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Magna Carta

by janet on 10 May 2014 · 1 comment

June 2015 was the 800th Anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede. Walkern is one of only 22 centres in England, and the only one in Hertfordshire, that has a direct connection to the Barons elected to ensure that King John adhered to the Rule of Law as set down in Magna Carta. Walkern’s Baron was William de Lanvalei, whose fine effigy lies in St Mary’s Church. The 800th Anniversary provided the village with a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore life in medieval times.

The Twenty-five Magna Carta Barons

Eight centuries ago, in 1215, faced with a baronial army supported by the citizens of London, King John agreed to the terms of a charter that for the first time limited the absolute power of the crown. Fearful that he would renege on his agreement, a clause was included to allow the rebel army to ‘choose any twenty five barons of the kingdom, whoever they wish, who should with all their strength observe, hold and caused to be observed the peace and liberties which we have granted them, and by this our present charter confirmed’. These ‘twenty five barons and the commune of the whole land will distrain and afflict us by possible means, taking castles, lands and possessions’ until the king made amends.

In this remarkable clause, Magna Carta obliged King John to sanction and institute armed action against none other than himself. The peace was soon broken, but over the next eight hundred years the charter became a symbol for all those fighting for their rights and liberties in the face of injustice and oppression.

Right: The Lanvalei effigy in
St Mary’s Church, Walkern

In the 12th and 13th centuries Walkern was the administrative centre (caput honoris) of the reigning lord?s barony. In 1215 that lord was William (III) de Lanvalei, one of the 24 barons who, along with the Mayor of London, were elected at Runnymede in 1215 to ensure that King John adhered to the Law of the Land set out in Magna Carta.

Walkern History Society was a founding member of the Magna Carta Barons Association, formed from representatives of the caputs of all of the Magna Carta barons with the backing of the national Magna Carta 800th committee. Walkern is the only such caput in Hertfordshire.

In 2013 the WHS was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £29,700 to help raise awareness of the village’s link with Magna Carta, and over subsequent years WHS hosted many Magna Carta events in the village, published the book Medieval Walkern and Magna Carta by Peter Sinclair, and took part in national events, to mark the 800th anniversary of the 1215 sealing of that momentous document.

Read more about William de Lanvalei & Walkern’s link to Magna Carta, plus the events held in the village and beyond:


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