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Magna Carta Sureties and Witnesses

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The profiles included in this project are of the barons, bishops and abbots who created and witnessed the Magna Carta in 1215 and served as sureties for its enforcement.


The Magna Carta was an English charter, originally issued in the year 1215. The charter first passed into law in 1225. The 1297 version, with the long title (originally in Latin) The Great Charter of the Liberties of England, and of the Liberties of the Forest, still remains on the statute books of England and Wales.

The 1215 Charter required King John of England to proclaim certain liberties and accept that his will was not arbitrary, for example by explicitly accepting that no "freeman" (in the sense of non-serf) could be punished except through the law of the land, a right which is still in existence today.

Magna Carta was the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects (the barons) in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. It was preceded and directly influenced by the 1100 Charter of Liberties, when King Henry I had specified particular areas where his powers would be limited.

Despite its recognised importance, by the second half of the 19th century nearly all of its clauses had been repealed in their original form. Three clauses remain part of the law of England and Wales, however, and it is generally considered part of the uncodified constitution. Lord Denning described it as "the greatest constitutional document of all times - the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot".[1] In a 2005 speech, Lord Woolf described it as "first of a series of instruments that now are recognised as having a special constitutional status" [2], the others being the Habeas Corpus Act, the Petition of Right, the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement.

The charter was an important part of the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world, although it was "far from unique, either in content or form".[3] In practice, Magna Carta in the medieval period did not in general limit the power of kings, but by the time of the English Civil War it had become an important symbol for those who wished to show that the King was bound by the law. It influenced the early settlers in New England[4] and inspired later constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.

(adapted from

Many of the illuminated manuscript images on the profiles are from a manuscript from the George John Warren Vernon manuscript collection, bound after 1837, found on "The escutcheons of the twenty-five barons who were appointed to enforce the observance of the Magna Charta together with the will of King John and the arms of the witnesses thereto." See the complete collection here:

Historical Persons to be Included

The 25 Barons (Sureties for the enforcement of Magna Carta)

William d'Aubigny, Lord of Belvoir Castle

Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk

Hugh Bigod, Heir to the Earldoms of Norfolk and Suffolk

Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford

Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford

Gilbert de Clare, heir to the earldom of Hertford

John FitzRobert, Lord of Warkworth Castle

Robert FitzWalter de Clare, Lord of Dunmow Castle

William de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle

William Hardell, Mayor of the City of London

William de Huntingfield, Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk

John de Lacy, Lord of Pontefract Castle

William de Lanvallei, Lord of Standway Castle

William Malet, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset

Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex and Gloucester

William Marshall Jr, heir to the earldom of Pembroke

Roger de Montbegon, Lord of Hornby Castle, Lancashire
Richard de Montfichet, Baron of Stanstead

William de Mowbray, Lord of Axholme Castle

Richard de Percy, Baron

Saire/Saher de Quincy, Earl of Winchester

Robert de Ros, Lord of Hamlake Castle

Geoffrey de Saye, Baron

Robert de Vere, heir to the earldom of Oxford

Eustace de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick Castle

Bishops: Witnesses

Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church

Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin

E., Bishop of London

Jocelin of Wells, Bishop of Bath and Wells

Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester

Hugh de Wells, Bishop of Lincoln

Herbert Poore (aka "Robert"), Bishop of Salisbury

W., Bishop of Rochester

Walter de Gray, Bishop of Worcester

Geoffrey de Burgo, Bishop of Ely

Hugh de Mapenor, Bishop of Hereford

Richard Poore, Bishop of Chichester (brother of Herbert/Robert above)

W., Bishop of Exeter

Counsellors to King John named in Magna Carta

The preamble to Magna Carta includes the names of the following 27 ecclesiastical and secular magnates who had counselled John to accept its terms. The names include some of the moderate reformers, notably Archbishop Stephen Langton, and some of John's loyal supporters, such as William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. They are listed here in the order in which they appear in the charter itself:

  • Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal
  • Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin
  • William of Sainte-Mère-Église, Bishop of London
  • Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester
  • Jocelin of Wells, Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury
  • Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln
  • Walter de Gray, Bishop of Worcester
  • William de Cornhill, Bishop of Coventry
  • Benedict of Sausetun, Bishop of Rochester
  • Pandulf Verraccio, subdeacon and papal legate to England
  • Eymeric, Master of the Knights Templar in England
  • William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke
  • William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury
  • William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey
  • William d'Aubigny, Earl of Arundel
  • Alan of Galloway, Constable of Scotland
  • Warin FitzGerold
  • Peter FitzHerbert
  • Hubert de Burgh, Seneschal of Poitou
  • Hugh de Neville
  • Matthew FitzHerbert
  • Thomas Basset
  • Alan Basset
  • Philip d'Aubigny
  • Robert of Ropsley
  • John Marshal
  • John FitzHugh


Llywelyn the Great. Also the other Welsh Princes [who?]

Master Pandulff, subdeacon and member of the Papal Household

Brother Aymeric, Master of the Knights Templar in England

Alexander II of Scotland

Magna Carta of Chester

The Runnymede Charter of Liberties did not apply to Chester, which at the time was a separate feudal domain. Ranulf de Meschines, Earl of Chester granted his own Magna Carta.[6] Some of its articles were similar to the Runnymede Charter.[7]


  1. ^ Danny Danziger & John Gillingham, "1215: The Year of Magna Carta" (2004 paperback edition) p278
  2. ^ "Magna Carta: a precedent for recent constitutional change". Judiciary of England and Wales. Speeches. 15 June 2005. Retrieved 07 September 2010.
  3. ^ Holt, J.C. Magna Carta (1965) p20
  4. ^ a b Clanchy, M.T. Early Medieval England. Folio Society(1997)p139
  5. ^ "United States Constitution Q + A". The Charters of Freedom. Retrieved 16 February 2009.
  6. ^ Hewitt, H.J. Mediaeval Cheshir.e Manchester University Press(1929) p9
  7. ^ Holt, J.C. Magna Carta. Cambridge University Press 2nd Edition (1992) pp379-380

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