How did Richard I and John raise money?
Behind today's door - Money! Money! Money! (For ABBA background theme click here). Or as Peter Ustinov's Prince John says in the Disney film, "Taxes! Lovely taxes!"
Richard I and John - raising revenue
Kings had three main sources of income available to them;
- income from their personal lands;
- money raised through their rights as a feudal lord;
- and income from taxation.
In addition, they could secure loans - in the Middle Ages this was mostly from Jewish money-lenders, many of whom lived in York, Lincoln or Norwich.
Payments from the royal lands had been getting smaller ever since the Norman conquest. Matters were not helped by Richard's sale of many royal properties in 1189.
English kings had widespread feudal rights which could be used to generate income, including the scutage system, in which feudal military service was avoided by a cash payment to the king.
The king also got some income from fines, court fees and the sale of town charters.
Make a list today of a Medieval king's "normal" forms of revenue (financial income). Then read the information below on how John abused the normal methods - choose ONLY FOUR of John's abuses and make proper notes on them, explaining why it lost him support from his barons.
- John charged scutage payments 11 times in his 17 years as king, in many cases when he wasn’t even at war, which ran counter to the original idea that scutage was an alternative to actual military service.
- John maximised his right to demand inheritance payments when estates and castles were inherited, sometimes charging enormous sums, beyond barons' abilities to pay.
- John sold sheriff appointments; John would get money for making a baron into sheriff, and the new sheriff would make back their investment through charging large fines and penalties themselves, particularly in the forests. (That’s why the story-book Sheriff of Nottingham was so hated).
- John charged fines on widows who wished to remain single.
- John sold charters for new towns, and for the right to hold markets across the kingdom.
- John taxed the Jews, who held a vulnerable position in medieval England. £44,000 was extracted from the Jewish community by the tallage of 1210. (Tallage was an arbitrary tax the king could levy on townspeople. Much of it was passed on to the barons, who were already in debt to Jewish moneylenders).
- John created a new tax on income in 1207 called "The Thirteenth", which produced £60,000. When it was impossible for barons to pay, he found that it enabled him to raise more money through the confiscation of their lands.