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Source Materials About Freedom

Charter signed in 1215 by King John of England guaranteeing certain basic rights
John, by 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, Provosts, Servants and all his Bailiffs and Faithful, Greeting. Know that, in view of god and for the health of our soul and of all our ancestors and heirs, for the honor of god and the exaltation of the Holy Church and the amending of our Kingdom, 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, Bishops William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelin of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh 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 Aimery Master of the knights of the temple in England, and of the Noble men William Marshall Earl of Pembroke, William Earl of Salisbury, Earl William de Warenne, William Earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway Constable of Scotland, Warin fitzGerold, Peter FitzHerbert, Hubert de Burgh Seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew FitzHerbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip d'Aubigny, Robert of Ropsley, John Marshall, John FitzHugh and our other faithful. 1 First, we have granted to God and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs forever that the church of England be free and have her rights entire and her liberties unharmed and thus we will that it be observed, from which it is evident that the freedom of elections, which is deemed of the greatest importance and most necessary to the church of England, we, of pure and spontaneous will, before the discord arose between us and our Barons, have granted, confirmed by our charter and caused to be confirmed by the Lord pope Innocent III, and this we will observe and wish it be observed in good faith by our heirs forever. We have further granted to all freemen of our Kingdom for us and our heirs forever, all the liberties hereinafter stipulated, to be had and possessed by them and their heirs, from us and our heirs. 2 If any of our Earls or Barons or others of our tenants at the head for military service, shall have died and upon his death his heir should be of full age and owe "relief", let him have his inheritance at the ancient rate of relief. That is, the heir or heirs of an Earl, One Hundred pounds for the whole Earl's Barony. The heir or heirs of a Baron, One Hundred pounds for the whole Barony. The heir or heirs of a knight, at most one hundred shillings for the whole knight's fief, and whoever owes less let him give less, according to the ancient custom of fiefs. 3 But if the heir of such a person shall be a minor and be under wardship, when he comes of the age, let him have his inheritance without relief and without fine. 4 The guardian of the land of such an heir who shall be under age, shall not take from the land of the heir except reasonable produce and reasonable customs and reasonable services, and this without destruction and devastation of men or things.

To be continued

This translation aims to follow as closely as possible the Cotton MS Augustus ii.106 manuscript, particularly with respect to word capitalization and punctuation. The chapter numbers in the margin do not appear in the original, but are based on Blackstone's work. The text additions which appear at the bottom of the manuscript have been incorporated within the corresponding chapters.


"Magna Carta, 1215", Cotton MS Augustus ii.106, British Library.

John Pine, "Engraving of the burnt Magna Carta", 1733. British Museum.

William Blackstone, Law Tracts, Vol. II, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1762.

William Sharp McKechnie, Magna Carta: A Commentary on the Great Charter of King John, Second edition, Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons, 1914.