The Magna Carta Project

II. A cartulary of the leper hospital of Saint Giles at Pont-Audemer in Normandy: Rouen, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS. Y 200, fos.81-87v.

by Professor David Carpenter

This copy, in a cartulary of the leper hospital of Saint Giles at Pont-Audemer, is from a French translation of the Charter. It is fully discussed and printed in J.C. Holt, ‘A vernacular French text of Magna Carta, 1215’, English Historical Review, 89 (1974), pp. 346-64, reprinted in his first colume of collected essays: Magna Carta and Medieval Government (London, 1985), pp.239-58. Holt believed that the translation was made in 1215 to facilitate the publication of the Charter in Hampshire. I have suggested that it was made from the charter for the Winchester diocese. Given that the bishop of Winchester was Peter des Roches and the sheriff of Hampshire was William Brewer, the Charter in their areas needed all the help it could get. The translation may, however, have been distributed more widely. In Holt’s view, the translation was copied into the cartulary ‘within a few years of 1215 for it is entered in an early thirteenth-century hand’ (p.348). 

One variant is that in chapter 20: having dealt with amercements imposed on villeins, the text continues ‘s’il chiet en nostre merci’, rather than the plural ‘si inciderint in misericordiam nostram’ of the authorized version. This anticipates a change made in the Charter of 1216. One wonders whether the singular appeared in some of the 1215 engrossments.

Another variation is that, in chapter 45, the sheriffs and other officials are to be those who ‘sachent la lei de la terre’ (as in the Articles of the Barons) whereas the four engrossments and the bishops’ copy have ‘sciant legem regni’.

Chapter 60 has the order Peter, Guy, Andrew de Chanceaux, which is only found in C ii of the engrossments, the others having Andrew, Peter, Guy.

Chapter 61 has ‘a la commun de tote Engleterre’ rather than ‘cum communa totius terre’. 

One interesting point to emerge from Holt’s transcription is that the division into chapters and sections usually follows that found in the original engrossments, as indicated by the size of the capitals letters.  (See the printed text in my Magna Carta, pp.36-69.) It, therefore, differs occasionally from the divisions conventional since Blackstone’s work of 1759. This would support the view that the text was copied direct from an engrossment.  

The Copies of Magna Carta