77 Reconstruction

The country Edward came back to in 1274 wasn't in particularly good nick. Crime was on the rise, with a general disaffection with the regime as the benzedrine of de Montfort's years continued to race through the nation's veins. The magnates were used to ignoring Henry and his royal officials. There was no money in the treasury. With the help of Robert Burnell and his close circle of magnates, in the first few years of his realm Edward re-established a good degree of firm government, financial stability  - and built a shared esprit de corps between him and his court.

77 Reconstruction



Royal revenue had hit rock bottom; £25,000 a year, which is the same level as Henry I had achieved. Except that inflation since then had been something like 300%, so Henry really had the equivalent of £75,00. Edward restored his finances through: 

  • Customs dues: From 1275, merchants had to pay 3% on their exports of Wool. So that's £10,000 a year
  • Taxation: Parliament agreed to a tax of 1/15th – which raised £80,000
  • The Riccardi of Lucca: up to 1290, the Riccardi were the paymasters of the crown. In return for loans to order, they managed the collection of customs dues through the exchequer. It's a deal that gave Edward complete independence in normal years. 
  • Meanness – no more patronage and giving away of crown lands – and a lot of taking back where he could!

Edward also came up with a few feudal dues, like distraint of knighthood. But his reign is the first sign that really, feudal dues were no longer sufficient for an English king.

Reform and Community

Edward's biggest triumph was to re-establish a partnership between the crown and his people. He was a model of the medieval king – physically imposing, a wow at tournaments (before he became king!), pious without being grovelling about it (he abandoned work on Westminster Abbey for example). He used the legend of Arthur to bind his magnates together with him, to the extent of creating his own Round Table – now in Winchester Hall.

More importantly he worked within the law, by and large. He worked with Parliament, regularly calling parliaments which he genuinely worked with. He was genuine about delivering better government; so he replaced corrrupt sheriffs, he encouraged petitions of grievances through parliament and did something about them. And he instituted changes in new laws, such as the Statute of Westminster 1275.

5 thoughts on “77 Reconstruction

  1. sorry for not letting you know sooner, I was out of town but I received the silver penny, thanks again for such an amazing giveaway!
    Jeremiah Thompson

  2. I am late to your podcast, but I am really enjoying it so far. I am on episode 25 and have told several people to listen in. I realy appreciate all the ancillary materials as they really help me keep everything straight. Is it okay to ask questions from old episodes? I wasnt’ sure if you check on those.
    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for doing this, and I am sure I will have loads of questions soon.

  3. Thanks Jeremiah, glad it arrived. It is a bit of a stunner, isn’t it? Thanks are due to Rob Shinnick really..
    Hi Christine – I’m delighted to get questions anytime; they give me ideas. Really glad you are enjoying it.

  4. When you mentioned that Edward’s first Parliament comprised over 800 members, I thought it might be interesting (or at least diverting) to see how that compares with the present day. If we take the population of England to be around 5 million in the late thirteenth century and divide that figure by 800, we can calculate that there was one member of Parliament for every 6250 English people. In 2012, counting both Houses of Parliament, the equivalent figure is one member (including peers) for every 35,600 English residents (based on an English population of circa 52 million, compared with 650 MPs and 811 members of the upper house).

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