Et ad habendum commune consilium regni, de auxilio assidendo aliter quam in tribus casibus praedictis, vel de scutagio assidendo, summoneri faciemus archiepiscopos, episcopos, abbates, comites, et majores barones, sigillatim per litteras nostras; et praeterea faciemus summoneri in generali, per vicecomites et ballivos nostros, omnes illos qui de nobis tenent in capite; ad certum diem, scilicet ad terminum quadraginta dierum ad minus, et ad certum locum; et in omnibus litteris illius summonitionis causam summonitionis exprimemus; et sic facta summonitione negotium ad diem assignatum procedat secundum consilium illorum qui praesentes fuerint, quamvis non omnes summoniti venerint.
And in order to have the common counsel of the kingdom for the levying of an aid, other than in the three instances aforesaid, or for the levying of scutage, we are to cause the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls and greater barons to be summoned individually by our letters; and moreover we are to have a general summons made, through our sheriffs and bailiffs, of all who hold in chief of us; for a fixed day, at least forty days thence, and at a fixed place. And in all the letters of summons we are to set out its cause. And after the summons has thus been made the business is to go forward on the appointed day according to the counsel of those present, even if not all those summoned have come.
Clause 14 complements Clause 12, which had laid down that the taxes known as aids and scutages were only to be imposed `by the common counsel of our kingdom’. Clause 14 specified how that counsel was to be given and by whom. In the last resort, all tenants-in-chief – those who held their lands directly from the crown, whether laymen or ecclesiastics – were to be summoned (which does not necessarily mean that they all came), having been notified well in advance of the date, place and business to be discussed. Summonses were of two kinds, as was probably traditional. The secular and ecclesiastical magnates, whose presence was doubtless regarded as essential, were to be summoned individually, while lesser men were informed through public announcements by royal officials, probably in the county courts. If lesser landholders and knights then chose not to go, they would still be able to lobby their superiors to act on their behalf.
In demanding that they be consulted in this way, the barons were making a highly critical assessment of King John’s style of government. Although he sometimes held formal, pre-arranged assemblies at which taxation and other administrative measures were discussed, he greatly preferred to make decisions after informal consultations with a limited number of agents, courtiers and cronies, who are easily recognizable because they were repeatedly named as being in attendance on him – in 1211 the chronicler Roger of Wendover listed thirty-two such men as being the king’s `evil counsellors’. Moreover John was forever on the move, so that even his formal council meetings tended to be short, seldom more than a day or two, so allowing little time for detailed discussions. Announcements of government measures, including taxes, often referred to the number of important people involved in preparing them, but these cannot be trusted – the archbishop of York, described in 1207 as heading the magnates who had assented to the thirteenth on moveables, the heaviest tax of the whole reign, is recorded elsewhere as leading the opposition to it! All the evidence suggests that John preferred to keep the magnates at arm’s length, in matters of government and also socially, so that even those who remained loyal to him, like the great William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, can seldom have felt comfortable in their dealings with him. Excluded from the king’s counsels and company, the barons responded by demanding for themselves the role in affairs of state to which they felt they were entitled. Clause 14 was probably dropped from the later re-issues of Magna Carta because it became unnecessary, since later kings, unlike John, usually appreciated the importance of being on good terms with their most important subjects.
Clause 14 is the necessary corollary of Clause 12 of Magna Carta, laying down how the financial exactions which were brought under control by the latter should be levied in future. That it has no equivalent among the Articles of the Barons seems less likely to have been the result of oversight than a reflection of the uncertainty among the barons as to how fiscal affairs which had hitherto been largely or wholly controlled by the king should be treated, an uncertainty perhaps shown in Clause 12 by the imprecision of its demand that conventional aids should in future be `reasonable’.1 The issues dealt with by Clause 14 had probably still been under discussion when the Articles were drawn up. Clause 12 ordered that scutages and `extraordinary’ aids were to be taken only `by the common counsel of our kingdom’, meaning that they were first to be discussed, and assented to, by the great men of the realm. Clause 14 reinforced that stipulation by defining how that assent was to be obtained, and from whom, and in doing so underlined the extent to which the magnates envisaged for themselves a role in the levying of taxes which went beyond merely deliberating upon what the king proposed. For scutages, at least, the `Unknown Charter’ had suggested a fixed rate of one mark (13s. 4d.) per fee.2 Clause 14 did not attempt anything like this, rather it postulated active involvement by the barons in proceedings at which proposals for taxes, presumably for purposes and at rates which the king proposed, were debated and appraised before they were imposed, and – by extension - might even be rejected altogether.
Following the disappearance after 1162 of danegeld, which had been imposed many times by Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman kings, the re-emergence of what may be called general taxation, levied nation-wide and at regular intervals, was a development of the late twelfth century, starting with the `Saladin tithe’of 1188 – Henry II had otherwise taken only seven scutages in a reign of thirty-four years, along with an aid for his daughter’s marriage in 1168, and usually preferred to raise money by other means. Richard I’s reign saw more frequent and heavier demands, above all for the king’s own ransom, but also to pay for continuous warfare overseas, mostly in Normandy, and these in turn intensified under King John, whose scutages, in particular, were so numerous (eleven in seventeen years) that by 1215 the barons must have been contemplating the prospect of a series of yearly assemblies to discuss them.
The issue of consent to these exactions was addressed in Clause 12, which laid down that aids and scutages were only to be taken by `the common counsel of our kingdom’. Counsel was in fact fundamental both to that clause and to Clause 14. It was one of the most important services which a lord could demand from his men.3 The ability to give good counsel was a virtue which carried as much weight as military prowess in the chivalric world, and constituted one of the defining characteristics of that world’s ideal figure, the preudomme, the soldier whose abilities as a man of affairs enabled him to flourish above all in the courts, as well as in the armies, of kings.4 The worldly wisdom which made the advice of the preudomme worth having was essentially an acquired virtue. For the magnates – few of whom were likely to deny also being preudommes –a capability for giving counsel to monarchs constituted an inherited, even innate, quality which arose from their rank. On either ground they expected to be asked for their advice over matters affecting themselves and the kingdom which they saw themselves as representing, and they also expected their advice to be heeded.
As far as the procedure for granting them was concerned, Clause 14 probably demanded much that was familiar, and in theory, at least, uncontroversial. Attendance was perceived in terms which would once have been defined as `feudal’, that is, made up of the most important men in the realm, ecclesiastical and lay, who were united in being tenants-in-chief, holding their lands directly from the king. All were regarded as entitled to be summoned to give counsel, but Clause 14 took cognizance of differences in consequence and power when it distinguished between the `greater’ barons, who were to be summoned individually, and the rest, who were to be convoked through a general summons administered by local officials (it seems reasonable to surmise that the abbots were treated likewise – the heads of great monasteries like Westminster or Peterborough could surely have expected to receive a personal summons, those of lesser houses, places like Buildwas in Shropshire or Darley in Derbyshire, must have learnt what was afoot in their respective county courts). There was nothing new about the issuing of a twofold summons, it had been standard practice under Henry I, and may even have originated under William I.5 Its being prescribed in 1215 as the basis for grants of taxation may well reflect the pressure which men of knightly rank were now able to exert upon their lords and also, through their growing involvement in local government, upon the king – they knew their own importance, and accordingly felt that they had a right to be involved in fiscal decision-making. It is strongly indicative of the autocratic character of John’s kingship, however, that either the magnates or the tenants-in-chief who fell short of baronial status, or both, should have found it necessary to insist upon such involvement, and the same is true of the other stipulations in Clause 14 - that at least forty days’ notice was to be given for a gathering at which counsel was to be given, at a specified time and place, and with the reason for the summons being spelt out.
The less important tenants-in-chief, who could still have been substantial men in their localities, especially if they were also sub-tenants of magnates - honorial barons – would also have been affected by the king’s financial demands, raising the possibility of assemblies at which taxation was discussed being attended by literally hundreds of people.6 This may have sometimes happened in the years after 1215, but probably only on exceptional occasions. For whereas the magnates might have regarded attendance at a council as an obligation attendant on their rank, lesser men might well have regarded it as likely to be expensive, time-consuming and even unnecessary – when a seventh was imposed in 1203, and the bishop of Salisbury gave instructions that its collection be discussed in the rural chapters of his diocese, he found that barely a tenth of the clergy turned up, and that those who did would not respond in the absence of their more important colleagues.7 The response of the laity may sometimes have been similar, so that the provision of even a rudimentary agenda would have helped lesser men to decide whether they wished to go, and enabled them to lobby their superiors if they chose not to (like the king, the magnates were expected to consult their leading tenants). And since the proclamation of a summons would presumably have been made publicly, in shire courts, the honorial barons could themselves have been lobbied by their tenants in advance of a council.
Clause 14’s provision that business should proceed even if not all those summoned were present may simply have been intended to prevent the wasting of time, but was probably influenced by wider considerations, affecting both the king and the barons. From the point of view of the king, as the summoner and as the person who needed the money which the assembly had been convoked to grant, he had a clear interest in expediting proceedings, so much so that it has been suggested that it was John who secured the addition of this stipulation to the Clause.8 And the king likewise stood to benefit from a provision which would have prevented absentees from refusing to contribute to an aid which had been granted by an assembly to which they had been summoned but which they had not attended. On the other hand, the obvious possibility that confronted by likely baronial recalcitrance, John might have resorted to delaying tactics, urging that nothing could be done in the absence of, say, the bishop of Winchester or the earl of Arundel, while he made last-minute attempts to pack an assembly with his own supporters, gave the barons equal grounds for insisting on punctuality. More certainly, the insistence on a fixed time and place, though obviously relevant to the convenience of those attending a council, must have been primarily designed to counteract John’s restlessness, which kept him and his court continually on the move. But although the clause sheds a revealing light on aspects of the physical character of John’s kingship, its primary focus went beyond that, to the very nature of his governance, of which the advice he was given, and the entourage from which he received it, formed an essential component.
As with his father and older brother, much of John’s counsel-taking was essentially informal, and involved a relatively small number of intimates – his familiares – men whose judgment he trusted. There was no fixed council, he turned to the men at hand whose advice he thought most likely to be useful.9 When in 1213, for instance, he received an appeal for help from the embattled Count Ferrand of Flanders, John called the bishop of Winchester, the earl of Salisbury and others to a council, and then brought in two Flemish exiles, the count of Boulogne and Hugh de Boves, presumably so that they could give expert guidance.10 The council which was summoned on this occasion seems to have been a casual, almost ad hoc, affair, and only a few of the men present at it were named. Similar gatherings can perhaps be identified by a coincidence of business and attendance, even though no formal council is recorded. There is no surviving evidence for a council at Westminster on 24 March 1204, for instance, when a dispute between the earl of Leicester and the bishop of Lincoln was settled by a fine made in the presence of Archbishop Hubert Walter (who was also chancellor), the justiciar, Geoffrey FitzPeter, six bishops, five earls, the count of Evreux, William de Briouze, William Brewer, `and other our barons and liegemen’, but the rank of the disputants, and the importance and number of the men in attendance suggest either that a council had been in progress at the time, or that an assembly convoked for some other purpose had been adapted by the king for the performance of what must have been conventional conciliar business.11
Formal assemblies were undoubtedly held, but it is not always easy to identify them, or to tell who attended them and what business they did. References in chronicles may coincide with gaps in record sources, and even when they do not, witness-lists from the time of a council cannot be assumed to provide a complete guide to those who were present at it. The king’s opponents were no doubt less likely than his supporters to be named as attending. At a council held at Oxford in late March 1205 (discussed further below), for instance, the men known to have been there were almost all the kind of bishops, officials and courtiers who were usually in attendance on John. His adversaries may not have been called upon to attest the charters he issued at this time, or they may have kept away from the king and departed early. It is often possible, however, to plausibly amplify the record of attendance with the names of the men known to have been in the king’s company for a few days on either side of a known assembly, since it seems unlikely that everyone who came to a council did so only in order to be present at it, and also by the record of grants and favours bestowed at the time – a council must often have been an occasion at which important men negotiated gifts and rewards, for themselves or their friends and subordinates, in return for their support, especially when the king needed a tax. Magnates who received benefits at the time of a council probably also attended it.
The business of a council could be highly technical, and this may sometimes have reduced its attendance. In the spring of 1201, exchequer regulations concerning the payment of debts to the king were drawn up after discussions at Windsor involving the king `and certain magnates of his land ...’.12 John and his advisors probably met on 16 April, when the king is known to have been at Windsor, along with Archbishop Hubert, the justiciar, William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, the bishop of London (William de Ste Mère-Église, a long-serving administrator specialising in exchequer business), William Brewer (also a financial expert), and two others, while when the king moved to Westminster he had three more earls and two other bishops in his company, together with Robert of Thornham, another experienced administrator.13 The ordinance issued at Windsor had important consequences, but it seems to have been discussed by a relatively small number of people, some of them, like the chancellor and justiciar, no doubt present ex officio, or because of their understanding of the workings of the exchequer, but others, notably William Brewer, because they were habitually close to the king and were continually involved in government, in many different capacities, as and when the king ordered them.
The same was probably true of the ordinance for the reform of the coinage, the so-called `Assize of Money’, which John declared had been drawn up `by the common counsel of our kingdom’ when he sent it to its enforcers from Winchester on 26 January 1205.14 With him at around that time were the earls of Salisbury and Chester, and Roger de Lacy, constable of Chester, otherwise his recorded entourage consisted entirely of courtiers and administrators.15 As well as the archbishop of Canterbury and the justiciar, they included Peter des Roches, the dominant figure in the king’s chamber; Simon of Wells, bishop of Chichester, and Hugh of Wells, later bishop of Lincoln, both of whom served the king, and also Hubert Walter, as clerks in chancery; the justice and sheriff Hugh of Chalcombe; the chamber clerk Walter Mauclerk; and a number of men who served the king as and when he chose to employ them – Peter of Stokes (a steward of the household), Geoffrey de Lucy and Alan Basset. The abbot of Forde was doubtless there as the king’s confessor. There seem to have been more men present on this occasion than there had been at Windsor, but their identities and occupations suggest a gathering of professional men rather than any kind of national assembly, as perhaps was inevitable given the specialised nature of the business done.
When the business to be considered at a council had a more obviously public character, attendance could be larger. Gervase of Canterbury records an assembly of lay and ecclesiastical magnates at London in the spring of 1204, at which it was agreed that an embassy should be sent to negotiate peace with the king of France – it was most likely held sometime between 21 and 29 March, while John was at Westminster, and was probably also the occasion for an ordinance on the rather less pressing subject of the weight of bread in Winchester, described as issued at Easter (31 March).16 Those recorded as having been in attendance on the king at that point would have constituted a gathering very like that at Windsor in 1200, but as the gathering moved towards the south coast - the ambassadors (the archbishop of Canterbury, two other bishops and two earls) all attested a charter at Portsmouth on 11 April, probably immediately before their embarkation – other names appeared among the witnesses to royal charters, notably the earls of Chester, Hertford (or Clare) and Hereford.17 Chester was later a staunch royalist, but in 1204 his relations with John were very strained, while Hertford and Hereford were never close to the king and both ultimately rebelled against him. Probably they had attended the council – perhaps all the earls were summoned to it – but had not been closely involved in its discussions, and only found opportunities to join the circle round the king afterwards.
In this case the business of the council must have been arranged in advance – the embassy could hardly have been improvised, having decided that the time was right to negotiate with the French, John must have known who he wanted to send as his ambassadors, and made sure of their presence at Westminster (in fact he had totally misjudged the military situation in Normandy, and nothing was achieved). Further glimpses of organisation are provided by a well-known case heard coram rege in late June 1204. William Marshal was in dispute with the countess of Meulan and the earl of Devon over the manor of Sturminster, which was then in the king’s hand, and pursued his claim to it when John arrived at Sturminster Newton on his way through Dorset. The litigants could not agree, and on subsequent days only the Marshal came into court, where he continued to prosecute his case. John’s response was to take the advice of his entourage: `who, since there were few men with him, nor, as they said, did they often see such a case come up, they advised that the whole case be deferred to the morrow of the Assumption [16 August], when the lord archbishop and other men, magnates and men of wisdom [sapientes] in the land, could be involved ..’. The Marshal objected, but the king insisted that the status quo should be maintained for the time being.18
The king was at Sturminster Newton on 27 June, when his recorded companions were the earl of Salisbury (his half-brother), Hugh de Neville, the chief forester, and Warin Fitzgerold, baron of Stogursey, Somerset, and as chamberlain of the exchequer a man often in attendance on the king. Two other men who were regularly active as royal agents, John FitzHugh and Thomas of Sandford, may also have been present, along with the butler of the justiciar, but not, it seems, the justiciar himself.19 It was not a group likely to be able to offer expert advice on a complicated lawsuit, and it is easy to see why its members should have been anxious to pass responsibility for it to others. Perhaps it was for the same reason that the Marshal was eager to have an instant ruling, but though he had to wait, he eventually obtained what he wanted. The council planned for 16 August seems to have been postponed, in favour of an assembly at Woodstock arranged for 5 September,20 when Archbishop Hubert, the justiciar, the bishop of Norwich, three earls (including the Marshal) and a number of administrators were present.21 Several of them served at some point as royal justices, notably Simon of Pattishall, the leading member of John’s judiciary, and no doubt it was on their advice that on 9 September the king ordered the men of Sturminster to obey William Marshal as their lord.
This was not the only occasion on which John took counsel at this time, however. On 31 August he wrote to the justiciar of Ireland, ordering him to act with regard to the king of Connaught in accordance with a report he had sent him, one which had been approved `by us and our council’.22 The king was then at Geddington, where he had dealt with Irish business on the two previous days.23 The Marshal had come to Geddington with John on the 29th. As lord of Leinster he was a powerful man in Ireland, and may have been summoned to discussions for that reason, or he may simply have decided to remain with the king until his own affairs were dealt with, in case anything of importance to him was dispatched in his absence – John may have been taking advice in the days before he reached Woodstock, but apparently from noticeably fewer people than he had around him following his arrival there. The Marshal would have been right to be wary. Councils could be very formally staged. An account of an assembly convoked in 1204 or 1205 following the loss of Normandy tells how John called his whole council together and asked them how he should deal with men who held lands both of himself and the king of France and wished to continue doing so, and how the aged count of Aumâle, though crippled with arthritis, was called upon to speak first, because the king had always found him reliable and faithful (loial et feel), and proceeded to give his opinion in carefully weighted words.24 But on a number of other occasions John took advice in a much less punctilious manner.
Coggeshall’s account of John’s dealings with the Cistercian abbots at Lincoln late in 1200 provides a good illustration of how he could operate.25 In his efforts to raise the 20,000 marks which he had agreed to pay the French king under the treaty of Le Goulet, John tried to tap the resources of the Cistercians, who resisted at first, and then made what the king regarded as a totally inadequate offer. The king’s response was to harass them severely, until they tried to come to terms with him at Lincoln, where John had gone for the interment of the late bishop, Hugh of Avalon, with a large and distinguished retinue. Coggeshall describes how after mass on 26 November the abbots had abased themselves before the king, begging him to treat them mercifully, and how John had then gone into his chamber with the assembled magnates, with the Cistercians trooping in behind. But no public debate ensued, for John withdrew into a closet (cubiculum) with just two or three others from among the great men there, for lengthy discussions as to how the Cistercians should be dealt with, and when he emerged he sent for Archbishop Hubert (who had not been one of this select group, perhaps because he had spoken up for the monks) and talked further in private with him, while the abbots continued to stand around in the king’s chamber, before at last the archbishop announced that John was granting them his peace. On the evidence of royal charters from late November 1200, the king’s advisers on this occasion were probably drawn from a small group made up of the justiciar, the bishops of London, Bath and Glastonbury, and Norwich (John de Gray, who had been in John’s service before he became king and always retained his confidence), William Brewer, Hugh Bardulf and Simon, archdeacon of Wells – royal servants and tried agents of government to a man.26
Similar glimpses of informal counsel, plausible though not given by an eye-witness, are provided by the History of William Marshal. One describes how in November 1207, when John was staying in Gloucester Castle, the Irish justiciar, Meiler or Meilier FitzHenry, hatched a plot to undermine the position in Ireland of William Marshal and William de Briouze, when `after dinner, it so happened that the King came into his chamber in the company of Gerard d’Athée, of Meilier also, and of all his chief councillors, who liked to advise him ...’, while another records how in 1210, after the Marshal had defended himself against charges of treacherously assisting the fugitive de Briouze, the angry king `went into his chamber and spoke with those present there’, who managed to calm him and persuade him to be reconciled to the Marshal.27 In 1207 the chancellor, Walter de Gray, was at hand to prepare letters for dispatch to Ireland, while the bishop of Norwich, the earl of Winchester, Roger de Lacy, constable of Chester, and Peter FitzHerbert are named as present on this second occasion. In both cases there were certainly others available whom the king could have consulted,28 but these anecdotes show him preferring to take advice from men regularly found in his entourage – Lacy played dice with the king, while Gray, whatever his official position, was unreservedly loyal to him. When policy could be decided in this way, behind closed doors, in an atmosphere of what can only be called cronyism, and directed, moreover, against one of the greatest of their number, it is easy to see how the magnates should have become deeply distrustful of John’s methods of taking counsel, and of the men who gave it to him, in matters of finance and everything else.
John’s constant mobility was a further hindrance to the giving of what the barons would have regarded as proper counsel. His practice of taking advice from the men to hand, who changed continually as he moved from place to place, must have been a further consideration behind the requirement in Clause 14 that meetings at which proposals for taxation were discussed should be held at fixed times and places – only thus could the assembling magnates could be confident that they would outweigh, and outnumber, such of the king’s friends and followers as happened to be with him at any given moment, even though the latter might also be bishops and barons. As it was, for much of John’s reign councils tended to be short, with business sometimes being rolled over from one session to the next, no doubt to the inconvenience of those attending them. A whole series of councils appears to have been held in the spring of 1205, dominated by military affairs - there was a danger of a French invasion, and the king also planned to lead an expedition to Poitou. Thus a confrontational assembly at Oxford, at which the king was obliged to promise to uphold `the rights of the kingdom of England’ (a pointer to the way the magnates saw themselves as embodying those rights), and then the earls and barons swore to perform the service they owed him, can be shown to have lasted for only three days at the most, from 27 to 29 March. The announcement of a scheme, issued on 3 April, whereby throughout England every nine knights would unite to finance a tenth, well equipped `for the defence of our realm’, presumably resulted from this gathering, which, however, may have been less fully attended than is suggested by the claim that the king was acting `with the assent of archbishops, bishops, earls, barons and all our liegemen of England’.29 One archbishop – Hubert Walter – was recorded as present, along with four bishops and four earls (one of them the justiciar), and a further sixteen men, several of whom were indeed barons (though often through royal patronage), but two were primarily justices, and some – Peter of Stokes, Philip de Lucy, Robert of Ropsley – were essentially government men, of the kind who might be attendant on the king at any time without necessarily attaining any great status by doing so.30 Only the earl of Hertford, William d’Aubigny and Walter de Clifford were rarely found in John’s entourage. Perhaps they had been among the magnates who had extracted an oath from the king, but who the others were is unknown, and they may well have been cold-shouldered while the subsequent proceedings lasted.
But whoever the king’s opponents had been at Oxford, they, or some of them, must soon have received a further summons to wait upon the king. Not perhaps for the gathering at Dover at which on 18 April 1205 John announced arrangements for galleys to protect the English coastline, as made `by the common counsel of our barons’31 – in fact only the archbishop, the justiciar, two earls, one bishop and the usual handful of apparatchiks can be shown to have been with the king at this time – but for what must have been a larger gathering planned for Northampton on 22 May, timed to coincide with an army muster – by way of preparation John directed that fifteen barrels of wine be sent there.32 Orders for this council were sent out no later than 29 April 1205 (a good deal less than the forty days notice required under Clause 14). But around the same time, in what seems to be an example of the confusion which could attend John’s policy-making, no doubt arising from its improvisatory, even impromptu nature, he arranged for another council to be held on 15 May in London. The bishop of Salisbury was ordered to attend, since the king wished to have his counsel, and that of `the other magnates of our land’, and he was also instructed to arrange for the heads of the religious houses in his diocese to attend.33
Such provision is fully in keeping with Gervase of Canterbury’s report of a council at London, which was attended by bishops, earls and barons, all of whom swore fealty to the king, and which promulgated -`with the assent of the king and of all the magnates of England’ – detailed regulations for the defence of the realm.34 But the impression Gervase gives of a throng of bishops and barons is hardly borne out by the admittedly scanty record of the men in attendance on the king at this time - a charter for Margam Abbey, issued on 15 May, was witnessed by Archbishop Hubert, the bishop of Ely, the justiciar, the earl of Winchester, and four other men, two of whom had been at the Oxford assembly.35 It is possible that insufficient notice had been given, but no less likely that John was only paying lip-service to the need for consultation, and was only too happy – especially after what may have been a bruising encounter at Oxford - to issue orders for national defence without waiting to receive advice from men he had nominally summoned to give it. He left London no later than the 18th, and travelling via Ongar and Bury St Edmunds was at Northampton on 21 May.
John did not stay long at Northampton – he left on the 23rd, so if Sidney Painter was right to surmise that the king hoped to use a combination of alcohol and epic romance to befuddle his barons into following him overseas, he must have been quick about it.36 But there was undoubtedly a substantial gathering, perhaps involving people who had been unable to get to the London council in time. No monastic heads are recorded as attending the king, but the abbot of Peterborough took the opportunity to obtain writs of novel disseisin and precipe for an action against the abbot of Crowland,37 while several other abbots and priors litigated in the court coram rege while it sat in Northampton,38 raising the possibility that they or their representatives had come to attend the council, after failing to gather in London. Inevitably, the archbishop of Canterbury and the justiciar were present.39 Only one other bishop (Durham) is known to have been there, but in view of the gathering’s likely secular business, perhaps that is not surprising, and the number of lay magnates in attendance was certainly higher than it had been in London, and more distinguished than it was at Oxford, with the earls of Chester, Winchester, Hereford, Huntingdon, Norfolk, Oxford and Warenne, along with the count of Aumâle and important barons like Robert FitzWalter, Robert FitzRoger (lord of Whalton, Northumberland) and William d’Aubigny. It may have been thanks to a rare effort to make such men feel close to and valued by the king that none of the royal justices attested alongside them, while of John’s usual associates, only Roger de Lacy and (two days after the council ended) Peter of Stokes did so. What business these men did on this occasion is unknown, however; perhaps the main purpose of the meeting was to plan the forthcoming French campaign, which in the end never happened, since John, for once accepting unwelcome advice, reluctantly allowed himself to be persuaded not to cross the Channel.40
Clause 14 was specifically concerned with the granting of taxes. The assemblies reviewed so far dealt with other matters, though these were usually likely to be important to the magnates, and indeed often had significant financial implications, making the conditions prescribed for the king’s taking of counsel by Magna Carta no less relevant to other baronial interests. But in one case it is possible to use the methods employed so far to analyse a major financial imposition. John returned from a relatively successful expedition to Poitou in December 1206, and immediately set about raising the money needed for his next campaign. For this purpose, according to the Waverley annalist, a council was summoned to meet in London on 8 January 1207, to consist of `archbishops, bishops, abbots and priors, earls and barons, and the magnates of the kingdom’,41 but possibly only the churchmen attended in any numbers – at any rate the king is said to have addressed himself to them alone - and they refused to cooperate, whereupon the council was adjourned to Oxford, where it was to meet on 9 February. John was at Westminster on 8 January, and by the 10th he had moved to Lambeth, while on the 12th he was at Reading, when an ordinance was issued, `on our order and by the counsel of our barons’, concerning the price of lampreys.42 Possibly this was all the council had been able to agree upon, but since John’s known retinue at this time was very small, consisting only of the justiciar, the bishop of Winchester, William Brewer and two others,43 he may simply have misrepresented the involvement of the magnates, not for the first or last time.
It is possible that the notice given of the council at London had been insufficient, but it is hard to see that its successor at Oxford was very much better attended. It, too, was brief. John arrived a day late, having still been at Farringdon on 9 February, and after spending the 10th and 11th in Oxford he had reached Woodstock by the 12th, and Brill in Buckinghamshire by the 14th.44 Recorded attestations during these days were scanty, but though they may accurately represent the domination of the king’s entourage by his familiares, trusted servants and long-time members of John’s court like Peter des Roches, William Brewer, William of Wrotham and Thomas of Sandford, joined with important agents of government like Eustace de Fauconberg and Gilbert FitzReinfred, they clearly do not fully reflect attendance at the council. It is inconceivable that the justiciar should not have been present, and a grant made on 9 February, at Geoffrey FitzPeter’s petition and for the love of the bishop of Norwich, surely demonstrates that he was indeed in attendance on the king, probably along with the bishop, as no doubt were the earl of Winchester, on whose behalf a writ was dispatched on the 10th, Robert de Ros, a leading northern baron, the beneficiary of two letters sent on the 11th, and William de Briouze, following whose complaint a letter was sent to the justiciar of Ireland on the 12th. But although these men added to the numbers at the Oxford council, they can have done nothing to alter its complexion, or to cause it to be any less dominated by men in favour with John and willing, if not positively eager, to serve his interests.
When the council assembled, John once more demanded a grant from the clergy, and was again refused, whereupon he `took better advice’ and instead imposed the heaviest levy of the reign, a thirteenth of revenues and movables. According to the writ sent to the sheriffs giving orders for the collection of the tax, it had been authorised `by the common counsel and assent of our council’, which may well have been true, since the latter’s composition was such that the king could have relied on its concurrence.45 But when a writ sent to the clergy of the vacant province of Canterbury on 26 May 1207 described the thirteenth as having been granted by `the archbishop, bishops, abbots, priors and magnates of our kingdom’,46 it is difficult to take the claim seriously – opposition to the tax was widespread, led by the very archbishop (Geoffrey of York) who was named first in the writ as having consented to it.47 It is true that the Waverley annalist described the council as involving `an infinite multitude of prelates of the church and magnates of the kingdom’, but there is no other discernible evidence for their presence, and even if such throngs did attend, it is hard to see how they could have contributed much to proceedings which were controlled by the king’s intimates and lasted for only two days. The claim of participation, like the thirteenth itself, may well have rankled with those who had allegedly concurred in it, so that one of the main aims of Clause 14 was probably to ensure that such assertions had greater authenticity in the future.
It may have been characteristic of John’s style of government that though the writ ordering collection of the thirteenth was said to have received conciliar assent, it was issued under the king’s sole authorisation – teste me ipso - as if to underline his own responsibility for it. Perhaps it did not occur to him that it might have been politically expedient for him to share the resentment certain to be aroused by this onerous measure with the councillors who had assented to it, by naming them, too, as witnesses. As it was, his autocratic tendencies increased, and he did not hesitate to take action against councils held by others of which he disapproved – in May 1207, professing to be responsive to the outcry of his subjects and their fears of loss, he prohibited an ecclesiastical assembly at St Albans which he had heard was about to discuss making increased payments to the pope.48 He continued to take advice in the years which followed, but his reliance on a small group of intimates when doing so did not diminish, and outsiders to the circle of his familiares who hoped to influence him, however great their eminence, might find it hard to do so.
One man who understood this was William Marshal. On 7 March 1208, John wrote to the justiciar of Ireland describing, with evident irritation, how the Marshal had joined him at Bristol, despite not having been summoned to do so. The king was on his way to a council at Winchester, arranged for the 12th, and suggested to the Marshal that he go and inspect his nearby estates in the meantime, but William refused to take the hint, and insisted on accompanying John every inch of the way – pedetentim.49 The council duly met at the time and place prescribed. Its main business was probably a confrontation between Simon Langton, acting on behalf of his brother Stephen, the would-be archbishop of Canterbury, and a group of prelates revealingly described as `our bishops’50 – Winchester, Norwich, Salisbury, and Bath and Glastonbury were the only ones recorded as being with John around this time, and the first two, in particular, were among John’s closest advisors.51 But either then or immediately afterwards, when the court moved on to Marlborough, there was probably an ordinance issued relating to coastal shipping, and also important Irish business – the making of peace between the king and both Walter de Lacy and William Marshal himself, and perhaps a directive for action against Irish thieves. No doubt it was the knowledge that this was on the agenda, and his consequent determination not to be excluded from the king’s counsels, which kept William in daily attendance on John, in what may not have been entirely congenial company, since alongside the justiciar, the chancellor (William de Gray), the earls of Derby and Salisbury and William de Briouze, the king was also accompanied by the usual group of household men – William Brewer, Hugh de Neville, the steward William de Cantilupe, and other trusted curiales, the sort of intimates with whom John had conspired to ruin him in the previous year, and whom the Marshal could reasonably have feared might again use their access to the king’s ear to his disadvantage.
The predominance of such men can only have been accentuated after first the interdict, imposed on England on 24 March 1208, and then John’s excommunication, proclaimed on 8 November 1209, led to the withdrawal of almost all the English bishops from his retinue. Only Winchester and Norwich continued to serve him, giving his court an increasingly secular, and indeed military, complexion. This can be seen in the famous list of John’s `evil counsellors’ entered by Roger of Wendover in his account of the events of 1211.52 It contains both errors and omissions, but still gives an accurate impression of John’s day-by-day entourage. Only three bishops were included, Winchester, Norwich and Philip of Durham, who had in fact died three years earlier. The other twenty-nine names were mostly those of men who had appeared regularly as attending the king, receiving orders from him and witnessing his charters. Revealingly, only three earls were included, one of them being the justiciar and another the king’s half-brother - the high aristocracy was not associated by the chronicler with the circle around John. Most of those named were administrators, though many had military experience, but ominously for the future, several were primarily soldiers, even if they performed administrative duties as well – Brian de Lisle, Philip Marc, Gerard d’Athée, Engelard de Cigogné.
The character such men gave to John’s court is perhaps to be seen in the record drawn up on 27 May 1212 of guarantors of the future good conduct of Peter de Maulay, and of the penalties they agreed to incur should Peter offend again.53 There was no recorded council at this time, these were simply the king’s attendants. As well as the two usual bishops, the company consisted of the justiciar, the king’s half-brother, the earls of Chester, Arundel and Oxford, three archdeacons, all of them apparatchiks, and then a number of courtiers and government agents, headed by the well-nigh omnipresent William Brewer. Of the twenty-six men involved, twelve were named as `evil counsellors’ by Wendover, along with Maulay himself. In a few cases, the forfeits were specified; the bishop of Winchester was to give twenty palfreys, with saddle-cloths and bridle-reins, if Peter relapsed, and the earl of Salisbury promised to give the king all his hawks, while Henry FitzCount undertook to take a beating, should John so wish – perut vobis placuerit teneor verberari. It was from such men, in an atmosphere of outdoor sports and rough humour, itself no doubt intensified by a growing military presence (Engelard de Cigogné and Brian de Lisle were among Maulay’s pledges) that John was now taking advice, and with others like them they remained at hand thereafter. When John held a council of sorts at Wallingford on 1 November 1212 to treat with the northern barons,54 it was in the company of the bishop of Winchester, the justiciar, the earls of Salisbury, Warenne, Winchester and Derby (or Ferrers), William Brewer, Hugh de Neville, Richard Marsh, Peter FitzHerbert, Thomas of Erdington and Simon of Pattishall.55 Only the presence of Philip of Orby, the justice of Chester, struck an alien note, the others were all regularly in attendance on the king, and witnesses to his charters, and until the crisis at the very end of the reign they were consistent in their support for the king.
A number of councils were held in 1213 and 1214, mostly for negotiations over ecclesiastical affairs. They present familiar problems of interpretation. When John resigned his kingdom to the pope at Dover on 15 May 1213, he professed to be acting `of our own spontaneous good will and the common counsel of our barons’, but only eleven men witnessed his oath of fealty, and all of them (except the count of Boulogne) were the sort of men usually found with the king; the archbishop of Dublin, Henry of London, who headed the list, was an experienced royal servant who had hitherto attested frequently as archdeacon of Stafford - he had stood surety for Peter de Maulay under that title.56 There were almost certainly more men available who could have added their names to this important document. Less than ten days later, on 24 May, an invitation to Stephen Langton to come to England was backed up by supporting letters from the archbishop of Dublin, the bishops of Winchester and Norwich, and twelve of `our barons’, who as well as the justiciar included five earls, the count of Boulogne, two northern lords (Gilbert FitzReinfred and Robert de Ros) and the marcher baron Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, along with William Brewer and Peter FitzHerbert (another committed royalist, and on Wendover’s list).57 All these men can be shown to have been in John’s company at this time, as the king moved round Kent, and others too, for instance the earls of Hertford and Hereford,58 but he chose not to advertise the fact when coming to terms with the papacy. Perhaps the speciousness of his claim to have baronial support was so blatant that John felt unable to risk having it exposed as a deception by men he invited to attest it.
A further council, described by Wendover as attended by bishops and magnates and lasting for three days, was held in London at Michaelmas 1213, primarily to discuss compensation for the church for its losses during the interdict.59 It was presumably in connection with this assembly that on 3 October John issued a renewal of his homage to the pope, again stressing his own spontaneous wish and the common consent of the barons.60 Archbishop Langton attested first, and was followed by four bishops, three of whom (London, Ely and Lincoln) had only recently returned to England with him from exile. Geoffrey FitzPeter was kept away by sickness – he died on 2 October – but the other witnesses made up what can only be described as a familiar company of loyal earls and more than loyal government agents, with Brian de Lisle ending the list and Richard Marsh authorising the document. If there were more people there whose seals could have added visible weight to the transaction, John again preferred not to let this be known.
It is possible that John had not given much notice of the Michaelmas assembly. It would seem that around the time it broke up he decided that a council should be held at Oxford. He sent orders for the repair of his houses there on 5 October,61 and if summonses were sent out at the same time, then an assembly which was scheduled for 15 November would have had almost exactly the forty days’ notice demanded by the barons in 1215. But John may then have got word that the magnates were setting out in a truculent, even belligerent, mood, for on 7 November he issued further orders which must have thrown everything into confusion, instructing the sheriffs to see that the knights summoned for the 15th came with their weapons, but that the barons came unarmed, while four discreet knights of each county were to attend ready to discuss the affairs of the realm.62 How these last were to be distinguished from the knights who in many cases must already have been on their way, and how the barons were to be disarmed, and by whom, John did not explain, and his mandate has a decidedly confused appearance, as indeed does his itinerary ahead of the council. Having reached Wallingford on 3 November, and Woodstock on the 4th, he then went back to Witney before heading east to Brill (from where he ordered that supplies which included 5000 herrings should be sent to Oxford against his arrival there, presumably in acknowledgement that the 15th was a Friday), and then north to Finmere, west of Buckingham, and on to Silverstone, in Northamptonshire, before turning south again for Oxford.63 What was discussed when he arrived there, and by whom, there is no way of telling, though the fact that John was accompanied by the papal legate Nicholas of Tusculum (otherwise only William Brewer is recorded as being with him) suggests that church business was on the agenda, and perhaps that the council was intended to be a continuation of the one recently held in London. Difficulties over attendance – of the king’s own making – may have meant that John found few magnates and knights to talk to, explaining why the council’s business was apparently soon dispatched. John is recorded at Oxford on the 16th and 17th, but by the 18th he had left again for Woodstock.
All the evidence suggests that John did not much like, or want, the company of most of his barons, and except perhaps at Northampton in 1205 (when the results were hardly encouraging) did not try to win them over or to soften their grievances by mixing with them. (In this he was very unlike Henry III, who seems to have believed that there was no problem which could not be solved, or at least made to look capable of solution, by throwing a good party at it.) At the end of 1213, according to Wendover, John spent Christmas at Windsor, where he bestowed many festive robes (indumenta) on his magnates.64 The robes may have been numerous (although there is no surviving record of their being purchased, when fish, venison and probably wine were being laid on),65 but not so, apparently, the magnates. The king’s stay at Windsor was brief – he was at the Tower of London on 23 December, and at Windsor on the 25th, but he was back at the Tower on the 28th and 29th, and then at Waltham until the New Year.66 Present with him were Brian de Lisle and Henry of Braybrooke, and also Arnulph of Auckland, an important royal clerk,67 but there is no sign of any baronial attendance. At the following year’s better recorded (though no more extended) Christmas, John is recorded as having been accompanied at Worcester by three bishops (one of them Peter des Roches, who was now justiciar) and three earls, including William Marshal, and also by William Brewer, Hugh de Neville, Peter FitzHerbert, Robert de Ros and Richard Marsh, the chancellor.68 No doubt there were others present on each occasion, but the fact that they have left no trace in the records hardly suggests that they were made to feel welcome among the king’s habitual associates. During the year in between, John spent several months campaigning in Poitou, and there, too, his charters suggest a strong preference for the company of his familiares, even though a number of his potential opponents were serving in his host, giving him an opportunity to draw them into his retinue. A few of the latter did attest during this time – William of Huntingfield, William Malet, Richard de Muntfichet, Maurice de Gant and Thomas of Moulton did so, along with Simon of Kyme’s son – but the predominant impression given by John’s Poitevin charters is that of an entourage which over an extended period was constituted largely as it had been in England.69
John returned to England in mid-October 1214, and just over a month later, between 17 and 23 November, was present in London at extended negotiations which were largely devoted to ecclesiastical affairs, but which took place in an atmosphere of growing political tension.70 The most important achievement of this assembly, the grant of freedom of election to churches, which was almost conventionally issued on 21 November `with the common consent of our barons’.71 The claim was somewhat more realistic than its predecessors, for although the justiciar Peter des Roches was the only bishop to witness the grant (the fact that it was made in the form of an agreement between the king and Archbishop Langton and five other bishops doubtless prevented the latter from subscribing it), six earls followed him, together with Robert de Vere, who claimed the earldom of Oxford. But nearly all the rest of the attestors were the usual household men, headed by William Brewer, Warin FitzGerold and William de Cantilupe, and although three actual or potential malcontents and rebels, Robert FitzWalter (who had been outlawed on the king’s orders two years earlier), Geoffrey de Mandeville and Richard de Muntfichet were present next day, when John confirmed to Langton the patronage of the see of Rochester, they can hardly be said to have outnumbered the loyalists there.
FitzWalter and his companions were back in London in mid-January 1215, for negotiations with the king – a safe-conduct was issued on the 14th, and they were in the king’s company next day. John stayed either at the New Temple or in Guildford between the 9th and the 21st, making this gathering perhaps the longest of the reign apart from the one which produced Magna Carta itself. Despite being held in an atmosphere of considerable tension, one heightened by the presence of many armed men, which may well have deterred some of the magnates (and especially John’s opponents) from attending, the assembly was probably larger than the previous November’s. More bishops were there – two of them, Coventry and Chichester, came as bishops-elect, showing that sees were now being filled after the lifting of the interdict – and at least three abbots were present, those of Westminster, Ramsey and Beaulieu. Not all the king’s adversaries were intimidated into staying away, for among those in attendance during this period were Thomas of Moulton, Simon of Kyme and William d’Aubigny.72 But the earl of Winchester and Robert de Ros, who later rebelled, were probably still regarded as loyal to the king at this time, and overall the strongest impression given by the witness lists is yet again the predominance of prelates, earls and government agents who had long shown themselves to be consistently loyal to the king.
Probably for that reason, among others, nothing came of the meetings of January 1215, but it is quite possible that baronial recollections of them, as much as memories of the imposition of levies like the thirteenth of 1207, contributed to the precision of Clause 14 of Magna Carta. It has been suggested that the clause represented a clever ploy on John’s behalf, who could hope to control discussions through his own servants, most of whom were tenants-in-chief, and perhaps to create, or at any rate exploit, divisions between the magnates and lesser men.73 But it seems more likely to have been devised as a restatement of what had been conventional practice, intended to ensure by sheer force of numbers that when the barons were united in their dealings with the king, they could not be overridden, slighted or ignored in favour of men like Peter des Roches, Richard Marsh and William Brewer.
Their intimate association with John’s methods may explain why some of the curiales were not with the king at Runnymede – it is easy to imagine that he would have liked to have Marsh and Brewer, in particular, at his side, but perhaps they were so closely associated with his particular style of kingship that their presence could have seemed provocative. Or perhaps Brewer, who in 1223 spoke out against a re-issue of Magna Carta on the grounds that it had been originally issued under duress,74 disapproved so strongly of the way things were going in 1215 that he dissociated himself from the negotiations leading up to the treaty between the king and his adversaries – he last attested on 9 May, though he did not desert the king, who appointed him one of the overseers of his testament.75 Of the other `evil counsellors’, some were dead by this time, and several (for instance Robert de Vieuxpont, Hugh de Balliol, Brian de Lisle and Philip Marc) would have been active on John’s behalf away from London, while a few, then or shortly afterwards, were to be found in the ranks of the king’s enemies. Only four of them – Peter des Roches, Peter FitzHerbert, Hugh de Neville and Thomas Basset – stood alongside John on 15 June 1215, together with a number of bishops, the papal legate, the usual four earls, and other courtiers and minders of the machine of government (who often amounted to the same thing).
Behind its technicalities, Clause 14 was a considered indictment of John’s manner of ruling, of the irregularity of its processes, the fluctuations in its personnel, and its restless and aggressive character. Though it was nominally directed towards grants of taxation, it seems inconceivable that those were all the barons were concerned with in 1215, they would have had all the important activities of government in mind, as they attempted to bring predictability and routine into them. The Charter made no attempt to dictate the composition of his entourage to the king – the clauses that come nearest to this, 45 and 50, confined themselves to excluding foreigners from office – what mattered was that he should not take decisions affecting the magnates and their followers without consulting them, in circumstances which allowed for their considered involvement and in numbers which would have prevented their intimidation by the king’s supporters. It is very likely that many more important men had been present than are named in the records when measures like the thirteenth of 1207 were enacted, but the consistency with which the records name few besides the king’s intimates when councils were held , even when there were magnates present whose attendance could reasonably have been registered, is surely in itself a pointer to the king’s attitude towards the latter. The mere presence of earls and barons would have meant little, moreover, if they had no chance to participate in proceedings which were rushed through without time being allowed for proper discussion. In the last resort, Clause 14 was aimed at John himself, and at the febrile quality of a style of government which took its whole tone from him. That it was dropped from later re-issues must have been largely because, like Clause 12, it set out conventions which were so widely accepted as reasonable that it became unnecessary to give them formal expression. But it must also have been abandoned because the king whose entire modus operandi ran radically against those conventions was no longer there to reject them.
Discussed in the commentary on Clause 12. It is noteworthy that unlike Clause 12, Clause 14 said nothing about the involvement of London in the councils it prescribed.
J.C. Holt, Magna Carta (2nd edn., Cambridge, 1992), 428.
F.M. Stenton, The first century of English feudalism, 1066-1166 (2nd edn., Oxford, 1961), 95; J.E.A. Jolliffe, Angevin kingship (2nd edn., 1963), 166, 169-70
D.Crouch, William Marshal: knighthood, war and chivalty, 1147-1219 (2nd edn., 2002), 186-90.
J.R. Maddicott, The origins of the English parliament, 924-1327 (Oxford, 2010), 80-1.
C.R. Cheney, `Levies for the English clergy for the poor and for the king, 1203’, English Historical Review 96 (1981), 577-84, at 578-9.
As argued by S. Reynolds, Kingdoms and communities in western Europe, 900-1300 (Oxford, 1984), 306.
See Jolliffe, Angevin kingship, especially chapter VIII.
F. Michel (ed.), Histoire des Ducs de Normandie (Société de l’histoire de France, Paris, 1840), 127-30.
T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli Chartarum, 1199-1216 (Record Commission, 1837 – hereafter Rot.Chart.), 125.
W. Stubbs (ed.), Chronica Rogeri de Houedene iv (Rolls Series, 1871), 152.
T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli litterarum patentium, 1201-1216 (Record Commission, 1835 – hereafter Rot.Lit.Pat.), 54
Details from ib., 49, and T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli litterarum clausarum i: 1204-1224 (Record Commission, 1833 – hereafter Rot.Lit.Claus. i), 18.
W. Stubbs (ed.), The historical works of Gervase of Canterbury ii (Rolls Series, 1880), 95-6.; Rot.Lit.Pat., 41., and ib., unpaginated `Itinerary of King John’; Rot.Chart., 123-4.
Curia Regis Rolls iii, 1203-1205 (1926), 124.
Rot.Lit.Pat., 43; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 2.
Ib.; Rot.Lit.Claus.i, 7-8; Rot.Chart., 136-7.
T. Rymer (ed.), Foedera I:i (Record Commission, 1816), 91.
Rot.Chart, 136-7; Rot.Lit.Pat., 45; Rot.Lit.Claus.i, 6-7.
Histoire des Ducs de Normandie, 99-100.
J. Stevenson (ed.), Radulphi de Coggeshall Chronicon Anglicanum (Rolls Series, 1875), 107-8.
Rot.Chart., 80-1, 99.
A.J. Holden (ed.), History of William Marshal, trans. S. Gregory, historical notes by D. Crouch, 3 vols., Anglo-Norman Text Society, occasional publication series 4-6 (2002-6), ii, 180-5, iii, 216-19.
For John at Gloucester, see Jolliffe, Angevin kingship, 185-6.
The assembly is recorded by Gervase of Canterbury, ii, 96-8, the ordinance Rot.Lit.Pat., 55.
Rot.Chart., 145-6; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 24-5; Rot.Lit.Pat., 51-2.
Rot.Lit.Pat., 52; Rot.Chart., 147.
Radulphi de Coggeshall Chronicon Anglicanum, 152; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 29, 31, 33; PR 7 John (1205), 198.
W. Stubbs (ed.), Select charters, from the beginning to 1307 (9th edn., revised by H.W.C. Davis, Oxford, 1913), 277.
Gervase of Canterbury ii, 96-8.
S. Painter, The reign of King John (Baltimore, 1949), 56.
T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli de oblatis et finibus ... tempore regis Johannis (Record Commission, 1835), 268.
Curia regis rolls iii, 337-47.
Details of attendance from Rot.Chart., 150-1; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 33-4
Radulphi de Coggeshall Chronicon Anglicanum, 152.
H.R. Luard (ed.), Annales monastici ii (Rolls Series, 1865), 258-9.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 75-6 (there is no charter roll for this year).
Details from Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 77; Rot.Lit.Pat., 68.
S.K. Mitchell, Taxation in medieval England (Yale, 1951), 177-8.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 105.
Details of attendance and of the council’s likely business from Rot.Chart., 175-6; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 105-7; Rot.Lit.Pat., 80.
H.G.Hewlett (ed.), Rogeri de Wendover liber qui dicitur flores historiarum ii (Rolls Series, 1887), 59-60. For a commentary, see N. Vincent, `King John’s evil counsellors (act. 1208-1214)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online.
H.R. Luard (ed.), Annales monastici iii (Rolls Series, 1866), 40.
Rot.Chart., 188-9 – these men attested royal charters on 30 October and 3 November, there is no record of his entourage on 1 November itself.
Stubbs, Select charters, 279-81.
Details of the king’s movements and retinue from Rot.Chart., 192-3; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 133-4; Rot.Lit.Pat., 99.
Rogeri de Wendover ... flores historiarum ii, 94-5.
Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 156.
Stubbs, Select Charters, 282.
Details of movements and attendance from Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 139, 154-5.
Rogeri de Wendover ... flores historiarum ii, 97.
PR 16 John (1214), 2, 28, 124. John is only known to have been at Windsor at Christmas during the financial year covered by this pipe roll.
Details from Rot.Lit.Pat., 106-7; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 140.
Jolliffe, Angevin kingship, 271-2.
For the context see C.R. Cheney, Innocent III and England, Päpste und Papstum 9 (Stuttgart, 1976), 360-7.
Stubbs, Select Charters, 283-4.
Details from Rot.Chart., 202; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 174-80.
Painter, Reign of King John, 320.
D.A. Carpenter, The minority of Henry III (1990), 296.
Rot.Chart., 207; Rymer, Foedera I:i, 144.
Please note: commentaries are presently available only for clauses marked with *; more commentary to be added in due course.
Clause 14 was a necessary complement to Clause 12. The latter had declared that aids and scutages, John’s principal forms of taxation, were only to be taken with `the common consent of our kingdom’. Clause 14 set out who was to give such counsel and how they were to be assembled. It envisaged a two tier system, as was probably traditional, with the greatest men, lay and ecclesiastical, receiving individual summonses, and the rest – ultimately everyone who held land directly from the crown – being convoked through general summonses announced by royal officials, probably in county courts. Several hundred people might have gathered to discuss proposals for taxation. This was in stark contrast with John’s usual methods of government. He did sometimes hold formal assemblies which had been arranged well in advance, but usually preferred ad hoc decision-making, after informal consultations with a relatively small number of agents and courtiers, most of whom were regularly in his entourage. Even at meetings described as councils, these men – most of them named in a celebrated list of `evil counsellors’ drawn up by the chronicler Roger of Wendover in 1211 – seem to have dominated proceedings, which also tended to be short, seldom lasting more than a day or two. Claims in documents issued after these gatherings, that they were the result of deliberations involving many important men, are very seldom borne out by the records of attendance on these occasions. On the whole John preferred to keep away from all but a very few of the magnates, both socially and in affairs of state. In 1215 the magnates, and those immediately below them, responded by forcing themselves into the king’s counsels. In 1216 Clause 14, along with Clause 12, was put to one side for further discussion, and it was then dropped from all the later reissues of Magna Carta, probably because once King John had died its provisions had ceased to be controversial.