The Magna Carta (The Great Charter)
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Abuses by King John caused a revolt by nobleswho compelled him to execute this recognition of
rights for both noblemen and ordinaryEnglishmen. It established the principle that noone, including the king or a lawmaker, is above
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The Magna Carta 1
The Magna Carta (The Great Charter)
Preamble: John, by the grace of God, king ofEngland, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy andAquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishop,bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciaries,foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all hisbailiffs and liege subjects, greetings. Know that,having regard to God and for the salvation of oursoul, and those of all our ancestors and heirs, andunto the honor of God and the advancement of hisholy Church and for the rectifying of our realm, wehave granted as underwritten by advice of ourvenerable fathers, Stephen, archbishop ofCanterbury, primate of all England and cardinal ofthe holy Roman Church, Henry, archbishop ofDublin, 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 ourlord the Pope, of brother Aymeric (master of theKnights of the Temple in England), and of theillustrious men William Marshal, earl ofPembroke, William, earl of Salisbury, William,earl of Warenne, William, earl of Arundel, Alan ofGalloway (constable of Scotland), Waren FitzGerold, Peter Fitz Herbert, Hubert De Burgh
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(seneschal of Poitou), Hugh de Neville, MatthewFitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philipd'Aubigny, Robert of Roppesley, John Marshal,John Fitz Hugh, and others, our liegemen.
1. In the first place we have granted to God, and bythis our present charter confirmed for us and ourheirs forever that the English Church shall be free,and shall have her rights entire, and her libertiesinviolate; and we will that it be thus observed;which is apparent from this that the freedom ofelections, which is reckoned most important andvery essential to the English Church, we, of ourpure and unconstrained will, did grant, and did byour charter confirm and did obtain the ratificationof the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III,before the quarrel arose between us and ourbarons: and this we will observe, and our will isthat it be observed in good faith by our heirsforever. We have also granted to all freemen of ourkingdom, for us and our heirs forever, all theunderwritten liberties, to be had and held by themand their heirs, of us and our heirs forever.
2. If any of our earls or barons, or others holding ofus in chief by military service shall have died, andat the time of his death his heir shall be full of ageand owe "relief", he shall have his inheritance bythe old relief, to wit, the heir or heirs of an earl, forthe whole barony of an earl by 100; the heir orheirs of a baron, 100 for a whole barony; the heir
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or heirs of a knight, 100s, at most, and whoeverowes less let him give less, according to theancient custom of fees.
3. If, however, the heir of any one of the aforesaidhas been under age and in wardship, let him havehis inheritance without relief and without finewhen he comes of age.
4. The guardian of the land of an heir who is thusunder age, shall take from the land of the heirnothing but reasonable produce, reasonablecustoms, and reasonable services, and that withoutdestruction or waste of men or goods; and if wehave committed the wardship of the lands of anysuch minor to the sheriff, or to any other who isresponsible to us for its issues, and he has madedestruction or waster of what he holds in wardship,we will take of him amends, and the land shall becommitted to two lawful and discreet men of thatfee, who shall be responsible for the issues to us orto him to whom we shall assign them; and if wehave given or sold the wardship of any such land toanyone and he has therein made destruction orwaste, he shall lose that wardship, and it shall betransferred to two lawful and discreet men of thatfief, who shall be responsible to us in like manneras aforesaid.
5. The guardian, moreover, so long as he has thewardship of the land, shall keep up the houses,
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parks, fishponds, stanks, mills, and other thingspertaining to the land, out of the issues of the sameland; and he shall restore to the heir, when he hascome to full age, all his land, stocked with ploughsand wainage, according as the season of husbandryshall require, and the issues of the land canreasonable bear.
6. Heirs shall be married without disparagement,yet so that before the marriage takes place thenearest in blood to that heir shall have notice.
7. A widow, after the death of her husband, shallforthwith and without difficulty have her marriageportion and inheritance; nor shall she give anythingfor her dower, or for her marriage portion, or forthe inheritance which her husband and she held onthe day of the death of that husband; and she mayremain in the house of her husband for forty daysafter his death, within which time her dower shallbe assigned to her.
8. No widow shall be compelled to marry, so longas she prefers to live without a husband; providedalways that she gives security not to marry withoutour consent, if she holds of us, or without theconsent of the lord of whom she holds, if she holdsof another.
9. Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land orrent for any debt, as long as the chattels of the
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debtor are sufficient to repay the debt; nor shall thesureties of the debtor be distrained so long as theprincipal debtor is able to satisfy the debt; and ifthe principal debtor shall fail to pay the debt,having nothing wherewith to pay it, then thesureties shall answer for the debt; and let themhave the lands and rents of the debtor, if theydesire them, until they are indemnified for the debtwhich they have paid for him, unless the principaldebtor can show proof that he is discharged thereofas against the said sureties.
10. If one who has borrowed from the Jews anysum, great or small, die before that loan be repaid,the debt shall not bear interest while the heir isunder age, of whomsoever he may hold; and if thedebt fall into our hands, we will not take anythingexcept the principal sum contained in the bond.
11. And if anyone die indebted to the Jews, hiswife shall have her dower and pay nothing of thatdebt; and if any children of the deceased are leftunder age, necessaries shall be provided for themin keeping with the holding of the deceased; andout of the residue the debt shall be paid, reserving,however, service due to feudal lords; in likemanner let it be done touching debts due to othersthan Jews.
12. No scutage not aid shall be imposed on ourkingdom, unless by common counsel of our
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kingdom, except for ransoming our person, formaking our eldest son a knight, and for oncemarrying our eldest daughter; and for these thereshall not be levied more than a reasonable aid. Inlike manner it shall be done concerning aids fromthe city of London.
13. And the city of London shall have all it ancientliberties and free customs, as well by land as bywater; furthermore, we decree and grant that allother cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall haveall their liberties and free customs.
14. And for obtaining the common counsel of thekingdom anent the assessing of an aid (except inthe three cases aforesaid) or of a scutage, we willcause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops,abbots, earls, and greater barons, severally by ourletters; and we will moveover cause to besummoned generally, through our sheriffs andbailiffs, and others who hold of us in chief, for afixed date, namely, after the expiry of at least fortydays, and at a fixed place; and in all letters of suchsummons we will specify the reason of thesummons. And when the summons has thus beenmade, the business shall proceed on the dayappointed, according to the counsel of such as arepresent, although not all who were summonedhave come.
15. We will not for the future grant to anyone
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license to take an aid from his own free tenants,except to ransom his person, to make his eldest sona knight, and once to marry his eldest daughter;and on each of these occasions there shall be leviedonly a reasonable aid.
16. No one shall be distrained for performance ofgreater service for a knight's fee, or for any otherfree tenement, than is due therefrom.
17. Common pleas shall not follow our court, butshall be held in some fixed place.
18. Inquests of novel disseisin, of mort d'ancestor,and of darrein presentment shall not be heldelsewhere than in their own cou