The Magna Carter (The Great Charter)

Preamble:

John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of

Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishop, bishops,

abbots, earls, barons, justiciaries, foresters, sheriffs, stewards,

servants, and to all his bailiffs and liege subjects, greetings. Know

that, having regard to God and for the salvation of our soul, and those

of all our ancestors and heirs, and unto the honor of God and the

advancement of his holy Church and for the rectifying of our realm, we

have granted as underwritten by 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, Benedict of

Rochester, bishops; of Master Pandulf, subdeacon and member of the

household of our lord the Pope, of brother Aymeric (master of the

Knights of the Temple in England), and of the illustrious men William

Marshal, earl of Pembroke, William, earl of Salisbury, William, earl of

Warenne, William, earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway (constable of

Scotland), Waren Fitz Gerold, Peter Fitz Herbert, Hubert De Burgh

(seneschal of Poitou), Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas

Basset, Alan Basset, Philip d’Aubigny, Robert of Roppesley, John

Marshal, John Fitz Hugh, and others, our liegemen.

1. In the first place we have granted to God, and by this our present

charter confirmed for us and our heirs forever that the English Church

shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties

inviolate; and we will that it be thus observed; which is apparent from

this that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and

very essential to the English Church, we, of our pure and unconstrained

will, did grant, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the

ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III, before the

quarrel arose between us and our barons: and this we will observe, and

our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs forever. We

have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs

forever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and

their heirs, of us and our heirs forever.

2. If any of our earls or barons, or others holding of us in chief by

military service shall have died, and at the time of his death his heir

shall be full of age and owe “relief”, he shall have his inheritance by

the old relief, to wit, the heir or heirs of an earl, for the whole

baroncy of an earl by L100; the heir or heirs of a baron, L100 for a

whole barony; the heir or heirs of a knight, 100s, at most, and whoever

owes less let him give less, according to the ancient custom of fees.

3. If, however, the heir of any one of the aforesaid has been under age

and in wardship, let him have his inheritance without relief and without

fine when he comes of age.

4. The guardian of the land of an heir who is thus under age, shall take

from the land of the heir nothing but reasonable produce, reasonable

customs, and reasonable services, and that without destruction or waste

of men or goods; and if we have committed the wardship of the lands of

any such minor to the sheriff, or to any other who is responsible to us

for its issues, and he has made destruction or waster of what he holds

in wardship, we will take of him amends, and the land shall be committed

to two lawful and discreet men of that fee, who shall be responsible for

the issues to us or to him to whom we shall assign them; and if we have

given or sold the wardship of any such land to anyone and he has therein

made destruction or waste, he shall lose that wardship, and it shall be

transferred to two lawful and discreet men of that fief, who shall be

responsible to us in like manner as aforesaid.

5. The guardian, moreover, so long as he has the wardship of the land,

shall keep up the houses, parks, fishponds, stanks, mills, and other

things pertaining to the land, out of the issues of the same land; and

he shall restore to the heir, when he has come to full age, all his

land, stocked with ploughs and wainage, according as the season of

husbandry shall require, and the issues of the land can reasonable bear.

6. Heirs shall be married without disparagement, yet so that before the

marriage takes place the nearest in blood to that heir shall have

notice.

7. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall forthwith and without

difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance; nor shall she give

anything for her dower, or for her marriage portion, or for the

inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of the death of

that husband; and she may remain in the house of her husband for forty

days after his death, within which time her dower shall be assigned to

her.

8. No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she prefers to live

without a husband; provided always that she gives security not to marry

without our consent, if she holds of us, or without the consent of the

lord of whom she holds, if she holds of another.

9. Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent for any debt,

as long as the chattels of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt;

nor shall the sureties of the debtor be distrained so long as the

principal debtor is able to satisfy the debt; and if the principal

debtor shall fail to pay the debt, having nothing wherewith to pay it,

then the sureties shall answer for the debt; and let them have the lands

and rents of the debtor, if they desire them, until they are indemnified

for the debt which they have paid for him, unless the principal debtor

can show proof that he is discharged thereof as against the said

sureties.

10. If one who has borrowed from the Jews any sum, great or small, die

before that loan be repaid, the debt shall not bear interest while the

heir is under age, of whomsoever he may hold; and if the debt fall into

our hands, we will not take anything except the principal sum contained

in the bond.

11. And if anyone die indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her

dower and pay nothing of that debt; and if any children of the deceased

are left under age, necessaries shall be provided for them in keeping

with the holding of the deceased; and out of the residue the debt shall

be paid, reserving, however, service due to feudal lords; in like manner

let it be done touching debts due to others than Jews.

12. No scutage not aid shall be imposed on 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 there shall not be levied more than a reasonable aid. In like

manner it shall be done concerning aids from the city of London.

13. And the city of London shall have all it ancient liberties and free

customs, as well by land as by water; furthermore, we decree and grant

that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall have all their

liberties and free customs.

14. And for obtaining the common counsel of the kingdom anent 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, severally by our letters; and we will

moveover cause to be summoned generally, through our sheriffs and

bailiffs, and others who hold of us in chief, for a fixed date, namely,

after the expiry of at least forty days, and at a fixed place; and in

all letters of such summons we will specify the reason of the summons.

And when the summons has thus been made, the business shall proceed on

the day appointed, according to the counsel of such as are present,

although not all who were summoned have come.

15. We will not for the future grant to anyone license to take an aid

from his own free tenants, except to ransom his person, to make his

eldest son a knight, and once to marry his eldest daughter; and on each

of these occasions there shall be levied only a reasonable aid.

16. No one shall be distrained for performance of greater service for a

knight’s fee, or for any other free tenement, than is due there from.

17. Common pleas shall not follow our court, but shall be held in some

fixed place.

18. Inquests of novel disseisin, of mort d’ancestor, and of darrein

presentment shall not be held elsewhere than in their own county courts,

and that in manner following; We, or, if we should be out of the realm,

our chief justiciar, will send two justiciaries through every county

four times a year, who shall alone with four knights of the county

chosen by the county, hold the said assizes in the county court, on the

day and in the place of meeting of that court.

19. And if any of the said assizes cannot be taken on the day of the

county court, let there remain of the knights and freeholders, who were

present at the county court on that day, as many as may be required for

the efficient making of judgments, according as the business be more or

less.

20. A freeman shall not be amerced for a slight offense, except in

accordance with the degree of the offense; and for a grave offense he

shall be amerced in accordance with the gravity of the offense, yet

saving always his “contentment”; and a merchant in the same way, saving

his “merchandise”; and a villein shall be amerced in the same way,

saving his “wainage” if they have fallen into our mercy: and none of the

aforesaid amercements shall be imposed except by the oath of honest men

of the neighborhood.

21. Earls and barons shall not be amerced except through their peers,

and only in accordance with the degree of the offense.

22. A clerk shall not be amerced in respect of his lay holding except

after the manner of the others aforesaid; further, he shall not be

amerced in accordance with the extent of his ecclesiastical benefice.

23. No village or individual shall be compelled to make bridges at river

banks, except those who from of old were legally bound to do so.

24. No sheriff, constable, coroners, or others of our bailiffs, shall

hold pleas of our Crown.

25. All counties, hundred, wapentakes, and trithings (except our demesne

manors) shall remain at the old rents, and without any additional

payment.

26. If anyone holding of us a lay fief shall die, and our sheriff or

bailiff shall exhibit our letters patent of summons for a debt which the

deceased owed us, it shall be lawful for our sheriff or bailiff to

attach and enroll the chattels of the deceased, found upon the lay fief,

to the value of that debt, at the sight of law worthy men, provided

always that nothing whatever be thence removed until the debt which is

evident shall be fully paid to us; and the residue shall be left to the

executors to fulfill the will of the deceased; and if there be nothing

due from him to us, all the chattels shall go to the deceased, saving to

his wife and children their reasonable shares.

27. If any freeman shall die intestate, his chattels shall be

distributed by the hands of his nearest kinsfolk and friends, under

supervision of the Church, saving to every one the debts which the

deceased owed to him.

28. No constable or other bailiff of ours shall take corn or other

provisions from anyone without immediately tendering money therefor,

unless he can have postponement thereof by permission of the seller.

29. No constable shall compel any knight to give money in lieu of

castle-guard, when he is willing to perform it in his own person, or (if

he himself cannot do it from any reasonable cause) then by another

responsible man. Further, if we have led or sent him upon military

service, he shall be relieved from guard in proportion to the time

during which he has been on service because of us.

30. No sheriff or bailiff of ours, or other person, shall take the

horses or carts of any freeman for transport duty, against the will of

the said freeman.

31. Neither we nor our bailiffs shall take, for our castles or for any

other work of ours, wood which is not ours, against the will of the

owner of that wood.

32. We will not retain beyond one year and one day, the lands those who

have been convicted of felony, and the lands shall thereafter be handed

over to the lords of the fiefs.

33. All kydells for the future shall be removed altogether from Thames

and Medway, and throughout all England, except upon the seashore.

34. The writ which is called praecipe shall not for the future be issued

to anyone, regarding any tenement whereby a freeman may lose his court.

35. Let there be one measure of wine throughout our whole realm; and one

measure of ale; and one measure of corn, to wit, “the London quarter”;

and one width of cloth (whether dyed, or russet, or “halberget”), to

wit, two ells within the selvedges; of weights also let it be as of

measures.

36. Nothing in future shall be given or taken for a writ of inquisition

of life or limbs, but freely it shall be granted, and never denied.

37. If anyone holds of us by fee-farm, either by socage or by burage, or

of any other land by knight’s service, we will not (by reason of that

fee-farm, socage, or burgage), have the wardship of the heir, or of such

land of his as if of the fief of that other; nor shall we have wardship

of that fee-farm, socage, or burgage, unless such fee-farm owes knight’s

service. We will not by reason of any small serjeancy which anyone may

hold of us by the service of rendering to us knives, arrows, or the

like, have wardship of his heir or of the land which he holds of another

lord by knight’s service.

38. No bailiff for the future shall, upon his own unsupported complaint,

put anyone to his “law”, without credible witnesses brought for this

purposes.

39. No freemen shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in

any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by

the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

40. To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or

justice.

41. All merchants shall have safe and secure exit from England, and

entry to England, with the right to tarry there and to move about as

well by land as by water, for buying and selling by the ancient and

right customs, quit from all evil tolls, except (in time of war) such

merchants as are of the land at war with us. And if such are found in

our land at the beginning of the war, they shall be detained, without

injury to their bodies or goods, until information be received by us, or

by our chief justiciar, how the merchants of our land found in the land

at war with us are treated; and if our men are safe there, the others

shall be safe in our land.

42. It shall be lawful in future for anyone (excepting always those

imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the kingdom, and

natives of any country at war with us, and merchants, who shall be

treated as if above provided) to leave our kingdom and to return, safe

and secure by land and water, except for a short period in time of war,

on grounds of public policy — reserving always the allegiance due to

us.

43. If anyone holding of some escheat (such as the honor of Wallingford,

Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other escheats which are in our

hands and are baronies) shall die, his heir shall give no other relief,

and perform no other service to us than he would have done to the baron

if that barony had been in the baron’s hand; and we shall hold it in the

same manner in which the baron held it.

44. Men who dwell without the forest need not henceforth come before our

justiciaries of the forest upon a general summons, unless they are in

plea, or sureties of one or more, who are attached for the forest.

45. We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs, or bailiffs only

such as know the law of the realm and mean to observe it well.

46. All barons who have founded abbeys, concerning which they hold

charters from the kings of England, or of which they have long continued

possession, shall have the wardship of them, when vacant, as they ought

to have.

47. All forests that have been made such in our time shall forthwith be

disafforsted; and a similar course shall be followed with regard to

river banks that have been placed “in defense” by us in our time.

48. All evil customs connected with forests and warrens, foresters and

warreners, sheriffs and their officers, river banks and their wardens,

shall immediately by inquired into in each county by twelve sworn

knights of the same county chosen by the honest men of the same county,

and shall, within forty days of the said inquest, be utterly abolished,

so as never to be restored, provided always that we previously have

intimation thereof, or our justiciar, if we should not be in England.

49. We will immediately restore all hostages and charters delivered to

us by Englishmen, as sureties of the peace of faithful service.

50. We will entirely remove from their bailiwicks, the relations of

Gerard of Athee (so that in future they shall have no bailiwick in

England); namely, Engelard of Cigogne, Peter, Guy, and Andrew of

Chanceaux, Guy of Cigogne, Geoffrey of Martigny with his brothers,

Philip Mark with his brothers and his nephew Geoffrey, and the whole

brood of the same.

51. As soon as peace is restored, we will banish from the kingdom all

foreign born knights, crossbowmen, serjeants, and mercenary soldiers who

have come with horses and arms to the kingdom’s hurt.

52. If anyone has been dispossessed or removed by us, without the legal

judgment of his peers, from his lands, castles, franchises, or from his

right, we will immediately restore them to him; and if a dispute arise

over this, then let it be decided by the five and twenty barons of whom

mention is made below in the clause for securing the peace. Moreover,

for all those possessions, from which anyone has, without the lawful

judgment of his peers, been disseised or removed, by our father, King

Henry, or by our brother, King Richard, and which we retain in our hand

(or which as possessed by others, to whom we are bound to warrant them)

we shall have respite until the usual term of crusaders; excepting those

things about which a plea has been raised, or an inquest made by our

order, before our taking of the cross; but as soon as we return from the

expedition, we will immediately grant full justice therein.

53. We shall have, moreover, the same respite and in the same manner in

rendering justice concerning the disafforestation or retention of those

forests which Henry our father and Richard our brother afforested, and

concerning the wardship of lands which are of the fief of another

(namely, such wardships as we have hitherto had by reason of a fief

which anyone held of us by knight’s service), and concerning abbeys

founded on other fiefs than our own, in which the lord of the fee claims

to have right; and when we have returned, or if we desist from our

expedition, we will immediately grant full justice to all who complain

of such things.

54. No one shall be arrested or imprisoned upon the appeal of a woman,

for the death of any other than 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 it shall be done concerning them according

to the decision of the five and twenty barons whom mention is made below

in the clause for securing the pease, or according to 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

bring with him for this purpose, and if he cannot be present the

business shall nevertheless proceed without him, provided always that if

any one or more of the aforesaid five and twenty barons are in a similar

suit, they shall be removed as far as concerns this particular judgment,

others being substituted in their places after having been selected by

the rest of the same five and twenty for this purpose only, and after

having been sworn.

56. If we have disseised or removed 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

arise over this, then let it be decided in the marches by the judgment

of their peers; for the tenements in England according to the law of

England, for tenements in Wales according to the law of Wales, and for

tenements in the marches according to the law of the marches. Welshmen

shall do the same to us and ours.

57. Further, for all those possessions from which any Welshman has,

without the lawful judgment of his peers, been disseised or removed by

King Henry our father, or King Richard our brother, and which we retain

in our hand (or which are possessed by others, and which we ought to

warrant), we will have respite until the usual term of crusaders;

excepting those things about which a plea has been raised or an inquest

made by our order before we took the cross; but as soon as we return (or

if perchance we desist from our expedition), we will immediately grant

full justice in accordance with the laws of the Welsh and in relation to

the foresaid regions.

58. We will immediately give up the son of Llywelyn and all the hostages

of Wales, and the charters delivered to us as security for the peace.

59. We will do towards Alexander, king of Scots, concerning the return

of his sisters and his hostages, and concerning his franchises, and his

right, in the same manner as we shall do towards our owner barons of

England, unless it ought to be otherwise according to the charters which

we hold from William his father, formerly king of Scots; and this shall

be according to the judgment of his peers in our court.

60. Moreover, all these aforesaid customs and liberties, the observances

of which we have granted in our kingdom as far as pertains to us towards

our men, shall be observed b all of our kingdom, as well clergy as

laymen, as far as pertains to them towards their men.

61. Since, moveover, for God and the amendment of our kingdom and for

the better allaying of the quarrel that has arisen between us and our

barons, we have granted all these concessions, desirous that they should

enjoy them in complete and firm endurance forever, we give and grant to

them the underwritten security, namely, that the barons choose five and

twenty barons of the kingdom, whomsoever they will, who shall be bound

with all their might, to observe and hold, and cause to be observed, the

peace and liberties we have granted and confirmed to them by this our

present Charter, so that if we, or our justiciar, or our bailiffs or any

one of our officers, shall in anything be at fault towards anyone, or

shall have broken any one of the articles of this peace or of this

security, and the offense be notified to four barons of the foresaid

five and twenty, the said four barons shall repair to us (or our

justiciar, if we are out of the realm) and, laying the transgression

before us, petition to have that transgression redressed without delay.

And if we shall not have corrected the transgression (or, in the event

of our being out of the realm, if our justiciar shall not have corrected

it) within forty days, reckoning from the time it has been intimated to

us (or to our justiciar, if we should be out of the realm), the four

barons aforesaid shall refer that matter to the rest of the five and

twenty barons, and those five and twenty barons shall, together with the

community of the whole realm, distrain and distress us in all possible

ways, namely, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, and in any

other way they can, until redress has been obtained as they deem fit,

saving harmless our own person, and the persons of our queen and

children; and when redress has been obtained, they shall resume their

old relations towards us. And let whoever in the country desires it,

swear to obey the orders of the said five and twenty barons for the

execution of all the aforesaid matters, and along with them, to molest

us to the utmost of his power; and we publicly and freely grant leave to

everyone who wishes to swear, and we shall never forbid anyone to swear.

All those, moveover, in the land who of themselves and of their own

accord are unwilling to swear to the twenty five to help them in

constraining and molesting us, we shall by our command compel the same

to swear to the effect foresaid. And if any one of the five and twenty

barons shall have died or departed from the land, or be incapacitated in

any other manner which would prevent the foresaid provisions being

carried out, those of the said twenty five barons who are left shall

choose another in his place according to their own judgment, and he

shall be sworn in the same way as the others. Further, in all matters,

the execution of which is entrusted, to these twenty five barons, if

perchance these twenty five are present and disagree about anything, or

if some of them, after being summoned, are unwilling or unable to be

present, that which the majority of those present ordain or command

shall be held as fixed and established, exactly as if the whole twenty

five had concurred in this; and the said twenty five shall swear that

they will faithfully observe all that is aforesaid, and cause it to be

observed with all their might. And we shall procure nothing from anyone,

directly or indirectly, whereby any part of these concessions and

liberties might be revoked or diminished; and if any such things has

been procured, let it be void and null, and we shall never use it

personally or by another.

62. And all the will, hatreds, and bitterness that have arisen between

us and our men, clergy and lay, from the date of the quarrel, we have

completely remitted and pardoned to everyone. Moreover, all trespasses

occasioned by the said quarrel, from Easter in the sixteenth year of our

reign till the restoration of peace, we have fully remitted to all, both

clergy and laymen, and completely forgiven, as far as pertains to us.

And on this head, 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, of the bishops aforesaid, and of Master Pandulf as

touching this security and the concessions aforesaid.

63. Wherefore we will and firmly order that the English Church be free,

and that the men in our kingdom have and hold all the aforesaid

liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably, freely and

quietly, fully and wholly, for themselves and their heirs, of us and our

heirs, in all respects and in all places forever, as is aforesaid. An

oath, moreover, has been taken, as well on our part as on the art of the

barons, that all these conditions aforesaid shall be kept in good faith

and without evil intent. Given under our hand – the above named and many

others being witnesses – in the meadow which is called Runnymede,

between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June, in the

seventeenth year of our reign.

————————————

This is but one of three different translations I found

of the Magna Carta; it was originally done in Latin,

probably by the Archbishop, Stephen Langton. It was in

force for only a few months, when it was violated by the

king. Just over a year later, with no resolution to the

war, the king died, being succeeded by his 9-year old son,

Henry III. The Charter (Carta) was reissued again, with

some revisions, in 1216, 1217 and 1225. As near as I can

tell, the version presented here is the one that preceded

all of the others; nearly all of it’s provisions were soon

superseded by other laws, and none of it is effective today.

The two other versions I found each professed to be the

original, as well. The basic intent of each is the same.

– Gerald Murphy (The Cleveland Free-Net – aa300)

————————————

Prepared by Nancy Troutman (The Cleveland Free-Net – aa345)

Distributed by the Cybercasting Services Division of the

National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN).

Permission is hereby given to download, reprint, and/or otherwise

redistribute this file, provided appropriate point of origin

credit is given to the preparer(s) and the National Public

Telecomputing Network.