The Magna Carta Project

Rochester week two, the siege of Norham and the return of Giles de Braose

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

18 October 1215 - 24 October 1215


18-24 Oct 1215

Rochester (Kent)

RLP, 157-8; RLC, i, 232-3

Norham Castle

Norham Castle

The most important business of this week was transacted far from King John's court. In the far north, King Alexander II at last crossed the Scottish border, laying siege to Norham (a castle belonging to the bishops of Durham and hence to King John) on Monday 19 October. At Felton (a manor under the lordship of Roger Bertram), on Thursday 22 October, Alexander took the homage of the rebel barons of Northumbria. The siege of Norham was to last forty days, almost as long as the siege of Rochester, but with results far less favourable to the Scots King.1 Meanwhile, on Wednesday 21 October, the English court proclaimed that Giles de Braose, bishop of Hereford, had fined for restoration to the King's grace and love, with instructions that he be restored to all the lands and castles held by his father, William de Braose, in fee. As a result, orders were issued for bishop Giles to receive back the castles of Swansea, Barnstable, Totnes and Knepp, with custody of Bramber being entrusted for a fixed term to John of Monmouth.2 Clearly anticipating scepticism from his local officials over so complete a reversal of policy, the King sent his brother, William earl of Salisbury, to explain the new circumstances to the garrison at Bramber.3 The bishop's nephews, Giles and Philip, were to be released from the keeping of Peter de Maulay at Corfe, and there was also restoration of his estates in southern England for the Anglo-Norman baron, Henry de Saint-Valery, a close kinsman of the Braose family.4 The precise terms of this settlement elude us, since the details of the bishop's fine seem not to have been entered on either the Fine Roll or succeeding Pipe Rolls, perhaps as a result of the bishop's death almost immediately afterwards, at Gloucester c.17 November 1215.5 Even so, the Crowland chronicler refers to a fine of 9000 marks.6 A report commissioned c. Easter 1216 into rebel activity on the Welsh Marches reveals the highly significant fact that although, before the bishop returned to peace, 'the whole county of Herefordshire' stood against the King, following the bishop's return to fealty, only a handful of knights of the county continued in rebellion, named here as Walter de Stoke, Robert d'Evreux and Richard Tirel (all three of them said to be with the bishop's brother and heir, Reginald de Braose).7 Just as important as the bishop's settlement here was the renewal of hostilities by the Welsh, persuading the Marchers that they were better off with King John, the devil they knew, than with the even less reliable Llewelyn ap Iorwerth (father-in-law of Reginald de Braose).8

Saltwood church

The church of St Peter and St Paul, Saltwood

Various commands issued this week throw light upon the disposition of the King's forces. Thus there were orders to the King's men to respect the liberties of Westminster Abbey: in effect one of the earliest references to the 'sanctuary' (here referred to as the 'circuitum') of Westminster.9 Two barrels of coin were requisitioned from the treasury at Dover for use at Rochester.10 Just as in 1214 we find scattered references to the King's share of a fifth part of plunder in wars overseas, so, in a letter of 22 October, we read of the King disposing of his fifth part of plunder taken from rebels ('quinta predarum captarum'), a fraction of which were to be used to pay the wages of Walerand the German's serjeants at Berkhamsted.11 Amongst the rebels newly identified this week we find not only such members of the twenty-five of Runnymede as William of Huntingfield and William de Mandeville, but the former royal justice, James of Potterne: the first in what was swiftly to develop into a torrent of such defections from amongst the King's innermost circle.12 The Crowland chronicler informs us this month of further rebel attacks upon Northampton and Oxford castles, apparently as ineffective as those of May 1215, but in this instance with the expectation that the barons might call upon engineers sent to them by the King of France.13 It was probably during the first attack upon Northampton, in May, that the King's forces had captured William de Millières, a knight of William earl of Arundel, now ordered released into the keeping of his lord.14 On the same day, 22 October, the King authorized peace talks with the barons to be brokered before 27 October by Roger de Jarpville and Robert de Coleville from the baronial side, under the auspices of the military orders of the Templars and Hospitallers.15 There are also references this week to damages inflicted upon shipping during the late storm ('tempestas'), presumably the same storm in which Hugh de Boves had been drowned in late September.16 Oliver d'Argentan, the knight captured at Rochester Bridge whose ransom had been negotiated in the previous week, was this week ordered released into the keeping of Hubert de Burgh.17 As a reminder of the fact that, whatever might have been alleged against him before his departure from England in September, archbishop Langton had not yet been officially suspended from office, on 18 October we find letters of presentation to the church of Saltwood directed to Langton and his officials.18 Even so, no-one in 1215 with any knowledge of the past could have failed to notice the appearance here of the Saltwood estate, so prominent in the dispute between the King's father and a previous archbishop during the Becket dispute of the 1160s. King John was effectively disposing of a church whose patronage was claimed by the archbishops of Canterbury. What is more, during the late vacancy at Canterbury, Saltwood church had been conferred for life upon William of Wrotham, the King's confidential clerk and chief naval administrator.19 The orders of 18 October, taken in combination with William's replacement, in September 1215, as keeper of Lydford castle and the Somerset forest, supplies our earliest evidence that William of Wrotham was another of the former royalists now in league with the rebels.20

The appointment this week of a monk of Daventry to serve as the King's envoy perhaps suggests negotiations with the barons of Northamptonshire rather than further communication with France or Rome.21 Daventry Priory had been generously endowed by Robert fitz Walter and his family, as well as by others of the leaders of rebellion. For the rest, a large number of letters continued to deal with the confiscation and redistribution of rebel estates, many of them in Kent associated with members of the rebel garrison at Rochester, but with others, now further afield, suggesting that the King was beginning to receive detailed information from other parts of England as to which barons were or were not to be trusted.22 At about this time, the King dispatched Robert of Béthune to lay siege to Richard de Clare's castle at Tonbridge with a promise that in due course Robert would have the castle of Clare in Suffolk.23



Chronica de Mailros, ed. J. Stevenson, Bannatyne Club (Edinburgh, 1835), 121, and for Felton, see History of Northumberland, vii (London, 1904), 230-1.


RLP, 157b; RLC, i, 232b.


RLP, 157b.


RLP, 157b; RLC, i, 232b.


Le Neve, Fasti, viii (Hereford), ed. Julia Barrow, 5, and for the identification of Gloucester, see Brut Y Tywysogyon or the Chronicle of the Princes: Peniarth MS. 20 Version, ed. T. Jones (Cardiff, 1952), 91; Brut Y Tywysogyon or the Chronicle of the Princes: Red Book of Hergest Version, ed. T. Jones (Cardiff, 1955), 205.


Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria, ed. W. Stubbs, 2 vols. (London, 1872-73), ii, 225. Henry Summerson, in his forthcoming commentary on clause 55 of Magna Carta, suggests that the 9000 mark was the first of two made by Giles during the course of 1215, subsequently remitted in favour of a smaller fine itself transferred, after Giles' death, to his brother Reginald and in 1217 pardoned in return for Reginald's return to the royalist camp.


TNA SC 1/1/10, sent to the King by Walter de Clifford the younger as sheriff, whence the calendar by Edwards, Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales, 1 no.1: 'Significo quod totus comitatus Heref’ preter barones <et homines> suos commilitanes dum episcopus Hereford’ contra vos exstitit contra vos arma tulerunt vel armatis miserunt, sed postquam episcopus ad pacem vestram venit, omnes in seruitium vestrum constanter et fideliter exstiterunt et adhuc existant preter Walterum de Stokes et Robertum de Euereus et Ricardum Tirel qui cum domino Reginaldo de Braos’ sunt, sed omnes alii diligentem curiam adhibuerunt ad terram vestram saluandam et custodiendam ita quod usque huc indempnis est et illesa'.


The Brut supplies only a vague chronology here, referring to an attack by Llewelyn on Carmarthen, Llanstephan, Laugharne and St Clears, reaching Ceredigion by 20 December: Brut: Red Book of Hergest Version, ed. Jones, 205-7; Brut: Peniarth Version, ed. Jones, 91-2. Elsewhere, the attack on Carmarthen is dated to 8 December: Annales Cambriae, ed. J. Williams ab Ithel (London, 1860), 71.


RLP, 157b-8.


RLP, 157.


RLC, i, 233, and cf. above 15-21 June 1214.


RLC, i, 232 (Huntingfield's land to John fitz Henry), 233 (Mandeville land to Roland, an associate of Walerand the German, Potterne's lands provisionally granted to Roger Aliz, an associate of the bishop of Winchester).


Walter of Coventry, ed. Stubbs, ii, 225-6.


RLP, 157b.


RLP, 157b.


RLC, i, 232, 233, referring to the ship of Thomas Bruning used by Thierry de Zottegem ('Sotingham') (Belgium, East Flanders). The Histoire des ducs de Normandie et des rois d’Angleterre, ed. F. Michel (Paris, 1840), 156, refers to the saving of the ship of Walter de Zottegem ('Sotenghien'), and refers later (p.162) to Thierry de Zottegem as marshal of the King's Flemish mercenaries. Gerard de Zottegem appears alongside Hugh de Boves, Walter de Betrand and Godeschal de Malines (alias Mechelen/Mechlin, Belgium, Anvers/Antwerp) as one of the leaders of the King's Flemish mercenaries, and on 16 October was sent ships from Sandwich to transport him into England: RLP, 156-6b; RLC, i, 231b.


RLP, 157b, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 11-17 October.


RLP, 157.


London, Lambeth Palace Library ms. 1212 (Archbishopric of Canterbury cartulary) fo.102r (84r, p.196), a charter of 1 May 1207.


For William's rebellion, see F.W. Brooks, 'William de Wrotham and the Office of Keeper of the King's Ports and Galleys', English Historical Review, xl (1925), 579. For Lydford, King John’s Diary and Itinerary 30 August-5 September.


RLP, 157b.


Seizures in Kent from Manasser Aguillun (RLC, i, 232, in favour of William Bloet); Constantine the younger, citizen of London (RLC, i, 232, at Dartford, in favour of Godfrey Ruffus); Eudo Patrick (RLC, i, 232, in Kent and Essex in favour of Walter de Baillolet); Philip of Hougham and Stephen his brother (RLC, i, 232, at Hougham, Swanton and on Sheppey, in favour of Nicholas de Limesy); Roger Parlebien ('Speakwell') (RLC, i, 232, in favour of John Longespée); Alulf of Boughton (RLC, 232, in favour of John Russell); Roger de Cressy (RLC, i, 232b, in favour of Ralph de Raleigh, at Harrietsham and 'Welcumewey'); Thomas de Elham and William de Ditton (RLC, 232b, in favour of Oliver of Kemsing at Elham and Ditton); tenants of the honour of the count of Saint-Pol (RLC, i, 232b, in favour of Walter de Bailliolet); William of Doddington (RLC, i, 232b, in favour of William de Marinis); Stephen of Cossington (RLC, i, 232b, in favour of Charles fitz William); Denis of Wingham (RLC, i, 233, in favour of Robert de Bareville at Wingham). Elsewhere, note the seizures in Buckinghamshire (RLC, i, 232b, to Ingelram de Gentele from Peter de Waylly), in Gloucestershire (RLC, i, 232, from Maurice of Ghent), in the vicinity of Berkhamsted (RLC, i, 232b, from Warin de Montchesny and John de Chesney), in the west country and elsewhere (RLC, i, 233, from John de Montacute and Nicholas and Hugh Poinz in favour of Godfrey of Crowcombe and Ralph de Raleigh), and at an unidentified location in favour of the mercenary, Godeschal (de Malines) (RLC, i, 233). Note also the restoration to Hugh de Mortimer of land previously seized in Gloucestershire (RLC, i, 232).


Histoire des ducs, ed. Michel, 161-3.

King John's Diary & Itinerary