Journey Home?

It has often been suggested that Adam Easton returned to England after his reinstatement as Cardinal. To me this has always seemed unlikely, not just because of the deteriorating relationship between the Cardinal and Richard II, but the dates really do not work. We already know from other documents, not least the petition for Brigit's canonization included in this section, that Adam was in Rome to sign the petition immediately prior to the Canonization which took place on 8th October 1391. We also know he was in Rome for the consistory at which he was restored by Boniface on the 18thDecember 1389.

What of the dates in between? It is highly unlikely that he returned after Richard's decree of 3rd May 1391 (see this section 1391 Recall) as he would almost certainly have been arrested and there is no record of this in either the Rolls Records or the chronicles of the time. What else do we know? That he was in Rome to present a petition to the new pope in support of Thomas de Walkington on 10 Kalends May 1391 (22nd April 1391) and of William de Chesterton on 10 Kalends February 1391 (22nd January 1391). This gives a possible range for a journey home of 18th December 1389 to 22nd January 1391.

To arrange a significant journey in the 14thcentury was a matter of weeks. Permits had to be sought, horses organised and the household packed up. The journey itself we know from records of the time would take anything from two to three months and perhaps most importantly for this narrative, would have to cross the mountain passes of the Alps after the snow had melted. This would necessitate a journey that was crossing the Alps around March in the direction of England, and returning to Italy crossing the Alps by October at the latest.

It is immediately clear therefore that Adam could not have returned in 1391, he was in Rome in January and April and after 3rd of May his return would have been impossible for the reasons noted above.  So the only window in which Adam could have returned is in 1390. If he set off early and crossed the Alps in March he might have arrived in England around about April 1390. He would have to have been re-crossing the Alps by October 1390 for Adam to be safely back in Rome for the winter. This means he would have had to set off back on the return journey by September 1390. It is possible but such a long journey for such a short stay, one of 5 months at the most, seems unlikely.

In fact the only evidence that supports the idea that Adam might have returned, is a record in the Norwich Record Office for the expenses of sending of Adam's books to England. They come from the Norwich Priory Records of 1391 and show that some 90 shillings and seven pence were spent. The assumption has been made that this meant he was following them. However there are plenty of other reasons the books may have returned home without their master. Not least, we know that around this time the roof of Adam's church in Somersham was replaced. Perhaps the books were a donation to Norwich's Benedictine monastery in return for them arranging funds for the re-roofing?

If we refer back to the records from Adam's early life when the carriage of his book collection from Norwich to Oxford (never mind Rome to Norwich) alone was 113 shillings and fourpence, it is very clear that if just 90 shillings was being spent on the return of books in 1391, only a small part of what we know was by now a considerable library, was coming back to England.

There is one more somewhat larger problem. The money was spent from the Norwich accounts in 1391. This is the one year where we can see from the dates of documents and Richard's decree that Adam was definitely in Rome, he could not have travelled to England. The only credible possibility is that he returned in 1390 and there are no records of expenditure for moving either Adam, his books or his other belongings in that year.