King Henry II and the Earls: The Pipe Roll Evidence  *

Thomas K. Keefe

English historians, conditioned by the real or imagined excesses of later Angevin monarchs, are prone to portray Henry II's administration as burdening the baronage with taxes and extra-legal levies. Even Henry II's normally sympathetic biographer, W.L. Warren, could not escape perceiving “an element of financial extortion” in Henry's dealings with the barons. Warren finds in the pipe rolls a number of assessments to regain the king's good will or to put aside his anger. Included in this list are the fines levied against Hamo of Mascy, Gervase Paynel, Adam of Port (Kingston, co. Hereford), and Gilbert son of Fergus of Galloway. These debtors had much in common. They all played a role in the revolt of Henry's sons in 1173-1174, which led, in part, to their amercement. Adam of Port had been exiled for treason prior to his participation in the revolt, while Gilbert son of Fergus, a descendent of one of Henry I's many bastards, had caused the grotesque mutilation and death of his brother which appalled his royal cousin. All in all, these men were fortunate to have been left with their lives and most of their lands intact. It simply will not do to fix blindly upon unexplained fines from the record evidence to show the extortionist tendencies of the Angevin monarchs.

Thomas K. Keefe, Assistant Professor of History at Appalachian State University, will have published in 1982 his book Feudal Assessments and the Political Community Under Henry II and His Sons by the University of California Press. He has published articles on Anglo-Norman history in Albion and the Journal of British Studies, and is preparing a second book tentatively titled England and the Earls, 1190-1226.


*  I am grateful to The University Research Committee of Appalachian State University for its support and to Professor C. Warren Hollister for his kind encouragement and helpful suggestions.