The Legend of the Magna Carta
No free man shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished,
or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed or prosecute against him except by the
lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.
King John’s promise to the barons at Runnymede in Magna Carta,
Chapter 39, June 15, 1215
Baron Robert Fitz-Walter, Lord of Dunmow and standard-bearer of the city of London, buried the lifeless body of his beautiful daughter Maud in the south side of the choir in his priory at Dunmow. Maud had been killed by a deadly poison, and her father was certain that the murderer had been sent by King John. Fitz-Walter believed he had saved his daughter when he thwarted the lecherous king’s efforts to seduce her to become one of his concubines in the palace, as he had done with wives and daughters of other barons. Now, he realized, he had condemned Maud. The vengeful king had spitefully retaliated. Maud’s abuse by King John and her tragic death inspired romantic stories. Poor Maud became Maid Marian in the tale of Robin Hood.1
Baron Fitz-Walter had been loyal to the king and had refused to join the swelling numbers of mighty barons who were planning rebellion against their sovereign. Now, overwhelmed with grief and enraged at King John, he realized John was a dangerous tyrant who had to be controlled. He became the unrelenting foe of the king and the leader of the barons’ rebellion. The barons named him marshal of the Army of God and the Holy Church.