FITZWALTER, ROBERT (d. 1235), leader of the baronial opposition against King John of England, belonged to the official aristocracy created by Henry I. and Henry II. He served John in the Norman wars, and was taken prisoner by Philip of France, and forced to pay a heavy ransom. He was implicated in the baronial conspiracy of 1212. According to his own statement the king had attempted to seduce his eldest daughter; but Robert’s account of his grievances varied from time to time. The truth seems to be that he was irritated by the suspicion with which John regarded the new baronage. Fitzwalter escaped a trial by flying to France. He was outlawed, but returned under a special amnesty after John’s reconciliation with the pope. He continued, however, to take the lead in the baronial agitation against the king, and upon the outbreak of hostilities was elected “marshal of the army of God and Holy Church” (1215). To his influence in London it was due that his party obtained the support of the city and used it as their base of operations. The famous clause of Magna Carta (§ 39) prohibiting sentences of exile, except as the result of a lawful trial, refers more particularly to his case. He was one of the twenty-five appointed to enforce the promises of Magna Carta; and his aggressive attitude was one of the causes which contributed to the recrudescence of civil war (1215). His incompetent leadership made it necessary for the rebels to invoke the help of France. He was one of the envoys who invited Louis to England, and was the first of the barons to do homage when the prince entered London. Though slighted by the French as a traitor to his natural lord, he served Louis with fidelity until captured at the battle of Lincoln (May 1217). Released on the conclusion of peace he joined the Damietta crusade of 1219, but returned at an early date to make his peace with the regency. The remainder of his career was uneventful; he died peacefully in 1235.
See the list of chronicles for the reign of John. The Histoire des ducs de Normandie et des rois d’Angleterre (ed. F. Michel, Paris, 1840) gives the fullest account of his quarrel with the king. Miss K. Norgate’s John Lackland (1902), W. McKechnie’s Magna Carta (1905), and Stubbs’s Constitutional History, vol. i. ch. xii. (1897), should also be consulted.