Fitzgeoffrey, John c. 1206-1258, justiciar of Ireland and a leader of the political revolution of 1258, was the son of Geoffrey Fitzpeter, justiciar of England (1198-1213) and fourth Earl of Essex [qv.], by his second marriage, to Aveline, daughter of Roger de Clare, third Earl of Hertford [qv.], and widow of William de Munchency. In 1227 John Fitzgeoffrey gave the king 300 marks to have seisin of the lands which had descended to him by right of inheritance from his father. Geoffrey Fitzpeter had intended these to be large, for King John had granted to him and his heirs by Aveline the castle and honour of Berkhamsted. This grant, however, never came to fruition, Berkhamsted, after Geoffreys death, remaining in the hands of the king. Thus, with the earldom of Essex passing to the descendants of Geoffreys first marriage, John had to make do with such manors as Aylesbury and Steeple Claydon in Buckinghamshire, Exning in Suffolk, and Cherhill and Winterslow in Wiltshire, the last the only part of the honour of Berkhamsted that he obtained. John was a substantial magnate but, in terms of land held in hereditary right, not one of the first rank. Probably this situation, and the example of his father, who had risen in the kings service from humble origins to the earldom of Essex, was the spur to his long career in the royal administration.
John began that career as sheriff of Yorkshire between 1234 and 1236. Then, in 1237, at the request of a Parliament which conceded the king taxation, he was added to the kings council along with the earl of Surrey and William de Ferrers. If this elevation to the highest level reflected Johns standing with his fellow magnates, in the ensuing years he gained and retained the confidence of the king. From 1237 until 1245 he seems to have acted as one of the stewards of the kings household, a post that he combined with the sheriffdom of Gloucestershire (1238-46) and more briefly with the justiciarship of the southern forests (1241-2) and the seneschalship of Gascony (1243). He was thus well fitted for his long stint as justiciar of Ireland (1245-56), where he had private interests through the dower of his wife, Isabel (daughter of Hugh Bigod, third Earl of Norfolk), who was the widow of Gilbert de Lacy of Meath. In 1254 Ireland was made part of the endowment of Edward, the kings son, and John Fitzgeoffrey, between 1254 and 1258, became the princes leading councillor. He also retained his place on the council of the king. His rewards from the latter, over his long career, had included the manors of Whaddon (Buckinghamshire) and Ringwood (Hampshire), the wardship of the land and heirs of Theobald Butler in Ireland (for which he paid 3,000 marks), and for his immense and laudable service the whole cantred of the Isles in Thomond.
In the political crisis of 1258, however, John Fitzgeoffrey was one of the kings chief opponents. Indeed, a later chronicle, the Westminster Flores Historiarum, named him and Simon of Montfort [qv.] as the ringleaders of the revolution. Certainly he was one of the seven magnates whose confederation in April 1258 began the process of reform. He was then one of the twelve chosen by the barons to reform the realm, and one of the council of fifteen imposed on the king by the Provisions of Oxford. On 23 July 1258 he went with Roger Bigod, fourth Earl of Norfolk [qv.], and Simon of Montfort to demand that the Londoners accept whatever the barons should provide for the utility and foundation of the realm (Cronica Maiorum et Vicecomitum Londoniarum, pp. 38-9). Johns sudden death on 23 November 1258 thus deprived the new regime of one of its bastions. The Westminster Flores ascribed Johns conduct to resentment at being removed from the justiciarship of Ireland. Like other leading magnates, he was also provoked by the behaviour of the kings Poitevin half-brothers. His place in Edwards councils was threatened by their growing influence over the prince. In addition, he was engaged in a fierce dispute over the advowson of one of his manors—Shere in Surrey—with the youngest of the brothers, Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke and bishop-elect of Winchester [qv.]. This reached a climax on 1 April 1258 when Aymers men attacked Johns at Shere and killed one of them. When John demanded justice, the king refused to hear him. This episode helped spur the revolutionary action taken against the king at the Westminster Parliament which opened a week later. Indignation at Johns treatment spread the more easily because his brothers-in-law were Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, and Hugh Bigod [qv.], later appointed justiciar by the Provisions of Oxford. Both were his colleagues amongst the seven original confederate magnates.
John Fitzgeoffrey was evidently a man of considerable parts, respected both by his fellow magnates and by the king. Indeed, despite his role in the revolution of 1258, when Henry III heard of Johns death he ordered a solemn mass to be celebrated for his soul and donated a cloth of gold to cover his coffin. John was succeeded by his son, John Fitzjohn [qv.], who became a leading supporter of Simon of Montfort.
Calendar of Charter Rolls
Calendar of Patent Rolls
Calendar of Liberate Rolls
Public Record Office JUST 1/1187, m.1
H. R. Luard (ed.), Matthaei Parisiensis Chronica Majora, 7 vols. (Rolls Series), 1884-9
idem, Flores Historiarum, 3 vols. (Rolls Series), 1890
T. Stapleton (ed.), Cronica Maiorium et Vicecomitum Londoniarum, Camden Society, 1846
R. F. Treharne and I. J. Sanders (eds.), Documents of the Period of Baronial Reform and Rebellion, 1973
H. W. Ridgeway, The Lord Edward and the Provisions of Oxford (1258), in Thirteenth Century England, vol. i, ed. P. R. Coss and S. D. Lloyd, 1986.
Contributor: D. A. Carpenter