The Siege of Rochester

The struggle between King John and his barons turned into open warfare at Rochester Castle in 1215. Yet the story of how the fortress came to be besieged has not been fully understood, says Marc Morris.

Rochester 1215, illustration by John Cann. Courtesy of Medway CouncilWith all the fuss being made this year about Magna Carta and its legacy, it is easy to forget that, in its original incarnation, the document sealed by King John at Runnymede was a dismal failure. Intended to heal the rift between the king and his barons, it succeeded in keeping the peace for just a few weeks. A month after it had been issued, both sides were accusing each other of failing to observe its terms and preparing for a renewal of hostilities, which began in the autumn of 1215.

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