Is there a medieval historian in the house: Cornwall in 1220

Well, I got past the committee meeting to set up the new covenant and the party now have a new home Alae Albae (White Wings: named after the seagulls that wheel above the fishing fleet) above the village of Lelant in Cornwall.

I've been digging into Cornish history for inspiration and discovered that in 1220 the Earl of Cornwall, Henry FitzCount, the bastard son of a bastard son of Henry I, resigned his peerage, all lands returning to the Crown. I can't find out why. Would anyone here know?

Also, can anyone tell me the name of the Sherriff of Cornwall in 1220? I'm setting him up to be the Local Ally who is fudging the land ownership records so that the covenant can covertly own the local village.

Not off hand, sorry.

It was Henry fitzCount (checking in Heirs to Merlin), so it may be about to change.

Hmm, maybe that's why he had to resign? He got caught fudging the land ownership records...

Search for the guy in internet. You are bound to find information on why he got to resign.


No, no. Henry FitzCount is the Earl not the Sherriff. There's a difference.

And yes, you'd think you could find the details on the Internet. But no....

He's mentioned in HEIRS TO MERLIN? I must go back and look....

Heirs to merlin has a lot of boxed inserts talking about characters of the moment. I woyuldn't be surprised to see this guy there if he was a major figure of SW England



According to my research for HtM, he's the earl and the sheriff. Not that uncommon.

Well, just to make things murkier, in HtM Henry fitz Count is listed as the Sheriff of Cornwall (p.107) but both Henry and Cornwall are missing altogether from the list of "Major Nobility" (p.90).

In the map of the British Isles in Ordo Nobilis Cornwall is marked as "vacant or royal" (p.111).

According to a book I have called The Castles of Devon and Cornwall, under the entry for Launceston (the most important castle of the shire), in 1227 Henry III's brother Richard was made Earl of Cornwall. Launceston Castle belonged to the Crown from 1191 until 1227.

Putting his name into Google, the first listed hit led me to...

which gives a full biography. Of course, it may be possible that you are not able to access this due to restrictions; in which case PM me and I'll give you the text since my work has subscribed to this site.


I'd appreciate it if you could e-mail me the text.

Can't think why my Google didn't turn that up.

Of course if I had the brains God gave a peanut I'd have gone to the DNB in the first place. But I am not a trained historian....

And yes, I knew about Richard (later King of the Romans and Germans) becoming Earl sometime during the 1220s. (I've got texts that say 1225 as well as 1227) but the moment of my covenant's foundation is 1220 and that's the point at which Henry FitzCount falls into disgrace. I'm assigning whoever it was replaced him (the incoming Sherriff) to be the covenant's local ally who fudges the paperwork to allow the covenant to take over a manor house abandoned by one of Henry's minions.

Richard is an interesting character and may feature in later games but for now Henry and his successor are what I'm interested in.

  1. maybe because some search engines save your search data so that they can provide results that you may find more appealing (not sure if google does). For an over dramatic example, if you search for nothing but cottage cheese, your 1st result may have been Richard the duke of cheesehire :stuck_out_tongue:
  2. you may have the advanced setting excluding some results.
  3. you failed searching 101.

Well, many thanks for posting the DNB entry to me. It makes it clear that in the summer of 1220 as my players are setting up the covenant the new Sherriff, Robert de Cardinan, is nominally in control of the county but Henry is still causing trouble and probably will impinge on their lives at some stage.

It also shows that Henry might well regard himself as the rightful Earl, given the ambiguous nature of the last resolution he reached with the King's Regency Council ("The grant was made expressly that he hold the
county as his father had held it.") however much the Council might protest that it had never intended to make him a Peer.

In history Henry eventually settled with the King and got some money out of it and the hope that he might still press his claim to the Earldom at a later date but he died before the King came to adult years and the title went to the King's younger brother.

It may or may not be that our wizards make a difference to that. gave me this...
Earls of Cornwall, 7th creation (1225)
Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, King of the Romans (1209-1272)
Edmund, 2nd Earl of Cornwall (1250-1300)

No firm information but the indications are that he went into monastic orders. possibly after going to the crusades.

His opposition to the King did not seem to do him any harm but as he died without issue all his lands reverted to the crown anyway.

I know.

He didn't "resign" his lands, he gave instructions that his executors should have the full use of his lands while he was absent, and took the Cross. At this point his royal offices became vacant, because you can't hold them while in Jerusalem. He died on crusade in 1222 and his lands became the property of the Crown.

The timeline is perhaps best in the Parochial History of Cornwall. Bascially in 1220 he owes the king a large debt, and the king relieves his vassals of all duty to him, and then three bishops smooth the thing over. Soon after he leaves instructions that his executors should have full use of his lands until he returns from crusade. ... #PPA356,M1

Some sources:

"The Royal Bastards of Medieval England" pages 72 and 73, available through Google Books here: ... 0#PPA72,M1

Note that he wasn't Earl, according to this, he was several other things and had the right to "farm Cornwall until the cesation of hostilities", farm in this case meaning "tax".

This is supported further here: ... I#PPA56,M1

in "The Logic of Political Survival" which notes that John merely promised to "investigate Henry's rights when hostilities were over", and notes that he had no rights: this was a payoff that was of necessity temporary in nature, but that both sides understood and accepted this.

In the "Catalogue of Manuscripts of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn" they claim to have a copy of the patent issued by Henry III to Henry Fitz Count giving him Cornwall "as his father had held it". (Pipe roll I Hen III, m13.) and note this is the first patent Henry III gives out. Henry III reigns from 1216, but notes that it is still a stretch to call him an earl at this point, although a charter he signs does.

And Michael: he likely is the Earl AND the Sherriff. I know there's a difference. So does David. There's nothing to stop you being both the Earl and the Sherriff, indeed King John had so little power over his supporters that giving them the role of sherriff was a pretty common thing for him to do, and Henry III didn't want to annoy them by taking it back.

You most certainly can be both earl and sherrif, indeed most great nobles of the middle ages were several things all at once. In particular there are some honours and titles which are heriditory and others which are offices of the crown.

In this particular case the man's Earldom would be a heriditory title, and his title of sherrif would be granted during his own lifetime and not necessarily for any specific period of time.

If you ever get the opportunity to read some of the medieval official material you would find it astounding the diversity of official title, honours and duties the crown dispensed to its subjects.

You might also want to google using the keyword "reeve", instead of "sherrif".

Many here know this, but not all, so I'll expound.[size=75] (And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.)[/size] But not a great length. [size=75] (And there was some rejoicing, but mainly just less weeping and gnashing of teeth.)[/size]

There was no "sherrif" in those days, but there was the office that the modern word sprang from, the "Shire Reeve".

The Reeve's job was to see that the taxes were collected, and a side duty necessary to that was to see that order was kept. Lawless shire, you might have men in tights being merry or something - that wouldn't do.

It was not a popular office with most of the lower classes - enforcing the king's law and collecting his taxes did not win popularity contests. But it was a lucrative position, and so one much coveted amongst the landed. In effect, you had to win a popularity contest with the king to get the appointment - then you were on your own.

Good luck with the search!

I must admit I am entirely ignorant of the paricular time frame from when the shire reeve's became more widely known as sherreffe or other such spellings. More of an early modern/late medieval scholar myself.

Don't have my OED handy. This is from web:
Middle English shirreve, from Old English scīrgerēfa, from scīr (shire) + gerēfa (reeve).
So, you're right - we're smack in the middle of that particular linguistic transition. Without an OED for exact dates of "first usage", we're just guessing as to the exact title of this "sheriff". But if it's "shirreve" (or some approximation), then it's probably more likely to be found under "sheriff" than "reeve" today.