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Thread: A look into the Medieval Mind

  1. #1

    Default A look into the Medieval Mind

    I went to a lecture today about the fine rolls of Henry III (1216-1272). The 'fine rolls' were generally a written list of promised payments to the King for various favours / permissions required from the King, such as the permission to set up a market or to prosecute a case, pleas from peasants to buy their freedom or for women to seek permission to marry the person they wanted to.

    The rolls were written in Latin and a number of years ago a small team of people translated it and put the translation up on line here. They've now finished so the project has come to an end.

    If you go to the website, click on the 'fine rolls' link and the translations and pick a link at random to look at. The entries are (well I thought) fascinating to read.

    The guy giving the lecture said the rolls revealed the first recorded practical joke by an English King:

    On the roll for 1207–08 there is the extraordinary offer of 200 chickens made by the wife of Hugh de Neville to be allowed ‘to lie one night with her lord, Hugh de Neville’. 100 Was she John’s mistress and were the two of them joking about what a night back with Hugh would be worth, the answer a ridiculous 200 chickens? On the roll of 1242–43 we have an example of Henry III’s rather more benign sense of humour. In the ship sailing home from Gascony, ‘having a joke’ (ludendo) at the expense of his clerk, Peter the Poitevin, he invented and recorded on the fine roll a whole series of risible debts which Peter supposedly owed: ‘five dozen capons for a trespass in the ship; 28 casks of wine from the arrears of the wine which he bought for the use of the king at Mussak where he dreamed he saw the emperor Otto’ and so on. Henry was careful, however, not to let the joke go too far. Doubtless after Peter had been baffled and perhaps alarmed by the sight of his obligations, Henry ordered them ‘Peter not looking’ to be crossed out with the result that they never reached the originalia roll and the Exchequer. 101

  2. #2


    Excellent link!

    As a long-time fan of Harn and the amount of detail N.Robin Crosby (the creator) presents, these sort of details into the life of medieval times really helps to solidify concepts and goals I envisioned for my own campaign world. Granted, much of the detail in Harn and my own world may never be discovered by my players, but if they ever wanted to know how many apples their manor produces - or take a look at the Rolls of the high court - its there.

    On this same subject, I had done some digging into the Royal Court of the Day to find out about Rolls and Seals for my own campaign usage. Some of it is listed below:

    The Royal Court:
    The Royal Court is a sophisticated system designed to uphold the history and tradition of the realm, while giving its officers clear guidelines to keep the court flowing smoothly. Two key points of the Royal Court are the use of Rolls and Seals.

    Rolls and the important documents which comprise the proceedings are formed into “Rolls” where many individual “Membranes” (sheets) of parchment are stitched together to form a roll several feet long. These permanent records are rolled-up and tied for easy storage and transport when the royal court moves around the country. Once a year has passed, all Rolls from that time period are attached together and stored for historical relevance. Different rolls are used for various subjects and include Patent, Close, Charter and Fine:

    Patent Rolls are records of all royal letters that are issued unsealed. The Patent Roll is supervised by the Office of the Chancellor, whom keeps record of each letter sent. A Letters Patent is included in this Roll, primarily for their use in granting a coat of arms and for Licenses to Crenellate. (See end of document for info on Crenellation)

    Close Rolls are records of all royal letters that are issued sealed. The Close Roll is supervised by the Office of the Chancellor, whom keeps record of each letter sent. A Letters Close is a legal document granting title, right and status which is issued either by the King or by the government proper to a person as a private document, sealed for their viewing only.

    Charter Rolls are records of all City charters issued. The Charter Roll is supervised by the Office of the Chancellor.

    Fine Rolls are records of all monies promised to the King. This money is an agreement made with the king or one of his royal officers promised to be paid in return for some favor or even a concession of some sort. In many cases this money has not been received yet, but is simply a record of the transaction. The Office of Revenue receives all moneys collected from the Fine Roll.

    On any legal document and even simple letter, the seal is a ratification of authenticity. For letters, the seal served to ensure that it arrived unopened and proved that it had been delivered sight unseen. On legal documents which may be delivered open, the seal is displayed either on the face of the document or hanging from it on small pieces of parchment strips or leather cords, verified the agreement of interested parties to the document.

    Seals of royalty, great aristocrats and important institutions like the Church use a circular metallic item that is engraved with a design and is known as a Seal Matrix. The Seal Impression is created when wax or similar material is attached to a document upon which the seal design is imprinted using the Seal Matrix.

    Common Seals:
    Traditionally common seals contain the initials of the owner, and/or perhaps an image of the estate or person of whom it represents. Middle class seals carry an inscription which may be the motto or greeting of the clan. While Noblemen Seals usually include a coat of arms, or a shield with helm design.

    There are 3 common types of seals used in the realm. Bell, Veseca and Coin.

    The Bell Seal is of simple metal design, containing a handle to hold the seal when imprinting onto the document. Either of squared or rounded corner, their use remains the most common throughout the realm.

    The Veseca Seal is a pointed oval shape, used mostly by women and high-ranking religious institutes. The shape allows a full image of the person to be represented and can even show scenes at two distinct levels. Traditionally monasteries depict their patron saint on the upper level and their abbot in prayer on the lower.

    The Coin Seal is circular and remains quite popular because they resemble a coin in both form and function. Coin seals vary considerably in size, but give the added effect of two distinct images on impression.

    Royal Seals
    There are several important steps to the granting of an important concession such as a License to Crenellate and to the documents therein. Each stage is carefully documented and the highest of royal stations employs three different official seals to authenticate documents. These are the Signet, Privy, and Great Seals.

    The Signet Seal:
    The Signet Seal is a basic representation of the King, an Office, or even an Institution. Some are just a basic image – part of the heraldry, or even a literal representation of the King or Royal family. Others include both images and descriptive text, or perhaps even a motto making the Signet Seal into a combination of imagery and written word to fully and faithfully represent its office. Many times, this seal comprised the bezel of a royal ring.

    Once the Privy Seal became a permanent office with its own keeper, this became known as the Seal used by the secretary of the King.

    The Privy Seal:
    The Privy Seal is commonly used by the Chancery which of all the titles in Royal Court has one major benefit; it is the traveling seal and on constant tour of the country. The privy seal was used to authenticate communications from the court to the chancery.

    The Privy seal commonly was a shield bearing the mark of the king, a helm, or even an animal.

    The Great Seal:
    The Great Seal was a direct vision of how the King saw himself, and what it meant to be a leader of a kingdom. Great royal seals normally showed the king galloping on horseback, with drawn sword and a shield bearing the royal arms or show him in some sort of strong position – preparing for war, or hunting. Traditionally the other job of the seal was to send a very strong message to people about the ruler. It was designed with multiple symbolic meaning. As a brief example, a king may:

    1. See himself as an emperor, a king who rules more than one kingdom.
    2. Wants the kingdoms he ruled to be united as one state rather than being split into smaller factions.
    3. Is committed to religious study and strives to protect the church.
    4. Sees himself as the defender of his people against the enemies of the kingdom.
    5. Believes in law and justice.

    Licenses to Crenellate Notes:
    There are multiple Licenses to Crenellate. Manors, Walls, Towers, Keeps, Moats, Granges, Earthworks (which includes Fishponds and Water Management) are all viable to be included in a proposal and/or acceptance for License to Crenellate.

    Licenses to Crenellate are recorded on the Patent Roll of the Royal Court. The process of creating a License follows:

    Court Process:
    The preparation of official documents did not always follow the complete process - but a lavish court was especially well ordered. Some scribes would have been paid only on delivery of completed documents. Sometimes they were not paid so they refused to deliver the documents. The complete process is:

    1) King at court, agreed to grant a License to Crenellate.
    2) King's secretary recorded this on the Patent Roll. He later sent a warrant under the King's Signet Seal to the Keeper of the King's Privy Seal.
    3) Keeper of the King's Privy Seal sent a warrant to the Keeper of the Great Seal and a receipt to the Keeper of the Signet Seal.
    4) Keeper of the King's Great Seal sent a receipt to the Keeper of the Privy Seal and ordered the preparation of the License to Crenellate in the form of a Letter Patent.

    The License was sealed with the Great Seal and delivered to the loyal subject.

    For lesser courts, the process is:
    * Ranking Official at court, agreed to grant a License to Crenellate.
    1) King's secretary recorded this on the Patent Roll.
    2) The License was sealed with the Great Seal and delivered to the loyal subject.


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