Girard d’Athee and the Men from the Touraine Their Roles under King John
Doctoral thesis, Durham University (2011)
Clause 50 of Magna Carta 1215 proscribes a group of men who are never again to hold office in England. They are described as Girard d’Athée’s relatives (parentes), and although some of their names appear, no reasons are given for their inclusion in the clause. This thesis traces the lives of Girard d’Athée and his group, from their origins in the Touraine, through their arrival in England, through their responsibilities and influence under John, concluding with a brief resumé of their careers under Henry III. It also analyses the reasons for the inclusion of Clause 50 in the 1215 version of Magna Carta. Were the men proscribed because of their foreign birth or because they abused their positions as servants of the king? Did the barons fear their military might, or merely object to their misdemeanours? Did the established baronage and zealous parvenus covet the rewards bestowed on Athée and his clan or were they simply jealous of the increasingly close friendship these men were forging with John? Or was the clause nothing more than the result of a personal vendetta against members of the clan? By comparing and contrasting the careers of the men from the Touraine with that of another contemporary of theirs from the same area, Peter de Maulay, who was not proscribed in Clause 50, a clear appreciation of their value to the king and country can be determined. A balanced judgement suggests that their actions justified the king’s confidence in them, and that they did not deserve the censure and suspicion of the chroniclers, some influential members of the baronage, and several modern historians.