Magna Carta’s 800th Anniversary – June 15, 2015

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Magna Carta 1215 - As  agreed upon by King John and the Barons of England on June 15, 2015. It is written in Latin, on sheepskin parchment, in a documentary script, by a single scribe. There are only 4 copies known to exist, although it is not known how many were originally produced. On June 15, 1215, a draft, called the Articles of the Barons, was agreed upon and sealed by King John. The next few days were spent on refining the rough copy. On June 19, 1215, the final document, Magna Carta, was completed. Each heir of King John, re-issued the Magna Carta (re-issues were made in 1216,1217,1225, 1264 (all by King Henry III) and in 1297 by King Edward I).  There are 4 copies of the 1297 (King Edward I version) of Magna Carta known to exist. Magna Carta (Latin for "the Great Charter") or Magna Carta Libertatum (Latin for "the Great Charter of the Liberties").
Magna Carta 1215 – As agreed upon by King John and the Barons of England on June 15, 2015. It is written in Latin, on sheepskin parchment, in a documentary script, by a single scribe. There are only 4 copies known to exist, although it is not known how many were originally produced. On June 15, 1215, a draft, called the Articles of the Barons, was agreed upon and sealed by King John and signed by 25 sureties (barons). The next few days were spent on refining the rough copy. On June 19, 1215, the final document, Magna Carta, was completed. Each heir of King John, re-issued the Magna Carta (re-issues were made in 1216,1217,1225, 1264 (all by King Henry III) and in 1297 by King Edward I). There are 4 copies of the 1297 (King Edward I version) of Magna Carta known to exist. Magna Carta (Latin for “the Great Charter”) or Magna Carta Libertatum (Latin for “the Great Charter of the Liberties”).

Commemorations are being held throughout the world, celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta and acknowledging its principles as the foundation stone of modern democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

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Stretching from 979 to 2015, this simple timeline charts the key events leading up to the declaration of Magna Carta in 1215, and explores the legacy of the document up to the present day.

979 – Coronation of Æthelred the Unready

Æthelred the Unready takes the traditional three-fold coronation oath of an English king, to uphold peace in the church, to forbid robbery and unrighteousness to all, and to provide justice and mercy in all judgements.

1014 – Restoration of Æthelred the Unready

Æthelred the Unready is restored to the throne of England following the death of Swein Forkbeard. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Æthelred’s restoration is founded on a pact agreed between the English king and his people, probably based on his coronation oath.

25 December 1066 – Norman Conquest

The Norman Conquest is completed when William Duke of Normandy is crowned King William I of England following his victory over King Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066.

1086 – Domesday Book

Domesday Book is compiled. This monumental record of the detailed national survey of land holding in England, commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1085, is preserved at The National Archives, Kew.

5 August 1100 – Coronation of Henry I

Henry I (r.1100-1135) issues a charter of liberties at his coronation. The charter contains a series of promises to his barons and other parties, mostly relating to feudal custom.

27 May 1199 – Coronation of King John

John (r.1199-1216) is crowned King of England following the death of his older brother Richard I in France on 6 April 1199.

24 March 1208 – Papal Interdict

Pope Innocent III (1161-1216) places a papal interdict on England, which bans priests from administering most of the sacraments and forbids Christian burial.

1 June 1213 – Stephen Langton installed as Archbishop

King John finally accepts Stephen Langton (1150-1228) as Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton subsequently absolves John of his excommunication from the Church.

21 April 1214 – Pope becomes England’s feudal overlord

Pope Innocent III accepts overlordship of England. This displaces King John from the pinnacle of the feudal hierarchy but in return secures much needed papal support for the king.

17 May 1215 – Barons capture Tower of London

The rebel barons capture the Tower of London, greatly strengthening their position in their struggle with King John.

10 June 1215 – Meeting at Runnymede begins

The barons assemble at Runnymede by the River Thames to negotiate with King John. Their demands are listed in the Articles of the Barons.

15 June 1215 – Granting of Magna Carta

King John grants Magna Carta.

19 June 1215 – Peace is restored

The barons make formal peace with King John by renewing their oaths of allegiance to him.

24 June 1215 – Distribution of Magna Carta begins

The first seven copies of Magna Carta are delivered for distribution.

24 August 1215 – Pope annuls Magna Carta

Pope Innocent III issues a papal bull declaring Magna Carta null and void.

22 May 1216 – French invasion of England

Prince Louis of France (1187-1226) invades England and attracts substantial baronial support.

12 October 1216 – Loss of royal treasure

King John loses his royal treasure in the quicksands of the Wash, East Anglia.

18 October 1216 – Death of King John

King John dies suddenly at Newark having failed to recover from an attack of dysentery. He is buried, according to his wishes, in Worcester Cathedral and his nine-year-old son becomes King Henry III (r.1216-72).

12 November 1216 – First revision of Magna Carta

Less than a month after King John’s death, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke (d.1219), issues a revised version of Magna Carta in his capacity as Regent.

6 November 1217 – Second revision of Magna Carta

The Regent, William Marshal, issues a second revision of Magna Carta.

11 February 1225 – Henry III issues revised Magna Carta

Henry III, who has come of age, issues a substantially revised version of Magna Carta under his own great seal.

12 October 1297 – Edward I confirms Magna Carta

Edward I (r.1272-1307) confirms Henry III’s 1225 version of Magna Carta: this text is subsequently placed on the first statute roll.

June 1628 – Petition of Right

Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) initiates the Petition of Right, a statement of civil liberties sent by Parliament to Charles I and conceded by the king in return for a grant of taxation.

27 May 1679 – Habeas Corpus Act

Parliament passes the Habeas Corpus Act, strengthening the ancient writ of habeas corpus which protects people from being detained without legal authority.

16 December 1689 – British Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is passed by Parliament. It sets out the civil and political rights of the people at the time of the accession of William and Mary.

4 July 1776 – American Declaration of Independence

The American Congress formally declares the separation of the 13 colonies from Great Britain through the Declaration of Independence.

17 September 1787 – Constitution of the United States

The Constitution of the United States is signed and then ratified the following year. It establishes the system of federal government that begins to operate from 1789.

15 December 1791 – American Bill of Rights

The American Bill of Rights is added to the U.S. Constitution as the first ten amendments.

10 December 1948 – Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

17 April 1982 – Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Canada's Flag
Canada’s Flag

The Charter was signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II of Canada on April 17, 1982 along with the rest of the Act. Section 15 of the Charter (equality rights) came into effect three years after the rest of the Charter, on April 17, 1985, to give governments time to bring their laws into line with section 15. The Charter was preceded by the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was enacted in 1960. However, the Bill of Rights is only a federal statute, rather than a constitutional document.

Constitution Walk - A walkway built between The Sheraton Centre and Nathan Philips Square.
Constitution Walk – A walkway built between The Sheraton Centre and Nathan Philips Square.

2 October 2000 – British Human Rights Act

The British Human Rights Act 1998 comes into force. This makes the European Convention on Human Rights enforceable in UK courts.

15 June 2015 – 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta

A series of events will take place throughout 2015 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the granting of Magna Carta, including the British Library’s exhibition, Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 03:  A copy of a 1297 version of Magna Carta is on display during a press viewing at the National Archives March 3, 2008 in Washington, DC. The Magna Carta was first issued by King John of England to recognize traditional rights in 1215 and was reissued by every one of his heirs. The document influenced the establishment such common law and constitutional documents as the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States. The 1297 version of Magna Carta entered the official Statute Rolls of England and became the foundation of English law. The 1297 version is one of four originals copies of the document that still remains and is the only one on display in the U.S. The Brudenell family, the earls of Cardigan, and the Perot Foundation previously owned this copy. David Rubenstein, Co-founder and Managing Director of the Carlyle Group, purchased the document in 2007 and has placed it on loan to the National Archives to display to the public.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
A copy of a 1297 version of Magna Carta is on display during a press viewing at the National Archives March 3, 2008 in Washington, DC.  The document influenced the establishment such common law and constitutional documents as the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States. The 1297 version of Magna Carta entered the official Statute Rolls of England and became the foundation of English law. The 1297 version is one of four originals copies of the document that still remains and is the only one on display in the U.S.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Magna Carta in one of the most celebrated documents in English history, but later interpretations have tended to obscure its real significance in 1215. This iconic document was not intended to be a lasting declaration of legal principle. It was a practical solution to a political crisis which primarily served the interests of the highest ranks of feudal society by reasserting the power of custom to limit despotic behaviour by the king.
The majority of clauses in Magna Carta dealt with the regulation of feudal customs and the operation of the justice system, not with theory and rights. It was King John’s extortionate exploitation of his feudal rights and his ruthless administration of justice that were at the core of the barons’ grievances.
All but three (3) of Magna Carta’s clauses (1,13 & 39/40) have now become obsolete and have been repealed, but the flexible way in which the charter has been reinterpreted through the centuries has guaranteed its status and longevity.
Only three (3) of the original clauses in Magna Carta are still law. One defends the freedoms and rights of the English church (clause 1), another confirms the liberties and customs of London and other towns (clause 13), but the third (clauses 39 & 40) is the most famous:
No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, nor will we proceed with force against him, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one delay or delay right or justice.
This statement of principle, buried deep in Magna Carta, was given no particular prominence in 1215, but its intrinsic adaptability has allowed succeeding generations to reinterpret it for their own purposes and this has ensured its longevity. In the fourteenth century Parliament saw it as guaranteeing trial by jury.
Sir Edward Coke interpreted it as a declaration of individual liberty in his conflict with the early Stuart kings and it has resonant echoes in the American Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But the real legacy of Magna Carta as a whole is that it limited the king’s authority by establishing the crucial principle that the law was a power in its own right to which the king was subject.

 

 In January 1215, a group of English barons had had it. They demanded a guarantee for fair treatment from, and signed by, King John. To show that they meant business, the barons armed themselves and captured London in May 1215. Thus threatened with civil war, King John reasoned correctly that negotiating was the idea of the day and met with the barons at Runnymede, a meadow by the River Thames, between Windsor and Staines. Runnymede is located in today's county of Surrey. If you visit Runnymede, you'll find this memorial erected by the American Bar Association.
Magna Carta memorial in Runnymede, the birthplace of the Magna Carta. King John of England had just had a war in France(Battle of Bouvines) and had lost land and alot of money. He was in debt and decided to heavily and arbitrarily tax his subjects to re-pay his debt and to fill his underfunded royal coffers. The English barons were fed up and took immediate steps to stop their king, who they viewed as out of control. They hired an army and captured London in May, 2015. King John had just lost a war in a country that bordered England and didn’t want to risk losing another war, within his own country. He decided to meet with the barons in a meadow between Windsor & Staines, near the River Thames at Runnymede (just 32 km’s west of central London). On June 15, 1215 Magna Carta was signed by the barons and King John applied his royal seal, it closes with the words: “Both we and the barons have sworn that all this shall be observed in good faith and without deceit ….Given by our hand in the meadow that is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteen day of June in the seventeenth year of out reign.”

Full-text translation of the 1215 edition of Magna Carta

Clauses marked (+) are still valid under the charter of 1225, but with a few minor amendments. Clauses marked (*) were omitted in all later reissues of the charter. In the charter itself the clauses are not numbered, and the text reads continuously. The translation sets out to convey the sense rather than the precise wording of the original Latin.

JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting.

KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric master of the knighthood of the Temple in England, William Marshal earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warren, William earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway constable of Scotland, Warin fitz Gerald, Peter fitz Herbert, Hubert de Burgh seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip Daubeny, Robert de Roppeley, John Marshal, John fitz Hugh, and other loyal subjects:

+ (1) FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church’s elections – a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it – and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.

TO ALL FREE MEN OF OUR KINGDOM we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs:

(2) If any earl, baron, or other person that holds lands directly of the Crown, for military service, shall die, and at his death his heir shall be of full age and owe a ‘relief’, the heir shall have his inheritance on payment of the ancient scale of ‘relief’. That is to say, the heir or heirs of an earl shall pay £100 for the entire earl’s barony, the heir or heirs of a knight 100s. at most for the entire knight’s ‘fee’, and any man that owes less shall pay less, in accordance with the ancient usage of ‘fees’.

(3) But if the heir of such a person is under age and a ward, when he comes of age he shall have his inheritance without ‘relief’ or fine.

(4) The guardian of the land of an heir who is under age shall take from it only reasonable revenues, customary dues, and feudal services. He shall do this without destruction or damage to men or property. If we have given the guardianship of the land to a sheriff, or to any person answerable to us for the revenues, and he commits destruction or damage, we will exact compensation from him, and the land shall be entrusted to two worthy and prudent men of the same ‘fee’, who shall be answerable to us for the revenues, or to the person to whom we have assigned them. If we have given or sold to anyone the guardianship of such land, and he causes destruction or damage, he shall lose the guardianship of it, and it shall be handed over to two worthy and prudent men of the same ‘fee’, who shall be similarly answerable to us.

(5) For so long as a guardian has guardianship of such land, he shall maintain the houses, parks, fish preserves, ponds, mills, and everything else pertaining to it, from the revenues of the land itself. When the heir comes of age, he shall restore the whole land to him, stocked with plough teams and such implements of husbandry as the season demands and the revenues from the land can reasonably bear.

(6) Heirs may be given in marriage, but not to someone of lower social standing. Before a marriage takes place, it shall be made known to the heir’s next-of-kin.

(7) At her husband’s death, a widow may have her marriage portion and inheritance at once and without trouble. She shall pay nothing for her dower, marriage portion, or any inheritance that she and her husband held jointly on the day of his death. She may remain in her husband’s house for forty days after his death, and within this period her dower shall be assigned to her.

(8) No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband. But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent, if she holds her lands of the Crown, or without the consent of whatever other lord she may hold them of.

(9) Neither we nor our officials will seize any land or rent in payment of a debt, so long as the debtor has movable goods sufficient to discharge the debt. A debtor’s sureties shall not be distrained upon so long as the debtor himself can discharge his debt. If, for lack of means, the debtor is unable to discharge his debt, his sureties shall be answerable for it. If they so desire, they may have the debtor’s lands and rents until they have received satisfaction for the debt that they paid for him, unless the debtor can show that he has settled his obligations to them.

* (10) If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective of whom he holds his lands. If such a debt falls into the hands of the Crown, it will take nothing except the principal sum specified in the bond.

* (11) If a man dies owing money to Jews, his wife may have her dower and pay nothing towards the debt from it. If he leaves children that are under age, their needs may also be provided for on a scale appropriate to the size of his holding of lands. The debt is to be paid out of the residue, reserving the service due to his feudal lords. Debts owed to persons other than Jews are to be dealt with similarly.

* (12) No ‘scutage’ or ‘aid’ may be levied in our kingdom without its general consent, unless it is for the ransom of our person, to make our eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry our eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable ‘aid’ may be levied. ‘Aids’ from the city of London are to be treated similarly.

+ (13) The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs.

* (14) To obtain the general consent of the realm for the assessment of an ‘aid’ – except in the three cases specified above – or a ‘scutage’, we will cause the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons to be summoned individually by letter. To those who hold lands directly of us we will cause a general summons to be issued, through the sheriffs and other officials, to come together on a fixed day (of which at least forty days notice shall be given) and at a fixed place. In all letters of summons, the cause of the summons will be stated. When a summons has been issued, the business appointed for the day shall go forward in accordance with the resolution of those present, even if not all those who were summoned have appeared.

* (15) In future we will allow no one to levy an ‘aid’ from his free men, except to ransom his person, to make his eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry his eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable ‘aid’ may be levied.

(16) No man shall be forced to perform more service for a knight’s ‘fee’, or other free holding of land, than is due from it.

(17) Ordinary lawsuits shall not follow the royal court around, but shall be held in a fixed place.

(18) Inquests of novel disseisin, mort d’ancestor, and darrein presentment shall be taken only in their proper county court. We ourselves, or in our absence abroad our chief justice, will send two justices to each county four times a year, and these justices, with four knights of the county elected by the county itself, shall hold the assizes in the county court, on the day and in the place where the court meets.

(19) If any assizes cannot be taken on the day of the county court, as many knights and freeholders shall afterwards remain behind, of those who have attended the court, as will suffice for the administration of justice, having regard to the volume of business to be done.

(20) For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a villein the implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood.

(21) Earls and barons shall be fined only by their equals, and in proportion to the gravity of their offence.

(22) A fine imposed upon the lay property of a clerk in holy orders shall be assessed upon the same principles, without reference to the value of his ecclesiastical benefice.

(23) No town or person shall be forced to build bridges over rivers except those with an ancient obligation to do so.

(24) No sheriff, constable, coroners, or other royal officials are to hold lawsuits that should be held by the royal justices.

* (25) Every county, hundred, wapentake, and tithing shall remain at its ancient rent, without increase, except the royal demesne manors.

(26) If at the death of a man who holds a lay ‘fee’ of the Crown, a sheriff or royal official produces royal letters patent of summons for a debt due to the Crown, it shall be lawful for them to seize and list movable goods found in the lay ‘fee’ of the dead man to the value of the debt, as assessed by worthy men. Nothing shall be removed until the whole debt is paid, when the residue shall be given over to the executors to carry out the dead man’s will. If no debt is due to the Crown, all the movable goods shall be regarded as the property of the dead man, except the reasonable shares of his wife and children.

* (27) If a free man dies intestate, his movable goods are to be distributed by his next-of-kin and friends, under the supervision of the Church. The rights of his debtors are to be preserved.

(28) No constable or other royal official shall take corn or other movable goods from any man without immediate payment, unless the seller voluntarily offers postponement of this.

(29) No constable may compel a knight to pay money for castle-guard if the knight is willing to undertake the guard in person, or with reasonable excuse to supply some other fit man to do it. A knight taken or sent on military service shall be excused from castle-guard for the period of this service.

(30) No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent.

(31) Neither we nor any royal official will take wood for our castle, or for any other purpose, without the consent of the owner.

(32) We will not keep the lands of people convicted of felony in our hand for longer than a year and a day, after which they shall be returned to the lords of the ‘fees’ concerned.

(33) All fish-weirs shall be removed from the Thames, the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea coast.

(34) The writ called precipe shall not in future be issued to anyone in respect of any holding of land, if a free man could thereby be deprived of the right of trial in his own lord’s court.

(35) There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom. There shall also be a standard width of dyed cloth, russet, and haberject, namely two ells within the selvedges. Weights are to be standardised similarly.

(36) In future nothing shall be paid or accepted for the issue of a writ of inquisition of life or limbs. It shall be given gratis, and not refused.

(37) If a man holds land of the Crown by ‘fee-farm’, ‘socage’, or ‘burgage’, and also holds land of someone else for knight’s service, we will not have guardianship of his heir, nor of the land that belongs to the other person’s ‘fee’, by virtue of the ‘fee-farm’, ‘socage’, or ‘burgage’, unless the ‘fee-farm’ owes knight’s service. We will not have the guardianship of a man’s heir, or of land that he holds of someone else, by reason of any small property that he may hold of the Crown for a service of knives, arrows, or the like.

(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

+ (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

+ (40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

(41) All merchants may enter or leave England unharmed and without fear, and may stay or travel within it, by land or water, for purposes of trade, free from all illegal exactions, in accordance with ancient and lawful customs. This, however, does not apply in time of war to merchants from a country that is at war with us. Any such merchants found in our country at the outbreak of war shall be detained without injury to their persons or property, until we or our chief justice have discovered how our own merchants are being treated in the country at war with us. If our own merchants are safe they shall be safe too.

* (42) In future it shall be lawful for any man to leave and return to our kingdom unharmed and without fear, by land or water, preserving his allegiance to us, except in time of war, for some short period, for the common benefit of the realm. People that have been imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the land, people from a country that is at war with us, and merchants – who shall be dealt with as stated above – are excepted from this provision.

(43) If a man holds lands of any ‘escheat’ such as the ‘honour’ of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other ‘escheats’ in our hand that are baronies, at his death his heir shall give us only the ‘relief’ and service that he would have made to the baron, had the barony been in the baron’s hand. We will hold the ‘escheat’ in the same manner as the baron held it.

(44) People who live outside the forest need not in future appear before the royal justices of the forest in answer to general summonses, unless they are actually involved in proceedings or are sureties for someone who has been seized for a forest offence.

* (45) We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs, or other officials, only men that know the law of the realm and are minded to keep it well.

(46) All barons who have founded abbeys, and have charters of English kings or ancient tenure as evidence of this, may have guardianship of them when there is no abbot, as is their due.

(47) All forests that have been created in our reign shall at once be disafforested. River-banks that have been enclosed in our reign shall be treated similarly.

*(48) All evil customs relating to forests and warrens, foresters, warreners, sheriffs and their servants, or river-banks and their wardens, are at once to be investigated in every county by twelve sworn knights of the county, and within forty days of their enquiry the evil customs are to be abolished completely and irrevocably. But we, or our chief justice if we are not in England, are first to be informed.

* (49) We will at once return all hostages and charters delivered up to us by Englishmen as security for peace or for loyal service.

* (50) We will remove completely from their offices the kinsmen of Gerard de Athée, and in future they shall hold no offices in England. The people in question are Engelard de Cigogné, Peter, Guy, and Andrew de Chanceaux, Guy de Cigogné, Geoffrey de Martigny and his brothers, Philip Marc and his brothers, with Geoffrey his nephew, and all their followers.

* (51) As soon as peace is restored, we will remove from the kingdom all the foreign knights, bowmen, their attendants, and the mercenaries that have come to it, to its harm, with horses and arms.

* (52) To any man whom we have deprived or dispossessed of lands, castles, liberties, or rights, without the lawful judgment of his equals, we will at once restore these. In cases of dispute the matter shall be resolved by the judgment of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace (§61). In cases, however, where a man was deprived or dispossessed of something without the lawful judgment of his equals by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and it remains in our hands or is held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, unless a lawsuit had been begun, or an enquiry had been made at our order, before we took the Cross as a Crusader. On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once render justice in full.

* (53) We shall have similar respite in rendering justice in connexion with forests that are to be disafforested, or to remain forests, when these were first afforested by our father Henry or our brother Richard; with the guardianship of lands in another person’s ‘fee’, when we have hitherto had this by virtue of a ‘fee’ held of us for knight’s service by a third party; and with abbeys founded in another person’s ‘fee’, in which the lord of the ‘fee’ claims to own a right. On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once do full justice to complaints about these matters.

(54) No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of any person except her husband.

* (55) All fines that have been given to us unjustly and against the law of the land, and all fines that we have exacted unjustly, shall be entirely remitted or the matter decided by a majority judgment of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace (§61) together with Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he wishes to bring with him. If the archbishop cannot be present, proceedings shall continue without him, provided that if any of the twenty-five barons has been involved in a similar suit himself, his judgment shall be set aside, and someone else chosen and sworn in his place, as a substitute for the single occasion, by the rest of the twenty-five.

(56) If we have deprived or dispossessed any Welshmen of land, liberties, or anything else in England or in Wales, without the lawful judgment of their equals, these are at once to be returned to them. A dispute on this point shall be determined in the Marches by the judgment of equals. English law shall apply to holdings of land in England, Welsh law to those in Wales, and the law of the Marches to those in the Marches. The Welsh shall treat us and ours in the same way.

* (57) In cases where a Welshman was deprived or dispossessed of anything, without the lawful judgment of his equals, by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and it remains in our hands or is held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, unless a lawsuit had been begun, or an enquiry had been made at our order, before we took the Cross as a Crusader. But on our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once do full justice according to the laws of Wales and the said regions.

* (58) We will at once return the son of Llywelyn, all Welsh hostages, and the charters delivered to us as security for the peace.

* (59) With regard to the return of the sisters and hostages of Alexander, king of Scotland, his liberties and his rights, we will treat him in the same way as our other barons of England, unless it appears from the charters that we hold from his father William, formerly king of Scotland, that he should be treated otherwise. This matter shall be resolved by the judgment of his equals in our court.

(60) All these customs and liberties that we have granted shall be observed in our kingdom in so far as concerns our own relations with our subjects. Let all men of our kingdom, whether clergy or laymen, observe them similarly in their relations with their own men.

* (61) SINCE WE HAVE GRANTED ALL THESE THINGS for God, for the better ordering of our kingdom, and to allay the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, and since we desire that they shall be enjoyed in their entirety, with lasting strength, for ever, we give and grant to the barons the following security:

The barons shall elect twenty-five of their number to keep, and cause to be observed with all their might, the peace and liberties granted and confirmed to them by this charter.

If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us – or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice – to declare it and claim immediate redress. If we, or in our absence abroad the chief justice, make no redress within forty days, reckoning from the day on which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon. Having secured the redress, they may then resume their normal obedience to us.

Any man who so desires may take an oath to obey the commands of the twenty-five barons for the achievement of these ends, and to join with them in assailing us to the utmost of his power. We give public and free permission to take this oath to any man who so desires, and at no time will we prohibit any man from taking it. Indeed, we will compel any of our subjects who are unwilling to take it to swear it at our command.

If one of the twenty-five barons dies or leaves the country, or is prevented in any other way from discharging his duties, the rest of them shall choose another baron in his place, at their discretion, who shall be duly sworn in as they were.

In the event of disagreement among the twenty-five barons on any matter referred to them for decision, the verdict of the majority present shall have the same validity as a unanimous verdict of the whole twenty-five, whether these were all present or some of those summoned were unwilling or unable to appear.

The twenty-five barons shall swear to obey all the above articles faithfully, and shall cause them to be obeyed by others to the best of their power.

We will not seek to procure from anyone, either by our own efforts or those of a third party, anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished. Should such a thing be procured, it shall be null and void and we will at no time make use of it, either ourselves or through a third party.

* (62) We have remitted and pardoned fully to all men any ill-will, hurt, or grudges that have arisen between us and our subjects, whether clergy or laymen, since the beginning of the dispute. We have in addition remitted fully, and for our own part have also pardoned, to all clergy and laymen any offences committed as a result of the said dispute between Easter in the sixteenth year of our reign (i.e. 1215) and the restoration of peace.

In addition we have caused letters patent to be made for the barons, bearing witness to this security and to the concessions set out above, over the seals of Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, Henry archbishop of Dublin, the other bishops named above, and Master Pandulf.

* (63) IT IS ACCORDINGLY OUR WISH AND COMMAND that the English Church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably in their fullness and entirety for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever.

Both we and the barons have sworn that all this shall be observed in good faith and without deceit. Witness the abovementioned people and many others.

Given by our hand in the meadow that is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June in the seventeenth year of our reign (i.e. 1215: the new regnal year began on 28 May).

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