The Magna Carta Project

John hunts in Nottinghamshire

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

22 March 1215 - 28 March 1215


21, 23 Mar 1215

King's Cliffe (Northamptonshire)

RLC, i, 191b, 192

24-26 Mar 1215


RLP, 131-1b; RLC, i, 191b, 192-2b

26-27 Mar 1215

Clipstone (Nottinghamshire)

RLP, 131b; RLC, i, 191b

26 Mar 1215

Sherwood Forest (Nottinghamshire)

The Chronicle of the Election of Hugh Abbot of Bury St Edmunds and Later Bishop of Ely, ed. R. M. Thomson (Oxford, 1974), 162-3

Date of c.26 March

27 Mar 1215

?Sauvey (in Withcote, Leicestershire)

RLP, 131b

It seems most improbable that the King could have travelled in a single day from Clipstone to Sauvey in Leicestershire, more than 40 miles, and then returned the following day to Kinghaugh in Nottinghamshire. The letters dated at Saluatam on 27 March are in all probability misdated.

28 Mar 1215

Kingshaugh (Nottinghamshire)

RLC, i, 192

A king stabbing a hart with his sword, BL Royal MS 10 E IV f.254v

Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a king stabbing a hart with his sword, BL Royal MS 10 E IV f.254v

In the present week, the King journeyed via King's Cliffe into the north Midlands, visiting Nottingham and his neighbouring hunting lodges (Clipstone, Sauvey and Kingshaugh) for the first time since the autumn of 1213, for the purposes of sport, but also no doubt to spy out conditions in a region alive with rumours of rebellion. It was in Sherwood, outside Nottingham, that the King was approached by Hugh of Northwold, still seeking recognition as abbot of Bury. Dismounting from their horses, Hugh and his fellow monks earned favour by prostrating themselves before the King.  The King himself addressed Hugh as if he were indeed abbot-elect, but in a form of words that, assuming it to be accurately reported, included an obvious caveat: 'You are well met, oh lord elect, saving the right of my realm'.1 'Saving the right of X' was a phrase much in vogue, a sort of 'Fingers crossed behind my back' means of qualifying any too definite statement, first coined by Thomas Becket in his dealings with John's father, King Henry II, and thereafter imitated by Henry in his own dealings with Becket.2 Its appearance in March 1215 supplies some indication of the degree to which John was suspected of acting duplicitously and with words of honeyed sweetness but barbed intent. Hugh and the King then walked together, speaking privately for some time. The following morning, Hugh visited the King in his chapel, prior to Mass, but received no further greeting other than to be told to see William Brewer who could explain the King's wishes.3 Some idea of the King's travelling arrangements emerges from a letter of 26 March, ordering the sheriff of Nottingham to provide for the King's carts and carriers: all told for four long carts, each drawn by three or four horses intended for the King's wardrobe, weapons, game and hunting equipment, and a further two sumpter horses to carry his food.4 Orders were sent out as far away as Carlisle for the purchase of salmon and other supplies for the King's table.5 Lady Day (25 March), the King spent at Nottingham, taking the opportunity to inform the Welsh princes of his dispatch of envoys, headed by William Cornhill, bishop of Coventry.6 In Poitou, Hubert de Burgh was ordered to release an estate to Aimery, son of the vicomte of Thouars, a leading local nobleman whose loyalty remained in doubt.7 Hostages taken from Sark were ordered released from imprisonment in Norwich and Ipswich, and Savaric de Mauléon, captain of the King's Poitevin mercenaries established in England for the past few weeks, secured the release of one of his hostages, previously held by the King at Richmond in North Yorkshire.8 The distribution of these hostages, in so many different places of captivity, suggests not only the King's customary attention to detail, but also that the gaols of England were by this time filled to bursting. Gestures of appeasement continued to be made. John de Lacy was permitted to stand bail for a Yorkshireman accused of homicide.9 Walter de Lacy was freed from unjust customs taken by the sheriff of Shropshire since the time of King John's father, Henry II.10 The burgesses of Heddon, on Humberside, were ordered to deliver an aid promised but as yet not paid to the countess of Aumale, mother of earl William.11 On the 23 March, the chief forester, Hugh de Neville, was ordered to take no further regard within the forest of Nassaburgh (Northamptonshire), pending further instructions. This was to lead in due course to the deforestation of the abbot of Peterborough's lands there, announced in a royal charter three weeks later.12 Even so, not all popular grievances were answered. In particular, aliens remained prominent in royal service. Peter de Maulay, from the region between Anjou and Poitou, received a gift of a 'hullockum', presumably one of the King's hulks at Portsmouth.13 During the King's visit to Nottingham, itself under the custody of the alien Philip Mark, Matthew de Cigogné, brother of Engelard and a member of the hated clan of Girard d'Athée, took charge of supplying the court with wax.14 Above all, the Norman adventurer Fawkes de Breauté remained a constant presence at court, credited with title as King's steward. The appearance of his name authorizing or witnessing several of the royal letters issued during this week can have done little to reassure those in receipt of such letters that the King was truly determined upon compromise.15


The Chronicle of the Election of Hugh Abbot of Bury St Edmunds and Later Bishop of Ely, ed. R. M. Thomson (Oxford, 1974), 162-3, reporting the King's speech: 'Bene venias, domine electe, saluo iure regni mei'.


For Henry II's grant of peace to Becket in 1169-70, 'saluis dignitatibus regni mei', 'salua dignitate regni nostri', or 'salua honore regni mei', see Materials for the History of Thomas Becket: Archbishop of Canterbury, ed. J. C. Robertson (7 vols., London, 1875-85), vii, 82-5 no.564, 90-2 no.568, 343 no.686; F. Barlow, Thomas Becket (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1986), 188-91, and the notes to my forthcoming edition of these letters in N. Vincent (ed.), Letters and Charters of King Henry II, provisionally nos 2995-6, 3006.


Electio Hugonis, 162-5, and for the aftermath, Diary and Itinerary for 5-11 April.


RLC, i, 192-2b.


RLC, i, 191b.


RLP, 131b.


RLP, 131b.


RLP, 131-1b.


RLC, i, 191b.


RLC, i, 191b.


RLC, i, 191b.


RLC, i, 191b, and for the charter, of 12 April, Cambridge University Library ms. Dean and Chapter of Peterborough 1 (Peterborough cartulary) fos.66v-67r (51v-52r), also in TNA E 32/76 (Northamptonshire Forest Eyre Roll 5 Edward I) m.3d.


RLC, i, 191b.


RLC, i, 191b, and for Matthew, see N. Vincent, 'Who's Who in Magna Carta Clause 50', Le Médiéviste et la monographie familiale: sources, méthodes et problématiques, ed. M. Aurell (Turnhout, 2004), 235-64.


RLC, i, 191b-2.

King John's Diary & Itinerary