Omnes autem istas consuetudines praedictas et libertates quas nos concessimus in regno nostro tenendas quantum ad nos pertinet erga nostros, omnes de regno nostro, tam clerici quam laici, observent quantum ad se pertinent erga suos.
Moreover, all the aforesaid customs and liberties, which we have granted to be maintained in our kingdom as far as we are concerned with regard to our own men, all the men of our kingdom, both clergy and laity, are also to observe as far as they are concerned them with regard to their own men.
Magna Carta was negotiated by the king and the magnates. Clause 60 extended its benefits beyond the latter, by requiring that all the lords in the kingdom, and not only the barons confronting John, should observe the provisions of the Charter in their dealings with those beneath them (that largely meant free men, but where it was applicable to villeins, as in the stipulations of Clause 20 relating to the assessment of amercements, then the unfree could gain as well). The Clause may have been included with some reluctance on the part of the barons, but the pressure upon them from their knightly followers probably made it impossible for them to exclude the latter from the Charter’s benefits. There were also possible advantages for the king in the Clause’s inclusion, in the opportunities it might create for royal interference in disputes between lords and tenants in disputes in which the Charter was invoked, and it may have been to avert that risk that a clause was added to reissues of Magna Carta from 1217 onwards, protecting baronial rights in terms which could have prevented the king’s intervention.
It is difficult to say how much protection free tenants needed against their lords, but there were certainly occasions when the latter can be seen acting oppressively at the former’s expense, or when safeguards were provided against their doing so. Imprisonment, extorting money, requiring more in the way of services than was owed, and especially depriving men and women of their lands without a court judgment – all were alleged against lords as they were against the king. Archbishop Hubert Walter and his brother were both said to have made free with other people’s estates. The earl of Arundel acted in anger to seize land, the earl of Norfolk used force to keep a tenant out of his property, in both cases behaving much as King John did. The great ecclesiastical lords, though they could also be victims of magnate unscrupulousness, were quite capable of acting wrongly themselves. Abbot Samson of Bury St Edmunds flooded his tenants’ gardens in order to improve his fishpond, and refused point-blank to provide a remedy. Clause 60 contained no provision for its own enforcement. After 1215 it seems to have been most often appealed to by the king, requiring his barons – as they may have feared he would in 1215 – of their responsibilities towards their tenants and subordinates. Impossible wholly to overlook, Clause 60 served as a reminder to the whole of free society of the scope and purpose of Magna Carta.
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