defeat at Bouvines at the hands of Philip Augustus, and even the king himself was compelled to recognise that his hopes of recovering Normandy were at an end.
Meanwhile in England, which was ruled by Peter des Roches as justiciar, the discontent had been increasing rather than diminishing, and its volume became much larger owing to an event of May 1214. Greatly needing money for his campaign, John ordered another scutage to be taken from his tenants; this, moreover, was to be at the unprecedented rate of three marks on the knight's fee, not as on previous occasions of two marks, although this latter sum had hitherto been regarded as avery high rate. The northern barons refused to pay, and the gathering forces of resistance received a powerful stimulus when a little later came the news of the king's humiliation at Bouvines. Then in October the beaten monarch returned to England, no course open to him but to bow before the storm. In November he met some of his nobles at Bury St Edmunds, but as they still refused to pay the scutage no agreement was reached. At once they took another step towards the goal. With due solemnity (super majus altare) they swore to withdraw their allegiance from the king and to make war upon him, unless within a stated time he restored to them their rightful laws and liberties. While they were collecting troops in order to enforce their threats, John on his part tried to divide his enemies by a concession to the clerical section. By a charter, dated the 21st of November IZI4, he granted freedom of election to the church. However, this did not prevent the prelates from continuing to act to some extent with the barons, and early in January 1215 the malcontents asked the king to confirm the laws of Edward the Confessor and the other liberties of the kingdom. He evaded the request and secured a truce until Easter was passed. Energetically making use of this period of respite, he again issued the charter to the church, ordered his subjects to take a fresh oath of allegiance to him, and sent to the pope for aid; but neither these precautions, nor his expedient of taking the cross, deterred the barons from returning to the attack. In April they met in arms at Stamford, and as soon as the truce had expired they marched to Brackley, where they met the royal ministers and again presented their demands. These were carried to the king at Oxford, but angrily he refused to consider them. Then the storm burst. On the 5th of May the barons formally renounced their allegiance to John, and appointed Robert F itzwalter as their leader. They marched towards London, while John made another attempt to delay the crisis, or to divide his foes, by granting a charter to the citizens of London (May 9, 1215), and then by offering to submit the quarrel to a court of arbitrators under the presidency of the pope. But neither the one nor the other expedient availed him. Arbitration under such conditions was contemptuously rejected, and after the king had ordered the Sheriffs to seize the lands and goods of the revolting nobles, London opened its gates and peacefully welcomed the baronial army. Other towns showed also that their sympathies were with the insurgents, and John was forced to his knees. Promising to assent to their demands, he agreed to meet the barons, and the gathering was fixed for the 15th of June, and was to take place in a meadow between Staines and Windsor, called Runnimede.
At the famous conference, which lasted from Monday the 15th to Tuesday the 23rd of June, the hostile barons were present in large numbers; on the other hand John, who rode over each day from Windsor, was only attended by a few followers. At once the malcontents presented their demands in a document known popularly as the Articles of the Barons, more strictly as Capitula quae barones petunl el dominus rex concedit. Doubtless this had been drawn up beforehand, and was brought by the baronial leaders to Runnimede; possibly it was identical with the document presented to the royal ministers at Brackley a few weeks before. John accepted the Articles on the same day and at once the great seal was affixed to them. They are forty-eight in number, and on them Magna Carta was based, the work of converting them into a charter, which was regarded as a much more binding form of engagement, being taken in hand immediately. This duty occupied three days, negotiations between the two parties taking place over several disputed points, and it was completed by Friday the 19th, when several copies of the charter were sealed. All then took an oath to keep its terms, and orders were sent to the Sheriffs to publish it, and to see that its provisions were observed, two or three days being taken up with making and sending out copies for this purpose. It should be mentioned that, although the charter was evidently not sealed until the 19th, the four existing copies of it are dated the 15th, the day on which John accepted the articles.-The
days between Friday the 10th and the following Tuesday, when the conference came to an end, were occupied in providing, as far as possible, for the due execution of the reforms promised by the king in Magna Carta. The document itself provided for an elected committee of twenty-five barons, whose duty was to compel John, by force if necessary, to keep his promises; but this was evidently regarded as insufficient, and the matter was dealt with in a supplementary treaty (Com1entio facla inter regem Angliae et barones ejusdum regni). As a guarantee of his good faith the king surrendered the city of London to his foes, while the Tower was entrusted to the neutral keeping of the archbishop of Canterbury. John then asked the barons for a charter that they on their part would keep the peace. This was refused, and although some of the bishops entered a mild protest, the question was allowed to drop. Regarding another matter also, the extent of the royal forests, the prelates made a protest. John and his friends feared lest the inquiry promised into the extent of the hated forest areas would be carried out too rigorously, and that these would be seriously curtailed, if not abolished altogether. Consequently, the two archbishops and their colleagues declared that the articles in the charter which provided for this inquiry, and for a remedy against abuses of the forest laws by the king, must not be interpreted in too harsh a spirit. The customs necessary for the preservation of the forests must remain in force.
No securities, however, could bind John. Even before Magna Carta was signed he had set to work to destroy it, and he now turned to this task with renewed vigour. He appealed to the pope, and hoped to crush his enemies by the aid of foreign troops, while the barons prepared for war, and the prelates strove to keep the peace. Help came first from the spiritual arm. On the 24th of August 1215 Innocent III. published a bull which declared Magna Carta null and void. It had been extorted from the king by force (per vim el melum), and in the words of the bull the pope said “composition em hujusmodi reprobamus penitus et damnamus.” He followed this up by excommunicating the barons who had obtained it, and in the autumn of 121 5 the inevitable war began. Capturing Rochester castle, John met with some other successes, and the disheartened barons invited Louis, son of Philip Augustus of France and afterwards king as Louis VIII., to take the English crown. In spite of the veto of the pope Louis accepted the invitation, landed in England in May 1216, and occupied London and Winchester, the fortune of war having in the meantime turned against John. The “ ablest and most ruthless of the Angevins, ” as I. R. Green calls this king, had not, however, given up the struggle, and he was still in the field when he was taken ill, dying in Newark castle on the 10th of October 1216.
In its original form the text of Magna Carta was not divided into chapters, but in later timesa division of this kind was adopted. This has since been retained by all commentators, the number of chapters being 63.
The preamble states that the king has granted the charter on the advice of various prelates and barons, some of whom, including the archbishop of Canterbury, the papal legate Pandulf, and William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, are mentioned by name.
Chapter l. declares that the English church shall be free and shall enjoy freedom of election. This follows the recedent set in the accession charter of Henry I. and in other earl; charters, although it had no place in the Articles of the Barons. On the present occasion it was evidently regarded as quite a formal and introductory matter, and the same remark applies to the general grant of liberties to all freemen and their heirs, with which the chapter concludes.