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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 broter 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)
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