The Magna Carta Project

John travels to Monmouth

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

14 December 1214 - 20 December 1214


14 Dec 1214

Gloucester (Gloucestershire)

RLP, 125; RLC, i, 181b

Hardy ('Itinerary') places the King at Gloucester on 15-17 December, source untraced.

18 Dec 1214

Monmouth (Monmouthshire)

RLP, 125; RLC, i, 181b

18-19 Dec 1214

Kilpeck (Herefordshire)

RLC, i, 182

South door of Kilpeck parish church

South door of Kilpeck parish church

In the present week, after what seem to have been several days with the Queen in Gloucester, the King travelled west to Monmouth, and then north to Kilpeck en route for Hereford.  In the process, he retraced his steps of almost exactly a year earlier, when in late November 1213 he had visited Kilpeck, travelling in the opposite direction from Hereford, via Kilpeck to Monmouth.  Kilpeck was itself held in chief of the King, and in 1213-14 was perhaps in royal custody during the minority of its heir.1  Very little business is recorded for this week, and still no royal charters.  There was what appears to have been a routine notification of the King's assent to the election of the prior of Selby as abbot.2  Henry de Vere, the King's clerk earlier involved in negotiations with the monks of Bury, was presented to the royal living of Burton (perhaps Burton by Lincoln, Lincolnshire).3  The death of Beatrice de Warenne, heiress to the Norfolk barony of Wormegay, obliged the King to issue special instructions to enable Hubert de Burgh, the late Beatrice's husband, to retain her dower manor of Felmingham during the King's pleasure.4  Similar arrangements were made to ensure Master Humphrey, the King's cook, land at Flintham in Nottinghamshire held by virtue of his late wife, Agatha, daughter of Hugh Bretel, with later evidence here to suggest that a rival claim to Flintham had already been invested, by means unknown, in the Anglo-Breton courtier, Philip d'Aubigné.5  On 18 December, the King ordered Gilbert fitz Reinfrey, a future rebel, at this time still sheriff of Lancashire, to grant the abbot and monks of Whalley firewood and ten good oaks for the building of their church.6  The most important business conducted this week seems to have taken place that same day at Monmouth, from where the King ordered the release of Welsh hostages, previously guarded by Engelard de Cigogné at Gloucester. Their release is said to have been negotiated by Joan, the King's illegitimate daughter, herself married to Llewelyn ap Iorweth, prince of North Wales.7  Joan had already played a leading role, following the defeat of Llewelyn in 1211, in pleading for mercy before her father.  The hostages released in December 1214 may have first been surrendered by the Welsh princes following the King's conquests in 1211, or perhaps either earlier or later, perhaps following the renewal of hostilities in 1212.  At all events what we observe here is the ongoing negotiation of peace with the Welsh, in due course to find a prominent place in Magna Carta, not least in Magna Carta clause 58, requiring the release of all Welsh hostages, including Llewelyn's bastard son Gruffydd.8  From Gloucester, on 14 December, the King commanded a piece of russet cloth for his Christmas festivities at Worcester, and the sending to Worcester of a bay horse previously kept at Bristol.  A black horse, given to the King by the Flemish mercenary Hugh de Boves, was to be presented to the constable of Gloucester as a gift.9  In the week before and after Christmas, little serious business could be expected at a court now chiefly preoccupied with feasting.


I.J. Sanders, English Baronies: A Study of their Origin and Descent 1086-1327 (Oxford 1960), 73; Herefordshire Domesday circa 1160-1170, ed. V.H. Galbraith and J. Tait, Pipe Roll Society n.s. xxv (1950), 108-9, noting the death of John of Kilpeck (d.1205) followed by the succession of his heir, Hugh, who came of age 1212 X 1216 and who before this was granted in wardship to the King’s favourite, William de Cantilupe.


RLP, 125.


RLP, 125.


RLC, i, 181b.


RLC, i, 182, and cf. N. Vincent, 'The Earliest Nottinghamshire Will (1257): Robert of Whichford Counts His Debts', Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire, cii (1998) 43-56, esp. pp.43-4.


RLC, i, 182.


RLP, 125; RLC, i, 181b, where Engelard as sheriff Gloucester is instructed to recover any money loaned to the hostages whose release Joan had negotiated, allowing the hostages to go quit if they had previously lived on the King's alms alone.


For the Welsh hostages, and the wider question of John's relations with Llewelyn, see J. Beverley Smith, 'Magna Carta and the Charters of the Welsh Princes', English Historical Review, xcix (1984), 344-62, esp. pp.344-5, 350, 352, noting the present arrangements at p.357.  The names of the hostages whose release was ordered in December 1214 (Kenvret, Bleum', Tegwared and Merwyth (?Meurig), cf. RLP, 125) allow of no certain identification.


RLC, i, 181b.

King John's Diary & Itinerary