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THE MAGNA CARTA (The Great Charter)

       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
       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 therefrom.
       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
       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
       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
       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
       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
       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 owher 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 preceeded
all of the others; nearly all of it's provisions were soon
superceded 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
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