CARTA LIBERTATUM (The Charter of Liberties)




Granted August 5th AD. 1100

HENRY, king of the English, to Bishop Samson [bishop of Worcester and former royal chaplain] and Urso de Abetot [Sheriff of Worcester] and to all his barons and faithful subjects, both French and English, of Worcestershire, [copies were sent to all the shires], Greeting.

[1] Know that by the mercy of God and the common counsel of the barons of the whole kingdom of England I have been crowned king of this said kingdom; and because the kingdom has been oppressed by unjust exactions, I, through fear of God and the love which I have toward you all, in the first place make the holy church of God free, so that I will neither sell nor let out to farm, nor on the death of archbishop or bishop or abbot will I take anything from the church’s demesne or from its men until the successor shall enter it. And I take away all the evil customs by which the kingdom of England was unjustly oppressed; which evil customs I here set down in part:

[2] If any of my barons, earls, or others who hold of me [my tenants] shall have died, his heir shall not buy back his land as he used to do in the time of my brother, but he shall relieve it by a just and lawful relief. Likewise also the men of my barons shall relieve their lands from their lords by a just and lawful relief.

[3] And if any of my barons or other tenants will to give his daughter, sister, niece, or kinswoman in marriage, let him speak with me about it; but I will neither take anything from him for this permission nor prevent his giving her unless he should be minded to join her to my enemies. And if, upon the death of a baron or other of my men, a daughter is left as heir, I will give her with her land by the advice of my barons. And if, on the death of her husband, the wife is left and without children, she shall have her dowry and right of marriage, and I will not give her to a husband unless according to her will.

[4] But if a wife survives with children, she shall indeed have her dowry and right of marriage so long as she shall keep her body lawfully, and I will not give her (in marriage) unless according to her will. And the guardian of the land and children shall be either the wife or another of the relatives who more justly ought to be. And I command that my barons restrain themselves similarly in dealing with the sons and daughters or wives of their tenants.

[5] The common seigneurage [right to mint money], which has been taken through the cities and counties, but which was not taken in the time of King Edward, I absolutely forbid henceforth. If any one, whether a moneyer or other, be taken with false money, let due justice be done for it.

[6] All pleas and all debts which were owing to my brother, I remit except my lawful fixed revenues and except those amounts which were covenanted for the inheritances of others or for those which more justly concerned others. And if any one had pledged anything for his own inheritance, I remit it; alsoall reliefs which had been agreed upon for just inheritances.

[7] And if any of my barons or tenants shall grow feeble, as he shall give or arrange to give his money, I grant that it be so given. But if, being prevented by war or sickness, he should neither give nor dispose of his money, his wife, children or relations, and his lawful tenants shall distribute it for the good of his soul as shall seem best to them.

[8] If any of my barons or tenants commit a crime, he shall not bind himself to a payment at the king’s mercy as he has been doing in the time of my father or my brother; but he shall make amends according to the extent of the crime as he would have done before the time of my father in the time of my other ancestors. But if he be convicted of treachery or heinous crime, he shall make due satisfaction for it.

[9] Also I pardon all murders committed before the day I was crowned king; and those which shall be committed in the future shall have satisfaction according to the law of King Edward.

[10] By the common consent of my barons I have kept in my hands all forests as my father had them.

[11] To those knights who render military service for their lands I grant of my own free will that the lands of their demesne be free from all payments, so that, having been released from so great a burden, they may more easily provide themselves with horses and arms and be better fitted for my service and the defence of my kingdom.

[12] Also I impose a strict peace upon my whole kingdom and command that it be maintained henceforth.

[13] I also restore to you the law of King Edward with those amendments with which my father improved it by the counsel of his barons.

[14] If anyone, since the death of King William my brother, has seized any of my property or the property of any other man, the whole is to be quickly restored without fine; but if any one keep anything of it, he shall pay a heavy recompense for it.

Witnessed by Maurice bishop of London, William bishop-elect of Winchester, Gerard bishop of Hereford, earl Henry, earl Simon, Walter Giffard, Robert de Montfort, Roger Bigot, Eudo the steward, Robert son of Hamo, and Robert Malet. At Westminster when I was crowned. Farewell.

Based on the translation in Albert Beebe White and Wallace Notestein, eds., Source Problems in English History, Harper and Brothers, New York,1915.  With reference to Douglas and Greenway, eds., English Historical Documents 1042-1189, Eyre Methuen, London, 1982 and Richard Thomson, An Historical Essay on the Magna Charta of King John, John Major, London, 1829.