December 1, 1380. For the second mission, 
to meet the Bohemian envoys at Bruges, Braybrook was away 
from London between January 2 and March 23, 1381.^ On 
this second embassy four additional envoys were appointed, 
and Braybrook's position was clearly subordinate. ^ He was 

signet seals and was sealed on the dorse, it describes itself as a " bill." This 
is the only such instance that I have come across, and I am tempted to believe 
that the word " bill " was written inadvertently. It does not seem reasonable 
that there was no real distinction between letters and bills ; see above, pp. 
113-115, 171-173, 205. 

1 Braybrook's accounts of his receipts and expenses on these journeys are 
preserved in E.A. 318/25, 27. His wages were at the high rate of 20s. a day. 
But out of that he had to pay all expenses, except those of the " passage and 
repassage ' ' over the sea of himself, his men and his horses, of which latter 
he had nine on the first and twelve on his second journey. Ample advances 
from the exchequer, duly entered in I.R. 481, 484, 487, were made towards 
theseexpenses, butthere wasa"superplusagium,"thatis, a deficit, of £20 : 14 : 8 
on the first, and of £48 : 15s. on the second expedition. The order to the 
exchequer to account with him is dated May 1, 1381, and can be read in M.R.K.R. 
157, b.d.b. Easter, m. 6 ; compare m. 7. The appointment of Braybrook, 
Simon Burley, the sub-chamberlain, and Bernard van Sedles, " miles camere 
nostre," was made on June 12, 1380 (Foedera, iv. 90), so that the whole embassy 
was composed of chamber officers, for we may still regard the secretary as such. 
The second mission, constituted on December 26, was to treat of alliance with 
king Wenceslas, and included four more envoys of great dignity ; ib. iv. 104. 
For Burley's accounts of his expenses on these two journeys, see above, iv. 340. 
It is curious that in the letters of appointment of the first mission, the lady is 
described as Catherine, daughter of the emperor Louis of Bavaria, though 
Wenceslas is spoken of as Richard's " brother." 

* He was subordinate to John Gilbert, bishop of Hereford, and Hugh 
Segrave, the steward. See I.R. 481/21 for an issue to him " secretario, existenti 
in comitiua eorundem episcopi et senescalli apud Bruges." 


not a member of the later deputations which concluded the 
marriage treaty and brought the bride to England. Indeed, 
two months after his return from Bruges, Braybrook ceased 
to be secretary, but he had his reward for his services when he 
was appointed by papal provision bishop of London, just in time 
to celebrate the marriage of Richard and Anne on January 20, 
1382.1 "\Yg have spoken already of his brief chancellorship. ^ 
After this we hear little about him in politics, but he retained 
the see of London until his death in 1404, when another ex- 
secretary, Roger Walden, took his place. 

On May 16, 1381, Braybrook was succeeded as secretary by 
John Bacon, king's clerk, who, as we have seen, held office on 
the same conditions as his predecessor, until January 26, 1385. 
Bacon, like Braybrook, had been attached to the service of 
Richard before his accession.^ He remained in his employment 
after that event. Probably he had served Richard's father 
before him.'* He was much more the permanent official than 
Braybrook. Within two months of the king's accession he 
became chamberlain of the exchequer, and, a year later, keeper 
of the king's jewels. The latter post brought him into relations 
with the chamber. This facilitated, and perhaps explained, his 
appointment as secretary.^ 

Bacon's duplication of the secretaryship with an exchequer 
post between 1381 and 1385 meant that, whatever his status 
at court, his daily task was the routine work of a chamberlain 
of the exchequer, and that the presence of the secretary in the 
household was not considered indispensable. Yet during Bacon's 
secretaryship the signet grew so powerful that it was regarded 
as a sufficient warrant for the appointment of a chancellor, and 
was so much resented that, when parliament met, the abuse 
of the signet was denounced just as the unconstitutional use 

1 Above, iii. 383. 

2 Above, iii. 388-389, 402. It is interesting that he was appointed by- 
signet letter ; Foedera, iv. 150. 

3 C.P.R., 1381-85, p. 552, shows this. It is an acquittance to Bacon, 
before leaving England in 1385, of all sums received by him on the king's 
behalf " both when he was prince and after his coronation, whilst the said 
John dealt with the payments of the king's chamber." 

* I assume that he was the John Bacon who in 1364 was clerk-registrar of 
the Black Prince's privy seal. See later, pp. 380, 438. 

^ For Bacon's position in the exchequer and his indefinable relations with 
the chamber, see above, iv. 334-335. 


of the privy seal had been denounced in earlier generations. 
Preferment was heaped upon the keeper of the king's signet. 
Bacon became dean of St. Martin's, when higher dignity caused 
Skirlaw to surrender that special preserve of the household 
clerk. 1 Cardinals thought it worth while to exchange prebends 
to meet his convenience. ^ After January 26, 1385, he ceased 
to draw wages and allowances on the old scale, ^ and at last gave 
up his exchequer post,* though he still kept on the oflS.ce of 
secretary. On February 6, 1385, John Bacon and Sir Nicholas 
Dagworth were appointed as ambassadors to Urban VI., 
and to conclude an alliance with Florence and other Italian 
cities.5 With them was associated the great English condottiere 
chief. Sir John Hawkwood, to treat for an alliance with king 
Charles of Sicily.^ On March 13, the exchequer made Bacon 
a payment of £133 : 6 : 8 to meet his expenses on his embassies, 
and in recording the disbursement described him as king's 
secretary,' but with his departure from England he seems to 
have ceased to hold the ofl&ce. He died at Genoa, where the 
curia then was, towards the end of the year.® When the news 
of his death reached the king, Richard caused to be celebrated, 
on November 27, a solemn mass and, next day, other funeral 
oflftces on his behalf in Westminster Abbey. Richard attended 
these services in person,^ and his assiduity suggests that the 
former secretary was a strong favourite with him. So early 

1 This was treated as an exchange of benefices between Bacon and Skirlaw, 
the latter receiving a prebend of Shaftesbury, surrendered to him by Bacon. 
The mandate to induct Bacon to St. Martin's was issued on June 20, 1383 ; 
C.P.R., 1381-85, pp. 281, 345. 

2 Foedera, vii. 427 (original edition). 

3 lb. vii. 455, 457. 

* C.P.R., 1377-81, p. 517. His successor was appointed on Jan. 27, 1385. 
^ Foedera, vii. 455, 457. 

* lb. vii. 456. Power was given Bacon and Dagworth to pay Hawkwood for 
his services ; ib. p. 458. 

' I.R. 505/23 ; " Johanni Bacun, clerico, secretario domini regis, misso ex 
ordinacione domini regis et consilii sui versus curiam Romanam et ad regem 
Romanorum et Bohemie et aliis diuersis dominis in partibus extraneis, . . . 
super vadiis suis, £133 : 6 : 8d." The keeper of the wardrobe received " per 
manus Johannis Bacon, secretarii," £16, " pro feodis et robis in hospicio regis." 

* Monk West. p. 72, who gives as the reason of his mission the king's desire 
to remove the privileges of Westminster Abbey for debtors. The records show 
that the charge of Bacon had a much wider scope than this. 

® Ib. " Et utroque die ipsemet fuit preaens in choro dum pro dicto clerico 
erat obsequium peragendum." The date of Bacon's death is not given. 


as 1383, Bacon was distributing the king's offerings and 
gifts. 1 

Bacon's successor as secretary was Richard Medford, a clerk 
of Richard's private chapel, who had already received many 
marks of favour from his master. The organisation of the signet 
office, begun by Bacon, was continued, and, for the next two 
years, nearly all matters of importance were initiated by signet 
letters. Medford associated with himself John Lincoln of 
Grimsby, a pushing clerk who, like Bacon, had made his earlier 
career in the exchequer, of which he became one of the chamber- 
lains in 1386.2 Yet Lincoln's future was bound up with the 
little group of chaplains of Richard's private chapel, who became 
the chief instruments of the monarch's striving towards autocracy, 
and for the rest of the reign he was, in one capacity or another, 
closely connected with the signet, ultimately becoming its keeper 
with his appointment as secretary. 

Unlike his predecessors, Medford was always in close attend- 
ance on the king. He took part in the abortive Scottish campaign 
of 1385, when still quite new to his office, with a retinue of five 
archers, and accompanied by John Lincoln, already described as 
" clerk in the office of the said secretary." An advance of wages 
was then made to Medford and Lincoln for themselves and their 
following.^ On Medford's return from the expedition, he is re- 
corded as being paid, in the capacity of agent of the keeper of 
the wardrobe, moneys for the expenses of the royal household.* 

During this period and subsequently, Medford was shown 
special courtesy, and was given abundant rewards by his master. 
A signet letter of 1386, still preserved, had its authority heightened 
by the king's autograph signature.* As soon as Bacon's death 

1 I.R. 493/2 ; " pro oblacionibus regis et pro donis ipsius regis per manus 
Johannis Bacon." 

^ C.P.R., 1385-89, p. 232. The grant " during good behaviour " is dated 
Oct. 27, 1386. I am more confident now than I was when I wrote vol. iv. that 
John Lincoln of Grimsby and John Lincoln of the signet office are the same 
person. Compare this with above, iii. 430, n. 3. 

3 I.R. 508/14. Payment on June 21, 1385, of £9, " Ricardo Metford, secre- 
tario regis, et Johanni de Lincolnia, clerico in officio dicti secretarii . . . super 
vadiis suis et v. sagittariorum secum retentorum ad proficiscendum in comitiua 
regis in viagio iam ordinate in propria persona ipsius domini regis versus partes 
Scocie." 4 I.R. 510/12. The date is Nov. 22, 1385. 

* C.W. 1352. It is signed " Richard." Though not the " earliest known 
signature of an English king " it is perhaps the first official document authenti- 
cated with a royal signature. 


was known in England, Medford was appointed to succeed him 
as dean of St. Martin's le Grand. i He also received the arch- 
deaconry of Norfolk and numerous prebends.^ Richard made a 
desperate efiort to procure for him, in 1386, the bishopric of Bath 
and Wells,^ but canonical election supplemented by royal consent 
availed not against the papal provision, which secured the see for 
Walter Skirlaw. When the storm of opposition to Richard and 
his ministers broke in the parliament of 1386, Medford was still 
only king's secretary. Nothing directly concerning him and his 
office was said in the grievances voiced by this unruly parliament, 
but an indirect reference was involved in the petition of the 
commons that all sorts of charters and patents made, in the time 
of Michael de la Pole's chancellorship, against the law, be annulled. 
This petition the king accepted " by the advice of its council," 
and its meaning became clear later. After the meeting of 
parliament on October 1, a writ in favour of Sir Simon Burley, 
warranted by signet letter, was duly enrolled, but when chancellor 
Arundel became conscious of his power, the remarkable memor- 
andum was appended to the enrolment, that, on November 12, 
the king delivered these letters patent to the chancellor to be 
surrendered into chancery and cancelled, " because they were 
issued out of chancery irregularly, and are therefore cancelled." * 
This was to say, decorously but unmistakably, that the signet 
letter was no longer recognised in chancery as a lawful warrant 
for an act under the great seal. An abrupt stop was put to the 
practice which Bacon and Medford had made increasingly common 
since 1383. After October 18, no signet warranties for chancery 
instruments were accepted for several years. 

From this time the records and chronicles show a silence about 
Medford's doings as secretary which stands in strong contrast 
to their full revelation of secretarial appointments and salaries 
between 1377 and 1385. The issue rolls no longer record the 
secretary's wages and allowances ; the chancery rolls no longer 
describe the holder of the office by his official title as Braybrook 

1 C.P.R., 1385-89, p. 67. This was on Nov. 26, 1385, and warranted " by 
signet letter." 

« lb. pp. 14, 21, 72, 163, 195. 

3 lb. p. 207, gives the signification to the pope of the royal consent on 
Aug. 15, 1386. 

* lb. p. 225. Compare above, iii. 417, which also gives other instances. 


and Bacon, and to a less extent, Medford, in his earlier period 
of oj0&ce, were described. We have every reason to believe that 
Medford remained in oflB.ce and attended Richard on his uneasy 
wanderings through the length and breadth of the land for the 
greater part of 1387.^ But with Thomas Arundel at the chancery 
and with every government office in London controlled by the 
hostile statutable commission, the king and his clerical favourites 
were powerless to do anything effective to stem the rising tide 
of aristocratic opposition. When, at last, Richard was forced, 
at the end of 1387, to return to Westminster and make his sub- 
mission to the triumphant barons, the Merciless Parliament of 
1388 carried through the process which the commons of 1386 
had left only half done. 

We owe to the pamphleteer of the opposition, Thomas Fa vent, 
our knowledge of the fact that Richard Medford was still the 
king's secretary ^ when the hands of the lords appellant fell 
heavily on the remaining friends of the king, throwing them into 
prison to await a trial before the estates, that was the very 
parody of a court of justice. Medford and his fellow - clerks 
were arrested soon after Christmas and sent to the Tower. John 
Lincoln, who since 1386 had also been chamberlain of the ex- 
chequer, shared their fate. After a short detention, the prisoners 
were, on January 4, 1388, sent to divers prisons, Lincoln to 
Dover Castle and Medford to Bristol Castle. They were brought 
back to the Tower in February ^ for their trial. But the sanguin- 
ary punishments inflicted on the leading lay culprits had satis- 
fied even the zealots of the Merciless Parliament, and Medford 
and Lincoln were never brought before the estates. On June 4, 
most of the incriminated clerks, including Medford and Lincoln, 
were released on bail.* They pledged themselves to live peace- 
ably in their own dwellings, not to gainsay the acts of parliament 

1 One of the few extant signet letters of the period is dated " Allercherch 
Aug. 14" ; C.W. 1354/1. This is at least a suggestion of the secretary and 
signet being at that date with the liing. 

2 Favent, p. 13. " Et cetcri clerici officiarii, videlicet Ricardus Metteford, 
secretarius, Johannes Slake, decanus capelle, Johannes Lincoln, camerarius 
scaccarii, et Johannes (rectivs Ricardus) Clifford, clericus capelle . . . diuersis 
Anglie carceribus usque in parliamentum ad imponenda responsuri sub aresto 
intrudi mandantur." See also above, ill. 434, n. 5. 

3 C.C.R., 1385-89, pp. 382, 388, 394, 395, 414. 
* lb. p. 414. 


and not to present themselves to the king's presence or to send 
him any business concerning the state.^ 

The acceptance by the king of the Merciless Parliament's 
petition that letters under the signet or secret seal were not to 
be issued to the disturbance of the law and the damage of the 
realm, cut off the chief abuses of the signet during Pole's chancellor- 
ship.2 Bishop Arundel's refusal to accept signet instruments 
as chancery warrants destroyed their special value. So late as 
1393 a nomination to the mayoralty of Northampton under the 
signet was overruled by the advice of the council, which declared 
that the person nominated was unqualified, notwithstanding 
any command of the king to the contrary. 

In these circumstances there is no wonder that little is recorded 
as to the office of secretary. Lincoln's post as chamberlain had 
already been filled up, but there is no evidence that Medford's 
office had been taken up by any successor. To reconcile his 
promise with any resumption of his duties would not be easy, 
and both king and magnates probably thought it best to say 
nothing about the matter. Anyhow we read of no king's secretary 
for the next four years. Long before that, the pope conferred 
on Medford the see of Chichester ^ and it is hard to believe that 
in the long struggle before he obtained full possession of his see, 
he could have been deflected from his quest of preferment to 
take up again the humble duties of the king's secretary, though 
we know that to the end he remained a good friend of Richard 11. 

The absolute silence concerning the secretary between 1388 
and 1392 implies either that the secretaryship had fallen into 
abeyance or that the holder was too obscure or inactive to attract 
contemporary notice. One striking entry on the register of 
bishop Wykeham, however, gives us a glimpse, not of the secretary, 
but of the signet. It records that on March 9, 1390, Wykeham 
being then chancellor, restored to the king his secret seal, namely, 
his ring.^ One is tempted to guess that chancellor Arundel had 

1 G.C.R., 1392-96, p. 167. ^ Rot. Pari. iii. 247. 

3 He was nominated by the pope in Nov. 1388, but did not receive his 
temporalities till 1390. This was after a failure in 1389 to secure for him the 
see of St. David's. See above, iii. 457. 

4 Wykeham's Register, ii. 424 (Hampshire Record Soc), " Memorandum 
quod die Mercurii, nono die Marcii, anno regni regis Ricardi secundi tercio decimo, 
venerabilis pater dominus Willelmus de Wykeham, Dei gratia episcopus Wyn- 
toniensis, apud Westmonasterium reddidit domino regi sigillum suum secretum. 


impounded, or that bishop Medford had surrendered, the signet 
to the chancellor, so that it remained in his keeping, unused, 
until Wykeham handed it back to the king. 

Two years later, both secretary and signet again vaguely 
come within our purview. John Macclesfield, whom we know 
already as an active clerk of the privy seal, may have received 
then or later, the secretary's office : but our only evidence is 
the fact that in 1392, Richard, in requesting the pope to confer 
preferment on him, three times describes him as his secretary.^ 
Such a description, a generation or two earlier, would certainly have 
meant no more than confidant. Yet even early in Edward III.'s 
time, as we have seen, the word " secretary " was specially 
appropriate to describe the keeper of the secret seal, which, of 
course, had now become the signet.^ It is not, therefore, impos- 
sible that the elder Macclesfield acted as a stopgap secretary 
between Medford getting his bishopric, on Wykeham's restora- 
tion of the signet to the king, and an undoubted secretary re- 
appearing in 1392-93 with Roger Walden. But, between 
February 14, 1390, and January 17, 1393, Macclesfield's signature 
appears on signet letters. That I regard as an almost certain 
indication that he was only a clerk of the signet, and as strengthen- 
ing rather than weakening the opinion that the signet was en- 
trusted to his care. The application of the title " secretary " 
to the de facto keeper of the signet is perfectly understandable. 
Macclesfield's modest status in 1387 is shown by the grant to him 
of the normal wage of a privy seal clerk, namely 7-|d. a day until 
he obtained a competent benefice.^ When, after 1389, Richard 

videlicet annulum." This is clearly the signet and certainly not the privy seal 
as the editor of the Register suggests ; ib. p. 647. 

1 Cal. Pap. Reg. Let. iv. 428, where there are three provisions, dated May 
1392 to canonries at York, Lichfield and Salisbury by Boniface IX. " at the 
petition of king Richard, whose secretary he is," notwithstanding the laws 
against pluralities. However, a writ on ib. p. 430, dated June 15, grants to John 
Macclesfield, clerk of the diocese of Lichfield, " at the petition also of king 
Richard, whose secretary he is," that the preceptory of St. Anthony's, London, 
be given him " in commendam," so that he shall enjoy the privileges of former 
preceptors. This enables us to identify Macclesfield with J. Macclesfield the 
elder, clerk of the privy seal, spoken of above, iv. 386, n. 1, who was clerk of the 
great wardrobe, 1398-99 ; ib. pp. 385-386. ^ gge above, p. 180, n. 2. 

=» C.P.R., 1385-89, p. 344, a grant of Aug. 11, 1387, until his promotion to 
a benefice " according to the statute of the household." Curiously enough, 
Macclesfield was given, so early as Sept. 8, the living of Mackworth, Derby ; ib. 
p. 345; already in 1291 it was worth £30 a year {Tax. Eccles. Pope Nich. p. 246). 


again tried to make himself a real king, we at once find material 
that enables us to take up the broken history of the secretariat. 
More important still, we can now combine with the story of the 
individual secretaries that of the " ofiice of the signet " from 
which all our modern secretarial offices of state were to spring. 

We are on firm ground once more when Roger Walden, treasurer 
of Calais, was transferred, somewhere about 1393, to the office 
of king's secretary. Of Walden's career and character enough 
has been said already. But we must be on our guard against 
accepting too literally the unfavourable judgments which many 
of his contemporaries passed upon him.^ Perhaps the worst 
thing against him is that, for the six remaining years of the reign, 
he enjoyed Richard's unbroken confidence, first as secretary, 
then as treasurer, and finally as archbishop of Canterbury. 

The exact moment of Walden's assumption of the secretariat 
is difficult to determine. He was responsible for the treasurer- 
ship of Calais up to 1392-93 (16 Richard II.), but he was king's 
secretary before October 16, 1393. 2 By July 27, 1394, in less 
than a year, he had regulated the accounts of his successor at 
Calais, who died after a short term of office.^ He had not been 
long in the saddle when he accompanied Richard on his first 
visit to Ireland, reaching Waterford with the king on October 2, 
1394,* attended by his little train of two esquires and four horse 
archers. During the succeeding months, he reconstructed the 
signet secretariat so thoroughly that Richard again had, for the 
first time since 1386, an organised secretarial office that responded 
instantly to his wishes. Walden had the assistance of the some- 
time secretary, Richard Medford, now both bishop of Chichester 
and treasurer of Ireland,^ and of John Lincoln of Grimsby. 
Lincoln appears as the head of a small, but efficient, office of 
the signet, rather than as the personal clerk of an isolated official.* 

The signet was brought into fuller use than it had been since 
before 1386. The numerous safe conducts with which Richard 
lured the Irish chieftains to his presence were authenticated not 
only with the great seal of the Irish chancery, but also with the 

1 For Walden see above, iii. 490-492 and iv. 7, 26, 49. 

* C.P.R., 1391-96, p. 520, so describes him at that date. 

3 I.R. 548/14, 19. 4 See above, iii. 488-492. 

* C.P.E., 1391-96, pp. 584, 621. » See above, p. 216, n. 3. 


" secret signet." ^ The red wax generally used for them suggests 
that they were regarded rather as household than as chancery 
instruments. 2 It was with the signet also that Richard authen- 
ticated his correspondence to the administration in England. 
A more legitimate and less provocative use of signet letters than 
had prevailed between 1383 and 1386 did something to bring 
back into repute the seal discredited by former abuse. So 
frequently was it employed that it was almost recognised as a 
seal of state. In July 1395, a messenger was sent with letters 
to be sealed by the keeper of the privy seal and the secretary, 
as co-ordinate sealing authorities. ^ Clearly the composition of 
the letters was done in the signet office, and the affixing of the 
seal was, in such circumstances, almost a purely formal action. 
The most interesting feature of Richard II. 's first Irish visit 
is not so much to be found in the use of the signet, as in the mass 
of " notarial instruments " which recorded the submissions of 
the Irish chieftains to the English king. It would be interesting 
to know who were responsible for them. Many of them have 
come down to us and are now available in print, thanks to Pro- 
fessor Curtis of Dublin.^ The " public form " in which they 
were drafted leaves nothing to be desired and attests the com- 
petence of the notaries employed. Of these notaries we know 
two names only, those of Thomas Sparkford, clerk, of the diocese 
of Bath and Wells, and Robert Boleyn, clerk,^ of the diocese 
of Ely. Both were papal and imperial notaries. Now, apart 
from the signet and its clerks, the only administrative office to 
which Richard had easy access was the Irish chancery, whose 
chancellor, Robert Waldby, archbishop of Dublin, followed 

1 The letters quoted in Prof. E. Curtis's Richard II. in Ireland, 1394-95 
(1927), prove this, for instance p. 140, a request of " Maurichius McGyngusse " 
" quod litteras salui vestri conductus, tarn vestro sigillo regis quam eciam signeto 
vestro secreto sigillatas, . . . mittatis." Other letters of conduct were only 
" sub magno vestro sigillo " ; ib. p. 127. This must be the Irish seal, as the 
English great seal was in England. 

2 Curtis, op. cit. p. 109 " quandam litteram sub rubea cera sigillatam " is 
only one of many instances. 

* I.E. 553/22, " nuncio misso versus custodem priuati sigilli regis et secre- 
tarium domini regis predicti pro diuersis litteris ab eisdem sigillandis." 

* Curtis, op. cit. Unluckily Mr. Curtis was not interested in the diplomatic 
problems suggested by the documents which he printed, but despite a tendency 
to abbreviate " common form," he has done his work so well that he has given 
us sufficient material to deal with them. 

= Ib. pp. 59-60, 67, 65, 99. 


Richard to England and accepted an English see. The business 
arrangements for the surrenders, the correspondence with the 
Irish magnates, must, therefore, have fallen largely on Walden, 
Lincoln and their assistants. The latter included several of the 
incriminated clerks of 1386, notably Medford. Thus the signet 
in Ireland prepared the way for Richard's later aspirations. 

When, early in 1395, the duke of Gloucester was sent by the 
king from Ireland to England to plead before parliament for a 
large subsidy to meet the costs of the Irish campaign,^ Walden 
accompanied him, and had his expenses to and fro, and of his 
tarrying in England, paid by the king.^ During his absence 
Lincoln seems to have had sole charge of the signet and its office. 
It was then that he wrote and signed the important letter of 
December 1, 1395, instructing the council as to the various 
parties and races in Ireland and explaining, with rare insight 
and sympathy, the grievances of the " Irish rebels." ^ But the 
only result of parliament was a pressing request for the king to 
return. Accordingly Walden once more crossed to Ireland and 
finally returned with Richard in October. Meanwhile treasurer 
Waltham had died and, before Wplden was back in London, 
he had been, on September 20, appointed his successor.* 

John Lincoln then succeeded to the post of king's secretary, 
having already given full proof of his competence. His special 
services were recognised by a regardum of a hundred marks, and 
a mass of forfeited plate was some compensation for his great 
expenses, labours and diligence all through the expedition, 
notably in paying the wages of the mariners who served the ships 
" arrested " for the king's voyage with his army to Ireland and 
back.^ He remained in office for the rest of his master's reign, 

^ Above, iii. 494. 

2 I.B. 549/13, where under Feb. 25 is recorded the payment of £50 " Rogero 
Walden, secretario regis, venienti in comitiua ipsius ducis Gloucestrie de parti- 
bus Hibernie versus regnum Anglie . . . pro custubus et expensis suis, tarn 
pro mora sua in Anglia super eisdem negociis quam pro redditu suo ad partes 
predictas." * See above, iv. 7. * lb. 

5 I.R. 556/15, " Johanni Lincoln, clerico, secretario regis, in denariis sibi 
liberatis per manus Joliannis Swyft, clerici sui, c marcas, et in precio diuer- 
sorum vessellorum argenti de forisfactura sibi venditorum 1 marcas in per- 
solucionem c marcarum quas dominus rex sibi liberare mandauit, nomine 
specialis regardi de dono suo pro magnis custubus, laboribus et diligenciis per 
ipsum habitis in Anglia circa soluciones vadiorum marinariorum nauium 
arrestarum pro viagio ipsius domini regis de partibus Anglie usque in terram 


accompanying him on his second, as on his first, expedition to 
Ireland.^ Yet his faithful service did not prevent his making 
his peace with Henry of Lancaster and receiving ratification by 
the new king of his various ecclesiastical preferments.^ 

There is little to say about the work of the signet in the last 
years of the reign. Richard clearly had no intention of using 
it as he had in his first attempt at autocracy. No longer em- 
ployed as a warrant for chancery, there is the scantiest evidence 
of its activities to be found in the chancery roDs.^ Indeed with 
a chancery and a privy seal entirely under royal control, it was 
easier, as well as less invidious, for the king to use the accredited 
channels for giving effect to his wishes. The use of the signet 
was limited rather to the king's personal correspondence. For 
instance, his letter to the pope on behalf of St. Albans, in which 
he mendaciously dwells on the poverty and remoteness of the 
great abbey and the unfertile region in which it is situated,* was 
sealed with the signet. 

Perhaps the most important thing during these years was the 
steady consolidation of the signet office. There had already 
been considerable steps taken in this direction, notably by 
Lincoln, when he was in charge of the office in Ireland. When 
he became established in England, John Swift, clerk in the office 
of the signet, stood to Lincoln as Lincoln had once stood to 
Walden. In 1396 Swift was only " the clerk abiding with John 
Lincoln the secretary." ^ Next year he received for his good 
service, as a " clerk writing at the king's signet," a pension from 
the exchequer until he was promoted to an adequate benefice.^ 

Hibernie ; et similiter pro solucione dictorum marinariorum et aliorum de 
nouo arrestatorum pro redditu ipsius domini regis cum exercitu suo." The 
date, Dec. 4, 1397, shows that the king's bounty only materialised more than 
two years after the event. 

1 Foedera, viii. 78. His " protection " is dated April 18, 1399. 

2 C.P.R., 1399-1401, pp. 24-25. 

3 See for instance C.C.R., 1396-99, p. 503, indicating that a petition of mag- 
nates was delivered by the chancellor to the archbishop, by virtue of a letter 
of the king's signet on the chancery file of the year. This is not a warrant, but 
a direction to the chancellor to treat the document in a certain way. 

^ C. Pap. Reg. Let. iv. 294. This was both written under the signet and 
signed by the king. 

* I.R. 556/18, " clerico penes Johannem Lincoln, secretarium regis, com- 

* lb. 559/2, " Johanni Swyft, clerico, scribenti ad signetum regis . . . pro 
bono seruicio impenso et impendendo." 


He was, in 1397, described as " Lincoln's clerk," ^ and as " one 
of the clerks in the king's signet office," and took his turn when 
the king had a chance of nominating one of his clerks to receive 
the pension which a newly appointed bishop was bound to pay 
to an unbeneficed royal clerk. ^ Nor was Swift the only subordin- 
ate clerk. For the twelve years between 1387 and 1399, Kobert 
Fry, properly a clerk of the privy seal, divided his time so effec- 
tively between that office and the office of the signet that the 
king granted him a pension of £10 a year " for his good and 
willing service in that office and in the office of the signet." ^ 
How many clerks of the signet there were altogether during the 
reign, and how many served at the same time, I have not been 
able to ascertain. But from the signed signet letters * I have 
compiled a tentative list of them, which I append to this section.^ 
Thus a signet office slowly came into being. Its development 
was helped by the experience some of its early members had 
gained in other offices. Thus both Bacon and Lincoln had 
served some time as chamberlains of the exchequer. Bacon 
had also some experience of chamber work. Macclesfield had 
been a clerk of the privy seal. Walden had been treasurer of 
Calais, and Fry brought to the signet the experience of the privy 
seal office in which he began his career, and which always seems 
to have claimed his chief attention. Of the leading personalities, 
Medford, a clerk of the king's private chapel, was almost the only 
one who had not had administrative training in some department 
of the government. After Richard II. 's fall departmental inter- 
change went on as before, John Prophet, the sometime secondary 
of the privy seal, succeeding Lincoln under Henry IV. It became 
the custom to appoint the king's secretary by the king putting 
his signet into his hand.^ All through the fifteenth century, 
and indeed beyond, the intimate relations between the privy 
seal and the signet continued.' Finally the office of the signet 

1 I.R. 556/15. 

^ G.G.R., 1396-99, p. 233. There had been a previous attempt to secure for 
Swift, then called king's clerk, such a pension in 1393 (O.C.R., 1392-96, p. 235), 
and there was a later one in 1398 ; (ib. 1396-99, p. 279). It looks as if the king 
had some difficulty in carrying through his wishes. 

3 Ib. pp. 461-462 ; C.P.E., 1396-99, p. 463. * See above, p. 205. 

5 Below, p. 230. « Nicholas, O.P.G. VI. cix. 

' A good late instance of this is Richard Taverner, a clerk whom Wolsey 
removed from Cambridge to Cardinal College, Oxford. In 1536 Cromwell made 


consisted of four chief clerks who, in later days, derived large 
incomes from the fees on writs, though their work had become 
largely formal, and their duties nominal. 

Signets and secretaries were not limited to the English crown. 
The Black Prince ^ and his widow, ^ his grandmother, queen 
Isabella,^ and his mother, queen Philippa,* and the two queens 
of his son, Richard 11.,^ had both the seal and the officer. Richard 
II., we know, sometimes used his queen's signet when his own 
was not available.^ Every noble had, besides his " seal," his 
" signet." ' Abroad, the secretary became everywhere the 
confidential minister of his master, until in the age of Commines 
and Machiavelli the secretary of the prince was everywhere 
regarded as his natural mainstay and helper. 

The attempts to make the signet the special engine of pre- 
rogative perished with Richard II. Under the restricted condi- 
tions of fifteenth-century kingship, the signet, following precisely 
the fate of the privy seal in a previous age, simply became 
another cog in the already complicated wheel of administrative 
machinery. Down to the late seventeenth century, it was still 
regarded as the special seal of the king in his private capacity, 
and as appropriate for sealing his private letters.^ But in 
practice it was becoming another public seal and its personal 
relation to the king merely survived in the circumstance that 
it first set in motion the elaborate machinery of fifteenth and 

him a clerk of the privy seal and in 1537 he obtained license to marry, after 
which he was considered to be a layman. By 1541 he also had a place in the 
signet office, which he retained up to the death of Henry VIII. See for details 
Prof. Pollard's article on him in D.N.B. 

1 His will was authenticated by " noz priue et secree sealz " ; Nichols, 
Royal Wills, p. 76. 

2 C.P.R., 1381-85, p. 481, refers to Thomas Walton, king's clerk, secretary 
of the king's mother. 

3 E.A. 393/4. 

« See below. Chap. XVIII. § 1. 

5 C.P.R., 1396-99, p. 103, refers to Mr. Richard Courcy, secretary of queen 
Isabella, who had 40 marks a year from the exchequer. 

^ See above, p. 204. 

' For instance, Henry, duke of Lancaster, who authenticated his will by 
" nostre seel ensemblement ove nostre signet " ; Nichols, p. 86. 

* " The signet is one of the king's seals, and is used in sealing his private 
letters, and all such grants as pass his Majesty's hands by bill as signed ; which 
seal is always in the custody of the king's secretaries ; and there are four clerks 
of the signet office attending them " ; T. Blount's Law Dictionary (3rd ed. 
1717) ; cf. Coke's Institutes, fol. 555. 


sixteenth century administrative procedure. In the same way 
the king's secretary gradually became, like the keeper of the 
privy seal, an officer of state whom parliament and barons sought 
to make responsible for the king's actions. The chief step in 
this direction, made during the fifteenth century, was effected by 
an ordinance of 1444 ; but the growth of the importance of the 
secretary in Tudor times naturally emphasised still further 
the public and official, as opposed to the personal, character of 
the signet. 

A significant survival of the old tradition was that all through 
the fifteenth century it was very usual to promote the secretary 
to be keeper of the privy seal. Not until Henry VIII. had long 
been on the throne was the first layman permitted to hold the 
office of king's secretary, in the person of Thomas Cromwell.^ 
Even as late as 1689, the two " principal secretaries " were, with 
the four clerks of the signet and the four clerks of the privy seal, 
attached to the chamber. ^ 

While these tendencies were being worked out, the process 
of obtaining royal letters on behalf of a subject was still further 
complicated by the development of the " signed bill " or "warrant 
under the sign manual." This was the bill or petition received 
by the king and handed on by him to some official, ultimately, of 
course, the chancellor, to have the prayer carried out formally. 
It was authenticated by the " sign manual," that is, the king's 
signature, or initials, written by his own hand. Many early 
signet letters are also authenticated by the " sign manual," but 
in later times the sign manual was but another complication of 
procedure. At last methods were stereotyped by an act of 27 
Henry VIII., " concerning the clerks of the signet and the privy 
seal." After that date, the process of obtaining letters patent 
under the great seal had, or might have, to pass through some 
half dozen stages. First, there was the warrant under the 
sign manual. On this was based the king's bill, drawn up by 
the Clerk of the Patents, and setting forth the whole form of the 
patent. Thirdly, there was the signet bill, drawn up by the 
clerks of the privy signet at the signet office, from a collation 
of the two earlier documents, lodged in the office for the purpose. 

1 Nicholas, O.P.C. I. cxxxii. 
2 Household Ordinances, Soc. Ant. 1790, p. 406. 


This signet bill was addressed to the keeper of the privy seal, 
who in turn caused the drawing up of the writ (or bill) of privy 
seal. The writ of privy seal was then lodged in the chancery 
and retained as the warrant of the chancellor for issuing the 
ultimate result of this long game of circumlocution, the letters 
patent under the great seal. Fortunately, there were means 
of expediting matters when a " signed bill," under the sign manual, 
directly instructed the chancellor to prepare a patent, or when 
an " immediate warrant " of the secretary of state dispensed 
both with the signet and privy seal stages, though not with the 
fees payable to the offices thus passed over.^ 

The procedure defined by the act of Henry VIII. lasted until 
comparatively recent times. It was not until 1851 that the 
necessity for the signet ended and the office of the signet was 
abolished. Even then, the use of the signet still survived in 
certain proceedings of the foreign and colonial offices, and to 
this day the " grant and delivery of the seals," which gives a 
secretary of state his legal status, involves among other things, 
the delivery of a signet to each secretary on his appointment.^ 

We must not follow the history of the signet or of the other 
" small seals " beyond 1399 : but before dismissing this branch 
of our subject, it is perhaps worth while to recapitulate briefly 
the general bearing of all the processes which we have been 
endeavouring to trace in detail. 

From the days of John to those of Henry VIII. the history of 

^ These steps are elaborately treated by Maxwell-Lyte. 

2 For the recent history of the signet, see Anson, Law and Custom of the 
Cojistitution, part ii., especially pp. 44-47, 154, 160, 253, 256 and 407. Mrs. 
Higham's chapter ix. on the " Signet Office " and her emphasis on the distinction 
between it and the secretary's office, described in chapter viii. of her Principal 
Secretary of State, 1558-1680, will indicate the bridge between the original con- 
ditions of the office and the modern system abolished in the nineteenth century. 
A detailed study of the secretaries and the signet office between 1399 and the 
days of Thomas Cromwell is still much needed. A beginning in this direction 
has already been made by Mrs. Higham in her " Note on the Pre-Tudor Secre- 
tary " in Essays in 3Iediaeval History presented to T. F. Tout, pp. 361-366. 
Some important material bearing on the relations of the signet and secretary, 
and the privy seal and its keeper, to the administrative system under the 
Lancastrian kings will be found in T. F. T. Plucknett's suggestive " Place of the 
Council in the Fifteenth Century " in Royal Hist. Soc. Transactions, 4th Ser. 
i. 157-189. The crucial date is 1444, when an edict of Henry VI. affirmed 
the legality of chancery writs warranted by the signet, the sign manual, etc., 
as if they were warranted by the privy seal. The result was that the secretary 
became for the first time an important administrative official. 


the petty seals constantly repeats itself. There is the perpetual 
effort to distinguish by a visible token between the king as an 
official and the king in his personal capacity. There are the 
equally unending struggles of the king to extricate himself from 
the network of red tape which choked his personal initiative and 
hedged his authority by forms and routine which destroyed his 
individual will. But the office was greater than the man, and 
the strongest king could not successfully distinguish between 
the two. Even in the age of Angevin despotism, routine stayed 
the hand of the autocrat. When the barons laid hands upon 
the administrative system and employed it for their own pur- 
poses, the process was further accelerated. M. Morel stated a 
profound truth when he emphasised the perpetual " reduplica- 
tions of the signet," which he signalises in French history. His 
doctrine has an added significance for us in England, where the 
barons' constitutional control of the monarchy was so much 
more permanent than in France. The great seal itself started 
as the personal seal of the sovereign. It was hardly " official- 
ised " when the privy seal, a personal " signet " in origin, became 
in the course of the fourteenth century as official, as stereo- 
typed and as formal as the great seal itself. The attempts to 
revert to the original idea of the privy seal produced the " secret 
seal," the griffin, the signet and their like. Each of these personal 
seals underwent the fate of their predecessors or ceased to exist. 
The " sign manual," usurping the place of a seal, had exactly 
the same fate. Thus, a study which, in its details, seems trifling 
and " antiquarian " to the last degree can be made to throw 
a new, if flickering, light on the broad currents of English con- 
stitutional history. In the failure of the sovereign to preserve 
a personal seal we see the whole process of our constitutional 
development. And in the collapse of the last avowed attempt 
at autocracy in the revolution of 1399 we have a real reason for 
drawing our study to a close. Henceforth no manifestation 
of the royal authority can be divested of its official character, 
can be freed from the constitutional control of the aristocratic 
and official class. The very ring which the king wore on his 
finger, the personal letters which he wrote or dictated, could 
not be regarded as the acts of a private person. Royal efforts 
to escape the inevitable did but add to the complications of 


CH. xvri 

an already cumbrous routine. Not until the nineteenth cen- 
tury were most of these unintelligible survivals of forgotten 
struggles cleared away. Yet not all of them went. We still 
have signets, though there is no signet office, just as we still have 
a keeper of the privy seal, though there is no longer a privy seal 
for him to keep. These things and their like have survived the 
centuries as mere picturesque encumbrances to the machinery 
of the English state. 

Clerks of the Signet 

Indecipherable name 





Feb. 27, 1386. C.W. 1349/42. 

Sept. 5, 1389 to after lb. 1354/4, 9, 60. 

1393. P.S.O. l/l/5a, 7a, 8a, 

12a, 13a, 14a, 15a, 
18a, 19a, 21a. 
Sometime between 76. 1/1 /25a. 

Nov. 14, 1397 and 
1387-88. lb. l/l/4a. 

Feb. 28, 1396 to May C.W. 1354/19, 21, 22, 
27,1399. 26, 27, 28a, 31. 

lb. 1355/30, 39. 
Sept. 8, 1392 to Feb. lb. 1354/16 ; 1355/58. 

24, 1393. 
Feb. 14, 1390 to Jan. lb. 1354/3, 12, 14. 
17, 1393. 1355/5, 10, 51. 

P.S.O. l/l/6a, 9a, 10a, 
11a, 16a. 
Feb. 27, 1396 to Dec. C.W. 1354/18, 20, 25. 
22, 1397. 



The Queen's Household 
(a) Introductory, Scope of the Survey 

A queen's household would seem likely to be the most important 
in the realm after that of the king himself. Though the very in- 
timacy of its connection with the ruling sovereign might tend to rob 
it of individuality, yet its dignity was so great and its resources 
and operations so considerable that it deserves separate treatment 
even at the times when it was not functioning independently, but 
was treated as an appendage of the king's household. The aim of 
the present section is to connect and amplify information on this 
subject scattered in earlier volumes, and to carry the story a stage 
further. Our starting-point must be the year 1236, when Henry 
III. set up a wardrobe for his newly married wife, Eleanor of 
Provence. That was the first of the new developments essayed 
after the main structure of household organisation had been 
already erected,^ and its history is here to be traced over a period 
of more than a hundred and fifty years, through the lifetimes of 
seven queens, ending with that little Isabella of France, second 
wife of Richard II., who was not yet ten years old when her 
husband lost his throne in 1399.^ As an administrative unit it 

1 See above, i. 240 and 252-253. 

2 To make a survey so extensive in a period of little more than six months, 
of which two only were available for full-time work, is an adventure in speed 
too dangerous to be justified except by the circumstances which have been 
explained in the preface to this volume. For the first three queens I have 
relied on my own material, the nucleus of which had been already collected 



became increasingly worthy of study as it expanded in size and 
developed fresh machinery, partly of its own initiative, partly in 
reflection of ingenuities devised in the king's household. By the 
end of our period we shall find it with wardrobe, great wardrobe 
and privy wardrobe, chamber and exchequer, from all of which 
issue records of interest. We shall watch it dealing with large 
resources and wide lands ; we shall find it in the closest contact 
with the parent body from which it sprang, sometimes as prop, 
sometimes as burden ; we shall see it pass through good and evil 
days, desperate at times in the effort to make means meet ends, 
often unpopular, always noticeable and noticed. In fact, we 
should be failing utterly to adopt the mediaeval point of view if 
we did not assign to it a prominent place in any survey of ad- 
ministrative history. 

This section will deal first with the general organisation of 
the queen's household ; next with its finances ; finally with its 
secretarial functions. 

(b) General Organisation and Staff 

Eleanor of Provence, with whom our story opens, was for 
thirty-six years queen consort (1236-72) and for nineteen queen 
mother (1272-91), though in July 1276 she took the veil at Ames- 
bury and henceforth described herself in her letters merely as 
" humble nun of the order of Fontevrault." The increasing dig- 
nity, size and splendour of her household in Henry III.'s reign are 
attested by the large receipts and expenses analysed in its accounts,^ 
while the bulk of its correspondence after her son Edward I. be- 
came king bears witness to its continued activities. Even as nun 
Eleanor retained her possessions, and though some of the letters 
she wrote during that period related to convent afiairs,^ others still 

at intervals since 1914, but have been much helped by what Dr. Tout has said 
in passing in earlier volumes. For the next two, thanks to the generosity of 
Dr. Tout and Dr. Broome, I have had their notes as well as my own. For the 
last two I have relied exclusively upon material supplied by Dr. Broome. 
I owe much to the kindness of Mr. Charles Johnson and Mr. V. H. Galbraith, 
who made valuable criticisms and suggestions on mv first draft of the section. 

1 See below, pp. 267-270. 

2 Such as that begging Edward to persuade the king of Sicily not to interfere 
with the franchises of the order of Fontevrault (A.C. xvi. 156), or that securing 
for the Amesbury house release from arrears of rent (ib. 206). 


concerned her lands or her wards, in some cases assigned to her 
after retirement. ^ Her court, as we catch glimpses of it in the 
king's records or her own,^ with her ladies in attendance, the clerks 
who acted as chaplains, almoners, or men of business, the doctors 
who attended her rather frequent illnesses, or advised her when 
she embarked upon some kindly but peremptory nursing scheme,^ 
the knights, squires and yeomen attached, as well as the large staff 
of indoor and outdoor servants, was of impressive size, and was 
swelled by the presence of young heirs under her guardianship 
until they should attain their majority, and also, from time to 
time, of her children or grand-children.* The royal accounts 
contain many references to building and repairs in her houses up 
and down the country, and a few of the reports or inquiries of 
her baihfEs have survived among the chancery records.^ 

In most of these respects, however, precedents for the house- 
hold arrangements of Eleanor of Provence could be found in 
those of earlier queens. The special interest of her establishment 
is that it was the first, as Dr. Tout has shown, ^ to have a wardrobe 
of its own, accounting, after the first twenty months of its exist- 
ence, direct and separately to the exchequer. Its head was a 

1 It was not till 1280, for example, that a settlement was reached about 
lands assigned to Eleanor in France (see below, p. 269), and ten years later 
eight manors were delivered to her in fulfilment of a promise of 1000 marks a 
year " in augmentation of her maintenance and for her household " {C.C.R., 
12SS-96, p. 84). 

2 Cf. the lists of those going beyond seas with the queen in 1262 (C.P.R., 
1258-66, pp. 218, 219) or the details of jewels presented to the household in, 
e.g., E.A. 349/12. 

^ She writes, for example, to her son to ask him to excuse Geoffrey of 
Genville, who has come to see her at Guildford, and is ill of a tertian, which 
the doctors say will get worse if he is not careful {A.C. xvi. 171, xii. 164). From 
Amesbury she wrote urging the king not to carry out his intention of taking 
his young son Edward with him to the north. " When we were there we could 
not avoid being ill, because of the bad air, so we beg you to arrange some place 
of sojourn for him in the south, where the air is good and temperate " {A.C. 
xvi. 170). 

* Her wardrobe account for 1249-50 includes minute expense for her son 
Edward, then ten years old (Pipe, No. 93, m. 1) ; her expenditure on fruit and 
electuaries in 1252 was increased by the illness of his younger brother Edmund 
(E.A. 349/10) ; and the same child's clothing, horses, etc., appear in E.A. 
349/18, 19. The last trace of Edward before he had an establishment of his 
own is in a sum allotted among the queen's accounts of 1253-54 in expensis 
Edvjardi filii regis extra curiam per se (Pipe, No. 97, m. 9). 

6 A.C. xi. 11, 24, 42, 46. 

« See above, i. 252-255. 


keeper {custos garderobe regine),^ assisted by a colleague who kept 
a counter-roll as a check upon him, and who was the predecessor 
of the later controller (contrarotulator) though he did not as yet 
bear that title. Of the five successive keepers of Eleanor's 
wardrobe, John of Gaddesden, Guy of Lapalud, Walter of Brad- 
ley, James of Aigueblanche, and Hugh of Penne,^ two, namely 
Bradley and Penne, had previously kept the counter-roll, and 
remained long in office, the former certainly for five years, possibly 
for eight, the other for no less than fifteen. Their association 
with the household seems closer than that of Gaddesden, whose 
multifarious activities in the royal service kept him so busy that 
once at least his clerk Robert del Ho had in his stead to present 
the queen's accounts for audit,^ or Lapalud, who was probably a 
Savoyard, and was sent abroad on royal business in 1244,* or his 
fellow-countryman James of Aigueblanche, who was released 
because he wanted to continue his studies and attend to the cure 
of his benefices.^ It would be difficult to say how many clerks 
were employed besides the two chief ones, for individuals com- 
bined various functions, Peter de Alpibus, for example, the 
queen's physician, who may be the same man as Peter the leech 
of Jonzac,'' kept one of two counter - rolls "against" John of 

^ Though clerks of the royal chancery sometimes described him as treasurer 
(R.G. i. 239) or as chamberlain (C.Lib.R., 1226-40, p. 343). Eleanor's chamber 
was not an office, but simply her bedroom, used as a storing-place for valuables. 
A jewelled girdle given to her was described as liberata ad came,ram regine {E.A. 
349/13, m. 1). Clasps were presented in 1253 to Geoffrey of Sutton, hostiarius 
camere regine and Simon, hostiarius garderobe regine, and a cheaper one to 
William of Mulested, subhostiarius camere regine [E.A. 349/12). An account 
for 1252-53 lists separately the expense camere regine {E.A. 349/19). 

^ For details, especially as to Gaddesden, see above, i. 254, and D.N.B. 
Gaddesden kept up his connection long after he ceased to be keeper, for he is 
named in 1254 among those who are going overseas in Eleanor's company. 
The keeper's fee seems to have been forty marks annually. Lapalud in 1243 
was granted this sum from the king's wardrobe until he should be provided 
with a benefice of equivalent value. Subsequently he secured preferment of 
various sorts, including the rectory of Geddington, Northamptonshire, where 
there was a favourite royal residence {C.P.R., 1232-47, pp. 355, 356, 371, 372, 
377, 379, 385, 397, 407, 475, 489). Bradley had a prebend in St. Martin's, 
London, and built himself a house at Wilton (C.P.R., 1247-58, p. 327, C.R., 
1247-51, p. 25). Penne was to have a benefice worth thirty or forty marks 
(C.P.R., 1247-58, p. 241). 

3 C.R., 1237-42, p. 163, 

* C.P.R., 1232-47, p. 436. On his name and origin, see above, i. 254, n. 7, 
6 G.P.R., 1247-58, p. 558. 

* Who was assigned £40 Tournois yearly out of the farm of Bordeaux as 
equivalent to £10 sterling annually due to him at the exchequer (C.P.R., 


Gaddesden in 1240-42, and the counter-roll throughout Penne's 
keepership was kept by the queen's chaplain, Alexander of Brade- 
ham. Perhaps it was this preoccupation which led to his failure 
to render proper account of the queen's chapel, relics, and so 
forth, during the latter period. ^ The fact that the accounts 
enrolled at the exchequer mention various rotuli de particulis 
which might seem to require the services of several clerks becomes 
less significant when we notice that in 1252-53, which is the only 
period for which a group of such rolls has survived, nearly all were 
the work of Robert de Chaury, by whose " testimony and counter- 
roll " the queen's accounts were then being presented. ^ The fact 
that in April 1243 the archbishop of York was asked to provide 
for " Robert, clerk of the queen's wardrobe " a church worth 
thirty marks, suggests that there was at any rate one clerk whose 
salary was comparable in size with that of the keeper or his 
colleague who kept the counter-roll, but the date makes it likely 
that the man in question was Robert of Chaury, and that this fee 
was due because in the absence of Lapalud he was practically doing 
the keeper's work.^ With such uncertainties, and in the absence 
of any detailed lists of liveries or wages, it is impossible to come 
to any decision as to the size of Queen Eleanor's wardrobe staff. 
With the death of Henry III. a fresh chapter opens in the 
history of the queen's household. In the first place, whereas 
Henry had been spared complications by the fact that his mother 
took a second husband, in France, before he was himself of an 
age to marry, Edward I. was faced, like his son and grandson, 
with responsibility for two royal ladies, each with the title of 

1232-47, pp. 306, 320, 321). Peter, the queen's doctor, was presented to the 
church of Chipping in 1240, but resigned it in 124:1 {ib. 239, 265), probably 
because meanwhile he had been given a prebend in the chapel of St. Clement 
in Pontefract Castle {ib. 243, 258, 291, 329). 

1 The latest account notes : " Compotus debetur de ornamentis capelle de 
predicto tempore et duobus aliis temporibus " {Pipe, No. 116, m. Id). 

^ They are E.A . 349/8, de secre.lis don is regine ; 349/10, defructibus et electitariis ; 
349/17, de oblacionibus regine ; 349/24, de oblacionibus regine et elemosina per 
viam. Others, such as 349/23, may be his work also. As each, however, is 
headed " Rotulus Roberti de Chaury contra Walterum de Bradele," possibly this 
is the counter-roll itself, made in sections instead of as a single document. 

3 C.P.E., 1232-47, p. 373. Cf. C.R., 1242-47, p. 506. It is unlikely that 
he was that Robert of Linton who was among the queen's clerks in 1239, and 
who in Dr. Tout's view is identical with a clerk of the king's tailor in 1254 
(see above, iv. 357, 366-367). 


queen, though distinguished from each other as regina mater 
and regina consors. In the second place, Edward's policy, as Dr. 
Tout has shown,^ was to treat " the wardrobes of the subordinate 
members of the royal house as subordinate to his own." The 
result was that the line between the staff and activities of the 
wardrobes of king and queen became blurred, that both persons 
and money were transferred from one to the other, and that the 
operations of the wardrobe of Eleanor of Castile left fewer traces 
for the future historian than that of Eleanor of Provence. There 
has not survived a single complete original account of her officials, 
showing both receipt and particularised expenditure, so that we 
have to piece together information from the summary enrolled 
at the exchequer after her death,^ such accounts of her officials 
as remain,^ her correspondence, and allusions in the king's 

The second Eleanor's wardrobe was organised on lines similar 
to that of the first. At its head was a keeper, assisted by a col- 
league to whom the title of controller was now given,* and under 
their orders was a subordinate staff, central and local. As a 
whole Eleanor's officers seem to have attained a degree of un- 
popularity greater than is explicable by the dislike naturally 
excited by their duties of exaction and collection. Archbishop 
Pecham said that her clerks were " of the stock of the devil rather 
than of Christ," and after the queen's death, when a special 
commission of inquiry invited complaints against her ministers, 
some very strange tales were told.^ 

The first keeper of whom we hear is Mr. Geoffrey of Asphale, 
to whom in August 1280 a charter was handed to be placed in the 

1 See above, ii. 42. 2 p^-^^^ j^o. 143, m. 36. 

^ The most substantial is the Liber domini Johannis de Berewyk de expensis 
in garderoba regine in the British Museum (Add. MS. 35294). Its first entry is 
30th September 1289, its last concern the queen's death in November 1290. 
In the Record Office are a summary but useful account of payments made on 
Eleanor's behalf from 14 to 18 Edward I. [E.A. 352/7) ; accounts of expenses 
[ib. 352/11, 13, the latter printed in part in Archives de la Gironde, Ixvi. 1-13) ; 
and an account of repairs in the queen's chamber at Westminster [ib. 467/20). 
A few hints can also be got from the accounts of Eleanor's executors {E.A. 
352/27, 353/1, 9, 19). Transcripts of these were printed by B. Botfield, Manners 
and Household Exjienses, pp. 95-139 (Roxburghe Club, 1841). 

* The account for 1288-89 was presented " by the view and testimony of 
Richard of Bures, controller " [Pipe, No. 143, m. 36). 

^ See below, p. 271. 


queen's treasury,^ but who was quite as active, both before and 
after that date, in the service of the king as in that of the queen. ^ 
The preferments showered upon Geoffrey in reward were, in the 
view of his former fellow-student Archbishop Pecham, scandal- 
ously numerous. When the archbishop visited the diocese of 
Lichfield in 1280, he cited Geo&ey, with six other canons, for 
non-attendance, though he afterwards accepted the king's excuses 
on his behalf.^ The following year Edward told the bishop of 
Chichester " not to compel Mr. Geoffrey of Asphale, king's clerk, 
who is beneficed in the bishop's diocese and is continually 
engaged in the king's affairs, to take orders or make personal 
residence," because " the king's clerks ought not to be compelled 
to do these things whilst engaged in the king's service." ^ In 
1286, however, Pecham addressed to Geoffrey a letter which is 
worth quoting in full,^ as corrective to the impression, easily 
conveyed by the numerous dispensations to pluralist and non- 
resident clerks in the service of great people which crowd the 
papal registers, that the church viewed with indifference this use 
of clerical preferment as a mere substitute for salary. " With 
the utmost possible affection," writes Pecham, " we beg you that 
if you have a dispensation for holding as many benefices as you 
do, you send a copy of it to us, who desire, the Most High be our 
witness, that every honour should accrue to you that is not to 
the injury of your soul's health. We do not believe that you can 
with a clear conscience obtain so many benefices, for, so we are 
told, you do no good in them. Nevertheless, you continually 
accept others when they are offered to you. For instance, you 
are said recently to have accepted at the presentation of Peter of 
Huntingfield a fat church of his right. His intention in presenting 

^ C.C.R., 1279-88, p. 61. He was probably, therefore, in office a year earlier 
than is stated above, ii. 42, n. 2. 

* In May 1275 he was one of two auditors appointed to hear a case between 
the citizens of York and the abbot of St. Mary's ; in October of the same year 
he supervised the collectors of the fifteenth in Essex and Hertfordshire ; next 
year he was adjudicating in a dispute between the sailors of Yarmouth and 
Bayonne ; in 1279 and 1286 he went overseas with the king {C.C.R., 1272-79, 
p. 250 ; C.P.R., 1272-81, pp. 119-120, 236, 316 : ib. 1281-92, pp. 224, 233, 268). 

^ Registrum (R.S.) iii. 1064. Besides this canonry at Lichfield, Geoffrey 
had a prebend iu the king's free chapel of Wolverhampton, had been arch- 
deacon of Dublin since 1278, and in 1281 was made warden of St. Leonard's 
hospital at York (C.P.R., 1272-81, pp. 279, 443, 469). 

* C.C.R., 1279-88, p. 129. « Registrum, iii. 937. 


you to such is clear, since a short time ago he was turned out of 
various posts in the king's service." How far Geoffrey responded 
to this appeal we do not know. The following year he died,'^ 
and was succeeded by his colleague John of Berwick, who for 
two years already had been keeper of the queen's gold.^ For 
Berwick, however, even more than for his predecessor, work 
undertaken for the queen represented only a small element in a 
career crowded with administrative activities of all sorts, and his 
name bulks large in royal records up to the time of his death in 
the reign of Edward 11.^ 

Of Richard de Bures, the controller, we know little.* The 
men of whom we hear most are those responsible for getting in 
the revenues which supported the household, and especially con- 
spicuous among these were the queen's clerks Walter of Kent 
and Hugh of Cressingham, who acted in succession as stewards 
of her lands. Walter, who closed an energetic career before 
1286,5 figured prominently among the accused in the subsequent 
inquiry into the conduct of the queen's ministers, and even his 
former colleagues found little to say in his defence.^ Hugh, on 
whose greed and pomposity the chroniclers dilated while they 
poked fun at his physical unwieldiness,' reached the height of his 

1 The writ of aid to his executors is dated July 5, 1287 (C.P.R., 1281-92, 
p. 276). In 1279 he had granted his lands in Denham, West Suffolk, and 
Brent Eleigh, near Lavenham, to the abbey of St. Osyth, in exchange for £40 
a j'ear (C.P.E., 1272-Sl, p. 408 ; ib. 1281-92, pp. 34, 189 ; C.C.R., 1279-88, 
p. 460). 

2 I.e. of the additional payment due to the queen when a voluntary fine was 
made to the king. See below, p. 264. 

^ In Jidy 1312 he held lands in Essex, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Norfolk, and 
Surrey (Cal. Inquis. V. pp. 218-220). Cf. C.C.R., 1307-13, pp. 481, 483, 485, 

* On one occasion the chancery referred to him as receiver {C.C.R., 1279-88, 
p. 61). 

^ In 1273 he was described as " steward of the king and of Eleanor his 
consort " {C.P.R., 1272-81, p. 8) and in 1279 as " clerk of the king's consort " 
{C.G.R., 1279-88, p. 2). From 1276 to 1280 he was collector of the queen's gold 
(above, ii. 42, n. 2). He often acted on commissions of oyer and terminer. 

* In a case about goods maliciously detained, " no objection was made by 
the bailiffs of the lady queen, nor anything alleged on behalf of the said Walter, 
not even by John de Ponte his executor there present," while the jurors say 
" that they understood that those goods came to the hands of the said Walter, 
not to the profit of the lady queen." In another case the jurors, " asked to 
whose hands the aforesaid money came, said to the hands and convenience of 
the said Walter " {Assize Roll, No. 1014, ms. 7d lid). 

' Hemingburgh (Eng. Hist. Soc.) ii. 127, 139, 140. 


fortunes when in 1296 he was made treasurer of Scotland, only 
to come to a violent end at the battle of Stirling Bridge the 
following year.i 

One new feature makes its appearance with Eleanor of Castile 
— a queen's exchequer, to which her bailiffs were bidden to 
account. I have not traced any of its records, but various sums 
in the wardrobe accounts were spent upon it. John of Berwick, 
between 1286 and 1289, paid out £10 a year as fees to " clerks 
remaining at the queen's exchequer throughout the year," and 
2s. to its ushers, and also purchased parchment, bags, baskets, 
chests, and an exchequer board covered with say.^ After 
Eleanor's death her executors made payments to " Hugh once 
usher of the Queen's exchequer, for taking summonses and writs 
to various places," and paid a bill for " canvas for the windows 
of the queen's exchequer at Westminster." ^ 

The household of Edward's second wife, Margaret of France, 
was arranged mutatis mutandis on lines corresponding with that 
of the first, and no doubt even its personnel was to some extent 
the same.^ Its chief official was usually described as treasurer, 
sometimes as keeper. WilHam of Chesoy, who held this office 
during the first year after Margaret's marriage,^ went overseas 
in 1300,^ and was succeeded by the John of Godley whom on 
departure he appointed as his attorney,' and who had been for 
years a clerk of the king's. The only controller, specifically so 
called, of whom we hear is John of Courtenay, who went to Paris 
on the queen's business in 1302-1303,^ and whose account of moneys 

^ See his life in D.N.B. Barneton in the diocese of Ely, Uiiord in North- 
amptonshire, and Kingsclere in Hampshire, may be added to the churches 
there named to which he was presented {C.P.R., 1281-92, pp. 297, 432, 475). 
Another fact not there mentioned is the discovery after his death that he was 
illegitimate (Gal. Inquis. 111. pp. 267-268). 

2 E.A. 352/7. 3 lb. 353/19. 

* For example, among the persons accompanying Margaret overseas in 
December 1307 was Humphrey of Walden, whose name had long been familiar 
as a bailiff of Queen Eleanor and an active royal agent {C.P.R., 1307-13, p. 25). 

* His salary was 2s. 6d. a day. We have his account as presented to the 
king's wardrobe in 1301 (E.A. 357/5, m. 1). 

« C.P.R., 1292-1301, p. 515. 

' The latest mention of John with the title of queen's treasurer that I have 
noticed is in April 1308 (G.C.R., 1307-13, p. 31), but as late as 1314 he was 
among those appointed to try trespasses of vert and venison in forests held by 
the queen (C.P.R., 1313-17, p. 152). 

8 E.A. 361/3, m. 3. 


paid to him by the keeper of the king's wardrobe is still extant.^ 
Next to the keeper, the coSerer seems to have been the most 
active of Margaret's staff. William of Melton held that post for 
at least the first twelve months of the household's existence,^ 
but was then transferred to the service of the king's eldest son, 
Edward of Carnarvon, to which he remained attached. His 
successor, Thomas of Quarle, remained in office till 1307, possibly 
later.3 The only other members of Margaret's stafi who need be 
mentioned are her two successive stewards John Hastang * and 
John Abel, of whom the first leaves a lighter impression upon 
history than the second, whose name is conspicuous during the 
early years of Edward 11.^ 

One of Margaret's accounts, in a terrible state of decay,^ 
contains in its legible portion details which suggest that the 
separate exchequer was still maintained. I am inclined to think 
that it may actually have occupied the same room as the king's 
exchequer, or at any rate was closely adjoining. Entries made 
to the ushers of the exchequer for wax for writs, and to the 
ushers of the receipt for tallies, probably relate to her husband's 
office, not her own,' but others relate specifically to her account- 
ants and accounts. Two exchequer boards, the making of which 
occupied joiners and carpenters for a week,^ were to be used "the 
one for the receipt of moneys and the other for hearing the accounts 
of the ministers of the same queen." The cost is recorded of 
parchment for her rolls, writs, summons and accounts, of sacks 
to put her money in, of locks for "a certain coffer at the New 

1 E.A. 367/11. 

* He appears as Chesoy's colleague in the account presented for 1299-1300 
(L.Q.O. pp. 357-358) and in a list of names in E.A. 358/18. 

3 Accounts of his survive in E.A. 359/7, 360/21, 361/3, 9. He accounted 
at the king's wardrobe in 2 Edward II. {ib. 373/25) and in 7 Edward II. was 
still complaining that the auditors had treated him badly. Some of the details 
are vividly personal. For example, when he stated that, whereas he sold a 
charger named Cardinal for £20 only, the auditors had burdened him with 
another 70 marks beyond that price, Walter Langton and Aymer de Valence, 
who were present, " and who knew that charger well," declared that Cardinal 
was worth fully 100 marks {ib. 361/9). 

« C.P.R., 1301-1307, p. 460. 

s Cf. e.g. C.C.R., 1307-13, pp. 12, 24, and C.P.R., 1307-13, pp. 26, 52. 

« E.A. 366/25. 

' At any rate in Philippa's time such payments to the king's exchequer 
formed a regular feature of her receiver's accounts (ib.). 

8 A schedule sewn to the side contains the detailed bill, amounting in all 
to £4 : 10 : 3|, sent in by John Dymmoc, who made them. 


Temple in which to put the queen's treasure," of the mending of a 
balance, and of knives for cutting tallies. Some of the difficulties 
in the way of the queen when bringing her ministers to account 
are suggested by the fact that when three messengers had already 
been sent with her letters bidding three of her bailiffs to come to 
render account, these had to be followed by others to the same " to 
lev}^ money," and these again by others " to hasten the money." 

A new chapter opens with Isabella of France, the wife of 
Edward II. i, who during the half century of her married life 
(1308-58) experienced astonishing changes of fortune. Her nor- 
mal position as queen consort altered suddenly for the worse in 
the autumn of 1324, when her lands and castles were resumed into 
the king's hands on the pretext of public danger. An interval of 
intrigue followed, resulting finally in the deposition of her 
husband and the accession of her son. For the next three and a 
haK years, from March 1327 to October 1330, she enjoyed as 
queen mother unprecedented wealth and authority, only to dis- 
appear again into obscurity when the young Edward asserted 
himself and turned upon the Mortimer faction. 

During the earliest of these periods (1308-24), two magnificent 
complete account books ^ and various subsidiary documents ^ 
reveal to us an organisation similar in outline to its predecessors, 
but at a riper stage of development. The wardrobe, with its 
keeper or treasurer, its cofferer and at least eight other clerks, 
shoulders the main burden of the household's work. The 
establishment in its upper ranks alone, ladies, knights, clerks 
and squires, numbers at least seventy, while the attendant throng 
of watchmen, laundresses, messengers, servants, carters, grooms 
and pages brings up the total to about 180. Among the ladies-in- 
waiting, by the way, there already figured in 1311-12 Eleanor, 
the wife of the younger Hugh Despenser,* so that the assertion 

^ For details as to her household and that of Philippa I owe much to an 
unpublished M.A. thesis written by my pupil Miss A. M. Best on " The finan- 
cing and organisation of the household of the queens of England during the 
first part of the fourteenth century." The lapse of time has placed at my 
disposal more material than was accessible to Miss Best, but her careful work 
has helped me greatly. 

^ One, for 1311-12, is in the British Museum (Cotton MS. Nero G viii. S. 
121-153) ; the other, for 1313-14, is in the Public Record Office (E.A. 375/9). 

3 Such as E.A. 376/20, 377/11. 

* Special arrangements had to be made for her baggage in October 1311, 
" because the lord Hugh le Despenser her husband stole away from her her 


in the Lanercost chronicle that her intimacy was forced upon the 
queen by Despenser tyranny in 1322 is as untrustworthy as several 
other statements there made in the same connection.^ Of 
Isabella's officials little need be said in detail, for they do not stand 
out for better or worse among other " civil servants " of the day. 
Dr. Tout has already noted that William of Boudon, who was 
keeper of her wardrobe from 1308 to at least 1316,^ had gained his 
first experience in the household of her husband before he became 
king.3 It may be added that the same is true of Sir William Inge, 
conspicuous among her knights,* and that even the apothecary, 
Peter of Montpellier, had been at work in Edward's household 
as early as 1303.^ It was natural that to begin with men of ex- 
perience should be transferred from other posts, but that as time 
went on promotion should occur within the household. Thus 
when Henry of Hale, the queen's cofferer tiU December 19, 1315, 
left to take the same post in the king's household, he was succeeded 
by a clerk who had previously been assisting Boudon, Thomas of 
Weston ; and when Boudon himself gave up the post of treasurer, 
Hale came back to occupy it.^ It is worth noticing that whereas 
in the king's household at this period the steward was always a 
layman, in the queen's the knight Ebulo de Montibus was in 
February 1314 succeeded by a clerk, John Fillol.' 

Isabella's accounts are the first to illustrate abundantly in 
the queen's household the activities of those sub-departments, 
the great and the privy wardrobe, whose parallels in the king's 
household had been developing since at least 1253.^ The great 
wardrobe, whose special concern was the purchase, storage and 

sumpter-horses and other carriage necessary for her at Eltham " {Cotton MS. 
Nero C. viii. f. 137d). 

^ Chron. de Lanercost, p. 254. 

2 Cf. Pipe, No. 168 m. 50, and I.E. 126, m. 7. 

^ Above, ii. 225. Boudon was in Edward of Carnarvon's service as early 
as 1300-1301 {E.A. 360/17). 

* In 1313 Inge was one of those who " at the king's bidding " went with 
Isabella to France, though others of her entourage remained in England {ib. 
31519, t. 25). Ten years before he had been doing business for Edward, prince 
of Wales {ib. 363/18, S. 5, 7d) and in 1305 Edward, describing him as " our 
dear bachelor " begged the king not to remove him to become a justice in 
Scotland {Exch. Misc. 5/2. Cf . my Letters of Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1304- 
1305, soon to be published by the Roxburghe Club). 

6 E.A. 363/18, m. 4d. 

6 Ib. 376/7, f. 27 ; C.C.R., 1313-18, p. 548 ; C.P.R., 1317-21, p. 130. 

' E.A. 375/9, f. 26. » See above, iv. ch. xiv. 


distribution of such non-perishable articles as cloth, furs, wax, 
dried fruit and spices, was still in close connection with the 
wardrobe, on whose clerks it rehed for the accounting involved 
in its business. Thus in the wardrobe book for 1313-14, for 
example, John Fleet and John de Foresta are described in one 
place as cofferer and controller of the wardrobe, and in another 
as cofferer and controller of the great wardrobe.^ The parva 
garderoba, or garderoba robarum, as it is often called,^ had also 
made its appearance, and was marked by that special connection 
with the chamber which Dr. Tout has noted in the case of the 
king's privy wardrobe.^ The differentiation of function between 
the two comes out clearly when we examine the cost of their 
carriage as they travelled. The great wardrobe, linked to the 
chandlery and the chapel by their common need of wax, often 
shared transport with them. In 1315-16, for example,* three 
carts, each drawn by three horses, were usually allotted to these 
three departments, though sometimes more were needed. The 
total cost of carriage for the year was £9:2:2, whereas the privy 
wardrobe in the same period had spent £18 : 19 : 5, using far 
larger numbers of carts. Between Rockingham and Huntingdon, 
for example, a two days' journey, the privy wardrobe had four 
carts, each drawn by four horses, and six with three each. The 
year before, when the queen, with the countess of Warenne and 
several other great ladies, had made a twelve days' expedition from 
London to Appledore in Kent and back, its baggage had filled no 
less than twenty carts with three horses each, and twenty-eight 
with two.^ This is not surprising, for the luggage it carried 
included not only bedding and the like, but also buckets for alms- 
giving and the queen's bath-tubs.^ When, in 1325, Isabella went 
to France, considerable stores of wax, parchment, linen and such 
things had to be taken overseas. Their distribution between 
September 29 and November 15 is recorded in a beautifully kept 
" roll of the spicery of the household of the lady queen." ' 

^ E.A. 375/9, ff. 16d, 29. On this John Fleet and his namesakes, see above, 
iv. 445-446. 

2 lb. 375/19, ms. 1, 3. ^ gee above, iv. ch. xv. 

* E.A. 376/20. » lb. 375/19, m. 4. 

^ C'uve pro balneis regine (ib. 376/20). If, like the king's privy wardrobe, 
it was responsible for buying fruit, we may credit it with the purchase in 1314 
of apples " to feed a certain porcupine given to the queen " (ib. 375/9, f. 24). 

' Ib. 381/17. 


The need of some central storehouse for these departments 
had begun to be felt in the case oi the queen just as in that of 
the king. In a turret of the Tower there was one such, in charge 
of the queen's tailor, John of Falaise, who from time to time 
received safe-conducts to go about the country buying on her 
behalf, and who, in 1313-14, was allotted 12d. a day whether at 
court or not.i On his death in 1315 Thomas of Weston was sent 
hurriedly from Wye in Kent to seal both the door of the turret 
and John's coffers inside.^ As at the same time one of the queen's 
serjeants-at-arms took up his abode in the earl marshal's house at 
Broken Wharf " to keep the wardrobe of the king and queen after 
the death of John of Falaise," ^ there may have been a second 
storehouse in Queenhithe ward. John of Falaise was succeeded by 
Stephen of Falaise, whose work in 1315-16 is reflected in the 
queen's records,^ and to whom letters patent empowering him 
to buy on the queen's behalf were issued as late as September 

I have seen no reference in the accounts of this period of 
Isabella's life to the doings of her exchequer. 

The next two periods in Isabella's career, from September 
1324 to March 1327, and from that date to October 1330, are both 
abnormal, the former because the queen was under suspicion, the 
latter because she was fresh from a great triumph. The revolu- 
tion of 1326-27 may be said to have been on the horizon from the 
moment when, in 1324, the queen's lands were taken into the king's 
hands on pretext of " the unsettled and threatening condition of 
the times." ^ Such action was not, of course, unprecedented in 
feudal conditions when war was expected,' and perfectly adequate 
arrangements were made for Isabella's living and other expenses,^ 
so that her resentment may have been due rather to her own 

^ E.A. 375/9, f. 16. This was an advance on his earlier allowance of 7^d. 
(Nero C. viii. f. 132). For examples of safe-conducts, see C.P.R., 1307-13, 
p. 450 ; ib. 1313-17, pp. 110, 284-285. « E.A. 375/19, m. 4. 

* Ib. m. 5. The allusions in this account enable us to antedate by a reign 
the statement made above, iv. 412, as to the settlement in London of other 
wardrobes besides the king's. 

< E.A. 376/20, m. 3d. » c.P.R., 1317-21, p. 21. 

« C.F.R., 1319-27, pp. 302, 308 ; C.C.R., 1323-27, p. 260. 

' In the autumn of 1317, when civil war seemed imminent, Margaret the 
qiieen mother had surrendered, at the request of Edward II., the castles of 
Berkhampstead, Odiham, Leeds, and Gloucester (C.P.R. , 1317-21, pp. 38, 46). 

* See below, p. 274. 


guilty conscience than to any justification in the actual facts. 
Most of the chroniclers, unaware, of course, of these financial 
readjustments, took for granted that the seizure must lead to her 
impoverishment, and several state that it was accompanied by a 
reduction in her household which deprived her of her accustomed 
officials and companions. Geoffrey le Baker, indeed, paints her 
as furious at becoming " a mere servant, the paid handmaid of 
the Despensers." ^ That some change of personnel did occur is 
probable, for on February 5, 1325, shortly before Isabella crossed 
the Channel, Henry of Eastry, prior of Christchurch, Canterbury, 
urged Archbishop Reynolds to see to it that before the queen 
reached France she should regain " her wonted train and house- 
hold of both sexes." ^ Apparently he succeeded, for the records 
show that Isabella's entourage on this visit was actually more 
impressive in size than on the two previous occasions on which 
she had accompanied her husband on a visit to France,^ though 
not so large as when she went alone in February 1314.* Moreover, 
the fist of protections issued in February 1325 ^ and the accounts 
kept in France between that date and the following November ^ 
show that many well-tried friends were in her service. Thomas 
of London, the " clerk assigned by King Edward ... to deal 
with the expenses of Isabella queen of England, recently sent to 
the parts of France," as the description runs in the controller's 
account, may well have been the same man who had been beyond 

1 Chron. Galf. le Baker, p. 17. Cf. Chrons. Edtv. I. and II. (R.S.) i. 307, 
ii. 279 ; Ann. Osney {Ann. Mon. iv. R.S.), p. 346 ; Chron. de Lanercost (Mait- 
land Club), p. 254. 

^ Lit. Cantuarienses (R.S.) i. 137. Isabella left her huntsmen and hounds 
at the priory, where they consumed a quarter of wheat a week, and became, 
after prolonged stay, most unwelcome guests {ib. pp. 168-170). 

■* Protections were issued to 33 persons going with her in May 1313, and to 
30 in June 1320 {C.P.R., 1307-13, pp. 580-81 ; ib. 1317-21, pp. 447, 453). 

* Fifty-three protections were then issued {ib. 1313-17, pp. 85-86). 
5 Ib. 1324-27, pp. 91-92, 100, 106. 

* We have Boudon's original counter-roll as sent by him to the exchequer 
on Nov. 11, 3 Edw. III., covering the period March 9 to Sept. 29, 1325 {E.A. 
380/10). Thomas of London's roll, of which this is a duplicate, exists only in 
a contemporary transcript, to which is attached a second portion carrying on 
the account to Nov. 14 {ib. 380/9). The Rev. Joseph Hunter analysed the 
first section in Archaeologia, xxxvi. 242-257. There exist also the rolls of the 
spicery and of the pantry and buttery from Sept. 29 to Nov. 15. {ib. 381/17, 18), 
and the counter-roll of necessaria for the same period {ib. 381/7). A little 
account, undated in the official list, containing expenses of kitchen, scullery, 
saucery, hall and chamber, relates to the same time {ib. 382/18). 


seas in Isabella's service five years before,^ and his controller was 
her former treasurer, William of Boudon. Kobert of Stanton, now 
steward, had been to France with her already in 1320.2 William 
of Norwell had, in 1311-12, been clerk of her kitchen before in 
1312-13 he took the same post in the king's household.^ John 
of Oxendon, who by November had become keeper,^ had not 
hitherto figured largely in her records, but he had been in her 
train as early as 1320,^ and had received preferment at her request 
in 1315.^ On the whole, therefore, it seems as if Edward had 
not yet shown openly in this connection the suspicion which 
undoubtedly he had already conceived. Our accounts stop in 
November 1325, just before both sides put their cards on the table, 
Edward by a peremptory summons to his wife to return, Isabella 
by refusal and defiance. Between that point and her invasion of 
England in September 1326, she presumably relied on the hos- 
pitality of foreign friends. Even after she had landed in this 
country again, conditions were, of course, for a time abnormal. 
She and her son were pooling resources, expenses and staff, and 
utihsing the services of deserters from her husband's side. One 
such was Robert of Wodehouse, since 1323 keeper of Edward 11. 's 
wardrobe. In these revolutionary months Wodehouse was de- 
scribed indifferently as keeper of the wardrobe of the queen or 
keeper of that of the king's son,'^ till, when the young Edward 
gained the crown, the old title of keeper of the king's wardrobe 
could again be used. In the latter capacity, Wodehouse dealt 
in his fijst roll of account with the whole period from November 
1326 to January 1328, but explained that the early part related to 
" the expenses of the household of the lord king and of the lady 
queen Isabella his mother conjointly . . . from the first day of 
November in the twentieth year of king Edward, son of king 

1 C.P.R., 1317-21, p. 41. He was then parson of Barton Seagrave, North- 

2 Ih. p. 453. 

3 Cotton 3IS. Nero C. viii. f. 125 See above, iv. 80-81. 
* E.A. 381/7, m. 3. 

6 C.P.R., 1317-21, p. 453. 

^ He was presented to the church of Overstone, Northamptonshire (ib. 
1313-17, p. 338). He made some curious exchanges with Boudon as to the 
church of Great Stanbridge, Essex. Having succeeded Boudon there in 1307, 
he resigned it in his favour in 1309. Boudon apparently kept it till 1328 {ib. 
1307-13, pp. 17, 189 ; Reg. Steph. Gravesend, C. and Y. Soc. p. 288). 

' C.P.R., 1324-27, p. 338 ; I.R. 222. See above ii. 272. 


Edward, to the eleventh day of March in the first year of the 
king's own reign, on which their expenses were separated." ^ 

Now came Isabella's time of triumph. As early as January, 
1327, a beginning was made with the restoration of her estates, 
and in February, as an expression of parliament's gratitude to 
her, her dower lands were almost tripled in value.^ In July 
Edward ordered the treasurer and barons of the exchequer to 
compel all keepers, farmers and bailiffs of the lands and castles 
assigned to his mother to make their proffers at her exchequer at 
Westminster twice a year, " in the same way as proffers are made 
by the king's baiHffs at his exchequer." ^ Dr. Tout has already 
drawn attention to the fact that many of the assignments now 
made to the queen were made from the former " chamber estate," 
and that the operation of her separate exchequer kept them just 
as much outside ordinary exchequer control as in their former 
state.* The novelty of this, however, becomes less striking now 
that we know that both the queens of Edward I. had in the same 
way held their lands accountable to their own exchequer. The 
expansion of machinery to meet these enlarged responsibilities 
must have been considerable, and it is a pity that none of Isabella's 
wardrobe accounts for this period are available. There are, 
however, four memoranda rolls of the queen's exchequer,^ cover- 
ing the fourth to the eighth year of Edward III., that is to say, 
if we take it that the exchequer year is intended, the period from 
Michaelmas 1329 to Michaelmas 1334. They correspond closely 
in form and arrangement with those kept by the king's exchequer, 
and reflect the doings of a busy office. The first of them alone, 
however, belongs to the days of Isabella's greatest glories, for 
after her son's cowp d'etat at Nottingham she surrendered her 
lands to the crown in December 1330, and was for a time under 
some restraint.^ Though soon afterwards she was assigned 
£3000 a year, payment to date back to the day of that surrender, 

1 E.A. 382/9. The counter-roll is ib. No. 10. 

^ They rose from an annual value of £4500 to one of £13,333 : 6 : 8. For 
details, see below, pp. 275-276. 3 C.C.R., 1327-30, p. 143. 

« See above, iii. 20-21 and iv. 232-233. 

^ Exch. Miscellanea 4/30. I am grateful to Miss M. H. Mills for drawing 
attention to this interesting document. 

* In 1332 the constable of Windsor was seeking repayment for what he 
had spent on her while she was in his keeping in that castle (G.G.R., 1330-33, 
p. 434). 


this was a very modest provisioD as compared with her recent 
income, and it was not till 1337 that a further grant of £1500 
brought her dower to the total originally secured her by treaty. '^ 
Thenceforward till her death in 1358 we may picture her in a 
setting similar to that of her early married life. The idea that 
she spent her declining years in captivity, as mistaken tradition 
continues persistently to assert,^ is disposed of completely by the 
record evidence, which includes, besides the memoranda rolls 
already mentioned, a file of letters, detailed accounts for the last 
year of her life ^ and numerous references in the calendars of 
chancery enrolments. The queen moved about the country quite 
as much as any lady over sixty was likely to find desirable, made 
long stays at Castle Rising or Hertford as inclination moved her, 
entertained or was entertained by many of the notables of the 
day and died at last surrounded by friends and solicitude. 

The machinery which directed her afiairs was of the usual 
kind. John of Oxendon seems to have continued to act as her 
treasurer at least as late as October 1332,^ but was later succeeded 
by John of Newbury. Between these two the post of treasurer 
had been held by Richard of Raven ser, who left it to undertake 
the equally important office of receiver.^ Whereas the treasurer's 
duty was ordinarily to remain in the queen's company, supervise 
the departments of household and wardrobe, and account in 
detail for income and outlay, the receiver was mainly concerned 
to gather in revenue, which he then disbursed at the queen's order 
in lump sums, paid over to her treasurer or some other authorised 
person. The receiver kept the household supplied ; the treasurer 
spent, recorded and accounted for the supplies. It is interesting 
to find this system, which became common in the subordinate 
royal and baronial households of the time, in operation in the 
case of Isabella.^ The chief remaining officials of the household 
were the steward, Sir John atte Lee, and the cofierer, Nicholas of 

1 C.P.R., 1334-38, p. 489. See below, pp. 276-277. 

2 Cf. Observer, Dec. 29, 1929. 

3 One copy, among the Cotton MSS. in the British Museum {Oalha E iv.), 
was analysed by Mr. E. A. Bond in Archaeologia, xxxv. 453-469. The counter- 
roll of receipt is in the Record Office (E.A. 393/5). 

* Exch. Misc. 4/30, m. 8. 

5 E.A. 393/5, f. 1. Some of the stages of Ravenser's lucrative and conspicu- 
ous career as a civil servant are recorded in his life in D.N.B. 

6 See above, iv. 260-261. 


Louth, while locally the two stewards north and south of Trent 
presumably ranked next to the receiver.^ Lee and Ravenser 
were both transferred when the queen mother died to the 
service of the queen consort, and afterwards to that of the 

Isabella died on August 22, 1358, but it was not till November 
that she was buried in the Franciscan church at London, or till 
December that her household was dispersed. Ravenser, Lee 
and Louth took an inventory of her possessions, collected her 
debts, and made ready for the final account, which was presented 
before the king's auditors in January and early February, 1359. 
An interesting little book preserved among exchequer accounts 
has details so vivid that one can almost see the officials at work.^ 
One by one they list the dead woman's garments, among them 
that mantle of red samite lined with yellow siUv which she had 
worn at her wedding, and in which her corpse is now to be wrapped. 
Then they enumerate her books, many of them romances, some 
of the Charlemagne cycle, some of the Trojan war, a few belonging 
to the Arthurian group. Then there were her books of devotion, 
her gradual of the French use, bound in white leather, her ordinal 
of the use of Paris, her book of homilies in French. Some of 
these went to her daughter the queen of Scotland, but most were 
delivered with due formality into the king's keeping. So, too, 
were all her charters and memoranda, packed in a chest under the 
seal of the treasurer and chamberlains of the exchequer, eleven 
papal bulls, charters relating to Ponthieu, seals of Ponthieu in 
sealed pouches, charters of liberties. And from these the clerks 
passed on to matters of less administrative interest, plate and 
jewels, horses and carriages, and so on. As Edward had by 
letters patent placed the issues of Isabella's lands at the disposal 

1 When in London or elsewhere on the queen's business, Lee and Newbury 
received an allowance of 6s. 8d. a day, whereas Louth drew 3s. 4d. only (Galba 
E xiv. ff. 38d, 41d). Ravenser's annual fee was 100 marks, while the chief 
steward of the queen's lands got £50 (ib. ff. 54, 55d). I have not noticed any 
mention of a controller. Richard of Marketon, John Norwych, and Thomas 
of Hertfordyngbury are described as subderici garderobe et contrarotulat. (ib. 
f. 38d), which may mean that the work of keeping duplicate rolls was divided 
among several persons. 

2 See above, iii. 234, 259 ; iv. 149. 

* E.A. 393/4. There are also very full details concerning this period in the 
sections devoted to necessaria and dona in Oalba E xiv. 


of her executors for three years after her death/ the wmding up 
of her affairs continued to occupy Ravenser even after he had 
entered Philippa's service.^ 

Queen Philippa's household, at the time when Ravenser 
entered it, had already been in existence for nearly thirty years. 
We still possess many of its records. One of the most interesting 
is a register preserved among the Miscellanea of the Chancery ,3 
containing copies of the indentures made between the queen's 
officials and those to whom her lands were let at farm, or of the 
letters by which she appointed stewards, baiUffs, attorneys and 
others, or ratified action of her agents or of her predecessors, or 
wrote to this or that bishop with regard to churches in her presen- 
tation. It may have been this very register, or one similar, to 
which the queen's receiver was referring in his account for 
1336-37 when he noted a purchase of parchment to be used for a 
" register of commissions made to various farmers and bailiffs 
of the queen." ^ Many receivers' accounts are extant, notably a 
set belonging to John of Eston's term of office, which stretch 
almost, though not quite continuously, from Easter 1336 to October 
1348.^ Three documents of 1352 and 1353 concern the account 
rendered by John Molyns, the queen's steward south of Trent.^ 

^ The original letters were among the documents now handed over (E.A. 
393/4, f. 8d). 

2 His accounts may be seen in E.A. 393/7, 394/10, 395/5, 397/1, 7, 13, 18. 
Cf. also E.A. 333/29, 30, 334/1, 509/3. 

^ CM. 9/58. I must thank Mrs. M. Sharp for kindly calling my attention 
to this. In its present form it consists of fifteen membranes stitched together 
at the head and written on both sides. Its earliest entry is dated 1330, its 
latest 1336. Notes such as " Bespice in rotulo sequenti " (m. 1) and descriptive 
headings such as " Registrum de tempore Willelmi de Colby " (m. 3d) seem to 
hint at a series originally arranged in chronological order, but the document 
as it stands seems to be grouped by subject rather than by date, and is incomplete. 
Membranes 1 and Id are occupied entirely by indentures ; membrane 2 begins 
in the middle of an entry ; membranes 3 and 3d are filled entirely with letters 
of appointment ; the remaining membranes are mainly occupied by miscel- 
laneous letters patent and close, but occasionally contain groups of the docu- 
ments relevant to a particular transaction, such as that by which Sir John 
Darcy granted to Queen Isabella the manor of Wark in Tynedale (m. 12d). 

* E.A. 387/22, m. 4. 

^ Documents of identical character have in the course of time come to be 
divided between the categories of Exchequer Accounts, Various, and Ministers' 
Accounts. Eston's returns with regard to lands assigned to the household are 
in E.A. 387/22, 388/7, 389/1, 2 ; M.A. 1091/5, 8, 10 and 11, while those relating 
to lands assigned to the chamber are in E.A. 387/23 and M.A. 1091/3, 4, 9. 
See below, p. 255. « ^'.^^ 392/6; M.A. 1091/12, 13. 


There are also several fine specimens of the household's central 
records. For the earliest stages we have treasurer Colby's 
account from April 12, 1330, to October 20, 1331, ^ and can supply 
the deficiencies due to its fragmentary condition from an enrol- 
ment made when it was presented at the exchequer, ^ and also 
from the duplicate of its later portion contained in the book of 
Colby's controller, John of Amwell.^ There is another controller's 
book for 1349-50,^ and a cofferer's account for 1357-58.^ 

Philippa's household, as an independent organisation, lasted 
only till February 1363, when the increasing weight of her debts 
and difficulties induced the king to take over her responsibilities.^ 
During that time, it evolved some new experiments of its own, 
though in general structure it resembled Isabella's. Here, too, 
the common bond of service to one mistress united a set of 
agencies and officials whose main concern was with local affairs 
with another more directly attached to the queen's person. To 
the first belonged bailiffs and reeves, farmers of castles, forests 
or manors, the two stewards north and south of Trent, and a 
receiver or receivers, the head, for a time at any rate, being a 
general receiver who formed the chief link with the central 
organisation. The second was officered by a group at the head 
of which stood the treasurer and the steward of the household, 
with controller and cofferer. Three financial offices existed, the 
wardrobe, chamber, and exchequer. 

These two groups were at no time mutually exclusive, and were 
drawn into a much closer unity as time went on. Throughout, 
the general direction of the queen's affairs was in the hands of 
her advisory council, which makes frequent appearance in the 
records, and concerned itself quite as much with the minutiae 
of local business as with central problems. When Hugh of 
Glanville, chief auditor of the queen's accounts, went to take 
seisin of her estates, to appoint bailiffs and reeves, and in fact to 
superintend her possessions throughout England, his business was 
" enjoined upon him by the queen and her council." '^ Local 

1 E.A. 385/5. 2 Enr. Acds. (W. and H.), 2/10. 

3 Rylands Latin MS. 235. * Misc. Books of Exch. T.R., 205. 

5 Rylands Latin MS. 236. « See above, iii. 59, and below, pp. 279, 280. 

' Latin MS. 235, f. 14d. On the legal status of the queen's council, see 
Ehrlich, Proceedings against the Croivn (Oxford Studies in Social and Legal 
History, vol. vi.), App. III. 


independence might seem to be emphasised when Philippa's 
steward of lands could affix his own seal " in the name of the 
lady queen " to an indenture letting Bristol at farm to its mayor 
and commune for ten years, but careful note was made that the 
arrangement would become permanent only if she and her council 
so decided. 1 This council, of course, would include the queen's 
central officials, but could move about as required. We can see 
it at work on one occasion, " sitting in the exchequer of the same 
queen," and allotting payments, among them a half mark to be 
given to the ushers of the king's exchequer of account " over and 
above their certus, of courtesy, by the consent of the whole 
council." 2 In all sorts of other ways the parts were made to feel 
their oneness with the whole. The central secretariat, for example, 
must draft and seal the letters patent which officials would pro- 
duce as warrant for their actions, and from the same source must 
come authorisation in matters affecting even the humblest of 
Philippa's dependents. So it was, for example, when " Geoffrey, 
son of William Lovekyn, our nayf of Stratfield Mortimer," 
obtained hcence to proceed to holy orders despite his villein 
status " without challenge or impediment from us or our minis- 
ters." ^ Officers were transferred constantly from the one type 
of work to the other. John of Eston, who had been cofferer in 
1330-31, became receiver in 1336 ; ^ John of Amwell was first 
controller of the household and afterwards collector of queen's 
gold ; 5 John of Gatesden, in Ireland, combined the office of superior 
steward of the queen's lands in Ulster and Conn aught with that 
of controller of her chancellor and treasurer there.^ 

The most striking development came, however, when the two 
chief clerical offices, that of receiver general and treasurer, were 
combined in the hands of the same man. An enrolment of 
receipts given by John Cook, in 1354, describes him as " treasurer 
and receiver of the moneys of queen Philippa," ' and the cofferer's 
account for 1357-58 includes among its disbursements £100 for 
Cook's fee as "treasurer and receiver of the queen's money in her 
exchequer at London." ^ Although these are the only two 

1 Chanc. Misc. 9/58, m. 1. 2 j/_^4_ i091/9, m. 7. 

3 Chanc. Misc. 9/58, m. 7. 

« Lati7i 3IS. 235, f. 14d and 3I.A. 1091/1, m. 1. 

6 CImnc. Misc. 9/58, m. 5. « C.P.R., 1350-54, p. 442. 

' C.C.E., 1354-60, p. 80. s latin MS. 236, f. 7d. 


examples that I have noticed of the use of the double title, and 
Cook is often described merely as treasurer, there is no sign of 
any contemporary appointment of a general receiver, and Cook's 
own recorded activities are of a kind connected with a receiver's 
position. Possibly we may connect the new arrangement with 
the fact that in 1354 an attempt seems to have been made to take 
stock of the queen's affairs. Cook, the two stewards of her lands 
and two auditors of her accounts were empowered in October of 
that year " to receive fines from those who wish to make fines 
for any cause whereof they are impeached by the roll of accounts 
or by the scrutiny lately made by Sir John Molyns and Richard 
de Cressville, clerk, or by the sessions of the justices or stewards 
of the queen, of the whole time of the queen before the present 
date." 1 As far as we can see, the arrangement persisted. When 
Cook had died in the spring of 1358,2 William of Cheston was 
mentioned in May as receiver of the queen's exchequer,^ but as 
soon as possible after the death of the queen-mother in the follow- 
ing August, the valuable services of Richard of Ravenser were 
secured for the queen consort. On June 20, 1359, the king con- 
firmed PhiHppa's appointment of Ravenser as " receiver of the 
issues of her lands, rents and profits," with power to act as her 
attorney in any court in England.* From that point up to and 
beyond the amalgamation of her household with the king's, the 
records describe him indifferently as the queen's treasurer or 
receiver. Presumably from 1363 onwards his main energies were 
directed to the getting in of revenue, so as to make the stipulated 
contribution to the queen's chamber and the joint household, 
while the rest went towards the clearance of the queen's long- 
standing debts. His account for 1364-65 ^ is in form very similar 
to those which John of Eston had been accustomed to present 
when receiver. 

One result of the absorption of the treasurer in work of this 
kind was the delegation to a colleague of the minutiae of wardrobe 
administration. This colleague was not, as one might perhaps 
expect, the controller, but the cofierer, who seems to have been 
rising steadily in importance during the reign. There are various 

1 C.P.R., 1354-58, p. 141. 

2 C. Pap. Reg. Let., 1342-62, p. 591. ^ C.P.R., 1358-61, p. 42. 
* Jb. p. 231. ^ M.A. 1092/3. 


indications of this. One is given by his status with regard to 
liveries. In 1340-41 there were four chief categories of these, 
valued respectively at 53s. 4d., 40s., 26s. 8d., and 20s., and whereas 
the treasurer, chamberlain, steward of lands and steward of the 
household received that " robe of four pieces " which belonged 
to the first class, both cofferer and controller were in the third.^ 
By 1344-45, however, the cofferer had moved up to the second 
category. 2 More substantial than such evidence is the growing 
practice of delegating to the cofferer work which in the past the 
treasurer would have done himself. The receiver in 1341-42 
speaks of the cofferer as oneratus per ipsam reginam in capite de 
expensis hospicii sui faciendis,^ and in the following year notes 
after the total of his receipts, " Et non plus, quia maior pars 
recepte terrarum citra Trentam jit in garderoba regine per Rogerum 
de Clonne . . . cojfrarium eiusdem." ^ A similar witness to the 
cofferer's responsibilities comes in the days when Roger himself 
had moved up to the treasurer ship. ^ The latest cofferer's book 
we have gives an interesting guide to precedence in the household 
of his time in the shape of a list of fees.^ Cook, under the 
double title already mentioned, gets £100 ; next ranks the steward 
of the queen's lands with £66 : 13 : 4. Presumably this was the 
steward north of Trent, who in 1349-50 had received that sum 
while his colleague south of Trent had only £40.'^ The steward 
of the household and one auditor of accounts have £20 annually, 
while another auditor, the clerk and maker of writs in the queen's 
exchequer and the queen's attorney in the king's exchequer have 
only £10 a year each. Next come a clerk of pleas in the king's 
exchequer and clerks deputed to make writs for the queen in the 
king's chancery, each with a yearly fee of £2. Three servientes 
ad placita regine are assigned respectively £2, £4, and £2 : 13 : 4 
annually, while the clericus extractarum forinsecarum in the king's 
exchequer draws £1 a year. 

The idea of unification and centralisation was, of course, much 
in the air about this time.^ We can see it at work in another 
connection in Philippa's case at an earlier date. After a pre- 

1 E.A. 389/5, f. Id. 2 7^, 399/8, f. 2d. 

3 M.A. 1091/5, m. 2. * lb. 1091/8. 

s Rylands Latin MS. 236, f. 7d. « lb. ff. 7d, 8. 

' Misc. Books of Exch. T.R. 205. s gee above, iii. 194-198. 


liminary period, in which there were interim arrangements be- 
cause Isabella the queen-mother was still in possession of so 
much, Philippa seems to have gone on to a serious consideration 
of her estates. In November 1331, pur ascuns certeines enchesons, 
known to her but not to us, she removed all her receivers and 
other accounting officers, and appointed commissioners north and 
south of Trent to make an inquiry and fresh appointments.^ 
Whereas at first she had usually a receiver south of Trent, another 
north of Trent, and another for queen's gold, amobrages and the 
like, in 1336 she appointed John of Eston to exercise for Hfe these 
three functions in his single person. ^ His magnificent series of 
accounts deserve far more minute study than I have been able 
to give them. One set dealt with the issues from dower lands 
assigned to the expenses of the queen's household, the other to 
revenues assigned to the chamber. These last included the issues 
of specified lands, the income from queen's gold and amobrages, 
and grants from the king's exchequer. Before Eston handed in 
his receipt he deducted certain fees, including his own and that of 
the queen's general attorney, and paid certain expenses. These 
last illustrate and make vivid the process of administration in 
many different ways. They include the payment of farms and 
rents due to others from the queen's lands, wages paid to the 
keeper of her stud, or constables, janitors and watchmen in her 
castles, purchase of parchment to be used partly for " writs, rolls, 
and other memoranda," but partly for "a register of the com- 
missions made to various farmers and bailiffs of the queen," ^ 
payments to messengers taking to the queen's wardrobe rolls with 
the names of debtors, at the bidding of her council,^ and references 
to the exchange of English money into foreign for the queen's 
use abroad.^ The set relating to the chamber contains details 
more personal in the shape of prests, special alms, and the like, 
authorised by letters under the queen's privy or secret seal, to 
recipients of the most varied kind, nuns, chaplains, the queen's 
illuminator, fiddler and midwife. The expense was divided be- 
tween household and chamber revenues in varying proportion. 
Eston, for example, generally drew half of his fee of £20 from each, 
but when, in 1342, the clerks writing writs and memoranda in the 

1 Chanc. Misc. 9/58, m. 4d. - lb. m. 12. ^ gge above, p. 250. 

* E.A. 388/7, m. 5. ^ lb. 389/1, m. 2. 


queen's exchequer were to receive the £10 a year due to them for 
the whole time during which he had held office, one-third of the 
total due was paid from the household revenues and two-thirds 
from those assigned to the chamber.^ 

It is possible that the triple combination of offices assigned 
to Eston for life in 1336 in actual fact dissolved again into its 
component parts before his death. The last account we have of 
his for chamber revenues is for 1342-43,^ though, as he is described 
in a list of liveries for 1344-45 as receiver of queen's gold,^ which 
belonged to that category, we should assume that he was still 
acting then. The same list speaks of Eobert of Imworth as 
" receiver of the queen " without further particularisation, but 
as late as 1347-48 we have an account of Eston's relating to 
revenues assigned to the household.^ As in November 1359 the 
prebend of Clifton, Lincoln, which he had received in 1350, was 
given to Wilham Retford, I judge that Eston died that year, 
though as this and four other prebends were to go to Retford 
" by exchange or otherwise " the evidence is not conclusive.^ 

Philippa's administrative personnel calls for no special com- 
ment. Her first treasurer, William of Colby, had been controller 
of Edward IL's chamber in 1323-24.« Already by 1329 Philippa 
was besieging the pope with requests for his preferment, and in 
1330 the pope recommended him for " any dignity short of the 
archiepiscopal." ' He ceased to be treasurer in October 1331,^ 
and in 1332-33 was acting as clerk of the queen's privy seal.^ In 
1333 he became dean of York, but was dead before 1336.^*^ William 
of Kirkby was described in Colby's account as treasurer " im- 
mediately after " himself ,1^ but by 1332-33 had been replaced by 
William of Culpho,^^ a pluralist who had been dispensed for 
illegitimacy in 1327,^^ and had been overseas in the king's service 

1 M.A. 1091/5. We may infer that there was no invariable rule, for the 
auditors were expressly directed to this effect by writ. 

2 M.A. 1091/9. 3 E.A. 390/8. * M.A. 1091/11. 
5 C. Pap. Beg. Let., 1342-1419, pp. 199, 313. 

* See above ii. 345. 

' C. Pap. Beg. Let., 1305-42, pp. 292, 349. 
8 E7ir. Accts. (W. and H.) 2/10. 
» Cotton MS. Galba E iii. f. 184d. 
" C. Pap. Beg. Let., 1305-42, p. 394 ; Le Neve, Fasti. 
" Bylands Latin MS. 235, f. 5d. 

12 Galba E iii. ff. 174-192d. 

13 C. Pap. Beg. Let., 1305-42, p. 264. Cf. ib. 1342-62, pp. 59, 70. 


in January 1331.^ He became warden of the hospital of St. 
Catherine by the Tower in 1334,^ though another nominee of 
Philippa's there, William of Kilsby, was to have a far more 
memorable association with it.^ Culpho was still acting as 
Philippa's treasurer in the spring of 1336, but later in the year 
was succeeded by William of Kirkby,* who this time stayed in 
office till January 1345.^ The importance of his services to king 
and queen is evidenced by an order to the chancellor in 1338 to 
present him to " the first vacant prebend or dignity in the king's 
gift which he will accept." ^ Roger of Clonne, who had been 
cofferer while Kirkby was treasurer,' probably stepped into his 
shoes at once. At any rate, he was in office by 1347-48,^ and a 
steward's roll extending from Michaelmas 1351 to Martinmas 
1353 describes him still as treasurer, though it also mentions his 
successor John Cook.^ Of Cook, who had been keeper of the 
king's great wardrobe from 1345 to 1349,^" we have already spoken. 
In the race for preferment his greatest prize was the treasurership 
of St. Paul's, which he vacated by death in 1358, the latest year 
in which he appears in Philippa's accounts.^^ It is interesting to 
find as cofferer in Cook's last year of office a William Ferriby, one 
of that Yorkshire family so conspicuous in administration in the 
period, and connected with that Thoresby-Ravenser-Waltham 
group soon to send a representative to Philippa's help in the 
person of Richard of Ravenser.^^ These capable and experienced 
men no doubt did what they could to rescue Philippa's afEairs 
from the chaos into which they seem by this time to have been 
sinking. That confusion had been due partly to circumstances, 
partly to maladministration, and in some cases the choice of 

1 C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 42. " Chanc. Misc. 9/58, m. 5d. 

3 See above, iii. 162-163. * E.A. 387/22, m. 3. 

" lb. 390/8, ff. 2d and 7d, and M.A. 1091/10. 

« C.P.R., 133S-40, p. 158. 

' E.A. 390/8. 8 ji/.^. 1091/11. 

» lb. 1091/12. i» See above, iv. 382. 

^1 I feel sure that the Chancery clerks made a slip in naming one Thomas 
Cook as Philippa's treasurer in October 1351 {C.P.R., 1349-54, p. 396). For 
John's death, see C. Pap. Reg. Let., 1342-62, p. 591, and Le Neve, Fasti. The 
John Cook to whom in 1362 an annuity of 100s. was given for his service to 
king and queen must be a humbler servant (C.P.R., 1361-64, p. 174). 

12 See above, iii. 215-216 and iv. 148. Cf. also notes on this family by Miss M. 
V. Clarke and Mr. V. H. Galbraith in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 
xiv. 151. 



helpers made seems far from wise. It seems extraordinary, for 
example, that in 1352, when there were many complaints about 
disorder on the queen's estates and conspiracies among her 
ministers, it should be Sir John Molyns, himself disgraced in the 
king's service in 1340, who was appointed steward of the queen's 
lands, lordships and liberties south of Trent, and set up as a 
commissioner of oyer and terminer to inquire into the scandals 
reported.^ A petition to parliament in 1353 complained of his 
" too grievous fines and amercements," ^ and in 1357 he was 
disgraced again, this time for life. No other official of Philippa's 
has a reputation so unsavoury. 

We must not leave Philippa's affairs without noticing the light 
thrown by her records upon the history of the queen's wardrobe 
of La Reole in Vintry Ward in the city of London, which began 
when in December 1330 the king granted her his houses there for 
this purpose.^ In 1333, when masons and carpenters and others 
were hard at work preparing the buildings for their new uses, the 
accounts state explicitly that these houses were situated in the 
parish of St. Thomas the Apostle, and on that ground a mark was 
contributed on the queen's behalf to work in progress on the 
beU- tower of the church.^ A certain Maria of Beauvais, apparently 
now dispossessed, since the queen's council ordered a house to be 
hired for her near by, may have been a descendant of that Simon 
of Beauvais, surgeon to Edward I., whose land and tenements on 
this site had been similarly described.^ By October 1333 both 
the great wardrobe and the privy wardrobe had moved in, the 
former from quarters in " Servet's Tower," Bucklersbury,^ the 
latter from a house rented for its accommodation in Milk Street.' 
A good deal of alteration and addition took place during the next 
twenty or thirty years, as we know from the frequent transport of 
building material thither, while a receiver's account for 1339 

1 C.P.B.. 1350-54, p. 287. ^ jiot. Pari. ii. 253. See above, iv. 296. 

3 C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 37. « Galba E. iii. f. 178. 

5 lb. iii. f. 179. 

^ In 1317 queen Isabella had been granted for life the house in London 
formerly belonging to William Servat, and held by the king of the gift of Antonio 
di Passano (C.P.R., 1317-21, p. 53). In 1330-31 wages were paid to John of 
Newentone, clerico custodienti tnagnam garderobam domine regine apud turrim 
Servet' London'' {Latin MS. 234, f. 6d). Mr. Kingsford has collected various 
fourteenth-century references to this tower in his edition of Stow's Survey, ii. 
329. ' Oalba E. iii. f. 177d. 


shows the wardrobe bearing one half and the chamber the other 
of the expense of work on the great chamber there, " which was 
for the most part pulled down by order of the queen's council, 
and rebuilt." ^ Mention in a grant of 1363 of " the street of La 
Ryole in the parish of St. Michael Paternosterchurche " shows 
that already by that date the name, if not the structure, had 
extended into the parish with which by Stow's time it had come 
to be associated.^ Much of the space must have been occupied 
by the storehouses and other rooms required by the great and 
privy wardrobes and their staff, among whom Thomas of Tetbury, 
clerk of the great wardrobe,^ and William of London, the queen's 
tailor, were conspicuous. It is quite clear, however, that general 
wardrobe business was transacted there. The treasurer had his 
own chamber and his own stable,^ quittances given by the cofferer 
to the receiver were dated there,^ and a rent due to the queen 
was described as payable either at her exchequer or at her " ward- 
robe of La Ryole, London." ^ Two months after Philippa's death, 
in 1369, Edward assigned these buildings to the dean and canons 
of his chapel of St. Stephen at Westminster, who were glad enough 
to let them to the next queen when required.' 

The death of Philippa brings to an end the most interesting 
chapter in the history of the queen's household during the 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. For thirteen years there was 
neither queen consort nor queen mother. After that, though 
Richard II. was twice married, neither Anne of Bohemia, queen 
for twelve years only (1382-94), nor Isabella II. of France, whose 
husband's deposition took place before she had quite completed 
her third year of married life (1396-99), were on the stage long 
enough to surround themselves with persons or institutions likely 
to impress historical memory as deeply as those connected with 
Isabella I. or Philippa. Both households must be examined, 

1 M.A. 1091/3. 

2 C.P.R., 1361-64, p. 281. Cf. Stow, Survey, i. 244, quoted above, iv. 412. 

3 In 1330-31 he was described thus (Lat. MS. 234), in 1357-58 as " clerk, 
buyer, and provider " (Latin MS. 236). He was acting as late as July 1361 
(C.P.E., 1361-64, p. 41). 4 Oalba E. iii. f. 178. 

5 See, for example, M.A. 1091/5. 

« C.P.R., 1367-70, p. 464. 

' lb. p. 311. He rented for his own great wardrobe from the canons his 
inn in Lombard Street which he had given them when the college was founded 
(see above, iv. 404). 


however, to make our tale complete, and both will be found to be 
arranged on lines already familiar. 

In the case of Anne of Bohemia, it is a curious fact that direct 
material, in the shape of original documents shaped by her own 
officials, is almost completely lacking during her hfetime. Ex- 
ceptions exist in the shape of a few letters,^ an indenture or two,^ 
and some accounts of the hundred of Macclesfield,^ but it is not 
till she is dead that we get a list of members of her household, 
compiled because they are to receive gifts in memory of their good 
service,* and a number of accounts presented by receivers and 
bailifis who, though appointed by Anne herself, did not make 
their returns till they were called upon by those placed in charge 
of her lands after her death.^ Thanks, however, to the light 
which these shed on earher conditions, and also to many references 
in patent, close and fine rolls, it is not difficult to reconstruct in 
outline her administrative machinery. 

At the centre, of course, stands the queen herself with her 
court about her, ladies, knights, squires, clerks, pages, grooms 
and servants, generally in residence with the king but sometimes 
alone.^ Of most of her household we know little, though here and 
there a name makes its impression for some special reason. So 
it is, for example, in the case of her knight Ralph Stafford, 
murdered by her husband's half-brother, Sir John Holland;' or 
of her lady-in-waiting, Agnes of Lancecrona, whose abduction by 
the duke of Ireland caused a public scandal ; ^ or of Brother 
Nicholas Hornyk, her confessor, to whom in 1385 was committed 
the keeping of the ahen priory of Montacute, Somerset, and who 
secured it again in 1386, " for past and future good service," 
although in the interval its prior had sought and obtained the 
custody for himself in accordance with the provision that the 
heads of alien houses should normally be preferred to others in 

1 E.g. E.A. 510/29. 

« lb. 403/3. 3 M.A. 804/12. 

* K.R. Misc. Acds. 663. I am indebted to Miss M. H. Mills for this reference. 
" M.A. 1203/3, 1242/13, 1092/4. 

* In July 1382 the king granted her his prises on wine coming to the ports 
of Bristol and Southampton " in aid of her household expenses while she keeps 
house when not in his company " (C.P.R., 1381-85, p. 157). 

' See above, iii. 395, and the life of Ralph's father and namesake in the 

* See above, iii. 424. 


this capacity.^ Hornyk may have been one of those Bohemians 
whose presence in the queen's train provoked so much criticism. 
The most important officials were Sir Richard Abberbury, the 
queen's chamberlain, and Thomas More, her treasurer and receiver- 
general. Abberbury is presumably the same man who had in- 
herited the manor of Donnington in Berkshire before 1353, 
founded or refounded a hospital there in 1394, and sold the 
manor to Thomas Chaucer in 1415. ^ Dr. Tout identifies him as 
the first magister of Richard, who became a knight of the king's 
chamber on the accession of Richard XL, and who was expelled 
from court by the Merciless ParHament in 1388.^ Within four 
months of the king's marriage he was acting as attorney for the 
queen,* though the first mention I have noticed of him under the 
title of chamberlain does not come till 1382. ^ Thereafter till 1386 
he was constantly busied in the queen's afiairs, while as late as 
1393 an annuity to her master of the horse was granted by the 
advice of " Richard Abberbury, knight, and others of her council."* 
After her death Richard Abberbury was one of the two knights 
appointed with clerical colleagues to audit the accounts of Thomas 
More as to the collection of moneys owed to the queen.' It looks, 
therefore, as if his connection with the queen survived his removal 
from the king's service.^ 

Thomas More may not have been in office from the outset, 
since in June 1382 Hugh of Cottingham was described as 
" treasurer and secretary of the queen," ^ whereas Thomas in 
July of the same year, when engaged in an inquiry on Anne's 
behalf as to the value of a manor assigned to her in dower, was 
called merely " clerk." ^^ However, by 1385 he had become 
receiver-general,^^ and either under that title or as treasurer, or 
on one occasion under a composite description as thesaurarius 

1 C.F.R., 1383-91, pp. 108, 127, 130. Hornyk's duties as confessor seem 
hardly compatible with the assurance now given by four mainpernors in Chancery 
that he would " stay continually upon the priory and its possessions." 

2 V.C.H. Berkshire, iv. 91, 93-94, 96. 

3 See above, iii. 330-331, iv. 341, 344, 

4 C.G.R., 1381-85, p. 54. '^ C.P.R., 1381-85, p. 263. 
6 lb., 1391-96, p. 488. ' lb., 1396-99, p. 245. 

* I do not feel quite certain, however, that all these references are to the 
same person. The licence for the creneUation of Donnington Castle given in 
1386 to Richard of Abberbury " the elder," shows that a namesake was alive 
at that date {lb., 1385-89, p. 166). » lb., 1381-85, p. 132. 

10 lb. p. 196. " C.G.R., 1385-89, p. 99. 


sive receptor generalis} continued to act during Anne's lifetime, 
while after her death until 1399 he still held office as receiver- 
general in the lands that had been hers.^ His fee was £50 a year, 
with 5s. daily allowance for expenses. 

A number of references indicate the activities of the queen's 
council, though no members are mentioned by name except Sir 
Richard Abberbury and Sir Thomas Percy, the latter being 
awarded in 1394 a grant for life of fifty marks a year " for good 
service to the late queen, of whose council he was retained." ^ 
In 1385, in connection with a recognisance of Philip Darcy for 
£4000 to be levied in Lincolnshire, there was a memorandum of 
defeasance, on condition that Philip should abide the award of 
the queen and her council as to trespasses committed by him against 
her tenants in that county, and, if found guilty, cause the seven 
men impeached for that trespass to come before the queen's 
council at Westminster or London in the quindene of Hilary, and 
submit themselves wholly.* There is an interesting glimpse in 
1390 of the queen's council referring to the king's their doubts 
as to Anne's legal position with regard to pensions and annuities 
secured upon her dower lands. When the recipients died, could 
she take the sums herself ? After petition to the king in council 
it was granted that in such cases she should retain them.^ 

The administration of Anne's lands was carried on in the 
usual way, bailiffs and local receivers acting under the supervision 
of the receiver-general. The queen's exchequer continued to 
function, as may be seen in an order given in 1388 ^ to Henry 
Fitzhugh, lessee of Anne's castles of Richmond and Bowes and 
her manors in Richmondshire, to pay his yearly rent of 650 marks 
" at the queen's exchequer in London." The queen's wardrobe 
was again in occupation of the buildings at La Reole, for which 

^ This is in an indenture with the head of the queen's great wardrobe {E.A, 

2 For a year after Anne's death, the revenues of her dower lands were 
reserved for the payment of her debts ; then Thomas, archbishop of York, 
John, bishop of Salisbury, and Edward, earl of Rutland, were enfeoffed, and 
renewed More's appointment {G.P.R., 1391-96, pp. 447, 578; ib., 1396-99, 
p. 245). More was succeeded in March 1399 by Roger Westewode {C.F.R., 
1391-99, p. 292). 

3 C.P.R., 1391-96, p. 480. 

« C.G.R., 1385-89, p. 99. ^ C.P.R., 1388-92, p. 207. 

^ Inspexmus and confirmation were enrolled in 1391 {ib. p. 393). 


an annual rent of £20 was paid to the college of St. Stephen's,^ 
and Anne herself and other members of the royal family were in 
residence there from time to time.^ One of the most interesting 
surviving documents is an indenture between More, the queen's 
treasurer, and John Neuthorp, her garderobarius, in which the 
latter's annual fee is named as £20, and payments are made at 
various times for various purposes, including the tailor's wages 
and the purchases made by the garderobarius " as is contained in 
his book concerning the office of the aforesaid wardrobe."^ 

All we have seen of Anne's household suggests that its personnel 
was in close sympathy with the curiaHst party about the king 
himseK, and that, in consequence, even the graciousness and 
personal charm of the queen could not save it from unpopularity. 
We have seen that her chamberlain, Abberbury, was among those 
attacked by the Merciless Parliament. Burley, the king's vice- 
chamberlain, a more conspicuous victim, had escorted Anne to 
England, remained her intimate, and was said to have encouraged 
her to keep about her those Bohemian friends on whose dismissal 
parliament afterwards insisted.^ 

Anne died in 1394,^ and all the extravagance of Richard's 
grief did not prevent him from soon taking steps to secure a 
second queen in a quarter likely to give him help against his 
domestic enemies.^ The pledge of that alUance was the child 
Isabella, whom he brought back as his wife from France in the 
autumn of 1396, and who in January 1397 was crowned queen. 
Between that point and Richard's fall, the " household of the 
queen consort " leaves its impress on the records, but was, as 
one might expect, a more obscure and dependent establishment 
than would have surrounded a queen of full age. Master Richard 
Courcy, " the queen's secretary," received a fee of forty marks a 
year at the exchequer ; ' in March 1399 the CarmeHte Thomas 

1 E.A. 510/29. This is four times the rent which the king paid to the same 
body in 1348 for the house in Lombard Street used for his great wardrobe till 
1361 (see above, iv. 404-405). 

2 Cf. Stow, i. 71 and 244. Letters patent of Anne's were dated there in 
September 1383 (C.P.R., 1381-S5, p. 553). 

3 E.A. 403/3. * See above, iii. 404. 

s On June 7, not, as stated by a slip above (iii. 486) on July 7. Accounts 
presented after her death run " usque septimum diem Junij . . . quo die dicta 
domina nuper regina obiit." Cf. for example, M.A. 1242/13. 

6 See above, iv. 1-5. ' C.P.R., 1396-99, p. 103. 


Peverell, bishop of Llandaff, was appointed her chancellor ; ^ 
Sir Hugh Despenser and Sir Philip la Vache were among the 
officers and servants of her household when resident at Walling- 
ford in that year ; ^ the king's esquire John Walsh was appointed 
her attorney and clerk of her writs in the exchequer ; ^ and there 
are references to her yeoman tailor, her chief tailor, her master 
cordwainer, her master embroiderer, her nurse and her damsels.* 
A royal great wardrobe account ^ shows various tailors and 
furriers " working and labouring in the wardrobe of the lady 
Isabella the queen," deliveries of cloth at the king's order to 
John Waryn the queen's tailor for clothes for herself and her 
damsels, and allowances for harness delivered to Nicholas Heref eld 
and Thomas Adderbury, keepers of the queen's horses. The 
names mentioned do not suggest any preponderantly French 
element in the child's entourage, but the chroniclers speak of this, 
and state that before leaving for Ireland in 1399 Richard gave 
orders that the lady of Coucy, chief among Isabella's French 
attendants, should be dismissed.^ During the remainder of her 
life in England, accordingly, some of which was spent in semi- 
captivity after her husband's fall, all her attendants were English 
except her confessor and one lady. After considerable hesitation 
Henry IV. agreed to allow her to return to France, and in July 
1401 she was escorted across the Channel. Neither in political 
nor administrative history had she left deep impress, but rumour 
had it that she continued to regret her severance from England 
till her dying day, which came at the birth of her first child by 
her second marriage, a few months before her twentieth birthday. 

(c) Financial Resources and Methods 

The revenues of the queens of England during this period fall 
into three categories. The first is that of traditional prerogatives, 
the most notable being in England and Ireland, queen's gold, or an 
additional payment, equivalent to one-tenth of the whole, due to 

1 C.P.R., p. 492. 

» lb. p. 588. Vache had acted as Abberbury'a colleague in auditing More's 
accounts in 1397 (C.F.R., 1396-99, p. 245). 
» lb. p. 108. 

* lb. pp. 424, 74, 414, 153, 278. = E.A. 403/5. 

8 See D.N.B. and references there quoted. 


the queen whenever a voluntary fine was made with the king/ and 
in Wales amohr or amobrage, a sum, varying with the rank of the 
person concerned, exacted from a woman on her marriage.^ To 
the second category belong estates assigned in dower, while the 
third includes all supplementary grants. Loans can hardly be 
reckoned among regular sources of income, but it is certain that 
every queen was obliged to borrow. 

With the first category we may deal en bloc. Obviously, there 
must be fluctuations in the amount derivable from this source. 
Payments of queen's gold recorded in the accounts of Eleanor of 
Provence were trifling,^ but under Eleanor of Castile, between 1286 
and 1289, the income of £4875 from queen's gold was actually 
greater than that of £4821 from lands, while between September 
1289 and November 1290 queen's gold produced £1564 out of a 
total of £4937.* A good example of the variation can be given 
from successive accounts of John of Eston, receiver of Queen 
Philippa.5 In 1336-37, the receipts in the Easter term from 
queen's gold were £41 : 15 : 8, and from amobrages £33 : 6 : 8, 
while in the Michaelmas term gold brought in£112:14:4 and 
amobrages £23. In the Easter term, 1339, the only receipt in this 
category was £16 : 1 : 8 from queen's gold. An account covering 
the period from Michaelmas 1340 to Michaelmas 1341 is unusually 
interesting because of its detail. The amobrages were farmed, 
and brought in £66 : 13 : 4 and £20 from north and south Wales 
respectively. Queen's gold, entered under separate sums paid in 

^ The Dialogus de Scaccario gives a whole chapter to this subject (Book ii. 
oh. xxiv.). Hakewill, in 1607, presented to the queen a treatise on the history 
of her gold, which Prynne used and enlarged in his Aurum Re/jinae in 1668. 

2 See A. Jones, Flintshire Ministers' Accounts, pp. xviii-xx. An indirect 
relief to the queen's finances lay in the claim put forward by Eleanor of Pro- 
vence that ex antiqua et approbata consuetudine every newly created queen of 
England had the right to nominate one nun in every religious house of women 
in the realm {A.G. xxx. 49). For similar claims on the part of the king and 
others, see Power, Medieval English Nunneries, pp. 192-194. 

^ For example, 4 marks from queen's gold in Ireland, received from the 
archdeacon of Dublin (Pipe, no. 83, m. 7) ; 8 marks from the same source 
another year, and 21 marks on a fine made by Aaron the Jew of London (Pipe, 
no. 85, m. 6d). 

* Pipe, no. 143, m. 36. Details in the original accounts of John of Berwick, 
keeper of the queen's gold (E.A. 505/18). The large increase during the years 
in which the king was in Gascony is suspicious, and lends colour to the charges 
later made of oppression during his absence. In 1291 the receipts were only 
£231 : 18 : 10 (ib. 505/21). 

5 E.A. 387/23, M.A. 1091/3. 4, 9. 



OH. xvni 

by the sheriffs of nine counties, the abbot of Cockersand, and the 
master of St. Leonard's hospital, York, amounted in all to only 
£31. This is in startling contrast with the corresponding period 
in 1342-43, when amobrages totalled £105 and queen's gold 
£669 : 11 : 5. 

The collection of queen's gold raised various difficulties. In 
the first year in which Eleanor of Provence was queen the ex- 
chequer was accused of exacting the gold upon a fine made before 
her marriage.^ Queens found it hard to secure recognition of their 
rights in this respect in Ireland. Though in 1268 letters patent of 
Edward I. in favour of Eleanor of Castile insisted that the claim 
applied to that country as well as to England,^ Philippa, as late as 
1360, was complaining that she could not secure her gold upon fines 
made in any of the king's courts there.^ In 1383 a writ of aid in 
favour of Anne of Bohemia's attorney-general in Ireland stated 
that from the day of her coronation she was entitled to " one mark 
on every fine of ten marks made to the king, and of every greater 
fine in proportion, as it used to be there of old time." ^ Yet seven 
years later the royal officials in Ireland were ordered " if assured 
that all queens time out of mind have had by reason of their pre- 
rogative a fee called the queen's gold of certain fines made in 
Ireland to the use of the king's forefathers," to cause it to be levied 
on fines made before them, " as certain men going about to do 
away the custom heretofore approved are refusing to pay that 
fee,"^ and in 1393 the order had to be repeated with the same 
explanation.^ Anne had, in 1385, been granted amobrages through- 
out the principality of Wales.' There is record in 1360 of the 
escape of one Robert Ryng, who had been in the custody of the 
justiciar of Ireland for an attempt to collect queen's gold, pro- 
ducing as his authorisation an appointment as attorney-general 
under what he alleged to be Philippa's seal.^ 

Queen's gold was payable on none save voluntary fines, such as 
those paid for a pardon, or for licences of various kinds. The line 
was not always easy to draw, and naturally the queen's officials 
were anxious to draw it to her advantage. In 1336 both London 

1 C.R., 1234-37, p. 400. 

3 C.C.R., 1360-64, pp. 60, 61. 

» lb., 1389-92, p. 6. 

7 C.P.R., 1385-89, p. 22. 

2 C.P.R., 1266-72, p. 199. 
4 lb., 1381-85, p. 313. 
8 lb., 1392-96, pp. 158, 170. 
8 C.G.R., 1360-64, p. 77. 


and Bristol were granted remission of the claim upon them for 
queen's gold in connection with their contributions to a tenth and 
a fifteenth.^ Two years later an inspection of the statutes, rolls 
and memoranda of the exchequer was ordered, because the queen 
complained that "certain persons cunningly contrive to defraud her 
and to convert fines and obligations from which the gold ought to 
be paid into another nature and form, to have discharge thereof ; 
and for this they have procured from the Chancery divers writs, 
wherefore the queen is often hindered from levying the gold on 
divers sums of money granted to the king from which it is due to 
her." 2 

The second and third sources of revenue, dower lands and 
supplementary grants, may best be taken together, since they 
were to some extent interdependent, the size of the one varying 
with the adequacy of the other. There was no rigid conception of 
the amount proper for a queen's dower, and fluctuations are 
noticeable when traced through the Kves of seven queens. 

To begin, then, with Eleanor of Provence. Twelve of her 
wardrobe accounts are entered on the pipe rolls, increasing in detail 
as the reign goes on, and forming an almost continuous series, with 
the exception of Lapalud's and the first of Bradley's accounts, 
both of which we know were presented, though they have escaped 
enrolment.^ The earliest account, covering a period of twenty-nine 

1 C.P.E., 1333-37, p. 689. 2 /^.^ 1337-39, p. 330. 

^ Lapalud's account had been " faithfully rendered " up to October 1243 
{C.P.R., 1232-47, p. 408) and his next account was to be audited in 1244 {ib. 
p. 436). Bradley's account for 1249-50 refers to a preceding account {Pipe, 
no. 93, m. 1). As the references printed in P.R.O. Lists and Indexes, no. xi. 
pp. 103-104, are not in every case quite exact, and do not include the number 
of the Pipe roll concerned, it may be useful to give the complete list here. 

1. Gaddesden, Sept. 12, 1237, to Feb. 5, 1240, Pipe, no. 83, m. 7. Feb. 17, 
1240, to April 26, 1242 (not Sept. 15, 1240, as above, i. 254, n. 4, for the 
Math' of the entry indicates not St. Matthew, but St. Matthias, as is shown 
by C. Lib. R., 1226-40, p. 481) Pipe, no. 86, m. 6d. 

2. Bradley, May 1, 1249, to June 24, 1250, Pipe, no. 93, m. 1 ; June 24, 
1250, to June 24, 1252, Pipe, no. 95, m. 4 (not 6 as official list) ; June 24, 1252, 
to June 24, 1253, Pipe, no. 96, m. 18 ; June 24, 1253, to May 3, 1254, Pipe, 
no. 97, m. 9 ; May 3, 1254, to Dec. 6, 1254, Pipe, no. 99, m. 15 (not no. 90, 
as above, i. 255). 

3. Aigueblanche. Dec. 6, 1254, to Nov. 11, 1255, Pipe, no. 99, m. 15; 
Oct. 28, 1256, to Mav 1, 1257, Pipe, no. 100, m. 19. 

4. Penne, May 1, 1257, to Oct. 28, 1264, Pipe, no. 109, m. lid; Oct. 28, 
1264, to Oct. 28, 1269, Pipe, no. 113, m. 1; Oct. 28, 1269, to Nov. 20, 1272, 
Pipe, no. 116, m. Id. 


months, showed a receipt of nearly £1200 ; in the next, for twenty- 
six months only, this had risen to more than £1500. Bradley's first 
surviving account, 1249-50, recorded a receipt of £2150 in little 
more than one year, and though the next two years did not reach 
quite so high a figure, in 1252-53 he received more than £2700, and 
in 1253-54 more than £3500, in twelve months. In that year, 
however, Eleanor's fortunes reached their zenith, and a descent 
began. The last keeper, Penne, made his returns in blocks of as 
much as seven years at a time, so that it is impossible to do more 
than average the queen's annual income, but it was certainly well 
down below £2000 again,^ and at the end even less, since a period 
of more than three years produced a receipt of little more than 

The reason of this, presumably, was that although Eleanor's 
household was sufficiently independent to function as a separate 
unit, it was not self-supporting, but leaned heavily upon the king 
for supplements to the revenue available from the dower lands. 
It thus shared Henry III.'s varying fortunes, with the stringencies 
of what the accountants describe as " the time of the persecution 
of the king and queen." ^ Large block grants were made from 
the royal exchequer or wardrobe.^ The queen was always re- 
membered when the king was allotted a papal tenth,^ or the 
revenues of a vacant bishopric fell into his hands,^ or profitable 

^ Above, i. 255, n. 1, the total of the surphis of expenses over receipts added 
from two accounts, amounting to £22,329 : : 10^, has been accidentally quoted 
as the total of receipts for 1264-69, which actually was only £7995 : 1 : 2^. 

2 C.P.R., 1266-72, p. 91. 

3 Between 1257 and 1264 the qtieen received £2009 from the wardrobe and 
£3197 : 19 : 11 from the exchequer. 

* Queen Eleanor was allotted £60,000 of Tours, i.e. about £15,000 sterling, 
out of the first money collected in the province of York for the papal tenth in 
1267, while an order that she should have 100 marks out of the same tenth in 
the dioceses of Canterbury, Rochester, Chichester, Winchester, Salisbury, 
Exeter, Bath and Wells, Worcester and Hereford {C.P.R., 1266-72, pp. 91, 
174) was in 1269 so extended that she was to receive the whole tenth in the 
diocese of Exeter for two out of the three years in which the pope had granted 
it to the king {ib. p. 313). In Ireland, the king assigned the tenth to the pope 
for the arrears of yearly cess due, but the collecting clerk was able to get only 
1100 marks, because pope and king had made over the tenth to Eleanor for 
her debts, though she was "in no small degree troubled about the collection 
thereof " (pp. 409, 458-459). 

^ £100 was paid to the queen in 1240 out of the revenues of the vacant 
bishopric of Winchester (G. Lib. R., 1226-40, p. 491) ; the keeper of the arch- 
bishopric of York was told to pay out £300 for the queen's expenses in 1255 


lands were available during the minority of lieirs,^ or he had 
secured a good loan.^ When Peter of Savoy bequeathed the 
honour of Richmond to the queen his niece, and the king wished 
instead to give it to John of Brittany, he transferred to Eleanor 
in compensation the 1200 marks yearly which the king of France, 
by the treaty of Paris of 1259, was to pay to England until the 
Agenais should be given up. The result was that Eleanor became 
entangled in the weary negotiations which followed the death of 
Alphonse of Poitiers in 1272.^ To the same year probably belongs 
an undated petition from the queen asking for wardships to the 
annual value of £1000 to meet the expenses of her household when 
not in her husband's company, exclusive of wine and cloth, which 
he is bound to provide ; this was agreed to.* 

It is clear that Eleanor's income was inadequate for her needs. 
She often borrowed from Italian merchants.^ Though now and 
then, as under Gaddesden in 1242, or under Bradley in 1250 and 
1253, her receipts exceeded her outlay, the balance was always 
swallowed up by arrears due on earlier accounts, where expenditure 
had outrun income in the more usual way. When Henry III. 
died, and " at the instance and petition of the queen," without 
writ or warrant from her son the new king, a view of her finances 

(C.P.R., 1247-58, p. 448), and the keeper of the bishopric of London 100 marks 
in 1267 (ib., 1266-72, p. 90). 

1 Grants of this sort are too numerous to quote, and business concerning 
them bulks large in the queen's correspondence. The first substantial grant 
was that of the lands of Ralph of Tony in 1242 {C.R., 1237-42, p. 422). She 
got the wardship of the lands of Margery of Redvers, countess of Devon, in 
1252 {C.P.R., 1247-58, p. 151), of the lands and heir of WilHam Longsword, 
earl of Salisbury, in 1257 {ib. p. 536), and she bought, for 6000 marks, from 
her son Edward, the wardship of the inheritance of Robert of Ferrers, earl of 
Derby, in the same year (ib. p. 554). 

2 In 1267 she got £133 : 6 : 8 out of a loan of 1030 marks from the merchants 
of Ghent (ih., 1266-72, p. 36). 

3 Ib. pp. 310, 362, 383, 581 ; ib., 1272-81, pp. 361, 385-388, 394, 429, 447. 
There is an interesting commentary upon the king's appointment of representa- 
tives to act with hers in 1280 in making an extent of the Agenais, in the shape 
of a letter explaining that her own illness since Christmas has prevented her 
agents from reaching Agen by Candlemas, and that the king's men must not 
start before their arrival {A.C. xxiii. 11 ; C.P.R., 1272-81, p. 361). 

* A.C. xvi. 207, assigned in the index to Eleanor of Castile. Cf. C.P.R., 
1266-72, p. 682. Questions of the queen's dower and supplements to it remained 
almost as prominent in Edward I.'s time as they had been in Henry III.'s. 
Cf. ib., 1272-81, pp. 12, 27-28, 29, 71, 91, 92, 106, 142, 419, 438, and C.C.R., 
1288-96, p. 84. 

6 C.P.R., 1247-58, pp. 557, 651 ; ib., 1256-66, p. 219. 


was enrolled at the exchequer, it was seen that the accumulated 
surplus of expenditure over revenue amounted to more than 

The next queen consort, Eleanor of Castile, had, like her name- 
sake and predecessor, a nucleus of dower lands supplemented by- 
additional grants, but the nucleus was more substantial. Whereas 
when first dowered on her marriage with Edward, Eleanor had 
been promised that when she became queen lands to the value of 
500 marks should be added to those worth £1000 already assigned 
her,2 by 1280, under further pressure from Castile, Edward had 
increased the total in all to £4500 a year.^ In 1279 Eleanor 
inherited from her mother the county of Ponthieu in northern 
France, but although her new subjects looked to her first "as first 
by inheritance," she and her husband were count and countess. 
Ponthieu was managed in much the same way as England's other 
French possessions, and the officials appointed to its care were 
not necessarily connected with the queen by previous service.^ 
A feature which excited much criticism was the large share which 
Edward assigned to his wife in his exploitation of the Jews.^ 
Archbishop Pecham, in the letter to Eleanor's treasurer Asphale, 
which has already been quoted in another connection, prefaced 
his admonitions by a request that Asphale would beg the queen 
to give up making usurious profits. " A rumour is waxing strong 
throughout the kingdom of England, and much scandal is thereby 
generated, because it is said that the illustrious lady queen of 
England, in whose service you are, is occupying many manors of 
nobles, lands and other possessions, and has made them her own 
property — lands which the Jews extorted with usury under the 
protection of the royal court from Christians. It is said that 
day by day the said lady continues to acquire plunder and the 
possessions of others by this means. . . . There is pubHc outcry 

^ Pipe, no. 116, m. Id. 

2 C.P.R., 1247-58, p. 351. 3 /ft. 1272-81, p. 380. 

* When the king and queen visited Ponthieu in 1279, in the taking of the 
comital oath John Ferre acted as proctor for the queen and Thomas of Sand- 
wich for the king ; but it was Thomas, not John, who was made the first 
seneschal. His successor, Richard of Pevensey, began his career in the house- 
hold of Eleanor of Provence. I have put together an outline of the county's 
administration from 1279 to 1307 in E.H.R. xxix. 435-452. 

5 Cf. for example, C.C.R., 1272-79, pp. 140, 151, 180, 184, 192, 198, 205, 
221, 297, 315, 466, 470, 501, 536, 547. 


and gossip about this in every part of England. Wherefore, as 
gain of this sort is illicit and damnable, we beg you, and firmly 
command and enjoin upon you as our clerk, that when you see an 
opportunity, you will be pleased humbly to beseech the said lady 
on our behalf, that she bid her people entirely to abstain from the 
aforesaid practices, and restore what has been seized in this shape, 
or at any rate make satisfaction to those Christians who have 
been wickedly robbed by usury." ^ 

The records certainly convey the impression that everywhere 
the queen's officials were bent upon exacting the uttermost 
farthing. When in 1291 Ralph of Ivingho sat with two col- 
leagues 2 " to hear and determine complaints against the ministers 
of Eleanor, late queen consort of England," ^ it was alleged that 
John of Love tot, when acting as auditor of her accounts, had in 
extending her manors sometimes entered rents at a higher rate 
than was traditional, sometimes set down as compulsory plough- 
ings or reapings which were mere voluntary acts of neighbourli- 
ness,* while the queen's bailiffs were accused of all sorts of high- 
handedness and extortion.^ Many of the accusations were not 
substantiated, but others were. It is interesting to notice also 
that as early as 1289 the king had ordered inquiry to be made at 
Haverford as to Hugh of Cressingham's interference, as steward 
of Eleanor, with the rights of William of Valence, Edward's 

^ Eegistrum, iii. 937. 

^ Their names, Roger Bourt and H. Husee, are given in an account of the 
queen's executors (£'.^4. 352/37, m. 4). 

* See Assize Rolls, nos. 542, 836, and 1014, of which my pupil, Miss M. E. 
Fenwick, is making a detailed study. General conclusions will be more possible 
when her investigation is completed. These auditores querelarum held sessions 
at Bury St. Edmunds, Salisbury and Westminster, and although, unlike a 
recent commission which had dealt with scandals among the king's ministers, 
they were empowered to terminate the cases, in many instances their decision 
was that it was impossible to proceed rege inconsulto, or that a remedy could be 
sought only by the king's grace. 

* Assize Boll, No. 1014, m. 7, " Forestarius . . . vicinus eorum et amicus 
specialis solebat eis pluries facere curialitates et ipsi vice rependere." At Cawston, 
Norfolk, it was proved that in entering a rent of 160 hens Lovetot raised the 
value of each fowl from Id. to l|d. 

* For example, a man and his wife who held tenements in Newmarket made 
good against the queen's reeve of Cameys Ditton a charge of coming to their 
house in their absence, carrying out the baby in its cradle and depositing it on 
the highway, taking possession for fifteen days, and then securing the imprison- 
ment of the owners for breaking into their own house by showing a hole in the 
roof " through which no beast bigger than a cat or a little dog could have 
entered " {Assize Boll, no. 836, m. 5d). 


uncle, and his wife Joan. Hugh, say the letters patent, has " pre- 
sumed several times to neglect the king's mandates " and has 
behaved " in unprecedented fashion." ^ 

The paucity of the records makes it difficult to present Eleanor 
of Castile's financial position in detail. Between Michaelmas 1289 
and November 28, 1290, the day of her death, John of Berwick in 
his Liber de expensis put down a total of £1009 spent, as against 
£1001 received, as is shown by the summary on the pipe roll.^ 
The pipe roll account, however, goes on to show that from queen's 
gold and the chattels of condemned Jews during the same period, 
and from the queen's lands between Christmas 1289 and her 
death, Berwick had received a total of £3898, spending against 
this over £4937, of which more than £200 was paid into the king's 
wardrobe, £50 as a fee to Mary, the queen's daughter, while the 
rest went in repayment of large debts, gifts and the salaries or 
expenses of officials. Thus while on the first account Berwick 
had a trifling surplus of about £8, on the second he was more than 
£1000 to the bad. Luckily in earlier years queen's gold had been 
80 productive that in 1289 he had been left, at the end of three 
years, with a balance of over £2500, so that by careful allocations 
from past accounts the exchequer left him finally with more than 
£1700 to the good. The whole impression left is that of an 
important estabhshment with business to be conducted on a large 

The same may be said of the household of Edward's second 
wife, Margaret of France. This marriage had been one of the 
securities for the renewal of peaceful relations between England 
and France, and the treaty of Montreuil of June 1299, arranged 
under the supervision of Pope Boniface VIIL, had included stipu- 
lations about dower. The sum there mentioned of £15,000 of 
Tours, four pounds of Tours being reckoned as equivalent to one 
pound sterling, was in Edward's actual assignment, made on 
September 10, 1299, raised to £18,000 of Tours, or £4500 sterling. 
On May 27, 1305, Edward added to this another £2000 of Tours, 
so that the final total reached was £5000 sterling.^ By that 

1 C.P.R., 1281-92, p. 331. 

2 Add. MS. 35294 and Pipe, no. 143, m. 36. 

3 Foedera (1816) ii. 972 ; C.P.R., 1292-1301, pp. 451-453 ; ib., 1301-1307, 
jpp. 240-241, 368-369, 372 ; C.C.R., 1302-1307, pp. 214, 276. The lands assigned 
included Cambridge castle and town, Oxford town and mills, and the hundred 


time, Edward was beginning to fail in health, and so a promise 
was made that in case of his death the queen should not be de- 
prived of manors given in augmentation of her dower. Besides 
this, there were additional grants for maintenance, especially after 
the birth of Margaret's two sons, with whom were brought up, as 
was customary, other young wards of the Crown, the most notable 
beiug Gilbert of Clare, son and heir of her stepdaughter Joan.^ 
When king and queen were together, Edward paid for everything 
except the wages of her squires, but Edward's campaigning and 
travelling were so constant that husband and wife were often 
separated for the greater part of the year. Between November 3, 
1299, and November 19, 1300, for example, Margaret's treasurer 
received sums, mainly from the king's wardrobe in fairly small 
instalments, amounting in all to £4772 : 5 : 5. His corresponding 
outlay included housekeeping expenses for the queen during three 
periods, covering in all about forty-one weeks, in which she was 
not in the king's company,^ and totalled, with alms, robes, prests, 
wine and miscellaneous expenditure, £4439 : 2 : 2.^ This is a great 
change from conditions in the days of Eleanor of Provence, when 
£1000 a year had been thought adequate allowance for the main- 
tenance of the queen's household " in the time in which she shall 
not make stay with the king." * 

The same treaty which in 1299 arranged the marriage of 
Margaret with Edward I. had secured the betrothal of his son to 
her niece, and in January 1308, accordingly, Edward 11. married 

without the north gate, Oxford, and in 1306 Margaret's bailiffs were interpreting 
her rights so liberally that they tried to prevent the escheator from delivering 
a messuage and shops which had been bequeathed to the master and scholars 
of Balliol (C.C.E., 1302-1307, pp. 365-366). The various subtractions, additions 
and exchanges during Edward I.'s lifetime can most easily be seen as detailed 
in an inspeximus and confirmation issued by Edward II. in 1310 {C.P.R., 
1307-13, pp. 216-219). 

^ 76., 1292-1301, pp. 592, 606. Gilbert's expenses are prominent in many 
of the queen's accounts (e.g. E.A. 361/3). 

^ She was with her son Edward at King's Langley from Nov. 3 to 19, 1299. 
Then she stayed at St. Albans, Windsor and elsewhere till April 12, 1300. 
Between May 5 and Sept. 17 she travelled via Stamford to Brotherton (where 
her son Thomas was born, and whence an escort afterwards had to accompany 
to Paris the midwife who had come over for the event) and on to her husband 
at Carlisle. 

8 E.A. 35115, m. 1. This original account includes some outlay additional 
to that enrolled in L.Q.G. pp. 357-358, from which Dr. Tout got his total of 
£3667 : 9s. (above, ii. 43, n. 2). 

* See above, p. 269. 



Isabella of France, and thereby became responsible for a dower 
of £4500. During the first ten years of the reign estates were 
granted to the queen at intervals,^ but many of the lands ordinarily 
used for this purpose were still in the hands of Margaret the queen 
mother, and the fact that in 1316 the exchequer was ordered to 
make annually a lump payment of 11,000 marks (£7333 : 6 : 8), 
minus the value of her lands in England, suggests that the first 
allocations were not satisfactory.^ For her personal expenses 
she was assigned, May 14, 1308, the issues of the counties of 
Ponthieu and Montreuil.^ 

The death of Margaret in 1318 opened the way for fresh 
arrangements, and on March 5 Isabella's full dower of £4500 
was assigned, including some of the lands she already held, but 
adding others just vacated. Next day Ponthieu and Montreuil 
were regranted, for the expenses of her chamber.^ Though some 
changes and exchanges were made later, the total of £4500 was 
maintained until her lands were confiscated in 1324. Like other 
landowners of her day, Isabella found difficulty in collecting the 
full revenue which her estates nominally represented. A review 
taken in 1332 of arrears due shows a total accumulation of £8493 
of debt to her, and indicates another of Isabella's many reasons 
for disliking the Despensers, since father and son left the sum of 
£300 annually due from them as farmers of the town and castle 
of Bristol and of the manor of Lechlade unpaid for five years in 

It was to the Despensers, of course, that rumour ascribed 
Isabella's downfall in 1324. " They instigated the king to take 
into his hands the lands and revenues which he had previously 
granted to the queen, and gave her only twenty shilhngs a day 
for herself and her whole court." *> As a matter of fact, Isabella 
was now assigned 8 marks a day for the expenses of her household 
and 1000 marks annually for other expenses.' To spend only a 
little over £37 a week on housekeeping meant considerable 

» C.P.R., 1307-13, pp. 11, 398 ; ib., 1313-17, pp. 5, 38, 206, 276, 490, 639, 
642, 668. Among them was the manor of Macclesfield, the possession of which 
involved her in 1316 in friction with her three-year-old son Edward, earl of 
Chester, whose justice drew the men of Macclesfield outside the manor to answer 
for felonies, robbing the queen and her bailiffs of cognisance {C.C.R., 1313-18, 
p. 373). 2 76. 380. 3 C.P.R., 1307-13, p. 74. 

* /6., 1317-21, pp. 112, 115-116. ^ E.A. 377/11. 

8 Chron. de Lanercosi, p. 254. ^ I.R. no. 210, m. 14. 


economy according to the standards of the time,^ but the allow- 
ance was at any rate far more substantial than the £7 a week of 
which the chroniclers talked. In any case, the restriction was 
either withdrawn or disregarded very soon, for Isabella's house- 
keeping bills during her stay in France in 1325 reached totals 
far higher. In the week beginning May 26, in which she made a 
treaty with her brother Philip IV., domestic expenses totalled 
more than £103, while at other times they ranged upwards from 
about £65. Locally, in the confiscated lands, the situation may 
have made little impression. Those appointed to take the estates 
into the king's hand were in many cases the queen's own ministers,^ 
and whereas at first it was arranged that they should account 
direct to the exchequer, on October 16 there was substituted a 
general receiver, Robert Miles, who had been acting already for 
the queen in a similar capacity.^ What the exchequer spent 
on Isabella was of course recovered from the revenues in Miles' 

In any case this stage was merely temporary, and the next 
dramatic moment in Isabella's financial history came when in 
February 1327, at parliament's bidding, additional estates were 
assigned so as to bring up the annual value of her possessions to 
£13,333 : 6 : 8.^ It is not surprising to find among these new 
assignments the castle and manor of Leeds, in Kent. These had 
been held by both the queens of Edward I., and their reversion 
had been promised to Isabella as early as 1314.^ On Margaret's 
death, however, they were given up as part of an exchange with 
Bartholomew Badelesmere.' The famous incident of 1321, there- 
fore, in which Lady Badelesmere refused Isabella a night's lodging 
in this very castle, must have had a special poignancy for the 
queen, and it is natural that Leeds should be taken into her 

^ In 1305, when Edward I. cut off supplies in anger from his son and name- 
sake, the latter's most urgent economies could not reduce his domestic expendi- 
ture to less than £155 a month (E.A. 368/4). 

* C.F.R., 1319-27, pp. 300-301. 

3 lb. pp. 302, 308. M.A. 1090/12, 1090/13. 

* Cf. C.C.B., 1323-27, p. 260. 

^ C.P.R. The grants are analysed in Mr. S. T. Gibson's thesis on " The 
minority of Edward III.," and Dr. Tout has drawn attention to the chamber 
lands among them, which represented more than one-fifth of the new endow- 
ment (above, iv. 232, n. 1). « C.P.R. , 1313-17, p. 111. 

■' lb., 1317-21, pp. 46, 128. 


hands at the first opportunity. Other notable grants were those 
made in Yorkshire, including Burstwick, Knaresborough and 
Pontefract, worth respectively £800, £533 : 6 : 8 and £666 : 13 : 4. 
Isabella's surrender of her lands in December 1330, nominally 
voluntary, was managed, like the previous confiscation in 1324, 
without serious dislocation. John Giffard and Robert of Asphale, 
who had been acting as her stewards north and south of Trent, 
were on December 9 and December 14 appointed stewards and 
surveyors of the surrendered lands,^ and as soon as her estates 
were in part restored, Giffard returned to her service. It took 
some time to carry out the reallocation of estates equivalent to 
the income of £3000 now assigned to her. Hertford castle and 
town, with the manors of KingsclifEe in Northamptonshire and 
Sheen in Surrey, all three of which had first come into her hands 
in 1327, were the earliest to be given back, in July 1331.- A 
further assignment on November 15 included these and many 
others of the lands given her in 1327,^ as well as others, such as 
Macclesfield, whose connection with her dated from her first 
years in England, and which had been held by other queens 
before her. Five days later the balance still due of the equivalent 
of £3000 was made up, again from lands previously in her posses- 
sion.* This completed all that had been promised her, but in 
actual fact in March 1332 certain grants of advowsous, ward- 
ships and so forth in connection with the lands already given 
increased their value,^ and in November of the same year the 
manors of Feckenham in Norfolk and Eltham in Kent were 
also bestowed on her.® The steady improvement in her position 
can be seen in letters patent of March 1334, which recite all the 
grants named above and go on to enumerate substantial additional 
privileges, such as that of return of writs, given in enlargement.' 
Ponthieu and Montreuil were restored to her in the following 
September.^ Then the distributions stopped for a time, until 

^ C.P.R., 1330-34, pp. 22, 23. Asphale seems not to have acted, for he sur- 
rendered his letters patent, and in January 1331 Roger of Gildesburgh, king's 
clerk, was appointed in his stead (ib. p. 47). 

2 lb., 1330-34, p. 153. 

' 76. p. 195. Dr. Tout notes (above, iv. 239, n. 1) that none of the former 
chamber manors were included in these grants. 

4 Ib. pp. 225-226. ^ /t. p. 271. 

« 76. p. 367. She had held Eltham in 1311 (ib., 1307-13, p. 398). 

' 76. pp. 529-30. « 76., 1334-38, p. 60. 


in August 1337 Edward declared that " wishing to supply what 
is lacking of the dower assigned to her by his father," he has 
granted her for life £1500 yearly out of the customs of Hull, 
London and Boston in equal portions.^ 

Next to her dower lands Isabella's most substantial possession 
had been the counties of Ponthieu and Montreuil. The original 
grant of 1308, renewed ten years later, was made through the 
king's desire " to provide decently and honourably for our dearest 
consort Isabella queen of England in all expenses for her chamber, 
such as the jewels, gifts and other matters necessary for that same 
chamber," ^ Edward, in fact, was allotting a definite source of 
income, probably reckoned as equivalent to £1000 sterling,^ to 
his wife's personal expenses, and his words must not be read, 
as Dr. Tout has warned us,^ as implying separate cameral ad- 
ministration. There is no sign in Isabella's case of any inner 
citadel in the household corresponding to that set up in her 
husband's when the outer fortress of the wardrobe had been 
stormed. The question of Isabella's management of Ponthieu, 
impossible to explore here, would repay investigation. From 
1309 onwards she was given the right to collate to prebends in 
the collegiate church of St, WuKran at Abbeville, and thus 
secured a new field for the advancement of her clerks.^ Her 
receiver's difficulties in getting in the revenues led to an investiga- 
tion into the state of the county, and in February 1318, just 
before the regrant of the county to Isabella, Edward handed on 
for investigation by his council a report sent in by the council 
of his wife.^ This showed that business in Ponthieu was almost 
at a standstill. The seneschal, Robert of Fiennes,' was a young 
man, rarely in residence, and represented when absent by a 

1 C.P.R., p. 489. 2 Foedera (1818), II. i. 44. 

* In 1305-1306 the receipts from Ponthieu, reckoned in pounds of Paris, would 
at the current rate of exchange have been a little over £1300 sterling. See my 
article on " The County of Ponthieu, 1279-1307 " in E.H.R. xxix. 435-452. 

* See above, ii. 353. 

« C.P.R., 1307-13, p. 113. In 1310 she granted a house in Abbeville to 
John de Foresta, clerk and notary of her household and canon of St. Wulfran's 
{ib. p. 339). In 1325 her treasurer, Thomas of London, received a papal indul- 
gence to accept a canonry at Chichester although he had a canonry at Abbeville 
(C. Pap. Reg. Let., 1305-42, p. 244). 

« Cal. Chanc. Warrants, 1244-1326, pp. 482-483. 

' Brother to that William of Fiennes who was so prominent in the revolt 
of Artois against Philip V. 


knight who did nothing at all. Both of them kept great state, 
paying for it out of the money which ought to have been going 
to Isabella. " Madame," says the report, was paying out large 
wages to advocates and councillors, few of whom did their work 
or even resided in Ponthieu, while bailiffs and serjeants were 
inexperienced and disobedient. One is forced to the conclusion 
that unless strong measures were taken Isabella's income from 
this source would fall much short of expectations. Moreover, 
these were years of constant friction with France, and no less 
than three times during her tenure of the county it was occupied 
by the French. It served her, however, as a refuge in 1326 when 
she had worn out her welcome at the French court. 

We come next to the financial position of Queen Philippa of 
Hainault. Edward III.'s marriage with her took place on 
January 30, 1328, and in the following May public assurance was 
given to her father that within a year her dower lands should be 
assign ed.i The position, however, was difficult, for the recent 
enrichment of the queen mother had appropriated a number larger 
than usual of the estates commonly used for such assignments. 
At first Philippa's household expenses were met by the king,^ 
while in April 1329 an annual allowance of 1000 marks was set 
aside for the expenses of her chamber.^ By February 1330 
Isabella had been persuaded to surrender to her the castle, honour 
and borough of Pontefract, and to these were added the former 
Despenser lands in Glamorgan and Morgannou.* The further 
grant in April of Loughborough,^ another Despenser manor, was 
considered to complete the £3000 which had been promised as 
dower. There remained, however, the question whether such an 
amount was adequate for the queen's needs, and it soon became 
clear that the answer was an emphatic negative. As has already 
been said, no solution for the problem of Philippa's independent 

1 Foedera (1821), II. ii. 743. 

2 In 1331 Thomas Garton, formerly keeper of the king's wardrobe, 
claimed allowance for money so spent up to Oct. 16, 1331 (C.C.B., 1330-33, 
p. 383). 

3 C.P.R., 1327-30, p. 389. 

* lb. p. 501. Eleanor Despenser had married William la Zouche of Mortimer, 
and to obtain a pardon for " having taken from the Tower of London certain 
jewels, florins and other goods of great value " (ib. p. 492) made fine with the 
king and handed over this part of her inheritance (C.F.R., 1327-37, p. 161). 

5 C.P.R., 1327-30, pp. 508, 512, 541. 


maintenance was found, and in 1363 Edward in despair resumed 
responsibility for his wife's household expenses. 

The main stages may be briefly traced. Grants began to 
shower upon Philippa after the downfall of Isabella and Mortimer 
in the autumn of 1330. In December she was assigned £1529 : 18 : 4 
out of the king's moiety of papal first-fruits, and £1000 from the 
customs at Hull.^ In January 1331 a complete reassignment of 
dower lands was made, intended to produce the original £3000 
plus £1000 more.2 Glamorgan was given up, but Philippa kept 
Pontefract. Of the remaining lands, many of which now passed 
from Isabella's keeping to hers, the most valuable were the castle, 
town and honour of Knaresborough (£533 : 6 : 8), the castle and 
town of Tickhill (£333 : 16 : 5), the castle, town and honour of 
High Peak (£291 : 13 : 4) and the honour of I'Aigle (£230). By 
February 1333, however, the Bardi were recovering a total of 
£2268 : 15s. paid at various times to the queen by the king's 
order,3 and a few days later Edward granted her £2000 " to pay 
her debts." ^ In March, "in consideration of the fact that the 
lands assigned to her for Hfe, in dower or otherwise, are not 
sufficient to maintain her household and for the expenses of her 
chamber," king and council gave another 500 marks a year, 
" which the queen believes will meet the deficiency," and raised 
this supplement in February 1334 to a total of 800 marks.^ 
During the next twenty-five years fresh grants of one sort or 
another were constantly made. Among the more notable were 
one-third of the king's prise of wines at Hull, Southampton and 
Bristol, in September 1336 ; 2000 marks from the subsidy of one- 
ninth in the archdeaconry of Norfolk in 1340 ; the whole of the 
profits of the temporahties of Westminster during a vacancy in 
1345 ; £2000 out of the customs at Hull, Boston and London, 
with the king's prise of wines at Southampton and London for 
ten years in January 1348.^ Among smaller gifts, the most 
picturesque was that in 1347 of " the houses late of John Dayre 

1 C.P.E., 1330-34, p. 34. The Bardi advanced £400 of it. 

^ 76. pp. 55-56. Some readjustments made in the following July did not 
alter the total value (ib. p. 161). 

3 Ib. p. 399. * C.C.R., 1333-37, p. 10. 

5 C.P.R., 1330-34, pp. 420, 512. For estates assigned as equivalent to 
these sums, see ib. p. 439 and ib., 1334-38, p. 84. 

« Ib. p. 319 ; ib., 1338-40, p. 546 ; ib., 1343-45, pp. 432, 490 ; t6. 1345- 
1348, pp. 130, 449, 452. 


in the town of Calais." ^ If tliis is the Jehan d'Aire who in 
Froissart's story was the second man to volunteer as one of the 
famous six burghers, there is a certain poetic justice in his 
property passing to that queen to whose intercession he and his 
friends owed their lives. Finally, in 1359, came another sub- 
stantial additional assignment of dower lands, to the value of 
£2000 a year.2 This, however, was the last effort to meet the 
queen's wants in accustomed ways, and when it also proved in- 
adequate, Edward charged himself with his wife's expenses as 
well as his own. From the revenue derived from her dower lands 
£10 a day, or £3650 a year, was to be paid towards the joint outlay, 
and £2666 : 13 : 4 to the queen's chamber, while what remained 
must be used for the next six years towards paying off her load 
of debt.3 

The affairs of the two queens of Richard II, ran on lines too 
familiar to need very detailed treatment here, Anne of Bohemia's 
dower was fixed at £4500. Accordingly, in May and June 1382 
grants of lands, farms, wardships and assignments on customs 
were made in satisfaction,^ while in July she was granted for life 
the king's prises of wine at Bristol and Southampton for her 
household expenses when not in her husband's company.^ Later 
in the year she was given certain additional lands and castles in 
England and Wales,*' and in November, as her council had 
represented to the king's that some of the lands allotted were of 
less than their apparent value on account of charges upon them, 
grants amounting in all to more than £280 were made to supply 
deficiencies.' Next year it was stipulated that on all these dower 
lands she should enjoy the same privileges and liberties as Philippa 
had had.^ There were readjustments at intervals, as in Decem- 
ber 1384, when she received the forfeited county and lordship of 
Richmond, surrendering equivalents elsewhere,^ or in December 
1391, when that property was restored to John of Brittany and 
Anne was compensated with other lands,^^ or when at intervals 

1 C.P.R., 1345-48, p. 566. She handed them over to Roger Mortimer ten 
years later (ih., 1333-5S, p. 594). 

* lb., 1358-61, pp. 237-239. Some compensatious and further gifts at the 
same time brought up the total to £2160. » Foedera (1830), III. ii. 687. 

* C.P.R., 1381-85, pp. 117, 125-128. « lb. p. 157. 

* lb. pp. 159, 192. ' lb. p. 203. 
« lb. p. 226. 9 lb. p. 511. 

10 lb., 1391-96, p. 13. 




estates were assigned to her in lieu of sums previously secured 
upon the customs. A grant in 1385 of the county and lordship 
of Merioneth seems to have been additional to her existing re- 
sources/ but when on the forfeiture of Michael de la Pole she 
received Lowestoft and Lothingland hundred £70 was deducted 
from the sum due to her on the customs at Boston.^ In 1391 
she received Rockingham castle with the stewardship of the forest 
between the bridges at Oxford and Stamford. ^ There are a few 
examples of grants of wardships and marriages made to her, but 
not so many as in the case of earlier queens. It is interesting to 
see that she was affected by the shortage of labour, and twice at 
least called the law to her help to compel carpenters, masons and 
others to work on her manors.* 

Isabella II. 's dower lands were largely provided out of the 
possessions of the earls of Pembroke,^ and in 1398 she was given 
the wardship of all the possessions of Roger Mortimer, earl of 
March, in England, Wales and Ireland, during the minority of 
his heir.* 

What general conclusious can be drawn from this survey of 
the financial resources of seven queens ? We have seen that 
£4500 was the total often regarded by the convention of the time 
as a suitable dower, though Isabella, in the exceptional circum- 
stances of her triumph by revolution, soared as high as over 
£13,000, while in Philippa's case addition after addition to the 
original nucleus brought the total in the end to over £7000. 
Rarely if ever, it would seem, did a queen find her resources 
adequate to her needs. Why was this ? It cannot be explained 
on the ground that everywhere the standard of expenditure was 
rising, or by the extra expense involved in constant stays abroad, 
because these facts were recognised and met by enlarged grants. 
Such, for example, was the grant of 2000 marks to Philippa in 
1340 because her " charges, in her stay beyond the sea, while 
the king was there and after his return, were so heavy that the 
rent assigned for her chamber was insufficient to meet them." ' 
Nor can it be argued that as a queen's family increased, or grants 

1 C.P.R., 13S5-S9, pp. 12, 193. 

3 lb. p. 413. 

« lb., 1396-99, p. 40. 

' lb., 1338-40, p. 546. 

2 lb., 1388-92, p. 156. 

< lb., 1385-89, pp. 452, 524. 

« 76. p. 403. 


of wardships brought with them young heirs to be maintained, 
revenue had to be stretched to meet new needs. On the contrary 
additional sums were allocated to fresh claims. Eleanor of 
Provence received grants in auxilium sustentacionis Eadwardi 
Hi regis } In 1331 the issues of the earldom of Chester were 
appropriated to the support of PhiUppa's first-born son, Edward, 
and by 1334 were to cover also the expenses of his baby sisters 
Isabella and Joan.^ John of Gaunt's earldom of Richmond, 
granted to him in September 1342, was in November similarly 
put at Philippa's disposal.^ 

What, then, is the explanation ? Partly, of course, it lies in 
the fact that there was often grave discrepancy between the 
nominal value of the queen's possessions and the amount which 
actually reached her cofiers. Here her close connection with the 
king worked to her disadvantage, since men were afraid of being 
called upon to pay twice over. Eleanor of Provence complained 
that whereas one Joan Russell, tenant of the barton of Gloucester, 
had paid to the queen her annual rent of five shillings, the sheriff 
was levying from her another five shillings.^ Again, when Henry 
III. in the last year of his life granted to Eleanor the fines from an 
eyre in Sussex, " the men refused to pay the said money to her 
bailiffs, believing that it might be exacted from them at another 
time by summons of the exchequer." ^ When sums were secured 
upon the customs, as in the case of PhiUppa, the queen was 
dependent not on her own but on the king's collectors, and might 
find them languid in her service or unable to meet her needs.^ 
Troubles for which she was not personally responsible might react 
upon the queen. Thus in 1267 Eleanor of Provence had to appoint 
an official to collect from her estates debts and arrears owing from 
" the time of the disturbance in the realm," ' when her then keeper, 
Walter of Cokeseye, had gone over to the enemy and used her 
goods as his own.^ Even apart from external difficulties of this 

1 C.R., 1247-51, p. 44. 2 C.P.R., 1330-34, pp. 78, 523. 

3 lb., 1340-43, p. 569. * A.C. xvi. 191. 

5 C.P.R., 1266-72, p. 632. 

* Philippa was assigned £1000 out of the Hull customs in Dec. 1330 ; on 
Oct. 15, 1331, more than £60 of this was still unpaid {C.G.R., 1330-33, pp. 
257, 272). From 1348 onwards she was to receive £1000 a year from the customs 
at London, but in 1355 the collectors of the petty custom had no money left 
after paying her 837 marks (ib., 1354-60, pp. 165-166). 

' C.P.R., 1266-72, p. 31. » A.G. xi. 24. 


sort, however, we may feel sure that the queen would find herself 
no better served than any other landowner of her age, though the 
evidence is not sufficient to suggest that her plight was unusually 
desperate. Eleanor of Provence, when granted a tenth of ecclesi- 
astical benefices in Ireland, was "in no small degree troubled 
about the collection thereof." ^ The inquiry into the misdeeds of 
the ministers of Eleanor of Castile ^ showed that not only had they 
oppressed her tenants unduly, but that in some instances at any 
rate they had pocketed the proceeds. Philippa declared that by 
the negligence of her officials she had lost wardships and marriages 
in Lincolnshire.^ More than one commission of oyer and terminer 
was demanded on her behalf. She had lost profits up to £200 at 
Stockwith because assaults on her officers there had made them 
afraid for a long time to hold a fair or market there ; * her parks at 
various places were broken, distraints rescued and ministers 
attacked, while " a great number of her ministers and others by 
conspiracy had between them " had concealed rents and taken 
profits for their own use ; ^ when her servants at Nottingham 
were " engaged in furthering some difficult business of the queen " 
some of them were seized and others imprisoned and the business 
remained undone ; ^ in the Peak district evildoers hunted in her 
chases, prevented her bailiffs from discharging their duties and 
concealed emoluments ; ' while her receiver accused her bailiff in 
Derbyshire and Leicestershire of converting sums of money to his 
own use.^ Instances might easily be multiplied, are character- 
istic of the age, and imply no unusual negligence on the part of the 

It must be remembered, finally, that it was common for the 
queen's wardrobe to make grants to the king's. Eleanor of 
Castile, for example, " as a gift to the king," delivered on three 
occasions into the royal wardrobe sums amounting in all to 
£2066 : 13 : 4 out of a total of £3013 : 6 : 8 which she had received 
from fines and the chattels of Jews between 1283 and 1289.^ 
Isabella's accounts record a loan to her husband's wardrobe in 
1313.1° j)j. Tout has pointed out that as much as two-thirds of 

1 C.P.R., 1266-72, pp. 458-459. ^ gee above, p. 271. 

» C.P.R., 1338-40, p. 144. « lb., 1343-45, p. 164. 

B lb., 1350-54, p. 287. " lb., 1354-58, p. 161. 

' lb. p. 448. « lb., 1358-61, p. 223. 

9 Pipe, no. 143, m. 36. i» Cotton MS. Nero C. viii. f. 151. 


the foreign receipt of Ferriby, keeper of Edward III.'s wardrobe in 
England, was contributed by the receiver of queen PhiHppa,i and 
we have seen that after the amalgamation of the queen's with the 
king's household Philippa was to pay £10 a day towards joint 
expenses.2 A petition of the Merciless Parliament in 1388, to 
which Richard II. agreed, referred to this precedent and imposed 
the same contribution upon Anne of Bohemia.^ 

In view of these and similar considerations, we ought to guard 
against ascribing financial failure to the personal delinquencies of 
a particular queen, although, of course, some may have been more 
extravagant than others. Times were hard, expenses were many, 
and some of the best civil servants may have been attracted away 
from the queen's employment by openings in larger departments. 

(d) The Household Secretakiat and the Queen's Seals 

From what has been said already concerning the queen's 
administrative machinery it will have beeD clear that secretarial 
activities on a large scale were involved, and that her clerks, norm- 
ally itinerant with the household, taking what accommodation 
they could get and procuring their requisites as opportunity served, 
must often have laboured in unfavourable conditions. Exceptions 
to this, of course, were the queen's exchequer at Westminster* and 
the offices at La Reole, where much more privacy and order were 
obtainable. Many references in the accounts reflect the secre- 
tarial needs of the household. Such, for example, are the purchases 
of " ink for the wardrobe and the queen's books," or for " the 
account of the wardrobe and the account of the gold " in Eleanor 
of Castile's time,^ or of " ink and pumice to be used in the queen's 
wardrobe " in the days of Isabella.^ Parchment, usually bought 
by the duodena, or quire of twelve sheets, varied greatly in price. 
Purchases for Isabella in 1311-12, at Berwick, York, London and 
Westminster, ranged in cost from a minimum of lOd. a quire to a 
maximum of 2s. ; ' in France it was bought for her by the skin, 

^ See above, iv. 149-150. 

2 Above, p. 280. s Hot^ parl. iii. 246. 

* Or at York when continued war with Scotland made that city an adminis- 
trative centre. See above, iii. 59. 

6 Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 35,294, passim. ^ E.A. 375/9, f. 25. 

■> Brit. Mus. Cott. MS. Nero C. viii. f. 136. Cf. E.A. 375/9, fE. 22, 22d. 


two for 2|<i.^ Fine vellum " for the queen's books," on the other 
hand, cost Eleanor of Castile as much as 3s. 9d. the quire.^ Wax 
for sealing was sometimes bought, sometimes taken out of store. 
Whereas, for example, Eleanor of Castile's accounts record 
purchases of " red wax for the privy seal of the queen," ^ Isabella's 
apothecary, Peter of Montpellier, dyed white wax red for the same 
purpose at a charge of 8d. the pound.^ Among office requisites 
purchased were pyxes for keeping letters in,^ leather trunks bound 
with iron for storing rolls and charters, and bags in which to put 
broken wax.^ 

The bulk of writing done in the queen's household must have 
been considerable, even if we exclude as not relevant to our subject 
the copying and illuminating upon which, for instance, Godfrey 
the pictor, Philip the queen's scriptor and Roger the scriptor were 
engaged in 1289-90,' Books and rolls of the queen's wardrobe 
were often characterised by real beauty both of handwriting and 
decoration.^ Work on the queen's charters, writs and corre- 
spondence required not only good craftsmanship, but further skill 
in drafting and knowledge of formulae. Men like John Giffard, 
described in Isabella's accounts as " notary " or " clerk for the 
queen's letters," ^ or Robert Wyville, her " secretary," keeper of 
her privy seal, 1" had heavy responsibilities, but thanks to them and 
their like at other times the queen's instruments correspond closely 
with those of the king and develop on parallel lines. It is interest- 
ing to notice that when Eleanor of Provence wished Edward I. to 
write a letter on her behalf about her claims abroad, she sent it to 
him ready drafted in his name, asking him to seal it if he found it 

1 E.A. 381/17. 2 Add. MS. 35,294, f. 10. 

3 lb. ff. 6d, lid, 12d. 

* Cotton MS. Nero C. viii. f. 136, etc. Cf, E.A. 375/19, m. 5. 
6 Add. MS. 35,294, f. 9. 

^ E.A. 375/9, S. 22, 25. In 1321, on one occasion on which Edward IT.'a 
great seal was temporarily in the custody of Isabella, she gave it " to be enclosed 
in a chest " not, as we might expect, to a clerk, but to the lady Elizabeth de 
Montibus, wife of a knight of her household {C.C.R., 1318-23, p. 478). 

' Add. MS. 35,294, fi. 4, 4d, and passim. 

* The title of Isabella's first wardrobe book, for example, is enclosed in an 
ornamented frame, the initial letter of Compotus being floriated (Nero C. vii. 
f. 121), while even a little roll of her pantry and buttery has elaborate initials 
to the heading (E.A. 381/18). One of her accounts for 1357-58, much damaged 
in the Cotton fire, has script so minute that it can hardly be read without a 
magnifying glass, yet of exquisite finish and clearness (Oalba E. xiv.). 

» E.A. 375/9, ff. 14, 29, i" See above, ii. 309-310, iii. 2, 6. 


satisfactory, otherwise to make what alterations he desired.^ At 
times of special pressure the queen might borrow clerks from her 
husband's service. In 1311, for example, Isabella paid wages to 
four clerks of the royal chancery " transcribing the ordinances 
made by the earls and barons of England, extents of the queen's 
lands, and writs and memoranda of the wardrobe of the said 
queen," ^ while Philippa paid a clerk in the same office for writing 
writs and commissions concerning her business.^ 

A study of the seals in use in the queen's household would in 
itself be a considerable investigation, which I have not had time 
to undertake with any completeness. They included, of course, 
not only her own but also those of her officials, many of which 
are preserved in files of receipts or other miscellaneous documents. 
Thus in the case of Margaret we have household indentures 
bearing the seals of her treasurer, her butler and others ; ^ a 
series of letters patent of Isabella's treasurer, John of Newbury, 
are extant, in one case with a particularly fine impression of his 
seal ; ^ while the fact that sums were assigned to the queens 
from the customs has caused the preservation among customs 
accounts of various sealed receipts.^ 

Our chief concern, however, is with the queen's own seals, 
which may best be treated in chronological order. Eleanor of 
Provence had both a great seal and a privy seal. The former 
was a seal of two pieces, in shape a pointed oval, 3| by 2^ inches. 
A fine impression of it, upon dark green wax, may be seen ap- 
pended en double queue to a charter granting land to the Bishop 
of Ely in 1255-56.' At that date its legend described her on the 
obverse as regina Anglie, domina Hibernie, and on the reverse 
as ducissa Normannie et Aquitanie, comitissa Andegavie, but 
Henry III.'s renunciation of the English lands in northern France 
by the Treaty of Paris of 1259 made it necessary to have a new 
seal in which the legend should correspond with the altered facts. 
Accordingly, in an instrument of 1262, itself interesting from the 

1 A.C. xvi. 168. 2 Nero C. viii. f. 136d. 

' T.R. Misc. Bk. 205, p. 23. For instances of chancery clerks' writing in 
the king's wardrobe, see above, ii. 70. 

* E.A. 359/28, 364/20. ^ 75. 393/3^ no. 16. 

* Such as those bearing the seals, applied en simple queue to red wax, of 
Philippa's treasurers Clonne, Cook and Ravenser {C.A. 1013, 6, 20, 21). I must 
thank Miss M. H. Mills for calling my attention to this source of information. 

^ Cott. Charter, xvii. 6. 


point of view of diplomatic because it was made expressly to 
remedy a defect in an earlier document, in which the name of 
Walter Merton, the chancellor, had appeared but to which his seal 
had not been appended, we may see an impression of a second 
seal, similar in shape and size to the first, but in which Eleanor 
on the obverse is described simply as regina Anglie, while on the 
reverse the legend runs domina Hibemie et ducissa Aquitanie.^ 
I have found no unbroken impression of her privy seal, but 
traces upon red wax of a seal about 1| inches in diameter may 
be seen en placard upon the dorse of several of her letters "given 
under our privy seal," ^ while one letter close still keeps the 
tongue of parchment, bearing the address, which had been 
wrapped round it.^ 

The great and privy seals of the two queens of Edward I. were 
on similar lines. Eleanor of Castile's great seal was a pointed 
oval, with legend corresponding in arrangement with that of the 
second seal of Eleanor of Provence, and design not unlike hers, 
except that the lions and castles of Castile have been introduced 
on the obverse.* A good impression of her circular privy seal, 
about l^ inches in diameter, bearing the legend Secrehmi Alianore 
regine Anglie, may be seen in the Record Office.^ In Margaret's 
case, the wardrobe accounts record the cost of a great seal of 
two pieces in silver and a privy seal in gold, made for her in 1299 
by Wilham de Kele, goldsmith of London, at a total cost of 
£6 : 13 : 4,^ and as we know that in 1306 a new privy seal in 
gold by the same maker cost £3 : 5s.,' he presumably charged 
£3:8:4 for the great seal. One might have expected a more 
marked difference in price considering the labour involved in 
making the matrix for the larger seal of two pieces.^ In shape, 
legend and design Margaret's great seal recalled that of Eleanor, 
but the arms of England and Brabant were introduced on the 

1 Harl. Charter, 43 c. 42. Cf. also P.R.O., L.S. 190. The wax used in these 
cases is uncoloured. I have not noticed any record of the cost of either of these 
seals. A great seal of two pieces made for the queen of Scotland in 1252 cost 
£2:9:6 (E.A. 349/21.) 

2 For example, A.C. x. 50. » jfj y{i n^ 

* See Add. Charter 8129 and P.R.O., Anc. Deeds, L.S. 196. 

* L.S. 185, illustrated below, pi. III. For a letter under her privy seal in 
French, see A.C. xxx. 50, and for a Latin example, ib. x. 51, or ttie letter 
quoted in Assize Roll, 1014, m. 1. « E.A. 355/17, 375/5. 

' Ib. 369/11, f. 58d. s See above, p. 132. 


obverse and on the reverse fleurs-de-lys surrounded the arms of 
England.^ Her privy seal was about an inch in diameter, bearing 
the letters of her name in the spaces of the rose-shaped device 
which encircled a shield with the arms of England and France. 
A good impression may be seen attached en simple queue to letters 
patent of 1301.2 

With Isabella the question of seals became more complicated. 
Her great seal was a pointed oval of similar design to those of 
her predecessors, but of one piece only, and she used with it a 
round counter-seal If inches in diameter.^ Her privy seal was 
a little larger than that of Margaret, about 1| inches in diameter, 
and it has already been pointed out that as early as 1317 methods 
were in use by her clerks for folding writs and applying the 
privy seal which were not adopted by the king's clerks till the 
forties.* Besides these, she had an exchequer seal and a signet. 
The former was a round seal of one piece, 1| inches in diameter, 
bearing as legend Sigillum scaccarii Isabelle regine Anglie. An 
impression may be seen appended en simple queue to a receipt 
for money received from the king's exchequer in 1331.^ Of the 
latter I have found no good impression, but a letter donne souz 
nostre seignet may be seen among Ancient Correspondence,^ while 
among the objects inventoried after her death were unus anulus 
cum uno signetto auri and signettum domine regine.'' In the same 
list appeared a seal in a sealed box pertaining to the office of 
receiver of Ponthieu, and another, in a similar box, described 
merely as pertaining to the county of Ponthieu. She had also 
a signum.^ In the history of seals, therefore, as in every other 
respect, Isabella's arrangements seem to present more points of 
interest than those of any of the other queens. 

Queen Phihppa had a great seal,^ but I have not found any 

1 See Birch, Catalogue of Seals, p. 798. 

2 Add. Charter 18,199, illustrated below, pi. VIII. Cf. Birch, op. cit. p. 799. 

3 Birch, op. cit. p. 800. 

* For the seal, see D.S. 19, illustrated below, pi. III. Other examples may- 
be seen in W.8. 299, 516, and fragments in C.A. lOjl, nos. 3, 5, 6. Good speci- 
mens of letters showing eight slits and in many cases traces of wax at the 
right of the dorse may be seen in A.C. xxxvi. 10, 11, 38, 72-74, and should be 
compared with Exch. of Rec, Warr. for Issues 1/7, commented upon above, p. 
120, n. 6. 5 w^s. 300. « xxxvi. 75. 

' E.A. 393/4. 8 See above, p. 194, n. 2. 

» Cf. C.P.R., 1350-54, p. 435, and ib., 1354-5S, p. 594. 


example of it. Her privy seal, If inches in diameter, bore as 
design the arms of England quartering Hainault within a richly 
cusped circle, and its legend began with the word secretum.^ 
Anne of Bohemia's privy seal had increased in size to a diameter 
of 2| inches.^ Traces of her signet may be seen on the dorse of 
a writ to her treasurer preserved among Ancient Correspondence.^ 

Part I 

The Central Administrative System of Edward, 
The Black Prince 

Both custom and experiment defined the territorial position 
of Edward of Woodstock, eldest son of Edward IIL,^ and unlike 
his brothers he owed little to those marriages of policy which 
characterised his father's family settlement. Revenues from 
the earldom of Chester maintained his infant expenditure from 
the age of three months,*^ although he did not receive the title 

^ A good impression, illustrated below, pi. VIII., is attached en simple queue 
to Harl. Charter 43 £ 11 (not 110 as in printed catalogue). See also W.S. 122. 

2 An example attached en simple queue to Add. Charter 20,396 is illustrated 
below, pi. VIII. 3 A.C. li. 21. 

* Thiss ection (parts i. and ii.) is based upon a part of a Ph.D. thesis in 
the possession of the University of Manchester. 

^ The custom of differentiating between the various Edwards by adding 
the place of their birth is obviously convenient. Contemporary references to 
Edward of Woodstock are rare : see, however, C. Pap. Reg. Pet. i. pp. 29 and 
376. Other royal sons are more often thus distinguished by contemporaries, 
e.g. Thomas of Woodstock {Gasc. 79 m. 10). The practice was more usual m the 
case of younger sons, who had for years frequently no title of nobility, whereas 
the eldest was usually vested with dignities in childhood. Edward " of Carnar- 
von " was an exception. The name is famiUar in both mediaeval and modern 
usage. Edward of Windsor and Edward of Woodstock are less quickly recog- 
nised, though convenience demands such description. The fourteenth-century 
historian, with pardonable anticipation, which we cannot reasonably follow, 
sometimes got over the difficulty by calling the latter Edward IV. {e.g. Anon. 
Chron. p. 22, see also Mr. J. G. Edwards's review of this work, E.H.R. xUii. 
p. 108). The most usual modern description of him as " the Black Prince " was 
not contemporary (D.N.B.). 

* Edward was born at Woodstock on June 15, 1330 ; he received a grant 
of 500 marks from the farm of Cheshire to meet the expenses of his household 
in Sept. 1330 {C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 2 ; Foedera, II. ii. 798). Other similar grants 
were sometimes delivered to Queen Philippa, as in Feb. 1331, when she was 



of earl till he was three years old.^ The ancient palatinate had 
now for a hundred years remained in royal control, and was 
already closely associated with the person of the king's eldest 
son.2 Edward of Woodstock here succeeded to a position held 
in turn by those earlier Edwards, his father, grandfather and 
great-grandfather. Not till adolescence did he receive the 
revenues, responsibilities and title of prince of Wales, ^ which 
his father himself had never held.* But meanwhile a new title, 
associated with lands whose wealth to-day still saves the tax- 
payer's purse, was created in his favour, when in the parliament 
of March 1337 the earl of Chester was made also duke of Corn- 
wall.^ With the lands of the old Cornish earldom in Cornwall 
were associated those " foreign manors ",® such as the honours of 
Wallingford, St. Valery and Berkhamsted, which earls Richard 
and Edmund had held in conjunction with their earldom, and such 
as the manor of Byfleet, which John of Eltham had held.' These 

granted all the income of Cheshire for the support of Edward and Eleanor, the 
king's sister (C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 78), while even earlier she seems to have had 
some connection with Cheshire lands {Chanc. Misc. 9/58 m. 3d) which had not, 
however, been assigned her in dower. Sometimes Cheshire revenues were paid 
directly to the keeper of the lord Edward's wardrobe, as in Dec. 1332 (G.C.R., 
1330-33, p. 517). The queen continued to control Cheshire issues in the interests 
of her children, to order the household " at her will ", and to remove ministers 
of earldom and of household at pleasure as late as 1334 (C.P.R., 1330-34, 
p. 523). 1 March 18, 1333 (C. Ch. R. iv. p. 300). 

2 Edward of Woodstock was sometimes called earl of Chester even before 
he received the title, e.g. in 1331 (C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 18); in an account of 
the treasurer of Queen Philippa's household, between Jan. and Oct. 1331 
(Enr. Ace. (W. and H.) 2 m. 10), and in May 1332 {I.R. 258). 

3 May 12, 1343 {Report on the Dignity of a Peer, v. p. 43). 

* Edward I. and Edward II. had both been associated with Wales before 
their accession, but Edward II. never granted the principality to his son. Thus 
it is only with the Black Prince that the heirs to the English throne begin their 
unbroken line of succession to the principality of Wales. 

* See above, iii. pp. 37 and 62. 

* Miss M. Coate, in an article on " The Duchy of Cornwall, its History and 
Administration, 1640-60 " [Trans. R.H.8. 4th series, vol. x. pp. 135-170), shows 
how the seventeenth-century duchy included (1) the antiqua maneria of 1337, 
i.e. manors in Cornwall which had belonged to the earldom of Cornwall ; 
(2) the forinseca maneria, outside Cornwall, but " annexed to the duchy by the 
charter of creation " ; (3) the annexata maneria, subsequently incorporated 
with the duchy. This article is not, of course, concerned with the fourteenth 
century, except incidentally, though in the absence of any other treatment 
Miss Coate has been obliged to devote some attention to the charter of creation, 
" the caption of seisin " of 1338, etc., and the light which such documents 
throw on the status of the duke's tenants in Cornwall. 

■> C.P.R., 1334-38, p. 381. 


became in time, but not immediately, that unbreakable entity 
the duchy of Cornwall, which, like its later sister, the duchy of 
Lancaster, to this day survives as an administrative unit.^ 

The lord Edward's dignities did not cease with this innovation. 
In 1362, when need arose to make provision for the government 
of those districts of south-western France newly added to English 
rule by the treaty of Calais, a still greater title was created in his 
favour, and the first and last prince of Aquitaine took his place 
in the ranks of English nobility.^ Nor was the title meaningless : ^ 
not only did it bring in its train endless opportunities for active 
government, for diplomatic and military skill, it brought also 

'■ All the forinseca maneria were certainly not associated with the lands 
in Cornwall for administrative purposes in the fourteenth century. Many of 
those in Devon, e.g. the manors of Lydford and Bradninch, or the fee-farm of the 
city of Exeter, were included in the accounts of Cornish ministers, or in the 
register of letters concerning Cornwall, whereas Kennington, Byfleet, Berk- 
hamsted and the rest were not. These are normally included in the prince's 
lands " in England " as opposed to those in Cheshire, Wales and Cornwall. 
See, for example, the register of letters concerning lands in England (see below, 
p. 310) or the valor of the prince's lands made after his death (below, p. 363). 
Geographical proximity naturally demanded that the prince's lands in Devon 
should be associated for administrative purposes with those in Cornwall. But 
these were not normally described as belonging to " the duchy of Cornwall ". 
The manor of Kirton, Lincolnshire, is once referred to as " parcel of our duchy 
of Cornwall " {M.B.E., T.R. 278 f. lOOd), so are Weldon and Rockingham, 
Northants (ib. f. 284). By the time of Henry IV. the foreign manors were 
included in the ministers' accounts, with the lands in Cornwall (P.R.O, Lists 
and Indexes, iv. p. 124). 

2 Dijd. Docs. Exch. 1106 and 7; Oasc. 75 m. 16, 17, 18; Foedera III. ii. 
pp. 667-670. The " principality " did not come into existence till July 19, 
1362. Documents concerned with the temporary administration (1360-62) of the 
old duchy of Aquitaine and the newly ceded districts (while John Chandos was 
" lieutenant-general in the parts of France " or " in the lordship of Aquitaine ") 
normally refer to " the duchy " or " lordship ", For example, the seneschal 
was appointed to the office of the seneschalcy of the duchy in July 1361 (Gasc. 
74 m. 8), to that of the lordship on June 8, 1362 {Gasc. 75 m. 25). Only once 
have I found the word " principalitj' " used before July 1362, when letters of John 
Chandos describe him as " lieutenant of the king of England in the whole 
principahty of Aquitaine " on March 8, 1362 (E.A. 176/20, no. 19). It is 
remarkable how throughout 1362 the phrase " lordship of Aquitaine " replaces 
" duchy " in ordinary usage. Some idea of creating an independent unit of 
government, perhaps even a kingdom, and of sending the Black Prince to rule 
it, would seem to have been early afloat, though the actual form was not apparent 
till July 1362. (Cf. Delachenal, iv. p. 3.) 

^ Unlike the strange title " prince of England " which later generations have 
sometimes assigned to the Black Prince, and which is not without contemporary 
confirmation in both record (A. P. 333, no. 47) and chronicle (e.g. Anon. C'hron. 
p. 49, see also E.H.R. xliii. p. 108). For later use of the phrase, see a pamphlet 
by J. P. Earwaker, On Certain Swords Inscribed Edwardus Prins Anglie, printed 
in Archaeological Journal, xxx. p. 1. 


to Gascony the presence of a pretentious court, splendid with the 
trappings of the most ostentatious age of mediaeval chivalry ; 
"li estat dou prince et de madame la princes se estoient adonc si grant 
et si estoffet que nulz aultres de prince ne de signeur, en crestiennetet, 
ne sacomparoit au leur.'^ ^ In this hothouse of display was reared 
the prince's second son, and who knows what memories of child- 
hood stirred in his mind when this son in turn created another 
English principality in his loyal Cheshire earldom.^ Though 
little permanent significance can be attributed to these forgotten 
principalities, the one forced into splendid if brief flowering, the 
other scarce attaining maturity, their existence for the time 
being pleased the localities thus singled out for recognition, 
besides enhancing the dignity of the royal holder. As a sphere 
of ambition the principality of Aquitaine was unparalleled ; 
financially it was a continuous drain. When the Black Prince 
was forced by failure and ill-health to resign the principality in 
1372,^ the title was soon dropped, and the phrase " the duchy " 
crept again into use.^ The waning of English influence in Gascony 
made the principality a mockery. 

The Black Prince's pretensions and resources were rivalled 
by those of his brother John of Gaunt, for a time " king of 
Castile and Leon " in name at least, who also held through 
marriage the earldoms, franchises and lands of the house of 
Lancaster, Of empty titles Edward also had his share; from 
1366 he was " lord of Biscay and Castro Urdiales," ^ which con- 

^ Froissart, Chroniques, ed. Luce, vii. p. 66, 

2 Viz. Sept. 1397 (Statutes, ii. p. 100, Rot. Pari. iii. p, 353-354). The material 
resources of tlie county palatine were then increased by the inclusion of the 
forfeit Arundel inheritance ; compare the association of the " foreign fees " 
with the duchy of Cornwall, and of Poitou, Agenais, Perigord, etc. with the 
principality of Aquitaine. For the principality of Chester, see above, iv. p. 28. 

^ Nov. 3, 1372 (Rot. Pari. ii. p. 309). Accounts were submitted to the 
king, however, from Oct. 5, 1372 (E.A. 179/8), when the principality virtually 
ended (see also Oasc. 86 m. 2), On his resignation the prince showed that he 
had always regarded the financial resources of Aquitaine as inadequate to 
maintain his state and government and to carry on the wars against the king's 
enemies, and this reason alone is suggested as a cause of his resignation. 

* The words "principality of Aquitaine" do not, I think, appear on the Gascon 
rolls after the autumn of 1372 (Oasc. 85) ; in the next year the phrases "duchy " 
and " lordship " are again in use (ib. 86). The handing over of " the duchy " to 
John of Gaunt in 1390 was not in name an attempt to revive the principality ; 
he was only made duke, and his powers were more limited than those of Edward 
in 1362. 

5 Foedera, III. ii. p. 802 (Sept. 23, 1366). 


cession from King Pedro had never any practical advantage.^ 
The Black Prince's late marriage with Joan " the fair maid of 
Kent," a lady of undoubted beauty, if doubtful reputation, was 
dictated by affection alone, though her inheritance was by no 
means to be despised. At the time of his death the Black 
Prince's lands brought him in some eight thousand six hundred 
pounds yearly,^ no extraordinary sum even when increased by 
sundry other revenues,^ But the royal families of mediaeval 
England were no strangers to poverty ; outward display could 
be maintained while servants remained unpaid, and the hero 
of English arms can have lost little prestige through the leanness 
of his purse. 

In his own generation the renown of the Black Prince was 
indeed unsurpassed. " Quo obeunte omnis obiit spes Anglorum ; 
quoniam eo vivente nullius hostis incursum, eo presente nullius belli 
congressus, timuerunt." ^ Born to a heritage of responsibility 
shared by many of his successors, he was unique in the length of 
his tenure of the position of heir apparent, unique in his political 
and diplomatic responsibilities, unique in the circumstances of 
his death. Alone among the third Edward's sons, he was just 
old enough to play his part in that victory of Crecy which kindled 
the imagination of his fellow countrymen, and his youthful figure 
became the focus of English patriotism, still strong with the 
energy of the new born. Such emotions were intensified by his 
later victories, and not even his ultimate failure in Aquitaine 
dimmed this national respect. Nor was he quite untouched by 
the more obscure potentialities of his age : for a time he was 
himself the hope of the commons ^ against the imbecilities of the 
court and the vested interests of aristocratic privilege, while his 
servants became the backbone of a new court party. Yet the 
witness of contemporary eulogy or condemnation, whether of 
friend or foe, obscures the man by the halo of the hero ; and small 
evidence remains from which to assess his personal qualities. 
The direct ruler for many years of no small part of Britain and of 

^ Amongst other such valueless concessions was " the right of fighting in the 
van of the battle against the infidels " (P.E.O. Lists and Indexes, xlix. p. 24). 

2 See below, p. 363. » See below, pp. 363-364. 

* Chronicon Anglie, p. 91 (R.S.). 

5 E.g. " Mortuo, ut diximus, domino Edwardo principe, cum adhuc parlia- 
mentum duraret, crevit desperatio militibus de comitatibus " {ib. p. 92). 


France must perforce remain an enigmatic figure. Yet the 
organisation which made his activities possible derives an added 
interest from the achievements of his hfe, whether it owed much 
or little to his personal impetus. 

The government of the Black Prince's scattered lands ^ was 
originally directed through the domestic organisation of their 
lord, as in the case of kings and royal sons before and after him, 
and of all magnates in western Europe according to their degree. 
From the dependent household of infancy, an institution in 
embryo, there rapidly developed a household organisation capable 
of superintending the government of Cheshire earldom and 
Cornish duchy and of controlling the domestic management of 
a keeper of England. This was no grandiose nursery such as 
centred round the persons of his younger brothers and sisters, 
but an active agent of government, capable of rapid adaptation 
to the demands of increasing revenues and increasing business. 
Thus, when the principality of Wales was added to its sphere, 
specialisation and localisation became the order of the day, while 
these familiar tendencies were still further hastened by the neces- 
sities of foreign affairs, with their train of wars and royal absences. 
The Black Prince's household then was no static body, but an 
institution rapidly shaping itself to meet changing external con- 
ditions, which fostered and recognised new growths within itself ; 
these, although closely associated with the parent, acquired in 
time a position of independence. Expansion in one direction led 
inevitably to contraction in another, and hence a continuous 
process of definition was at work. From the simple undifieren- 
tiated household centring in the baby lord Edward there grew a 
flexible and efficient centralised system of government, which 
gathered together in Westminster or London the diverse threads 
of varying local liberties and customs, which maintained some 
continuity of policy and unity of control, which supplied over- 
seas forces and overseas courts with means of sustenance, and for 
eight consecutive years maintained the government of his insular 
lands in the absence of the prince of Aquitaine. 

The description of " household " for this centralised govern- 

1 Compare Froissart's comment on the English baronage : " les terres et 
revenues des barons d'Engleterre sont par places et moult esparses " (Froisaart, 
Chroniques, ed. Luce, i. p. 257). 


ment, operating indifEerently in the prince's presence or absence, 
is an anachronism ; it was a household only by tradition and 
in its historical antecedents. During the span of a single life 
were enacted, on a smaller scale and within narrower limits, 
those various tendencies of evolution which in the English state 
produced the national government-office from the starting-point 
of the king's bedroom, and gave the country its governmental 
capital. This administrative system of the Black Prince, 
modelled on the royal plan, was moreover characteristic of his 
age ; the government of great fief and kingdom were similar in 
constitution. The aristocrats of the period likewise rejoiced in 
regalian privileges within their lands and possessed household 
organisations very similar in general aspect, if not in all points of 
detail ; in all, the same tendencies towards centralisation were at 
work.i The national government might be excluded from many 
an immunity ; king's wives or sons, magnates of church and 
state, might hold semi-regal franchises to the detriment of royal 
authority ; but within each little state within the state, each 
cross-section of scattered territories and single government, the 
tentacles of uniformity were tightening their hold. The admin- 
istrative system of the Black Prince is no isolated or insig- 
nificant institution, but a characteristic feature of the age, when 
a king gave away with one hand what he seized with the other, 
when monarchical and baronial centralisation marched step by 

Some degree of uniformity in all subordinate royal administra- 
tions was, however, maintained by the king's government in the 
personnel of the clerks who manned them. These were fre- 
quently trained in royal household, in chancery or exchequer ; 
these remained " king's clerks," and might be loaned from one 
administration to another.^ Such personal bonds were rarely 
shared with the other great feudatories ; ^ and the subordinate 
royal administrations profited when their problems could be met 
by traditions and procedure learnt in the king's service, and the 
king gained also from the pervasive influence of his servants. A 
Gilbertian height of absurdity was reached when Peter Lacy, the 
Black Prince's receiver-general and keeper of the great wardrobe, 

^ See above, iii. p. 198. ^ See above, iii. pp. 253-254. 

' But see above, iii. p. 254. 


gave up neither appointment on his promotion to be keeper of 
the king's privy seal in 1367.^ Similar combinations of office 
within the prince's system were common enough, and as medi- 
aeval man rarely drew hard-and-fast distinctions between his 
duties in one capacity and his duties in another, the student may 
be confronted by puzzling problems. 

This central administrative system of the Black Prince 
unified the diverse independent franchises of which his lands 
were very largely composed. For his appanage was remarkable 
for the exclusiveness of its forms of government : in Chester, 
Wales and Gascony, and to a lesser degree in Cornwall, independ- 
ent and self-sufficing states had grown up through a combination 
of similar circumstances, in which geographical position and 
military necessity, seignorial privilege and royal convenience, 
conscious policy and the accidents of historical evolution, all 
played their part. Local customs and details of government 
and nomenclature might vary, but these independent adminis- 
trative units were substantially alike in their nominal freedom 
from the control of the king and the national government depart- 
ments. A comparative survey of their machinery in detail, in the 
existing state of our knowledge, would be difficult ; it could not 
fail to be interesting. 

Oldest in independence was the palatine earldom of Chester, 
whose earl was in Norman times girt with the trappings of a 
limited royalty. Here the privileges of the sword of Chester 
eclipsed those of the crown of England ; here the functions of 
central courts of justice, itinerant commissioners and normal 
county courts were combined in a single judicial body ; here a 
local exchequer in one aspect controlled the collection of revenue 
and supervision of accountants, in another directed the activities 
of the local seal ; here legal memory was still limited by the 
doings of an ancient earl. Cheshire was not represented in thci 
English parliament, nor did her men recognise the demands of  
parliamentary taxation. The justice and chamberlain of Cheshire, 
the one in judicial and military, the other in financial and sec- 

^ See above, iii. p. 253, and below, p. 328. Miss Putnam notices an even 
greater anomaly in connection with the justices of labourers. " A justice 
would issue writs to himself as sheriff to summon jurors and attach delinquents, 
and would then as sheriff report to himself as justice that the writs had been 
executed " (Statutes of Labourers, p. 53). 


retarial business, here carried on the earl's government under 
the ultimate direction of his household officials or his own 
person. But royal control had for a century been tending to 
break down the barriers of local privilege, and to this process 
the household system of the Black Prince made a large con- 
tribution. For example, the earl's demesnes, the custody of 
escheats and the other incidents of land tenure were in his later 
years administered from his Westminster offices, and the inde- 
pendence of the local escheator was thus checked.^ Indeed by 
the fourteenth century even the spirit of palatine independence 
would seem to have been dying ; the forms were unlikely to 
stand for long supported only by a diminishing self -consciousness. 
The independent system of government of the principality 
of Wales had less well-established roots. But Carnarvon and 
Carmarthen were each, like Chester, the seat of a local exchequer 
and chancery, and the centre of judicial administration for North 
and South Wales respectively. There, as at Chester, the justices 
and chamberlains were the prince's permanent local representa- 
tives, and presided over the lesser officials of the shires. The 
machinery which Edward I. probably consciously borrowed on 
the one hand from the Cheshire palatinate, on the other from the 
English shire system (though it was considerably modified in 
application to South Wales) continued to function throughout the 
fourteenth century. On the surface all was well. But Welsh 
political and administrative history in this period has not been 
studied in great detail, ^ and quiescence would not seem to have 
been its keynote. Marcher objections to principality-claims, with 
attempts at a definition of crown rights,^ perhaps some official 

^ I deal with this and other points of Cheshire administration in my un- 
published thesis on aspects of Cheshire history in the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries, in the possession of the University of Manchester. 

^ " . . . the history of Wales does not end with the loss of its independ- 
ence," W. Rees, South Wales and the March, 1284-1415, p. viii. This " social 
and agrarian study " is one of the few recent detailed works on mediaeval 
Wales after the Edwardian conquest. Other contributions have been made 
by Mr. D. L. Evans, who treats of Welsh administration as well as other aspects 
of Welsh history in " Some Notes on the History of the Principality of Wales 
in the time of the Black Prince " {Cymmrodorion Society's Publications, 1927), 
and of the prince's council and Flintshire in his introduction to Flintshire 
Ministers' Accounts, 1328-53, 1929 (Flintshire Historical Society, Record 
Series, No. 2). 

^ Statutes, I. p. 345. See also Cymmrodorion Society's Publications, loc. cit. 
pp. 84-99. 


deference to Welsh national prejudice,^ and certainly some fear of 
conspiracy with Scottish or French foes, above all the mutterings 
of national discontent,^ these are facts which demand investiga- 
tion. Towards a solution of such problems, the details of the 
Black Prince's long rule will certainly make a contribution, as they 
may also help to explain the success of Owen Glyndwr's national 
appeal at the end of the century. But whatever the under- 
currents of feeling, the government of Wales undoubtedly gained 
in efficiency from the continued operation of centralised control. 
No great local changes of administrative method would seem to 
have disturbed the working of the local machinery of government, 
though absentee justices of great social and political position 
perhaps caused a readjustment of judicial business and official 
responsibility in Wales as in Cheshire. 

The government of the duke of Cornwall's lands in Devon and 
Cornwall approximated more closely to the normal government 
of an English shire, though they cut across the county boundaries 
of Devon and Cornwall. But the ancient earldom of Cornwall 
had enjoyed semi - regalian privileges which were inherited by 
the duchy, and its system of government, of which the details 
have not yet been worked out, was evidently outside, if akin 
to, the regular shire system.^ Wales and Cheshire yielded their 
harvest of spearmen and bowmen, clad in green and white, of 
revenues and supplies of all kinds to the betterment of their 
lords' resources,* but Cornwall had in addition the wealth of 

1 Ibid. p. 57, where it is suggested that the prince's council deliberately 
adopted colours of national significance for the uniform of Welsh troops. But 
see also Flintshire Ministers' Accounts, 1328-1353, p. Ivi, where Mr. Evans 
shows that green and white uniforms were also bought for archers from Cheshire. 

2 Mr. Evans, Cymm. Soc. Pub. loc. cit. pp. 40-45, indicates some national 
feeling early in the reign. Later the career of Owen of Wales witnesses to its 

^ Ducal officials were responsible for the administration and the king's 
ministers were excluded from the duke's lands. Fines, etc., which would 
normally have come to the royal exchequer, were paid to the duke. The ex- 
chequer of Exeter, in existence in 1366 {C.P.R., 1377-81, p. 154), is rarely 
mentioned and can hardly have taken the prominent part in administration 
which was played, for instance, by the exchequers of Chester or Carnarvon. 

* Mr. Evans, loc. cit., analyses in detail the contribution of Wales to the 
English forces abroad. He shows that as many as 5000 Welshmen were 
possibly present at the battle of Crecy (p. 51), whereas only a few picked 
household troops in constant attendance on the prince's person are likely to 
have taken part in the battle of Poitiers (ib. p. 64). These perhaps only 
numbered some 150 men. 


the stannaries, the miners and workers in lead, the seamen and 
shipping, and above all a convenient proximity to the port of 
Plymouth, which were essential to the convenience of its Gascon 
overlord. Independent privilege in a narrower field was also 
shown by the foreign manors of the duchy, and such honours as 
Wallingford, St. Valery and Berkhamsted flaunted their ancient 
integrity over Thames and Chilterns, Modern official dignity 
may presume the unity of the early duchy and antedate the title 
of " duchy of Cornwall office," but such appellations for the 
fourteenth century are unhistorical, whatever may have been 
true when the ministers of the ill-fated Stuart Henry gathered for 
conclave, as is said, in his panelled chamber over Fleet Street. 
The duchy in its strictest sense knew in the fourteenth century no 
governmental unity save the control of the Black Prince's central 
system, and this it shared, not only with his court, but with every 
part of his far-flung domain. 

In their dependence on centralised control the " English lands" 
— then for the most part not in England i— differed from those of 
Gascony. The connection between them and the prince's offices 
in Westminster and London was more intimate : on the one hand 
local accountants flocked to Westminster and local petitions came 
to the prince's council ; on the other, central officials, auditors, 
justices and special commissioners paid annual visits to each 
separate locality. The prince himself also visited parts of his 
dominions, an occasion for rigorous tightening of machinery and 
vigorous expression of local tradition, an occasion of ostentatious 
display, of wise hospitality, an occasion long to be remembered.^ 

^ The principality of Wales, the marches of Wales, and Cheshire were no 
part of England in the eyes of the mediaeval administrator, as many records 
testify, for example a commission to be keeper of the fees " as well in the 
county of Chester, Wales and the March of Wales as in England " (G.F.E. v. 
p. 276, 1341). The position of Cornwall is less certain ; for example, the prince's 
steward of lands was appointed to act " as well in Wales and Chester as in 
Cornwall and elsewhere in England " {M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 39d), dower was 
granted to Joan, princess of Wales, from the prince's lands, "as well in England, 
Cornwall and Devon, as in Wales, Cheshire and Flint " {Chester Plea Roll, 
80 m. 3 ; cf. C.C.R., 1374-77, p. 405, and C.P.R., 1374-77, p. 374). Even to-day 
the title of the king's eldest son is " prince of Wales and earl of Chester " in the 
peerage of the united kingdom, duke of Cornwall in the peerage of England 
(Burke's Peerage, p. 16). 

2 For the ramijfications of the prince's Cheshire visit (1353), see for example 
M.B.E., T.R. 279 ; also Chester Plea Roll, 65 m. 1 and 2. The prince never 
visited Wales (Evans, Cymm. Sac. Pub. he. cit. p. 100). 


Geographical position gave Cornwall the doubtful advantage of 
several such visits, for Plymouth was the most convenient port for 
departure or arrival to and from Gascony. Thus some degree of 
personal contact was maintained between the prince, his ministers, 
and local needs and interests. 

In its main outlines the governmental system of Gascony was 
not unlike the independent systems of Wales or Chester, though 
the privileges of innumerable towns and of innumerable feudatories 
circumscribed its activities on every hand. The occasional 
lieutenants who came in times of crisis to represent the English 
duke in Aquitaine, have no analogy in principality or palatinate, 
and the council of Gascony was more highly organised, specialised 
and localised than the fluctuating committees of visiting coun- 
cillors in Wales and Chester. But the seneschal, the supreme 
military, judicial and administrative head, and the subordinate 
constable ^ or financial minister, correspond respectively to 
justices and chamberlains of Wales and Chester. But Gascon 
government was more frequently threatened by internal disrup- 
tion or swept by the eddying currents of foreign politics, and 
administration was inevitably dominated by political considera- 
tions. Moreover the English king had so obvious an interest in 
Gascon contentment that even when he had abandoned all but 
the highest attributes of sovereignty he was unable to withdraw 
his watchful eye and restraining hand. The Black Prince was 
confronted in Gascony with a situation of intrinsic di£&culty, 
intensified by the experimental nature of his tenure of the princi- 
pality, and jeopardised to an uncertain extent by the non-fulfil- 
ment of the clauses of the treaty of Calais. 

A study of the Black Prince's government of Gascony raises 
some curious problems which almost fall outside the scope of a 
discussion of his central government. His two years' tutelage in 
Gascon politics when acting as his father's lieutenant between 

1 In time of war the seneschal was normally allowed at the king's cost a 
retinue of thirty men-at-arms, of whom ten were to be knights, and thirty 
mounted archers {E.A. 171/4, file 1, part 1, no. 2, 1359); whereas the con- 
stable had only twelve men-at-arms, and twelve mounted archers (ib. 169/2, 
part 1, no. 72). Sometimes the constable's retinue was larger, as appears in 
the tardy payment to a former constable of the wages of twenty-four men-at- 
arms, thirty foot-archers and thirty pedites servientes (I.R. 418, Aug. 26, 1364). 
The expense of these wages was actually incurred at least some five years 


1355 and 1357 is quite outside it. But after the creation of 
the principality in 1362, the central government at home took 
care of the prince's rights in England, and the prince trans- 
ferred himself and his household to his lordship of Aquitaine. 
Thus his household there became to some extent the centre of 
Gascon administration ; of its share in English government there 
is little evidence. As we shall see, however, there is little material 
for a study of the prince's household in Gascony, and there is also 
little enough evidence of the working of the normal Gascon 
machine. It seems reasonable to suppose that the presence of an 
active suzerain and his court would have modified the form and 
spirit of Gascon government, for many of the difficulties of its 
administration were due to the indifference of its overlord, and 
the remoteness of the English government departments which 
ultimately controlled it. Unfortunately little detailed study has 
yet been published of the normal administration of Gascony in 
the fourteenth century, and till this is understood such changes 
as were involved in the creation of the principality can hardly 
be gauged.i But whatever may have been the sphere of the 
national English departments in the administration of the duchy 
of Aquitaine in normal circumstances, and even this share is 
elusive and uncertain, there is no doubt that it was circumscribed 
still further when the Black Prince was vested with the principality 
to "be true prince." Centralisation in Gascony, a vigorous 
council, a resident ruler with personal adherents clamouring, 
with success, for office and reward,^ yet surrounded by local 
magnates currying favour or standing on their rights, these things 
were new factors in Gascon government. Yet there was no con- 
scious breach of continuity, and the only administrative experi- 
ment during the prince's rule would seem to have been the creation 

1 The subject is briefly touched on in PL Edw. II. pp. 214-224, and the 
officials for the reign of Edward II. listed in Appendix i. Dr. Lodge's Gascony 
under English Rule deals briefly in chapter vii. with " Government and Ad- 
ministration," and I understand she has in progress a more detailed work on 
Gascon government. A study of Gascon administration has also been made by 
Miss E. Pole-Stuart in a Ph.D. thesis on " Some Aspects of the Political and 
Administrative History of Gascony, 1303-27," summarised in Bull. I.H.R. v. 
no. 15, Feb. 1928. See also D. Brissaud, Les Anglais en Ouyenne (1875), and 
the masterly chapter on the principality of Aquitaine in Delachenal, Histoire de 
Charles V, vol. iv., which, however, merely touches on administrative machinery. 

* Froissart, Chroniques, ed. Luce, vi. p. 78. 


of a higher court of judicial appeal located in Gascony instead of 
England, namely, the court of superiority, the emergence of a new 
head of the old court of Gascony in the judge of Aquitaine,i and 
possibly the introduction of a new source of authority in the 
prince's great seal.^ Otherwise the local machinery of govern- 
ment remained substantially unchanged ; the hierarchy of officials, 
seneschal, constable, controller and the rest, continued to operate 
as before, but over a wider geographical area ; ^ the court and 
council and treasury of Gascony still functioned at the " capital " 
of Bordeaux. Nor did the newly ceded districts feel any sub- 
stantial change in their government, for both English and French 
overlord used existing institutions ; administrative methods in 
both countries were very similar.^ But Gascon revenues were 
inadequate to meet the expenses of princely display and politic 
generosity, and heavy taxation was a rock which wrecked the 
new-launched state. 

The unsolved problems of Gascon administration may be 
illustrated by the question of sealing in both duchy and princi- 
pality. An elusive chancellor appears in 1323, in charge of the 
duchy seal, and it is generally assumed that he continued to 
function. 5 A superficial survey of Gascon government in the 
middle of the century, however, reveals no trace of his activities 
as a secretarial official. The conspicuous seals at that time are 
" the seal of the court of Gascony," perhaps in the custody of 
the seneschal, and the various " seals and counterseals for con- 
tracts " in the custody of special keepers in several localities. 
All were presumably of the class of " authentic seals," or " seals 
of jurisdiction " which were widely used in France.^ Their place 
in Gascon administration is not immediately evident.' The 

1 Lodge, ojp. cit. p. 142. But a judge of the court of Gascony certainly 
appears before the principality of Aquitaine. 

2 See below, pp. 302-306. 

=* Thus the seneschal of Gascony became seneschal of Aquitaine. 

* Delachenal, iv. p. 20. 

5 For example. Lodge, op. cit. pp. 141-142. Wilkinson, Chancery, p. 12. 

« Giry, pp. 649-650. The seneschals of the various subordinate districts 
into which Gascony was divided for administrative purposes, Landes, Saintonge, 
etc., had also their respective seals for use for all purposes withm their own 
areas. But the seal of the court of Gascony certainly, the seal for contracts in 
Bordeaux perhaps, had a less restricted scope. 

' These seals have not as yet been discussed in works on Gascon govern- 
ment. Their use and survival is yet another illustration of how the English 


seal of the court of Gascony appears early in the reign of Edward 
III.i and was apparently the most important duchy seal ; it 
was normally used by the seneschal or his lieutenant, pre- 
sumably in execution of the judicial activities of that court,^ 
but it was also used in letters from the steward to constable ^ 
or auditors * on financial matters, for the inspection of earlier 
royal letters under the great seal,^ and in actual grants,^ It was 
perhaps occasionally known as the " royal seal of Gascony." ' 
The writing department of the court of Gascony had become 
elaborate and remunerative by the time of the Black Prince.^ 
The seals and counter-seals for contracts,^ besides giving private 

dukes of Aquitaine respected and continued local customs. But the sphere of 
these seals in Gascon government and also their relation to English royal 
seals are subjects which need investigation. 

1 The earliest I have found at the Public Record Office appear in a bundle 
of writs concerned with the accounts of the constable of Bordeaux, 1-3 Edward 
III. (E.A. 165/10). The seal was always a single-faced seal of red wax, and bore 
the leopards of England in slightly different designs at different times. 

2 If, as is possible, the seal of the court of Gascony was kept by the chan- 
cellor (Lodge, op. cit. pp. 140, 148), his position was certainly inferior to that of 
the seneschal, and he can have had very little general administrative im- 

^ E.g. an order to pay the king's procurator for services in receiving fealty 
on the king's behalf. May 1362 {E.A. 176/20, no. 16). 

* Order to the auditors of the constable's accounts to make allowance for 
certain funeral expenses, Sept. 1361 {E.A. 171/4, file 4, no. 1). 

* E.g. E.A. 169/2, part 3, no. 68 ; ib. 171/4, file 1, part 4, no. 38. 

* Arch. hist. Gir. xxxiv. p. 179. 

' E.A. 169/1, no. 4. This is a seal used by the seneschal of the duchy 
(1351); unfortunately not enough survives of the seal to identify it certainly 
with the seal of the court of Gascony. 

* The " escrivenie " of the court of Gascony was granted to John de 
Cantiran in 1370 in recompense for his great losses in the wars {Gasc. 91, m. 9). 
There were already " assessors of the profits and emoluments of the little seal," 
which may or may not have been connected with this court {ib. m. 6). For 
little seals connected with minor royal jurisdictions in France see Giry, p. 650. 
A tariff of charges for the sealing of writs was in operation by 1373 (Lodge, op. 
cit. p. 142). As early as 1354 the controller of the castle of Bordeaux had 
received a fee " racioue officii mei scribanie vascon' constitut' " (E.A. 171/4, 
file 2, no. 8) ; still earlier (1340) there was " officium memorandi castri nostri 
Burdeg' ac custodiam papirorum registrorum et protocoUorum notariorum 
decendentium " {ib. no. 21). 

* Actual seals for contracts for Bordeaux survive from the middle of Edward 
III.'s reign {e.g. E.A. 169/2, part 3, nos. 40 and 45). They are always of 
greenish black wax, and contain the arms of England, with the addition of a 
star, crescent, crown, etc. The counter-seal was smaller than the seal, and 
usually showed three fishes and a waved background, and included the word 
" Gironde." A small black seal appears towards the end of the reign of Edward 
I., the seal of the "clerk keeper of the constabulary of Bordeaux" {E.A. 


deeds a legal form/ at times seem merely to have reinforced 
and re-emphasised for local consumption the decrees of the 
great seal of England ; ^ frequently also they reissued the grants 
of earlier dukes, or king's lieutenants, or the prince of Aqui- 
taine. Both the seal of the court of Gascony and the seals and 
counter-seals for contracts were royal seals of indeterminate 
sphere. But what was their relation to the great seal of England ? 
Accepted opinion apparently supposes that the king's great seal 
had its ordinary English validity in Aquitaine.^ But even in 
England there were territorial limits to the complete competence 
of the great seal, for example in the palatinate of Chester, and 
it is perhaps arguable that it had similarly only a limited sphere 
of usefulness in Gascony, that in fact it operated, generally 
speaking, within fixed territorial limits, and had not normally 
the wider range of influence of more personal seals.^ 

With the creation of the principality, the intervention of the 
great seal of England was virtually excluded ; ^ the seal of the 
court of Gascony is no longer in evidence ; the seals for contracts 
certainly continued to function.^ Soon after the prince of Wales 

159/5), and is somewhat like the later seal for contracts. A seal for contracts 
in Bordeaux was certainly in existence before 1323; further, such seals were to 
be established by the attempted reforms of that year (Foedera, II, i. p. 505), 

1 Giry, 649-650. 

^ A letter under the great seal issued on Aug, 1, 1354, was inspected at 
Bordeaux and cited in full by the keeper of the seal for contracts there on Oct, 1, 
1354 {E.A. 171/4, file 1, part 4, no, 34). More frequently the seal for contracts 
was used on letters issued some years previously, as when letters of 1347 were 
inspected by the keeper of the seal for contracts in 1356 (ib. 169/2, part 3, 
no, 79), 

^ Certainly in normal circumstances letters under the great seal were accepted 
in Gascony, whereas letters under the exchequer seal might have been regarded 
as invalid (Wilkinson, Chancery, p, 11 ; A.C. xli, no, 127), 

* Compare the distinction drawn by Professor Baldwin between the great 
seal of the county palatine of Lancaster, which was territorial, and the privy 
seal of the duke, which was personal and knew no territorial limits to its authority 
(Bull. I.H.R. iv, loc. cit.). 

* Witness the diminished size and interest of the Gascon rolls. The prince 
certainly received royal letters for publication in Gascony, however, e.g. in 1366 
(Oasc. 79, m. 11, m. 12), 

^ No seal of the court of Gascony under the principality seems to sur- 
vive at the Public Record Office, but the seal for contracts does, e.g. E.A. 
176/20, no, 29 (1365), Also Doiiet d'Arcq ii. 4531 (1368), Both seals continued 
in use after the failure of the principality. In 1377 the king's seals of the court 
of Gascony, of the provost of the Ombriere, and the seal and counter-seal for 
contracts used in Bordeaux, which were made of lead, were so old that they 


became prince of Aquitaine he is found for the first time with his 
own great seal, in the custody of a dignified chancellor.^ This seal 
was operative in France alone ; what was its relation to Gascon 
government ? To some extent it doubtless replaced the king's 
great seal ; ^ to some extent also it was perhaps a new source of 
authority, though grants under it were still often reissued under 
some other local seal;^ very probably it superseded the old 
seal of the court of Gascony. The chancellor became, during 
the fifteenth century, the supreme judicial official of the duchy, ^ 
but he is unlikely to have had any such specialised sphere 
at first, though the creation of the court of superiority in 1370 
possibly shifted the balance of his work.^ In the fourteenth 
century, no less than earlier, the degree of elaboration and 
differentiation of seals and writing departments is the best test 
of state-efficiency we can apply ; in the operation of seals the 
main executive forces of the government can be watched at 
work. Thus while the basic facts of the spheres of authority 
in Gascony are obscure as expressed in the use of seals, it must 
remain impossible either to understand the normal machinery 

could no longer be used, and new silver seals were ordered to be made {E.A. 
180/1, no. 23). 

^ I am doubtful as to the importance of this of3ficial before 1362 (see above, 
p. 302). Nor do I think it certain that after 1362 his functions were as yet 
primarily judicial rather than administrative, or that he only became prominent 
and " chancellor of Aquitaine " instead of " chancellor of Gascony " after the 
creation of the court of superiority (Brissaud, op. cit. 53-54). He is certainly 
called chancellor of Aquitaine before that date {e.g. John Streatley in 1362, 
M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 261d). 

^ Yet occasionally grants under the prince's great seal were subsequently 
confirmed by the king under his great seal, e.g. a grant to John Grailly, Captal 
de Buch, in June 1369, was confirmed by the king in April 1369 (Foedera, III. 
ii. p. 874; Gasc. 83 m. 8, C.W. 418, no. 28,281). Compare a letter under the 
king's great seal of April 1372, concerning the livery of certain castles recently 
hold by Thomas of Woodstock, " notwithstanding any order from us or the 
prince of Aquitaine or the said Thomas or any one, by letters under the great 
or privy seals or by word of mouth or in any other manner " {Gasc. 85, m. 7). 

3 A grant, for instance, of Jan. 1, 1366, was inspected by the keeper of the 
seal for contracts in Sept. 1366 {E.A. 176/20, no. 31). 

* Brissaud, op. cit. p. 53. 

^ Chancellors certainly exist from 1362 onwards, but none of their actual 
appointments survive. In April 1372, however, the king appointed the abbot 
of St. Maxence to be chancellor in his lordship of Aquitaine {Gasc. 85, m. 5), 
despite the fact that the Black Prince, now returned to England, still nominally 
held the principality. The form of this appointment certainly suggests that 
the chancellor's duties were primarily judicial, notably in connection with " the 
court of superiority." 



of Gascon government as a whole, or to summarise the changes 
introduced into administration by the presence of the Black 
Prince and his personal and territorial seals. 

Each part of the lord Edward's land had its established 
government, each its traditional customs and privileges, each 
its own vested interests. These can never be forgotten in con- 
sidering the methods of his central government, which were 
conditioned by their existence, nor can a verdict be passed 
upon its efi&ciency until both central and local systems are 
fully understood in detail. 

Sources of information about the prince's household and its 
offshoots fall into two main categories ; each has limitations in 
the quality or quantity of material it offers and in the difficulties 
incidental to its use. On the one hand there are the actual 
records of the prince's government departments, both local and 
central ; on the other there are the vast stores of national archives 
which may, through some accident of survival or some exceptional 
incident of contemporary history, contain references, often in- 
cidentally, to the lord Edward's household. The former, when 
they exist, carry unquestioned authority, but are too scanty 
and intermittent to yield continuous and comprehensive evi- 
dence ; the latter, on the other hand, are too voluminous to be 
examined thoroughly, and information gleaned from them at 
random may have much or little value. The deficiencies of 
surviving historical materials, which make it difficult to acquire 
real understanding of the central institutions of the king and 
the nation, make it still more difficult to understand the adminis- 
trative institutions of other magnates and of the localised fran- 
chises. Independence of the national government departments 
frequently involved a lack of systematic method in the making 
or preservation of records. 

Local records have not been exhaustively examined for the 
purposes of this section except in the case of Cheshire. The 
ministers' accounts of the palatinate illustrate the local operation 
of the prince's central system, and occasionally they furnish the 
names of central officials. As they form a continuous series they 
have some real usefulness, while suffering from the limitations of 


their class. The so-called " recognizance rolls," in reality enrol- 
ments of that single unit, the exchequer-chancery of the palatinate, 
afiord frequent evidence of the activities of the earl's seals, though 
their business was primarily financial.^ The judicial records of 
the palatinate, in themselves a class of peculiar interest, rarely 
assist our understanding of the earl of Chester's household. The 
financial records of Wales and Cornwall have been occasionally 
but not systematically inspected,^ and the few surviving judicial 
records have not been touched. Occasional accounts of other 
manors in England and occasional rentals and surveys survive and 
have been looked at ; the latter have little administrative interest. 
Gascon records for the period when the prince was the king's 
lieutenant in Gascony have small bearing on his central adminis- 
tration ; for the period when he was prince of Aquitaine they 
survive only in a few exceptional cases,^ notably in the accounts 
drawn up by Richard Fillongley.* It is curious that the prince's 
ministers' accounts of Chester, Wales and Cornwall have survived 
with comparative regularity, whereas those of Gascony have not ; 
presumably there was less contact between the treasury of Bor- 
deaux and the exchequer of Westminster, owing to distance and 
frequent political disturbances, than there was between local and 
national departments at home, even though such contact was 
unofficial in England. Moreover, even the ministers' accounts for 
Chester, Wales and Cornwall survive less frequently after 1362. 
The greater part of such scanty information as we can obtain of 
the prince's government in Gascony from local records must either 
be pieced together on the spot, or gathered by deduction from the 

^ In essence the recognisance rolls were not simply " chancery rolls," as has 
been suggested. 

^ It is unfortunate that the surviving ministers' accounts for Cornwall 
should at present be divided between the Public Record Office and the Duchy 
of Cornwall Office. 

* Some of the Gascon accounts listed in P.E.O. Lists and Indexes, xxxv., 
for the period of the principality, are concerned with debts owing to the king 
before July 1362, which were still being collected, e.g. E.A. \llji, account- 
book of Bernard de Brocas, receiver of Aquitaine (1363 and 1364). Bernard 
de Brocas was not an ordinary constable of Bordeaux as suggested above, iv. 
p. 143, but was appointed by the king as receiver to collect arrears which 
were due to him {E.A. 176/20, Oasc. 75, m. 2). He was still acting in July 1365 
(E.A. 177/3). The three accounts of Richard Fillongley {E.A. 177/1, 177/9, 
177/10) are, however, concerned with the principality, and as they were pre- 
sumably never officially submitted for inspection to the national exchequer, 
may perhaps be classed as local accounts. * See below, p. 365. 


unfruitful evidence of such of his letters written in Gascony as are 
occasionally available.^ 

The surviving records of the prince's household organisation 
itself, are, of course, more instructive than any local records, 
though they lack continuity. Accounts of the wardrobe and 
household survive only for the years of the lord Edward's child- 
hood, when his administration was well under the thumb of 
parental control, or when his father's absence gave him a transi- 
tory pre-eminence as " keeper of England." ^ A description of 
the furs and cloth delivered to his suite against the chills of 
winter,^ or the account of his tailor for bed-covering and rich 
robes, "of diverse liveries,"^ a tale of gifts to his brothers and 
sisters,^ to his own followers,® or distinguished foreigners,' the 
occasional reference to childish likings ^ and childish games,^ such 
details and many more give a glimpse of the background of the 
lord Edward's childhood. They reflect the social life of the time, 
theymay even occasionally have some political interest. ^° Accounts 
of this nature reveal the outlines of simple domestic institu- 
tions capable of infinite development, but they are not unique, 
and are chiefly interesting in comparison with a host of other 
similar accounts of royal children. A series of accounts for a later 

^ For the sources of surviving letters and transcripts, see below, part ii. 
pp. 402-403. 

2 Compare, for instance, the amount of diplomatic material available for 
years when the duke of Cornwall was keeper of England (see below, part ii. 
p. 402). 3 E.A. 388/12 (1337-38). 

* For example, a robe of scarlet of the king's livery for the duke's wear at 
Easter, and another of the queen's livery for the same feast (E.A. 387/25, m. 7). 

^ E.g. venison (E.A. 389/6) ; gifts of cloth of gold were also made to the 
maidens and clerks of the household of the king's children at the Tower (ib.). 

* For instance, a coat for a minstrel present with the duke during an illness 
{E.A. 387/25, m. 6), venison for the master of the household (E.A. 389/6). 

' E.g. a cup of Paris workmanship to the Marquis of Juliers, the duke's 
uncle (E.A. 389/6), who also received a horse on the same occasion, specially 
presented to the duke by his father for that purpose (I.E. 313). 

* Notice, for example, the very frequent references to minstrels (character- 
istic of the age), or to the flying of falcons before the duke (E.A. 389/6). 

* E.g. ball with John Chandos. 

1" There is considerable information in these early accounts for writing the 
early life of the Black Prince. Again, as so often, the household account illus- 
trates the story of the chronicle. For instance, it has been told how at the end 
of 1337, on the visit of two peace-making cardinals to England, the young 
duke met them and accompanied them to the king, a function of royalty not 
unknown in our day. In the household account we read of the cost of a velvet 
robe for the duke " against the coming of the cardinals " (E.A. 387/25, m. 7). 


period of the Black Prince's life, when the small household of the 
boy had ripened into the centralised administrative system of the 
magnate, would have infinitely more value. The last account 
of this early series ends when Edward was at the threshold of 
manhood, and the only later account, a day-book of expenses in 
Gascony for 1355-56, is more valuable for its incidental informa- 
tion about the prince's doings abroad, and the financing of his 
military expeditions, than for details of household government.^ 
A skeleton of his revenues from all sources towards the end of his 
life has a financial interest only." And yet, as we shall see, the 
national exchequer did not confine its interest in the lord Edward's 
purse to the days of his minority, but aspired to a more enduring 
cognisance, of which little evidence remains.^ 

Infinitely more valuable than the Black Prince's accounts are 
the registers of his letters, which I have already described else- 
where,* and which will soon be available in print in calendar 
form.^ One volume contains notes of letters under the prince's 
privy seal^ concerned with the administration of his lands 

1 The surviving accounts of the Black Prince's household are as follows : 
documents relating to the account of William Hoo, keeper of the wardrobe, 
1336-38 (E.A. 387/25); an account of William Hoo, still keeper, for cloth and 
fur, etc., Sept. 1337-Sept. 1338 (ib. 388/12) ; part of a roll of expenses, 1340 
(ib. 389/6) ; account of Peter Gildesburgh, treasurer, Feb. 1341-Sept. 1342 
{ib. /13) ; fragment of counter-roll of Ivo Glinton, controller of the wardrobe, 
1341-42 {ib. /15) ; account of Peter Gildesburgh, keeper of the wardrobe, 
Sept. 1342-July 31, 1344, almost illegible {ib. 390/3) ; a transcript (seventeenth 
century) of an account of John Hale, keeper of the wardrobe, Aug. 1, 1344- 
May 1345 (MSS. Harl. 4304) ; a jornale of payments in Gascony, Sept. 1355- 
June 1356 (in the Duchj' of Cornwall Office), cited here as Henxteworth's 
Day-Book. It is odd that this MSS. should have come to rest in the offices of 
the duchy. It would be a valuable source of information for estimating the 
prince's share in the expenses of this phase of the war, a most intricate question. 
I must express my gratitude to the Keeper of the Records of the Duchy for 
allowing me to see this account book, and also to Mr. R. L. Clowes for his kindly 

2 Chanc. Misc. 9/57, see below, pp. 338-342. » See below, pp. 338-342. 

* Essays presented to T. F. Tout, pp. 322-325. 

^ I am greatly indebted to the Secretary of the Pubhc Record Office for kindly 
allowing me to use part of the manuscripts of the calendars at an early stage 
of their preparation ; this was a very substantial help. When the calendars 
are published it will be possible to add to the information I have utilised here. 
It would have been unnecessarily laborious to anticipate their appearance by 
extracting details, for instance, as to minor officials, manors, and so on. I 
can only hope that I have not overlooked much that is really significant. 

* Occasional letters refer to " the seal," but this would seem to have been 
the same as "the privy-seal" {Essays presented to T. F. Tout, loc. cit. pp. 323-324). 


between July 1346 and January 1348 ; ^ three other volumes con- 
tain letters issued between February 1351 and November 1365, and 
are more specialised, one dealing with Cheshire,^ one with Corn- 
wall,^ one with the prince's other lands in England and the afEairs 
of his household and other central institutions.^ A fragment of a 
volume dealing with North Wales also survives.^ The registers con- 
tain copies of all the more important instruments issued under the 
prince's seal — charters, writs, indentures and letters both patent 
and close — while notes are included of the issue of certain writs of 
common form such as writs of diem clausit extremum. Bills or 
other warrants to the king's chancery for the issue, for example, 
of letters of protection, are not registered. Long letters of 
instruction to local officials, warrants for payments to be made by 
ministers both central and local, warrants for the issue of letters 
under local seals, grants and letters in pursuance thereof, appoint- 
ments, petitions to the prince with conciliar endorsement, such 
are the more important contents of the registers. Occasionally 
instruments under the secret seal or signet are included, also other 
extraneous matter such as petitions, inquisitions or memoranda 
of the reception of homage or fealty. Clearly the prince's secre- 
tarial office (unlike the English exchequer) kept no systematic 
note of incoming letters or of other matters of which permanent 
record was expedient, and thus his registers, like the close rolls of 
the English chancery, became the depository of such miscellaneous 
memoranda. If the prince's seal was used for some formal purpose 
of additional authentication to any document other than his own, 
a note might be made of the occasion.^ 

The charters and more formal letters patent,'^ besides letters to 
ecclesiastical personages, are usually written in Latin ; but the 
majority of the entries are in French. There are indications in 
the first surviving register that the system of registration had not 

^ M.B.E., T.R. 144. This volume is in an advanced stage of preparation for 
publication, and it has been possible to check references from the proofs of 
calendar and index now placed in the Record 0£Sce search rooms. 

« lb. 279. 2 lb. 280. 

* lb. 278. 5 A.G. Iviii. 35 (1354-56). 

* For example, on Nov. 12, 1351, when the prince placed his seal on a deed 
of sale of Margaret, countess of Hainault, Holland and Zealand, as did the queen 
of England, and some lesser German dignitaries (M.B.E., T.R. 280, f. 13). 
Oddly enough this memorandum was made in the Cornish register. 

' For the diplomatic of the prince's letters, see below, part ii. 


been practised for long. It is clear from a close study of these 
registers that both Latin and French letters were issued under the 
privy seal, and that the use of Latin indicated formality ^ and not 
that the letter was issued under some other seal, as has sometimes 
been supposed. ^ Contemporary usage often referred to the 
registers as " notes of letters . . . sent to Cornwall " ^ or the 
" notes of England ; " * sometimes they are stated to contain 
copies of letters of warrant. ' ' ^ The evidence of these letters is, of 
course, invaluable, and it is unfortunate that they do not survive 
after 1365. They cast light, however, on the middle period of the 
prince's life, which would otherwise, in the absence of household 
accounts, be very obscure. The interest of these letters is not 
primarily nor mainly administrative, for they touch on every side 
of the life of the tinie.^ From the administrative point of view 
perhaps their most vital contribution is their unmistakable 
evidence that the prince's privy seal was his most important 
instrument of government. 

Petitions addressed to the prince or his council are the 
only other class of record directly concerned with his own central 
system of government ; a file of these survives for 1375-76.' This 
contains over a hundred petitions, which are occasionally, but 
not usually, endorsed. In themselves they are rarely of great 
interest ; in the mass they testify to the quantities of work with 
which the prince had to deal, and to the importance of the 
council in his administrative system. These surviving petitions 
are all from Cornwall or England, though presumably similar files 
would be kept for the prince's other lands. They beg for the 

1 Latin letters are very rarely included in the register of letters for Cheshire, 
presumably because formality there was normally attained by the use of the 
Chester seal. 

^ See, for instance, the nineteenth-century description at the beginning of 
the Cheshire register ; also above, ii. p. 80, where it is assumed that writs of 
both great and privy seal are contained in the earliest registers elsewhere 
{ib. 181) called a roll. » ^.g. M.B.E., T.R. 280 (title-page). 

* Ib. f. 56d. 5 /5, 278, f. 158d. 

^ The value for social and economic matters of the Cheshire register has 
recently been demonstrated in Mediaeval Cheshire by H. J. Hewitt (M.U.P., 

' Ancient Petitions, file 333. The file contains several sub-files, viz. petitions 
of Michaelmas Term, 49 Edward III., endorsed and not delivered, petitions for 
the same term not endorsed, petitions of Easter Term, etc. A manuscript 
index to the names of petitioners is included in the copy of Lists and Indexes, i., 
in the Search Room of the Public Record Office, where the file is described. 


prince's goodwill in all manner of affairs, as in the payment of 
arrears of wages, the execution of the prince's grants, the re- 
straint of the exactions of local officials, and so on. Often they 
specifically ask the council that the prince's letters be issued 
on the petitioner's behalf. Some of them are endorsed " soit 
parler a Monsieur", which suggests that despite increasing sick- 
ness the prince could be consulted on comparatively trivial affairs, 
but that the council normally acted on its own initiative. The 
majority of the petitions are in fact addressed to the council. 

The archives of the English national departments at any time 
may contain references to the prince's governmental system, 
but these are most frequent at times when there was some 
peculiarly close tie between father and son. Thus, when the 
lord Edward was a child, his "governor and administrator" had 
a special interest in the management of his affairs, and the 
chancery rolls in particular may contain orders to him, his 
servants or councillors. Again, when the duke of Cornwall was 
" keeper of England " in 1338, 1339, 1340 and 1342, the king 
had an exceptional interest in the councillors and system which, 
in name at least, were left in control of English government. 
Similarly, when the prince was king's lieutenant in Gascony, 
1355-57, his name is frequently found in the general record 
sources of English history. For the last years of his life there 
are few such references, though the national departments were 
for a time concerned with the winding up of his affairs after his 
death. The chronicles of the period are rarely useful for adminis- 
trative institutions, though the prince's life, and particularly its 
more sensational episodes, are there set forth with all the deference 
and eulogy demanded by his position. 

The usefulness of the records of the various departments, as 
a source for the Black Prince's administrative institutions, is 
limited and uneven. The calendars of chancery rolls can be 
utilised for information about the careers of his servants and for 
the confirmations of his letters that they contain, more par- 
ticularly after his death ; though from the diplomatic point of 
view the actual roll is more useful than the calendar. Chancery 
warrants are useful for the former type of information and for 
their uncertain evidence about seals. The unpublished Gascon 
rolls contain rather more frequent references to the actual govern- 


ment of the prince in Gascony, though rarely to his household, 
because even after the creation of the principality Edward III. 
continued to encourage appeals from Gascony and to intervene 
in its affairs when he felt so disposed. But the Gascon rolls 
during the years of the principality change very much in char- 
acter and lose much of their normal interest. They are much 
smaller/ and their contents consist for the most part of pro- 
tections, attorneys and so on in favour of the prince's retinue 
in Aquitaine, of orders to mariners about the transport of men, 
horses and food supplies, of mandates concerning the reserved 
appellate jurisdiction of the king. Appointments, normally 
their contribution of greatest administrative interest, are no 
longer included. Special collections of public records, such as 
ancient correspondence and ancient deeds, contain a considerable 
number of the prince's letters,^ and also, occasionally, letters to 
the prince.^ 

The records of the English exchequer on occasion refer to 
the prince's household, but they are too voluminous to have 
been systematically explored. The prince's own exchequer was 
probably within the same building as the national exchequer,* 
and worked in close association with it, and by very similar 
methods. Moreover, the national exchequer made several 
attempts to supervise the prince's financial arrangements,^ and 
the memoranda rolls, for example, would probably yield con- 
siderable information about its claims. I can, however, find no 
evidence that these claims were ever completely recognised, and 
thus the pipe rolls and foreign accounts are barren of information.^ 
Issue and receipt rolls are occasionally of use. Generally, how- 
ever, the Black Prince's financial arrangements in England and 
in Gascony are very obscure, and it is not at all impossible that 
information on the whole subject may crop up at any time in the 

1 The Gascon roll for 1361 has twelve membranes; that for 1362 has twenty- 
eight, and is exceptionally long ; that for 1363 has only seven. 

2 See part ii. below. 

^ Volume liv. of Ancient Correspondence, in particular, contains a number 
of letters addressed to the prince. 

* See below, p. 333. 6 gee below, pp. 338-340. 

^ I have examined some fourteen memoranda rolls in whole or part, and the 
results hardly justify the labour. I have found practically nothing of interest 
on the pipe rolls examined for years when the national exchequer was actively 
interested in the prince's affairs. 


exchequer records. In my direct search for this, however, I 
have had little success. 

It is clear, then, that by a freak of survival the household 
of the Black Prince as a child can be more readily studied 
than the household of his maturity, that his governmental in- 
stitutions in the last twelve years of his life are practically un- 
known to us, and that his domestic organisation in Gascony 
and its relation to his government of the principality is even 
more obscure. It is truly a perverse fate which decrees what 
record materials shall survive. 

The household of the Black Prince's early years, that is to 
say from his birth till 1343, was, of course, small and undeveloped, 
though his custody of England in 1338, 1339, 1340 and 1342, 
during the king's absence, gave it a short-lived and exceptional 
significance, and indeed makes it impossible to guess which 
features were permanently a part of his household, and which 
were rather a part of the establishment of the keeper of England 
as such. Like his father before him, he possessed a wardrobe 
and a definite income from earliest infancy,^ which is perhaps 
somewhat surprising, since his mother, queen Philippa, had not 
herself been given a separate household till April 1330, two months 
before his birth. ^ Unlike his father, however, the Black Prince 
did not immediately receive the title of earl of Chester, though 
the resources of the earldom largely went to his support. His 
mother's influence seems to have been paramount in this early 
household, for his revenues were normally paid to her on his 
behalf, though the keeper of the wardrobe occasionally received 
them.^ Probably, like the early household of Eleanor of 

^ Edward of Woodstock was born on June 15, 1330, and his wardrobe is 
mentioned in Sept. {C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 2), when £500 was assigned to it towards 
the baby's expenses. Edward of Windsor, the future Edward III., was born on 
Nov. 12, 1312, and seems to have had a wardrobe in the following January {E.A. 
37513) ; he was granted the earldom of Chester when only twelve days old. 
Earlier precedents for the establishment of the heir were less hurriedly set in 
operation. Edward Longshanks, afterwards Edward I., probably had no 
wardrobe till he was about fifteen years old (see above, i. p. 256) ; the household 
and wardrobe, of which Edward of Carnarvon was a member, was not apparently 
allotted a definite income, and was often described as " the household of the 
king's children" (see Bull. I.H.R. II. v. p. 41; above, i. 165-166). 

2 Enr. Ace. (W. and H.) 2, m. 10. » See above, p. 289, n. 6. 


Castile or Edward of Carnarvon, the household and wardrobe 
of the Black Prince functioned fully only when he was extra 
curiam,'^ the court being in this instance his mother's household. 
Perhaps the queen's influence had disappeared by 1335, in which 
year the lay and clerical chiefs of the earl's household seem to 
have been in sole control of the earl's person and his domestic 
establishment.^ Throughout Edward's minority, which lasted 
till the conclusion of the Crecy-Calais campaign, the king at 
times emphasised his parental relationship by adding to his 
normal title the phrase " governor and administrator of Edward 
our firstborn." ^ Such an addition can have had no political 
significance, as it may have had on another occasion.^ 

For a time Edward's young sisters were part of his household,^ 
but the arrangement did not last long.^ It was indeed usual for 
the less important members of the king's family to live with his 
eldest son,' but Edward IIL's younger children — a rapidly 
increasing number — had soon a household of their own in the 
Tower of London, which certainly existed concurrently with the 
separate establishment of the duke of Cornwall.^ 

The comparative insignificance of the Black Prince's early 
household is shown by the undistinguished names of the early 
holders of its most important clerical office, that of treasurer of 

^ See above, ii. p. 166. 

2 C.C.R., 1333-37, p. 523 ; Foedera, II. ii. p. 919. In this letter the king 
ordered that his son should be kept in safety in Nottingham castle while there 
was a threat of French invasion. 

» E.g. Foedera, II. ii. p. 880 (1334); M.R., L.T.R. 118, communia, Trinity, 
recordam. 11 (1346). 

* Viz. when Edward II. used it in connection with his son's lands as duke 
of Aquitaine in 1325, perhaps in order to justify his continued control of them 
in a delicate Anglo-French situation {PI. Edw. II. p. 223 ; Political History of 
England, iii. p. 297). 

5 C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 523 (1334) ; M. A. E. Green, Lives of the Princesses of 
Engkmd, iii. p. 168. The duke's fragmentary accounts show no sign that the 
little girls were living with him. 

* Joan, the younger princess, went abroad with her mother in 1338 {ib. iii. 
p. 168), while Isabella joined the family at Ghent in 1340 {ib. p. 169). 

' As in the households of Edward of Carnarvon and of Windsor. 

* Accounts of the household of the king's children survive for 1340 and 1341 
{E.A. 389/9, 10, 11). It is wrong to suppose (for example, B. C. Hardy, Philippa 
of Hainault, pp. 113, 117, etc.) that the duke of Cornwall was also in Flanders 
in 1339 and 1340 with the rest of his family. The account of the duke's ex- 
penses in England during 1340 does not seem to have been known to the author 
of this book, nor to Mrs. Green, whose lives of Isabella and Joan, the duke's 
sisters, are extraordinarily detailed and accurate {Princesses of England, iii.). 


the household or keeper of the wardrobe. John Brunham, senior, 
the first of these, acted for six years,^ and then became for a time 
chamberlain of Chester. ^ This was a reversal of earlier practice, 
when a local appointment was a stepping-stone to household office, 
witness the cases of William Melton and Richard Bury in the 
household of the first duke of Cornwall's father and grandfather.^ 
Of William Hoo, Brunham's successor in the duke's household, 
little is known ; he remained in office till his death in the winter of 

The keepers of the wardrobe were the clerical chiefs of the 
household, and the chief financial officers ; in these early days of 
the household much of their time was spent in journeying from 
the duke's temporary dwelling-place to London to receive moneys 
due to the lord, to buy cloth, fur, spices, wax or provisions, to 
examine the tallies of lesser household officers, or to discuss the 
duke's affairs with other officials of the household. Between May 
and October 1340, William Hoo visited London on the prince's 
business at least six times ; for part of that period, in addition, he 
must have been within the household in London when the duke 
was in residence there. Once he had to delay for sixteen days 
awaiting the arrival of moneys from Chester, so haphazard were 
financial arrangements in the immature household. Hoo had a 
house in London, and here armour, etc.,^ of the duke was kept 
for a time till on Hoo's death it was removed to the house of the 
duke's tailor. When without the household the keeper received 
five shillings a day for his expenses.^ 

^ For a list of the Black Prince's officials, see appendix to this section. 

2 Master John Brunham, senior, was apparently acting as chamberlain of 
Chester from June 1, 1341, if not earlier {Recog. 26, m. 1), was still acting in 
April 1342 {Recog. 27, m. 5d), and was soon superseded. He should not be 
confused with John Brunham, junior, acting as chamberlain or receiver from 
December 24, 1342 (Brown, p. 114), till the latter end of 1343 (Recog. 29, m. 1), 
and again for twenty years after 1346 (appointed as receiver, September 12, 
1346, M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 12 ; acting till at least 41 Edward III., Ormerod, 
History of Cheshire, i. p. 59). 

3 For Melton see above, ii. p. 171 ; for Bury, iii. p. 25. 

* I have not been able to identify this William Hoo, for the name was not 
uncommon, and was a source of confusion even to contemporaries ; for instance, 
William Hoo, canon of Chichester, " recently deceased " (1342), was confused 
with William Hoo of Eye in Suffolk (31. R., L.T.R. 115 communia, Mich, recorda, 
m. 7). A William Hoo was a member of the prince's household in 1362 
(C. Pap. Reg. Pet. i. p. 387). » " harnesia." 

6 All these facts come from E.A. 389/6. 


The position second in importance in a royal wardrobe was 
usually that of the controller ; such an officer first appears in the 
duke of Cornwall's wardrobe in 134L Ivo Clinton, who acted as 
controller from then till 1344, was also, however, at the same time 
keeper of the seal,^ a combination of offices which recalls the 
wardrobe of Edward I.^ Clinton, however, unlike these earlier 
controllers, seems to have been described by the name of either 
office. By August 1344 the two offices were separated, perhaps 
in consequence of increased business after Edward had become 
prince of Wales. In the light of the certain combination of offices 
in 1341 it seems not impossible that William Munden, the first 
keeper of the seal of whom we hear, was also controller of the 
household. The seal probably kept by these controllers was the 
duke's privy seal.^ Already it was not unusual for the keepers of 
the seal to live outside the household of the duke. William 
Munden, for instance, was in London with the duke's seal for 
thirty-six days in the spring of 1340, and was given four shillings a 
day for his expenses.^ His duties were now sufficiently numerous 
for a clerk to be employed to help him.^ It is probable that the 
duke by now possessed a secret seal or signet to be used when the 
privy seal was not available, as must have frequently happened 
while he was keeper of England.^ 

So much for the chief clerical officers of the duke's wardrobe.' 
The earliest prominent lay official of whom we hear was William 
St. Omer, his steward, in turn succeeded by Robert Bilkemore 
and Edmund Kendal.^ Their recorded doings are also mainly 
peripatetic. Bilkemore received five shillings a day when without 
the household ; he was not too great a man, however, to be sent 
some sixteen miles from Langley to Dunstable and back in a day, 
to carry fifty marks due from the prince for the purchase of the 

1 See appendix to this section. 

2 See above, ii. p. 37. 

^ For the secretarial arrangements of the Black Prince see pp. 367-382. 

* E.A. 389/6. Glinton similarly was outside the household for seventeen 
days in Jan. 1341, and received the same allowance (ib.). 

5 lb. « See later, p. 381. 

' The office of cofferer perhaps existed before 1340 (see below, p. 328), but was 
not important. 

8 See appendix. For William St. Omer's wife Elizabeth, see later, p. 319. 
William was given the manor of Wisley, Surrey, for life in 1356 (M.B.E., T.R. 
278, f. 109). 


manor of Wisley.^ Other journeys taken by the steward were to 
Cornwall to report on diverse matters to the duke and his council, 
to Salisbury bearing letters from the king to his son, to various 
places to discuss business, pay creditors, supervise purchases, hold 
courts,^ deliver gaols, and so on.^ 

Although the steward of the household and the keeper of the 
wardrobe are the first recorded officials of the prince, they are not 
the most important permanent officials of his household in the 
early stage of its development. There was, in addition, an officer 
called the master of the household whose status was superior to 
theirs. The precise functions of his office are, however, obscure, 
for the master was more often referred to by name than by his 
official designation. Thus in 1340 we find that summer clothes 
were bought for the duke of Cornwall himself, for the earl of 
Arundel and for Nicholas de la Beche ; that the keeper of the 
wardrobe and the steward of the household went to London " to 
discuss and treat of the lord's business " with the same Nicholas 
on several occasions ; that Nicholas de la Beche was given venison 
of the duke's gift at the same time as the royal children ; and that 
letters were frequently delivered to him by the duke's messengers, 
as also were moneys on one occasion towards the cost of repairs of 
the duke's castle of Berkhamsted.^ His expenses outside the 
court on the duke's business were paid him for 83 days, at the 
rate of 13s. 4d. per day, and his name is placed first amongst the 
witnesses of the duke's letters.^ Thus he was obviously a person 
of much importance in the household. Only once is Nicholas de la 
Beche definitely called master of the household ; on this occasion 
he ordered the payment of the steward of the household's fee.^ His 

1 On Jan. 2, 1340, Bilkemore went from Langley to Dunstable to discuss 
the purchase of this Surrey manor, then in the possession of " the daughter of 
Payn." On Jan. 4 ho again went to Dunstable carrying 50 marks to the same 
lady from the duke (E.A. 389/6). See later, p. 358, for further particulars about 
Wisley while in the Black Prince's hands. 

2 On one occasion Kendal was assigned to hear pleas of the aula of the king 
at Malmesbury. 

» Details from E.A. 389/6. * See E.A. 389/6. 

5 E.g. C.P.E., 1340-43, p. 19 (July 23, 1340) ; ib. p. 181 (Feb. 1339). Com- 
pare a letter of Nov. 16, 1347, where the name of Burghersh, probably still 
master, comes second, after that of Ralph, baron of Stafford {M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 

* The payment was made " per preceptum et ordinacionem domini 
Nieholai de la Beche magistri hospicii dicti domini ducis " {E.A. 389/6 ni. 4). 


successor Bartholomew Burghersh was likewise visited in London 
by the steward of the household ; he authorised the payment of an 
allowance to the keeper of the seal for his expenses when without 
the household ; ^ later he sent letters to Edward, then prince of 
Wales, certifying him of the vacancy of a church in his gift,^ and 
so on. He was the most conspicuous member of the prince's 
council,^ and was sent to England to hurry reinforcements during 
the siege of Calais.^ 

The masters of the household were certainly of pre-eminent 
importance in the household of the Black Prince, but their precise 
functions are elusive and cannot be defined by the aid of any 
comparison. Such an office was by no means unique, but has not, 
I think, as yet been fully discussed in print.^ It was normally held 
by a knight of some age and standing, and was analogous to an 
equally obscure office, that of " mistress of the household." ^ 
Young girls of high birth were sometimes still in the care of such a 
mistress even in their teens.' Even boys might for a time have 
such a guardian ; Elizabeth St. Omer, the wife of the Black 
Prince's first steward of the household, seems to have taken charge 

1 E.A. 389/6. 2 ]\jji^ 1241/13. 

^ The prince adjourned the Chester county court " by advice of his dear 
master Bartholomew Burghersh and others of his council" {M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 
14d, 1346) ; certain business was agreed on " by our master, ... in the presence 
of the archbishop of Canterbury and others of the prince's council " (Apr. 1347, 
ib. f. 60) ; the commitment of an office was made " by counsel of Sir William 
Shareshull, Sir Roger Hillary and others of the council, and afterwards by the 
assent of the prince himself and Sir Bartholomew Burghersh." (Nov. 1347, ib. 
f. 128d). 

* Burghersh was abroad with the king on July 29, 1346 {ib. i. 5d), and in 
England on Sept. 12 (ib. f. 12d), and due to leave soon after Sept. 18 (ib. i. 14d). 
Another journey to England was apparently contemplated in March (ib. f. 54d), 
and he was at Westminster in April (ib. f. 50). 

^ The office is not mentioned in vols. i. and ii. of this work in connection 
with children's households under Edward I. and II. But see iii. p. 330- 
331 for the masters of Richard II., also ib. p. 331, n. 1, about the office in 
general. Professor Johnstone regards the magistcr or magistra as a normal part 
of the household of children of rank (" The Wardrobe and Household Accounts 
of the sons of Edward I.," BuU. I.H.R. II. v. 40). The position of master was 
very similar to that indefinable but responsible office filled by Geoffrey Pitch- 
ford in the household of Henry, son of Edward I. (Bull. J.R.L. vii. p. 387). The 
office of master of the household occurred also in the household of St. Louis 
of Toulouse and his brothers (Margaret R. Toynbee, St. Louis of Toulouse, 
p. 39). 

* E.g. Green, Princesses of England, vols. ii. and iii. passim. 

' See above, iii. p. 331, n. 1. Philippa of Lancaster was nineteen in 1379, 
when Katherine Swynford was the mistress of herself and her sister. 


of the baby lord in 1332 ^ and was called mistress of the king's 
children in 1334.^ It seems probable that the master of the 
household succeeded this semi-governess, semi-nurse, when the 
king's son had outgrown the necessity for solely female ministra- 
tions. The " magister " is first so named in 1340, though the 
office was almost certainly in existence earlier ; ^ I have found no 
reference to it after 1347.* But the later " governor of the 
prince's business " held an analogous position with a still more 
comprehensive sphere of activity.^ 

Both Nicholas de la Beche and Bartholomew Burghersh 
were knights, as the position of master demanded. Beche had 
previously been deputy-marshal of England,^ and was twice 
appointed to hear trespasses within the verge of the duke of 
Cornwall's household as keeper of England ; ' for six years, 
including the period when he was master of the duke of Cornwall's 
household, he was probably also constable of the Tower of London, 
and he was apparently removed from both offices, together with 
even more illustrious persons, soon after Edward IIL's unex- 
pected return from Flanders in November 1340.^ Once at least 

^ Green, op. cit. iii. p. 166. 

^ Elizabeth then received a present of glass from the city of London ; the 
earl and his sisters also received presents from the city while they were staying 
in the Tower that year, 1334 (Riley, Memorials of London, pp. 189, 190). In 
1338 Elizabeth was rewarded for her services to the duke (C.C.R., 1337-39, 
p. 455), and both she and William were stUl receiving payments for their good 
services in 1346 (I.R. 338). 

^ Nicholas de la Beche is the first witness of letters of the duke in February 
1339, and was therefore probably then the master of the household {C.P.B., 
1340-43, p. 181). He also appears among the more important recipients of 
winter clothing in 1337-38, and was certainly already a prominent member of 
the duke's council {E.A. 388/12). * See appendix. 

^ See below, p. 388. Nicholas de la Beche, the prince's master, was described 
as having been in the past " governor of the prince's affairs," some six years 
after he had ceased to hold the position of master of the household {M.B.E., T.R. 
144, f. 95). 6 C.P.R., 1338-40, pp. 162 and 185. 

' lb. ; also C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 89. 

8 lb. p. 110 (Jan. 13, 1341). He was apparently still master of the duke's 
household in Dec. 1340 (E.A. 389/6), but was succeeded by Burghersh be- 
fore the end of Jan. 1341 (see appendix, also see above, iii. p. 121). It is 
not clear from the calendars of chancery rolls how many men of the name 
" Nicholas de la Beche " there were at this time, but probably all references 
are to the same man. For instance, we know that the master of the duke of 
Cornwall's household had letters addressed to him in July 1340 when he was at 
Beams, "la Beche" and Watlington (E.A. 389/6). A Nicholas de la Beche 
had licence to crenellate the dwelling-places of his manors at these places in 
1338 (C.P.R., 1338-40, p. 24). This same Nicholas was granted Harwell 


his personal ambitions led to his neglect of the prince's interests. ^ 
Bartholomew Burghersh the elder had had much experience 
in the king's service, and in 1341 was keeper of the forests south 
of Trent, though also the prince's master.^ In 1344 the Black 
Prince granted Burghersh senior the stannary in Devon, both 
as a reward for services rendered " in attendance upon the prince's 
body as on other matters affecting the increase of his estate," 
and also for his fee " that he may the more effectively attend on 
the direction of the prince's counsels." He was not, however, 
to be bound too closely to the prince's service, but to be free " to 
attend to pilgrimage and other duties whether to God or to the 
king as shall seem fit to him." ^ Burghersh's butler, Henry of 
Berkhamsted was granted the office of porter of the castle of 
Berkhamsted by the prince in recognition of " the great diligence 
and labour which Sir Bartholomew has long expended on the 
good government of the prince's person and lordships." ^ 

The only other ministers of any importance who are men- 
tioned, with the name of their position, in these early household 
accounts, are the auditors, the keeper of the fees, and the steward 
of the prince's lands. The duties of these officials, if not their 
actual responsibilities, were much the same as those of their later 
successors, and require no separate treatment. James of Wood- 
stock, steward of lands in 1337-38, is one of the few officials 
designated by the name of his office in the accounts for that year.^ 

(Berks) in the same year (ib. p. 53). Elsewhere it is clear that Sir Nicholas 
de la Beche held Beams and Harwell before 1337 {C.G.R., 1337-39, pp. 259, 260). 
The constable of the Tower seems also to have been a knight though he was not 
usually so-caUed (C.P.R., 1334-38, p. 567). The identification of the constable 
of the Tower with the master of the household is then a probability, if not a 
certainty. For the lands of Nicholas see Cal. Inq. viii. no. 574 (1345). 

^ When Nicholas seized the Berkshire manor of " Upledecoumbe " in the 
honour of Wallingford {M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 95). 

2 E.g. C.P.R., 1340-43, pp. 6, 322, 510. His son, of the same name, must 
not be confused with him. Bartholomew the younger was in the prince's 
service by 1347, and was later a member of his council {e.g. 1357, C. Pap. Reg. 
Pet. i. p. 292). It is clear that it was Bartholomew the elder who was the 
prince's master {M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 129). For an account of both father and 
son, see D.N.B. 

3 C.P.R., 1343-45, p. 261 (May 10, 1344). Burghersh was subsequently the 
king's chamberlain ; in 1351 his vow to go to the Holy Sepulchre and fight for 
two years against the enemies of the faith was still unfulfilled (C. Pap. Reg. 
Pet. i. p. 207). 

* M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 129 (5 Nov. 1347). ^ e.A. 388/12. 




John Wendover, clerk of the offices of the household,^ and William 
Stratton, tailor, ^ are names of minor importance which appear, 
and there were, of course, in addition a host of lesser household 
servants, valets of the chamber, esquires, clerks of the buttery, 
larder, scullery, marshalsea, etc., falconers, armourers, messengers 
of different degree, porters, bakers and so on, who had, however, 
no administrative significance. 

At the other end of the household ladder were the important 
persons allotted by the king to advise the duke, and in effect to 
carry on his government. Like all similar bodies, this council 
was ill-defined and fluctuating both in functions and in member- 
ship ; during his childhood it must have had complete command 
of all his business. Its personnel was the medium through which 
the king's control of the duke's affairs was most conveniently 
expressed. Members of the council are rarely so described, but 
it is probable that in the winter of 1337-38 the earls of Salisbury, 
Huntingdon and Suffolk, were included in that body, besides 
Nicholas de la Beche, Henry Ferrers, John Pulteney, Reynold 
Cobham, William Shareshull and John Stonor, justices. ^ Mem- 
bership of the council, however, is not likely, as yet, to have been 
a very exacting or continuous labour, and could be combined 
with more strenuous activities. About the time the duke was 
appointed as keeper of the realm, in May 1340, the earl of Arundel 
would seem to have still been a member of the council,* though 
he went with the king overseas in June.^ When the duke was 
regent his council became virtually a branch of the king's council 
and was responsible for the successful conduct of the home 
administration. At such times it was naturally strengthened 
by additions to its personnel. Thus in 1338 the earls of Hunting- 
don and Arundel and Ralph Neville were appointed as members 
of the council of the duke, as keeper of the realm ; ^ in 1340, 

1 E.A. 389/6 (1340). ' lb. also 388/12 (1337-38). 

^ lb. 388/12, an account of liveries of fur and cloth to diverse persons in 
the duke's service, for the winter season 1337-38. Some of the recipients of cloth- 
ing must have had a somewhat slight connection with the duke's affairs, as for 
instance John of Saint-Pol, clerk of chancery, and Gervase WUford, clerk of 
exchequer. The former was a prominent chancery official m the next few years 
(Wilkinson, Chancery, p. 156) ; the latter had already seen considerable service 
in the exchequer and was to become chief baron by 1350 (see below, pp. 336-337). 

* E.A. 389/6 ; here he is given material for summer wear at the duke's 
expense. ^ D.N.B. 

6 C.P.R., 1338-40, p. 112 (1338, July 13). Also see above, iii. p. 84. 


first the earl of Huntingdon and later archbishop Stratford, 
Henry Percy, Thomas Wake, Kalph Neville and William Beau- 
champ were similarly appointed.^ 

Most of the features of the early household of the duke which 
we have just examined were also present in the administrative 
system of the prince. Councillors, stewards of the household 
and of lands, keepers and controllers of the wardrobe, keepers 
of the seal and of fees, auditors, clerks and minor officials — all 
were common to both. In the possession of a " master of the 
household," however, the early household of the duke differed 
from the household of his maturity. Though the early house- 
hold acquired at times a transitory political importance as the 
centre of English administration during the king's absence, it 
was as yet normally a rather imperfect domestic machine, capable 
however of performing more extensive functions when it had 
been overhauled and readjusted in various ways. 

The financial organisation of the administrative system of 
the prince of Wales was more intricate than that of his household 
as duke of Cornwall. Perhaps the most glaring defect of the 
duke of Cornwall's early household had been the lack of any 
permanent headquarters in London. This was remedied while 
he was regent in 1338 by the king's suggestion that the duke 
should remain at the Tower, subject to his council's approval.^ 
During his later keeperships no such course was pursued. The 
duke normally lived in turn at his various manors in the home 
counties, and thence his ministers went on business trips to town. 
It was not necessarily convenient for his treasurer, for example, 
to make frequent journeys to London to receive the moneys 
due to him, and to remain there until the accountant from distant 
parts happened to turn up.^ Probably in theory such payments 
should have been made at the wardrobe, wherever the duke was, 
at regular terms ; in practice they were usually paid in London, 
and there was some latitude in the interpretation of these terms.^ 

^ See above, iii. p. 112. ^ See above, iii. p. 82. ^ Cf. above, p. 316. 

* Thus in 1340 payments from Chester were received in August {E.A. 
389/6), in 1342 in September : in the latter financial year six liveries of money 
were made (Brown, p. 117), a not unusual number. 


The difficulties which confronted the treasurer were intensified 
by the gradual extension of the lord Edward's interests ; only 
the provision of a central ofiice with a permanent ofiicial in charge 
could solve such difiiculties. It was not long before this solution 
was adopted. 

In November 1343 the king took steps to ensure that the 
prince's financial officials should not neglect their business at 
" the prince's exchequer." Farmers, bailiffs and other ministers 
of Edward prince of Wales had refused to make payments, answer 
for their farms and other issues, or to render accounts at this 
exchequer.^ A chamberlain of Wales was, however, appointed in 
May 1343 to account as of old at the wardrobe.^ Thus the 
prince's exchequer was apparently set up some time between May 
and November 1343,^ presumably in consequence of the grant to 
the lord Edward of the principality of Wales in May. This ad- 
ministrative innovation was at first unpopular among the prince's 
officials, and was perhaps boycotted, but by the late autumn of 
1344 it would seem to have been in full working order. Certainly 
throughout 1343 and 1344 payments were still made by local 
accountants to the keeper of the wardrobe.'* On November 17, 
1344, however, such sums were paid to a new official, " the keeper 
of the prince's exchequer at Westminster," ^ and he received 
wages from the preceding 1st August as " keeper of the exchequer 
of the lord prince and receiver of the moneys of the same." ^ 
Perhaps the appointment to this office of Peter Gildesburgh, 
already experienced in the financial affairs of both king and 
duke, restored confidence ; at any rate no more is heard of 
refusal to account to the exchequer. 

1 M.R., K.R. 121 (brevia directa baronibus. Trinity m. 19cl), a writ of 
great seal dated Nov. 30. Cf. M.B., L.T.R. 117 (communia Easter, m. 5d), 
a writ of privy seal of Nov. 16, which also refers to the prince's exchequer. 

2 M.A. 1213/16, m. Id. 

^ I can find no reference to the beginning of this exchequer in the memoranda 
rolls for 1343. 

* E.g. liveries from the escheator of Chester were made to the wardrobe in 
May and Sept. 1343 {M.A. 1241/13), and similar liveries were made from 
Cornish revenues throughout 1344 until Oct. 25 {M.A. 812/2, m. 2d). This last 
was made to Peter Gildesburgh, described as keeper of the wardrobe, though he 
had ceased to hold that office on July 30 previously, and was then keeper of 
the prince's exchequer (see appendix). 

^ M.A. 1221/5 (accounts of the chamberlain of S. Wales). 

* MS8. Harl. 4304, f. 17d. He was paid 5s. a day, except for certain days 
when he was within the household. 


The first keeper of the prince's exchequer was well qualified for 
his position. He knew the traditions and procedure of the royal 
exchequer, and could be trusted to propitiate that department's 
more conservative ofiicials and to further the king's interests by 
modelling the duke's financial reforms on similar lines. He had 
already had occasion to acquire some insight into the life of those 
local accountants whose supervision was, in future, to rest with 
him. He had seen service abroad in the retinue of Bartholomew 
Burghersh senior, steward of Ponthieu,^ and, at his request, became 
a canon of Abbeville in 1334 ; ^ in the same year he is described 
as a king's clerk. ^ For a short time he was chief weigher of the 
king's exchequer,^ and is found in the duke of Cornwall's service 
early in 1341. The date is significant, for about the same time 
Bartholomew Burghersh senior, his patron, became master of 
the duke's household. From February 1341 until July 31, 1344, 
Gildesburgh was keeper or treasurer of the lord Edward's house- 
hold ; ^ during this period he was also, for a time, controller of 
the stannary of Cornwall.^ As the prince's most prominent 
financial official in July 1344, he was the natural person to 
execute reforms in his financial affairs, if indeed he was not 
also responsible for their initiation. It is clear that he resigned 
his headship of the wardrobe after the setting up of the prince's 

Gildesburgh was the first and last ofl&cial to bear the title of 
keeper of the prince's exchequer, and his successors were known 
as receivers or receivers-general. Gildesburgh, too, had for a time 
borne the title of " receiver of all moneys arising from the issues of 
our lands," "^ but he was discharged from this office in April 1346 
because he had been allotted more important duties on the eve of 
the prince's departure for France.^ He continued, however, to be 

1 C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 194. 2 lb. p. 517. 

3 lb., 1334-38, p. 54. 

« lb., 1340-43, p. 72 (Dec. 22, 1340). Gildesburgh was admitted to the 
office of chief weigher of the exchequer on Jan. 22, 1341. I am indebted to Dr. 
D. M. Broome for this fact. His appointment by the dulie of Cornwall on May 
24, 1342, as controller of the stannary of Cornwall, was only confirmed by the 
king on his surrender of the office of weigher (C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 459). 

5 See appendix. « O.P.E., 1340-43, p. 459. 

' Above, p. 324. Cf. M.A. 1221/5, m. 5; M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 17d. 

® M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 17d. Gildesburgh was then given " diverses grosses et 
chargeantes busoignes." 


called keeper of the exchequer till late in 1347, if not for longer.^ 
His activities were multifarious, and it is impossible to say how 
much of his importance was due to his financial position. In 
March 1347, while the prince was still abroad, Gildesburgh was also 
called " one of our general attorneys, our chief auditor of accounts, 
and controller of our receiver." ^ Thus his relations with his 
successor as receiver are not easy to determine ; it seems more 
probable that " controller " is here used in its old sense, as a 
superior officer, and not according to the established usage of the 
household, where it certainly implied inferiority of status.^ As a 
member of the prince's council, Gildesburgh visited Cheshire in 
1347 and 1348, and there he transacted business of many kinds ; ^ 
in the first instance his clerk John Cory acted as his locum tenens 
at Westminster.^ For a time in 1346-47, moreover, he seems to 
have kept the prince's seal at Westminster during his absence 
abroad, and he was certainly one of the officials responsible for the 
government of the prince's lands at the same period.® Subse- 
quently he is described as " governor of the prince's lands," and 
as his councillor ; ' he went to Avignon as the prince's envoy to 
the pope in 1349.^ His active service to the prince ended soon 
after, but he was treated with all honour for his remaining years. ^ 
Gildesburgh was removed from the office of receiver to give 
him leisure for other and more urgent business. The demands of 

1 M.B.E., T.B. 144, f. 131d (Nov. 12, 1347). Gildesburgh certainly rendered 
one account as receiver (date unspecified, C.P.R., 1367-70, p. 62). 

2 lb. 144, f. 52d. 

3 See above, i. p. 247-248 ; ii. pp. 17 and 35. 

4 E.g. Brown, p. 125. ^ M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 24. 
® See below, p. 394. 

' C. Pap. Reg. Pet. i. p. 156. (See below, p. 390.) 

^ lb. also pp. 154, 207. Gildesburgh is still called the prince's envoy in 
1351, and is described as a pilgrim in 1350 (C.C.R., 1349-54, p. 272). 

* Gildesburgh surrendered the controUership of the stannary in Nov. 1347 
(M.B.E., T.R. 144, f . 129). After his return from abroad he took no part in the 
prince's administration, but received gifts from time to time (e.g. M.B.E., T.R. 
280, f. 9 (1351)) when he went into residence as a canon of Exeter. Gildesburgh's 
ecclesiastical preferment was considerable. At one time or another he was 
granted a canonry and prebend of Lichfield (C Pap. Reg. Pet. i. p. 178, 1349), 
subsequently exchanged (ib. p. 299, 1357), the archdeaconry of Totnes, and a 
canonry and prebend of Exeter (ib. p. 156), a canonry and prebend of Salisbury 
and of Southwell (ib. p. 207, 1351), canonries and prebends of Lincoln, Bangor 
and Penryn, and the church of Washingborough, of which he resigned Bangor 
(ib. p. 294, 1357). He also, perhaps, held a canonry of Tamworth (ib. p. 299, 
1357). He was certamly still alive in 1357, possibly in 1361 (ib. p. 378), but was 
" lately dead " in 1367 (C.P.R., 1367-70, p. 62). 


the French expedition and the provision of an adequate govern- 
ment in the absence of the prince and many of his officials, caused 
considerable rearrangements at home, and led to successive 
changes in exchequer personnel during the summer and autumn of 
1346. For two months ^ William Norwell combined the office of 
receiver, or chief receiver, as it was occasionally called,^ with that 
of keeper of the wardrobe, but was soon succeeded as receiver by 
John Pirye,^ and henceforth exchequer and wardrobe remained 
permanently separate. Pirye had considerable experience of the 
prince's local financial offices ; he had been chamberlain of 
Chester,* chamberlain of North and South Wales,^ and receiver of 
Cornwall, and continued to hold this latter office while he was 
chief receiver of all the prince's moneys.^ But he was soon super- 
seded, because he was so constantly occupied in Cornwall, Wales 
and elsewhere that he could not devote himself to the immediate 
problem of forwarding victuals to the prince in France.' In 
November 1346 Peter Lacy was appointed his successor as re- 
ceiver, to stay continually in London, and to be ready to receive 
commands from abroad and forward requisitions.^ Pirye's career 
of usefulness was by no means at an end ; he continued to be 
receiver of Cornwall for some time,^ was a member of the prince's 
council 1° and visited Cheshire as a councillor and auditor.^^ 

Peter Lacy had been a clerk in the duke of Cornwall's house- 
hold as early as 1 337-38. ^^ He was sent outside the household to 

1 Viz. from April 6, 1346, until June or July 1346. 

2 M.R., K.R. 122. 

' See appendix for list of receivers. 

* Pirye was chamberlain of Chester after April 1, 1337 (Recog. 24, m. 1), 
and was still acting in the winter of 1340-41 (Recog. 26, m. 2). 

* E.g. Pirye accounted for North Welsh revenues from May 12, 1343 
{AI.A. 1213/16), until April 3, 1345 {M.A. 1214/3) ; for those of South Wales 
from Michaelmas 1344-June 4, 1345 {M.A. 1221/5). 

« E.g. Pirye was acting as receiver of Cornwall in Oct. 1346 (M.B.E., T.R. 
144, f. 18). ' M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 27d. 

^ lb. (Nov. 12). Money for the purchase of victuals was to be j^aid over by 
Pirye to Lacy to suffice for his needs " until they be both together and Sir 
Peter has received the charge of the said office." This was only a temporary 
measure, and Pirye continued to be called receiver after its date (e.g. ib. f. 29) ; 
Lacy was formally appointed some six weeks later {ib. f. 33). As Pirye was still 
receiver of Cornwall his absences from London are easily accounted for, and 
occasioned delay in the surrender of his office. See also below, pp. 350-351. 
» E.g. he was still acting in July 1347 {M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 86). 

i» Ib. f. 145 (Dec. 9, 1347). " E.g. Brown, p. 120. 

12 Lacy then received cloth for his winter clothes {E.A. 388/12). 


pay debtors and buy spices in 1340/ was a clerk of the wardrobe 
in 1341,2 and visited Cornwall by order of the council in 1344-45.^ 
He may have been cofferer of the wardrobe before 1340.^ From 
such humble beginnings he not only won his way to a pre-eminent 
position in the Black Prince's administration, but his long service 
and efficiency were recognised by the king himself, when in 1367 he 
was made a king's notary and keeper of the king's privy seal.^ 
Nevertheless he continued to serve the prince as receiver-general, 
and held that office in all for some twenty -five years. For most 
of that time he was also keeper of the prince's great wardrobe,^ 
and was once described as his secretary,' His ecclesiastical 
advancement was not commensurate with his services.^ His 
position in the prince's service was confirmed by the king in 1350, 
when he was recognised as the prince's attorney " to receive all 
the moneys of his demesne lands and all the money due to him." ^ 
He was the foremost figure in the administration of home affairs 
after the prince's departure for Aquitaine in 1363, and was 
responsible for the collection of English revenues and their dis- 
tribution to an overpressed and exacting master. In all proba- 
bility he finally fell victim to the critics of the government in 1371, 
and was removed from his positions in the service of both father 
and son.i" 

Lacy's only successor as receiver-general was Alan Stokes, also 
an experienced financial servant of the prince, though he was 
much less conspicuous than Lacy. He was not important amongst 
the prince's servants before the 'fifties,^^ but was abroad with him 
in Gascony in 1355 and 1356. ^^ jje served the prince in Aquitaine 
after 1362,^^ and he became for a time treasurer of the household,^^ 

1 E.A. 389/6. 2 M.A. 812/2. ^ MSS. Harl. 4304. 

* In 1347 there is a reference to Lacy's seal when he was cofferer of William 
Hoo, keeper of the wardrobe (M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 141). 

* See above, iii. p. 253. ^ See below, p. 352. 

^ See below, p. 379. Lacy was an auditor of the prince's wardrobe accounts 
in 1358 {M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 149) and 1362 {ih. f. 227d). 

* I can add nothing to the details given above, p. 44. 
9 C.C.R., 1349-54, p. 240. 

'^ See above, iii. p. 275. Lacy was still acting as receiver-general on March 
13, 1371, but was succeeded by Alan Stokes by Jan. 1372. I cannot, unfortu- 
nately, discover who was acting during the interval. In Jan. 1372, Stokes is 
referred to as being receiver " immediately after " Lacy [M.A. ll'2jQ, ib.jl). 

1^ But see above, iv. p. 385, n. 1. ^^ Henxteworth's Day Book. 

^^ Stokes received a protection in Sept. 1362 {Gasc. 75, m. 4) and appointed 
attorneys in Oct. (ib. m. 3). ^* See appendix. 


and was subsequently treasurer of Aquitaine.^ He also became 
one of the prince's executors.^ His experience fitted him for 
responsible administrative work, and under Richard IL he became 
keeper of the great wardrobe.^ He was dean of St. Asaph in 
1376,^ and subsequently received a prebend of Lincoln.^ Despite 
some evidence to the contrary, I think the Alan Stokes who was 
receiver must have been the clerk of that name,^ and not the 
knight, of whose separate identity I can find little evidence. 

The office of prince's receiver originated with the setting up 
of the prince's exchequer, but in its early days it was also closely 
associated with arrangements for the successful prosecution of 
the French war, and apparently retained the supreme responsi- 
bility for the forwarding of victuals abroad for the greater part 
of the prince's lifetime. Yet the position of receiver-general, a 
title which soon superseded that of " receiver of the moneys 
arising from all our lands and issues," ' was primarily of financial 
importance, as Lacy's terms of appointment show. He was 
appointed by the prince as " receiver of all the moneys arising 
from the issues of all our lands and profits, both in Wales and 
Cornwall, and our counties of Chester and Flint, as elsewhere 
in England, and also from our coinage of Cornwall," which were 
delivered through the various local financial officers " and all 
others who ought to answer to our exchequer at Westminster." ^ 
But Lacy was not only the chief officer of the receipt, he un- 
doubtedly made payments also, for example to the chief ministers 
of the prince's central administration ; for a time such payments 
were made by view of his controller,^ but after Gildesburgh ceased 

^ Stokes rendered an account for the year 1369 {E.A. 179/8) and had ceased 
to act by, at any rate, July 1371, when his successor, John Carleton, was 
treasurer (Delpit, p. 180). 

^ See below, p. 397. It is clear from Gasc. 93, m. 6, that it was Alan Stokes, 
clerk, not Alan Stokes, knight, who held this position (see above, iv. p. 385, n. 1). 

^ See above, iv. p. 385. * Le Neve, Fasti, i. p. 82. 

* (lb.) ii. p. 155 (1387). This prebend of Lincoln was exchanged for a pre- 
bend of Durham in 1393 (ib.). 

^ See, for example, C. Ch. R. v. p. 241. But also above, iv. p. 385, n. 1. 

' Throughout the Black Prince's register for 1346 and 1347 {M.B.E., T.R. 
144) Lacy is called " receiver of the moneys arising from all our lands and 
issues." This register ends in Jan. 1348. In Feb. 1348, however, he seems to 
have been called receiver-general [Transcripts, M.A. vol. i. no. 3, Duchy of 
Cornwall) and henceforward was generally knoM'n by that title. An occasional 
variant M-as " receiver in the exchequer of Westminster " [ib. vii. 3). 

8 M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 33. » Ib. f. 52d, cf. ib. 278, f. 150d. 


to act the receiver's controller disappears from view. Thus 
Lacy was in effect the prince's chief treasurer. Despite the 
importance of his position, he received a fee of only forty marks 
a year.^ The office of receiver-general was by no means peculiar 
to the prince's administrative system, but was characteristic of 
the baronial or subordinate household.^ 

In the absence of Lacy's accounts either as receiver-general 
or as keeper of the great wardrobe, some indication of a part of 
his expenditure on the prince's behalf can be obtained from 
schedules of payments authorised by the prince's letters of 
warrant and therefore included in the prince's registers.^ It 
is not, however, always clear in which of his capacities Lacy dis- 
bursed these sums. Payments to messengers, minstrels, clerks 
of the chapel, gifts to the king's officials of chancery, exchequer, 
or law courts, or to master mariners who had served the prince, 
the price of victuals, the cost of journeys, the ransom of a valet 
of the poultry taken prisoner, liveries to the prince's or his wife's 
chamber, and so on, are items which might equally well have been 
met by the wardrobe of the household, and show how the func- 
tions of exchequer and wardrobe tended to overlap.* Other 
items, such as the cost of new clothes for officials of the household 
or the clerks of the chapel, works at the great wardrobe, saddlery 
for the prince or his servants, a litter for his wife, payments for 
ostrich feathers for " the jousts of Smithfield," ^ these were perhaps 
made by Lacy as head of the great wardrobe. Other sums 
he paid are reminiscent of chamber expenditure ; for instance, 
those spent on pearls and other jewelry or given as alms, often 
to the four orders of friars, or the cost of making a secret seal with 
the prince's armes de pennes. After 1362 large payments were 
made to the constable of Bordeaux or the keeper of the ward- 
robe in Gascony ; there was, throughout, expenditure on many 

1 M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 33 (Dec. 1346). In April Lacy was allowed an 
additional £20 for one year " in consideration of his great costs and labours in 
performing his office to the prince's profit " {ib. f. 57). 

2 See above iv. p. 260. Compare E.H.R. xlii. p. 183, n. 4, in an article 
by Professor J. F. Baldwin on " The Household Administration of Henry Lacy 
and Thomas of Lancaster." 

3 For example, M.B.E., T.R. 278, ff. 130d, 162, 220d, 232, 267d. It is odd 
that no such schedules, either on behalf of the receiver or the treasurer of the 
household, appear in the prince's earliest surviving register for 1346 and 1347. 

« See also below, p. 348. ^ In 1359. 


miscellaneous items, such as glass for the windows of the prince's 
house in Calais, glorious with escutcheons of the arms of England. 
In addition there must have been many items of wages and so 
on for which no especial warrant from the prince was required. 
Mediaeval man was not systematic in his differentiation between 
different kinds of expenditure, and did not carry his rough-and- 
ready distinctions very far ; the payments made by the prince's 
receiver-general illustrate this truth much more forcibly than 
they indicate the financial responsibilities of his exchequer. 
When the prince's registers are accessible in print a more com- 
plete survey of the prince's expenditure will be possible, but it 
is unlikely to furnish any hard-and-fast distinctions between the 
financial obligations of his various administrative organs. 

The exchequer set up in 1343-44 remained the prince's most 
important financial ofiice for the rest of his life. It eclipsed but 
did not abolish the older financial organisation of the wardrobe, 
for the latter was mobile, and a convenient treasury for a wander- 
ing master.^ The exchequer was stable and localised, the con- 
verging point of all streams of English revenues, and the reservoir 
from which foreign enterprises could be supplied in money or in 
kind. Its organisers, influenced presumably by their knowledge 
of the national exchequer, had planned an enduring fabric, and 
under the guidance of Peter Lacy, receiver-general, it enjoyed 
continuity of control for a period of unusual length ; in this 
period it could consolidate its position. It would seem on the 
whole to have maintained harmonious relations with the national 
exchequer,^ but was never as comprehensive in its scope ; it 
was primarily a department of receipt and issue, rather than of 
audit.^ Yet the prince's exchequer, like its illustrious prototype, 
was more than a purely financial ofiice, though other functions 

1 See below, pp. 342-349. 

2 See below, pp. 336-342. 

* Though the chamberlains of Chester and of Wales might be appointed to 
answer at the exchequer, their accounts were formally tendered to the prince's 
itinerant auditors. Yet other accounts seem to have been heard at Westminster, 
for example, that of the late bailiff of the manor of Quainton in 1347 (M.B.E., 
T.R. 144, f. 111). In this relation the use of the prince's exchequer may perhaps 
be compared with that of the tower assigned to Henry IV. 's queen within the 
palace of Westminster " for the management of her councils and businesses, the 
auditmg of her accounts, the keeping of her charters, writings, muniments and 
other evidences " {C.P.R., 1401-1405, p. 473). I am grateful to Miss I. M. 
Cooper for drawing my attention to this reference. 


may be discerned but dimly, for it was certainly a court of pleas, 
and may have had a secretarial aspect also. 

The pleas heard at the prince's exchequer of Westminster were 
presumably normally of financial origin,^ and had in the past been 
determined in the locahties where they arose. Journeying to the 
council at the exchequer at Westminster was an expense and 
trouble to the prince's " people of distant counties ; " it had no 
compensating advantages, and merely led to delays. The men of 
Cheshire were not slow to complain of the hardships they endured 
by pleas being " newly drawn to the said exchequer," and were 
successful in the ventilation of their grievance. The prince, 
" with the advice of the great men of his and the king's council," 
decided that such business should be " determined where it used 
to be, unless it was so high or doubtful that it could not be deter- 
mined without the prince and his council." For weighty business 
of this nature four periods were set apart every year,^ and then the 
people of the prince's lordships were expected to attend at West- 
minster or wherever the council was.^ The exchequer was 
certainly a frequent meeting-place for the council,^ and in this 
particular relation the councillors took on the character of " barons 
of the exchequer." The prince's exchequer was certainly un- 
popular as a court of pleas, even as it had been as a financial office. 

The prince's exchequer may also have had a secretarial aspect, 
but indications of this are vague or ambiguous. For instance, 
inquisitions were sometimes returned there, presumably for the 
information of the council. " Matters concerning the office of his 
[the prince's] escheatries are henceforth to be returnable at West- 
minster, and to have their warrant from that place as before," 
says an order to Cheshire commissioners in 1351.^ This seems to 
refer to the prince's exchequer, where the council, which was 
especially closely connected with the prince's escheatries, were 

^ See, for example, M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 19, where the steward of Fordington 
was ordered to come to the prince's exchequer at Westminster at the quinzene 
of Hilary to answer before the prince's council for distraints made upon one 
of the prince's tenants of Fordington (Oct. 1346). 

^ The octaves of the quinzene of Easter, the quinzene of Midsummer, 
Michaelmas, and Hilary- Compare the terms of the English exchequer. 

3 All from M.B.E.,'T.R. 279 f. 2 (1351). At the same time steps were taken 
to ensure that pleas were held at the exchequer of Chester, and that the 
English royal exchequer should be taken as a model. (See below, p. 342, n. 1.) 

4 See below, p. 384. ^ M.B.E., T.R. 279, f. 4. 


wont to meet. Elsewhere we find that writs of diem clausit 
extremum, for instance, were to be issued by the keeper of the 
prince's privy seal, and the resultant inquisitions to be returned 
before the council at London.^ Moreover records were certainly 
sometimes kept at Westminster in the care of the head of the 
exchequer,^ though the wardrobe too had its chests of memor- 
anda.^ On one occasion the cost of the binding for a book " to be 
placed in the exchequer " is recorded.'* There is therefore some 
evidence to suggest, though not enough to prove, that the 
exchequer of Westminster, like the exchequers of Chester or 
Carnarvon, was a secretarial as well as a financial office.^ The 
seal was certainly sometimes used there. 

Little is known of the buildings of the prince's exchequer, but 
it is probable that the rooms he used were closely connected with 
the national exchequer, perhaps in the same way as the exchequer 
of the Jews a century earlier, when there were two' small rooms 
leading from the main exchequer, one of which was allotted to the 
Jews' use.^ There is no actual evidence to connect the Black 
Prince's exchequer with " the prince's chamber," also within the 
palace of Westminster, though it is perhaps unlikely that they 

1 See below, p. 384. 

' Seven rolls of letters patent, writs and other memoranda concerning Wales 
were delivered by the keeper of the exchequer for the use of the justices in eyre 
in the principality on Nov. 12, 1347 {M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 131). Just before this 
date the keeper of the exchequer was, however, also keeper of the privy seal in 
England, during the absence of the prince and another privy seal and its keeper 
(see below, p. 374) ; the prince returned to England on Oct. 15, 1347. In this 
case, therefore, it is possible that these rolls were kept at Westminster as a 
temporary arrangement, which was continued for a while after the prince's 
return. The rolls of the sessions of South Wales were also ordered to be 
delivered to the treasury of the exchequer {ib. f. 25d). Again in 1358 the " in- 
quisitions, memoranda, books and other evidences touching the afiairs of 
Cheshire " kept in " the prince's treasury at London " were needed at Chester, 
and the receiver-general was ordered to purchase a horse to carry the books, 
etc., to Chester {ib. 278, f. 148). This horse was " lost " on the journey {ib. 
f. 185d). It seems probable from this reference, however, that the books 
were not actually in the custody of the receiver-general, for he was not ordered 
to hand them over to Wolveston, in whose care they travelled north, though 
they were kept in the " treasury." 

* See below, p. 343. 

* M.B.E., T.R., -lis f. 267d. 

^ Compare Evans, Cymm. Soc. Pub. loc. cit. p. 36, n. 1. 

8 See C.R., 1231-34, p. 100. I understand that Miss I. M. Cooper has collected, 
for a thesis on the palace of Westminster, some intei-esting information about 
the topography of the royal exchequer, but she tells me she has reached no 
conclusions about the exchequer of the Black Prince. 


were far apart.^ Glass was bought for the windows of the prince's 
exchequer on one occasion,^ and once "la verte chambre de la 
receyte," presumably part of his exchequer, is mentioned. ^ A 
" counter " used in the receipt of the prince while he lived is also re- 
ferred to in the first year of his son's reign.* The prince's " receipt " 
is often mentioned in the later pages of his registers, more often 
indeed than the exchequer which the word presumably describes,^ 
but references to his " treasury in London " ^ more probably 
describe a treasury within the city itself,'^ perhaps the storehouse 
of the great wardrobe. 

There is a similar silence as to officials of the exchequer, other 
than the keeper, receiver and auditors. The latter had, however, 
a wider purview than the exchequer itself.^ In 1362 William 
Norwell appears as a chief baron of the prince's exchequer, and 
Thomas Ferrers as surveyor of the prince's moneys. The position 
of each is obscure ; perhaps they were never attached to the 
exchequer at Westminster but were concerned solely with the 
administration of the principality of Aquitaine.^ At least one 
clerk ^° and an usher ^^ were employed at Westminster, It is 

1 For the prince's chamber see below, p. 362. 

2 M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 162. 

3 lb. 280, f. 59. In this green room of the receipt the prince's council 
endorsed a bill submitted to them. 

* A payment was then made " pro factura unius computatori de novo in 
recepta nuper domino Principi dum vixit assignata pro Willelmo Walworth et 
Johanni Philipott Receptoribus donariorum pro guerra regis pro receptione 
denariorum regis." I.R. 465, 1 Richard II. (Jan. 27). I am grateful to Miss 
M. H. Mills for drawing my attention to this reference. 

5 E.g. M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 85d. Such references usually concern the 
receiver-general. There are also references to the receipt of the wardrobe, how- 
ever (see below, p. 353). « E.g. C.P.R., 1358-61, p. 290. 

' Cf. " our treasury in the city of London " M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 172d). 

8 See below, pp. 335-338. 

* Norwell was to be paid 5s. a day for his wages by the constable of Bordeaux. 
The names occur in a combined list of officials of the household and of Gascony 
issued when the prince was about to set out for the principality of Aquitaino 
{M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 251d). 

i" E.g. John Cory, called variously " clerk of the exchequer," " clerk of the 
receipt " (1344-45, M8S. Harl. 4304, f. 18d, 19), and " clerk of Peter GUdes- 
burgh " (May 1348, M.A. 1221/5, m. 5). He was Gildesburgh's lieutenant in 
the exchequer during his absence from Westminster {e.g. 1346, M.B.E., T.R., 
144 f. 24 and 52), and in 1349 was the prince's attorney-general {C.P.R., 1348- 
1350, p. 331). 

11 E.g. John Undle, acting in 1344-45 (MSS. Harl. 4304, f. 18d) and 1346, 
when the arrears of his wages were ordered to be paid to him {M.B.E., T.R. 
144, f. 24). 


probable, also, that the king lent exchequer officials to the 
prince, to act in subordinate, as well as more responsible, 
positions, for gifts or payments to such royal servants are not 

The organisation of the prince's exchequer cannot be com- 
pletely revealed, through the limitations of record information, 
though perhaps the archives of the national exchequer may some 
day produce further light. For the same reason a sketch of 
his financial system as a whole cannot aim at completeness. 
At one end were the lowliest local officials, bailiffs, farmers of 
manors and the like, who perhaps tendered their accounts to 
the local sheriffs, who in turn submitted them to the chief local 
financial officer, such as the chamberlain of Chester or the re- 
ceiver of the duchy of Cornwall. The accounts of the chamber- 
lains and receivers were submitted to the prince's auditors, either 
at Westminster, or on their frequent visits for the purposes of 
audit and other business to the various parts of the prince's 
dominions, and the local officials were acquitted by these auditor- 
councillors. But the local officials had made periodic liveries of 
the moneys they had received to agents of the prince's central 
administration, usually to the wardrobe or the exchequer. These 
sums were again accounted for by the keeper of the wardrobe or 
the receiver-general, in the accounts which they in turn submitted 
to the prince's auditors.^ 

The auditors of the household accounts, or of the receiver- 
general's department, in itself an offshoot of the household, were 
therefore the apex of the prince's financial system, and the 
auditors of local ministers' accounts, though important links with 
the central system and usually members of the prince's council, 
did not hold such a pre-eminent position. Thus, during the 
prince's minority, the personnel of auditors for the accounts of 
the household was controlled by the king,^ although local auditors 

1 In essentials the system was similar to that used by earlier eldest sons of 
the king, whose auditors of local accounts held much the same position. (For 
Edward of Carnarvon's, see above, ii. p. 179 ; for Edward of Windsor's, e.g. 
Chester Plea roll, 35, m. 3, 38, m. 8d ; Brown, pp. 96, 100 ; also above, iv. 
p. 74.) The existence and responsibility of auditors of central accounts is 
less certain ; Edward of Carnarvon's household accounts, for instance, were 
for years submitted either to the wardrobe or to the exchequer, an even more 
drastic measure of control (see above, ii. pp. 166-167). 

2 E.g. C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 547 (1334) ; C.P.E., 1340-43, p. 577 (1343). 


were nominally appointed by the lord Edward himself even as a 
baby.^ After 1347 ^ he appointed all auditors. 

There was little practical difference between appointments 
made by king and by prince. The personnel appointed changed 
very little : thus, for instance, in 1343 the king appointed Gervase 
Wilford, Hugh Colewick and Ambrose Newburgh to audit the 
account of the prince's treasurer ; ^ in 1347 the prince appointed 
the first two and Nicholas Pinnock (Newburgh being dead) to 
audit the accounts of his receiver.* An auditor once appointed 
usually continued to be appointed : thus Ambrose Newburgh was 
an auditor (both local and central) from 1337 till his death (before 
1345). Thomas Hockley was frequently commissioned as auditor 
between 1348 and 1358, so was Nicholas Pinnock for about the 
same period, and so on. There were clearly greater and lesser 
auditors. Thus Pinnock appears first as an auditor of local 
accounts (1342) and later (1345) of a household account, the latter 
being, of course, the more important role.^ Similarly Gervase 
Wilford and Hugh Colewick, being important officials of the 
English exchequer, were never commissioned for the audit of any 
but central accounts ; they were appointed first by the king, but 
continued to be appointed by the prince. 

The auditors, whether local or central, of the accounts 
due to the prince, were frequently, though not always, at 
the same time officers of the national exchequer. For in- 
stance Gervase Wilford, auditor of the accounts of the prince's 
treasurer from February 1341 ® until 1344 ' and probably 

1 M.R., K.R. 114, m. 51d; cf. the position of the auditors acting in connection 
with the coinage of Cornwall, 1337-38 {M.R., L.T.R., 116, communia Mich, 
m. 3). 

^ That is, after the prince attained his majority. The first such appoint- 
ment of which I know was on March 9, 1347, when auditors of the prince's 
receiver were appointed {M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 47d). In the same year the king 
appointed the same auditors to hear an account of the keeper of the prince's 
wardrobe, for a period, however, of his minority {C.P.R., 1345-48, p. 387). 

s C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 577. * M.B.E., T.R., 144, f. 47d. 

* Compare the inferior position of Thomas Hockley in 1359, who was then 
ordered to show all the accounts he had audited for a certain period to Sprid- 
lington, another auditor, and not to account with any of the ministers in future 
without the presence of Spridlington or Stokes {M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 186d). 

6 C.P.R., 1340-43, p. 577 ; E.A. 389/3. 

' Wilford was reappointed by the king on May 21, 1345 {M.R., L.T.R. 118 
(1346), communia, Hilary recorda, m. 6) to audit Gildesburgh's account (M.R., 
K.R. 122, brevia directa baronibus. Trinity, m. 7d). This account ran from 
Mich. 1342 to July 31, 1344 (E.A. 390/3). 


longer/ auditor of his receiver's account from July to December 
1346 2 and from February 1348 until Michaelmas 1349,^ had long 
been employed in the exchequer,^ and was a baron from 1341 
onwards and chief baron in 1350.^ Hugh Cole wick similarly, who 
was appointed on each occasion as one of Wilford's colleagues and 
who was still acting in 1352,^ had been a baron of the exchequer 
as early as 1332, and was apposer of the sherifi's foreign summons 
in 1346 and engrosser in 1347.' Such auditors were evidently 
regarded as rather more important persons than their colleagues 
who were more closely associated with the prince.^ Exchequer 

1 He wa8 apparently an auditor of the account of John Hale, keeper of the 
wardrobe, who succeeded Gildesburgh (C.P.E., 1345-48, p. 387). 

2 He was appointed with others to audit John Pirye's account as receiver 
(M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 47d), and Pirye was only acting for these months (see 
appendix). ^ M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 4. 

■* He was clerk to the king's remembrancer in 1327-28, and lord treasurer's 
remembrancer, 1329-41. 

5 All these facts as to exchequer officials come from the appendices of Dr. 
D. M. Broome's unpublished thesis on " The exchequer in the reign of Edward 
III., a preliminary investigation." » M.R., L.T.R. 118 {ut supra). 

' It would be tedious to expand this point. Other auditors who also held 
office in the exchequer are William Chester (auditor of the lord Edward's 
treasurer's account in 1334 (C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 547)), Ambrose Newburgh, 
auditor of various ministers' accounts for periods between 1334 (e.g. Brown, 
p. 109 (Chester)), and 1343 {e.g. M.A. 812/2, m. 4 (Cornwall)), and asso- 
ciated with Wilford and Colewick as an auditor of the treasurer's accounts 
from 1341 till his death, before Feb. 1345 {C.P.R., 1343-45, p. 492) ; Peter 
Gildesburgh (see above, p. 326) ; William Spridlington, one of the auditors of 
the account of William Norwell as treasurer (M.B.E., T.R. 278 f. 70), date 
uncertain, but Norwell was treasurer between 1345-49, and submitted one 
account for that period (see M.A. 1214/3, an account of the chamberlain of 
North Whales). Spridlington was also one of the auditors of the receiver's 
account, 1348-49 {M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 4), and subsequently almost continu- 
ously an auditor of both local and central accounts till the prince's death ; 
he also became bishop of St. Asaph and was one of the prince's executors. 
William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, was one of the auditors of the 
treasurer's account appointed in 1358 {M.B.E. , T.R. 278, f. 149). For the 
auditor, Richard Fillongley, see below, p. 365, n. 5, for Peter Lacy above, 
p. 328, for Wingfield, p. 387, and Stafford, p. 390, n. 2. 

8 E.g. M.R., K.R. 122, brevia directa baronibus Trinity, m. 7d, also M.B.E., 
T.R. 278, f. 158. A recitation of the accounts of the late butler was not to be 
concluded by the other auditors without the concurrence of WUford and 
Colewick. Auditors apparently not employed in any important capacity at 
the exchequer were Nicholas Hugate, one of the treasurer's auditors appointed 
in 1334 {C.P.R., 1330-34, p. 547) ; James Woodstock, appointed an auditor of 
local ministers' accounts m 1337 {3I.R., K.R. 114, m. 51d) ; William Castle, 
similarly appointed in 1337 {ib.) ; Thomas Hockley, an auditor of accounts of 
local ministers from 1339 if not earlier (in that year he, with others, audited the 
account of the receiver of Cornwall, 3I.A. 816/11, m. 19), who was stUl acting in 
such a capacity in 1359 {M.B.E. , T.R. 278 f. 186d), and who was occasionally 


officials became less prominent among tlie auditors however as 
the prince increased in years and wisdom. 

In the same way, though to a less noticeable degree, the 
prince's local financial officials, as well as his central receiver 
and treasurer, were usually king's clerks, frequently of the ex- 
chequer, who had been drafted to the prince's service, and who, 
though their direct connection with the exchequer might have 
ceased, were imbued with its traditions. Thus though the prince's 
accounts were not drawn up and passed through the ordinary 
channels of exchequer procedure, they were, both in the first and 
the last instance, indirectly subjected to the spirit at least of that 
department's administration, in the personnel of accountants, 
receivers and auditors. But exchequer control was sometimes 
expressed more directly than through the habits of a common 
civil service. At times the king insisted that his heir's accounts 
should be lodged in the exchequer after audit, but such insistence 
was effective, apparently, only during the prince's minority. 
Perhaps while the king was appointing the auditors it was possible 
to enforce his demands ; it seems probable that the non-survival 
of the prince's accounts after he attained his majority may be 
explained by the virtual independence of his officials at that time 
from effective exchequer control.^ 

There is little information easily accessible on the question 

(e.g. in 1351, M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 4), but by no means always, also amongst the 
auditors of central accountants [e.g. he was not amongst such auditors appointed 
in 1354 {M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 70), or in 1358 (ib. f. 149)) ; Nicholas Pinnock, an 
auditor for local ministers from 1342 {M.A. 812/2, m. 2), who was still acting in 
1357 (Transcripts, M.A. Duchy of Cornwall, i. nos. 9 and 10), who was also 
often amongst the auditors of central accountants ; John Pu-ye (see above, 
p. 327); Hugh Barton acting for both local and central purposes in 1358 
{e.g. M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 149, ib. 150d), Richard Stokes, also acting in both 
capacities from 1359 (ib. f. 186d), who remained an auditor of local ministers 
throughout the greater part of the reign of Richard II. ; John Henxteworth, 
appointed with others in 1362 to audit the treasurer's account (ib. f. 227d), 
John Carleton appointed with others for local purposes in 1362 (ib. f. 232d) ; 
William Cranewell, similarly appointed, and still acting in 1367 (Transcripts, 
M.A. Duchy of Cornwall, ii. no. 16) ; Robert Vaggestok ; and John Cary, acting 
in 1375 (M.A. 812/14). Of these, many had done years of service to the prince 
himself in various capacities, and others had been variously employed in the 
king's service. 

^ Accounts seem to have remained in the custody of the auditors, witness an 
attempt under Richard II. to get Richard Stokes, late auditor, to bring the 
prince's accounts to the exchequer (M.R., K.R. 159, brev. dir. bar, Hilary, m. 10), 
Again I am indebted to Miss Broome for referring me to this entry. 


of the submission of the prince's accounts at the king's exchequer. 
In March 1346 the king sent a letter to the auditors of the prince, 
who had been duly accredited to hear Peter Gildesburgh's account 
as treasurer, telling them to deliver the audited account at the 
exchequer. 1 At the same time he sent a writ to the treasurer 
and barons at the exchequer, ordering them to receive the same 
account " et lefacez enrouler en les roules de la place pur y demorer 
de record a touz iours, en meisme la manere come sont les autres 
acomptes a nous renduz en la dite placed They were further 
ordered to do the same in future with all accounts of the prince's 
chief receivers or treasurers of the wardrobe, " siqe ses husoignes 
iUoeques soient tretees et faites en la place par autieles leis et usages 
qe sont noz husoignes propres." ^ It is clear that at the time of 
this writ the account in question had already been audited, and 
that there was no suggestion of audit at the exchequer. In the 
following July two of the auditors delivered at the exchequer 
the rolls of account for all the time Gildesburgh was treasurer, 
together with the books, rolls of particulars, and counter-roll, 
and also letters of acquittance and other memoranda touching 
the account, all safely contained in three leather and two canvas 
bags. These remained in the custody of the engrosser, in a 
certain chest assigned for the accounts of the issues of the prince's 
lands. ^ So far so good ; but I can find little indication that the 
accounts were recorded by the engrosser on the great roll, accord- 
ing to the king's commands.^ 

This newly instituted formality was not automatically con- 
tinued, and in November 1351 the prince himself found it necessary 
to order the auditors of the receiver-general to deliver his account 

1 I cannot trace this writ. 

2 M.E., K.R. 122. Brev. dir. bar., Trinity Term, m. 7d. 

2 M.R., L.T.R. 118 (communia, Hilary, recorda, m. 6). As late as 1366 a 
letter under the prince's great seal of Aquitaine was deposited by the ex- 
chequer for safe custody in "a certain hamper in the lesser chest with three 
locks in (supra) the receipt, with this sign . . ." There follows a delightful 
drawing of a lion rampant which I cannot reproduce {M.B.E., T.R. 273, p. 2). 
Mr. D. L. Evans kindly drew my attention to this. (See also Palgrave, 
Kalendars and Inventories, i. p. 208.) 

* P.R.O., Lists and Indexes, xi. (list of foreign accounts) gives no indica- 
tion of any accounts of the Black Prmce. Nor do the headings on the dorse 
of the Pipe RoU for 1346. Occasionally ministers' accounts are, however, 
hidden in shire accounts, (viz. the shire where the accountant held his lands), 
and are unindexed, and, therefore, difiicult to trace. 


to the exchequer, in accordance with the king's mandate of 1346.^ 
In the following February there is duly recorded the delivery 
at the exchequer by these auditors of one bag, containing the 
various accounts of Peter Lacy as receiver-general and keeper 
of the wardrobe, together with counter-rolls, letters of acquit- 
tance, etc. This bag also remained in the custody of the engrosser 
in the chest assigned to the prince's business. ^ I have found 
no evidence that further accounts were similarly submitted.^ 

The permanent deposit of the prince's accounts at the ex- 
chequer was probably necessary in order to facilitate the collec- 
tion of the debts due to him. It would seem that from an early 
date exchequer machinery was used for this purpose. Thus in 
1339 the king told the treasurer and barons that the duke of 
Cornwall's business was to be treated in the exchequer in the 
same way as the king's business.^ Later it is stated that if any 
minister of the lord Edward be found in arrears with his account 
rendered before the prince's auditors in the exchequer, he is to 
be taken to the Fleet prison till he has done the prince's pleasure.^ 
In 1343 it is explained in a writ to the treasurer and barons under 
the great seal that the bailiffs, etc., of the prince have refused to 
come to his exchequer to pay their farms or to render their 
accounts, and that the king, wishing to provide for his greater 
security, therefore orders them to use such process against the 
prince's defaulting ministers under the seal of the king's exchequer 
as was wont to be used against similar ministers of the king.^ 

1 M.B.E., T.B. 278, f. 20d. 

2 M.R., L.T.R. 118. Adhuc communia, Hilary, 20 Edward III. Adhuc 
recorda, m. 6. The reference to the 1351 deposit is an addition to the earlier 
entries concerning Gildesburgh's accounts (see above, p. 339). 

^ Further detailed search of all later memoranda rolls might reveal more 
information, however ; I have only sampled occasional rolls. 

* M.R., L.T.R. Ill (communia, Hilary, m. 13). Compare the wording 
of the king's writ of 1346 (above, p. 339). I am grateful to Dr. Broome for 
drawing my attention to this entry. A still earlier writ would seem to have 
been issued to the same effect, which I have not succeeded in tracing. 

5 M.R., L.T.R. 117 (communia, Easter, m. 5d). 

® " Rex, Thesaurario et Baronibus, etc. Quia datum est nobis intelligi quod 
firmarii, balhui et alii ministri dilecti et fidelis nostri Edwardis Principis Wallie 
(etc.) filii nostri (etc.) necnon receptores exituum terrarum et tenementorum ac 
denariorum ipsius filii (etc.) . . . et executores qui testamentorum huiusmodi 
firmariorum ballivorum ministrorum et receptorum iam defunctorum firmas et 
exitus ac denarios eiusdem filii per ipsos firmarios ballivos etc. . . . preceptos 
ad scaccarium ipsius filii nostri solvere sen inde respondere ut tcnentur, aut ad 
idem scaccarium pro huiusmodi solucionibus ibidem faciendis vel compotia 


On both these latter occasions it is clear that payments are to 
be made and accounts rendered in the prince's exchequer ; these 
writs were enrolled on the memoranda rolls at such times as 
proceedings were about to be taken against the lord Edward's 
accountants.^ Similarly the information concerning the custody 
of the prince's audited accounts in the exchequer ^ followed on 
proceedings taken against Gildesburgh for arrears.^ 

Such a use of the national exchequer for the collection of debts 
not due to the crown itself was no new thing. In the late 
thirteenth century the arrears of accounts of the Jews were col- 
lected through the king's exchequer and not through the so- 
called exchequer of the Jews.^ In the fourteenth the dowager 
queen Isabella had the same privileges in this respect as the 
Black Prince.^ The exchequer had a reputation for efficiency, 
and other bodies of a similar nature could not copy its methods 
effectively, though perhaps they might attempt to do so. Even 
Edward III.'s chamber could not enforce its powers of audit 
without exchequer assistance.^ I have as yet found no evidence 
that the prince's debts continued to be collected in this way 
throughout the later years of his life, but the order that the 
prince's needs were to be treated in the exchequer in the same way 
as the king's was certainly still in force in 1354.'' A parallel 
movement towards reorganising the exchequer of Chester on the 

suis rcddendis ad inandatum prefati filii nostri venire recusant in ipsius filii 
nostri dampnum et jacturam manifestam. Nos indempnitati predicti filii 
nostri in hac parte prospicere volentes vobis mandamus quod talem processum 
versus firmarios etc. . . . eiusdem filii . . . quoscunque ad executores etc. 
pro firmis et redditibus ac denariis quibuscunque ad scaccarium suum solvendis 
et inde prout decet respondendis et compotis suis ibidem reddendis fieri faciatis 
sub sigUlo scaccarii nostri predicti qualem versus firmarios, etc. . . . nostrorum 
hactenus ad idem scaccarium fieri consuevit. Teste me ipso apud Dytton 
30 Nov. 17°." (3I.B., K.R. 121, Brev. dir. bar., Trinityl9 Edward in. m. 19d). 
An almost identical writ, mutatis mutandis, was issued to the prince's executors 
in 1376 (below, p. 398, n. 1). 

1 E.g. against Simon Rugeloy, late chamberlain of Chester (1339, 31. R., 
L.T.R. Ill), against John Warwick, sub-sheriff of Anglesey (1343, M.R., L.T.R. 
117). Compare the proceedmgs against John Hamolyn, late sheriff of Corn- 
wall (1342, M.R., L.T.R. 116). 2 gee above, p. 339. 

* M.R., L.T.R. 118 (he. cit.). 

* For the relations between the " Jewish exchequer " and the treasurer and 
barons of the king's exchequer, see Madox, i. p. 249, etc. (1769). Also H. 
Jenkinson, Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society, viii. pp. 19-54, and 
C. G. Crump, E.H.R. xxix. p. 551. ^ 3I.R., K.R. 122. 

6 Above, iv. p. 283. ' M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 67. 


lines of the Englisli exchequer, may be taken as a not uninteresting 
commentary on the prince's relations with that national depart- 
ment of government.^ 

Other relations which existed between the prince and the 
royal exchequer have less importance. Writs of the prince were 
sometimes enrolled for remembrance upon the memoranda rolls ; 
one of his of&cers would present a charter from the king in favour 
of the prince and seek that it also might be enrolled ; ^ payments 
were not infrequently made by the prince to officials of the ex- 
chequer for their pains on his behalf, sometimes in the form of an 
annual fee.^ In time it was necessary to have a special attorney 
of the prince in the exchequer.^ The king's desire, perhaps not 
disinterested, to help the lord Edward's officials to collect the 
moneys due, a desire which we have already seen expressed in the 
gift of the benefits of exchequer procedure, appears also in 1337, 
when evidences touching the county of Chester since 1301 were to 
be transcribed for the assistance of his auditors.^ Relations 
indeed seem throughout to have been friendly and founded on 
mutual convenience ; the same spirit seems also to have been 
manifested in such relations as existed between the prince's 
administration and the king's chancery,^ 

The successful development of the prince's exchequer as a 

1 In 1351 the prince and his council ordained that the chamberlain of 
Chester should " hold henceforth at the exchequer of Chester all manner of 
pleas that belong to the court (place) of the exchequer, and to order and manage 
the said exchequer as far as he can by the same course and laws as are used in 
the king's exchequer of England " {M.B.E., T.R. 279, f. 4, clause 32). It is by 
no means certain that this recommendation was carried out ; the reply of the 
Cheshire commissioners appointed to execute this and other ordinances was 
evasive (ib. f. 7). 

2 E.g. the grant of the principality of Wales {M.R., L.T.R. 116). 

3 E.g. to the ushers of the exchequer {M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 139d), and to the 
remembrancers and clerk of estreats [ib. 278, f. 23d). These latter were to be 
paid annually. 

« E.g. John Cory in 1349 {C.P.R., 1348-50, p. 331). Cory was also attorney- 
general in the chancery and before the justices. ^ 31. R., K.R. 114. 

8 Gifts were often also made to chancery officials (e.g. M.B.E., T.R. 144 f. 
139d) ; in 1355 " two dozens of parchment " were delivered by the prince's 
receiver-general to a clerk of the king's chancery, upon which to write the writs 
with which he had been charged. Presumably these were royal protections for 
followers of the prince about to depart for Gascony (M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 82d). 
Similarly, after he became prince of Aquitaine, Edward paid for his charters, 
and for their silken laces, etc. (ib. f. 254d). 


stabilised office of receipt, from the rudimentary financial organ- 
isation of the household, did not destroy the older institution of 
the wardrobe. Mediaeval government abounded in such per- 
sistent survivals, which might be temporarily quiescent but were 
by no means obsolete, and which were ready to express that 
inalienable authority which still clung to the lord's person. More- 
over the original wardrobe had naturally less work to accomplish 
in the normal course, after the exchequer, and the great wardrobe 
also,^ had branched off from it. In peace time, in short, it was 
becoming domestic, a mere " wardrobe of the household," ^ an 
accounting office of decreasing administrative importance ; in 
war time, however, it was also military, and the most active agent 
of its master abroad. 

The changing terminology of the century, which tended to 
confuse the wardrobe and the great wardrobe, makes it difficult to 
trace the history of the wardrobe proper in the case of the prince, 
as in that of his father.^ It is not clear, for example, whether such 
phrases as " the receipt of the wardrobe," " the chapel of the 
wardrobe," " our wardrobe in London," ^ may be taken to indicate 
fixed headquarters of the wardrobe of the household in the city.^ 
There is little indication otherwise of such localisation, nor any 
evidence to show that the prince had recourse to the priuatum 
hospicium which complicates the history of Edward III.'s 
wardrobe in his later years, and the existence of which might 
suggest stabilised headquarters for the wardrobe of the household.^ 
Very possibly such references applied to the houses of the great 
wardrobe in Ironmonger Lane.' Perhaps the prince, like the 
king, found it convenient to have some fi_xed abode for the ward- 
robe of the household when his court was in London or its neigh- 
bourhood ; the home of the great wardrobe would be the natural 
place for this in the absence of permanent headquarters of its 
own. The three chests of books, rolls and other memoranda of 
the wardrobe, for which two locks were bought by the national 

1 See below, pp. 349-356. 

2 The phrase " wardrobe of the household " is frequently used, e.g. M.B.E., 
T.R. 278, f. 149. a See above, iv. p. 160. 

* M.B.E., T.R. 278 {e.g. f. 172, 175, 176). For the receipt of the wardrobe, 
however, see below, p. 353. 

^ Compare similar uncertainty with regard to the king's wardrobe, above, 
iv. p. 87. 6 ggg above, iv. p. 177. ' See below, pp. 352-354. 


exchequer after the prince's death, and which were carried on two 
carts to Westminster, similarly may or may not have belonged to 
the wardrobe of the household.* 

Though normally restricted to housekeeping, the prince's 
wardrobe was not lacking in dignity and grandeur. The officers 
continued to be persons of some distinction, and can have lost 
little prestige through the growth of new departments. The 
keepers of the middle period of his life were men well tried in the 
prince's service ; unfortunately references to the wardrobe of his 
later years are practically non-existent, and we are as ignorant of 
its personnel as of its functions. But the prince's household then, 
as earlier, was undoubtedly maintained in the luxury and magnifi- 
cence which the age demanded. Fleeting glimpses of his marshal ^ 
and butler,^ his knights, squires and valets of the chamber in their 
gorgeous liveries ; ^ his master of the great horses, his keeper of 
the swans in the water of Thames, his keeper of arms,^ the dean 
and thirteen clerks of his chapel, the master of his barge with 
twelve fellow bargemen, the keeper of his cellars in London, the 
usher of his hall, his barber, his pavilioners, minstrels, heralds and 
messengers, the clerks and valets of kitchen, pantry, buttery, 
poultry, etc., testify to the state which surrounded the prince of 
Wales.6 Indentures of service show the relations of his bachelors 
to his household, and that they received their wages in the ward- 
robe,' orders to the steward indicate the size of the retinues of his 

1 I.E. 465 (1 Richard II.). 

2 For example, John Montviron, acting in Aug. 1357 {M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 
124d) ; Henry of Berkhamsted, acting in Oct. 1366 (Gasc. 29, m. 9) ; Guichard 
d'Angle, marshal of Aquitaine, acting July 1371 (John of GaunVs Register, p. 9) 
and earlier (Froissart, Chroniques, ed. Luce, vi. p. 82). For an account of 
Guichard d'Angle, later earl of Huntingdon, see above, iii. pp. 325-326. 

^ John Skirbeck was butler as early as 1336-38 (£'.^.387/25, m. 5), and was 
acting for many years. For a reference to his accounts see M.B.E., T.R. 278, 
f. 158, when he was " lately our butler " (Jan. 1359). In Aug. 1359 William 
Baketon was butler [ib. f. 173). 

* Ib. f. 224. Golden ribbons distinguished the new hats of the knights, 
issued to celebrate the new year at Berkhamsted. 

^ See below, p. 355. 

6 M.B.E., T.R. 218 passim (1351-65). 

' Ib. i 7d (May 1351). When the calendars of the prince's registers are pub- 
lished shortly it will be possible to make lists of the knights of the household 
or of the chamber. In the index of the calendar which is about to be published 
(1346-47, M.B.E., T.R. 144) the following appear as the prince's bachelors : 
William Belesby, Richard Bere, Thomas Daniel, Thomas Danyers, William 
Daubeny, Thomas Ferrers, Richard Fitz Simon, Thomas Fournival, John Hide, 


knights.i When the wardrobe followed its master to his new 
home abroad, still greater elaboration must have dignified the 
court of that virtually sovereign ruler the prince of Aquitaine. 
The wardrobe of the household remained the financial centre of 
the prince's domestic establishment whether he was abroad or in 

After local accountants had been ordered to make payments 
to the priQce's exchequer instead of to his wardrobe, as in the 
past,2 the wardrobe drew on the exchequer for supplies "of as 
much money as is needed for the expenses of the prince and his 
household." ^ But the new system did not prove entirely satis- 
factory to the household, and for a time the issues of certain 
lordships were assigned to its use. Thus in 1352 the prince's 
council decreed that the issues of Cornwall should be paid directly 
to the treasurer of the wardrobe ; * certain Cheshire issues were 
similarly treated.^ The park of Byfleet was reserved for the 
expenses of the household in 1355,^ but was administered by 
the chamber and not the wardrobe.' Such arrangements were 
disliked by the receiver-general, who kept control over Cornish 
arrears.8 gy 1355 the Cornish order was rescinded,^ by 1356-57 
all Cheshire liveries were made to the receiver-general.^"^ This 
experiment of assigning certain revenues for household expenses 
was perhaps copied from the revival of the same policy in the 
king's wardrobe. Similarly the assignment of the proceeds of the 
sale of wardships in Cheshire towards the expenses of the prince's 

Edmund Kendale, Nigel Loring, William Shareshull, Eichard Stafford, Edmund 
Wauncy In 1354 John Mohun lord of Dunster, John Montacute, Nigel Loring, 
John Sully and Walter Woodland witnessed a letter patent as knights of the 
household {M.B.E., T.R. 280, f. 43d). 

1 E.g. M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 171. ^ See above, p. 324. 

3 M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 46 (July 7, 1346). The later registers of the prmce 
frequently testify to the continuance of such supplies {e.g. ib. 278, f. 82d). 

* Ib. 280, f. 28d (Dec. 7, 1352). The order was made " Porceqe nous 
desirroms durement molt qe touz les paiementz affaire pur les despences de 
notre hostiel soient desore plus prestement faitz qe ceux ne soleint einz ces heures 
et les gardeins de notre hostiel le plus en certein et a greindre honeur et profit 
de nous et au pleisance et meindre damage de poeple le puissent le mieltz guyer 
et governor, si avoms par avis de notre conseil ordinez, etc." 

5 Ib. 279, f. 47 (Dec. 13, 1352). In 1353-54 payments from Cheshire issues 
were made both to the receiver-general and to the treasurer of the wardrobe 
(Brown, p. 218). « M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. Old. 

' See below, p. 358, n. 3. » M.B.E., T.R. 280, f. 36d. 

9 Ib. f. 52d. 1" Brown, p. 236. 


hall at Kennington, that is to say to assist one branch of domestic 
expenditure/ is reminiscent of the king's allocation of wardships 
in aid of the expenses of the household. ^ It is noticeable that 
these expedients were adopted in both wardrobes between 1349 
and 1352. Although the prince's household normally depended 
on the exchequer for its funds, although its accounts were audited 
by the receiver-general amongst others, it can at no time have 
experienced the same drastic control that the national exchequer, 
strengthened by its own traditions and the repeated cry of some 
generations of reformers, exercised at times over the royal ward- 
robe. But it is probable that in both cases latent antipathy was 
now to some extent stilled by a growing sense of the unity of all 
administrative institutions,^ 

The prince's wardrobe, still a domestic purse and still an 
itinerant department, naturally and on the royal analogy bore 
the brunt of his war-time expenditure. When he was in Gascony 
from 1355-57 for example, drafts were remitted from the receiver- 
general in England.* Some fees of war were paid in England 
before the departure of the expedition by the receiver-general, 
but it consequently rested with the treasurer of the household 
to square up accounts with him. " For the prince wills that all 
expenses for the said voyage be entirely accounted for in our said 
household." ^ In the journal of payments made abroad by the 
prince's controller during 1355-56, fees of war are a large item.^ 
Yet the prince was not entirely responsible for the financing of 
these southern campaigns, and the treasury of Bordeaux certainly 
took its share.' 

1 Brown, p. 157 (Dec. 1349). ^ gee above, iv. pp. 120-122. 

3 Cf. above, iv. p. 163. 

* Henxteworth's Day-Book. The loans from the receiver-general, here fre- 
quently mentioned, do not seem to have been " prests " in the strict usage of the 
king's wardrobe, for they were repayable. For example, the sum of £368 : 2 : 8, 
borrowed from Lacy in July 1355, was certainly repaid him. The problem of 
the financial resources of the wardrobe at this period is closely interwoven with 
the whole problem of financial responsibility for this phase of the war. 

5 M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 95. The receiver-general paid as much as £7242 to 
knights and men-at-arms before Sept. 7, 1355. 

•* Henxteworth's Day-Book. The main items are payments for food, clothing, 
alms, wages and fees of war. 

' E.g. E.A. 26/35. This is an indenture between the prince's treasurer of the 
wardrobe and a chamberlain of the national exchequer, in which the prince' s 
treasurer acknowledged the receipt of various large sums of money to be taken 
to the prince's treasury at Bordeaux to deliver to the constable there for 


When the prince of Aquitaine finally took up residence in his 
Gascon principality he was accompanied by his wardrobe. Con- 
sequently it disappears from our view. On the eve of the prince's 
departure John Pembridge was appointed to have la charge de 
notre garderohe es parties d' Aquitaigne, and was to receive from 
the keeper of the wardrobe the wages of the other workers in his 
office, and the cost of materials purchased.^ Thus he seems 
merely to have been head of the tailoring department abroad. ^ 
I know of no other wardrobe appointments, though names of 
occasional treasurers of the household survive in Gascon accounts.^ 
It seems probable that the wardrobe continued to travel round 
the country with the prince, but may well have found it necessary 
to have some fixed headquarters. A house in the Rue des Ayres, 
Bordeaux, was known in 1375 as " the wardrobe of the lord prince," * 
but this may well have been merely a great wardrobe for Gascony. 
Frequent payments are recorded during the prince's tenure of 
the principality, both into the treasury of the prince's household 
and into the wardrobe ; ^ and it is impossible to say certainly 
whether any distinction between them is implied. Such sums 
came in part from Gascon resources, but as money was frequently 

payment for victuals during the war (Aug. 1355). An indenture made between 
king and prince details the strength of the prince's retinue (viz. 433 men- 
at-arms, 400 mounted archers, 300 foot-archers) and shows that the king 
was bound to pay the wages of war of this retinue in advance for six months 
at a time (M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 88, printed in Beltz Memorials of the Garter, 
appendix ii.). 

1 M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 260d (June 8, 1363). 

2 A similar position was probably held earlier by Henry Aldrington, appointed 
as tailor, Dec. 9, 1355 {ib. f. 102d), still acting, 1359 [ib. f. 180) and frequently 
called " garderobarius " in 1355-56 (Henxteworth's Day-Book), and perhaps by 
William Stratton to whom some of the parcels of the great wardrobe were 
delivered in 1347 {ib. 144, f. 98d) and who was also (as " Giliot de Stratton ") 
called " garderobarius " {ib. f. lOOd). A William Stratton was at work for the 
lord Edward as early as 1330 (see above, iv. p. 389) and answered for bed 
coverings, liveries, velvet robes, etc. between 1336 and 1338 {E.A. 387/25 m. 7) ; 
he was the prkice's tailor in 1340 {E.A. 389/6). He was granted an annuity 
from the issues of Dee mills, which he received as " tailor of the prince's 
chamber," from 1347-48 (Brown, p. 123) till 1354-55 {ib. p. 229) and as lato 
taUor, in 1356-57 {ib. p. 235). He was stiU receiving his annuity, and was then 
a knight, in 1362-63 {M.A. 11214). 

3 See below, p. 367. 

* "la guardaroba domini principis " {Roles Gascons I. xxiii.). It is im- 
probable that this " high stone house " was primarily a record depository and 
secretarial office {ib. xxiv. Drouyn, Bordeaux vers 1450, p. 425). 

5 E.g. Delpit, p. 136. 


received from England for the prince's needs in Gascony, a part 
of this also doubtless found its way to the wardrobe.^ 

The prince's wardrobe, at home or abroad, in peace as in war, 
developed in much the same way, to meet similar needs, as the 
royal wardrobe had done in his father's early years, and in the 
more distant past. Its sphere remained ill-defined, and it re- 
tained great potentialities. It developed some system of record 
keeping ; ^ it might, on occasion, deal with judicial no less than 
financial and administrative matters.^ Its duties naturally 
overlapped to some extent those of the exchequer, but on 
the rare occasions when a glimpse can be obtained of the ex- 
penditure of the keeper of the wardrobe, it is not so varied and 
all-embracing as that of the receiver-general, and is in the main 
restricted to prests in favour of the subordinate household 
officials, such as the clerk of the pantry and the rest.^ Some 
indication of the scope of wardrobe activities is revealed in 
appointments of auditors, or letters in pursuance to the controller 
of the household. Allowance was to be made on the keeper's 
account for all sums paid by witness of the controller, or by the 
prince's letters of warrant, namely for expenses made in the 
household and foreign expenses, such as gifts, alms, necessaries, 
messengers, wages and fees of war — " and other things whatso- 
ever which he shall have made by our order,"— and also prests, 
for fees and wages of war and for the officers of the household.^ 

^ See below, p. 366. 

2 There was, for example, a " book of memoranda of the wardrobe " 
(Henxteworth's Day-Book), and there were, of course, also accounts, which no 
longer survive. 

* For instance a dispute about the manor of Mobberley was discussed in the 
wardrobe by the " justices and Serjeants and other men wise in the law " 
{M.B.E., T.R. 279, f. 219). Such discussions frequently took place in the 
prince's exchequer. 

* Schedules of allowances to be made on the keeper's account were occa- 
sionally addressed to the auditors of the wardrobe account, but do not of course 
comprise more than a fraction of his total expenditure. Yet they certainly 
suggest the limited range of wardrobe activities in normal times. See for 
example M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 82d, or f. 154, where the expenses are more varied 
and include the costs of journeys abroad by the prince's servants, and of gifts 
to foreigners departing for their own country. Norwell's allowances in 1352 
include a long list of gifts of jewels, horses, etc., made by the prince for the whole 
time Norwell was keeper of the wardrobe before Jan. 31, 1349. The horses 
are described, and the names of the recipients and the place of gift noted. This 
part of the register is printed in Beltz, Memorials of the Garter, appendix ii. 

6 M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 92d (Sept. 1355). 


From the prince's wardrobe, moreover, drafts were made to the 
chamber, though the exchequer also contributed its share for 
the prince's most personal and intimate needs. ^ All such ex- 
penditure was a normal part of the outlay of Edward IIL's 
wardrobe also. 

The names of the clerical officials of the prince's wardrobe,^ 
unlike those of their lay colleagues,^ are little known outside the 
prince's administration, but within it were familiarised by years 
of service. His keepers and controllers * were normally his own 
promoted household clerks: for instance Henry Blackburn was 
controller before he was keeper, Hugh Barton was sub-treasurer 
before he was keeper, Peter Daran and William Peykirk appear 
as clerks before becoming controller and deputy controller. 
Richard Drayton was chief clerk of the treasury before becoming 
sub -treasurer. Some wardrobe ofl&cials passed on to the service 
of the privy seal ; Henxteworth passed from the controllership 
to be keeper of the privy seal, and oddly enough John Hale went 
to the same office from the dignified position of keeper of the 
wardrobe. Others were subsequently drafted to the chamber, 
as for example William Peykirk and John Henxteworth. It was 
rare for a wardrobe official to pass from the household to the 
exchequer, but Alan Stokes is a conspicuous exception. The 
prince looked after his household officials well in his petitions 
to the pope, and they were reasonably supplied with canonries 
and livings. When the prince's registers are published, they 
will throw much light on the personnel of the household in 
the middle period of the prince's life, to supplement the meagre 
information of chancery roll and papal petition. But the status 
of the later ofiicials, of such men as Oliver Martin, a keeper of 
the wardrobe in Aquitaine, is likely to remain obscure. 

Common and even official usage had begun, by the fourteenth 
century, to confuse hopelessly " the wardrobe " and " the great 

^ See below, pp. 356-358. * See appendix to this section. 

3 Men like Edmund Wauncy or Thomas Felton, stewards of the household, 
are well known through their knightly exploits ; they had apparently little 
administrative importance as stewards. But Felton, as seneschal of Gascony 
and a councillor, was a conspicuous administrator also. 

* Cofferers never seem to have played an important part in the prince's 
wardrobe ; I have only once found the office mentioned (see above, p. 328). 


wardrobe," ^ though in the thirteenth century the two names had 
been kept distinct. It is thus difficult to trace the history of the 
Black Prince's great wardrobe. It did not appear very early in his 
lifetime, as it had done in that of Edward of Carnarvon. An account 
of liveries of cloth and fur in 1337-38, for example, was submitted 
by the keeper of the wardrobe, and there is no suggestion that an 
organised office of the great wardrobe was already in existence. ^ 
I have not found the name in use before 1346. As in the royal 
great wardrobe of the preceding century the office was apparently 
partly organised before the time when its official head was de- 
scribed as " keeper of the great wardrobe." Peter Lacy indeed 
would seem to be the only man who actually held the office 
under that name, though his predecessors had similar functions. 
Lacy was also receiver-general, and apparently the great ward- 
robe was always more intimately associated with the receivership 
than with the wardrobe of the household, perhaps because they 
both required the convenience of a permanent fixed abode. A 
connecting link between all three institutions, however, is found in 
the person of William Norwell. 

Norwell was keeper of the wardrobe from 1345 onwards, and 
for a short time in the spring of 1346 was also receiver. Once 
some years later he was referred to as " keeper of our great ward- 
robe " at an unspecified date.^ He certainly surrendered certain 
" parcels of our great wardrobe " to his successor as receiver, John 
Pirye.^ In which of his capacities Norwell had held these parcels 
it is not, of course, possible to say, but henceforward the great 
wardrobe was closely associated with the person of the receiver. 
It is clear from other evidence that it was an essential part of 
Pirye's duty as receiver to expedite the supply of victuals to the 
prince's army in France,^ a function which, in the king's case, 
normally pertained to the head of the great wardrobe. Thus on 
both grounds it is apparent that Pirye was virtually keeper of the 
great wardrobe, though nominally perhaps only known as receiver. 

1 A good example of this is found in the Black Prince's Cornish register 
{M.B.E., T.R. 280, f. 36d), where the contemporary marginal heading once 
refers to the wardrobe, but the text refers to the great wardrobe. 

2 E.A. 388/12. 

3 M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 38, a letter (1352) authorising the allowance on 
Norwell's account of certain sums expended by the prince's tailor. 

* lb. 144, f. 49. * See above, p. 327. 


Moreover on leaving this office he was allowed his costs for six' 
journeys to London in connection with la deliverance de notre 
garderobe, and the rendering of his accounts of the receivership 
and wardrobe.^ Under Pirye as receiver was a certain John 
Spennithorne, who was assigned to keep the choses de notre garde- 
robe en Londres ; ^ he subsequently acted under Pirye's successor 
as receiver, Peter Lacy.^ Lacy, in his turn, was charged to receive 
from Pirye those parcels of the great wardrobe which he had 
received from Norwell,^ as well as others,^ though this order was 
later in date than his actual appointment as receiver. Pirye's 
frequent absences from London probably explain his delay in 
surrendering the whole of his office.^ Even in his appointment as 
receiver Lacy's duty of forwarding victuals was stressed.'^ He 
had another subordinate under him, one Matthew Wight, who 
was sent to England from abroad to hold la garde de notre garderobe 
en Loundres under the receiver.^ It seems likely that in these 
cases "wardrobe" really meant great wardrobe, for the wardrobe 
proper was probably abroad with the prince in the care of Norwell; 
in the office in London both Spennithorne and Wight were em- 
ployed under the superintendence of the receiver. The exigencies 
of war, and the resultant division of the household, were thus 
largely responsible for the development both of the office of 
receiver and of the department of the great wardrobe, and also for 
the close association of the two. 

1 M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 94 (July 24, 1347). The auditors were told to allow 
him 4s. a day, for 100 days, for coming to London, staying there and returning. 

- lb. f. 58 (Dec. 19, 1346). Spennithorne was to be paid 2d. a day by 
Pirye as receiver. Oddly enough, this order was made the day before Pirye was 
succeeded by Lacy in the receivership. 

^ lb. f. 71, May 19, 1347 ; Lacy was then ordered to pay Spennithorne's 
wages for such time as they had both been in office. 

« lb. f. 49, March 18, 1347. 

^ lb. f. 98d. This writ, dated March 13, 1347, is registered amongst the 
notes for August of that year. It ordered Pirye to surrender to Lacy and to 
William Stratton (for whom see above, p. 347, n. 2) the parcels of the great ward- 
robe in his keeping, both those with which he had been charged by Norwell 
and others. « lb. f. 27d. 

' Lacy was first appointed receiver in Nov. 1346, and received fuller letters 
of appointment in December (ib. f. 33). (See above, p. 327, n. 8). 

** M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 68. Wight's wages of 3d. a day were to be paid him 
from Jan. 20, 1347. Possibly he succeeded Spennithorne, whose length of 
service is uncertain. In July 1347 Wight held the keeping of " toutes noz 
choses de notre garderobe forpris noz armures et noz robes " {ib. f. 97). His 
wages were then raised to 6d. a day. 


For some reason Lacy was reappointed both to be receiver of 
tlie issues of lands and demesnes and also to make purchases and 
provision of all matters touching the office of the great wardrobe, 
in February 1348, and in virtue of this appointment rendered 
various accounts to the prince's auditors which were subsequently 
delivered to the royal exchequer.^ These comprised the roll of 
account for the custody of the wardrobe of the prince, from 
February 8, 134:8-November 12, 1348, and from that date till 
Michaelmas 1349, and also another roll, of the receipt and delivery 
of cloth and other matters concerning the wardrobe, for the same 
dates, also rolls of particulars, counter rolls, letters of acquittance 
and so on. These accounts all seem to have been concerned with 
the office of the great wardrobe, rather than with that of the 
receiver ; they were not connected with the wardrobe of the 
household. 2 After 1351 Lacy certainly continued to act in both 
his capacities,^ probably for the remainder of his long period of 
service. But after 1365, when the surviving registers end, the 
office of the great wardrobe disappears from view, and it is not 
even clear whether Alan Stokes, Lacy's successor as receiver, also 
kept the great wardrobe. It is by no means improbable that 
during the years of the principality of Aquitaine another great 
wardrobe was estabUshed in Gascony, of which we know nothing.* 

The great wardrobe, as befitted a storehouse of bulky com- 
modities, must have had some settled home in London. It is 
probable that this home always lay between Ironmonger Lane 
and the Old Jewry, on the site which the next generation seem 
to have regarded as appurtenant to the duchy of Cornwall,^ and 

1 31. R., L.T.R. 118, communia Hilary, recorda m. 6. 

^ Accounts of the wardrobe proper were submitted by the keepers of the 
wardrobe during this period (see appendix). 

3 As is testified by innumerable references in the prince's registers. He is 
occasionally called keeper of the wardrobe, in the loose terminology of the day, 
but other keepers certainly held office in the wardrobe of the household. 

* But see above, p. 347. 

5 C.P.R., 1374-77, p. 375, where " the inn of the wardrobe pertaining to the 
duchy of Cornwall " was assigned to the princess of Wales in dower. Cf. 
C.P.R., 1385-89, p. 12, where there is a reference to " la Prince's wardrobe " in 
the Old Jewry. This description was still used in the time of Edward IV., 
when the king had many repairs done there. C. Scofield, Life and Reign of 
Edioard IV. ii. p. 430. It is possible that the hospicium in London, which had 
belonged to John of Eltham as earl of Cornwall (P.R.O. Lists and Indexes, v. 
1095/1), was subsequently used by the Black Prince as his wardrobe, and can 
be identified with his wardrobe in the Old Jewry. 


which Stow long after recognised as the "old wardrope" or 
" the king's pallace in the old Jewry." ^ As early as 1346 the 
prince wrote of repairs to be made to the " houses of our ward- 
robe " in " Ismongerlane." 2 Later it is clear that buildings of 
the great wardrobe existed, for there moneys were received,^ and 
repairs and alterations were frequently made.^ We hear of the 
chapel of the wardrobe,^ which was newly made,^ and also of the 
"receipt of the wardrobe" (which may, however, have been a 
treasury in connection with the improvements and repairs at the 
great wardrobe and at Kennington),' and also of furniture removed 
to the wardrobe.^ There was certainly a janitor of the great ward- 
robe.^ Though it is possible, it is on the whole improbable, that 
the wardrobe of the household had its separate headquarters in 
the city,^'' and thus all these expenses presumably refer to the one 
group of buildings. The location of the wardrobe is clearly 
indicated in a grant by the prince of a small plot of ground to the 
church of St. Olave's in the Old Jewry, which lay between St. 
Olave's on the south and hospicium nostrum sive garderobam 
nostram on the north, and extended from the Old Jewry on the 

^ Stow, Survey of London, ed. Kingsford, i. p. 282. 

2 M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 23 (Nov. 1346). For the identification of Ismonger 
and Ironmonger see Wheatley, London Past and Present, ii. p. 263. 

3 M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 51d (1353). 

* For example, ib. f. 162, " pur la couerture del graunt pount en notre 
graunde Garderobe en touz custages, Ixx iis iid, pur la fesaunce dune novelle 
porche de la sale deinz la dite Garderobe ove une palice ioignante a mesme 
la porche en touz custages xi li xviis iid." Details of repairs in the ward- 
robe or great wardrobe are often mentioned in association with various works 
in progress at Kennington {e.g. ib. f. 176, 267d). 

5 E.g. ib. 280, f. 66d. 

« Ib. 278, f. 135. 

' In 1359 an order was given " in the receipt of the wardrobe ... at the 
suit of Wigley " {ib. 278, f. 175d, cp. 176). A Robert Wigley is elsewhere 
called " clerk of the receipt of the lord in London," and was granted some 
money as a reward for his services as supervisor of the works at Kenning- 
ton and at the great wardrobe {ib. f. 201d). Thus it is not impossible that 
Wigley was in charge of this receipt, and that it was solely concerned with 
moneys assigned to works. Such assignments were not uncommon : e.g. some 
Cheshire revenues were allotted towards the repairs of the hall at Kennington 
in 1349 (Brown, p. 157). 

* A letter was directed to Lacy, as keeper of the great wardrobe, concerning 
the removal of furniture previously used in Pulteney's Inn (see below, p. 396), 
which was to be placed in "our wardrobe at London" {M.B.E., T.R. 278, 
f. 182d). 

« Hugh EUesmere, acting 1354 {ib. f. 96). 
i» See above, p. 343. 

VOL. V 2 A 


east to the prince's garden on the west.^ This grant, taken in 
conjunction with the earlier reference to Ironmonger Lane, makes 
it clear that the prince's wardrobe occupied the same site which 
Stow allots to an ancient palace of the king.^ 

The prince frequently transacted business in the great ward- 
robe,^ and probably sometimes used it as his town house. 
Ambiguous mentions of his hospicium and hostiel in London very 
possibly refer to the great wardrobe.* But he also visited it 
unofhcially,^ perhaps in the same way that Edward III. escaped 
from the wardrobe of the household, though I have no evidence to 
show that the son ever possessed the priuatum hospicium of his 
father's later years. The prince's " house ^ called the wardrobe 
in London," valued on his death at £10 a year,' was assigned to 
his widow as part of her dower.^ 

A great wardrobe was certainly essential for any magnate 
responsible for conducting military expeditions on a large scale or 
for the upkeep of a pretentious establishment : moreover, it was 
bound to go " out of court " very soon through the very nature of 
its functions. But in its close association with the receiver and 
exchequer and its independence of wardrobe control very soon 
after it had obtained any real importance, the prince's great 
wardrobe presents a contrast to that of the king. The purchases 
of the great wardrobe would seem to have been made with funds 

^ M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 175. The land granted consisted of " quamdam par- 
vam placeam terre hospicii nostri sive garderobe nostra in eadem parochia [St. 
Olave's in the Old Jewry, later St. Olave's Upwell], situatam in latitudine inter 
dictam ecclesiam sancti Olavi ex parte australi et hospicium nostrum sive 
garderobam nostram ex parte boreali. Et continet in eadem latitudine duas 
ulnas et tres quarterias ulne de ulneis ferreis excellentissimi domini nostri 
patris et regis predicti. Et extendit se in longitudine a vico regio de veteri 
ludaismo versus orientem usque ad gardinum nostrum versus occidentem et 
continet in eadem longitudine quinque ulnas et dimidiam." 

* The " large building of stone, very ancient " is described in Stove, Survey 
of London, i. p. 282. I think it unlikely that this wardrobe was a home of 
Edward III.'s great wardrobe (see above, iv. p. 399), at any rate after 1346. 

» E.g. M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 172. 

* As, for example, when the prince was allowed ten pounds a day from the 
national exchequer for the period of his journey with his familia from his 
hospicium in London to Calais and back, for the signing of the peace of Calais, 
viz. from August 24 till November 6, 1360 (Delachenal, ii. p. 241, n. 1). Such 
references are frequent in his registers. But he seems also to have had a 
hospicium within the palace of Westminster {E.A. 471/6, April 16, 1352). 

^ See below, p. 355. * " hospicium." 

■> Chanc. Misc. d/bl. 8 C.P.B., 1374-77, p. 375. 


directly assigned to its needs, or else perhaps from allowances from 
the prince's exchequer.^ There is no evidence of financial de- 
pendence on the wardrobe. No accounts of the great wardrobe 
survive, but many letters of warrant directed to Lacy authorise 
payments for great wardrobe commodities ; ^ it is unlikely, 
however, that they cover the whole range of its expenditure. Yet 
the sphere of the Black Prince's great wardrobe can hardly be 
estimated till such letters of warrant are accessible in print. It 
is by no means certain that its activities are exactly those of the 
king's more extensive establishment: for example, the prince's 
pavilioners were at one time certainly subordinates of the keeper 
of the wardrobe of the household,^ and not of the great wardrobe. 
The prince's great wardrobe was not itself solely responsible 
for all military necessities, but had a sub-department to deal 
with arms, which was in effect, though not in name, a privy 
wardrobe. Cloth and arms were not included in the parcels of 
the wardrobe allotted to the custody of Matthew Wight in 1347.'* 
Cloth apparently remained under the direct control of the keeper 
of the great wardrobe,^ but by 1351, if not earlier, arms were in 
the custody of Geoffrey Hamlyn, the gardien de noz armures,^ in 
the chamber of arms within the great wardrobe. In this chamber 
the prince once stayed on a private visit, that is to say, he was 
probably unaccompanied by the wardrobe of the household.' 
The keeper of arms was clearly a subordinate of the keeper of 

^ Cornish arrears before 1352, 'when current Cornish revenues were assigned to 
the wardrobe for the expenses of the household (see above, p. 345), were to be paid 
to the receiver-general for the expenses of the great wardrobe {M.B.E., T.R. 280, 
f. 36d). Similarly, in 1353, £1029 : 11 : lOf went from Cheshire revenues to the 
receiver-general, earmarked for the great wardrobe (Brown, p. 218). 

* See above, p. 330, for examples. Lacy's combination of offices, however, 
makes it impossible to distinguish between the spheres of the receivership and 
the great wardrobe. 

3 M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 82d. The prince's palfreyour and clerk of the 
avenery were subordinates of the keeper of the wardrobe in 1362 {ib. f. 43). 

* See above, p. 351, n. 8. 

^ In 1348-49 the keeper of the great wardrobe accounted for deliveries of 
cloth (M.R., L.T.R. 118 communia, Hilary, recorda, m. 6). 

* Geoffrey Hamlyn, keeper of arms, was in office by 1351 (M.B.E., T.R. 
278, f. 22d) ; he was discharged from office on Feb. 14, 1365, and was succeeded 
by William Snelling {ib. f. 282). 

' In a list of allowances in favour of the receiver-general we find the entry, 
" Item in denariis liberatis domino apud magnam garderobam suam per manus 
Galfridi Hamelyn, valletti sui, recipientis denarios ad deferendos eosdem eidem 
domino tunc existente secrete in camera sua armorum" {ib. f. 51d, April 1353). 


the great wardrobe, and rendered separate accounts for the goods 
in his custody. 1 

With the localisation of his exchequer and the constant pre- 
occupations of his wardrobe with the needs of war or with mere 
housekeeping on a large scale, the prince naturally required a 
privy purse more closely associated with his own person, and 
for this he turned to the chamber. Like his paternal ancestors 
before him he found the chamber a convenient vehicle for the 
exercise of his own prerogative, for it was an institution never 
hide-bound by officials. His chamber became for a time an 
administrative office, concerned apparently rather with the 
collection of one type of income and with its lord's personal 
expenditure, however, than with his efforts to assist in the French 
wars. Therefore it never became of real political or military 
importance like the chamber of Edward III. Yet its develop- 
ment runs in a course parallel to that taken by the king's chamber, 
and resembled this much more closely than it did the chambers 
of some baronial houses.^ 

The chamber is always the most elusive portion of a mediaeval 
household ; its records are often non-existent or fragmentary, 
and verbal rather than written instructions were a natural con- 
sequence of its intimacy with the lord. The few casual references 
to the Black Prince's chamber which survive refer to it most 
frequently in its capacity as a privy purse. Thus we possess, 
for instance, several lists of payments made to the chamber, or 
paid out there.^ These lists do not, of course, constitute chamber 
accounts, but were drawn up to exonerate the keeper of the 
wardrobe or the receiver-general, before the auditors of their 
accounts, of sums disbursed to the chamber. The earliest items 
date from 1346,^ and the whole list is confined to sums paid for 
the prince's play, often with the king and queen, sometimes with 

1 For a list of liveries of arms from the wardrobe, for which Hamlyn was to 
have allowance, see M.B.E., T.R. 278, f. 248d. 

* See above, vol. iv. pp. 310-311. 

» M.B.E., T.R. 278, pp. 45, 57, 83, 85d, 95d, 204d, 231d, 237. 

* I.e. from Feb. 23, 1346 {ib. f. 45). List of payments made in the chamber 
during the time William Norwell was keeper of the wardrobe, before Jan. 31, 
1349, namely, for the years 1346, 1347 and 1348. The list we possess was 
apparently drawn up in 1352 {ib. f. 43). 


his own knights ; the amounts vary from trivial sums like 5s. 3d. 
to such sums as £105 paid for play with the king at Sandwich, or 
£160 paid in the chamber at Calais. In 1346 the total received 
by the prince was nearly £270, in 1347, £281, in 1348, £560. 
Following this list of payments for play is a list of jewels delivered 
in the chamber, for which, however, payment seems to have been 
made from the wardrobe. 

Liveries from the wardrobe were not, however, the only source 
of chamber revenue even in these early days of its activity. 
Certain payments were due there, as, for example, fees to the 
chamber on rendering homage.^ The association of the chamber 
with certain manors had already begun, moreover, for the baUifi 
of Watlington was appointed to answer in the chamber for its 
issues.2 The chamber already possessed at least one usher.^ 
On the whole, however, this early chamber had little importance, 
and was in the main dependent on the wardrobe for its supplies. 
There are no indications that it had any military significance even 
during the Crecy-Calais campaign. 

The resources of the chamber were not, however, always so 
exiguous, nor its sphere so restricted. Thus loans from individuals 
might be made there,^ or loans or gifts from the king ; in 1352, 
£453 was received from the issues of customs on wool;^ in 1355 
certain payments were delivered as part of a loan of a thousand 
marks from the king.^ Moreover, certain revenues would seem 
to have been allotted to the chamber ; in 1353-54, for example, 
no less than £1028 : 16 : 8 was handed over to the chamber from 
Cheshire issues, through the receiver-general as intermediary.' 
Possibly the issues of forfeitures were assigned to the prince's 
chamber, as they were at one time to that of Edward IIL^ For 

1 M.B.E., T.R. 144, f. 49 (March 1347). The keeper of the fees was to 
distrain a tenant of the prince till he had performed certain services and " paid 
the fee of the prince's chamber for the homage he has done." 

2 lb. f. 110. 

3 lb. f. 108 (Sept. 1347), The usher was Roland Daneys, the prince's yeo- 
man, sometime also keeper of Cardigan castle and steward of Cardiganshire. 

< lb. 278, f. 45. 6 lb. f. 31d. ^ 75. f. 95. 

' Brown, p. 218. The actual roll (M.A. 771/18) gives considerably more 
information as to the liveries of moneys than does the printed roll, but there is 
no more information about these liveries for the chamber. 

8 Amongst liveries made to the chamber in 1352-53 were moneys collected 
from certain lands in Cheshire " in the lord's hands by reason of forfeiture " 
{M.B.E., T.R. 278, f, 57d), The year when large payments were made to the 


a time both exchequer and wardrobe drafted supplies to the 
chaniber,^ but after 1354 the receiver - general alone received 
letters of allowance for sums delivered there. The largest 
total sum I have found for which allowance was made was 
£1562 : 5 : 2.2 The resources of the chamber were also aug- 
mented by the assignation to it of the issues of certain manors. 

The orders to the receiver and steward of the lands of the 
chamber which are included in the Black Prince's registers should 
reveal, when accessible in print, the number of his chamber manors. 
Amongst them were