Si quis fuerit dissaisitus vel elongatus per nos sine legali judicio parium suorum, de terris, castellis, libertatibus, vel jure suo, statim ea ei restituemus; et si contentio super hoc orta fuerit, tunc inde fiat per judicium viginti quinque baronum, de quibus fit mentio inferius in securitate pacis: de omnibus autem illis de quibus aliquis disseisitus fuerit vel elongatus sine legali judicio parium suorum, per Henricum regem patrem nostrum vel per Ricardum regem fratrem nostrum, quae in manu nostra habemus, vel quae alii tenent, quae nos oporteat warantizare, respectum habebimus usque ad communem terminum crucesignatorum; exceptis illis de quibus placitum motum fuit vel inquisitio facta per praeceptum nostrum, ante susceptionem crucis nostrae: cum autem redierimus de peregrinatione nostra, vel si forte remanserimus a peregrinatione nostra, statim inde pleman justiciam exhibebimus.
If anyone has been disseised or dispossessed by us, without lawful judgment of his peers, of lands, castles, liberties, or of his right, we will restore them to him immediately. And if dispute should arise concerning this, then it is to be dealt with by judgment of the twenty-five barons named below in the security for peace. But concerning all those things of which anyone was disseised or dispossessed, without lawful judgment of his peers, by King Henry our father or King Richard our brother, which we have in our hand, or which others hold and which we ought to warrant, we will have respite during the usual crusader’s term [of exemption], except for those matters over which a plea was begun or an inquest held on our orders before our taking of the cross. But when we have returned from our crusade, or if perchance we have stayed at home without going on crusade, we will then at once do full justice in such cases.
The large Clause 52 provided for the restoration to their previous owners of lands of which they had been dispossessed – `disseised’ – by King John, his father or his elder brother. In doing so it was in effect retrospectively implementing Clause 39, in which disseisin was one of the actions against his free subjects which the king renounced for the future. The length of Clause 52 was largely due to the complications arising from John’s having taken the cross on 4 March 1215, and his claim to the right allowed to crusaders to be exempted from legal proceedings while they were absent on crusade. Eventually it was decided that his own disseisins must be remedied at once, but that those of Henry II and Richard I should wait until his return. That still left much needing attention. Disseisins could be effected by stealth, or by the manipulation of the processes of the exchequer or of the courts, but they were most often carried out by force. John had been dispossessing men of their estates from the beginning of his reign, often temporarily but sometimes for extended periods. The conspiracy of 1212 had led to many disseisins, and the same was also true of the outbreak of rebellion immediately before Magna Carta was negotiated, when sweeping orders for the seizure of lands created much confusion.
It was clearly anticipated that John would resist at least some of the efforts which would be made to recover estates he had confiscated. When that happened the twenty-five barons responsible for enforcing Magna Carta as a whole were to give judgment. It is not clear how often they were called to do so. There is some evidence that they were active in this way, but it is also possible that John sometimes anticipated their decisions and had lands handed back before he could be instructed to do so. In other instances he certainly dug his heels in, for instance that of Knaresborough Castle, which had come into his hands as the pledge for a huge fine offered, but never paid, by Nicholas de Stuteville. Although the twenty-five eventually ordered the castle’s surrender to William, he could not recover it. His case was typical in that although the orders and claims made in the weeks after Runnymede show that the potential beneficiaries of Clause 52 came from all levels of free society, it was the wealthy and powerful who had been most often targeted by John. Nor had they only lost lands, for as the Clause records, they were also entitled to recover rights – like Eustace de Vesci’s freedom to hunt with dogs on his home territory in Northumberland – and castles, an essential asset for any self-respecting magnate. Some barons, indeed, seem to have claimed more than they were entitled to, either in lands or in castles; William de Mowbray’s bid to obtain York Castle, by reference to the findings of an inquest which had almost certainly never taken place, was a particularly egregious example. Like Clause 52 itself, Mowbray’s attempt to exploit a moment of royal weakness for personal advantage underlines the extent to which relations between king and barons broke down during John’s reign.
Clause 52 was one of the longest in the 1215 Magna Carta. Expressing the determination of the barons to enforce retrospectively an important element in Clause 39 of the Charter, its basic issue was a simple one, the right of free landowners who had been deprived – `disseised’ – of estates, castles and rights by King John, or by his father, Henry II, and elder brother, Richard I, to recover what had been unlawfully taken from them. That the Clause differed in significant respects from no. 25 of the Articles of the Barons, on which it was based, was principally due to complications resulting from John’s having taken the cross on 4 March 1215, and from his claim that he was therefore entitled to the exemptions from legal processes which had come to be granted to crusaders. Eventually it was decided that he must restore immediately what he himself had had taken, but that seizures by his father and brother should await his return from the Holy Land, or alternatively, his decision not to go there.
The wording of Clause 52 makes it clear that the barons expected resistance from King John. When that happened, the twenty-five barons in whose hands the enforcement of the whole Charter was to be placed were to give judgment. There was likely to be much for them to do, since John had disseised men and women of their lands throughout his reign. His actions could have been justified on a variety of grounds, for instance a failure to pay debts owing to the crown, but often arose from political or personal considerations. Many disseisins followed the conspiracy of 1212 against John’s life, while in the weeks before Runnymede he had ordered the seizure in every county of the estates of those he now described as his enemies, creating a good deal of confusion in the process. Disseisins could be carried out through chicanery, for instance by manipulating the proceedings of the courts, but most were implemented by force. A number of orders for their rectification were given in the weeks following the negotiation of Magna Carta, and show that those affected had been free landholders of all ranks, but inevitably the claims of the magnates for repossession received most attention and are best recorded.
How far the twenty-five barons were involved in dealing with them is unclear – in some cases John may have pre-empted their intervention by ordering restitution himself – but it seems likely (not least because a number of them had themselves been disseised by the king) that they did play a part, perhaps a significant one, in restoring the king’s victims to their lands, and to the rights and castles to whose recovery they were also entitled. A number of castles were handed back, while Eustace de Vesci, one of the conspirators of 1212 and one of the twenty-five in 1215, regained hunting rights in Northumberland which King John, with characteristic petty-mindedness, had evidently withheld when Eustace recovered his lands in 1213. Other barons seized the opportunity presented by the king’s weakness to claim more than they had lost, or even what they had never held. William de Mowbray, a leading baron in Yorkshire, asserted his right to hold the king’s forest in that county and the royal castle in York, proffering as evidence the findings of an inquest which probably never took place. John successfully resisted Mowbray’s claim, as he also did that of Nicholas de Stuteville to Knaresborough Castle, which he had held since 1205 as pledge for Nicholas’s payment of a huge fine for the right to succeed to his family’s lands. The fine was never paid, and the castle was not given back, in defiance of a direct order by the twenty-five barons. The cases of York and Knaresborough, like Clause 52 itself, illustrate both John’s methods of government and the breakdown of relations between king and barons which resulted from them.
What became Clause 52 of Magna Carta was strangely, even inconsequentially, placed as Number 25 among the Articles of the Barons, between two legal clauses regulating the writ of Praecipe and inquests `concerning life or members’, and its ultimate position much later in the Charter, among clauses mostly concerned to provide a swift remedy for the effects of John’s rule, gave it greater force as well as making better sense. In the Charter as a whole this Clause was one of only two which in effect acted as sequels to earlier ones (Clause 55 was the other). Clause 39 constituted an undertaking by King John to refrain in future from a wide range of oppressive actions directed against his subjects. The drafters of Clause 52 pinpointed disseisin, the unlawful seizure of land, as the most objectionable of these and demanded an immediate remedy for it – as, indeed, the barons had already done earlier in the year, when they swore to take action against the king `until he swore to restore to the leading men of England and Wales the lands and the castles which he had taken from them at his pleasure without either justice or law.’1 They did not, however, find it easy to define the Clause’s scope.
The issue was greatly complicated by John’s having taken the cross on 4 March 1215, and by the claim which he was therefore entitled to make to the respite against legal claims which was customarily allowed to crusaders. Defined in 1188 as lasting for three years, it was later extended to four or five, while where essoins (excuses for non-appearance in court) were concerned, by the late 1220s the respite had come to be regarded as lasting for as long as the beneficiary’s absence.2 Facing the possibility of delays which could thus have lasted for several years, the barons may at first have resisted the king’s right to this privilege, since Article 25 described it as having been referred to the judgment of Stephen Langton and the other bishops.3 But they cannot have been greatly surprised when the prelates decided in the king’s favour – working as they were under the eye of the pope, who was himself concerned to protect the interests of his own vassal, it would probably have been impossible for them to express the doubts about John’s sincerity recorded by the Crowland chronicler4 – and therefore had to take their judgment into consideration when drafting the Clause (as they were also obliged to do for Clauses 53 and 57).
Their doing so was only one of the considerations which made for differences between the Article and the Clause. Article 25 referred only to disseisin carried out `without judgment’, but Clause 39 had demanded that no action should be taken by the crown against a free man `except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land’, and Clause 52 twice followed its example, referring to the victim of injustice as one who had been disseised `without lawful judgment of his peers’, possibly as a way of preventing the king from claiming that crown debtors had been lawfully deprived of their lands by judgments given in the exchequer court, which was closely controlled by himself and staffed by his own officials.5 The addition of castles to the disseisins which Clause 52 was intended to remedy must have reflected the interests of those barons who in the days following 15 June were recorded as seeking the recovery of what they claimed as their ancestral fortresses. But such variations between Article and Clause, though significant, were of a kind perceptible in many other parts of the Charter, and the two were in basic accord in providing for the immediate restoration of lands and rights unlawfully taken by King John, and in stipulating that the resolution of any disputed claims should be entrusted to the judgment of the twenty-five barons who were to be chosen (on 15 June they had not yet been named) to enforce Magna Carta as a whole.
Much greater differences can be seen, however, where the disseisins allegedly committed by Henry II and Richard I were concerned. For whereas Article 25 had declared that these were to be rectified without delay by the judgment of the claimant’s peers in the king’s court, Clause 52, as finally negotiated, conceded that they should be covered by the temporary exemption from legal process which his crusading vow gave the king. Probably John was able to present plausible arguments that actions attributed to his predecessors, which could have dated back as far as the late 1150s, and consequently affected two or three generations of competing possessors, might raise issues of conflicting right too involved to be settled as expeditiously as Article 25 demanded. Clause 52 itself pointed to one difficulty, when it distinguished between lands which were still in royal hands and those which had been granted to third parties, but for which the king could be required to act as warrantor. In that role John would have been obliged to give an equivalent compensation to any present holder who proved unable to maintain his right in whatever the king’s brother or father had given him or his ancestor. In 1215 it was probably easy to imagine beneficiaries of royal generosity in the past, as well as the occupant of the English throne in the present, becoming repeatedly involved in complicated lawsuits over grants of land whose title may not have been very clear in the first place, leading to suggestions that the twenty-five barons, under pressure to give hasty judgments upon such cases, risked doing little more than substitute new acts of injustice for old ones.
In reality, of course, one may reasonably doubt if John was principally moved by considerations of judicial righteousness when he secured the deferment of such cases. He must have wanted above all to secure his followers in what they held, to weaken his opponents by denying them the opportunity to recover lost possessions, and to secure himself against claims for compensation, all for as long as possible and preferably indefinitely. The barons, for their part, did their utmost to restrict John’s ability to gain from the respite thus granted to him. They secured an undertaking that it would not apply to lawsuits already in progress, or to claims which John had ordered should be investigated before he took the cross. (Geoffrey de Say’s bid for the lands of William de Mandeville, earl of Essex, of which he asserted that his father had been disseised by Richard I, may come into this category; one of the twenty-five, Geoffrey had presented his claim as recently as July 1214, when John instructed the justiciar to take advice and `do what seems most expedient’.)6 And they also forced the king to concede that he would do full justice on the cases concerned not only as soon as he returned from crusade, but also if `perchance’ he did not go. The barons clearly had grave doubts about John’s commitment to the well-being of the Holy Land, and did not intend to allow him to benefit from the advantages which his vow had brought him beyond the strictest letter of the law.
Acts of disseisin carried out by King John and his predecessors are analysed in detail in the commentary on Clause 39, and where the broader context for Clause 52 is concerned it only seems necessary to underline the extent to which all the Angevin kings used dispossession of lands as a device to enforce their will, with effects which could be long-lasting. John himself reinstated landowners in estates lost to them in the reigns of his father and brother. Thus at the beginning of his reign Richard Gubiun paid forty marks (£26. 13s. 4d.) in two years, with an extra five marks for confirmation in 1201, to recover lands of which his father Hugh, seemingly an unsatisfactory sheriff of Northamptonshire, had been disseised no later than 1166,7 while Henry Mallore proffered sixty marks (£40) to recover lands lost by his father for supporting the Young King Henry against Henry II in the great rebellion of 1173/4.8 Also restored in 1199 was Hugh of Saundby, Nottinghamshire, who recovered lands `of which he was disseised because of Count John’ – the fact that the beneficiary had been one of his own supporters in 1194 did not prevent the new king from taking twenty marks (£13.6s. 8d.) for reversing the punishment inflicted by his elder brother.9 As late as 1203 members of a Lincolnshire family proffered twenty marks `for having seisin of their father’s lands in Shoreham of which their father, who was with St Thomas, was during the latter’s persecution disseised and imprisoned by the will of King Henry the king’s father, and for no other reason ...’.10
John himself was an inveterate disseisor of other men’s lands, and known to be such, so that it was with good reason that in 1206 Earl Roger Bigod proffered 100 marks (and paid them within a year) `that he may not be disseised of the land of Bungay which Countess Gundreda held of his inheritance, as he says, unless by judgment of the king’s court’ (Gundreda was his recently-deceased stepmother, who had doubtless held Bungay as part of her dower).11 It is worth noting in this context, however, that even under King John disseisin was not necessarily inflicted, or accompanied, by violence, it could also be achieved by subtler methods, by threats masquerading as persuasion, almost by stealth. On 11 May 1204 John issued a charter on behalf of Cirencester Abbey in which he granted the canons, among other things, `all the land which was William of Cirencester’s which he had in Cirencester and Minty with all its appurtenances, which King Richard of good memory our brother previously gave them, and of which we afterwards disseised them by our will and gave it to Noel our servant ...’.12 The abbey’s cartulary reveals the manoeuvres behind the king’s action. No direct force had been applied, though the threat of it was barely concealed. On 7 August 1202 John wrote to the abbot and convent asking them to convey William’s land to William Noel, and so to earn the king’s gratitude, but adding: `And do you know that unless you do this we shall direct our justiciar to cause him [Noel] to have that land without delay ...’. Twelve days later the justiciar, Geoffrey FitzPeter, showed that he was made of the same stuff as his master, when he sent them a copy of the king’s letter along with instructions of his own, in which he told the canons on the king’s behalf that they should `do as much therein as will not oblige us to apply the hand of justice ...’.13 In 1204 the abbey paid £100 to recover the land.14 Two years earlier they had been unable to refuse the king’s demand, and presumably without resistance allowed William Noel to take possession of what was clearly a valuable property. Nevertheless by his own admission the king’s act constituted a disseisin, and was unlawful as such.
A similar case arose in June 1212, albeit one involving much more important people, concerning the honour and castle of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, which was held by Henry de Bohun, earl of Hereford, but claimed by William Longespée, earl of Salisbury. The two earls were already in dispute over property at Caldicott, Monmouthshire, when Hereford was also summoned to appear before the king to answer for the services he was said to owe from a number of Wiltshire townships, Trowbridge among them. He essoined (excused himself from appearing in court) in both actions on the grounds of ill health, but although this was deemed acceptable in the proceedings over Caldicott, it was ruled impermissible in a plea involving service to the crown, and as a result all the Wiltshire lands at issue were confiscated `for default of the service which the earl ought to do to the lord king.’ Although the decision may well have been technically sound, it still conveys a strong sense of judicial manipulation, especially as John, without making a formal grant, subsequently conveyed the disputed lands to his half-brother Salisbury.15 No violence was said to have been involved, but John was later described as having `by his own will without judgment disseised Henry de Bohun ...’.16 There were probably many such occasions, when the very fact of royal power made the king’s demands, whether backed up by the forms of law or not, irresistible to those confronted by them.
The canons of Cirencester, at least, escaped relatively lightly, but they were doubtless aware that the consequences of royal disfavour could be dire, both for its immediate victims and for their descendants or successors, and that the chances of their being reversed must usually have depended on the same kind of royal whim, or need, which had originally inflicted them. In 1215 there must have been many who knew this all too well, and hoped that circumstances had now become such that they could literally recover lost ground. Those circumstances were, of course, exceptional, in that they provided both an opportunity and also a need for the acts of restitution ordered by Clause 52, for against a background of rebellion, and the threat of civil war, it is not surprising that John’s measures against men whom by mid-May he was openly referring to as his enemies should have included a number of orders for the seizure of their lands and their granting to followers of his own. One of the purposes of Clause 52 was certainly the reversal of these recent disseisins. The men targeted by name included several of the most prominent rebels – Robert FitzWalter, William and Geoffrey de Mandeville, Robert de Vere and William of Huntingfield all lost lands, and all were later among the twenty-five barons charged with the enforcement of the Charter. Giles de Briouze, bishop of Hereford, who had suffered from the proscription of his whole family by King John and joined the rebels as a result, was treated similarly, as was Henry of Braybrooke, a sheriff and administrator – his change of allegiance was clearly deeply resented by John, who ordered the devastation as well as the confiscation of Henry’s lands.17
More were disseised at this time, however, than the records show. No order was enrolled for the seizure of Richmond Castle from Ruald FitzAlan, only for its return to him on 21 June,18 or for the dispossession of the earl of Hereford, though as another prominent rebel he was certainly among the king’s victims. His recovery, also on 21 June, of `his rent from Herefordshire which is in arrears’ presumably covered the third penny of the county due to him as earl, valued at £20 per annum;19 he had received this sum every year between 1200 and 1214, but may well have received nothing in 1215 (no Herefordshire account was entered on that year’s pipe roll). An order given on the same day, that `the whole of the land which we had handed over to our brother W[illiam], earl of Salisbury’ should be returned to Bohun, gave him back estates in Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset, Berkshire and Wiltshire.20 As noted above, Hereford was in dispute with Salisbury over the honour and castle of Trowbridge, and the castle was excluded from the order. He may have lost the other lands around 15 May, when John commanded that those knights of the honour who had chosen to follow Earl Henry rather than Earl William should lose all their lands, chattels and fees.21 The sub-tenants of other lords probably also forfeited their lands at this time, men like Nicholas of Yealand, a tenant both of Geoffrey de Mandeville in Essex and of William de Mowbray, one of the king’s bitterest enemies, in Northamptonshire and Yorkshire – on 28 May John granted away the chattels found on Nicholas’s land.22 Indeed, the king’s nets came to be very widely cast, for on 12 May he issued a general order to all the sheriffs of England, commanding each one `that immediately you have seen these letters you seize into our hand all the lands of our enemies in your bailiwick, and make our profit from the things and chattels which you find on their lands, as seems most expedient to you ...’.23
In the early summer of 1215 the political situation must have been such as to make it frequently impossible for John’s agents to carry out his orders, whether general or specific, and it seems likely that many of the men targeted did not in fact lose their lands. Even so, the king’s directive was so sweeping in its range as to constitute a sure recipe for confusion, as can be seen in the order which John himself sent to the sheriff of Cornwall on 29 May, telling him that `if Hugh de Beauchamp is our enemy and with our enemies against us’, then his lands were to be given to Hasculf de Suleny.24 Hugh’s position may well have been a complicated one. He had in fact been disseised a year earlier, on unspecified grounds, while he was in the king’s service in Poitou, so that order had to be given in January 1215 that his lands should be returned to him.25 But although he certainly became a rebel (he was recorded as returning to the king’s allegiance on 29 March 1217),26 it is not known when and why he did so, and his position, whether legal or political, may never have been entirely clear. As late as January 1222 he proffered £5 for an inquest as to `whether King John disseised Hugh of his land of Binnerton by his own will or by judgment of his court, and whether he was disseised in a time of peace or in a time of war.’27 Another probable victim of the king’s indiscriminate aggression was Peter FitzOger, also a west country landowner, whose lands in Devon and elsewhere were restored to him on 22 June with an admission that `we believed that Peter was against us in the war begun between us and our barons.’28 No doubt John’s precipitate action helped to ensure that his fears were subsequently realised, when Peter did indeed join the ranks of the king’s enemies.29 The king’s anger and indignation was even briefly extended, and quite possibly for no better reason, to the senior justice, Simon of Pattishall, so that on 15 or 16 May he was deprived of the manor of Waddesdon which he had been holding at the king’s pleasure.30 Simon was soon able to reassure John of his loyalty and secure the return of his possessions,31 but others (like Peter FitzOger) may have had to wait for Clause 52 to provide an official remedy.
That remedy was not necessarily going to be instantaneous. Clause 52 was one of several to begin with the conjunction `If’. But whereas in most of the others the word used could equally well have been `When’, here (and also in Clause 57, dealing with Welsh disseisins) it had a genuinely conditional quality, raising the possibility that the king would deny that a disseisin had taken place, or had been made without a lawful judgment, and that there would be differences which it would be the task of the twenty-five barons to resolve.32 John was most unlikely to regard the latter as constituting an impartial tribunal, but he could always hope that divisions would emerge among them which he could then exploit, especially if more than one claimant came forward to assert a right to lands now in the king’s hands. In the days immediately after the issue of the Charter, however, the barons were united, and the king was rarely able to resist demands for restitution, though there is evidence for his trying to do so.
On 19 June John notified William Longespée that `seeking respite from the earl of Hereford for the return of his lands of which we had him disseised, we could not obtain respite for open country, but only for Trowbridge Castle ...’.33 John’s choice of words suggests that Hereford presented his claim to Trowbridge to the twenty-five as soon as they were chosen (he was one of them himself, and for the implementation of Clause 52 there was no requirement that a member of the baronial committee should stand down while his own case was discussed, as there was for Clause 55), that he obtained an immediate judgment in his favour, and that the king’s subsequent efforts to delay the implementation of their award, through negotiations with the earl, met with very limited success – the lands of the honour were to be surrendered at once, while his respite for Trowbridge Castle gave him only a further nine days before that, too, was to be handed over. A similar scenario, involving a much less eminent figure, is suggested by the record of John’s dealings with William FitzElyas, a knight of the honour of Wallingford., whom he had deprived of the Buckinghamshire manor of Oakley in 1208.34 The king had then granted it to a member of the staunchly loyalist Basset family, two of whose members stood by him at Runnymede, and he was at first inclined to dispute William’s right, for on 23 June he told the sheriff to hand the manor over to him `if we unjustly disseised him of it as he says, by our will and without judgment ...’. Investigations were to be made, under the auspices of a royal officer, and only if they found in William’s favour was he to obtain possession of the manor. But the order was swiftly cancelled, for only a day later another letter close was sent to the sheriff, ordering him to give William possession of the manor, `which was awarded to him’.35 It would appear that William had turned to what at that moment arguably constituted a higher authority even than the king, and had obtained a judgment with which the latter felt obliged to comply.
The activities of the twenty-five barons are wrapped in some obscurity. It may be thought that John would have regarded it as most unbecoming for a king to agree to answer for his actions before a gathering of his subjects and then to hear them pronounce upon the legality of what he had done, raising the possibility that at least some of the mandates for the restoration of lands issued in June and July 1215 were given by him in the hope of winning support and as a way of emphasising his own new-found righteousness.36 To set against such a hypothesis there is the explicit account by the `Anonymous of Béthune’ of an occasion on which the twenty-five came to court to make a judgment (en la court le roi por i. jugement faire), and found the king lying sick in bed, incapacitated by an illness in his feet. Unable to go out to meet the barons, John called on them to wait upon him in his chamber, so that they could give judgment there, but this they refused to do, as contrary to their rights, with the result that he had to have himself carried into their presence. Given the unreliability of some of the other details concerning the Charter given by this source,37 the accuracy of this story, which its author related less to demonstrate the Charter’s implementation than to illustrate the arrogance of the baronial leaders, can hardly be taken for granted. Yet restitutions of land were certainly made, and on balance it is seems very probable that the twenty-five were involved in at least some of them, if only because it seems unlikely either that John would often have reversed his own acts except under pressure, or that the twenty-five would have been reluctant to use the authority given them by the Charter to take steps which were advantageous to themselves and their followers, and correspondingly detrimental to the king.
The number of orders that lands should be handed back to their previous owners, however they originated, was not in fact very great, but they benefited a wide range of people, in ways which sometimes make it possible see the workings of John’s government, and the king’s dealings with his subjects, in a clearer light than an analysis of the generalised accusations implicit in Clause 39 can often provide. Many of those concerned were magnates, but not all were, and some were no more than lords of manors, like William FitzElyas, or his fellow knight of the honour of Wallingford Ralph Chenduit, who obtained an order for the restoration of 40s. rents at Netley (and later one for unspecified land at Berkhamsted, possibly involving the same property).38 As Clause 43 showed, John’s rule had weighed heavily on honours like Wallingford, and earlier in 1215 William and Ralph had probably been in rebellion against the king.
Other men who now recovered their lands had almost certainly been punished for following their lords into rebellion, or perhaps simply for having links of kinship or tenure to rebellious lords. Bartholomew Turet, who recovered lands in Shropshire and several other counties on 21 June,39 was later recorded as a rebel in the company of Fulk FitzWarin,40 who had been an enemy of King John long before 1215. Guy de la Possonière, who succeeded his uncle Pain of Rochford in the manor of Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex, by a royal order issued in August 1214,41 almost certainly lost it again the following year as a result of links to Robert de Vere, whose family had the patronage of Hatfield Broad Oak Priory.42 Clemencia, wife of Henry de Braibuef, whose disseisin of her dower at Headington and elsewhere in Oxfordshire was rectified on 29 June,43 probably suffered because her husband held the Hampshire manor of Eastorp from the earl of Hereford.44 The order which Hugh Ruffus and his wife Alice obtained to the sheriff of Hampshire on 21 June for the restoration of Alice’s dower at Faccombe and Langley, not only gave the cause of their dispossession as `the war arisen between us and our barons’ but also identified Alice as the daughter of William of Huntingfield, one of the twenty-five.45 Hugh was certainly in rebellion against the king by early 1216,46 but he cannot be shown to have been so at the time of Magna Carta, and he may have been penalised initially for the recalcitrance of his father-in-law rather than for any offence of his own.
Not all the disseisins reversed shortly after Magna Carta can be dated. It is impossible to say, for instance, when Ranulf FitzRobert lost the Lincolnshire manor of Saxthorpe, restored to him on 23 June,47 except that it must have been some time after 1206, when he proffered 200 marks for it, with other lands, after it had been in the wardship of Archbishop Hubert Walter. On that occasion, ironically, it was a condition of Ranulf’s recovery `that he should not be disseised of that land of Saxthorpe without judgment ...’.48 But others can be shown, or at least argued, to have been carried out some years before 1215. William FitzElyas, as noted above, lost Oakley in 1208, and it must have been in the same year that Bishop Giles de Briouze was deprived of a tract of pasture which was restored to him in 1215, `such as he had before he left England by reason of the general interdict’.49 It was in 1209 that Robert FitzWalter lost Hertford Castle,50 that Hugh de Loges was deprived of Cannock Forest and Rodbaston Castle in Staffordshire, after he had held them in the right of his wife since 1195,51 and that the manor of Wendover, Buckinghamshire, was taken from William de Fiennes (this case is discussed further below). The township of Buckingham, which John handed over to Richard earl of Clare on 21 June 1215, as the marriage portion of the earl’s daughter Matilda, had probably come into the king’s hands in 1210, as one of the consequences of the ruin of the Briouze family – Matilda was the widow of William (iv) de Briouze, starved to death in Windsor Castle late in that year.52
The aftermath of the 1212 conspiracy against King John’s life saw a number of disseisins which were not revoked until 1215. As in the latter year, the fortunes of a magnate and his retainers could sometimes be closely linked. On 22 June Brian de Lisle was ordered to restore to Brian FitzAlan the service of a knight’s fee in Staveley, Derbyshire, held by Adam of Staveley, `if Adam ought to hold it of Brian’.53 Adam, it was recorded two years earlier, did indeed hold of Brian FitzAlan, who in turn held of Eustace de Vesci, one of the prime movers of the conspiracy.54 It seems likely, therefore, that Brian had lost Adam’s service as a result of Vesci’s treason, with the latter’s forfeiture being extended to his tenant (there is no evidence that Brian had been Vesci’s accomplice in conspiracy). Another case saw similar results but in a different order. In May 1212 the king took the manor of Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire, from Earl David of Huntingdon, even though David had held it since around 1190 and had been confirmed in it both by Richard I and by John himself. Shortly afterward the earl’s illegitimate son Henry and twelve of his tenants were disseised of their lands in the manor. Moved, perhaps, as much by the common tendency to hate the man one has injured as by any genuine suspicions, after the conspiracy came to light John moved against Earl David himself, and forced him to surrender Fotheringhay Castle, the focal point of his honour of Huntingdon.55 He and his tenants were restored to what they had lost within three days of each other in June 1215.56
Earl David also had an interest in another disseisin carried out in 1212 and reversed in 1215. He had earlier litigated against the earl of Hereford over the manor of Ryhall, Rutland.57 He had once held it as part of his honour of Huntingdon, but his older brother William, king of Scots, had contrived to have it granted to their sister Margaret, married successively to Duke Conan of Brittany and Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford. Earl Henry was her son, and when Margaret died in 1201 he claimed the manor of Ryhall along with twenty knights’ fees. David disputed the claim at first, but did not persevere in it, and Henry remained lord of Ryhall until 1212, when John took the manor from him and granted it to Renaud de Dammartin, count of Boulogne.58 The count’s family had a long-standing claim to the manor, but John’s granting it to him surely reflected less that claim’s validity than his need for Renaud’s support (confirmed by treaty on 4 May 1212) in his diplomatic and military planning for the recovery of Normandy. By 1215, however, Renaud was a prisoner of the French king, following his capture at the battle of Bouvines, and on 23 June it was restored to Henry de Bohun.59 This was probably not the only time that John disposed of other people’s property as a way of advancing policy. The manor of Wendover was disputed for over fifty years by members of the Gurnay and Fiennes families. The issue was temporarily resolved in 1209 when Hugh de Gurnay obtained possession of it, at the expense first of Sibyl of Tingrith and then of her son William de Fiennes.60 Until 1204 Hugh was a powerful Anglo-Norman lord, and even after that John clearly felt the need for his support, repeated demonstrations of untrustworthiness notwithstanding. That the king was essentially responsible for the dispossession of William de Fiennes is shown by the terms of the latter’s reinstatement in Wendover in 1215, at first simply as his hereditary right, but on 15 September `as he had [it] on the day on which we disseised him of it’.61
Policy of a different, essentially fiscal, kind may have lain behind other disseisins. The removal of Cannock Forest from the hands of Hugh de Loges, probably in 1209, and its being entrusted to Hugh de Neville, the king’s royal forester, no doubt reflected John’s determination, very evident at this time, to exploit the forests to the utmost. It was to Neville that directions for Cannock’s restitution to Loges were sent on 21 June 1215.62 Four days later, on 25 June, order was given for the immediate restoration to Ralph de Greselegh’ and his wife Isabel of the latter’s inheritance at Muskham, Nottinghamshire, and Ilkeston, Derbyshire.63 In November 1213 Ralph was recorded as having proffered 500 marks for the land (and for the right to marry his daughter to one Robert Lupus), the first 200 marks to be paid in John’s fifteenth year – under the most favourable construction by May 1214 – and the remaining £200 in equal portions in the following two years.64 But there is no record of his having paid anything, and the likelihood is that the sum demanded was much more than he was able to pay, with the result that the land was taken back by John. That this is what happened is strongly suggested both by the renegotiated fine which Ralph was able to make in 1219, for just £100 (the original fine was recorded as having been quashed – quassatus est),65 and by the fact that even this much reduced sum was paid only slowly, not being cleared until 1225.66
A similarly excessive demand probably lay behind the disseising of William of Eynsford, who on 23 July 1215 obtained an order for the restoration of the wardship of the land of Hugh de Aubeville, `such as he had before war arose between us and our barons’. Significantly, the order was not sent to a sheriff or other local official but to William Brewer.67 Eynsford, who was a wealthy landowner in Kent, where he was a leading tenant of the archbishop of Canterbury,68 had proffered 1200 marks (£800) in 1212 for the wardship of Hugh de Aubeville’s heirs and the marriage of his widow (who happened to be his own sister).69 By July 1213, however, wardship and marriage were back in the king’s hands, to be granted out again, this time to Brewer, who proffered 1000 marks (£666. 13s. 4d.) for them.70
It is possible that behind this lay some unrecorded incident, perhaps associated with the mustering of the army in Kent under John’s supervision in the spring of 1213, or with the return of Archbishop Stephen Langton to England on 9 July. But although John may well have been pleased to oblige one of his most reliable henchmen, and to do so, moreover, in a region where the crown was relatively lacking in resources,71 it seems just as likely that his motives in accepting a lower bid were essentially fiscal. The date on which Eynsford’s proffer was accepted is unknown, but the terms included his answering to the executors of Hugh’s will for all his late brother-in-law’s debts, while also paying 400 marks into the exchequer by the end of John’s fourteenth year, presumably signifying Michaelmas 1212, and then 300 marks in each of the next two, and 200 in the fourth. He is not known to have paid anything before Michaelmas 1213, however, and by then his debt had been reduced by only 250 marks (£166. 13s. 4d.), while a year later it was the sheriff of Kent, not Eynsford himself, who accounted for a further 350 marks (£233. 6s. 8d.).72 So whereas by Michaelmas 1214 William should have paid 900 marks, in fact he had only paid 600, a shortfall which might have allowed King John, at a time when his resources were stretched to the limit, to feel justified in taking the wardship back and then granting it out again, on the basis of what he now knew was a more realistic proffer.73 The letter of the law may have been on the king’s side in this case, but it would be surprising if the loss of his wardship, along with the money he had so far paid for it, did not arouse Eynsford’s fierce anger. One of the four knights appointed to receive oaths of obedience to the twenty-five in Kent, in accordance with the Charter’s security clause, he had rebelled by the autumn and was subsequently captured in Rochester Castle.74
William Brewer’s involvement in the disseisin of William of Eynsford may have been indirect, but he was active in exploiting other men’s difficulties to his own advantage, as were others among King John’s servants. Several disseisins carried out by them came to light and were corrected following the issue of Magna Carta, though not always very quickly – an order that Hugh of Lawton should be put back in possession of lands at `Binchelton’ in Herefordshire, of which his father had been disseised by William de Briouze, was not issued until June 1216.75 But there was greater urgency in other cases. On 24 June 1215 Brian de Lisle was ordered to give Ralph FitzWarin `full seisin of the land in Dorrington of which you have disseised him’76 – the land in question was presumably that of Warner of Dorrington for whose issues Lisle accounted between 1211 and 1214.77 That they amounted to just 40s. per annum illustrates how deeply into landowning society the activities of the king’s government and officials could penetrate, and their ability to impinge upon people of relatively humble standing.
By contrast, instructions sent not long afterwards to the sheriff of Gloucestershire, that he should allow the abbot and convent of Cirencester to enjoy all their liberties `of which they were disseised by Girard d’Athée ...’,78 show a royal servant imposing his will on the rich and powerful, for Cirencester was probably already, as it certainly later became, the wealthiest Augustinian house in England. Girard had been sheriff from January 1208 until his death in 1210, when he was succeeded by Engelard de Cigogné, who clearly did nothing to restore what his predecessor had taken – the order for restitution was sent on 9 July, the day after Engelard was replaced as sheriff. The loss was a substantial one. In 1190 the abbey had bought the manor of Cirencester with the township of Minty and seven hundreds pertaining to it for £100 from Richard I,79 and John had confirmed his brother’s grant in 1199, in return for a further £100.80 For this the canons were to pay the exchequer a fee-farm of £30 per annum. From 1210, however, it was the sheriff who paid it,81 showing that the abbey had lost control both of the town on its doorstep and of a considerable part of east Gloucestershire.
In these cases there is no evidence for the king’s direct involvement in the actions of his agents. Orders may have been informally given, but it is just as likely that men like Girard d’Athée acted as they did either in accordance with their understanding of John’s policy or simply for their own advantage, confident in either case that the king’s authority would support them against any complaint. Other victims of disseisin, however, were too eminent to be targeted except by the king’s command. A borderline case in this respect was that of John of Sanford, restored to his office of chamberlain to the queen, `as he should and is accustomed to have it’, on 22 June 1215.82 The office was a serjeanty, and brought with it the possession of Great Hormead in Hertfordshire, and of four other manors there and in Essex,83 raising the possibility that John (who had accompanied the king to Poitou in 1214)84 had suffered for some unrecorded association with the rebellious magnates of those counties – perhaps with Robert de Vere, whose grandson married a descendant of John’s,85 or with Robert FitzWalter, recorded in 1212 as holding the manor of Little Hormead in wardship.86 The order for Sanford’s restitution was sent to the barons of the exchequer, where either he or his clerk was responsible for the collection of the traditional levy known as queen’s gold.87 It seems improbable that the barons would on their own initiative have ventured to deprive one of Queen Isabella’s leading household servants of his office – such an order must surely have come from the king himself (in which case his having given it may shed some light on King John’s relationship with his wife).
Some of the victims of arbitrary disseisins were magnates, however, and here it seems certain that King John was responsible for their losing lands and rights. On 22 June 1215 he ordered the surrender to Gilbert de Gant of the wardship of land in Hunmanby (Yorkshire, East Riding) and to Eustace de Vesci of that of half a fee at Tanfield (North Riding), which had been entrusted to Robert de Vieuxpont along with the custody of the heir of Hugh Gernagun, if it should be found that these properties formed part of their respective fees, and not of the honour of Richmond.88 Hugh had died in around 1203, and these lands seem to have come into the king’s hand because they were alleged to have been held of the honour of Richmond, then under royal control but granted to Ranulf, earl of Chester, in 1205. That there appears to have been no serious doubt of Gant’s overlordship of Hunmanby89 did not prevent King John exploiting his holding of one barony in order to encroach upon the rights of another. Where de Vesci was concerned, he may have lost control of Tanfield in the same way, or been deprived of it at the time of his forfeiture for treason in 1212.
Vesci’s treason was almost certainly the reason for another loss, financially trivial but for its victim perhaps an even greater cause of resentment. On 23 June the sheriff of Northumberland was ordered to allow Eustace to have `liberties for his dogs in the forest of Northumberland as he should and is accustomed to have them.’90 In what may have been a deliberate provocation, Eustace had clearly not recovered his hunting rights when his lands were returned to him in July 1213; but instead faced the possibility of a challenge by the king’s foresters every time he left Alnwick Castle to engage in an aristocrat’s favourite sport. Such privileges mattered to those who enjoyed them, or believed they were entitled to enjoy them, for fiscal reasons or for the prestige they brought, or both. Geoffrey de Mandeville was not only concerned to regain lands he had been deprived of, along with his rights of monastic patronage (at issue under Clause 46), but also to establish firm boundaries between his own chases and those of the crown in Somerset and Dorset – like Eustace de Vesci he wanted to be able to hunt free from interference – and following his marriage to the king’s former wife to secure `all the liberties belonging to the honour of Gloucester which he has with I[sabella] countess of Gloucester his wife ...’. Orders granting him what he sought were issued on 23 June.91
This was not all that Geoffrey de Mandeville tried to obtain following the issue of Magna Carta, for he and other barons made a number of further claims, often of doubtful validity. He himself asserted a right to the custody of the Tower of London, on no stronger grounds, according to the Crowland chronicler, than the fact that his father, Geoffrey FitzPeter, had held it in his capacity of justiciar.92 Mandeville may indeed have put forward such a claim immediately after his father’s death on 2 October 1213 – it was to him that on 3 November the king sent an order for the Tower to be handed over to the archdeacon of Huntingdon93 – and he may also have tried to bolster it by reference to his ancestors, including his namesake the first earl of Essex, having been constable of the Tower under the Anglo-Norman kings. But in either case his claim was a weak one; John compromised to the extent of placing the Tower in the keeping of Archbishop Langton, but it remained effectively in the king’s hands, until the superior force at the disposal of Prince Louis compelled its surrender in November 1216, by when Mandeville was dead.94
Even feebler, however, were the arguments with which William de Mowbray tried to win the custody of York Castle and the royal forest in Yorkshire. On 19 June he obtained an order that the castle be surrendered to him, ahead of a detailed investigation of his claim, allegedly a hereditary one (hereditarie).95 That claim has been crisply dismissed as `bogus, based on alleged precedents in the reign of Stephen’,96 and Mowbray himself was probably well aware of its flimsiness, since he then made what seems to have been a no less fraudulent attempt to support it, by reference to an inquest which he said had been held and which upheld him in his rights. John’s response, on 21 June, was to order the sheriff of Yorkshire to tell him if such an inquest had in fact been held, and if it had by whom, when, in what terms and on whose order, and to direct him to hold a new one.97 All the king’s questions would have been answered by the record of the inquest, had Mowbray provided one.98 That the king had to ask for such information strongly suggests that no such record was forthcoming, and that Mowbray simply announced that there had been an inquest which found in his favour, and expected the king and his fellow barons to believe him. John, understandably, declined to do so, and Mowbray’s baronial allies, too, may have found his assertions something of an embarrassment, and given him only tepid support in them. Certainly there is no clear evidence that he obtained either castle or forest – baronial forces appear to have occupied the city for a while,99 but then they withdrew, perhaps ahead of the king’s arrival there with an army on 3 January.100
A number of other claims to castles were put forward in the days following 15 June, at least some of them more credible, and therefore more successful, than Mowbray’s to York. Earl David of Huntingdon’s right to Fotheringhay Castle, seized in 1212, was indisputable, as was that of Ruald FitzAlan to Richmond Castle, which royalists had captured in the spring of 1215.101 Saer de Quincy, earl of Winchester, had what was at least a plausible claim to Mountsorrel Castle, Leicestershire – his wife Margaret was one of the two sisters and coheirs of Robert de Breteuil, fourth earl of Leicester, from whose father, the third earl, the castle had been confiscated by Henry II in 1174102 – and Robert FitzWalter’s right to Hertford Castle could probably be seen in a similar light, since it had been held by the ancestors of his wife, and also by Robert himself, albeit by royal grant, between 1202 and 1209.103 An inherited right to the office of constable, originating in the distant past, appears to have constituted the basis for William Mauduit’s claim to Rockingham Castle, and also for William de Lanvaley’s to Colchester Castle.104 Neither was able to point to royal acceptance of these ancestral claims, however, though Lanvaley could have pointed out that his father had held the castle at the end of Richard I’s reign, and then proffered 200 marks (never paid) in 1200 to retain the custody during pleasure; moreover, although William senior died in 1204, his widow was permitted to hold the castle until 1209 or 1210, when it was finally taken back into the king’s keeping.105
The most contentious of these claims to castles was probably that of Nicholas de Stuteville to Knaresborough, which had fallen into the king’s hands as a result of Nicholas’s failure to keep the terms, made in 1205, for his payment of a 10,000-mark fine for succession to the lands of his brother William.106 John was certainly anxious to retain possession of Knaresborough Castle, a major fortress west of York which commanded the approaches to that city from Nidderdale, and which he had spent about £1300 over ten years on strengthening, having entrusted its custody to Brian de Lisle, one of his most reliable agents.107 And for that reason he must have disputed vigorously any claim that the castle had come into his hands by disseisin, arguing instead that he had merely taken possession of it as a pledge for a settlement which Nicholas had yet to honour. For their part, Nicholas and his allies could have claimed, no less plausibly, that Stuteville’s proffer for his inheritance had not only been inordinate but was also made under duress, as the only way in which he could have obtained his inheritance. The two positions were irreconcilable and the result was stalemate, which may have been intermittently disturbed by negotiations, but was not (theoretically) broken until representatives of the twenty-five finally awarded Knaresborough to Nicholas, `as his right’, on 30 September 1215.108 By then King John had long ceased even trying to negotiate over the implementation of the Charter, and was more or less openly preparing for war. Consequently the order to Brian de Lisle to surrender Knaresborough Castle to Stuteville looks more like a last-minute bid for military advantage than a serious attempt to rectify an injustice (not least because nothing was said about Boroughbridge, which had no castle). It will have been for the same reason that some three weeks later the twenty-five conveyed the three northernmost English counties to their ally Alexander II, the young king of Scots.109
The baronial attempt to secure Knaresborough Castle was unsuccessful. Lisle refused to surrender the castle, which remained in the king’s hands throughout the civil war and long afterwards. Most of the other baronial efforts to obtain castles either came to nothing or did little good to those who made them. Geoffrey de Mandeville did not receive custody of the Tower of London, and William de Mowbray is not recorded as having obtained possession of York Castle, despite John’s initial order for its surrender to him. Fotheringhay, Richmond, Rockingham, Colchester and Hertford Castles were indeed handed over to barons asserting their rights in them, but all were subsequently lost to the king’s men (Colchester to the king himself) once civil war broke out.110 Until the arrival of the French (and sometimes even afterwards), the English rebels were seldom able to hold their fortresses against John’s professional soldiers.
Claims to offices and lands were not always much stronger than those put forward to castles. Richard de Munfichet’s claim to the forestership of Essex provides another borderline case. He was asserting his right to a position held by his grand-father Gilbert, who had probably forfeited it for his involvement in the rebellion of 1173/4 against Henry II.111 But Gilbert himself appears to have tried in vain to recover it in 1186,112 and although his son, another Richard, proffered £100 for it in 1200, he had only paid £25 by the time of his death in 1204, leaving the transaction incomplete.113 In allowing the younger Richard’s claim, John may well have been moved by the consideration that thanks to his own grant of disafforestation, made in 1204, the proportion of Essex under forest was significantly smaller than it had been in his father’s reign, when it covered the whole county.114 John and Richard de Vautort were later found to have resorted to outright dishonesty in order to obtain Shepperton manor in Middlesex. The king granted it to them on 27 July, after they had untruthfully asserted that Robert de Beauchamp, who had a rival claim to the manor, had died as a hostage in France.115 On 25 June John had ordered that William de Mandeville, the earl of Essex’s younger brother, should be given seisin of `his lands of Aylesbury and Berkhamsted ... which he had before the outbreak of discord between us and our barons [and] which were taken into our hand because of the war ...’.116 William’s actual seisin of these valuable manors seems to have been tenuous at best. Both had been held by his father, the justiciar Geoffrey FitzPeter, but after the latter’s death in 1213 Aylesbury, though granted in tail to FitzPeter in 1205 (which should have favoured his elder son Geoffrey), was taken back by the king who granted its custody during pleasure to Geoffrey of Buckland, a kinsman of the late justiciar, and after the civil war Mandeville found it prudent to proffer 200 marks to hold the manor on the same terms as his father.117 His tenure of, or right to, Berkhamsted was seemingly no less exiguous. In 1205 John had granted it to FitzPeter and to the heirs of his second marriage, to a woman named Aveline, a condition which, since they had a son, John FitzGeoffrey, should have excluded William de Mandeville. But in any case the king took possession of the manor on FitzPeter’s death and handed it over to Queen Isabella, who ought to have held it since 1204, since it constituted part of her dower.118 There is no good reason, in fact, to suppose that Mandeville ever held Berkhamsted, and his claim must have derived entirely from the fact of his father’s having done so.
Not every order for the restitution of lands given in the weeks following 15 June was necessarily issued in response to Clause 52 of Magna Carta. When on 25 July John ordered the sheriff of Hampshire to make arrangements for compensating one Geoffrey Clement for the land at Andover which the king had taken for a fishpond, he was essentially concluding a deal struck the previous year, though he may also have been pleased to have the opportunity to show himself scrupulous in such matters.119 The writ which he sent to the abbot of Bury St Edmunds’ court `after the concord of Runnymede’, ordering the reinstatement of Walter de Rideware in land at Kettlebaston, Suffolk, was not intended to rectify any misdoing on John’s part, but to conclude an exceptionally complicated dower case.120 But he may nevertheless have been glad to be able to show himself performing one of the traditional functions of kingship, and to do so in accordance with the demands for judicial rectitude inherent in much of Magna Carta. Later, in January 1216, after the realm had become engulfed in civil war, John had the satisfaction of ordering the reseisin of a man dispossessed by the barons, when he commanded that John de Bakepuz be put back in possession of `his land of Aslockton [Nottinghamshire] such as he had it before he was disseised by the barons opposed to the lord king’.121 By that time, however, his own orders for the disseising of his enemies, which he started to issue in September 1215, and the latter’s acts in retaliation, risked creating tenurial confusion on a scale which Clause 52 would have been totally unable to remedy. The situation in 1216 was aptly summarised during a lawsuit in the late 1250s, recording the effects of the rivalry of Walter of Goxhill and Robert de Aincourt for land at Hoveringham, also in Nottinghamshire, when `during the war sometimes Robert was in the same land and sometimes Walter, and sometimes the land lay uncultivated, so that neither of them laid a hand on it ...’.122
The right to land was apt to be strongly, and often bitterly, contested in medieval England, unsurprisingly in an age when it was fundamental to status as well as wealth – John’s own youthful sobriquet of `Lackland’ conveyed contempt as well as an accurate comment on his dynastic standing. Few barons are likely to have been guiltless of trying to extend their possessions at the expense of others, whether peers or inferiors, making Clause 60 of the Charter highly relevant in this context. But John’s methods, and those of his subordinates, though they can be seen to have mirrored those of his father and elder brother in some respects, seem to have gone well beyond anything that could be regarded as acceptable, even in so competitive a society, not least in their impact not only on bishops and magnates but also on manorial lords and even the possessors of rents. Whether it was through the misuse of legal procedure, as in the chicanery employed to deprive Henry de Bohun of the honour of Trowbridge, or through the heavy financial demands which helped to justify the dispossession of men like William of Eynsford and Ralph de Greselegh’, or through the exploitation of one tenurial right as a means of absorbing another, which served to deprive Gilbert de Gant of the custody of Hunmanby, or simply in the expression of personal antipathy which surely lay behind the needling of Eustace de Vesci by the withholding of his hunting rights, by such means John created insecurities which inevitably bred widespread hostility, and which led to the barons in their turn using equally reprehensible methods against the king, perhaps best exemplified in William de Mowbray’s spurious claim to York Castle. That this should have happened was symptomatic of the breakdown of relations between king and magnates –with the latter ultimately representing landowning society as a whole – which produced Magna Carta itself, and made Clause 52 part of it.
D. Carpenter, Magna Carta (2015), 290.
C. Tyerman, England and the crusades, 1095-1588 (Chicago, 1988), 219; Bracton on the laws and customs of England, 4 vols., ed. G.E. Woodbine, trans. S.E. Thorne (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1968-77), iv. 76 (fol. 339).
The wording of the Article is ambiguous on this point, leaving it unclear whether the bishops were to pronounce on the validity of John’s exemption as a crusader, or on the disseisins committed by Henry II and Richard I. Against the latter interpretation, it is hard to see why the barons should have regarded the bishops as suitable adjudicators upon such cases, especially when they included royal henchmen like Peter des Roches, Walter de Gray and William of Cornhill, along with a number of past and present agents of government. For a contrary view see Carpenter, Magna Carta, 347-8; J.C. Holt, Magna Carta (2nd edn., Cambridge, 1992), 342.
W. Stubbs (ed.), Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria, 2 vols. (Rolls Series, 1872-3), ii, 219.
See Holt, Magna Carta, 109-10.
PR 11 Henry II (1165), 96; PR 1 John (1199), 16.
PR 22 Henry II (1176), 143; PR 1 John (1199), 253.
PR 1 John (1199), 209; PR 2 John (1200), 15.
PR 5 John (1203), xviii, 103.
PR 8 John (1206), 32.
T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli Chartarum, 1199-1216 (Record Commission, 1837 – hereafter Rot.Chart.), 132.
C.D. Ross (ed.), The cartulary of Cirencester Abbey, Gloucestershire, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1964), i, nos. 37-8 (pp. 33-4).
PR 6 John (1204), 150-1.
Curia Regis Rolls vi, 11-14 John, 1210-1212 (1932), 320; R.V. Turner, The king and his courts: the role of John and Henry III in the administration of justice, 1199-1240 (Ithaca, New York, 1968), 163-4; S. Painter, The reign of King John (Baltimore, 1949), 262; Holt, Magna Carta, 206-7.
Curia Regis Rolls xii, 9-10 Henry III, 1225-6 (1957), no. 2646 (pp. 528-9).
Details from T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli litterarum clausarum i, 1204-1224 (Record Commission, 1833 – hereafter Rot.Lit.Claus. i), 200.
T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli litterarum patentium, 1201-1216 (Record Commission, 1835 – hereafter Rot.Lit.Pat.), 143.
T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli de oblatis et finibus ... tempore regis Johannis (Record Commission, 1835 – hereafter Rot.Ob.Fin.), 553.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 215.
Ib., 213, 257; Liber feodorum. The book of fees commonly called Testa de Nevill, 2 vols. in 3 (1920-31), ii, 1460.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 204.
P. Dryburgh and B. Hartland (eds.), Calendar of the fine rolls of the reign of Henry III i, 1216-1224 (Woodbridge, 2007), 242 (6/77). Binnerton is in the Kerrier district of Cornwall.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 216.
Ib., 200; Book of fees i, 117.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 244.
Cf. Carpenter, Magna Carta, 389.
C.D. Tilley, `The honour of Wallingford, 1066-1300’, unpublished King’s College London doctoral thesis, 2011, accessed through https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/, 11 August 2015.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 216-17. The word here translated as `awarded’, in Latin adjudicatum, was the same used at the end of September to describe what was explicitly a decision by the twenty-five barons, giving Knaresborough Castle to Nicholas de Stuteville – Holt, Magna Carta, 499..
A suggestion made to me by David Carpenter.
For details see Carpenter, Magna Carta, 150, 177, 354, 367, 370.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 216, 219.
R.W. Eyton, Antiquities of Shropshire x (1860), 326-7.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 211.
Ib., 217; Victoria County History of Essex viii (1983), 180.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 218..
Victoria County History of Hampshire iv (1911), 147-9.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 215. In 1211 William had successfully proffered six Norwegian hawks for the disposal of his daughter’s marriage and dower, following the death of her first husband, PR 13 John (1211), 6 – I owe this detail to Louise Wilkinson.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 224.
See commentary on c. 40, section headed `Law and politics (1): King John and Robert FitzWalter’, subsection (a), `Hertford Castle’.
PR 11 John (1209), 149; Victoria County History of Staffordshire v (1959), 79, 119-20.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 215.
PR 13 John (1211), 90.
Details from K.J. Stringer, Earl David of Huntingdon: a study in Anglo-Scottish history (Edinburgh, 1985), 49-50, 115-16.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 216-17 (Godmanchester); Rot.Lit.Pat., 144 (Fotheringhay Castle).
Curia Regis Rolls iii, 5-7 John, 1203-1205 (1926), 99-100.
Victoria County History of Rutland ii (1935), 268-75.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 216.
Victoria County History of Buckinghamshire iii (1925), 23-4; Holt, Magna Carta, 157-8 and n. 148.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 216, 218.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 217.
PR 3 Henry III (1219), 97; PR 4 Henry III (1220), 152; Calendar of fine rolls i, 105 (3/319).
TNA, E 372/69 m. 7 records the final payment.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 216.
Carpenter, Magna Carta, 384; F.R.H. du Boulay, The lordship of Canterbury: an essay on medieval society (1966), 108-9.
PR 14 John (1212), 15.
Rot.Ob.Fin., 473-4. On 12 June 1215 Brewer was commanded to give some of Hugh de Aubeville’s lands to William de Avrenges – Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 214.
A point made to me by Louise Wilkinson.
PR 16 John (1214), 31.
Brewer appears to have sold the wardship on to John Marshal, who was recorded in 1214 as having assumed responsibility for the rest of Eynsford’s debt, and who had custody of Hugh de Aubeville’s heir in 1227 – Book of fees ii, 1343.
Carpenter, Magna Carta, 382-5.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 274.
PR 13 John (1211), 91; PR 14 John (1212), 168; PR 16 John (1214), 68, 71.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 220.
PR 2 Richard I (1190), 58.
Rot.Chart., 10; Rot.Ob.Fin., 22; PR 1 John (1199), 31; PR 2 John (1200), 123.
Shown particularly clearly in PR 16 John (1214), 54-5.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 216.
Details in J.H. Round, The king’s serjeants and officers of state (1911), 132-4.
PR 16 John (1214), 9.
Calendar of inquisitions post mortem iii, no. 367 (p. 228)
Book of fees, i, 125.
E. Amt and S.D. Church (eds.), Dialogus de Scaccario (Oxford, 2007), 182-5.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 215.
W. Farrer (ed.), Early Yorkshire charters ii (Edinburgh, 1915), 469-81.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 216.
Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria ii, 221.
Holt, Magna Carta, 490-1; M. Tyson (ed.), `The annals of Southwark and Merton’, Surrey Archaeological Collections 36 (1925), 24-57, at 51.
Holt, Magna Carta, 167.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 215.
For an example of the kind of record John would have expected to receive see E. Mason (ed.), The Beauchamp cartulary charters, 1100-1268, Pipe Roll Society new series 43 (1980 for 1971-3), no. 361 (p. 205) – an inquest held on 13 January 1207 in the presence of the sheriff of Norfolk, and returned, together with the king’s writ, under the seals of the sheriff and the twelve jurors.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 245.
J.C. Holt, The northerners: a study in the reign of King John (Oxford, 1961), 120.
Painter, Reign of King John, 31-5.
Details in commentary on c. 40.
Painter, Reign of King John, 332-3.
Rot.Ob.Fin., 89; PR 3 John (1201), 73; PR 12 John (1210), 195-6.
Holt, Magna Carta, 305-6; Painter, Reign of King John, 335-6.
R.A. Brown, H.M. Colvin and A.J. Taylor (eds.), The history of the king’s works: the middle ages, 2 vols. (1963), ii, 688.
Holt, Magna Carta, 499.
Holt, The Northerners, 131-2; Carpenter, Magna Carta, 404.
Stringer, Earl David of Huntingdon, 52 (Fotheringhay); Rot.Lit.Pat., 163 (Richmond), 168 (Rockingham), 171-2 (Colchester). Hertford had to be recaptured from a royalist garrison by Franco-baronial forces late in 1216 – H.G. Hewlett (ed.), Rogeri de Wendover liber qui dictur flores historiarum, 3 vols (Rolls Series, 1886-9), ii, 200.
Painter, Reign of King John, 333.
PR 31 Henry II (1186), 18.
Rot.Ob.Fin., 93; PR 2 John (1200), 48; PR 3 John (1201), 68. The remaining debt was entered on every years’ pipe roll until 1212, and so was presumably paid, pardoned or dropped in 1213.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 223; Curia Regis Rolls xii, no. 365 (p. 356). This case is discussed in detail in the commentary on c. 39.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 217.
Victoria County History of Buckinghamshire iii (1925), 6; PR 2 Henry III (1218), 62; PR 3 Henry III (1219), 106.
Victoria County History of Hertfordshire ii (1908), 165-6.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 205, 222.
Curia Regis Rolls viii, 3-4 Henry III, 1219-1220 (1938), 16-17. The lawsuit began no later than 1208, and was not concluded until 1220.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 245.
TNA, KB 26/160 m. 43d.
Clause 55 (The 1215 Magna Carta)
Clause 55 (The 1215 Magna Carta)
Clause 60 (The 1215 Magna Carta)
Please note: commentaries are presently available only for clauses marked with *; more commentary to be added in due course.