Sunday, 8 July 2012

Had a bit of a frustrating week. I ordered the Claymore Casting Otterburn figures, which are excellent and will provide a nice little painting project, but also some Flags of War flags. Geez . . . are these big! Too big in fact for my Perry Miniatures' earl of Northumberland and his retinue. The unit is ready, just waiting for the last banner but that'll hopefully be done by Wednesday, so I'll post that later this week. Also just started on my William Neville, Lord Fauconberg, retinue. I switched to a black undercoat for these and the last of my Percy retinue and I'm very happy with the result (and the extra speed of painting). Fauconberg is one of my favourite characters from Lancastrian England. It's perhaps a measure of how bad things were by 1459 that a man who had risked life and limb for, in fact dedicated his life to the Lancastrian Dual Monarchy could find himself arrayed against a Lancastrian king.

One curious example of just how complicated allegiances were in 1459 comes from this petition presented to the Coventry Parliament (the Parliament of Devils). In it Sir Ralph Gray (the tricky Northumbrian knight who changed sides several times during the Wars of the Roses and was finally executed in 1464 after being captured following the siege of Dunstanburgh castle) asks for the forfeited lands of the earl of Salisbury to be used to discharge his debts incurred in defending Roxburgh castle. Gray had been appointed joint keeper of Roxburgh with Fauconberg in March 1452, but Fauconberg had spent most of the 1440s in France being captured in 1449 and the payment of his ransom took most of his energies and money during the early 1450s. In September 1458 Gray secured a royal commission to inquire into the state of Roxburgh.  The commissioners’ findings reveal the considerable personal expenses he had incurred. According to the jurors, on 10 March 1457 the tower known as ‘le Kynges Toure’ and the adjacent walls collapsed and, as a result, for the following 20 weeks Sir Ralph was forced to keep 100 extra soldiers there while the walls were repaired. This cost him £166 13s. 4d. in extra wages out of his own pocket, while he spent a further £269 13s. on the building work itself.

It was these extraordinary expenses on top of the usual problem of receiving payment for the safeguard of Roxburgh that lay behind the petition Gray presented to the Coventry Parliament of 1459. We don't who was elected as the MPs for Northumberland, but given Gray’s pressing financial affairs it seems likely that he travelled to Coventry as one of the knights of the shire. The petition outlined the list of revenue sources that Gray wished to be assigned for the payment of his debts. Its preamble explained the terms of the indentures he and Lord Fauconberg had sealed with the King in 1452 and claimed sums in excess of £4,000. Fauconberg, Gray continued, was no longer resident in Northumberland but was ‘in othre parties oute of this youre Reaume’ (in fact he was in exile in Calais where he served as lieutenant to his nephew, the town’s captain, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick). The draft letters patent then detailed the arrangements for the payment of £2,000, the amount owed to Gray. While £133 6s. 8d. of the sum due was to be collected each year from the customs in Newcastle, the rest was assigned on various manors and other revenues seized from the attainted earl of Salisbury. Gray’s petition was agreed to by the Commons and on 20 November 1459, the opening day of Parliament, the letters patent were issued. It is difficult to interpret the background to this grant and its timeframe. On the one hand, Gray’s success in ensuring the Neville lands continued to sustain the defence of Roxburgh and preventing the castle and the revenues assigned for its maintenance from falling into the hands of the Percy family might represent his loyalty to the Nevilles, alongside whom the Grays had served for more than 20 years. Alternatively, he may favoured by the Lancastrian regime to act as a counterweight to the Neville retainer, Sir Robert Ogle, who had replaced Fauconberg as joint keeper some nine months earlier.

The petition itself is in the National Archives, among the Ancient Petitions at SC8/113/5526D
You can see it here

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