Magna Carta Surety Barons


On June 17, 1215, twenty-five barons signed a vow to enforce Magna Carta. They were severely punished by the church and the king for taking their stand.

From the outset, the barons were aware of the danger that, once King John had left Runnymede, he would renege on the Charter on the grounds that it constituted an illegitimate infringement of his authority. The barons came up with a novel solution to the problem in the famous clause 61, the security clause. In this, King John conceded that ‘the barons shall choose any twenty-five barons of the realm as they wish, who with all their might are to observe, maintain and cause to be observed the peace and liberties which we have granted’. Any infringement of the charter’s terms by the king or his officials was to be notified to any four of the committee; and, if within forty days no remedy or redress had been offered, then the king was to empower the full committee to ‘distrain and distress us in every way they can, namely by seizing castles, lands and possessions’ until he made amends. In this remarkable clause, then, the charter introduced the novelty of obliging the king to sanction and institute armed action against none other than himself. The means by which they sought to achieve this was use of the common law doctrine of distraint, the means by which debts were collected from debtors and malefactors obliged to answer for their actions in court.'

The following is from Wikipedia:

"Magna Carta (Latin: "the Great Charter"), also called Magna Carta Libertatum (Latin: "the Great Charter of the Liberties" [of England]), was a charter issued by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215. First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons. Neither side stood behind their commitments and it was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons' War. After John's death, the regency government of John's young son, Henry III, reissued the document in 1216, stripped of some of the more radical content, in an unsuccessful bid to build political support for their cause. At the end of the war in 1217, it formed part of the peace treaty agreed at Lambeth, where it acquired its name Magna Carta, referring to its considerable size. Short of funds, Henry reissued the charter again in 1225 in exchange for a grant of new taxes, and his son, Edward I repeated the exercise in 1297, this time confirming it as part of England's statute law.

The charter became part of English political life and was typically renewed by each monarch in turn, although as time went by and the fledgling English Parliament passed new laws, it lost some of its practical significance. At the end of the 16th century, however, there was an upsurge in interest in Magna Carta. Lawyers and historians at the time believed that there was an ancient English constitution, going back to the days of the Anglo-Saxons, that protected individual English freedoms. They argued that the Norman invasion of 1066 had overthrown these rights, and that Magna Carta had been a popular attempt to restore them, making the charter an essential foundation for the contemporary powers of Parliament and legal principles such as habeas corpus. Although this historical account was badly flawed, jurists such as Sir Edward Coke used Magna Carta extensively in the early 17th century, arguing against the divine right of kings propounded by the Stuart monarchs. Both James I and his son Charles I attempted to suppress the discussion of Magna Carta, until the issue was curtailed by the English Civil War of the 1640s and the execution of Charles.

The political myth of Magna Carta and its protection of ancient personal liberties persisted after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 until well into the 19th century. It influenced the early American colonists in the Thirteen Colonies and the formation of the American Constitution in 1789, which became the supreme law of the land in the new republic of the United States. Research by Victorian historians showed that the original 1215 charter had concerned the medieval relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of ordinary people, but the charter remained a powerful, iconic document, even after almost all of its content was repealed from the statute books in the 19th and 20th centuries. Magna Carta still forms an important symbol of liberty today, often cited by politicians and campaigners, and is held in great respect by the British and American legal communities, Lord Denning describing it as "the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot".

In the 21st century, four exemplifications of the original 1215 charter remain in existence, held by the British Library and the cathedrals of Lincoln and Salisbury. There are also a handful of the subsequent charters in public and private ownership, including copies of the 1297 charter in both the United States and Australia. The original charters were written on vellum sheets using quill pens, in a particular style of abbreviated Latin. Each was sealed with the royal great seal using beeswax and resin, most of which have not survived. Although academics refer to the 63 numbered "clauses" of Magna Carta, these are a modern system of numbering, introduced by Sir William Blackstone in 1759, as the original charters formed a single, long unbroken text. The four original 1215 charters will be on joint display at the British Library in 2015 to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta."

Since the clause anticipated the election of the twenty-five at some time in the future, their names are not actually listed in the charter. Consequently, the committee’s composition is known principally from the list given later in his chronicle by Matthew Paris, the celebrated chronicler of St. Albans Abbey. The twenty five were:

Notes: Known ancestors are highlighted, with relationship in parentheses. Ancestors marked "related" ARE indeed related, but the relationship is convoluted to the point it is hard to follow the relationship. Unless otherwise marked, all are ancestors of Michael. (includes latest updates (*) from Wikitree,, 25 July 2017)

Illustrious Men named in Preamble of Magna Carta


It is noteworthy that these men were all layfolk, and for the most part members of the hard-line baronial opposition to the king. No bishop or other Churchman appears.

There are four copies of Magna Carta from 1215. Originally there had been at least thirteen. It didn't seem very important at the time, and the few that survived did so by neglect rather than design. It came to be called Magna Carta to distinguish it from a another charter dealing with the Royal Forests, not because it was considered important. If anything, Magna Carta was seen as an evolving document, reissued when necessary to calm rebellion or answer specific demands. In was reissued three times while Henry III was a child and then again in 1237 when he was an adult.


Magna Carta Surety Barons - Profiles listed in Wikitree Magna Carta Project

Illustrious Men named in Preamble of Magna Carta