The Magna Carta Project

The release and exchange of prisoners

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

22 February 1215 - 28 February 1215


23 Feb 1215

Brill (Buckinghamshire)

RLP, 129

28 Feb 1215


RLC, i, 189b

King's presence at Windsor uncertain.

Prisoner taken in battle by the hero Roland, BL Royal MS 16 G VI f.178v

A prisoner taken in battle by the hero Roland, from Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, BL Royal MS 16 G VI f.178v

Presumably because of a break down in the copying or collection of the chancery enrolments, we know very little of the King's movements during this week. Between 20 February and 2 March, we have only two royal letters, both of them enrolled on the Patent Roll.1 Continuing the previous month's theme of pacification in Ireland, the first announced that Peter de Dunstanville, captured at Carrickfergus in 1210, had fined 10 marks for his relase from captivity and had been granted the King's firm peace. The second commanded Matthew Wallop, constable of Winchester, to release three knights captured together with Robert of Dreux at the bridge of Nantes, the previous year. These men were to handed over to Yvain, a clerk of the Emperor Otto IV, either because Otto was assisting with arrangements for an exchange of ransomed prisoners between England and France, or perhaps so that Otto could himself use these men as bargaining counters in his own negotiations for the release of German knights taken at Bouvines.2 Both of these letters were issued at Brill in Buckinghamshire. On the previous day, Sunday 22 February, Archbishop Langton and William Marshal had apparently met at Oxford, twenty miles away, to renew negotations with the 'Northerners'. We do not know what precisely was discussed at that meeting. Nor do we know anything for certain of the King's movements between Brill, where he was established on 23 February, and Windsor which he reached by 1 March. A chance reference to supplies sent to Berkhamsted (5 measures of good wine, 100lbs of wax, three cart horses and 100lbs of almonds ('amigdal')) perhaps tells us something of the King's intended route back to his capital city.3 Alternatively, since the Queen appears to have been at Berkhamsted at this time, it may merely reflect his concerns for his wife and family.4


RLP, 129.


For the arrangements already agreed for the exchange of Robert of Dreux for William of Salisbury, timed to take place between Dover and Wissant on 4 March, see Diary and Itinerary for 8-15 February.


RLC, 188.


For the Queen and her family at Berkhamsted from at least 17 February, see RLC, i, 189b.

King John's Diary & Itinerary