This book is written primarily for the membership of the Baronial Order of Magna Charta, but the general interest of the subject should attract many others, lovers of history, particularly students of the Middle Ages in England, or anyone curious about human affairs.
I have made no attempt to analyze Magna Charta, to discuss it as a legal document, or to explain its many provisions. These have been done by eminent jurists and historians. It is my aim to interpret it briefly for the layman, to place it in the perspective of the period, and to answer the question “How did this come about?”
This cannot be answered without some knowledge of the men who framed it and fought for it. First, King John and the Norman Kings before him should be regarded as the cause for Magna Charta, and the barons as the enforcers of it. The character of King John should be studied and the lives of the barons inquired into as far as it is possible. Little is known about most of these men, but I have discovered some facts not hitherto assembled.
A few of the men at Runnemede were not Sureties, but they are also worth knowing.
They were not all great men. Some were young upstarts seeking renown; others were old soldiers hardened in many campaigns; a few were of broad vision and high purpose, yet all were responsible in some way for Magna Charta.
In seeking facts about the Magna Charta Barons, I have been led into many bypaths of English History, meeting here the ruins of many a castle, there the traces of old manor houses, learning of curious customs dating back to those times, and discovering hitherto unknown ancestors. It is a fascinating pursuit, and by no means ended.
Actually this book is merely an introduction into the study of our own history, of our origins, and of the people who gave us the civilization which we prize today.