|John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and faithful subjects, greeting.
Know that, having regard to God and for the salvation of our soul, and those of all our ancestors and heirs, and unto the honour of God and the advancement of the holy Church, and for the reform of our realm, 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 Marshall earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warenne, William earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway (constable of Scotland), Waren Fitz Gerald, Peter Fits Herbert, Hubert de Burgh (seneschal of Poitou), Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip d’Aubigny, Robert of Roppesley, John Marshall, John Fitz Hugh, and of other faithful subjects.
- In the first place we have conceded to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs for ever that the English church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we wish that it be thus observed. This is apparent from the fact that we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English church, 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. This freedom we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs for ever.
We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs for ever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs for ever.
- 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 of full age and owe relief he shall have his inheritance on payment of the ancient relief, namely the heir or heirs of an earl, 100 pounds for a whole earl’s barony; the heir or heirs of a baron, 100 pounds for a whole barony; the heir or heirs of a knight, 100 shillings at most for a whole knight’s fee; and whoever owes less let him give less, according to the ancient custom of fiefs.
- If, however, the heir of any 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.
- 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 waste 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 fief, 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.
- The guardian moreover, so long as he has the wardship of the land, shall maintain the houses, parks, fish ponds, stanks, mills, and other things pertaining to the land, out of the revenues of that land; and he shall restore to the heir, when he has come to full age, all his land, stocked with ploughs and waynage, according as the season of husbandry requires, and the revenues from the land can reasonably support.
- Heirs shall be married without disparagement. However, before a marriage takes place, it shall be made known to the heir’s next-of-kin.
- A widow, after the death of her husband, shall forthwith and without difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance. She shall not 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. 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.
- No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she prefers to remain without a husband, always provided that she gives assurance not to marry without our consent, if she holds her lands from us, or else without the consent of whatever other lord she from whom she holds her lands.
- Neither we nor our bailiffs shall seize for any debt any land or rent, so long as the chattels of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt. Nor shall those that pledged sureties for the debtor be distrained so long as the principal debtor himself is able to satisfy the debt. If the principal debtor fails to pay the debt, having nothing wherewith to pay it, then the sureties shall answer for the debt. They shall have the lands and rents of the debtor, if they desire them, until they are reimbursed for the debt which they have paid for him, unless the principal debtor can show proof that he has discharged his obligations to them.
- If one who has borrowed from the Jews any sum, great or small, dies before that loan can be repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective from whom he holds his lands. If such a debt falls into our hands, we will take nothing except the principal sum mentioned in the bond.
- And if any one 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 underage, necessaries shall be provided for them in keeping with the holding of the deceased. The debt shall be paid out of the residue, save the service due to feudal lords. Let debts due to others than Jews be dealt with in similar manner.
- No scutage nor 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 marrying our eldest daughter one time. For these, only a reasonable aid should be levied. In like manner it shall be done concerning aids from the city of London.
- And the city of London shall have all its ancient liberties and free customs, by land as well as by water. Furthermore, we decree and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall have all their liberties and free customs.
- And for obtaining the common consent of the kingdom concerning the assessment of an aid (other than in the three cases specified above) or of a scutage, we will cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons, individually through our letters. Moreover, all others who are our direct tenants, we will cause a general summons to be made by our sheriffs and bailiffs, for a fixed date (namely, after the expiry of at least forty days) and at a fixed place. In all such letters of 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.
- In future, we not grant to anyone license to take an aid from his own free men, unless to ransom his person, to make his eldest son a knight, and once to marry his eldest daughter. And on each of these occasions, only a reasonable aid shall be levied.
- No man shall be compelled to do more service for a knight’s fee, or for any other land free-holding, than is due from it.
- Common pleas shall not follow our court about, but shall be held in some fixed place.
- Inquests of novel disseisin, mort d’ancestor, and darrein presentiment shall only be held in their own county courts, in the following manner. We or, should we be out of the kingdom, our chief justice will send two justices to each county four times a year who, along with four knights of each county chosen by that county, shall hold the assize in the county, and on the day and in the meeting place of the county court.
- If any of the said assizes cannot be held on the day of the county court, let there remain as many of the knights and freeholders, who were present at the county court on that day, as are necessary for the efficient making of judgments, according to whether the business is more or less.
- A freeman shall only be amerced for a trivial offence in accordance with the seriousness of the offence. For a grave offence, he shall be fined correspondingly, leaving him his contenement. A merchant will be fined similarly, leaving him his “merchandise”; and a villein shall be amerced in the same way, leaving him his wainage—if they have fallen into our mercy. These amercements shall only be imposed by the assessment on oath of reputable local men.
- Earls and barons shall be amerced only by their peers, and only in proportion with the degree of the offence.
- A clerk in holy orders shall not be amerced in respect of his lay holding except as previously described; further, his ecclesiastical benefice shall not be taken into account.
- No vill or person shall be compelled to make bridges at river-banks, except those who from of old were legally bound to do so.
- No sheriff, constable, coroner, or other royal bailiff, shall hold lawsuits meant be held by the royal justices.
- All counties, hundreds, wapentakes, and trithings shall remain at old rents, and without any increase, except our demesne manors.
- If any one holding a lay fief from the Crown dies, and our sheriff or bailiff produces royal letters patent of summons for a debt owed to the Crown, it shall be lawful for our sheriff or bailiff to seize and catalogue chattels found in the lay fief of the deceased, to the value of that debt, as assessed by law-worthy men. Nothing at all shall be removed from there until the debt is fully paid. The residue shall be left to the executors to fulfil the will of the deceased. If there is no debt due to the Crown, all the chattels shall go to the estate of the deceased, except reasonable shares for his wife and children.
- If any freeman dies intestate, his chattels shall be distributed by his nearest kinsfolk and his friends, under supervision of the church, except that the rights of his debtors shall be maintained.
- No constable or other royal bailiff shall take corn or other provisions from any man without an immediate cash payment, unless the seller permits postponement of this.
- No constable shall compel any knight to give money instead of castle-guard, if the knight is willing to undertake the guard himself, or to supply another responsible man to do it, if he cannot do it himself for any reasonable cause. Further, a knight taken or sent on military service shall be excused castle-guard in proportion to the time he was on this service.
- No sheriff or royal bailiff, or other person, shall take the horses or carts of any freeman for transport duty, except with agreement from the said freeman.