The king is dead...can I have a new writ, please?

The accession of a new monarch often had little impact on the day-to-day workings of Chancery, or the IPM process. One exception resulted from the convention that writs issued by a monarch could not be executed after their death. This history of this convention is somewhat obscured by the cursory calendaring of the writs in many early volumes of CIPMs, and in the calendared Fine Rolls, but there are several examples in the CIPMs for the early years of Henry VI, and re-examination of the IPMs for Henry IV and Henry V has brought others to light.

For example a writ for John de Legh, esquire, was issued on 4 July 1422, but not executed before Henry V's death on 31 August; a replacement writ, in Henry VI's name, but referring to lands held of Henry V, was issued on 1 December. [1. CFR 1413-22, 426; 1422-30, 1-2; CIPM xxii.9.] A similar replacement writ was issued that year for Hawise, wife of Sir Godrey de Hilton; perhaps more surprisingly, it was not until 24 November 1424 that a new writ was issued for William Baldyngton, esquire, whose original Oxfordshire writ had been dated 26 Oct. 1419. [2. CFR 1413-22, 274; CIPM xxii.196.] More remarkably still, only on 24 July 1431 were replacement writs issued for John Lumley in the counties of Northumberland and Lancashire, the original writs having been dated 18 April 1421. [3. CFR 1413-22, 378; CIPM xxiii.693-4.] The explanation in both the latter cases is that the tenant's heir was under age when the original IPMs were taken. It was only when the heirs reached their respective majorities, in 1424 and (allegedly) 1429, and initiated the process of suing livery, that it became necessary for all their ancestors' IPMs to be taken and returned to Chancery. [4. CIPM xxii.528; xxiii.724 (Thomas Lumley's proof of age, but see DURH 3/2 fos. 262v–263v for a more likely date of majority).]

When an heir was of age, as we have seen, it was usually desirable to have the IPMs taken as quickly as possible. The writs and IPMs for Robert Ferrers of Chartley nicely illustrate how Henry IV's death (600 years ago this month) caused a small hiccup in the succession of Robert's heir Edmund. Robert died, according to his IPMs, on 13 March 1413 when Edmund was aged 26 or 27. [5. CIPM xx.34-42.] Robert's writs diem clausit extremum were issued on 15 March 1413, for Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Huntingdonshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Gloucestershire, and Somerset. [6. CFR 1405-13, 248.] Remarkably, in the first four counties, the IPMs were carried out a few days later, on 18 March.  Two days later, on 20 March, Henry IV died.  It is tempting to suppose that Edmund Ferrers was aware of Henry IV's health and did his utmost to have all Robert's IPMs taken before the king death; if so, he was unsuccessful.

The original writs for Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Oxfordshire and Berkshire were never sent out to the escheators: they were surrendered ‘in cera', in the process of being sealed. [7. CFR 1405-13, 248.] The Fine Roll for 1 Henry V records the issue of new writs on 21 March 1413, the opening day of Henry V's reign and the earliest possible date for such issue. [8. CFR 1413-22, 1.] (A writ for London was also issued on this date, but does not appear to have been enrolled.) In fact the old writs were re-written: the dates were altered, and the wording of the writs was changed to assert that Robert Ferrers held not of ‘us', the present king, but of Henry IV.

The revised Gloucestershire writ for Robert Ferrers, with date and reference to Henry IV visibly corrected from the original version. C 138/2/26 m. 5, image reproduced courtesy of the National Archives.

It is interesting to speculate about exactly what happened behind the scenes. Edmund Ferrers  or (more likely) his agent must not only have worked feverishly to organize the formal return of IPMs before Henry IV's death, and may then have exerted influence in Chancery itself to have the existing writs re-written rather than fully re-issued (which would presumably have taken longer). It is interesting that Nicholas Ruggley, whose original writ diem clausit was also issued on 15 March 1413, only had a new writ issued, spelling out that the original writ had been in Henry IV's name, on 24 March. [9. CIPM xx.105; the date of 24 April in the printed calendar is incorrect.]

But although the remaining Ferrers writs were issued speedily, the inquisitions themselves took somewhat longer to be completed: only by 10 April in the case of London. Possibly in these remaining counties Ferrers influence and lordship was less powerful than in the others. Livery was granted to Edmund on 14 April. [10. CFR 1413-22, 16.] Administrative inconvenience was unlikely to have been at the front of most persons' minds during the transition from one monarch to another, but this case, all the same, is a nice illustration of how the minutiae of rules governing the type and wording of writs had to be fully adhered to, in order to create a valid IPM.