monasteries, cathedral and conventual, of all our kingdom of Eng-
land, the elections of all prelates, whatsoever, greater or less, be
free forever, saving to ourselves and our heirs the custody of
vacant churches and monasteries which belong to us. We prom-
ise also that we will neither hinder nor suffer nor procure to be
hindered by our ministers that in all and singular the churches
and monasteries mentioned, after the prelacies are vacant, the
electors should, whenever they will, freely set a pastor over them,
yet so that leave to elect be first asked of us and our heirs, which
we will not deny nor defer. And if by chance, which God forbid,
we should deny or defer, let the electors, none the less, proceed
to make canonical election ; and likewise, after the election is
concluded, let our assent be demanded, which in like manner we
will not deny, unless we put forth some reasonable excuse and
lawfully prove it, by reason of which we should not consent.
Wherefore we will and firmly forbid that when churches or
monasteries are vacant, any one in anything proceed or presume to
proceed in opposition to this our charter. But if any do ever at
any time proceed in opposition to it, let him incur the curse of
Almighty God and our own. These being witnesses : Peter,
bishop of Winchester, . . . William of Huntingfield. Given by
the hand of Master Richard de Marisco, our Chancellor, at the
new Temple in London, on the 2ist day of November in the i6th
year of our reign.
42 English Constitutional Documents
29. Great Charter of Liberties
(June, 1215. Latin text, Stubbs, S. C. 296. Translation, Cheyney, 6.
I Stubbs, 569.)
JOHN, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland,
duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, count of Anjou, to the
archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars, foresters,
sheriffs, reeves, servants, and all bailiffs and his faithful people
greeting. Know that by the suggestion of God and for the good
of our soul and those of all our predecessors and of our heirs, to
the honor of God and the exaltation of holy church, and the
improvement of our kingdom, by the advice of our venerable
fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all Eng-
land and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Henry, archbishop
of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Joscelyn of
Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester,
William of Coventry, and Benedict of Rochester, bishops ; of
Master Pandulf, subdeacon and member of the household of the
lord Pope, of Brother Aymeric, master of the Knights of the
Temple in England ; and of the noblemen William Marshall, earl
of Pembroke, William, earl of Salisbury, William, earl Warren,
William, earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway, constable of Scotland,
Warren Fitz-Gerald, Peter Fitz-Herbert, Hubert de Burgh, senes-
chal of Poitou, Hugh de Nevil, Matthew Fitz-Herbert, Thomas
Bassett, Alan Bassett, Philip d'Albini, Robert de Ropesle, John
Marshall, John Fitz-Hugh, and others of our faithful.
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 hold its rights entire and
its liberties uninjured ; and we will that it thus be observed ; which
is shown by this, that the freedom of elections, which is consid-
ered to be most important and especially necessary to the English
church, we, of our pure and spontaneous will, granted, and by our
charter confirmed, before the contest between us and our barons
had arisen ; and obtained a confirmation of it by the lord Pope
Innocent III. ; which we will observe and which we will shall be
observed in good faith by our heirs forever.
We have granted moreover to all free men of our kingdom for
us and our heirs forever all the liberties written below, to be had
and holden by themselves and their heirs from us and our heirs.
2. If any of our earls or barons, or others holding from us in
chief by military service shall have died, and when he has died
Great Charter of Liberties 43
his heir shall be of full age and owe relief, he shall have his inherit-
ance by the ancient relief ; that is to say, the heir or heirs of an
earl for the whole barony of an earl a hundred pounds ; the heir
or heirs of a baron for a whole barony a hundred pounds ; the
heir or heirs of a knight, for a whole knight's fee, a hundred shil-
lings at most ; and who owes less let him give less according to
the ancient custom of fiefs.
3. If moreover the heir of any one of such shall be under age,
and shall be in wardship, when he comes of age he shall have his
inheritance without relief and without a fine.
4. The custodian of the land of such a minor heir shall not
take from the land of the heir any except reasonable products,
reasonable customary payments, and reasonable services, and this
without destruction or waste of men or of property ; and if we
shall have committed the custody of the land of any such a one
to the sheriff or to any other who is to be responsible to us for its
proceeds, and that man shall have caused destruction or waste
from his custody we will recover damages from him, and the land
shall be committed to two legal and discreet men of that fief, who
shall be responsible for its proceeds to us or to him to whom we
have assigned them ; and if we shall have given or sold to any
one the custody of any such land, and he has caused destruction
or waste there, he shall lose that custody, and it shall be handed
over to two legal and discreet men of that fief who shall be in like
manner responsible to us as is said above.
5. The custodian moreover, so long as he shall have the cus-
tody of the land, must keep up the houses, parks, warrens, fish
ponds, mills, and other things pertaining to the land, from khe pro-
ceeds of the land itself; and he must return to the heir, when he
has come to full age, all his land, furnished with ploughs and imple-
ments of husbandry according as the time of wainage requires and
as the proceeds of the land are able reasonably to sustain.
6. Heirs shall be married without disparity, so nevertheless
that before the marriage is contracted, it shall be announced to
the relatives by blood of the heir himself.
7. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall have her
marriage portion and her inheritance immediately and without
obstruction, nor shall she give anything for her dowry or for her
marriage portion, or for her inheritance which inheritance her
husband and she held on' the day of the death of her husband ;
and she may remain in the house of her husband for forty days
after his death, within which time her dowry shall be assigned to
44 English Constitutional Documents
8. No widow shall be compelled to marry so long as she pre-
fers to live without a husband, provided she gives security that she
will not marry without our consent, if she holds from us, or without
the consent of her lord from whom she holds, if she holds from
9. Neither we nor our bailiffs will seise any land or rent, for any
debt, so long as the chattels of the debtor are sufficient for the pay-
ment of the debt ; nor shall the pledges of a debtor be distrained
so long as the principal debtor himself has enough for the payment
of the debt ; and if the principal debtor fails in the payment of the
debt, not having the wherewithal to pay it, the pledges shall be
responsible for the debt ; and if they wish, they shall have the
lands and the rents of the debtor until they shall have been satis-
fied for the debt which they have before paid for him, unless the
principal debtor shall have shown himself to be quit in that respect
towards those pledges.
10. If any one has taken anything from the Jews, by way of a
loan, more or less, and dies before that debt is paid, the debt shall
not draw interest so long as the heir is under age, from whomso-
ever he holds ; and if that debt falls into our hands, we will take
nothing except the chattel contained in the agreement.
1 1 . And if any one dies leaving a debt owing to the Jews, his wife
shall have her dowry, and shall pay nothing of that debt ; and if
there remain minor children of the dead man, necessaries shall be
provided for them corresponding to the holding of the dead man ;
and from the remainder shall be paid the debt, saving the service
of the lords. In the same way debts are to be treated which are
owed to others than the Jews.
12. No scutage or aid shall be imposed in our kingdom except
by the common council of our kingdom, except for the ransoming
of our body, for the making of our oldest son a knight, and for
once marrying our oldest daughter, and for these purposes it shall
be only a reasonable aid ; in the same way it shall be done con-
cerning the aids of the city of London.
13. And the city of London shall have all its ancient liberties
and free customs, as well by land as by water. Moreover, we will
and grant that all other cities and boroughs and villages and ports
shall have all their liberties and free customs.
14. And for holding a common council of the kingdom con-
cerning the assessment of an aid otherwise than in the three cases
mentioned above, or concerning the assessment of a scutage we
shall cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls,
and greater barons by our letters individually ; and besides we shall
Great Charter of Liberties 45
cause to be summoned generally, by our sheriffs and bailiffs all
those who hold from us in chief, for a certain day, that is at the
end of forty days at least, and for a certain place ; and in all the
letters of that summons, we will express the cause of the summons,
and when the summons has thus been given the business shall pro-
ceed on the appointed day, on the advice of those who shall be
present, even if not all of those who were summoned have come.
15. We will not grant to anyone, moreover, that he shall take
an aid from his free men, except for ransoming his body, for making
his oldest son a knight, and for once marrying his oldest daughter ;
and for these purposes only a reasonable aid shall be taken.
1 6. No one shall be compelled to perform any greater service
for a knight's fee, or for any other free tenement than is owed
1 7. The common pleas shall not follow our court, but shall be
held in some certain place.
1 8. The recognition of novel disseisin, mort f ancestor, and dar-
rein presentment shall be held only in their own counties and in
this manner j we, or if we are outside of the kingdom our principal
justiciar, will send two justiciars through each county four times a
year, who with four knights of each county, elected by the county,
shall hold in the county, and on the day and in the place of the
county court, the aforesaid assizes of the county.
19. And if the aforesaid assizes cannot be held within the day
of the county court, a sufficient number of knights and free-holders
shall remain from those who were present at the county court on
that day to give the judgments, according as the business is more
20. A free man shall not be fined for a small offence, except in
proportion to the measure of the offence ; and for a great offence
he shall be fined in proportion to the magnitude of the offence,
saving his freehold ; and a merchant in the same way, saving his
merchandise ; and the villain shall be fined in the same way, sav-
ing his wainage, if he shall be at our mercy ; and none of the
above fines shall be imposed except by the oaths of honest men
of the neighborhood.
21. Earls and barons shall only be fined by their peers, and
only in proportion to their offence.
22. A clergyman shall be fined, like those before mentioned,
only in proportion to his lay holding, and not according to the
extent of his ecclesiastical benefice.
23. No vill or man shall be compelled to make bridges over the
rivers except those which ought to do it of old and rightfully.
46 English Constitutional Documents
24. No sheriff, constable, coroners, or other bailiffs of ours shall
hold pleas of our crown.
25. All counties, hundreds, wapentakes, and trithings shall be
at the ancient rents and without any increase, excepting our
26. If any person holding a lay fief from us shall die, and our
sheriff or bailiff shall show our letters-patent of our summons con-
cerning a debt which the deceased owed to us, it shall be lawful
for our sheriff or bailiff to attach and levy on the chattels of the
deceased found on his lay fief, to the value of that debt, in the
view of legal men, so nevertheless that nothing be removed thence
until the clear debt to us shall be paid ; and the remainder shall
be left to the executors for the fulfilment of the will of the de-
ceased ; and if nothing is owed to us by him, all the chattels shall
go to the deceased, saving to his wife and children their reason-
27. If any free man dies intestate, his chattels shall be dis-
tributed by the hands of his near relatives and friends, under the
oversight of the church, saving to each one the debts which the
deceased owed to him.
28. No constable or other bailiff of ours shall take any one's
grain or other chattels, without immediately paying for them in
money, unless he is able to obtain a postponement at the good-
will of the seller.
29. No constable shall require any knight to give money in
place of his ward of a castle if he is willing to furnish that ward in
his own person or through another honest man, if he himself is
not able to do it for a reasonable cause ; and if we shall lead or
send him into the army he shall be free from ward in proportion
to the amount of time during which he has been in the army
30. No sheriff or bailiff of ours or any one else shall take horses
or wagons of any free man for carrying purposes except on the
permission of that free man.
31. Neither we nor our bailiffs will take the wood of another
man for castles, or for anything else which we are doing, except
by the permission of him to whom the wood belongs.
32. We will not hold the lands of those convicted of a felony
for more than a year and a day, after which the lands shall be
returned to the lords of the fiefs.
33. All the fish-weirs in the Thames and the Medway, and
throughout all England shall be done away with, except those on
Great Charter of Liberties 47
34. The writ which is called prcecipe shall not be given for the
future to any one concerning any tenement by which a free man
can lose his court.
35. There shall be one measure of wine throughout our whole
kingdom, and one measure of ale, and one measure of grain, that
is the London quarter, and one width of dyed cloth and of russets
and of halbergets, that is two ells within the selvages ; of weights,
moreover it shall be as of measures.
36. Nothing shall henceforth be given or taken for a writ of
inquisition concerning life or limbs, but it shall be given freely
and not denied.
37. If any one holds from us by fee farm or by socage or by
burgage, and from another he holds land by military service, we
will not have the guardianship of the heir or of his land which is
of the fief of another, on account of that fee farm, or socage, or
burgage ; nor will we have the custody of that fee farm, or soc-
age, or burgage, unless that fee farm itself owes military service.
We will not have the guardianship of the heir or of the land of
any one, which he holds from another by military service on account
of any petty serjeanty which he holds from us by the service of
paying to us knives or arrows, or things of that kind.
38. No bailiff for the future shall put any one to his law on
his simple affirmation, without credible witnesses brought for this
39. No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed,
or outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go
upon him, nor send upon him, except by the legal judgment of his
peers or by the law of the land.
40. To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny, or delay
right or justice.
41. All merchants shall be safe and secure in going out from
England and coming into England and in remaining and going
through England, as well by land as by water, for buying and sell-
ing, free from all evil tolls, by the ancient and rightful customs,
except in time of war, and if they are of a land at war with us ;
and if such are found in our land at the beginning of war, they
shall be attached without injury to their bodies or goods, until it
shall be known from us or from our principal justiciar in what way
the merchants of our land are treated who shall be then found in
the country which is at war with us ; and if ours are safe there, the
others shall be safe in our land.
42. It is allowed henceforth to any one to go out from our
kingdom, and to return, safely and securely, by land and by water,
48 English Constitutional Documents
saving their fidelity to us, except in time of war for some short
time, for the common good of the kingdom ; excepting persons
imprisoned and outlawed according to the law of the realm, and
people of a land at war with us, and merchants, of whom it shall
be done as is before said.
43. If any one holds from any escheat, as from the honor of
Wallingford, or Nottingham, or Boulogne, or Lancaster, or from
other escheats which are in our hands and are baronies, and he
dies, his heir shall not give any other relief, nor do to us any other
service than he would do to the baron, if that barony was in the
hands of the baron ; and we will hold it in the same way as the
baron held it.
44. Men who dwell outside the forest shall not henceforth
come before our justiciars of the forest, on common summons,
unless they are in a plea of, or pledges for any person or persons
who are arrested on account of the forest.
45. We will not make justiciars, constables, sheriffs or bailiffs
except of such as know the law of the realm and are well inclined
to observe it.
46. All barons who have founded abbeys for which they have
charters of kings of England, or ancient tenure, shall have their
custody when they have become vacant, as they ought to have.
47. All forests which have been afforested in our time shall be
disafforested immediately ; and so it shall be concerning river
banks which in our time have been fenced in.
48. All the bad customs concerning forests and warrens and
concerning foresters and warreners, sheriffs and their servants,
river banks and their guardians shall be inquired into immediately
in each county by twelve sworn knights of the same county, who
shall be elected by the honest men of the same county, and within
forty days after the inquisition has been made, they shall be entirely
destroyed by them, never to be restored, provided that we be first
informed of it, or our justiciar, if we are not in England.
49. We will give back immediately all hostages and charters
which have been liberated to us by Englishmen as security for
peace or for faithful service.
50. We will remove absolutely from their bailiwicks the rela-
tives of Gerard de Athyes, so, that for the future they shall have
no bailiwick in England; Engelard de Cygony, Andrew, Peter
and Gyon de Chancelles, Gyon de Cygony, Geoffrey de Martin
and his brothers, Philip Mark and his brothers, and Geoffrey his
nephew and their whole retinue.
51. And immediately after the reestablishment of peace we
Great Charter of Liberties 49
will remove from the kingdom all foreign-born soldiers, cross-bow
men, Serjeants, and mercenaries who have come with horses and
arms for the injury of the realm.
52. If any one shall have been dispossessed or removed by us
without legal judgment of his peers, from his lands, castles, fran-
chises, or his right we will restore them to him immediately ; and
if contention arises about this, then it shall be done according to
the judgment of the twenty-five barons, of whom mention is made
below concerning the security of the peace. Concerning all those
things, however, from which any one has been removed or of which
he has been deprived without legal judgment of his peers by King
Henry our father, or by King Richard our brother, which we have
in our hand, or which others hold, and which it is our duty to
guarantee, we shall have respite till the usual term of crusaders ;
excepting those things about which the suit has been begun or the
inquisition made by our writ before our assumption of the cross ;
when, however, we shall return from our journey or if by chance
we desist from the journey, we will immediately show full justice
in regard to them.
53. We shall, moreover, have the same respite and in the same
manner about showing justice in regard to the forests which are to
be disafforested or to remain forests, which Henry our father or
Richard our brother made into forests; and concerning the cus-
tody of lands which are in the fief of another, custody of which we
have until now had on account of a fief which any one has held from
us by military service ; and concerning the abbeys which have been
founded in fiefs of others than ourselves, in which the lord of the
fee has asserted for himself a right ; and when we return or if we
should desist from our journey we will immediately show full jus-
tice to those complaining in regard to them.
54. No one shall be seised nor imprisoned on the appeal of a
woman concerning the death of any one except her husband.
55. All fines which have been imposed unjustly and against the
law of the land, and all penalties imposed unjustly and against the
law of the land are altogether excused, or will be on the judgment
of the twenty-five barons of whom mention is made below in con-
nection with the security of the peace, or on the judgment of the
majority of them, along with the aforesaid Stephen, archbishop of
Canterbury, if he is able to be present, and others whom he may
wish to call for this purpose along with him. And if he should
not be able to be present, nevertheless the business shall go on
without him, provided that if any one or more of the aforesaid
twenty-five barons are in a similar suit they should be removed as
50 English Constitutional Documents
far as this particular judgment goes, and others who shall be chosen
and put upon oath, by the remainder of the twenty-five shall be
substituted for them for this purpose.
56. If we have dispossessed or removed any Welshmen from
their lands, or franchises, or other things, without legal judgment
of their peers, in England, or in Wales, they shall be immediately
returned to them ; and if a dispute shall have arisen over this, then
it shall be settled in the borderland by judgment of their peers,
concerning holdings of England according to the law of England,
concerning holdings of Wales according to the law of Wales,
and concerning holdings of the borderland according to the law
of the borderland. The Welsh shall do the same to us and ours.
57. Concerning all those things, however, from which any one of
the Welsh shall have been removed or dispossessed without legal
judgment of his peers, by King Henry our father, or King Richard
our brother, which we hold incur hands, or which others hold, and
we are bound to warrant to them, we shall have respite till the
usual period of crusaders, those being excepted about which suit
was begun or inquisition made by our command before our assump-
tion of the cross. When, however, we shall return or if by chance
we shall desist from our journey, we will show full justice to them
immediately, according to the laws of the Welsh and the afore-
58. We will give back the son of Lewellyn immediately, and all
the hostages from Wales and the charters which had been liber-
ated to us as a security for peace.
59. We will act toward Alexander, king of the Scots, concern-
ing the return of his sisters and his hostages, and concerning his
franchises and his right, according to the manner in which we shall
act toward our other barons of England, unless it ought to be
otherwise by the charters which we hold from William his father,
formerly king of the Scots, and this shall be by the judgment of his
peers in our court.
60. Moreover, all those customs and franchises mentioned above
which we have conceded in our kingdom, and which are to be ful-
filled, as far as pertains to us, in respect to our men ; all men of
our kingdom as well clergy as laymen, shall observe as far as per-
tains to them, in respect to their men.
61. . Since, moreover, for the sake of God, and for the improve-