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WURTS MAGNA CHARTA provided a brief accounting of the feudal headquarters of some of the Magna Charta Barons. Some of the castles have been badly damaged. Some have disappeared entirely. Often we can learn of them through Medieval and Renaissance accounts, and some of them require the discerning eye of the archeologist. Others await the evidence brought out with a shovel and pick, by the trained archeological historian.
A portion of the information concerning Surety Baron WILLIAM de FORTIBUS is as follows:
WILLIAM de FORTIBUS, the youngest of the Magna Charta Sureties, came of age in 1214/5, when King John confirmed to him all the lands which accrued to him by inheritance from his mother, and he succeeded in her right as Earl of Albemarle.
Although originally on the side of the Barons, this Surety deserted them and joined King John in that expedition into the North of England so marked by destruction. For his services the King granted him all the lands belonging to his sister Alice, the wife of William Marshall, Jr., the Surety, and constituted him in 1218, governor of the Castles of Rockingham in Northamptonshire, Sauvey in Leistershire and Botham in Lincolnshire, with strict command to destroy all the houses, parks and possessions of those Barons who were in arms against the King. In the reign of King Henry III this nobleman fought under the Royal banner at the Battle of Lincoln, and shared largely in the spoils of the victory. He was alternately for and against the Charter. Since he was opposed to the King, his submission was accomplished only by excommunication. In 1230 he was one of the commanders of the Royal troops in Normandy. He set out on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and died on the Mediterranean Sea 29 March 1241.
Of William de Fortibus the monk, Matthew Paris, wrote: "As the weather was at this time (1241) favorable, William de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle, a bold knight (and other knights named) took leave of their friends and, commending themselves to the prayers of religious men, set out in great pomp towards Jerusalem and, embarking at the Mediterranean Sea in the Autumn, sailed forth on their voyage across the sea: 1241. Among the English nobles who died this year was one William de Forbes (Sic.) Earl of Albemarle who, when on his pilgrimage, was taken ill on the Mediterranean Sea, and being unable to eat, endured protracted sufferings for eight days and on Friday next before Easter, on which Christ on the Cross resigned his spirit to his Father, he in like manner resigned his spirit to Christ."
William has been described by Bishop Stubbs as "a feudal adventurer of the worst type." He changed sides as often as suited his policy. Following his election as a Surety he wanted, most of all, to revive the independent power of the feudal Barons, and carried out his plans with Falkes de Breaute and other foreign adventurers whom John had established in the country. He was twice excommunicated, once in John's reign, once in Henry III's. He was never really in the Royal favor until after the death of Falkes de Breaute.
Appreciation is expressed to Reed M. W. Wurts, one of the Heralds of the Society for furnishing the Barons Shield on this page.