Magna Carta Barons – The Bigods

The Bigods, Earls of Norfolk and Suffolk by Martyn Taylor

The Bigods were notoriously untrustworthy, an example being Rogers Bigod’s father, Hugh the 1st Earl, who had supported rebellious barons against King Johns father Henry II. With the Earl of Leicester and thousands of Flemish mercenaries Hugh had rampaged through parts of Suffolk in 1173 making their last stand at Fornham near Bury St Edmunds.  They fought a Royal army led by Richard De lucy and Humphrey De Bohun aided and abetted by the townsfolk of Bury St Edmunds. At the head was a banner of St Edmund given by the Abbey. Roger Bigod made sure one of them was on the winning side fighting alongside De Lucy whilst Hugh fought with the rebels. Utterly defeated, Hugh skulked back to his stronghold of Framlingham Castle awaiting a royal siege. It was not necessary as he grovelingly bowed to Henrys will, dying within a few years.

However Roger did not inherit straight away due to a challenge by his stepmother eventually receiving the family lands and castles in 1189.  Henry’s son Richard the Lionheart, that much absent king of England in the Crusades created him ambassador to France.  Roger negotiated the terms of Richards release after his kidnap by the Austrians on the return from the Holy Land, receiving many honours in gratitude. After Richard’s death in 1199, his brother John, a most inept king, had Roger travel with him on royal business possibly to keep an eye on him. However, it proved fruitless because in 1214 Roger was up to his family’s old tricks again, treachery!  A mover and shaker in assembling the barons at Bury St Edmunds to swear oaths at Edmund’s shrine in October of that year, Roger like most of the others were probably only concerned for themselves. These were the days of the Feudal system where allegiance went from the humble serf right the way up to the king!

Magna Carta was sealed at Runnymede a year later, the barons threatening to make war on John if he did not give in. John died in 1216 the same year in which he is supposed to have lost the crown jewels in The Wash! Before he died, he told the Pope he was put under pressure to agree to the Magna Carta. Roger didn’t get off lightly the Pope excommunicated him, punishment not lifted until the regents of John’s son, Henry III granted it in 1217. Roger died at Thetford in 1227, his son, another Hugh having pre-deceased him by some 2 years. Hugh had inherited Framlingham Castle in 1221. Both were sureties to the Magna Carta.

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