John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey

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Seal of Johns de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, from 1301
He bore the same coat of arms as the Counts of Vermandois , with whom he was related through his great-grandmother.

John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey (also known as Earl Warenne or Earl of Sussex ) (* 1231 , † around September 29, 1304 in Kennington , Kent) was an English magnate . As a powerful nobleman, he played an important role during the Second War of the Barons and during the conquest of Wales by King Edward I. During the Scottish Wars of Independence, Edward I entrusted Warenne with the defense of English supremacy in Scotland, which ultimately failed.


John de Warenne came from the Anglo-Norman family Warenne . He was the only son of William de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey, and his wife Maud Marshal. His mother was the widow of Hugh Bigod, 3rd Earl of Norfolk and one of the five daughters of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke . Through his mother he had family ties to numerous noble families in France and England. John's older sister, Isabel de Warenne, was the founder of Marham Abbey .

Heir to the Warenne family's estates and marriage

His father died in 1240, so that the nine-year-old John was sent to the court of King Henry III as a royal ward . came. From his father he had inherited extensive estates that were scattered all over England. The main focus of the possessions was the Barony of Lewes in Sussex , including Stamford and Grantham in Lincolnshire , Castle Acre in Norfolk , Conisbrough , Sandal and Wakefield in Yorkshire and Reigate in Surrey . The king handed these lands over to Peter of Savoy , an uncle of the queen, for administration . Through his mother, he became a partial heir to the extensive estates of the Marshal family in 1245. In 1246 the king promised his ward to marry him to one of the daughters of Count Amadeus IV of Savoy , but this did not happen. Instead, in August 1247, King Warenne married his half-sister Alice de Lusignan , a daughter of the French Count Hugo X of Lusignan and of Henry's mother Isabella of Angoulême . After the marriage, King Warenne gave part of his inheritance to Warenne in 1248.

Courtier in the service of Heinrich III.

Warenne stayed at the royal court and at the beginning of the 1250s joined the group of courtiers who had formed around the king's half-brothers, the so-called Lusignans, and the young heir to the throne, Lord Eduard . From 1252 to 1253 he supported his brother-in-law Aymer de Lusignan in his violent conflict with Archbishop Boniface of Savoy . In 1252 Warenne came of age, with which he received the title and income of Earl of Surrey . Together with Lord Eduard, he was knighted in 1254 and followed the king to Gascony in southwestern France , where he had to put down a rebellion. There he vouched in Bordeaux for the king's debts which he had made there. In 1255 he traveled to France again with his brother-in-law William de Valence and Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Gloucester . In the same year he was also one of the barons who won the young Scottish King Alexander III. and his wife Margaret escorted from Edinburgh to Wark-on-Tweed Castle , where they met the English king. He was also present when a new Regency Council was installed for the minor Alexander. In 1257 Warenne accompanied Richard of Cornwall , the brother of Henry III., To Aachen , where he was crowned Roman-German King.

Role during the war of the barons

Initial supporter of the king

When a nobility opposition demanded a reform of the unsuccessful rule of the king in 1258, Warenne, like many barons, wavered politically between the opponents and the supporters of the king. One of the main goals of the aristocratic opposition was to eliminate the influence of the Lusignans on the king. Although his own wife was from France, in 1255 Warenne had belonged to a group of barons who protested the large numbers of foreigners who came to England under Henry's rule. Because of his origins and his family ties to the Lusignans and thus to the king, Warenne was mostly on the side of the king in the next few years. When the reform program of the aristocratic opposition, the Provisions of Oxford , was discussed during Parliament in Oxford in July 1258 , Warenne, along with William de Valence and Aymer de Lusignan, was one of the twelve representatives named by the King to support the new 15-member To elect State Council. Although Warenne had sworn to observe the Provisions of Oxford, he refused to consent to the return of the castles and lands that the Lusignans had received from the king. Together with Lord Eduard and the Lusignans, he finally fled to Winchester , where they holed up in Wolvesey Castle , a castle owned by Aymer de Lusignan. There they were forced to give up by the superior supporters of the aristocratic opposition. Warenne was convinced that the Lusignans had to leave the country and accompanied his brothers-in-law to Dover , from where they went into exile.

Change of sides before the war of the barons

Warenne now supported Lord Eduard when he politically separated from his father at the end of 1258 and allied with the Earl of Gloucester in March 1259. Warenne, however, also testified to the letter in which Eduard offered his support in October 1259 to Gloucester's opponent Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester . In the spring of 1260, however, he no longer stood resolutely behind the heir to the throne. At the end of March 1260 the King granted Warenne an annual pension, and when Lord Edward was ready in April 1260 to openly take action against his father, Warenne was one of the barons whom the King ordered armed to support him in London. After Eduard and his father were reconciled again, Warenne belonged to the entourage of the heir to the throne, with whom he traveled to France to take part in several tournaments. Warenne had probably returned to England before February 17, 1261, when the king, along with 26 other barons, ordered him to return to London armed to support him. When the king had apparently regained his power and defeated the aristocratic opposition, Warenne changed sides again. Together with his half-brothers Roger Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk and Hugh Bigod , he demanded compliance with the Provisions of Oxford and turned to the French King Louis IX. to mediate in the conflict. After this opposition to the king also failed, the king officially pardoned Warenne and other barons in December 1261. Warenne then left England again and did not return to England until March 10, 1263 together with Henry of Almain and Simon de Montfort the Younger . When Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester returned to England in April, he called Warenne, Henry of Almain and Gilbert de Clare , the son of the late Earl of Gloucester, as his advisors. They met in Oxford, where they again demanded compliance with the commission. Warenne then joined the armed rebels in Worcester in May 1263 , who were ready to fight the king and had already attacked the properties of the king's supporters in the Midlands and the Welsh Marches . When the king gave in in the summer of 1263 and left the government to the aristocratic opposition under Montfort again, Warenne became a member of the new government in August 1263 and was appointed administrator of Pevensey Castle . Together with Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, Henry of Almain and others, he was a member of the legation that led peace negotiations with the Welsh Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd . Shortly thereafter, however, he switched sides again and rejoined Lord Eduard along with Henry of Almain, Roger and Hugh Bigod and others. The king rewarded him by granting him the inheritance of his possessions on September 18th. On September 23, Warenne, along with Henry of Almain, Lord Eduard and Queen Eleonore, accompanied the king when he sailed to France to meet King Louis IX. hold true. Back in England on December 3rd, Warenne was part of the royal army attempting to occupy Dover Castle . He then continued to belong to the royal entourage and was appointed military commander of Surrey and Sussex on December 24th .

Contribution to the victory of the king's party

When it came to the open war of the barons between the king and the aristocratic opposition under Montfort in the spring of 1264 , Warenne was together with Roger of Leybourne in command of Rochester Castle , which was besieged from 19 to 26 April by the rebels under Montfort. After the king had horrified the castle, Warenne rejoined the royal army. In the Battle of Lewes on May 14, Warenne was part of the right wing of the army under the command of Lord Eduard. When it became clear that the royal army was defeated, Warenne fled to Pevensey Castle and then abroad with his brothers-in-law William de Valence, Gottfried de Lusignan and Hugh Bigod. He was heavily criticized by several chroniclers for this escape, as the heir to the throne was supposedly captured by the rebels due to their flight from the battlefield. The victorious rebels under Montfort confiscated Warenne's possessions. Reigate and Lewes Castle remained under the control of the Barons' government, his Sussex possessions fell to Simon de Montfort the Younger , while the other possessions were given to Gilbert de Clare on June 20, 1264. In France, Warenne asked the French king for help and advised Queen Eleanor, who had remained in France, when she wanted to recruit a mercenary army for an invasion of England. However, this project was not carried out until the spring of 1265. Together with William de Valence and 120 mercenaries, Warenne landed at Pembroke in South West Wales in early May 1265 . They were soon joined by Gilbert de Clare, who had changed to the king's side. They sent the prior of Monmouth Priory to Hereford , where the king was staying with Montfort, and demanded the return of their possessions, which had been illegally confiscated. They were then offered safe conduct, but were asked to answer in court. On May 28th, however, Lord Edward escaped from the custody of the rebels. He quickly joined Warenne and his allies, and together they captured a number of towns in the Welsh Marches . Thereupon Montfort moved with his troops to the west of England to put down the rebellion. Warenne belonged to the army that was able to surprise and defeat part of these troops under Simon Montfort the Younger at Kenilworth Castle on the night of August 1st and 2nd , and he probably also fought on August 4th at the Battle of Evesham , in which the troops of Montfort were decisively defeated.

Supporter of the king after the war of the barons

After the victory of the king's supporters, Warenne was tasked with subjugating Kent and the Cinque Ports . He then appeared with 200 archers from the Weald in London to intimidate the residents. Together with Henry of Almain he went against remaining rebels from northern England under the Earl of Derby , then attacked together with William de Valence Bury St Edmunds to bring East Anglia back under royal control. In 1267 the king commissioned him, together with William de Valence Gilbert de Clare, 3rd Earl of Gloucester to urge participation in Parliament. In 1268 he received an official pardon from the king for temporarily supporting the rebels during the civil war. Nor was he particularly lavishly rewarded for his contribution to the king's victory. He was awarded a lucrative guardianship administration, in addition he received the houses that the rebel Hugh de Neville had owned in London, small estates and 200 marks in cash. However, some other knights were pardoned at his request. In June 1268 Warenne made a crusade vows during Parliament in Northampton, along with Lord Eduard, William de Valence and other magnates. Nevertheless, he did not take part in Lord Edward's crusade , but stayed in England. When Heinrich III. died in November 1272, Warenne and other magnates swore allegiance to Eduard, who was still absent, at the funeral of the late king. Until the return of the new king he took over the administration of the empire.

Military and diplomat in the service of Edward I.

Military in the wars in Wales

Warenne was an important commander in King Edward I's wars against Scotland and Wales. He was a member of the court that in 1276 sentenced the Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd as an apostate vassal and served both in the campaign from 1276 to 1277 and in the campaign from 1282 to 1283 in Wales. The king rewarded him with the two newly formed reigns of Bromfield and Yale in North East Wales. During the rebellion of Rhys ap Maredudd in 1287 Warenne again led a contingent of troops to Wales, and in 1294 he was called up again to put down the rebellion of the Welsh Madog ap Llywelyn . In 1294 he tried tenaciously, but ultimately unsuccessfully, while he vacated the diocese of St Asaph to get the management of its Welsh possessions.

Diplomat in Scotland and Norway

Warenne was also active in Scotland during the wars in Wales. In 1278 he accompanied the Scottish King Alexander III. to London. There Warenne took part in the parliament in which Alexander swore allegiance to King Edward for his English possessions. In 1285 Warenne accompanied Edward I on his trip to Scotland. King Alexander died in 1286 with no surviving descendants. Warenne was a member of the English embassy from 1289 to 1290, which negotiated the marriage of the Scottish heiress Margaret , Alexander's granddaughter, with the English heir to the throne Edward . In autumn 1289 he was a member of the delegation that negotiated the Treaty of Salisbury in 1289 and the Treaty of Birgham in July 1290 . These contracts should regulate the terms of the marriage and future relations between England and Scotland. He then belonged to the English embassy that traveled to Norway to meet King Erik II , Margaret's father. With the sudden death of Princess Margaret in September 1290, these negotiations became irrelevant. There were now thirteen possible heir to the throne in Scotland, including Warenne's son-in-law, John Balliol . The English king should determine the new king in an arbitration award. Warenne now strongly supported Balliol's candidacy for the throne, who finally became the new Scottish king in 1292. Edward I tried now to enforce English supremacy over Scotland. Balliol and the Scots rebelled against this in 1295.

Commander during the Scottish War of Independence

Appointed at the start of the Scottish War of Independence in 1295, the King named Warenne Commander of Coastal Defense, one of the Commanders of Northern England and of Bamburgh Castle . On April 27, 1296 Warenne defeated the Scots under Balliol in the battle of Dunbar , then he was able to conquer Dunbar Castle . The victory was ineffective, but Warenne portrayed it as an important victory meant to demoralize the Scots. He then accompanied Edward I in the summer of 1296 on his victorious campaign through Scotland, whereupon he was appointed defender of Scotland on September 3. However, Warenne then retreated to northern England and refused to intervene in Scotland when the uprising of William Wallace broke out in 1297 . The reason he gave for this was the bad weather and his poor health. The uprising then developed into a widespread rebellion against English supremacy, whereupon King Warenne ordered to return to Scotland and fight. At this pressure, Warenne slowly moved north. By July he had only reached Berwick . Only his grandson Henry Percy , whom he had sent ahead, could achieve some success. In August, the king tried to replace Warenne as defender of Scotland with Brian Fitz Count , but the latter declared that he was too poor to pay the cost of this important position. At the beginning of September 1297, King Warenne therefore expressly ordered that the rebellion in Scotland be put down. Warenne then marched to Stirling , where a narrow bridge overran the Forth . A Scottish army under William Wallace camped on the opposite bank. After negotiations failed, Warenne decided to attack despite the poor starting position. Before the English had completely crossed the bridge, the Scots attacked. The English suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Stirling Bridge . Warenne withdrew to England with his defeated army via Berwick. On September 27, he met Eduard, the heir to the throne in York , who was his father as regent.

Despite this defeat, the king continued to trust his old fighter, although he is alleged to have mocked Warenne for his poor conduct. In December 1297 he reappointed him as the commandant of a campaign to Scotland. Given the stress of the war in Scotland and the ongoing war with France , many nobles in England protested against the king's policies. Warenne was not directly involved in the resulting national crisis. As an old supporter of the king, he swore to keep the Confirmatio Cartarum in November 1297 . Instead of the king staying in Flanders , he presided over the Parliament in York in January 1298, where the Magna Carta was again confirmed. He then led a swift campaign against Scotland, during which he retook Berwick. When Edward I returned to England from Flanders, he thanked Warenne for his services in Scotland and ordered him back to England to discuss the situation in Scotland with him. Then Warenne fought again in Scotland, taking part in the victorious Battle of Falkirk on July 22, 1298 . In November 1298, the king appointed him one of the judges to investigate the misconduct of his forest officials. In 1299 he was called up again for military service in Scotland. In September 1299 he was one of the guests at the king's second wedding. In November 1299, the king appointed him guardian of his grandson Edward Balliol , one of the potential Scottish heir apparent. During the 1300 campaign in Scotland, Warenne commanded the second division of the English army and took part in the siege of Caerlaverock Castle . Also in 1301, 1302 and 1303 the king called him for military service in Scotland.

Militant defender of his rights and goods

When it came to Warenne's own possessions and rights, he aggressively defended them. As early as 1253 he had been sentenced to give up unjustifiably fenced common land near Wakefield and to tear down the fences. In 1269 there was almost an open feud between him and the Earl of Lincoln over the rights to pastureland , until finally royal judges awarded the land to the Earl of Lincoln. A little later, in the summer of 1270, there was an argument between him and Alan de la Zouche in the Palace of Westminster , presumably also because of land ownership , in which Warenne's followers finally attacked Zouche and mortally wounded him. Warenne fled to Reigate Castle, and only after the Earl of Gloucester and Henry of Almain had assured him safe conduct did he face the royal court. Warenne swore that he hadn't killed Zouche deliberately but in uncontrolled rage. He was sentenced to a fine of 10,000 marks, which he was originally supposed to pay in annual installments of 700 marks. The king reduced the rate to 200 marks a year, but to the bitterness of many other barons, Warenne never paid this relatively small sum in full. In 1274 archers and other followers of Warennes attacked the lands of Robert d'Aguillon and molested his servants. Investigations carried out between 1274 and 1276 on behalf of King Eduard confirmed that the bailiffs and administrators of Warenne had a strict rule over his property. They levied excessive levies, taxes and duties and imprisoned subjects who complained against it. Warenne presumed rights he had not been granted. He illegally enlarged his possessions by fencing off common land. The game from his wildlife parks damaged the crops in the adjacent fields, which Archbishop Pecham complained about . When Edward I wanted to conduct a survey of Knight's Fees in England, Warrenes bailiffs refused to give royal officials access to his property, and his vassals refused to appear before the royal officials for testimony. According to legend, Warenne was asked by royal judges in 1279 to show the deeds of ownership of his lands. Warenne is said to have drawn a rusty sword and called out that this would be his deed of ownership, since his ancestors, as companions of Wilhelm the Conqueror, had conquered the properties with the sword. Around 1286 there were clashes in Wales between Warenne and Reginald Gray , the royal justiciar of Chester , who accused Warenne of encroaching on his possessions. There have also been numerous other complaints, inquiries and lawsuits about Warenne's management of his possessions.

Warenne died around September 29, 1304, but was buried in a solemn ceremony in Lewes Priory after Christmas 1304 . Robert Winchelsey , Archbishop of Canterbury presided over the funeral, which was attended by numerous nobles.

Family and offspring

Warenne had three children with his wife Alice:

Warenne's wife Alice had already died in February 1256 after giving birth to their third child. Although Warenne was only 25 years old at the time, he did not remarry until his death, which was unusual for the time. He married his children well, leaving behind high-ranking grandchildren. Warenne's only son William V de Warenne married Joan († 1293), a daughter of Robert de Vere, 5th Earl of Oxford . He died just months after the birth of his only son. This young John de Warenne became Warenne 's heir.


Although Warenne was instrumental in the conflict between the supporters of the king and the aristocratic opposition and in the Second War of the Barons, he never played a leading role. Most of the time he joined other barons who were related to each other or by marriage. This suggests that Warenne changed sides less for political, but more for amicable interests. In doing so, he apparently let himself be guided by related leaders such as Lord Eduard and William de Valence. Despite his wavering loyalty, he eventually became a close follower of Lord Eduard, whom he then served until his death. Politically and on the battlefield, Warenne acted rather hesitantly, if not cowardly, in contrast to his vassals and subordinates, towards whom he was presumptuous and insolent. Despite his high origin and rank, he did not become one of England's leading magnates. Instead, he became the symbol of a conservative nobleman, as the legend of his rejection of royal judges shows.

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predecessor Office successor
William de Warenne Earl of Surrey
John de Warenne
New title created Earl of Sussex
John de Warenne
no direct predecessors Guardian of Scotland
Alexander Comyn (1286–1289),
William Fraser ,
Robert Wishart ,
John II. Comyn ,
James Stewart
Bryan FitzAlan