Fitzthedmar, Arnold (DNB00)

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FITZTHEDMAR, ARNOLD (1201–1274?), alderman of London, was descended on both sides from German settlers in London, where he was born on 9 Aug. 1201. His father, Thedmar, a man of wealth and position, was a native of Bremen. His mother, Juliana, was the daughter of Arnold, a citizen of Cologne, and of his wife Ode. This couple had made a pilgrimage to St. Thomas's shrine at Canterbury to pray for children. Their prayers being heard, they were induced to settle in London, where two children were born to them. The elder, Thomas, destined to become a monk, died during the fourth crusade. The younger, Juliana, became the wife of Thedmar and the mother of a numerous family, of which only one son, Arnold, and four daughters grew up to maturity. Wonderful dreams preceded Arnold's birth. On his father's death he succeeded to all his property. His career illustrates very remarkably the position of the foreign merchants settled in London. English by birth, and taking a prominent part in London political life, he was still a member of the ‘domus quæ Guildhalla Teutonicorum nuncupatur,’ the later Steelyard, and kept up close relations with the merchants of the country of his origin. On 1 Aug. 1251 he appears as a witness to a treaty with Lübeck (Lappenberg, Geschichte des Stahlhofes, pp. 11–12, ‘aus dem Lübecker Urkundenbuche’). He is described as ‘alderman of the Germans.’ He held the office for at least ten years.

Fitzthedmar was conspicuous among the few leading citizens who, in opposition to the general current of feeling in the city, were stout supporters of Henry III and his son Edward throughout all the barons' wars. In February 1258, before the meeting of the Mad parliament, the Londoners accused the mayor and other rulers of the city of levying the city tallages in an unjust way. Henry appointed John Mansel to investigate the charges. Then, on 11 Feb., Fitzthedmar, who had hitherto not been involved, was included in the attack. His special offence was that he had altered the method of weighing used in the city without the king's permission. Before long the aldermen were deposed, and new ones appointed, except for Fitzthedmar's ward, which remained in the mayor's hands. But next year the proceedings were reversed. On 6 Nov. 1259 a full folk-moot was held in the king's presence at Paul's Cross, and it was declared on John Mansel's attestation that Fitzthedmar had been unjustly degraded. He was therefore restored to royal favour and to his aldermanship. Between this date and Michaelmas 1260 Arnold bought, on behalf of the German merchants, of William, son of William Reyner, the yearly rent of 2s. for a piece of land situated to the east of the Germans' Guildhall, in the parish of All Hallows in Thames Street (the site of the Steelyard). For this he paid two marks sterling. He is described in the charter as ‘aldermanus mercatorum Alemaniæ in Angliam venientium’ (ib. Urkunden, p. 13). This then seems to have been the office recently restored to him by the king. It is often thought he was also the regular alderman of a ward, though which ward is unknown. Immediately afterwards the grant of fresh privileges to the Germans in London, on the petition of Richard, king of the Romans, seems to have followed (17 June 1260).

Arnold next distinguished himself by his strong hostility to the democratic mayor, Thomas Fitzthomas. He and his friends only escaped a plot for their destruction by the arrival of the news of the battle of Evesham (4 Aug.), in the middle of the folk-moot at which the attack was to have been made. This was on Thursday, 6 Aug. 1265. Arnold's loyalty did not, however, save him from paying a heavy share in the fines imposed by the victorious king on the rebellious city. At last he got royal letters which protected him from further exactions. Many years later the city of Bremen complained that even one of Arnold's servants, Hermann, a Bremen citizen, had been severely fined on the same account, and that his resistance had caused a feud between London and Bremen (Fœdera, i. 534). In 1270 the chest containing the city archives (scrinium civium) was under Arnold's care, while three other citizens held the keys of it. In 1274 Arnold was among those who resisted the validity of the charters granted by the mayor, Walter Hervey, without the consent of the aldermen and ‘discretiores’ of the city. They gained their point, and got Hervey removed from his aldermanship.

Nearly all our knowledge of Arnold's acts comes from the ‘Chronica Majorum et Vicecomitum Londoniarum,’ contained in the so-called ‘Liber de Antiquis Legibus’ in the Guildhall, and edited by Mr. Stapleton for the Camden Society in 1846. The special particularity with which his birth, family, and adventures are recorded, the scrupulous absence of comment on him, yet the apologetic tone of the references to his acts, have given rise to the conjecture that he is himself its author. The full references to his patron, Richard, king of the Romans, increase the probability. The entrusting of the city archives to him just before the time that the chronicle, which contains a large number of official documents, closes, makes this as near a certainty as can be gathered from merely indirect internal evidence. The chronicle breaks off in August 1274 with the preparations for Edward I's coronation. He must have died before 10 Feb. 1275, on which date his will was read and enrolled in the Hustings court (Riley, Introduction to Chronicle of the Mayors, &c., p. ix). He left part of his property in the city to the monks of Bermondsey, and to his kinsman, Stephen Eswy, for his own use and for that of Arnold's wife. The latter's name was probably Dionysia, who married Adam the Taylor after Arnold's death, and was alive in 1292. Another ‘alderman of the Germans’ appears as holding office in 1282. Dr. Lappenberg's conjecture (p. 16) that he was alive in 1292, and even (p. 156) in 1302, is sufficiently disproved by the date of his birth. There is no reference in the chronicle to Arnold's wife or children, but a John Thedmar appears as a witness in 1286 (Placita de quo warranto 14 Ed. I), and again acts as an executor in 1309.

[Liber de Antiquis Legibus (Camden Soc.), pp. 34, 37, 43, 115, 165, 238–42, 253; Riley's Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London, the above translated, with notes and illustrations; Lappenberg's Urkundliche Geschichte des Hansischen Stahlhofes zu London, pp. 11, 14–16, 156, and Urkunden, p. 13; Hardy's Descriptive Cat. of Manuscript Materials for Hist. of Great Britain and Ireland, iii. 205.]

T. F. T.