The credit relationship between Henry III and merchants of Douai and Ypres, 1247–70


  • We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Carol Alexander who was co-author of the original version of this article that developed a mathematical model to explain the actions of the Flemish merchants. The article was also presented ‘in embryo’ before the Medieval Economic and Social History research seminar at the University of Cambridge in 2011 and we are grateful to attendees for their feedback. Finally we would like to thank the editors and anonymous referees for their helpful comments and advice. This article is an output of the ESRC-funded project ‘Credit finance in the middle ages: loans to the English Crown 1272–1340’ (RES-062-23-0733).


This article looks at an important but neglected aspect of medieval sovereign debt, namely ‘accounts payable’ owed by the Crown to merchants and employees. It focuses on the unusually well-documented relationship between Henry III, King of England between 1216 and 1272, and Flemish merchants from the towns of Douai and Ypres, who provided cloth on credit to the royal wardrobe. From the surviving royal documents, we reconstruct the credit advanced to the royal wardrobe by the merchants of Ypres and Douai for each year between 1247 and 1270, together with the king's repayment history. The interactions between the king and the merchants are then analysed. The insights from this analysis are applied to the historical data to explain the trading decisions made by the merchants during this period, as well as why the strategies of the Yprois sometimes differed from those of the Douaissiens.