The Magna Carta Project

John spends Christmas at Nottingham

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

20 December 1215 - 26 December 1215


20 Dec 1215

St Albans (Hertfordshire)

Paris, Chronica Majora, ii, 635

20 Dec 1215

Dunstable, Bedfordshire, England

RLP, 161b; RLC, i, 242b, 269

21 Dec 1215

Newport (Pagnell) (Buckinghamshire)

RLC, i, 243

21-22 Dec 1215

Northampton, Northamptonshire, England

RLP, 161b; RLC, i, 243

23 Dec 1215

Rockingham (Northamptonshire)

RLP, 161b; RLC, i, 243

23-24 Dec 1215

Melton Mowbray (Leicestershire)

RLC, i, 243; Rot.Ob., 568

24-26 Dec 1215


RLP, 162; RLC, i, 243-3b; Rot.Ob., 567-8

26 Dec 1215

Langar (Nottinghamshire)

RLC, i, 243b


The Nativity, BL Arundel MS 157 f.3v (England, first quarter of the 13th century)

The King's decision to spend Christmas at Nottingham must already have raised concerns amongst the northern rebels. The last King to have spent Christmas in Nottingham had been Henry II, in 1176. John himself had generally spent Christmas south of the Trent, save for 1210 when he had been briefly at York. Moreover, the Christmas of 1215 was unlike any other such feast. As the Crowland chronicler puts it, having travelled via the Midlands, seizing back the castles and defensive positions of his enemies, 'the King by his presence strengthened the hearts of his wavering people .... and spent Christmas at Nottingham not as usual but as if in warlike expedition'.1 We have already found him at Iver, undertaking reprisals against the manor's lord, John fitz Robert, one of the baronial twenty-five. A similar pattern was repeated in the present week, with the King travelling via Dunstable and Newport Pagnell (both of them home to substantial religious communities, in the latter case with a castle and honour in the hands of William Longuespée, earl of Salisbury, as guardian of the young Ralph de Somery), then northwards via Northampton and Rockingham (restored on the field of Runnymede to William Mauduit, son of the rebel Robert Mauduit).2 At Melton Mowbray, a manor belonging (presumably as dower) to the mother of William de Mowbray, another of the twenty-five, the men of the manor were obliged to offer the King a punitive fine of 100 marks in 'tenseria', payable by the end of the first week in January.3 On Christmas Day, William of Stokes offered the King 100s. to have the land of Maurice d'Andely at Middleton near Nottingham, 'and so that Maurice's houses there be not burned': the first of several such orders that were to refer to the deliberate burning of rebel property.4 At Runnymede, the King had ordered that the manor of Buckingham be taken from its alien Angevin custodian, Ivo de la Jaille, and granted to the rebel leader, earl Richard de Clare.5 On 20 December, from Dunstable, the King rescinded this command, restoring Ivo to possession.6 Another Frenchman, Ralph Martel, companion of the Norman William de Préaux, was restored to possession of his lands in Tattenhoe (Buckinghamshire) and Lillingstone (Oxfordshire) seized from him as a result of his staying in Normandy after 1204: clear evidence that the King's war was beginning to draw Normans as well as southern Frenchmen into service in England.7 Besides the by now routine reassignments of rebel property, there were several significant orders this week relating to rebel estates, including the transfer to the Poitevins Hugh de Vivonne (Vienne, arr. Poitiers) and Savaric de Mauléon of the entire estates of William Malet and Geoffrey de Mandeville, excluding Geoffrey's honour of Gloucester and the lands of Geoffrey's brother, William de Mandeville.8  On Christmas eve, commanding part of the army that the King had left behind in the south, Savaric de Mauléon set siege to Geoffrey de Mandeville's castle at Pleshey north of Chelmsford, pillaging the surrounding countryside.9 On Christmas day itself, Philip Marc, the King's Tourangeau constable of Nottingham, was promised custody of the entire Midlands barony of Oliver d'Aincourt.10 Philip himself had been amongst those aliens supposedly banished under the terms of Magna Carta c.50. So too had Geoffrey de Martigny, constable of Northampton, who, alone amongst the prohibited aliens, had been obliged to depart England, in September 1215.11 Since then, Geoffrey's brother, Matthew de Martigny (himself included in the ban of Magna Carta c.50), had acquired custody of the lands of the rebel, Henry of Braybrooke.12 In the present week, this command was reiterated for six counties, whilst Matthew was also promised possession of Henry of Braybrooke's manor of Crawley in Northumberland: a rare instance of the King continuing to send commands to the most northerly shires, but one of at least two dispatched this week.13 Adam de Yeland, constable of Lancaster, was promised the service of 41 serjeants, to be paid from his local resources, and in Nottinghamshire, the lands of Ralph de Grelley were taken into the King's hands, both for rebellion and for non-payment of debt.14 Negotiations with the rebels continued, with the grant of safe conducts to the Lincolnshire barons Simon of Kyme and Lambert of Moulton coming to the King to negotiate the release of his father, Thomas of Moulton, captured at Rochester.15 William fitz Hamo fined 50 marks to have back his lands in Buckinghamshire, and Hugh Rufus fined the same sum for the King's benevolence and to have back his lands and the Northamptonshire hundred of Fawsley, henceforth to be held at its customary farm together with fifty shilling annual increment.16 Elsewhere, in Ireland, the justiciar was instructed to restore William Marshal to possession of the castle of Dunamase (co.Laois'), regardless of any pass word ('intersignus') that might have been agreed, and in the far south west, Robert de Courtenay was commanded to grant Robert de Cardinan the dies of the Cornwall stannaries.17


Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria, ed. W. Stubbs, 2 vols. (London, 1872-73), ii, 228: 'At rex Angliae capta, ut dictum est, Roucestria, circa Decembris initium, inde versus Wintoniam diuertit. Indeque versus Aquilonem per medium Angliae transiens, cor populi fluctuantis sua presentia solidauit; fautores suos quos in oppidis vel munitionibus posuerat, confortauit: veniensque Notingham, ibi Natale Domini, non tamen ex more, sed sicut in expeditione positus, egit; quotquot autem castella aut munitiones habebant usque ad <id> locorum aut ea vacua reliquerunt aut ipsi dediderunt'.


For Newport Pagnell, see VCH Buckinghamshire, iv, 409-15. For Rockingham, RLP, 144b, and King John’s Diary and Itinerary 15-21 March, 10-16 May, 21-27 June, and for the rebellion of Robert Mauduit, and King John’s Diary and Itinerary 15-21 November, with orders for seizure of his estate, repeated in the present week, RLC, i, 243.


Rot.Ob., 568.


Rot.Ob., 567-8, 'quod domus que fuerunt ipsius Maur(icii) in eadem villa non conburantur'.


RLP, 143b, and see and King John’s Diary and Itinerary 21-27 June.


RLC, i, 243.


RLC, i, 243.


RLP, 161b, and cf. RLC, i, 243. For the routine, see RLC, i, 242b-3b, including seizures from Henry de Aunay (in Lothingland, Norfolk, in favour of Charles fitz William, the King's valet), W(illiam) Burdet son of Hugh Burdet (£30 of land in the bailiwick of William de Cantiloupe, to Walter de Hauville), William de Cahaignes (in Sumerford Keynes, then Wiltshire, now Gloucestershire, to Richard de Samford), Thomas de Canville (in Oxfordshire, to Hugh Haunche), John de Eyville (in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, to Adam de Saint-Martin), Roger fitz Oger (in Shobrooke, Devon and various named locations in Cornwall, 'Norton', 'Kabellians' and Trenant, to Hugh de Albomonasterio), John fitz Richard (in Dorset and Somerset, to Richard de Mucegros), Ralph fitz Simon (in Nottinghamshire, to Reiner de Clery), Robert the Harper (in Broughton, Worcestershire, to Hamo the Cook), Robert Kimin (20 acres in Hertfordshire, to John Estivor), William de Lanvallay (in Wakerley, Northamptonshire, to the brothers Adam and Reginald Croc), Bartholomew de la Lee (in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, to John de Campania alias 'Colunncamp', ?Colincamps, Somme, cant. Acheux-en-Amiénois), Robert Mauduit (100 marks of land for Thomas Keret), Roger de Raymes (in Devon, to Henry de la Pomeroy), Peter de Welles and Peter de Mora and Walter de Neville (at 'Welles', Eastley, in Bodenham, and elsewhere in Herefordshire, in favour of Walter de Baiollolet). Other commands this week may have concerned estates not directly involved in the rebellion: the restoration of Gilbert de Say's land of 'Giule' to Nicholas de Say (RLC, i, 243), the grant to William Brewer of the marriage of the widow of Manasser of Hastings, on behalf of William's serjeant, Geoffrey de Wendon (RLC, i, 243), the grant to Robert de Beaunay ('Bello Alneto') son of Benedict de Hadesham of the manor of Beaunay (?in East Boarhunt, Hampshire) (RLC, i, 243), and the restoration to Geoffrey de Serland of a moeity of the vill of 'Brandeby' (?Bransby), Lincolnshire, as the right of Matilda his wife (RLC, i, 243b).


Radulphi de Coggeshall Chronicon Anglicanum, ed. J. Stevenson (Rolls ser., 1875), 177.


RLP, 162, and cf. RLC, i, 243b, specifying land in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Buckinghamshire.


RLC, i, 228-8b, and cf. King John’s Diary and Itinerary 13-19 September, 20-26 September.


King John’s Diary and Itinerary 22-28 November, and for the Martigny clan, precise origins unknown but closely associated with the Tourangeaux around Girard d'Athée, see N. Vincent, 'Who's Who in Magna Carta Clause 50', Le Médiéviste et la monographie familiale: sources, méthodes et problématiques, ed. M. Aurell (Turnhout, 2004), 255-6.


RLC, i, 243, including orders over the manor of Horsenden, Buckinghamshire (cf. VCH Buckinghamshire, ii, 253-4), which was to be held back from the Braybrooke lands given to Matthew, who was promised only those lands previously held by G(eoffrey), his brother. For further orders to the north, see the grant of Skirwith ('Skirewit'), Cumberland, to Jordan Spigurnell: RLC, i, 243b. See also the fine of 50 marks offered by Stephen of Oxford for the widow of Baldwin Blund and her lands in Nottinghamshire and Lancashire: Rot.Ob., 568.


RLC, i, 243b, and for Adam as constable of Lancaster until January 1216, and thereafter of Manchester, see RLP, 164-5.


RLP, 161b-2, in both cases set to last to the beginning of January. Cf. the orders to William Brewer to transfer a prisoner, John de Lucton', from Winchester to the keeping of John fitz Hugh (?at Odiham), but apparently as the result of offences unrelated to the war: RLC, i, 243b. On 26 December, Hubert de Burgh at Dover was commanded to release a knight, Peter de Lokes, taken prisoner by the King's bailiffs: RLP, 162.


Rot. Ob., 568-9, with the earl of Chester and Walter de Eyville serving as William's sureties.


RLP, 161b.

King John's Diary & Itinerary