The Magna Carta Project

The Terms of the London Treaty

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

9 August 1215 - 15 August 1215


9 Aug 1215

Clarendon (Wiltshire)

RLP, 152; RLC, i, 224b-5

9-12 Aug 1215

Wareham (Dorset)

RLP, 152-52b, 181b; RLC, i, 224b-5

13-15 Aug 1215

Clarendon (Wiltshire)

RLP, 152b-3; RLC, i, 225-6; Rot.Ob., 565

The Tower of London

The Tower of London, BL Royal MS 16 F II f.73

This was the last week governed by the terms of the London Treaty established at Runnymede. The understanding, since mid June, had been that the King would make good his promises to the barons, before the feast of the Assumption (Saturday 15 August), at which point the barons would surrender to him the city of London and archbishop Langton would relinquish his temporary custody of the Tower. There was by this time little expectation that such terms would be met. Instead, from Wareham on 9 August, the King wrote to Archbishop Langton, not about the Tower, but about Rochester Castle which, for the past few months, the King had been asking be restored to royal custody. On this occasion, claiming that it had been agreed that Rochester would be in royal keeping until the Easter after the archbishop's return from the Lateran Council summoned for November, the King asked that Langton release the castle to Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester. The request was a polite one ('devoutly supplicating your fatherhood') and Bishop Peter was required to swear an oath to the archbishop to return the castle, after the term specified. It contained reference to 'common counsel', by which it was hoped that longer-term custody of the castle might be determined, after its initial surrender to Bishop Peter.1 Even so, there is little doubt that it was the issue of Rochester that was to prove the sticking point in all future dealings between the King and his archbishop, albeit that the details of this disagreement were only to become apparent in the ensuing weeks.2

As we have seen, in the previous week the King seems to have made aware of the archbishop's summons for him to attend a conference, at Oxford, from 16 August onwards.3 Yet instead of remaining within easy distance of the Thames Valley, the King veered southwards to Wareham in Dorset. Before leaving Clarendon, on 9 August, he acknowledged recent events at Norwich, whose monks had been persuaded (c.25 July) to elect as bishop the Pope's chief representative in England, and the King's friend, Master Pandulf Verracclo. Since there was concern that the Pope might refuse to endorse this promotion, Pandulf was to seek confirmation in Rome. In the meantime, custody of the vacant see was regranted to the Norwich monk, Ranulf of Wareham, acting in collaboration with another keeper to be nominated by the bishop-elect.4 Once again, these arrangements suggest a keen eye to papal sensibilities. In the north, where the Crowland chronicler alleges widespread and continuing disturbance, there were significant changes in management. William of Duston, having served for only a few weeks as sheriff of Yorkshire, was replaced by William of Harcourt, perhaps a stronger choice.5 He was also instructed to surrender Scarborough Castle to the earl of Aumale, William de Forz, a Poitevin adventurer granted his Yorkshire estates only a year or so before.6 At the same time, Philip of Oldcotes, for the past few years keeper of the vacant bishopric of Durham and one of the King's chief enforcers in the north, was instructed to hand Durham Castle and the King's estates in Northumberland to Robert de Vieuxpont.7 This was by no means to signify Philip's disgrace, but was a decision arrived at following discussions at court with the archdeacon of Northumberland, previously joint-keeper of the vacant bishopric.8 Philip's serjeants were now set to garrison the castles of Norham, Bamburgh and Newcastle.9 The monks of Durham, it was hoped, would shortly be supplied with a new bishop, either through papal approval for the translation of Peter des Roches from Winchester, or through promotion of the chancellor, Richard Marsh.10 It was nonetheless a momentous upheaval. It coincided with other changes in custody: the grant of the Derbyshire castle of the Peak to Ranulf earl of Chester, and the decision not to send Geoffrey de Neville to serve as seneschal of Poitou but to leave him in the north of England, appointing a local man, Renaud de Pons, previously seneschal of Gascony, as seneschal of both Gascony and Poitou.11 Gilbert fitz Reinfrey, sheriff of Lancashire, continued to be addressed as a faithful supporter of the King.12 In the far south, Robert de Courtenay was awarded custody of Devon and the castle at Exeter, with grants of two Devon manors to the earl of Salisbury in augmentation of his already rich pickings and apparently to support his operations as a royalist commander of troops.13 In Oxfordshire there were conflicting orders for the appointment of a new sheriff, first in favour of Andrew de Beauchamp, then in favour of Gilbert de Sanes.14 Hubert de Burgh, now granted the Essex honour of Rayleigh, agreed to surrender his short-lived custody of Herefordshire now committed to Walter of Clifford the younger.15 Roger of Clifford, Walter's kinsman, was promised an annual pension of 60 marks and was granted custody of Hereford castle together with all of the crossbows of horn and ten of those of wood with which Hubert de Burgh had previously fortified the castle.16 For the first time since the end of civil war, we read again of the supply of crossbow bolts, 4000 of which were to be sent to Hugh de Neville at Marlborough.17 Amidst various other instructions, including the restoration, in accordance with their new charter, of the mint controlled by the men of Winchester, we find a restoration of land to Anglo-Picard Thomas de Saint-Valery (close kinsman of the previously disgraced Braose clan), and a command to Peter de Maulay, constable of Corfe, to supply the queen with silks and furs for her wardrobe.18

On the diplomatic front, there were further initiatives that once again point towards an imminent reopening of hostilities. The abbot of Beaulieu, the King's veteran ambassador to the papal court, was granted wine with which to celebrate mass: a pious request that sits uncomfortably with rumours about to reach the Cistercian general chapter, that the abbot lived a life of scandal, keeping a guard dog on a silver chain at the end of his bed, and engaging in secular drinking contests.19 The Master of the Temple in Poitou was asked to extend loans of up to 1000 marks to another clerk of ill-repute, the King's chancellor, Richard Marsh, specifically so that Richard could pay knights 'coming into England'.20 On the previous day, 12 August, from Wareham, the King had written to Peter de Dreux, count of Brittany, holding out the prospect that Peter might be restored to possession of the northern honour of Richmond should he come to England 'without delay, well prepared with horses and arms'.21 As all of the chroniclers are agreed, it was the King's decision to recommence his importation of foreign mercenaries that first signalled the resumption of hostilities after Magna Carta.22 Here we have clear evidence, even before the terms of the London Treaty had expired, that the King was talking of peace but nonetheless preparing for war.


RLP, 181b: ' Rex venerabili patri in Cristo S(tephano) Cant' arch(iepiscopo) etc. Paternitati vestre deuote duximus supplicand(i) quatinus castrum Roff' quod in manu nostra existere debet usque ad Pasch(am) proximum post generale concilium nisi aliter infra terminum illum inter nos conuenerit liberetis si placet venerabili patri nostro episcopo Winton' qui sacramentum vob(is) faciet quod illud ad dictum terminum vob(is) liberabit nisi sic(ut) prediximus infra terminum illum inter nos de eodem castro aliter conuenerit. Cui volumus quod committatur custodiendum donec de communi consilio nostro prouideatur cui committatur custodiendum usque ad prefatum terminum qui similiter sacrament(um) idem vob(is) faciet de castro illo sic(ut) predictum est vob(is) liberando. Et in huius etc vob(is) mittimus. T(este) ap(ud) Warh', ix. die Aug(usti) a(nno) r(egni) n(ostri)', and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 8-14 March, 24-30 May. According to Roger of Wendover (whence Paris, Matthaei Parisiensis , Monachi Sancti Albani, Chronica Majora, ed. H.R. Luard, 7 vols. (Rolls Ser., 1872–83), ii, 606), Rochester was only returned to Langton at Runnymede having apparently been surrendered by the archbishop in accordance with the King's request of 25 May (RLP, 138b, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 24-30 May. But this is not substantiated in any other account and would surely, if it had been carried out, have led to the removal of Reginald of Cornhill as constable. Instead, Rochester seems to have remained in Reginald's custody throughout 1215, until its surrender to the barons in late August or September.


See King John’s Diary and Itinerary 16-22 August.


See King John’s Diary and Itinerary 2-8 August.


RLP, 152, and cf. N. Vincent, 'The Election of Pandulph Verracclo as Bishop of Norwich (1215)', Historical Research, lxviii (1995), 156-7.


RLP, 152b, and cf. RLC, i, 225, for orders to William de Harcourt, 11 August, to carry to Brunkesiam all the King's flour ('floris') as overseen by the King's baker.


RLP, 152.


RLP, 152b; RLC, i, 225-5b.


RLP, 152b, noting the dispatch of the archdeacon's brother as royal envoy back to Durham.


RLP, 152b.


Letters printed by V.H. Galbraith, Studies in the Public Records (London, 1948), 162.


The Peak: RLP, 153 (with signs that there was originally discussion of granting it to William earl Ferrers, and with oaths to be taken by earl Ranulf before Brian de Lisle and Robert de Vieuxpont that he would surrender the castle on the King's command). Geoffrey de Neville: RLP, 152b, with expectation that Renaud would be assisted by the vicomte of Thouars and accompanied by orders that the towns of Cognac and Jarnac now answer to the King's seneschal of the Angoumois, and for the obligations of the men of these two towns, see also RLC, i, 225b.


RLC, i, 225b, orders for the repair of a fishery at Lancaster belonging to the monks of Furness, whose fine of 50 marks for an earlier royal confirmation was this week paid in to the court: RLP, 152-2b. See also a command to Gilbert for respite for a servant of Philip Mark 'until the lord King shall come to Nottingham or otherwise command': Rot.Ob., 565.


RLP, 153; RLC, i, 224b.


RLP, 153.


RLP, 153.


RLC, i, 225b.


RLC, i, 225b, orders of 15 August, the day on which the London Treaty officially reached its term, and cf. orders this week confirming grants of land to crossbowmen previously made at both Bordeaux and Bristol: RLC, i, 224b-5.


Men of Winchester: RLC, i, 225. The Queen: RLC, i, 225. Thomas de Saint-Valer: RLC, i, 224b.


RLC, i, 225b, and for abbot Hugh, perhaps a Burgundian by birth, see Letters of Guala, ed. Vincent, nos.10, 12.


RLP, 152b-3.


RLP, 152b, and for earlier negotiations involving a mission to England by Peter's brother, Robert de Dreux, see King John's Diary and Itinerary 5-11 April, 17-23 May.


Wendover and Paris, in Paris, Chronica Majora, ii, 610-13; Dunstable Annals, in Annales Monastici, ed. H.R. Luard, 5 vols. (London, 1864-9),, iii, 43-4; Radulphi de Coggeshall Chronicon Anglicanum, ed. J. Stevenson (Rolls ser., 1875), 174-5; Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria, ed. W. Stubbs, 2 vols. (Rolls Ser., 1872-73), ii, 224.

King John's Diary & Itinerary