Henry III and the Palace

The Palace of Westminster became increasingly important as the centre of government and royal authority during the reign of King Henry III.

New buildings and courts

New exchequer buildings were built along the north end of the Great Hall (Westminster Hall) around 1270, and the Court of Common Pleas (which the Magna Carta in 1215 demanded to be held in a fixed place) came to be located within the Palace, as well as Courts of the King's Bench and of Chancery.

Royal throne

In 1245, the first mention is made of a royal throne which stood on a dais against the south wall of Westminster Hall. The throne symbolised the King's continuous presence at the ceremonial heart of the Palace, and was occupied during great occasions of state.

In 1310, the Chancery (the administrative branch of the Crown) established its headquarters in the Hall. These developments firmly established Westminster as the royal seat of government.

Gifts of alms

The Palace was also used regularly by Henry III for public occasions. Kings were expected to make generous gifts of alms, and Henry did not stint in this respect.

To mark great feasts, he distributed vast quantities of food to the poor from his royal palaces, of which Westminster was the most regularly used.

In order to accommodate the numbers, the old and sick were fed in Westminster Hall, the children in the Queen's Chamber, and the remaining poor in the Painted Chamber.

Did you know?

King Henry III made spectacular royal distributions of food to the poor.

On one such occasion in 1244, 10,000 poor people were fed at the Palace of Westminster in a single day.

Biography

You can access a biography of

Henry III

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

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