Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/410

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A HISTORY OF SURREY besides Godalming in Surrey. He resigned his English castles and Godalming to Henry II., perhaps not quite spontaneously, but died in 1159. His widow was then married by Henry to his own illegitimate half-brother, Hamelin of Anjou, who became Hamelin de Warenne. Their son kept the name of his mother's house as William de Warenne, and was for a long time a steady supporter of his cousin King John in his quarrels with his people, barons, clergy, the Papacy and the French. By his support to John in 1204 he lost his Norman estates when the French overran the duchy. He was compensated by John with lands at Stamford, at Grantham and in Sussex. Meanwhile' Richard de Clare, who had married Amicia, the sister of John's repudiated first wife, Hawisia of Gloucester, became one of the more prominent of those barons who were seeking means to control the king's excesses. The royal and the baronial parties were shaping them- selves for the great struggle which fills the thirteenth century, and de Warenne was by his connexions as decidedly upon the one side as de Clare was upon the other. Tradition as usual plays fast and loose with the facts of history, and the vaults of de Warenne's castle of Reigate have been selected by it as the place where the barons met to consult upon the means of obtaining the great charter. Blechingley Castle would have been a happier suggestion, but the preliminary meetings of the baronial party had been at St. Albans, Bury St. Edmunds and in London, and the actual march of their army was from Stamford to London. They only passed through the extreme northern edge of Surrey when they went up to Runnymede to meet John. There on Surrey soil was consummated one of the greatest series of transactions in our history. So far as the constitution of England has a beginning of days at all its birthday was June 15, 1215, and the place a meadow between Windsor and Staines. The charter itself is sufficient witness that it came into force in Surrey. It was given ' in prato quod vocatur Runingmede,' to quote itself. 1 John had accepted the charter under necessity, with no intention of keeping to it longer than the time that was necessary to him for gather- ing mercenaries and securing papal support. In the course of the autumn the archbishop was sent for to Rome, thus removing the strongest moderating influence from both king and barons. The two parties began war and the barons summoned Louis of France to super- sede John as king. The French invasion began in the same winter, John's fleet being dispersed by a storm. London was in the hands of the French and barons, but John lay near the Kentish coast intending to resist Louis himself when he should arrive. His papal ally had done his best by excommunicating the barons, including Richard de Clare and his son Gilbert, on December 16, 121 5.* John seems to have held the 1 The tradition which assigns the grant to Magna Charta Island in Buckinghamshire is tradi- tion, and is contradicted by the charter itself. The idea that it was never signed at all rests upon the mistake that ' to sign ' means only ' to write a name.' Signum is a mark, especially the sign of the cross or a seal. Signare means to seal in classical as well as in mediaeval Latin.

  • Rymer, Fasdera, i. zil.