Lancashire’s presence at the signing of the Magna Carta

People look at the four surviving original parchment engrossments of the 1215 Magna Carta as they are displayed to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215, in the Queen's Robing Room at the Houses of Parliament in London.
People look at the four surviving original parchment engrossments of the 1215 Magna Carta as they are displayed to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215, in the Queen's Robing Room at the Houses of Parliament in London.

As the nation celebrates the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, Tom Welsh looks at Lancashire’s representative at the historic landmark.

Roger de Montbegon was the sole Lancashire representative at the signing of the Magna Carta, which was drawn up 800 years ago this month.

The only surviving 1216 issue of Magna Carta, which is on display at'Durham University's Palace Green Library until August 31 in Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt.

The only surviving 1216 issue of Magna Carta, which is on display at'Durham University's Palace Green Library until August 31 in Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt.

He was the Lord of the Hornby Estate, the manor being passed down through his family since it was granted to them in 1086 by William the Conquerer.

Born in 1165 the son of Adam de Montbegon and his wife Maud FitzSwaine, he became a prestigious landowner in the north of England.

During King Richard I’s reign, Roger de Montbegon had been an active supporter of the man who was to become King John, joining him in his rebellion against the monarch and temporarily losing some of his estates as a result.

A relationship continued into the early years of John’s reign, but Roger soon found himself out of favour with the King.

Undated file photo of the four original surviving copies of the Magna Carta are brought together for the first time, as they are prepared for display at the British Library in central London, as part of its 800th anniversary.  PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday March 11, 2015. Two original copies of the 1215 document will go on show at the British Library exhibition, called Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, from this Friday along with Thomas Jefferson's handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and a copy of the Bill of Rights. Photo credit: Clare Kendall/British Library/PA Wire

Undated file photo of the four original surviving copies of the Magna Carta are brought together for the first time, as they are prepared for display at the British Library in central London, as part of its 800th anniversary. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday March 11, 2015. Two original copies of the 1215 document will go on show at the British Library exhibition, called Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, from this Friday along with Thomas Jefferson's handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and a copy of the Bill of Rights. Photo credit: Clare Kendall/British Library/PA Wire

Described as one of the more mercurial barons, he soon found himself being periodically stripped of land that was previously granted to him by the King.

King John’s cavalier reign was having a detrimental effect on Roger’s standing, and he began to associate with other dissatisfied northern landowners as unrest was brewing against the monarchy.

In 1214 Roger de Montbegon was one of the few who resisted payment of tax for military services in the unsuccessful Battle of Bouvines in France, a key event in the lead up to the creation of the Magna Carta.

A year later a group of barons renounced their oaths of allegiance to the King, with Roger being involved in the capturing of the tower and city of London from the monarchy.

This act forced King John’s hand and a meeting was hastily arranged at Runnymede near Windsor, where they would produce the ‘Great Charter of Liberty.’

Roger was one of the 25 barons entrusted with ensuring the King’s compliance with the Magna Carta’s terms, in accordance to ‘security’ clause 61, allowing for seizure of the King’s assets if he or his officials committed an infringement.

However, upon John reneging on the agreement shortly after, a civil war broke out in which Roger was active.

With baronial defeat in 1217 Roger was forced to make his peace with the new regime, and spent the next three years attempting to recover his Nottinghamshire manors.

His opposition in this venture was the man upon which the sheriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood ballads was supposedly based.

In 1220 Roger was accused of holding assets that he had seized ‘contrary to the King’s peace and the statutes of the realm,’ but he managed to escape any punishment.

These legal travails dominated much of Roger’s later life but he refused to cooperate with the courts, using his status as ‘a great man and baron of the king’ as a means to avoid detention, going against the ideals outlined in the Magna Carta.

He died through unknown causes in 1226, after which Hornby Castle was reportedly held by the Neville family, with no reports of there being a related heir to Roger de Montbegon.