The forgotten English revolution of the 13th century

May 2011
515
UK
#1
The signing of the Magna carta in 1215 is an incident often viewed in isolation and not put in it's rightful context as part of a wider 13th century fraught with civil war, revolution, and one that was extremely transformative for England. It's often incorrectly said the Magna Carta was quickly ignored or repealed, however it was reissued in 1216, 1217, 1225 and 1297 and played an important role in essentially establishing England as an independent medieval state. After the mid-late 13th century England has transformed from an inward looking kingdom riven with internal strife to be a united, aggressive, expansionist power which conquers Wales, parts of Ireland and Scotland and later in the next century parts of France.

Many of the same grievances which led to the civil wars of the 17th century, existed also in the 13th century. Anger over ineffective military leadership, excessive royal taxation, lack of participation in government, arbitrary arrest of those criticising the King. Two great figures who emerged in opposition to the King were Robert Fitzwalter who was elected marshal of the rebel "Army of God and the Holy Church" and in the mid 13th century Simon De Montfort, a French noble who had settled in England and led at first a peaceful baronial opposition to royal authority. De Montfort was instrumental in leading the Barons in forcing Henry III to accept the revolutionary Provisions of Oxford in 1258 which provided for the convening of regular parliaments and a ruling council, the beginning of constitutional government.

During the ensuing Second Baron's war De Montfort captured Henry III and for a short time ruled England as a crowned Republic, convening a famous parliament which had representation from outside of the nobility.

De Montfort eventually lost to the young Prince Edward and he was brutally killed however his impact on England was irreversible. To bring peace Henry III was forced to pass the Statue of Marlborough which confirmed all the radical gains in the Provisions of Oxford and has never been repealed. The Statute was crucial for the young Edward I when he came to power because it gave him a loyal ruling class who could participate in the functions of government. In 1295 Edward I convened a parliament which had representatives from counties, boroughs and cities, much like De Montfort's parliament. This parliament became the "model" for all subsequent English parliaments. And in 1297 he issued what most historians consider to be the definitive version of the Magna Carta.

Finally, the 1301 Barons letter to Pope Boniface VIII (although it may never have even been sent) demonstrates that by this time England possessed a confident and united ruling class, one that was actively participating in the governance and interests of the country. The letter which was written to assert Edward's alleged feudal rights in Scotland and repute the Pope's own over-lordship, may also be interpreted as the baron's asserting England as an independent power.
 
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Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,583
#2
What's your opinion on David Starkey's docu about the Charta from a couple of years ago? (I know of Starkey as a man as of certain... specific opinions...)
 
Mar 2019
1,482
Kansas
#3
The signing of the Magna carta in 1215 is an incident often viewed in isolation and not put in it's rightful context as part of a wider 13th century fraught with civil war, revolution, and one that was extremely transformative for England. It's often incorrectly said the Magna Carta was quickly ignored or repealed, however it was reissued in 1216, 1217, 1225 and 1297 and played an important role in essentially establishing England as an independent medieval state.
I think the reason it is viewed in such isolation is because of its resonance through history. For the British at least it stands head and shoulders above any other event of that time. It really was the start of some truly wonderful things
 
Mar 2016
1,210
Australia
#4
It's interesting just how radical Montfort was for the time. Many of his political actions and 'reforms' would seem more familiar in a 17th and 18th century revolutionary context than in the High Medieval Era, where ideas of essentially doing without a king were close to non-existent even in countries with very weak royal power (e.g. France). In some ways Montfort was the prototype for Cromwell (though not from a religious perspective, of course).
 
Jun 2015
5,723
UK
#5
There is a definite imbalance in how ENglish history is taught. The Barons' Wars are important as initial steps in the development of a constitutional monarchy.
That said, the Magna Carta at the time was just a treaty to end the wars, which didn't have the enlightened purpose that we place on it now.
King Edward Longshanks probably was wise enough to implement it in his Model Parliament because he saw both his grandfather and father suffer from disputes with barons and he really bailed his father out of trouble at Evesham.
 

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