Henry de Pont Audemer:
Royal official of King John and Henry III
Niall C.E.J. O’Brien
While researching the fair of St. Botulph at Boston, Lincolnshire in the time of Henry III the name of Henry de Pont-Audemer turned up as one of the three king’s bailiffs charged with managing the fair around the year 1218. The other two men were Henry of Boston and Richard of Lynn (the trio also managed the fair at Lynn, Norfolk). Thus you had two local men and one outsider managing the local fairs one behalf of King Henry III. This short article is an attempt to write a biography on Henry de Pont-Audemer.
Henry de Pont-Audemer was clearly not from the eastern counties of England. Instead he came from the town of Pont-Audemer in northern France. The town and district of Pont-Audemer is in the Eure Department of Normandy, just south-east of Harfleur. The Duchy of Normandy was linked to England and the English throne since 1066 when Duke William “the bastard” of Normandy defeated the English King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Many people crossed over to England during the conquest of England and in the decades afterwards. One of the notable families to cross over from the Pont-Audemer area was the Beaumont family, Earls of Warwick, who descended from Thurolf de Pont-Audemer, seigneur of Pont-Audemer (c.950-c.979).
A street scene in Pont-Audemer that Henry de Pont-Audemer could have seen
From 1066 the Kings of England held Normandy as vassals of the King of France. Their relationship with the Kings of France was often uneasy as both sides tried to better the other. In 1200 King John signed the Treaty of Le Goulet with Philip II of France whereby the latter recognised John’s lands in France. The Treaty was only a break between wars as in 1202 the war between England and France was renewed. King John scored some early victories but alienated many nobles in Normandy, Anjou and Brittany. In 1204 Philip II conquered Normandy and annexed it to the Kingdom of France.
The people of Normandy now had to decide where they wanted to live. Many of the nobles and the religious houses had land in Normandy and England. Some stayed in Normandy while others crossed over and made their permanent home in England. One person who stayed in Normandy was Luke son of John and by so staying forfeited his estates in England. This loss will appear later in the story of Henry de Pont-Audemer.
A witness to all this change was our central character, Henry de Pont-Audemer. It would seem that Henry de Pont-Audemer was no great lord but still he was of a family that had money. His later service as a royal judge and king’s bailiffs would require some education and education in any age costs money. It would appear that Henry de Pont-Audemer became part of this movement of people across the Channel. He arrived in England sometime before 1208 and quickly attached himself to the royal court of King John where he took on the job of a royal justice. It is possible he was previously a royal official in Normandy but no documentary evidence has yet come to light.
Royal justice in England
The earliest record I have found for Henry de Pont-Audemer is from Easter 1208 at Westminster. Here the royal court sat in session hearing cases from the London area. Thomas Preston was in argument with Abbot Ralph of Westminster Abbey concerning the advowson of Parham in Sussex. At the Easter court, before King John, and Henry de Pont-Audemer, Simon de Pateshulle, and James de Poterne as royal justices, Thomas Preston quitclaimed the advowson to the abbey in return for perpetual prayers.
After its stay in Westminster the royal court moved to the ancient royal city of Winchester. Here Henry de Pont-Audemer continued to act as a royal justice in the service of King John. On 8th June 1208, before King John himself, and Henry de Pont-Audemer along with Simon de Pateshulle and James de Poterne a final concord agreement was made for the grant of an advowson to Plympton Priory. William de Vernon, 5th Earl of Devon, had granted the advowson of Exminister church to Plympton Priory and the court before the king was to seal the deal.
At the same court sitting at Winchester in June 1208 Henry de Pont-Audemer oversaw another land deed relating to Devon. Ranulph de Albamarle claimed 40s worth of land in Dean and Tavy St. Mary from William son of Stephen. Ranulph de Albamarle showed a charter to the court whereby the father of William had granted to the father of Ranulph all his land at Tavy St. Mary along with half the advowson of the church and half the mill. The court accepted Ranulph’s claim.
In March 1210 Henry de Pont-Audemer was back at Winchester with King John and the royal court. Among the law cases that were heard by King John, Henry de Pont-Audemer, Simon de Pateshulle, James Poterne and John de Brewese was one from Devon concerning one knight’s fee in Berry Narbor. The case was brought by William Painel against Philip de Nerebert, tenant, to acknowledge that the fee belonged to William Painel. For this acknowledgement William Painel gave Philip de Nerebert the fee for 5 marks of silver and 15 marks of silver from William Brewere. Both were to hold the fee from William Painel and his heirs.
In mid-summer 1210 the royal court moved northwards to Northampton where Henry de Pont-Audemer again appears as a royal justice. On this occasion the court oversaw the final concord between Abbot Ralph of Westminster and Simon of Deene where the latter quitclaimed the advowson of Uppingham church, Rutlandshire to Westminster Abbey.
On 17th February 1211, at Dorchester, the three royal justices of Pateshulle, Poterne and Pont-Audemer were joined by Robert de Aumar and Roger Huscarl to make another final concord for the Redvers family in the presence of King John. On this occasion it was the recognition by Hawise de Redvers that her brother, William de Vernon, 5th Earl of Devon, held the manor of Ibberton (Dorset), while the Earl recognised her right to have the manor of Honiton (Devon) for her life.
In 1214 Henry de Pont-Audemer again acted as a royal justice with Pateshulle, Poterne and Huscarl among others. In that year they were witnesses, along with a lease six clerics from the Diocese of Lincoln, to a document of the Benedictine Abbey of Eynsham in Oxfordshire. The document suggested that Eynsham Abbey had a claim of seniority over the Benedictine Priory of Luffield in Buckinghamshire. This claim was accepted by the royal officials and the clerics who were present. Yet the cartulary of Luffield shows no trace of any evidence as to why Eynsham should have such a claim.
Royal bailiff for King John
At other times during the reign of King John, Henry de Pont-Audemer left his judge’s seat to act as a royal bailiff in lands that were escheated to the crown. As mentioned earlier a person called Luke, son of John le Normaund, disowned his fealty to King John in 1204 and had his lands in Devonshire at Teyngwick (now known as Highweek parish and part of the town of Newtown Abbot), Oburnford and Diptford forfeited to the crown. When Theobald de Englesville was granted these lands in 1230, it was said that Henry de Pont-Audemer held Teyngwick in the reign of King John as the king’s bailiff. Many years later in 1218 Henry de Pont-Audemer received these three manors as a contribution towards his government salary. This grant was reconfirmed in 1221 but with provision of 100s per year to Eustachia de Courtenay, wife of Luke son of John.
Loss and recovery under Henry III
As a long time associated of King John, Henry de Pont-Audemer suffered with his king against the barons in the troubled year of 1215. In the subsequent civil war and foreign invasion Henry de Pont-Audemer must have been put at a loss. King John died in October 1216 and by the following year the wars were over. In the jostle for position in the new reign of Henry III, Henry de Pont-Audemer lost his salt rights in Hampshire but not for long.
In 1217 the sheriff of Hampshire was ordered to restore to Henry de Pont-Audemer the possession of his customs of salt at Pennington and Efford in the parish of Milford. Henry did not long enjoy these customs as in 1219 the sheriff was ordered to give seisin to the men of Southampton in whose vill the customs lay.
Royal bailiff in the Earldom of Devon
Towards the end of 1217 Henry de Pont-Audemer was again involved with the Redvers family. On 10th September 1217 William de Vernon, Earl of Devon, died leaving a year old grandson as heir. A long minority in an important lordship was now a reality. King John had tried to avoid the issue by an arranged marriage between William’s daughter-in-law, Margaret and a “foreigner”, Fawkes de Breaute. Earl William refused to acknowledge the marriage and refused to settle any lands on Margaret while the use of a “foreigner” by King John only added to his problems with the barons. After the death of Earl William, Fawkes de Breaute tried to secure the Earldom.
The new government of Henry III was not about to allow conditions to develop for a new baron’s war. On the 15th September the crown appointed Henry de Pont-Audemer and Ralph de Norwich to administrate the late Earl’s property in Devonshire and Hampshire. They were also to get custody of Plimpton castle. In November Henry de Pont-Audemer was appointed the king’s clerk to overseas the proper management of the Earl’s property in Devonshire.
Continued Normandy connections
In May 1218, Henry de Pont-Audemer made a pledge of ten marks, at court, for the fine of Robert Marmion, junior. The latter had inherited land in Normandy and England and the fine was so he could succeed to his English lands. Henry de Pont-Audemer possibly knew the Marmion family in Normandy.
Royal bailiff of the Boston fair
In June 1218 Henry III issued an order to the sheriff of Lincolnshire and the merchants and others attending the fair of St. Botulph at Boston to be respectful to the king’s bailiffs. Shortly before this order, the king had appointed Henry de Pont-Audemer, Henry of Boston and Richard of Lynn to be the king’s bailiffs for the fairs at Lynn (later King’s Lynn) in Norfolk and at Boston. A further order to the sheriff of Lincolnshire was issued relating to the previous bailiffs of the Boston fair. The sheriff was to distrain these people from the start of October 1217 and deliver any issues and pleas, determined or not, by these people to the three king’s bailiffs.
With Henry of Boston and Richard of Lynn providing the local knowledge, Henry de Pont-Audemer was there to represent the king. At Lynn fair Henry de Pont-Audemer seized wool belonging to the Hospital of Lincoln after it was received by some merchants from Ghent. The Ghent merchants had owed King John ten marks. An order was issued from London to Henry de Pont-Audemer and his two partners to return the wool to the Hospital.
Despite the presence of foreign merchants at the Lynn fair it was the fair of St. Botul[h at Boston which was the big one. In 1204, Boston had become the second port of England, providing customs duty revenues of £780, only slightly behind London's £836. During the fair of St. Botulph the three bailiffs gathered £105 6s 4½d for the king. But not all of this money was profit for the king. In July Henry de Pont-Audemer was told to deliver £16 and 6lbs of pepper, collected at the fair, to the bailiff of the Count of Brittany.
Later in 1218 the Count of Brittany, who was lord of Boston and a substantial English landowner as Earl of Richmond, filed a bill for expenses with the government. On 9th November 1218 an order was issued to the itinerant justices for Lincolnshire to inquire if £15 6s 2d held by Henry de Pont-Audemer and the other bailiffs was gathered within the vill of Boston. If it was then the Count of Brittany was to have that amount without delay.
The Count of Brittany, also known as the duke of Brittany, was Peter of Dreux. He took the French side when King John invaded France in 1214. As such Peter’s lands in England were taken over by the crown. By 1218 Peter had been reconciled to the English court and in that year William Marshal restored Peter as Earl of Richmond. Throughout 1218 and 1219 Peter began to assume the property of the Earldom outside Yorkshire where the bulk of the income was generated. The Earldom inside Yorkshire was held by the Earl of Chester who was too powerful to remove.
Changed of government & international travel
In November 1218 Henry de Pont-Audemer and Ralph de Norwich, clerk, were made king’s bailiffs by William Marshal to hold the custodies of Northampton. After the death of William Marshal in April 1219 the management of the government for the young Henry III fell to Bishop Pandalf, Peter de Roches and Hubert de Burgh. By 1221 Hubert de Burgh had got Bishop Pandalf and Peter de Roches out of the government and out of the country on the back of an anti-foreigners movement. It is not known how Henry de Pont-Audemer was seen by his contemporaries at this time.
In 1222 Henry de Pont-Audemer got special protection until Easter 1223 as he went to Normandy on business. The natural of this business is unclear. It possibly was a combination of family business and international diplomacy. The armies of Philip II were active in the War of Succession in the Champagne region. This war concluded in May 1222. The English government possibly had fears that Philip would attack the remaining English possessions in France. If Henry de Pont-Audemer’s journey was to avoid such attack it seemed to work.
In the closing months of 1222 or very early in 1223 Henry de Pont-Audemer returned to England. In January 1223 Henry de Pont-Audemer was made custodian of the New Forest near Southampton with Richard de Therstewood. Henry de Pont-Audemer had long held property in Hampshire and knew the area well.
Supporting the war of 1230
In about the year 1229 Henry de Pont-Audemer gave the king three marks as payment for the two parts of a knight’s fee that he held in Hampshire. Henry III had assumed the government in his own right in 1227 and was preparing an invasion of France to recover his ancestral lands and help his allies like the Duke of Brittany. Henry de Pont-Audemer’s payment was to pay for the assembling army. The army arrived in Brittany in May 1230 and after a mixed campaign in the Poitou region the army went south to Gascony from where Henry III returned to England.
After 1229 Henry de Pont-Audemer seems to disappear from the records. His name does not appear in the inquisitions post mortem of Henry III. After years of royal service it seems that Henry de Pont-Audemer held no land directly from the king.
The family of Henry de Pont-Audemer
The family of Henry de Pont-Audemer is as yet unknown. He did leave at least one heir, a daughter, called Agnes de Pont-Audemer. Later in the 13th century Agnes de Pont-Audemer was recorded as holding a fee in Ilsley under the Earl of Winchester in the county of Berkshire. This probably represents an early feoffment by one of the Beaumonts, who were lords of Pont-Audemer. Agnes, who married Ralph de Neirnut, had an estate there as late as 1251–2. She later granted all her lands, rents and tenements in West Ilsley to the Prior of Sandleford, who is returned as tenant in 1270. In 1313 the priory obtained a confirmation of the grant and of a further gift from William de Cherleton.
The date of Agnes’s death is unknown and the family of her husband, Ralph de Neirnut, seem to disappear from the records. Thus we end the life of a royal servant who stayed in England after his home town in Normandy fell to the French. His name and family faded into the mists until brought back to life eight hundred years later – the wonders of modern science.
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