Magna Carta

The Magna Carta

John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy
and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls,
barons, justiciars, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his
bailiffs and faithful subjects, greeting.   Know that we, out of reverence for
God and for the salvation of our soul and those of all our ancestors and heirs,
for the honour of God and the exaltation of holy church, and for the reform of
our realm, on the advice of our venerable fathers, Stephen, archbishop of
Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman church, Henry
archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelyn of Bath
and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry and
Benedict of Rochester, bishops, of master Pandulf, subdeacon and member of the
household of the lord pope, of brother Aymeric, master of the order of Knights
Templar in England, and of the noble men William Marshal earl of Pembroke,
William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warenne, William earl of Arundel,
Alan of Galloway constable of Scotland, Warin fitz Gerold, Peter fitz Herbert,
Hubert de Burgh seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew fitz Herbert,
Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip de Aubeney, Robert of Ropsley, John Marshal,
John fitz Hugh, and others, our faithful subjects:
     [1] In the first place have granted to God, and by this our present charter
confirmed for us and our heirs for ever that the English church shall be free,
and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired; and it is
our will that it be thus observed; which is evident from the fact that, before
the quarrel between us and our barons began, we willingly and spontaneously
granted and by our charter confirmed the freedom of elections which is reckoned
most important and very essential to the English church, and obtained
confirmation of it from the lord pope Innocent III; the which we will observe
and we wish our heirs to observe it in good faith for ever.  We have also
granted to all free men of our kingdom, for ourselves and our heirs for ever,
all the liberties written below, to be had and held by them and their heirs of
us and our heirs.
     [2] If any of our earls or barons or others holding of us in chief by
knight service dies, and at his death his heir be of full age and owe relief he
shall have his inheritance on payment of the old relief, namely the heir or
heirs of an earl œ100 for a whole earl's barony, the heir of heirs of a baron
œ100 for a whole barony, the heir or heirs of a knight 100s, at most, for a
whole knight's fee; and he who owes less shall give less according to the
ancient usage of fiefs.
     [3] If, however, the heir of any such be under age and a ward, he shall
have his inheritance when he comes of age without paying relief and without
making fine.
     [4] The guardian of the land of such an heir who is under age shall take
from the land of the heir no more than reasonable revenues, reasonable customary
dues and reasonable services and that without destruction and waste of men or
goods; and if we commit the wardship of the land of any such to a sheriff, or to
any other who is answerable to us for its revenues, and he destroys or wastes
what he has wardship of, we will take compensation from him and the land shall
be committed to two lawful and discreet men of that fief, who shall be
answerable for the revenues to us or to him to whom we have assigned them; and
if we give or sell to anyone the wardship of any such land and he causes
destruction or waste therein, he shall lose that wardship, and it shall be
transferred to two lawful and discreet men of that fief, who shall similarly be
answerable to us as is aforesaid.
     [5] Moreover, so long as he has the wardship of the land, the guardian
shall keep in repair the houses, parks, preserves, ponds, mills and other things
pertaining to the land out of the revenues from it; and he shall restore to the
heir when he comes of age his land fully stocked with ploughs and the means of
husbandry according to what the season of husbandry requires and the revenues of
the land can reasonably bear.
     [6] Heirs shall be married without disparagement, yet so that before the
marriage is contracted those nearest in blood to the heir shall have notice.
     [7] A widow shall have her marriage portion and inheritance forthwith and
without difficulty after the death of her husband; nor shall she pay anything to
have her dower or her marriage portion or the inheritance which she and her
husband held on the day of her husband's death; and she may remain in her
husband's house for forty days after his death, within which time her dower
shall be assigned to her.
     [8] No widow shall be forced to marry so long as she wishes to live without
a husband, provided that she gives security not to marry without our consent if
she holds of us, or without the consent of her lord of whom she holds, if she
holds of another.
     [9] Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize for any debt any land or rent,
so long as the chattles of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt; nor will
those who have gone surety for the debtor be distrained so long as the principal
debtor is himself able to pay the debt; and if the principal debtor fails to pay
the debt, having nothing wherewith to pay it, then shall the sureties answer
for the debt; and they shall, if they wish, have the lands and rents of the
debtor until they are reimbursed for the debt which they have paid for him,
unless the principal debtor can show that he has discharged his obligation in
the matter to the said sureties.
     [10] If anyone who has borrowed from the Jews any sum, great or small, dies
before it is repaid, the debt shall not bear interest as long as the heir is
under age, of whomsoever he holds; and if the debt falls into our hands, we will
not take anything except the principal mentioned in the bond.
     [11] And if anyone dies indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower
and pay nothing of that debt; and if the dead man leaves children who are under
age, they shall be provided whith necessaries befitting the holding of the
deceased; and the debt shall be paid out of the residue, reserving, however,
service due to lords of the land; debts owing to others than Jews shall be dealt
with in like manner.
     [12] No scutage or aid shall be imposed in our kingdom unless by common
counsel of our kingdom, except for ransoming our person, for making our eldest
son a knight, and for once marrying our eldest daughter; and for these only a
reasonable aid shall be levied.  Be it done in like manner oncerning aids from
the city of London.
     [13] And the city of London shall have all its ancient liberties and free
customs as well by land as by water.  Furthermore, we will and grant that all
other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall have all their liberties and free
     [14] And to obtain the common counsel of the kingdom about the assessing of
an aid (except in the three cases aforesaid) or of a scutage, we will cause to
be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls and greater barons,
individually by our letters-and, in additon, we will cause to be summoned
generally through our sheriffs and bailiffs all those holding of us in chief-for
a fixed date, namely, after the expiry of at least forty day, and to a fixed
place; and in all letters of such summons we will specify the reason for the
summons.  And when the summons has thus been made, the business shall proceed on
the day appointed, according to the counsel of those present, though not all
have come who were summoned.
     [15] We will not in future grant any one the right to take an aid from his
free men, except for ransoming his person, for making his eldest son a knight
and for once marrying his eldest daughter, and for these only a resonable aid
shall be levied.
     [16] No one shall be compelled to do greater service for a kngiht's fee or
for any other free holding than is due form it.
     [17] Common pleas shall not follow our court, but shall be held in some
fixed place.
     [18] Recognitions of novel disseisin, of mort d'ancester, and of darrein
presentment, shall not be held elsewhere than in the counties to which they
relate, and in this manner-we, or, if we should be out of the realm, our chief
justiciar, will send two justices through each county four times a year, who,
with four knights of each county chosen by the county, shall hold the said
assizes in the county and on the day and in the place of meeting of the county
     [19] And if the said assizes cannot all be held on the day of the county
court, there shall stay behind as many of the kngihts and freeholders who were
present at the county court on that day as are necessary for the sufficient
making of judgments, according to the amount of business to be done.
     [20] A free man shall not be amerced for a trivial offence except in
accordance with the degree of the offence, and for a  grave offence he shall be
amerced in accordance with its gravity, yet saving his way of living; and a
merchant in the same way, saving his stock-in-trade; and a villein shall be
amerced in the same way, saving his means of livelihood-if they have fallen into
our mercy: and none of the aforesaid amercements shall be imposed except by the
oath of good men of the neighbourhood.
     [21] Earls and barons shall not be amerced except by their peers, and only
in accordance with the degree of the offence.
     [22] No clerk shall be amerced in respect of his lay holding except after
the manner of the others aforesaid and not according to the amount of his
ecclesiastical benefice.
     [23] No vill or individual shall be compelled to make bridges at river
banks, except those who from of old are legally bound to do so.
     [24] No sheriff, constable, coroners, or others of our bailiffs, shall hold
pleas of our crown.
     [25] All counties, hundreds, wapentakes and trithings shall be at the old
rents without any additional payment, except our demesne manors.
     [26] If anyone holding a lay fief of us dies and our sheriff or bailiff
shows our letters patent of summons for a debt that the deceased owed us, it
shall be lawful for our sheriff or bailiff to attach and make a list of chattels
of the deceased found upon the lay fief to the value of that debt under the
supervision of law-worthy men, provided that none of the chattels shall be
removed until the debt which is manifest has been paid to us in full; and the
residue shall be left to the executors for carrying out the will of the
deceased.  And if nothing is owing to us from him, all the chattels shall accrue
to the deceased, saving to his wife and children their reasonable shares.
     [27] If any free man dies without leaving a will, his chattels shall be
distributed by his nearest kinsfolk and friends under the supervison of the
church, saving to every one the debts which the deceased owed him.
     [28] No constable or other bailiff of ours shall take anyone's corn or
other chattels unless he pays on the spot in cash for them or can delay payment
by arrangment with the seller.
     [29] No constable shall compel any knight to give money instead of
castle-guard if he is willing to do the guard himself or through another good
man, if for some good reason he cannot do it himself; and if we lead or send him
on military service, he shall be excused guard in proportion to the time that
because of us he has been on service.
     [30] No sheriff, or bailiff of ours, or anyone else shall take the horses
or carts of any free man for transport work save with the agreement of that
     [31] Neither we nor our bailiffs will take, for castles or other works of
ours, timber which is not ours, except with the agreement of him whose timber it
     [32] We will not hold for more than a year and a day the lands of those
convicted of felony, and then the lands shall be handed over to the lords of the
     [33] Henceforth all fish-weirs shall be cleared completely from the Thames
and the Medway and throughout all England, except along the sea coast.
     [34] The writ called Praecipe shall not in future be issued to anyone in
respect of any holding whereby a free man may lose his court.
     [35] Let there be one measure for wine throughout our kingdom, and one
measure for ale, and one measure for corn, namely "the London quarter"; and one
width for cloths whether dyed, russet or halberget, namely two ells within the
selvedges.  Let it be the same with weights as with measures.
     [36] Nothing shall be given or taken in future for the writ of inquisition
of life or limbs: instead it shall be granted free of charge and not refused.
     [37] If anyone holds of us by fee-farm, by socage, or by burgage, and holds
land of another by knight service, we will not, by reason of that fee-farm,
socage, or burgage, have the wardship of his heir or of land of land of his that
is of the fief of the other; nor will we have custody of the fee-farm, socage,
or burgage, unless such fee-farm owes kngiht service.  We will not have custody
of anyone's heir or land which he holds of another by knight service by reason
of any petty serjeanty which he holds of us by the service of rendering to us
knives or arrows or the like.
     [38] No bailiff shall in future put anyone to trial upon his own bare word,
without reliable witnesses produced for this purpose.
     [39] No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed
or exiled or in any way victimised, neither will we attack him or send anyone to
attack him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the
     [40] To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or
     [41] All merchants shall be able to go out of and come into England safely
and securely and stay and travel throughout England, as well by land as by
water, for buying and selling by the ancient and right customs free from all
evil tolls, except in time of war and if they are of the land that is at war
with us.  And if such are found in our land at the beginning of a war, they
shall be attached, without injury to their persons or goods, until we, or our
chief justiciar, know how merchants of our land are treated who were found in
the land at war with us when war broke out, and if ours are safe there, the
others shall be safe in our land.
     [42] It shall be lawful in future for anyone, without prejudicing the
allegiance due to us, to leave our kingdom and return safely and securely by
land and water, save, in the public interest, for a short period in time of
war-except for those imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the
kingdom and natives of a land that is at war with us and merchants (who shall be
treated as aforesaid).
     [43] If anyone who holds of some escheat such as the honour of Wallingford,
Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other escheats which are in our hands and
are baronies dies, his heir shall give no other relief and do no other service
to us than he would have done to the baron if that barony had been in the
baron's hands; and we will hold it in the same manner in which the baron held
     [44] Men who live outside the forest need not henceforth come before our
justices of the forest upon a general summons, unless they are impleaded or are
sureties for any person or persons who are attached for forest offences.
     [45] We will not make justices, constables, sheriffs or bailiffs save of
such as know the law of the kingdom and mean to observe it well.
     [46] All barons who have founded abbeys for which they have charters of the
kings of England or ancient tenure shall have the custody of them during
vacancies, as they ought to have.
     [47] All forests that have been make forest in our time shall be
immediately disafforested; and so be it done with river banks that have been
made preserves by us in our time.
     [48] All evil customs connected with forests and warrens, foresters and
warreners, sheriffs and their officials, riverbanks and their wardens shall
immediately be inquired into in each county by twelve sworn kngihts of the
same county, and within forty days of the completion of the inquiry shall be
utterly abolished by them so as never to be restored, provided that we, or our
justiciar if we are not in England, know of it first.
     [49] We will immediately return all hostages and charters given to us by
Englishmen, as security for peace or faithful service.
     [50] We will remove completely from office the relations of Gerard de Athee
so that in future they shall have no office in England, namely Engelard de
Cigogne, Peter and Guy and Andrew de Chanceaux, Guy de cigogne, Geoffrey de
Maartigny and his brothers, Philip Marc and his brothers and his nephew
Geoffrey, and all their following.
     [51] As soon as peace is restored, we will remove from the kingdom all
foreign knights, cross-bowmen, serjeants, and mercenaries, who have come with
horses and arms to the detriment of the kingdom.
     [52] If anyone has been disseised of or kept out of his lands, castles,
franchises or his right by us without the legal judgment of his peers, we will
immediately restore them to him:  and if a dispute arises over this, then let it
be decided by the judgment of the twenty-five barons who are mentioned below in
the clause for securing the peace:  for all the things, however, which anyone
has been disseised or kept out of without the lawful judgment of his peers by
king Henry, our father, or by king Richard, our brother, which we have in our
hand or are held by others, to whom we are bound to warrant them, we will have
the usual period of respite of crusaders, excepting those things about which a
plea was started or an inquest made by our command before we took the cross;
when however we return from our pilgrimage, or if by any chance we do not go on
it, we will at once do full justice therein.
     [53] We will have the same respite, and in the same manner, in the doing of
justice in the matter of the disafforesting or retaining of the forests which
Henry our father or Richard our brother afforested, and in the matter of the
wardship of lands which are of the fief of another, wardships of which sort we
have hitherto had by reason of a fief which anyone held of us by knight service,
and in the matter of abbeys founded on the fief of another, not on a fief of our
own, in which the lord of the fief claims he has a right; and when we have
returned, or if we do not set out on our pilgrimage, we will at once do full
justice to those who complain of these things.
     [54] No one shall be arrested or imprisoned upon the appeal of a woman for
the death of anyone except her husband.
     [55] All fines made with us unjustly and against the law of the land, and
all amercements imposed unjustly and against the law of the land, shall be
entirely remitted, or else let them be settled by the judgment of the twenty-
five barons who are mentioned below in the clause for securing the peace, or by
the judgment of the majority of the same, along with the aforesaid Stephen,
archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he may wish
to associate with himself for this purpose, and if he cannot be present the
business shall nevertheless proceed without him, provided that if any one or
more of of the aforesaid twenty-five barons are in a like suit, they shall be
removed from the judgment of the case in question, and others chosen, sworn and
put in their place by the rest of the same twenty-five for this case only.
     [56] If we have disseised or kept out Welshmen from lands or liberties or
other things without the legal judgment of their peers in England or in Wales,
they shall be immediately restored to them; and if a dispute arises over this,
then let it be decided in the March by the judgment of their peers-for holdings
in England according  to the law of England, for holdings in Wales according to
the law of Wales, and for holdings in the March according to the law of the
March.  Welshmen shall do the same to us and ours.
     [57] For all the things, however, which any Welshman was disseised of or
kept out of without the lawful judgment of his peers by king Henry, our father,
or king Richard, our brother, which we have in our hand or which are held by
others, to whom we are bound to warrent them, we will have the usual period of
respite of crusaders, excepting those things about which a plea was started or
an inquest made by our command before we took the cross; when however we return,
or if by any chance we do not set out on our pilgrimage, we will at once do full
justice to them in accordance with the laws of the Welsh and the foresaid
     [58] We will give back at once the son of Llywelyn and all the hostages
from Wales and the charters that were handed over to us as security for peace.
     [59] We will act toward Alexander, king of the Scots, concerning the return
of his sisters and hostages and concerning his franchises and his right in the
same manner in which we act towards our other barons of England, unless it ought
to be otherwise by the charters which we have from William his father, formerly
king of the Scots, and this shall be determined by the judgment of his peers in
our court.
     [60] All these aforesaid customs and liberties which we have granted to be
observed in our kingdom as far as it pertains to us towards our men, all of our
kingdom, clerks as well as laymen, shall observe as far as it pertains to them
towards their men.
     [61] Since, moreover, for God and the betterment of our kingdom and for the
better allaying of the discord that has arisen between us and our barons we have
granted all these things aforesaid, wishing them to enjoy the use of them
unimpaired and unshaken for ever, we give and grant them the under-written
security, namely, that the barons shall choose any twenty-five barons of the
kingdom they wish, who must with all their might observe, hold and cause to be
observed, the peace and liberties which we have granted and confirmed to them by
this present charter of ours, so that if we, or our justiciar, or our bailiffs
or any one of our servants offend in any way against anyone or transgress any of
the articles of the peace or the security and the offence be notified to four of
the aforesaid twenty-five barons, those four barons shall come to us, or to our
justiciar if we are out of the kingdom, and, laying the transgression before us,
shall petition us to have that transgression corrected without delay.  And if we
do not correct the transgression, or if we are out of the kingdom, if our
justiciar does not correct it, within forty days, reckoning from the time it was
brought to our notice or to that of our justiciar if we were out of the kingdom,
the aforesaid four barons shall refer that case to the rest of the twenty-five
barons and those twenty-five barons together with the community of the whole
land shall distrain and distress us in every way they can, namely, by seizing
castles, lands, possessions, and in such other ways as they can, saving our
person and the persons of our queen and our children, until, in their opinion,
amends have been made; and when amends have been made, they shall obey us as
they did before.  And let anyone in the land who wishes take an oath to obey the
orders of the said twenty-five barons for the execution of all the aforesaid
matters, and with them to distress us as much as he can, and we publicly and
freely give anyone leave to take the oath who wishes to take it and we will
never prohibit anyone from taking it.  Indeed, all those in the land who are
unwilling of themselves and of their own accord to take an oath to the
twenty-five barons to help them to distrain and distress us, we will make them
take the oath as aforesaid at our command.  And if any of the twenty-five barons
dies or leaves the country or is in any other way prevented from carrying out
the things aforesaid, the rest of the aforesaid twenty-five barons shall choose
as they think fit another one in his place, and he shall take the oath like the
rest.  In all matters the execution of which is committed to these twenty-five
barons, if it should happen that these twenty-five are present yet disagree
among themselves about anything, or if some of those summoned will not or cannot
be present, that shall be held as fixed and established which the majority of
those present ordained or commanded, exactly as if all the twenty-five had
consented to it; and the said twenty-five shall swear that they will faithfully
observe all the things aforesaid and will do all they can to get them observed.
And we will procure nothing from anyone, either personally or through anyone
else, whereby any of these concessions and liberties might be revoked or
diminished; and if any such thing is procured, let it be void and null, and we
will never use it either personally or through another.
     [62] And we have fully remitted and pardoned to everyone all the ill-will,
indignation and rancour that have arisen between us and our men, clergy and
laity, from the time of the quarrel.  Furthermore, we have fully remitted to
all, clergy and laity, and as far as pertains to us have completely forgiven,
all trespasses occasioned by the same quarrel between Easter in the sixteenth
year of our reign and the restoration of peace.  And, besides, we have caused to
be made for them letters testimonial patent of the lord Stephen archbishop of
Canterbury, of the lord Henry archbishop of Dublin and of the aforementioned
bishops and of master Pandulf about this security and the aforementioned
     [63] Wherefore we wish and firmly enjoin that the English church shall be
free, and that the men in our kingdom shall have and hold all the aforesaid
liberties, rights and concessions well and peacefully, freely and quietly, fully
and completely, for themselves and their heirs from us and our heirs, in all
matters and in all places for ever, as is aforesaid.  An oath, moreover, has
been taken, as well on our part as on the part of the barons, that all these
things aforesaid shall be observed in good faith and without evil disposition.
Witness the above-mentioned and many others.  Given by our hand in the meadow
which is called Runnymede between Windsor and Staines on the fifteenth day of
June, in the seventeenth year of our reign.

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