The Trail

Follow the Lincoln Knights’ Trail in 2017 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln and the sealing of the Charter of the Forest. 

THE BATTLE OF LINCOLN

“The Battle of Lincoln, one of the most decisive in English history, meant that England would be ruled by the Angevin, not the Capetian dynasty.”
— Professor David Carpenter

After agreeing the Magna Carta in 1215, King John went back on his promise which led the country to fall into a civil war.  This divided the barons between supporting the crown and rebel barons who invited Prince Louis, the son of the French King, to take the English throne.

In October 1216, King John died and his son, Henry III, was only a child so William Marshal, a famous medieval knight and the King’s champion, acted as regent. By May 1217, much of the country had been taken by the combined French and rebel English forces, but Lincoln Castle held out for the royalist cause under the command of a formidable lady constable, Nicola de la Haye.

On the morning of 20 May 1217, the Royalist army set out from Stowe or Torksey (the sources disagree) to help Nicola and raise the siege. The Royalists broke into the city and in the fighting that followed between the castle’s East Gate and Lincoln Cathedral, the siege of the Castle was lifted and the French commander was killed. The rebels then either surrendered or fled down the hill and towards London. The Royalists claimed victory and then sacked the city. One chronicler ironically nicknamed the battle the 'Nine-day' of Lincoln (a Nine-day was either a fair or a tournament) as a battle in the city in 1141 had already been given the title of The Battle of Lincoln.

This battle was of national significance. If the Royalists had lost, England would have become part of France and our King Louis VIII, instead the Plantagenet dynasty ruled for another 250 years.

You can visit key locations in the Battle of Lincoln by using Visit Lincoln's digital trail.

THE CHARTER OF THE FOREST

The 1217 battle and the subsequent defeat of a French naval force at the Battle of Sandwich in August meant Louis' attempt to become King of England was over. On the 6th of November 1217 Marshal, in the name of the young Henry, reissued Magna Carta in an attempt to reunite the country and with it a companion document called the Charter of the Forest. In contrast to Magna Carta, which mainly dealt with the rights of barons, it confirmed rights of access to royal forests for all men and was not superseded until 1971.

You can see both the 1215 Magna Carta and the 1217 Charter of the Forest today in Lincoln Castle. Lincoln is the only place in the world where original copies of both iconic documents are on permanent exhibition.

Credit: Dr Erik Grigg