Charter Strategy, or Alternatives

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Nov 9, 2022, 4:45:05 AM11/9/22
Hi guys,

I am currently working on a 2nd edition of "The Serjeants of Chancery", and one of the unanswered questions from the 1st edition concerns a Charter, or lack of one.

From at least 1257 we know that Cistercian houses in England had the obligation to loan to Chancery, specifically to the Chancellor or Keeper of the Rolls, a sumpter horse, for the carriage of the Chancery Rolls when the king was on one of his peripatetic meanderings through the kingdom. The horses were to be supplied by each Cistercian house on the king's route, and the horse to be replaced by each successive house. This was arranged in advance by Letters Close addressed the the abbots or other heads of the Cistercian houses on the route, as this example shows:

CCR, 1296-1302, p. 407
13 Sep 1300
To the abbot of Furnays. 'Whereas the king lately ordered him to send a strong horse, not emitum (see note at bottom), to carry the rolls of chancery from the Chancery to York, so that it should be there before St. James last, there to be delivered to John de Langeton, the chancellor, and the abbot has not sent any horse or replied in any way to the king's order, at which the king is astonished, more especially as the abbot promised to the king's clerk, whom the king sent to him with his letters in this behalf, that he would send such horse to the chancery, as the clerk has given the king to understand: the king orders the abbot, as he ordered him before, to send a good, strong horse, not (emitum), to York to the chancery by one of his men, so that it shall be there at the quinzaine of Michaelmas nest, there to be delivered to the chancellor, for the aforesaid purpose. If the abbot do not do so, he shall be there himself in chancery to answer to the king for his contempt.

Although the above example says 'from the Chancery to York' the abbot of Furness was only responsible for loaning a horse to pull the wagon carrying the rolls from Furness Abbey to the next Cistercian house on the king's route, although the horse started its journey from Chancery.

Going back through the published Calendars of Close Rolls the earliest mention of this sumpter horse obligation was during the reign of Henry III, in June 1257 (CCR, 1256-1259, p. 137)

The Problem
The question therefore posed, is of how and by what means, and when, was this obligation acquired? The most obvious first line of enquiry was by looking at Charters granted to the early Cistercian houses to see if this obligation was contingent on a grant of some sort by the king. But this is no easy task.

The Cistercians first came to England in 1128, when their first house, Waverley Abbey, was founded in Surrey. In Wales, Neath Abbey, West Glamorgan, quickly followed in 1130, and Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire in 1131. Back in England, Rievaulx Abbey, North Riding of Yorkshire, then followed in 1132.

Not knowing if the obligation was placed on the entire Cistercian order, or on one of the houses when it was founded, which then set a precedent, muddies the water still further.

I have checked the Annals of Waverley and the Cartularium abbathiæ de Rievalle, but neither make any mention of the sumpter horse obligation.

Before I plough through any more cartularies, can anyone suggest any alternative avenue or strategy for solving this problem?

Note: 'emitum' is a Latin word meaning ‘purchased’, or ‘bought’. It was clear that the king was not wanting the abbots to purchase a horse for the purpose of complying with the king’s request, and thus raising the possibility of a charge upon the crown, but simply wanted the loan of an existing strong horse.
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