THE GREAT CHARTER OF ENGLISH LIBERTY
DECREED BY KING JOHN AT RUNNYMEDE
JUNE 15, A.D. 1215
JOHN, by the grace of God, King of England, lord of Ireland, Duke
of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjuo: To the
archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters,
sheriffs, prevosts, serving men, and to all his bailiffs and
faithful subjects, Greeting. Know that we, by the will of God
and for the safety of our soul, and of the souls of all our
predecessors and our heirs, to the honor of God and for the
exaltation of the holy Church, and the bettering of our realm: by
the counsel of our venerable fathers Stephen archbishop of
Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman
church; of Henry archbishop of Dublin; of the bishops William of
London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelin of Bath and Glastonbury,
Hugo of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry and
Benedict of Rochester; of master Pandulf, subdeacon and of the
household of the lord pope; of brother Aymeric, master of the
knights of the Temple in England; and of the nobel men, William
Marshall earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William
earl of Warren, William earl of Arundel, Alan de Galway constable
of Scotland, Warin son of Gerold, Peter son of Herbert, Hubert de
Burgh seneschal of Poictiers, Hugo de Neville, Matthew son of
Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip d'Aubigni, Robert de
Roppelay, John Marshall, John son of Hugo, and others of our
1. First of all have granted to God, and, for us and for
our heirs forever, have confirmed, by this our present charter,
that the English church shall be free and shall have its rights
intact and its liberties uninfringed upon. And thus we will that
it be observed. As is apparent from the fact that we,
spontaneously and of our own free will, before discord broke out
between ourselves and our barons, did grant and by our charter
confirm--and did cause the lord pope Innocent III, to confirm--
freedom of elections, which is considered most important and most
necessary to the church of England. Which charter both we
ourselves shall observe, and we will that it be observed with
good faith by our heirs forever. We have also granted to all
free men of our realm, on the part of ourselves and our heirs
forever, all the subjoined liberties, to have and to hold, to
them and to their heirs, from us and from our heirs:
2. If any one of our earls or barons, or of others holding
from us in chief through military service, shall die; and if, at
the time of his death, his heir be of full age and owe a relief:
he shall have his inheritance by paying the old relief;--the
heir, namely, or the heirs of an earl, by paying one hundred
pounds for the whole barony of an earl; the heir or heirs of a
baron, by paying one hundred pounds for the whole barony; the
heir or heirs of a knight, by paying one hundred shillings at
most for a whole knight's fee; and he who shall owe less shall
give less, according to the ancient custom of fees.
3. But if the heir of any of the above persons shall be
under age and in wardship,--when he comes of age he shall have
his inheritance without relief and without fine.
4. The administrator of the land of such heir who shall be
under age shall take none but reasonable issues from the land of
the heir, and reasonable customs and services; and this without
destruction and waste of men or goods. And if we shall have
committed the custody of any such land to the sheriff or to any
other man who ought to be responsible to us for the issues of it,
and he cause destruction or waste to what is in his charge: we
will fine him, and the land shall be handed over to two lawful
and discreet men of that fee who shall answer to us, or to him to
whom we shall have referred them, regarding those issues. And if
we shall have given or sold to any one the custody of any such
land, and he shall have caused destruction or waste to it,--he
shall lose that custody, and it shall be given to two lawful and
discreet men of that fee, who likewise shall answer to us, as has
5. The administrator, moreover, so long as he may have the
custody of the land, shall keep in order, from the issues of that
land, the houses, parks, warrens, lakes, mills, and other things
pertaining to it. And he shall restore to the heir when he comes
to full age, his whole land stocked with ploughs and wainnages,
according as the time of the wainnage requires and the issues of
the land will reasonably permit.
6. Heirs may marry without disparagement; so, nevertheless,
that, before the marriage is contracted, it shall be announced to
the relations by blood of the heir himself.
7. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall
straightway, and without difficulty, have her marriage portion
and her inheritance, nor shall she give any thing in return for
her dowry, her marriage portion, or the inheritance which
belonged to her, and which she and her husband held on the day of
the death of that husband. And she may remain in the house of
her husband, after his death, for forty days; within which her
dowry shall be paid over to her.
8. No widow shall be forced to marry when she prefers to
live without a husband; so, however, that she gives security not
to marry without our consent, if she hold from us, or the consent
of the lord from whom she holds, if she hold from another.
9. Neither we nor our bailiffs shall seize any revenue for
any debt, so long as the chattels of the debtor suffice to pay
the debt; nor shall the sponsors of that debtor be distrained so
long as the chief debtor has enough to pay the debt. But if the
chief debtor fail in paying the debt, not having the wherewithal
to pay it, the sponsors shall answer for the debt. And, if they
shall wish, they may have the lands and revenues of the debtor
until satisfaction shall have been given them for the debt
previously paid for him; unless the chief debtor shall show that
he is quit in that respect towards those same sponsors.
10. If any one shall have taken any sum, great or small, as
a loan from the money-lenders, and shall die before that debt is
paid,--that debt shall not bear interest so long as the heir,
from whomever he may hold, shall be under age. And if the debt
fall into our hands, we shall take nothing save the chattel
contained in the deed.
11. And if any one dies owing a debt to the money-lenders,
his wife shall have her dowry, and shall restore nothing of that
debt. But if there shall remain children of that dead man, and
they shall be under age, the necessaries shall be provided for
them according to the nature of the dead man's holding; and from
the residue, the debt shall be paid, saving the service due to
the lords. In like manner shall be done concerning debts that
are due to others besides money-lenders.
12. No scutage or aid shall be imposed in our realm unless
by the common counsel of our realm; except for redeeming our
body, and knighting our eldest son, and marrying once our eldest
daughter. And for these purposes there shall only be given a
reasonable aid. In like manner shall be done concerning the aids
of the city of London.
13. And the city of London shall have all its old liberties
and free customs as well by land as by water. Moreover we will
and grant that other cities and burroughs, and town and ports,
shall have all their liberties and free customs.
14. And, in order to have the common counsel of the realm
in the matter of assessing an aid otherwise than in the aforesaid
cases, or of assessing a scutage--we shall cause, under seal
through our letters, the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and
greater barons to be summoned for a fixed day--for a term,
namely, at least forty days distant,--and for a fixed place.
And, moreover, we shall cause to be summoned in general, through
our sheriffs and bailiffs, all those who hold of us in chief.
And in all those letters of summons we shall express the cause of
the summons. And when a summons has thus been made, the business
shall be proceeded with on the day appointed according to the
counsel of those who shall be present, even though not all shall
come who were summoned.
15. We will not allow any one henceforth to take an aid
from his freemen save for the redemption of his body, and the
knighting of his eldest son, and the marrying, once, of his
eldest daughter; and, for these purposes, there shall only be
given a reasonable aid.
16. No one shall be forced to do more service for a
knight's fee, or for another free holding, than is due from it.
17. Common pleas shall not follow our court but shall be
held in a certain fixed place.
18. Assizes of novel disseisin, of mort d'ancestor, and of
darrein presentment shall not be held save in their own counties,
and in this way: We, or our chief justice, if we shall be absent
from the kingdom, shall send two justices through each county
four times a year; they, with four knights from each county,
chosen by the county, shall hold the aforesaid assizes in the
county, and on the day and at the place of the county court.
19. And if on the day of the county court the aforesaid
assizes can not be held, a sufficient number of knights and free
tenants, from those who were present at the county court on that
day, shall remain, so that through them the judgments may be
suitably given, according as the matter may have been great or
20. A freeman shall only be amerced for a small offence
according to the measure of that offence. And for a great
offence he shall be amerced according to the magnitude of the
offence, saving his contenement; and a merchant, in the same way,
saving his merchandize. And a villein, in the same way, if he
fall under our mercy, shall be amerced saving his wainnage. And
none of the aforesaid fines shall be imposed save upon oath of
upright men from the neighbourhood.
21. Earls and barons shall not be amerced save through
their peers, and only according to the measure of the offence.
22. No clerk shall be amerced for his lay tenement except
according to the manner of the other persons aforesaid; and not
according to the amount of his ecclesiastical benefice.
23. Neither a town nor a man shall be forced to make
bridges over the rivers, with the exception of those who, from of
old and of right ought to do it.
24. No sheriff, constable, coroners, or other bailiffs of
ours shall hold the pleas of our crown.
25. All counties, hundreds, wapentakes, and trithings--our
demensne manors being excepted--shall continue according to the
old farms, without any increase at all.
26. If any one holding from us a lay fee shall die, and our
sheriff or bailiff can show our letters patent containing our
summons for the debt which the dead man owed to us,--our sheriff
or bailiff may be allowed to attach and enroll the chattels of
the dead man to the value of that debt, through view of lawful
men; in such way, however, that nothing shall be removed thence
until the debt is paid which was plainly owed to us. And the
residue shall be left to the executors that they may carry out
the will of the dead man. And if nothing is owed to us by him,
all the chattels shall go to the use prescribed by the deceased,
saving their reasonable portions to his wife and children.
27. If any freeman shall have died intestate his chattels
shall be distributed through the hands of his near relatives and
friends, by view of the church; saving to any one the debts which
the dead man owed him.
28. No constable or other bailiff of ours shall take the
corn or other chattels of any one except he straightway give
money for them, or can be allowed a respite in that regard by the
will of the seller.
29. No constable shall force any knight to pay money for
castleward if he be willing to perform that ward in person, or--
he for a reasonable cause not being able to perform it himself--
through another proper man. And if we shall have led or sent him
on a military expedition, he shall be quit of ward according to
the amount of time during which, through us, he shall have been
in military service.
30. No sheriff nor bailiff of ours, no any one else, shall
take the horses or carts of any freeman for transport, unless by
the will of that freeman.
31. Neither we nor our bailiffs shall take another's wood
for castles or for other private uses, unless by the will of him
to whom the wood belongs.
32. We shall not hold the lands of those convicted of
felony longer than a year and a day; and then the lands shall be
restored to the lords of the fiefs.
33. Henceforth all the weirs in the Thames and Medway, and
throughout all England, save on the sea-coasts, shall be done
away with entirely.
34. Henceforth the writ which is called Praecipe shall not
be served on any one for any holding so as to cause a free man to
lose his court.
35. There shall be one measure of wine throughout our whole
realm, and one measure of ale and one measure of corn--namely,
the London quart;--and one width of dyed and resset and hauberk
cloths--namely, two ells below the selvage. And with weights,
moreover, it shall be as with measures.
36. Henceforth nothing shall be given or taken for a writ
of inquest in a matter concerning life or limb; but it shall be
conceded gratis, and shall not be denied.
37. If any one hold of us in fee-farm, or in socage, or in
burkage, and hold land of another by military service, we shall
not, by reason of that fee-farm, or socage, or burkage, have the
wardship of his heir or of his land which is held in fee from
another. Nor shall we have the wardship of that fee-farm, or
socage, or burkage unless that fee-farm owe military service. We
shall not, by reason of some petit-serjeanty which some one holds
of us through the service of giving us knives or arrows or the
like, have the wardship of his heir or of the land which he holds
of another by military service.
38. No bailiff, on his own simple assertion, shall
henceforth put any one to his law, without producing faithful
witnesses in evidence.
39. No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or disseized,
or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way harmed--nor will we go upon
or send upon him--save by the lawful judgment of his peers or by
the law of the land.
40. To none will we sell, to none deny or delay, right or
41. All merchants may safely and securely go out of
England, and come into England, and delay and pass through
England, as well by land as by water, for the purpose of buying
and selling, free from all evil taxes, subject to the ancient and
right customs--save in time of war, and if they are of the land
at war against us. And if such be found in our land at the
beginning of the war, they shall be held, without harm to their
bodies and goods, until it shall be known to us or our chief
justice how the merchants of our land are to be treated who
shall, at that time, be found in the land at war against us. And
if ours shall be safe there, the others shall be safe in our
42. Henceforth any person, saving fealty to us, may go out
of our realm and return to it, safely and securely, by land and
by water, except perhaps for a brief period in time of war, for
the common good of the realm. But prisoners and outlaws are
excepted according to the law of the realm; also people of a land
at war against us, and the merchants, with regard to whom shall
be done as we have said.
43. If any one hold from any escheat--as from the honour of
Wallingford, Nottingham, Boloin, Lancaster, or the other escheats
which are in our hands and are baronies--and shall die, his heir
shall not give another relief, nor shall he perform for us other
service than he would perform for a baron if that barony were in
the hand of a baron; and we shall hold it in the same way in
which the baron has held it.
44. Persons dwelling without the forest shall not
henceforth come before the forest justices, through common
summonses, unless they are impleaded or are the sponsors of some
person or persons attached for matters concerning the forest.
45. We will not make men justices, constables, sheriffs, or
bailiffs, unless they are such as know the law of the realm, and
are minded to observe it rightly.
46. All barons who have founded abbeys for which they have
charters of the kings of England, or ancient right of tenure,
shall have, as they ought to have, their custody when vacant.
47. All forests constituted as such in our time shall
straightway be annulled; and the same shall be done for river
banks made into places of defense by us in our time.
48. All evil customs concerning forests and warrens, and
concerning foresters and warreners, sheriffs and their servants,
river banks and their guardians, shall straightway be inquired
into in each county, through twelve sworn knights from that
county, and shall be eradicated by them, entirely, so that they
shall never be renewed, within forty days after the inquest has
been made; in such manner that we shall first know about them, or
our justice if we be not in England.
49. We shall straightway return all hostages and charters
which were delivered to us by Englishmen as a surety for peace or
50. We shall entirely remove from their bailiwicks the
relatives of Gerard de Athyes, so that they shall henceforth have
no bailwick in England: Engelard de Cygnes, Andrew Peter and
Gyon de Chanceles, Gyon de Cygnes, Geoffrey de Martin and his
brothers, Philip Mark and his brothers, and Geoffrey his nephew,
and the whole following of them.
51. And straightway after peace is restored we shall remove
from the realm all the foreign soldiers, crossbowmen, servants,
hirelings, who may have come with horses and arms to the harm of
52. If anyone shall have been disseized by us, or removed,
without a legal sentence of his peers, from his lands, castles,
liberties or lawful right, we shall straightway restore them to
him. And if a dispute shall arise concerning this matter it
shall be settled according to the judgment of the twenty-five
barons who are mentioned below as sureties for the peace. But
with regard to all those things of which any one was, by king
Henry our father or king Richard our brother, disseized or
dispossessed without legal judgement of his peers, which we have
in our hand or which others hold, and for which we ought to give
a guarantee: We shall have respite until the common term for
crusaders. Except with regard to those concerning which a plea
was moved, or an inquest made by our order, before we took the
cross. But when we return from our pilgrimage, or if, by chance,
we desist from our pilgrimage, we shall straightway then show
full justice regarding them.
53. We shall have the same respite, moreover, and in the
same manner, in the matter of showing justice with regard to
forests to be annulled and forests to remain, which Henry our
father or Richard our brother constituted; and in the matter of
wardships of lands which belong to the fee of another--wardships
of which kind we have hitherto enjoyed by reason of the fee which
some one held from us in military service;--and in the matter of
abbeys founded in the fee of another than ourselves--in which the
lord of the fee may say that he has jurisdiction. And when we
return, or if we desist from our pilgrimage, we shall straightway
exhibit full justice to those complaining with regard to these
54. No one shall be taken or imprisoned on account of the
appeal of a woman concerning the death of another than her
55. All fines imposed by us unjustly and contrary to the
law of the land, and all amerciaments made unjustly and contrary
to the law of the land, shall be altogether remitted, or it shall
be done with regard to them according to the judgment of the
twenty five barons mentioned below as sureties for the peace, or
according to the judgment of the majority of them together with
the aforesaid Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be
present, and with others whom he may wish to associate with
himself for this purpose. And if he can not be present, the
affair shall nevertheless proceed without him; in such way that,
if one or more of the said twenty five barons shall be concerned
in a similar complaint, they shall be removed as to this
particular decision, and in their place, for this purpose alone,
others shall be substituted who shall be chosen and sworn by the
remainder of those twenty five.
56. If we have disseized or dispossessed Welshmen of their
lands or liberties or other things without legal judgment of
their peers, in England or in Wales,--they shall straightway be
restored to them. And if a dispute shall arise concerning this,
then action shall be taken upon it in the March through judgment
of their peers--concerning English holdings according to the law
of England, concerning Welsh holdings according to the law of
Wales, concerning holdings in the March according to the law of
the March. The Welsh shall do likewise with regard to us and our
57. But with regard to all those things of which any one of
the Welsh was, by king Henry our father or king Richard our
brother, disseized or dispossessed without legal judgment of his
peers, which we have in our hand or which others hold, and for
which we ought to give a guarantee: we shall have respite until
the common term for crusaders. Except with regard to those
concerning which a plea was moved, or an inquest made by our
order, before we took the cross. But when we return from our
pilgrimage, or if, by chance, we desist from our pilgrimage, we
shall straightway then show full justice regarding them,
according to the laws of Wales and the aforesaid districts.
58. We shall straightway return the son of Llewelin and all
the Welsh hostages, and the charters delivered to us as surety
for the peace.
59. We shall act towards Alexander king of the Scots
regarding the restoration of his sisters, and his hostages, and
his liberties and his lawful right, as we shall act towards our
other barons of England; unless it ought to be otherwise
according to the charters which we hold from William, his father,
the former king of the Scots. And this shall be done through
judgment of his peers in our court.
60. Moreover all the subjects of our realm, clergy as well
as laity, shall, as far as pertains to them, observe, with regard
to their vassals, all these aforesaid customs and liberties which
we have decreed shall, as far as pertains to us, be observed in
our realm with regard to our own.
61. Inasmuch as for the sake of God, and for the bettering
of our realm, and for the more ready healing of the discord which
has arisen between us and our barons, we have made all these
aforesaid concessions,--wishing them to enjoy for ever entire and
firm stability, we make and grant to them the following security:
that the barons, namely, may elect at their pleasure twenty five
barons from the realm, who ought, with all their strength, to
observe, maintain and cause to be observed, the peace and
privileges which we have granted to them and confirmed by this
our present charter. in such wise, namely, that if we, our
justice, or our bailiffs, or any one of our servants shall have
transgressed against any one in any respect, or shall have broken
some one of the articles of peace or security, and our
transgression shall have been shown to four barons of the
aforesaid twenty five: those four barons shall come to us, or,
if we are abroad, to our justice, showing to us our error; and
they shall ask us to cause that error to be amended without
delay. And if we do not amend that error, or, we being abroad,
if our justice do not amend it within a term of forty days from
the time when it was shown to us or, we being abroad, to our
justice: the aforesaid four barons shall refer the matter to the
remainder of the twenty five barons, and those twenty five
barons, with the whole land in common, shall distrain and oppress
us in every way in their power,--namely, by taking our castles,
lands and possessions, and in every other way that they can,
until amends shall have been made according to their judgment.
Saving the persons of ourselves, our queen and our children. And
when amends shall have been made they shall be in accord with us
as they had been previously. And whoever of the land wishes to
do so, shall swear that in carrying out all the aforesaid
measures he will obey the mandates of the aforesaid twenty five
barons, and that, with them, he will oppress us to the extent of
his power. And, to any one who wishes to do so, we publicly and
freely give permission to swear; and we will never prevent any
one from swearing. Moreover, all those in the land who shall be
unwilling, themselves and of their own accord, to swear to the
twenty five barons as to distraining and oppressing us with them:
such ones we shall make to swear by our mandate, as has been
said. And if any one of the twenty five barons shall die, or
leave the country, or in any other way be prevented from carrying
out the aforesaid measures,--the remainder of the aforesaid
twenty five barons shall choose another in his place, according
to their judgment, who shall be sworn in the same way as the
others. Moreover, in all things entrusted to those twenty five
barons to be carried out, if those twenty five shall be present
and chance to disagree among themselves with regard to some
matter, or if some of them, having been summoned, shall be
unwilling or unable to be present: that which the majority of
those present shall decide or decree shall be considered binding
and valid, just as if all the twenty five had consented to it.
And the aforesaid twenty five shall swear that they will
faithfully observe all the foregoing, and will cause them to be
observed to the extent of their power. And we shall obtain
nothing from any one, either through ourselves or through
another, by which any of those concessions and liberties may be
revoked or diminished. And if any such thing shall have been
obtained, it shall be vain and invalid, and we shall never make
use of it either through ourselves or through another.
62. And we have fully remitted to all, and pardoned, all
the ill-will, anger and rancour which have arisen between us and
our subjects, clergy and laity, from the time of the struggle.
Moreover we have fully remitted to all, clergy and laity, and--as
far as pertains to us--have pardoned fully all the transgressions
committed, on the occasion of that same struggle, from Easter of
the sixteenth year of our reign until the re-establishment of
peace. In witness of which moreover, we have caused to be drawn
up for them letters patent of lord Stephen, archbishop of
Canterbury, lord Henry, archbishop of Dublin, and the aforesaid
bishops and master Pandulf, regarding that surety and the
63. Wherefore we will and firmly decree that the English
church shall be free, and that the subjects of our realm shall
have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights and
concessions, duly and in peace, freely and quietly, fully and
entirely, for themselves and their heirs, from us and our heirs,
in all matters and in all places, forever, as has been said.
Moreover it has been sworn, on our part as well as on the part of
the barons, that all these above mentioned provisions shall be
observed with good faith and without evil intent. The witnesses
being the above mentioned and many others. Given through our
hand, in the plain called Runnimede between Windsor and Stanes,
on the fifteenth day of June, in the seventeenth year of our
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