The Luttrell FAQs
QUESTION 201: Was the "original" Geoffrey Luttrell, a long-time supporter and minister to King John, a "rebel" Baron (in opposition to the King) at the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215?
ANSWER 201- A
The "National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons" lists Geoffrey de Luttrell as one of the 200 Barons who "were in arms to procure the Great Charter of Liberties from King John A. D. 1213-15".
"The 1994 Society Newsletter included a listing that Charles H. Browning who died in 1926 presented of Barons and others who he indicated were in arms to procure the Great Charter of Liberties from King John A.D. 1213-15. We have not been able to ascertain his source for the listing."
(This is the total of evidence found claiming Sir Geoffrey Luttrell was a "rebel baron" in opposition to King John at Runnymede)
It is true that King John had lost the support of the majority of his followers.
(which could have included our "Sir Geoffrey Luttrell")
"King John, saw that he was deserted by almost all, so that out of his regal superabundance of followers he scarcely retained seven knights. . . .
. . .King John, seeing that be was inferior in strength to the barons, without raising any difficulty, granted the underwritten laws and liberties, and confirmed them by his charter."
. . .it seems that the barons were, unofficially at least, splitting into three groups. One group eventually called itself the Army of God; these were the out and out rebels, led by FitzWalter and de Vesci. A second group was that of the barons who remained loyal to the king; though slightly smaller than the first, this one included most of the most powerful men in England. Its leader was our old friend William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Leinster and Justiciar (governor) of Ireland.
The moderates waiting to see what would happen were the largest group. . . .
“The majority of John’s household knights—and the majority of those rewarded—were Englishmen ‘of the middling sort’. These are men who, both in and out of wartime, accumulated wealth, power and social status and John bestowed the bulk of his patronage on the “lesser of God’s creatures” whom he could control with the promise of rich reward. Men like Geoffrey Luttrell and John Russell held little to no land before entering the ranks of John’s trusted familiars. Their loyalty and lengthy service earned them wealthy brides and numerous land grants ‘catapulting’ both of their families into the baronial elite. As Church explains ‘the knight who owed everything to the largess of his master would provide a dependable custodian much preferable to an independent minded magnate.’”
Review further mentions Church’s writing that as many as one-third of John’s household knights sided with the Barons against John, despite his largesse to them, in 1215.
Geoffrey is documented as a witness to many acts of the king in the latter half of 1215, after Runnymede. Other witnesses in Court are close, loyal supporters of King John at Runnymede – Earl William Marshall, William Earl of Salisbury, Henry Archbishop of Dublin, Richard de Burgh, Geoffrey de Neville, and Geoffrey de Marisco. Would King John have allowed a disloyal counsellor to continue in Court after Runnymede?
However, in 1215, the great castle, Dunamese, in Ireland, was taken by King John from Sir Geoffrey Luttrell and restored to William Marshall (Marshall supported King John at Runnymede). Was this a response by King John to the loyalties, or lack of, of these two men during these events? King John had awarded a large, rich land in Ireland to Geoffrey a few days before returning Dunamese to Marshall.
King John placed his seal on the Great Charter, but immediately sent an appeal to Rome. . .
. . .John was confident that the pope would never support the provisions of Magna Carta because it severely challenged the feudal rights of the king. It gave the Barons the right to challenge the king and withhold allegiance if they disagreed. John had placed England under the protection of the pope so that the Church was actually the feudal power. John was correct. He wrote to Pope Innocent III who set aside Magna Carta saying that it had been extracted by force and it had been agreed to without his permission.
"Despite his promises to the contrary, John appealed to Innocent for help, observing that the charter compromised the pope's rights under the 1203 agreement that had appointed him John's feudal lord. Innocent obliged; he declared the charter "not only shameful and demeaning, but illegal and unjust" and excommunicated the rebel barons." (refers to the 25 "Surety Barons", the "hard-liners")
And, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell was entrusted by King John with this appeal. . .
"In 1215, John (King of England) appointed Sir Geoffrey Luttrell to be his sole agent in negotiations with regard to the dower of Queen Berengaria, commissioning him at the same time to join with the Archbishops of Bordeaux and Dublin in denouncing to the Pope the rebellious barons who had recently extorted the Great Charter of English Liberties. In one of the documents connected with this business, he is styled 'nobilis vir'. ("noble man" or "noble and powerful") His mission was so far successful that Innocent the Third annulled the Charter, suspended the Archbishop of Canterbury, and excommunicated the barons, but it is uncertain whether Sir Geoffrey Luttrell was one of those who conveyed the papal bull from Rome to England. The exact date of his death, which must have taken place in 1216, or at the latest in 1217, is not recorded."
Lyte, Sir H. C. Maxwell, A History of Dunster, pg. 60, 1909.
Would King John have sent a "rebellious baron" on such a mission?
Well, yes, possibly. He was a conniver and schemer. After all, he was here using the Pope, who
had previously ex-communicated him and all of his kingdom, to preserve his power as King.
So, why not send one of the "rebellious barons" to appeal to the Pope on his behalf? And,
if it were true that Sir Geoffrey were a "rebel baron", sent by John to the Pope, is it really a surprise that Sir Geoffrey may not have survived the return trip home?
BUT. . .
As we have seen above, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell owed his prosperity and position to the largesse of King John. We also find that Sir Geoffrey had been in Ireland for many years prior to July 1215 serving King John in multiple capacities.
"As has already been seen, Geoffrey Luttrell also played a major part in the transportation of the expeditionary force that was sent to Ireland in 1210. In September 1210, he returned to Ireland ‘in nuntium domini regis’. With the lacuna in the sources during this period, it is not possible to be certain about whether he remained in Ireland between 1210 and 1212 or returned to England. It is clear, however, that Geoffrey was in Ireland in the summer of 1212, when Wilekin, his messenger, was sent to him with a message from the king. Geoffrey remained in Ireland as the king’s bailiff, and also sheriff of Dublin, at least until the summer of 1215, when he was recalled so that he could be sent to the papal curia on John’s behalf.”
While certainly possible, do you think it likely that Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, who had exhibited many years of strong allegiance to King John, who was in Ireland during the period prior to Runnymede and who was appointed by John to act in his behalf before the Pope, would have been in obvious rebellion to his lege Lord at Runnymede?
Glenn Luttrell, the webmaster
Notes in red are by the webmaster.