Across medieval Europe, kings and lords issued charters promising their subjects protection, justice and respect for established custom. One such charter was issued at Pamiers, near Toulouse, in December 1212 by Simon de Montfort (1170–1218), leader of the Albigensian Crusade fought against the ‘heretics’ of southern France. Simon himself was a religious fanatic, lord of Montfort to the east of Paris and heir to the English earldom of Leicester. In the second line of his charter he styles himself not only as Earl of Leicester (comes Leyc’) but also as Vicomte of Beziers and Carcassonne, and lord of Albi and the Razès, all of these being recent conquests in the south of France. His charter, sealed and guaranteed by half a dozen French bishops, includes more than 50 clauses, prohibiting the sale of justice, dealing with the rights of heirs and widows, and promising not to demand military service from his tenants save by grace and in return for pay. Ten of its 11 opening clauses guarantee freedoms to the Church. Attached to it is a letter commanding publication, sealed by Simon himself.
Many of the Statute of Pamiers’s clauses deal with problems also addressed by the English Magna Carta. Indeed, Simon’s statute is the only constitutional document from France in the century before 1215 that approaches Magna Carta in scale. It was almost certainly known in England. Several English knights fought in Simon’s army, including Walter Langton, brother of Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In 1212 rumours circulated that the English barons intended to depose King John and to make Simon de Montfort king instead. Simon’s son, another Simon (1208–65), was in due course to become leader of an English baronial rebellion. In 1265, 50 years after Magna Carta, this younger Simon played a crucial role in the emergence of the English Parliament.
- Article by:
- Nicholas Vincent
- Medieval origins
Professor Nicholas Vincent explores the medieval context in which the historic agreement at Runnymede was created, examining King John’s Plantagenet heritage, his loss of French territory and his relationship with the Church and the barons.