Blogging the Magna Carta #20

by Phyllis Irene Radford

During the five or more years leading up to the Magna Carta, England was entrenched in a civil war; the barons against their king.  During war in medieval times the taking of hostages was an honorable tactic, especially if a man was captured, took oaths of peace and fealty to his captor, and then requested release to defend his own lands and make them prosper.  In order to force him into compliance, he was expected to offer up hostages for his good behavior, usually a second son or a daughter nearing marriageable age.

This was not always a bad idea.  The children lived comfortably with the captor, often a powerful baron or even the king.  They were exposed to a broader perspective of the world, and were in a position to form alliances and marriages.

However, if their father broke his peace, their lives were forfeit.  But no one executes children for the sins of their father.  Do they?

John did.  Notably the sons of Prince Llewellan of Wales.  Which led to a long string of complications the Magna Carta had to address specifically.  But for now we are dealing with the hostages as a result of the civil war that led to the peace treaty that became known as the Great Charter.

49. We will immediately restore all hostages and charters delivered to us by Englishmen, as sureties of the peace or of faithful service.

Note this refers to hostage offered by Englishmen.  Not Welsh, Cornish, Scottish, or Irish; which were all separate countries at the time.

50. We will entirely remove from their bailiwicks, the relations of Gerard Athee (so that in future they shall have no bailiwick in England); namely, Engelard of Cigogne, Peter, Guy, and Andrew of Chanceaux (or Chancell in a different translation), Guy of Cigogne, Geoffrrey of Martigny with his brothers, Philip Mark with his brothers and his nephew Geoffrey, and the whole brood of the same.

Making specific persons criminals or outlaws, because they are who they are and not because they committed a specific crime, (if they were charged with a crime they had to face trail and might be proven innocent and thus still a thorn in the side of honest tax payers) is known as a Bill of Attainder.  The U.S. Constitution forbids this.

Organized crime bosses are very grateful for this.

The men mentioned in the above clause were foreign mercenaries, hired by John for wars foreign and domestic, and then rewarded with lands and sometimes titles.  They were not always nice men.  Marauders is a polite description.  The lands they took possession of were often taken from English barons who were at war with their king.  Of course all of the barons wanted these foreigners out of power and out of the country!

As a side note in later research, Sir Philip Mark’s name comes up as a possible prototype for the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood tales. In my new historical fantasy series “Walk the Wild With Me,” by Rachel Atwood, I grabbed onto that possibility and named him as my own evil sheriff.

51. As soon as peace is restored, we will banish from the kingdom all foreign-born knights, cross-bowmen, serjeants, and mercenary soldiers, who have come with horses and arms to the kingdom’s hurt.

In other words, if the king has to resort to the hiring of mercenaries to supplement English troops, he has to ship those same mercenaries home at the end of their service, not turn them loose penniless to rampage through England.


For the entire Magna Carta document, you may go here:

For a more scholarly analysis of the Charter and its relevance to modern life:


Phyllis Irene Radford is a founding member of the Book View Café.  She first became interested in the Magna Carta while researching her master work series “Merlin’s Descendants.”  Book View Café is proud to reissue these five volumes in a variety of DRM free e-book formats.  The first book in the series, “Guardian of the Balance” can be found here:

You can read more about the author on her her bookshelf:


About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


Blogging the Magna Carta #20 — 2 Comments

  1. I’d heard the term Bill of Attainder, but never knew what it was. Learned something new today!
    I mean, separate from the information on the the contents of the Magna Charta, which is all new to me anyway, but which I expected. ?