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Select document: Exchequer malpractice in late medieval Ireland: a petition from Christopher Fleming, Lord Slane, 1438

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

Malcolm Mercer*
Canterbury Cathedral Archives
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Preserved amongst the Chancery masters’ exhibits at the National Archives of the U.K., formerly known as the Public Record Office, is a box of documents concerning the Fleming family, Lords Slane, in Ireland. These papers, dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, relate primarily to a protracted inheritance dispute between the heirs male and heirs general of Christopher Fleming, Lord Slane, who died in 1458. This case had been brought into the English Chancery because the family were also landowners in Devon and Cornwall, and it had then rumbled on for decades. Within this box, however, there is also a parchment roll containing a number of entries relating to their Irish lands. The eighth item on this roll is especially interesting.

Research Article
Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 2009


1 These documents are to be found in T.N.A. P.R.O., C103/18.1 would like to thank Dr Brendan Smith of the University of Bristol for his advice and encouragement during the preparation of this article.

2 In fact, there were still repercussions in the early sixteenth century. Fleming, Christopher, Slane, Lord, Dillon, sued Nicholas and Bellew, Patrick: Chancery Proceedings, Christopher Fleming, Lord Slane, plaintiff, Nicholas Dillon and Patrick Bellew, defendants, 1515-17 (T.N.A. P.R.O., Cl/407/41-3; C103/18)Google Scholar. son, Christopher Fleming’s, Fleming, James, Slane, Lord, was also sued in Star Chamber by Robert Dillon and Patrick Bellew: Star Chamber proceedings, Robert Dillon and Patrick Bellew, plaintiffs, James Fleming, Lord Slane, defendant, 1518-19 (T.N.A. P.R.O., STAC 2/15, ff 109–18).Google Scholar

3 Ann. Conn., s.a. 1373, 1404, 1406, 1407, 1411, 1413, 1414, 1417, 1419,1421,1425; A.L.C., s.a. 1404, 1406, 1407, 1411, 1419, 1434; A.U., s.a. 1414, 1418, 1419, 1429, 1433, 1434; Marlborough, Chronicle, s.a. 1413, 1414, 1419, 1421; A.F.M., s.a. 1414, 1419; Reg. Swayne, pp 109–11; SirWare, James, The antiquities and history of Ireland (London, 1705), pp 64-5, 67–8Google Scholar; Ellis, Henry, Original letters illustrative of English history (2nd ser., 2 vols, London, 1827), i, no. 19.Google Scholar

4 Otway-Ruthven, A. J., A history of medieval Ireland (2nd ed., London and New York, 1980), p. 342Google Scholar; Hingeston, F. C. (ed.), Royal & historical letters during the reign of Henry the Fourth, king of England and of France, and lord of Ireland (London, 1860), i, 73-6.Google Scholar

5 Ellis, S. G., ‘Ioncaim na hÉireann, 1384–1534’ in Studia Hib., xxii-xxiii (1982-3), pp 3949Google Scholar; Connolly, Philomena (ed.), Irish Exchequer payments, 1270–1446 (I.M.C., Dublin, 1998), pp 527-8, 544, 552Google Scholar; Lydon, James, The lordship of Ireland in the Middle Ages (Dublin, 1972), pp 243-51Google Scholar; Matthew, Elizabeth, ‘The financing of the lordship of Ireland under Henry V and Henry VI’ in Pollard, A. J. (ed.), Property and politics: essays in later medieval English history (Gloucester, 1984), pp 97115.Google Scholar

6 Otway-Ruthven, A. J., ‘Royal service in Ireland’ in R.S.A.I. Jn., xcviii (1968), pp 40, 44–5Google Scholar; Frame, Robin, Ireland and Britain, 1170–1450 (London, 1998), pp 282-5.Google Scholar

7 Barry, Terence, ‘Defence and settlements in late medieval Ireland’ in Barry, Terence, Frame, Robin and Simms, Katharine (eds), Colony and frontier in late medieval Ireland: essays presented to J. F. Lydon (London, 1995), p. 221Google Scholar; Seaver, Matthew, ‘Practice, spaces and places: an archaeology of boroughs as manorial centres in the barony of Slane’ in Lyttleton, James and O’Keefe, Tadhg (eds), The manor in medieval and early modern Ireland (Dublin, 2005), pp 81-3.Google Scholar

8 Ellis, S. G., ‘Taxation and defence in late medieval Ireland: the survival of scutage’ in R.S.A.I. Jn., cvii (1977), pp 5, 8, 15, 17Google Scholar; G. E. C., Peerage, xii, pt i, pp 56Google Scholar; Rot. pat. Mb., i, pp 160, 197; Cal. pat. rolls, 1399–1401, p. 519; Record Commission calendar of memoranda rolls, 8–10, Henry V, pp 198–9, 228–32, 293.

9 The manor of Slane (£10 per annum), the manor of Newcastle (5 marks per annum), the manor of Culmullin (£10 per annum) and a rent of 7 marks from the town of Dundalk: see Berry, H. F. (ed.), Statute rolls of the parliament of Ireland, reign of King Henry the Sixth (H.M.S.O., Dublin, 1910), p. 611Google Scholar; extracts from the Pipe roll, 10 Hen. VI (T.C.D., MS 569, f. 47).

10 Otway-Ruthven thought that scutage due from the barony was probably assigned to Elizabeth de Burgh. The partition document (British Library, Cottonian charter ii, 24) is reproduced in Otway-Ruthven, A. J., ‘The partition of the De Verdon lands in Ireland in 1332’ in R.I.A. Proc, lxvi (1968), pp 421-37Google Scholar. I am grateful to Dr Stephen O’Connor of the National Archives, Kew for his views on the precise meaning of the Latin contained in this document.

11 Cal. pat. rolls, 1370–4, p. 247. It was not uncommon for increased scutage payments to be demanded from the lands of sub-tenants of lands held in royal custody: Ellis, ‘Taxation & defence’, p. 13.

12 Connolly (ed.), Irish Exchequer payments, 1270–1446, pp 568–9; Exchequer, accounts various, counter roll of receipts of services, 15–16 Edw. Ill (T.N.A. P.R.O., E 101/241/4).

13 In fact, a writ sent to the escheator of Ireland stated that on his death, Simon Fleming held lands by knight service from Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, a minor in the king’s wardship: see papers relating to the Fleming barons of Slane, including abstracts of titles to property in Ireland and England (T.N.A. P.R.O., C103/18); Inquisition post mortem of Simon Fleming, baron of Slane (T.N.A. P.R.O., C135/218/27).

14 Richardson, H. G., ‘The Preston exemplification of the Modus tenendi parliamentorum in I.H.S., iii (1942-3), pp 187-92Google Scholar; Otway-Ruthven, A. J., ‘The background to the arrest of Sir Christopher Preston in 1418’ in Anal. Hib., xxix-xxx (1980-2), pp 7394Google Scholar; Rot. pat. Hib., i, 219.

15 Griffiths, R. A., The reign of King Henry VI (Stroud, 1998), p. 413.Google Scholar

16 Dowdall deeds, no. 400.

17 Gormanston reg., pp xviii, 2. The exact dates are unknown, but the barony had come into the Flemings’ possession by 1372: Otway-Ruthven, ‘The partition of the De Verdon lands’, p. 417.

18 There had been moves in the 1428–9 Irish parliament to force those who took allegations of corruption to the Council in England to find surety to prosecute them, in which the charges would be sent back to Ireland to be examined in the next parliament or Great Council, which would then report to the king: Stat. Ire., Hen. VI, pp 10–25.

19 Treasury of receipt: Council and privy seal records, July-Aug., 17, Hen. VI (T.N.A. P.R.O., E28/62/28); Proc. Privy Council, 15–21, Henry VI, 5, pp 89–90; Cal. pat. rolls, 1436–41, pp 132, 184.Google Scholar

21 Treasurer of Ireland from 1421 onwards: Connolly (ed.), Irish Exchequer payments, pp 552, 554.Google Scholar

22 Later clerk of the works of Dublin Castle: see Connolly (ed.), Irish Exchequer payments, pp 549, 552, 554, 563, 568, 573, 574, 575, 577, 578, 579, 580, 581, 582.

23 Treasurers’ accounts were apparently audited in Ireland between 1399 and 1420. Information relating to accounts up to 1406 appears in extracts from the White Book of the Irish Exchequer (B.L., Add. MS, 4783; Connolly (ed.), Irish Exchequer payments, p. 548 n. 4).