GRAYS AND GREYS - A CHRONOLOGY
by Brian Burton
On the eleventh day of June, in 'the sixth year of the reign', a charter (Fig. 1 is a copy of a version displayed for many years in the old library in Grays) was issued in the name of Richard, king of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, confirming that the manor of Thurrock had been granted to 'our beloved and faithful knight', Henry de Grai. Although the charter is similar to thousands of others dealing with land transfer, it has features of both local and national interest. Its octocentenary draws close, posing the question of when it should be celebrated. Henry's descendants, including a pathetic young pseudo-queen who lost her head and a regicide who quarrelled with Cromwell but still died in bed, achieved both fame and notoriety, and have much to tell us about socio-political climbing and falling in earlier days. Of greater local interest is the fact that Henry and his direct descendants were lords of the manor for three centuries, their name being used to distinguish the Thurrock of the charter from other Thurrocks. This illustrates some of the ways in which Essex place names evolved, and leads to questions about developments in South Essex before Henry arrived. Henry's status in the feudal society in which he lived is indicated by certain conditions imposed upon him, if he is to hold his newly acquired manor 'in peace freely and unmolested', and by the appended signatures. The charter also draws attention to other features of this society, such as the 'granting' of land to a man who has already bought it from somebody else and, since the manor was sold to Henry by Joseph, son of Isaac the Jew, the legal position of the Jews in Richard's England, but these and other national matters are largely outside the scope of an article concerned with local history.
The early Plantagenet kings of England, prior to Edward I (1272 - 1307), took their coronations as marking the start of their regnal years. When Henry II died, Richard 1 called himself dominus (lord), until the coronation ceremony made him rex dei gratia (king by God's grace). One reason for the interval between accession and crowning being kept short was that any rival claimant would risk eternal damnation if he ignored God's will; although Richard, the first king since the Norman Conquest to succeed by incontestable hereditary right, was probably too conscious of his own ability as a soldier to feel much need to expedite divine assistance in defence of his rights. However, he was anxious to be off to the Holy Land, on the crusade he and Philip Augustus of France were already committed to, which made an early coronation desirable. Despite Richard's sense of urgency, two months elapsed between the death of Henry II, in France on 6th July, and the coronation of his eldest surviving son, in Westminster Abbey on 3rd September 1189. The sixth year of the reign thus began on 3rd September, 1194, and the charter confirming Henry de Grai's ownership of his manor was signed on the 11 th June 1195. Changes resulting from the Calendar (New Style) Act of 1750, by which eleven days were removed from September 1752, mean that the 800th anniversary of the signing will be Friday, 23rd June, 1995.
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