The Magna Carta Project

John remains at Dover

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

6 September 1215 - 12 September 1215


6-12 Sep 1215

Dover (Kent)

RC, 219; RLP, 154-5, 156; RLC, i, 227b-8b

Blessed Virgin Mary

Detail of a historiated initial showing the Blessed Virgin Mary, England (14th century), BL Royal MS 6 E VII f.479

Throughout this week, the King remained at Dover, presumably awaiting a response to the summonses to military service that he had sent into Flanders and France. Dover was an appropriate place in which to celebrate the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, falling this year on a Tuesday, 8 September, in a town whose chief religious house was dedicated to Mary, 'the star of the sea'. To judge from the week's only recorded charter, in favour of the church and archbishop of Cashel in Ireland, the King was attended by the archbishop of Dublin, Hubert de Burgh and a fairly modest retinue of knights, including the Anglo-Irishmen Geoffrey Lutterell, Amfred de Dene and Richard de Burgh (Hubert's brother, a veteran in the service of John since at least the 1190s).1 The archbishop of Cashel was also granted letters of protection pending his return from Jerusalem, presumably as part of the army of the forthcoming Fifth Crusade.2 One of the King's Irishmen, Amfred de Dene, was appointed, together with Godfrey of Crowcombe, to custody of Hastings castle and the towns of Hastings, Winchelsea and Rye, with instructions for the previous keepers to hand over their 'roll' and written records.3 At the same time, the men of these three towns, leaders of the Cinque Port confederation, were promised that the King would continue to support them with money and serjeants, 'holding ourselves so close to you that, thanks to God, there will be no cause for fear and that you may know that you earned our thanks and hold yourselves and your people always in honour'.4 This reflects a wider concern for naval affairs, with orders for two of the King's galleys to be sent from Ireland into the service of William Marshal, and with a series of reprisals undertaken against the men of Flanders for arrests made on the orders of the countess of Flanders, against mariners from Rye and Hastings.5 Savaric de Mauléon, himself perhaps supervising Sandwich and other Channel approaches, was commanded to restore salt and equipment to two ships of Ipswich, unloaded at Sandwich.6 The men of Ypres were reminded of their obligation to repay money owing to the King, via the bishop of Winchester.7 In Flanders itself, as the Anonymous of Béthune makes plain, the King's agents were forced to act with circumspection in light of Franco-Flemish relations.8 Following the disappearance into captivity first of Baldwin IX count of Flanders (d.c.1205 in Bulgarian captivity) and then of Ferdinand of Portugal (captured by the French at Bouvines in 1214), the county of Flanders was administered by the countess Joan, daughter of Baldwin and wife of Ferdinand, but in circumstances made more difficult both by the French menace from the south and by the activities of her sister, Margaret d'Avesnes. From 1208 to 1212, both Joan and Margaret had lived as virtual hostages at the court of Philip Augustus.

Meanwhile, the heightened naval activity suggests concern for the Channel approaches, no doubt in fear that the barons would now seek aid from the King of France. To King Philip himself, 'his most dear lord should he so wish', there was a reiterated declaration that King John had abandoned all maltolts.9 A condition of the truce of September 1214 had been that should John abandon such taxes, then so would King Philip. What was at stake here, therefore, was John's determination to prove that it was Philip, not he, who was responsible for whatever breach of the 1214 truce might or might not occur.10 The settlement with Queen Berengaria, and the arrangements made this week for Berengaria to collect the 2000 marks now deposited at Dover Castle, formed part of this same initiative to ensure French neutrality, Berengaria having subsisted since 1204 as a pensioner of the King of France and her sister, Blanche, countess-regent of Champagne.11 Perhaps related to these arrangements, and also intended to ease Anglo-French and Anglo-papal relations, on 8 September the King commanded Reginald de Pons, his seneschal in Gascony and Poitou, to grant safe conducts for the person and military following of a man named Raymond Bernard, as soon as Reginald was assured that Raymond Bernard adhered to the Catholic Church: a reference to ongoing fears for the spread of heresy within the Plantagenet lands to the west of Agen, and almost certainly referring to the former seneschal of Gascony, Raymond Bernard de Ravignan, lord of Tonnens-Dessous in the Agenais.12 In King John's previous experience of Anglo-French warfare, a serious threat had always been posed by the claims to Gascony harboured by the kings of Castile. It may therefore be significant that amidst the negotiations at Dover, on 8 September, the King issued standard letters of safe conduct for an unidentified pilgrim, 'Erudich de Castell' (?Rodrigo of Castile), travelling with his companions to the shrine of St Thomas at Canterbury.13

Continued military activity elsewhere in England is revealed by commands for money to be sent to Walter of Clifford the younger on the Welsh Marches, to Robert de Courtenay and the garrison of Exeter, to Brian de Lisle in the north, and to Hugh de Neville 'keeping and strengthening ('custodienda et munienda') the King's castles'.14  The chancellor, Richard Marsh, was still with the King at Dover on Sunday 6 September.15 Nonetheless, the use of the King's privy seal to seal letters later this week, on Wednesday 9 September 'because we do not have the great seal with us', and on Friday 11 September 'on account of the dangers of the roads', perhaps bears out the claim of Roger of Wendover that Marsh was at this time sent into Flanders or France with the great seal, to gather support.16 Having on the previous day issued letters of protection for Stephen Langton and his castles and men, on Friday 11 September, the King granted safe conducts, to last for a fortnight from Sunday 13 September, for a series of knights and barons (William of Montacute, Robert fitz Pain and his sons Roger and Robert, Alfred of Lincoln, Gilbert de Say, Walter of Ashley and Richard Revel) 'whom Nicholas de St Brides is bringing to us and to our fealty': clear evidence that communications remained open between the royalist and the rebel camps.17



RC, 219, confirming five vills in Thomond granted by the native Irish lord, Donough Cairbrech O'Brien.


RLP, 154.


RLC, i, 228, and for Amfred's Irish connections, King John’s Diary and Itinerary 1-7 February.


RLC, i, 228: 'et de extraneis vobis non dubitetis quod in consilio et auxilio in denariis et seruientibus et aliis que ad auxilium et commodum et solacium vestrum pertinent ita vobis prouidebimus et nos tam prope vos nos tenebimus quod vobis Deo dante timere non oportebit et quod nobis merito grates scietis et vos et vestri perpetuum in honore habebetis'.


RLP, 154b; RLC, i, 227b-8, including orders for seisin of his father's lands in Kent to be given to the son of Aelard the Fleming. This order, addressed to Peter of Bekesbourne and Robert of Hastings as keepers of escheats in Kent, represents a very early appearance of what would later become the officer of escheator.


RLC, i, 228.


RLP, 155, and for this money, deposited before the disaster at Bouvines, see King John’s Diary and Itinerary 2-8 November 1214; 1-7 March, 19-25 April, 31 May-6 June 1215.


Histoire des ducs de Normandie et des rois d’Angleterre, ed. F. Michel (Paris, 1840), 154: 'Lors passa Hues de Bove la mer, si arriva devant la Mue. La fist-il jeter ses ancres et demoura en sa nef, comme chil qui n'osoit entre en Flandres por le roi de France'.


RLP, 154b.


Cf. the truce of 1214, King John’s Diary and Itinerary 14-20 September 1214, and a specific promise to charge no such levy against the men of Rouen, for which see King John’s Diary and Itinerary 28 June-4 July 1215.


RLP, 154b.


RLP, 154b, and for Raymond Bernard de Ravignan, see Nicholas Vincent, ‘The Plantagenets and the Agenais (1150-1250), Les seigneuries dans l’éspace Plantagenêt (c.1150-c.1250), ed. M. Aurell and F. Boutoulle (Bordeaux, 2009), 432-3, 439-40, 450, 452.


RLP, 154b.


RLP, 154-4b, 155; RLC, i, 228, all told covering something approaching 300 marks of treasure stored at Bristol, Durham and in the keeping of Thomas of Sandford and Geoffrey de Neville.


RC, 219.


Wendover, in Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. H.R. Luard (7 vols., Rolls series, 1872–83), ii, 613-14, and for the use of the privy seal, RLC, i, 228 ('Has autem litteras privato sigillo nostro fecimus sigillari quia magnum nobiscum non habuimus'); RLP, 155 ('propter viarum pericula privato sigillo nostro fecimus sigillari'). Pierre Chaplais (English Royal Documents King John - Henry VI 1199-1461 (Oxford, 1971), 25) cites this second reference to speculate that, in times when the roads were considered unsafe, documents were issued under the privy seal since they were therefore smaller and easier to conceal or destroy than would have been the case with the Great Seal.


RLP, 155, and for the protection for Langton and its significance, see King John’s Diary and Itinerary 30 August-5 September. For William de Montacute and Robert fitz Pain, both in rebellion by May 1215, see King John’s Diary and Itinerary 10-16 May, 24-30 May. For the King, at the end of July 1215, licensing litigation against Gilbert de Say, see RLP, 181 (noted above, King John’s Diary and Itinerary 26 July - 1 August). For Walter of Ashley (Ashley in Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire), baron of Stoke Trister (Somerset), excused the scutage of Poitou in 1214, in receipt of orders over hostages in July 1215, but apparently in rebellion by December 1214 when his land at Whichford in Warwickshire was seized, followed by his estates in Wiltshire, Somerset and at Charlton Kings, see RLP, 150b-151; RLC, i, 200b, 242b, 261, 264b, 305, 311; Pipe Roll 16 John, 106; I. J. Sanders, English Baronies: A Study of their Origin and Descent 1086-1327 (Oxford, 1960), 84.

King John's Diary & Itinerary