How to look for records of... French lands of the English kings

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

1. Why use this guide?

Use this guide to find out how to locate the various records relating to the administration of French lands owned by the English Crown.

At various dates between the 11th and 16th centuries the English crown administered:

  • Normandy
  • Ponthieu
  • Calais
  • the duchy of Aquitaine (later Gascony/Guyenne)

The National Archives (or the Tower of London) does not hold French royal records or private title deeds for the lands held by the English kings. Surviving information of this kind is in the Archives Nationales or the relevant Archives Departmentales in France.

2. How to search the records

The main record series to search within are the Chancery (C) and Exchequer (E).

Many of these records do not have detailed descriptions in Discovery, our catalogue, which makes them difficult to search. Therefore you may need to start by consulting other publications and resources:

  • Some of the records have been transcribed and/or translated fully in published works
  • Others have been summarised in calendars. These calendars will help you identify relevant records

Details of these finding aids are in the sections below. Some of these finding aids are available online. All are available at the National Archives, Kew.

There are a few relevant records, such as wills which you can view online. However, to view the majority of the records (and finding aids) you will need to visit The National Archives at Kew or pay for research.

3. Diplomatic documents and treaties

Many diplomatic documents were printed or transcribed in full in:

For unpublished treaties see E 30 and C 47/27/1-15 (diplomatic documents), and treaty rolls in C 76. These rolls are calendared in part in:

The Liber A and Liber B in E 36/274-275 contain transcripts of diplomatic documents, and there are references to records about Ponthieu in Bishop Stapleton’s Calendar in E 36/268.

4. Chancery rolls

Treaty Rolls are an amalgamation of chancery rolls found to contain diplomatic material. Their content reflects changing periods of foreign policy focus and diplomatic activity for England. They contain administrative material for all lands in France under direct English rule except Gascony and Normandy.

The English Chancery kept separate series of rolls, recording administrative instructions of many kinds, for both Normandy and Gascony.

4.1 Norman rolls

The Norman Rolls are in C 64. Read the C 64 series description for further information on what they contain. They are partially calendared in:

In addition a transcript of:

4.2 Gascon rolls

The Gascon Rolls are in C 61. Read the C 61 series description for further information of what they contain. They are again calendared in Carte. In addition:

A project is currently underway to calendar the remaining rolls to 1468. This will provide online access to images of the original text, accompanied by an English translation.

4.3 Additional Chancery rolls

There are a few entries relating to France on the:

  • Roman Rolls in C 70
  • Close Rolls in C 54
  • Fine Rolls in C 60
  • Patent Rolls in C 66

Most were found and calendared in T Rymer, Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae, et cujuscunque Generis Acta Publica (20 vols, 1704-1735). The printed calendars of the last three series contain indexes to help locate the rest.

Fine rolls, C 60/8-69, which cover 1216-1272, are available online as facsimile images with searchable English translations at Henry III fine rolls. This is part of a free resource in conjunction with King’s College, London.

5. Exchequer accounts

The Exchequer Various Accounts in E 101 include a wealth of useful material, which appears in the E 101 list under the headings:

  • France
  • Army
  • nuncii
  • works
  • Wardrobe and Household

Descriptions in the list such as ‘subsidiary documents’ conceal the fact that the files contain documents with unique information in the form of:

  • warrants
  • receipts
  • indentures

Some of the Declared Accounts in E 351 also contain French material, as do the Foreign Accounts in E 364. The Memoranda Rolls in E 159 and E 368 include scattered references to French matters. Browse these by date.

The Norman Pipe Rolls in E 373, which cover the years from Henry II to John, are transcribed in Magni Rotuli Scaccarii Normanniae, ed T Stapleton, 2 volumes (1840, 1844).

The Pipe Rolls themselves in E 372 also contain some Norman material. Accounts of the treasurer of Ponthieu and Montreuil during the reign of Edward III are in E 315/437-438. See also Ministers’ Accounts in SC 6. For these, consult the List of Original Ministers’ Accounts preserved in the Public Record Office which is available in the reading rooms, Kew.

6. Calais

Calais was in English hands from 1347 to 1558, and from 1453 the town and its march were the last English possessions in France. The National Archives holds a wealth of information about this valuable port and trading centre dating from c.1350 onwards.

6.1 Accounts and financial related records

The Augmentation Office Miscellaneous Books in E 315 include:

  • accounts of the Treasurer of Calais, 1409-1412 (11-13 Henry IV) in E 315/335
  • surveys of Calais, 1555-1556 (2-3 Philip and Mary) in E 315/371-2
  • a rental and terrier of Calais, 1482-1483 (22 Edward IV) in E 315/407

E 36/269-272 contain the controller’s accounts, Henry VII–Henry VIII. The Exchequer Foreign Accounts in E 364 include the accounts of the mayor of the Calais staple and from Gascony. Browse them by date as the rolls are not described in detail in our catalogue.

There are Declared Accounts of the treasurer of Calais, 1542-1545, in E 351/530-535.

There is also material in the Customs Accounts in E 122. Use the search box within E 122 to search by keywords such as ‘Calais’ or ‘wool’, for example.

Indentures covering the safe passage of the wool fleet are enrolled on the Memoranda Rolls in E 159 which you can browse by date.

Rentals and Surveys in SC 12 include several items on the march, Henry V to Henry VIII; and Ministers’ Accounts in SC 6 contain accounts for Calais.

DL 28/2/1-11 comprises of the accounts of the treasurer and controller, 8-19 for Henry VII’s reign.

6.2 Laws, appointments and surveys

You can find:

  • a transcript of laws and charters for Calais during Henry VIII’s reign are in DL 41/407
  • a survey of parishes within the march of Calais in LR 2/88 (draft, with LR 2/59 a duplicate copy)
  • appointments of mayors and constables of the staple during the reigns of Edward III–Henry VI in some of the Staple Rolls in C 67/22-25

6.3 State Papers

A valuable collection of material about Calais during Henry VIII’s reign is listed in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 22 vols (1864-1932). It includes the correspondence of Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle, when deputy of Calais.

The Lisle papers are in SP 3 and have been published separately in The Lisle Letters by M Byrne, 6 vols (1981).

For Calais under Edward VI and Mary (until its loss to France in early 1558) consult:

All volumes are they available in The National Archives’ library and reading rooms, often with unique annotations.

SP 46 (State Papers Domestic, Supplementary) includes a few official and private papers relating to Calais, and is not listed in these calendars. See our guide on State Papers domestic 1547-1649 for help searching these records. You can search all of these 16th century series on State Papers Online (subscription required).

6.4 Deeds

There are some deeds relating to Calais among the various series of Ancient Deeds. A good starting point for accessing these is the Calendar of Ancient deeds.

See also the sources listed in the sections above on:

Exchequer accounts in E 101 and some exchequer foreign accounts in E 364 are particularly useful.

7. Other sources

7.1 Administrative and Legal records

Ancient petitions in SC 8 include a great many petitions from Gascony and Calais. You can search by keyword, for example Calais, and download them via our catalogue. Read the series description of SC 8 to find out more about what they might contain.

Ancient Correspondence in SC 1 is also worth consulting for letters relating to rights in France. Search all 14,000 letters in SC 1 by keyword in our catalogue.

7.2 Financial records

Exchequer, Treasury of Receipt, Books contain several useful volumes on France (E 36/78-83).

There is an isolated writ of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, from April 1370, concerning a planned expedition to Gascony, in PRO 30/26/71/16.

The wills of many people who died in France, or had property there, are recorded amongst the registers of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in PROB 11. All Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills are viewable online. They are searchable by name, place, occupation and date.

7.3 Miscellanea

As its title suggests, Chancery Miscellanea, French Possessions (C 47/24/1-17, C 47/25/1-10C 47/26/1-28), contains a variety of writs, returns, petitions, claims, warrants and letters relating to French regions including Calais, Normandy, Picardy, Gascony, Guienne, Saintonge and Ponthieu.

Duchy of Lancaster Miscellanea DL 41 includes a few scattered documents on various French possessions. Use the search box to search by keywords such as ‘Calais’ or ‘France’ within DL 41.

8. Further reading

Some or all of the recommended publications below may be available to buy from The National Archives’ shop. Alternatively, search The National Archives’ Library to see what is available to consult at Kew.

D Grummitt, The Calais garrison: War and military service in England, 1436-1558 (Boydell, Woodbridge, 2008)

S Rose, Calais: An English town in France, 1347-1558 (Boydell, Woodbridge, 2008)

Clifford J Rogers (ed), The wars of Edward III: Sources and interpretations (Boydell, Woodbridge, 1999)

M G A Vale, English Gascony 1399-1453: A study of war, government and politics during the later stages of the Hundred Years’ War (OUP, Oxford, 1970)

M G A Vale, ‘The ancient enemy. England, France and Europe from the Angevins to the Tudors, 1154-1558’ (Hambledon Continuum, London, 2007)