The Twenty-five Barons Appointed to Enforce the Magna Carta
William d’Aubigny, Lord of Belvoir Castle.
William d’Aubigny or D’Aubeney, Lord of Belvoir (died 1 May 1236) was a prominent member of the baronial rebellions against King John of England. William was the son of William d’Aubigny (Brito). William’s ancestor Robert d’Albini de Todeni came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror After the Battle of Hastings, Robert was given many properties, possibly as many as eighty, among them was one in Leicestershire, where he built Belvoir Castle. This was his family’s home for many generations. William stayed neutral at the beginning of the troubles of King John’s reign, only joining the rebels after the early success in taking London in 1215. He was one of the twenty-five sureties or guarantors of the Magna Carta. In the war that followed the signing of the charter, he held Rochester Castle for the barons, and was imprisoned (and nearly hanged) after John captured it. He became a loyalist on the accession of Henry III, and was a commander at the Second Battle of Lincoln in 1217. He died on 1 May 1236, at Offington, Leicestershire, and was buried at Newstead Abbey and “his heart under the wall, opposite the alter at Belvoir Castle”. He was succeeded by his son, another William d’Aubigny, who died in 1247 and left only daughters. One of them was Isabel, a co-heiress, who married Robert de Ros, 1st Baron de Ros (c. 1212-1301), thus adding the Aubigny co-guarantor of the Magna Carta to the pedigree of George Washington, 1st president of the USA.
Roger Bigot (died 1107) was a Norman knight who came to England in the Norman Conquest. He held great power in East Anglia, and five of his descendants were Earl of Norfolk. He was also known as Roger Bigod, but as a witness to the Charter of Liberties of Henry I of England he appears as Roger Bigot.
Roger came from a fairly obscure family of poor knights in Normandy. Robert le Bigot, certainly a relation of Roger’s, possibly his father, acquired an important position in the household of William, Duke of Normandy (later William I of England), due, the story goes, to his disclosure to the duke of a plot by the duke’s cousin William Werlenc. Both Roger and Robert may have fought at the Battle of Hastings, and afterwards they were rewarded with a substantial estate in East Anglia. The Domesday Book lists Roger as holding six lordships in Essex, 117 in Suffolk and 187 in Norfolk. Bigot’s base was in Thetford, Norfolk where he founded a priory later donated to the great monastery at Cluny. In 1101 he further consolidated his power when Henry I granted him licence to build a castle at Framlingham, which became the family seat of power until their downfall in 1307. Another of his castles was Bungay Castle, also in Suffolk. Both these were improved by successive generations. In 1069 he, along with Robert Malet and Ralph de Gael (the then Earl of Norfolk), defeated Sweyn Estrithson (Sweyn II) of Denmark near Ipswich. After Ralph de Gael’s fall in 1074, Roger was appointed Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, and acquired many of the dispossessed earl’s estates. For this reason he is sometimes counted as Earl of Norfolk, but he probably was never actually created earl. He acquired further estates through his influence in local law courts. In the Rebellion of 1088 he joined other Anglo-Norman barons against William II, who, it was hoped, was to be deposed in favour of Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy. He seems to have lost his lands after the rebellion had failed, but got them back again. In 1100, Robert Bigot was one of the King’s witnesses recorded on the Charter of Liberties, an important precursor to the Magna Carta of 1215. In 1101 there was another attempt to bring in Robert of Normandy by unseating Henry I, but this time Roger Bigot stayed loyal to Henry. He died on 9 September 1107 and is buried in Norwich. Upon his death there was a dispute between the Bishop of Norwich, Herbet Losinga, and the monks at Thetford Priory, founded by Bigot. The monks claimed that Roger’s body, along with those of his family and successors, was due to them as part of the foundation charter of the priory (as was common practice at the time). The issue was apparently resolved when the Bishop of Norwich stole the body in the middle of the night and dragged it back to Norwich. For some time he was thought to have two wives, Adelaide/Adeliza and Alice de Tosny. It is now believed these were the same woman, Adeliza(Alice) de Tosny(Toeni,Toeny). She was the sister and coheiress of William de Tosny, Lord of Belvoir. He was succeeded by his eldest son, William Bigot, and, after he drowned in the sinking of the White Ship, by his second son, Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, who later became Earl of Norfolk. He also had 3 daughters: Gunnor, who married Robert, Lord of Rayleigh; Cecily, who married William d’Aubigny “Brito”; and Maud, who married William d’Aubigny “Pincerna”, and was mother to William d’Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel.
Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk (1095 – 1177) was born in Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, England. He was the second son of Roger Bigod (also known as Roger Bigot) (d. 1107), Sheriff of Norfolk, who founded the Bigod name in England. Hugh Bigod became a controversial figure in history, known for his frequent switching of loyalties and hasty reactions towards measures of authority.
Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford.
Henry de Bohun, 1st Earl of Hereford (1176 -1220) was an English Norman nobleman. He was Earl of Hereford and Hereditary Constable of England from 1199 to 1220.
He was the son of Humphrey de Bohun and Princess Margaret, daughter of Henry of Scotland, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, a son of David I of Scotland. His paternal grandmother was Margaret, daughter of Miles de Gloucester, 1st Earl of Hereford and Constable of England. Bohun’s half-sister was Constance, Duchess of Brittany.
Richard de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford (August 4, 1222 – July 15, 1262) was son of Gilbert de Clare, 5th Earl of Hertford and Isabel Marshall, daughter of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke and Isabel de Clare, the 17-year-old daughter of Strongbow. A year after he became of age, he was in an expedition against the Welsh. Through his mother he inherited a fifth part of the Marshall estates, including Kilkenny and other lordships in Ireland. In 1232 Richard was secretly married to Margaret (Megotta) de Burgh, daughter of Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent and Margaret of Scotland. Both bride and groom were aged about ten. Megotta died in November 1237. Before she had even died, the earl of Lincoln offered 5,000 marks to King Henry to secure Richard for his own daughter. This offer was accepted, and Richard was married secondly, on or before 25 January 1238, to Maud de Lacy, daughter of the Surety John de Lacy and Margaret Quincy. He joined in the Barons’ letter to the Pope in 1246 against the exactions of the Curia in England. He was among those in opposition to the King’s half-brothers, who in 1247 visited England, where they were very unpopular, but afterwards he was reconciled to them. On April 1248, he had letters of protection for going over seas on a pilgrimage. At Christmas 1248, he kept his Court with great splendor on the Welsh border. In the next year he went on a pilgrimage to St. Edmund at Pontigny, returning in June. In 1252 he observed Easter at Tewkesbury, and then went across the seas to restore the honor of his brother William, who had been badly worsted in a tournament and had lost all his arms and horses. The Earl is said to have succeeded in recovering all, and to have returned home with great credit, and in September he was present at the Round Table tournament at Walden. In August 1252/3 the King crossed over to Gascony with his army, and to his great indignation the Earl refused to accompany him and went to Ireland instead. In August 1255 he and John Maunsel were sent to Edinburgh by the King to find out the truth regarding reports which had reached the King that his son-in-law, Alexander, King of Scotland, was being coerced by Robert de Roos and John Baliol. If possible, they were to bring the young King and Queen to him. The Earl and his companion, pretending to be the two of Roos’s knights, obtained entry to Edinburgh Castle, and gradually introduced their attendants, so that they had a force sufficient for their defense. They gained access to the Scottish Queen, who made her complaints to them that she and her husband had been kept apart. They threatened Roos with dire punishments, so that he promised to go to the King. Meanwhile the Scottish magnates, indignant at their castle of Edinburgh’s being in English hands, proposed to besiege it, but they desisted when they found they would be besieging their King and Queen. The King of Scotland apparently traveled South with the Earl, for on 24 September they were with King Henry III at Newminster, Northumberland. In July 1258 he fell ill, being poisoned with his brother William, as it was supposed, by his steward, Walter de Scotenay. He recovered but his brother died. Richard died at John de Griol’s manor of Asbenfield in Waltham, near Canterbury, 15 July 1262, it being rumored that he had been poisoned at the table of Piers of Savoy. On the following Monday he was carried to Canterbury where a mass for the dead was sung, after which his body was taken to the canon’s church at Tonbridge and interred in the choir. Thence it was taken to Tewkesbury Abbey and buried 28 July 1262, with great solemnity in the presence of two bishops and eight abbots in the presbytery at his father’s right hand.
Gilbert de Clare, 5th Earl of Hertford (1180 – October 25, 1230) was the son of Richard de Clare, 4th Earl of Hertford, from whom he inherited the Clare estates, from his mother, Amice Fitz William, the estates of Gloucester and the honour of St. Hilary, and from Rohese, an ancestor, the moiety of the Giffard estates. In June 1202, he was entrusted with the lands of Harfleur and Montrevillers. In 1215 Gilbert and his father were two of the barons made Magna Carta sureties and championed Louis “le Dauphin” of France in the First Barons’ War, fighting at Lincoln under the baronial banner. He was taken prisoner in 1217 by William Marshal, whose daughter Isabel he later married. In 1223 he accompanied his brother-in-law, Earl Marshal, in an expedition into Wales. In 1225 he was present at the confirmation of the Magna Carta by Henry III. In 1228 he led an army against the Welsh, capturing Morgan Gam, who was released the next year. He then joined in an expedition to Brittany, but died on his way back to Penrose in that duchy. His body was conveyed home by way of Plymouth and Cranborne to Tewkesbury. His widow Isabel later married Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall & King of the Romans.
Lord Robert Fitzwalter (died 9 December 1235), leader of the baronial opposition against King John of England, belonged to the official aristocracy created by Henry I and Henry II. He was one of the twenty-five Magna Charta Sureties. He was the third Lord of Dunmow Castle, Essex. He was son to Walter Fitz Robert of Woodham Walter and his second wife Maud de Lucy, daughter of Richard de Lucy of Diss. Contents
He served John in the Norman wars, and was taken prisoner by Philip II of France, and forced to pay a heavy ransom. He was implicated in the baronial conspiracy of 1212. According to his own statement the king had attempted to seduce his eldest daughter; but Robert’s account of his grievances varied from time to time. The truth seems to be that he was irritated by the suspicion with which John regarded the new baronage. Fitzwalter escaped a trial by fleeing to France. He was outlawed, but returned under a special amnesty after John’s reconciliation with Pope Innocent III. He continued, however, to take the lead in the baronial agitation against the king, and upon the outbreak of hostilities was elected marshal of the army of God and Holy Church (1215). It was due to his influence in London that his party obtained the support of the city and used it as their base of operations. The famous clause of Magna Carta prohibiting sentences of exile except as the result of a lawful trial refers more particularly to his case. He was one of the twenty-five appointed to enforce the promises of Magna Carta and his aggressive attitude was one of the causes which contributed to the recrudescence of civil war (1215). His incompetent leadership made it necessary for the rebels to invoke the help of France. He was one of the envoys who invited Louis to the Kingdom of England, and was the first of the barons to do homage when the prince entered London. Though slighted by the French as a traitor to his natural lord, he served Louis with fidelity until captured at the Battle of Lincoln on 20 May 1217. Released on the conclusion of peace, Fitzwalter joined the Fifth Crusade (1217 – 1221), but returned at an early date to make his peace with the regency. The remainder of his career was uneventful; he died peacefully in 1235.
William de Forz, 3rd Earl of Albemarle (died March 26, 1242) was an English nobleman. He is described by William Stubbs as “a feudal adventurer of the worst type”. He was the son of William de Forz (died 1195), and Hawisa, 2nd Countess of Albemarle, a daughter of William le Gros, 1st Earl of Albemarle. His father was a minor noble from the village of Fors in Poitou; the toponymic is variously rendered as de Fors, de Forz, or de Fortibus. Soon after 1213, he was established by King John in the territories of the Countship of Albemarle, and in 1215 the whole of his mother’s estates were formally confirmed to him. The Earldom of Albemarle which he inherited from his mother included a large estate in Yorkshire, notably the wapentake of Holderness and the castle of Skipsea, and the honor of Craven, as well as property in Lincolnshire and elsewhere. It had also included the county of Aumale, but this had recently been lost to the French, along with the rest of Normandy. De Forz was the first earl of Albemarle to see his earldom as wholly English. He was actively engaged in the struggles of the Norman barons against both John and Henry III. He was generally loyal to King John during the baronial revolt, though he did eventually join the barons after the people of London joined them and the king’s cause looked hopeless. He was one of the 25 executors of the Magna Carta, but amongst them was probably the least hostile to the king. The barons made de Forz constable of Scarborough Castle, but when soon after fighting began between the barons and the king, he went over to John’s side, the only executor to do so. He fought for the king until the French capture of Winchester in June 1216, when again the king’s cause looked hopeless. He then stayed on the barons side until their cause fell apart. He sided with John, then subsequently changing sides as often as it suited his policy. After John’s death, he supported the new king Henry III, fighting in the siege of Montsorrel and at the Battle of Lincoln. His real object was to revive the independent power of the feudal barons, and he co-operated to this end with Falkes de Breauté and other foreign adventurers established in the country by John. This brought him into conflict with the great justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, who was effectively regent. In 1219 he was declared a rebel and excommunicated for attending a forbidden tournament. In 1220 matters were brought to a crisis by his refusal to surrender the two royal castles of Rockingham and Sauvey of which he had been made constable in 1216. Henry III marched against them in person, the garrisons fled, and they fell without a blow. In the following year, however, Albemarle, in face of further efforts to reduce his power, rose in revolt. He was now again excommunicated by the legate Pandulph at a solemn council held in St Paul’s, and the whole force of the kingdom was set in motion against him, a special scutage—the scutagium de Bihan—being voted for this purpose by the Great Council. The capture of his Castle of Bytham broke his power; he sought sanctuary and, at Pandulph’s intercession, was pardoned on condition of going for six years to the Holy Land. He remained in England, however, and in 1223 was once more in revolt with Falkes de Breauté, the Earl of Chester and other turbulent spirits. A reconciliation was once more patched up; but it was not until the fall of Falkes de Breauté that Albemarle finally settled down as an English noble. He eventually gave in when the cause was lost in 1224, and was thenceforth loyal to Henry III. In 1225 he witnessed Henry’s third re-issue of the Great Charter; in 1227 he went as, ambassador, to Antwerp; and in 1230 he accompanied Henry on his expedition to Brittany. In 1241 he set out for the Holy Land, but died at sea, on his way there, on March 26 1242.