The Magna Carta Project

IV. The copy of the Charter in a volume given to the St Albans’ cell at Tynemouth.

by Professor David Carpenter

This copy of the charter is found in BL Vitellius A xx, between fos.93v-97. It is linked to a chronicle running down to 1246, abbreviated from Paris’s writings, some of it being written in his own hand. Above the table of contents at the start, there is a note stating that the book had been given to Tynemouth by prior Ralph de Dunham. He was prior between 1252 and 1265. There can be no doubt that the volume was prepared under Paris’s auspices. Indeed it reveals the very moment when he became aware of a full text of 1215 Charter. Down to chapter 24, the copy of the Charter follows the uncorrected Wendover version. Thereafter until the end it is a fairly accurate copy of the authorized version.1 Paris did not merely decide to go over to the authorized version from chapter 25. He also went back over the earlier Wendover text and here and there made additions in the margins in order to bring it more into line with the authorized text.2  Thus, as in the new Chronica Majora text, he added to chapter 6 the need for the kin to be informed of marriages planned for heirs, and to chapter 8 the need for the widow to get the consent of the lord from whom she held if she wished to re-marry. (This last was left out by Wendover by mistake as it was there in the 1217 text he was copying as well as that of 1215). He also did better that the new Chronica Majora text by at last supplying the passage Wendover had left out from chapter 4. Paris added 1215’s chapters 12, 14 and 15. He also added 1215’s version of chapter 18, whereas in the Chronica Majora he had retained 1217’s version without amendment. In the Tynemouth copy, however, Paris did not erase the 1217 text, so he now offered two versions of the chapter. The addition of the 1215 text was not made in his hand, but beside it Paris himself wrote ‘vel sic’, making plain the alternatives.3        

1

  J.C. Holt, ‘The St Albans Chroniclers and Magna Carta’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, fifth series, 14 (1964), pp.67-88, reprinted in his collected essays, Magna Carta and Medieval Government (London, 1095), pp.266-87, at p.276.

2

  Susan Reynolds writes as follows. ‘The alterations made in the margin ... seem to this author an intelligent and careful attempt to produce a 1215 text from what had started as a not uncommon sort of conflation.’  See S. Reynolds, ‘Magna Carta 1297 and the legal use of literacy’, Historical Research, 62 (1989), p.241 note 54.

3

  As Holt, ‘St Albans chroniclers’, p.281 noted.

The Copies of Magna Carta