The Magna Carta Project

Original Latin


Si quis mutuo ceperit aliquid a Judaeis, plus vel minus, et moriatur antequam debitum illud solvatur, debitum non usuret quamdiu haeres fuerit infra aetatem, de quocumque teneat; et si debitum illud inciderit in manus nostras, nos non capiemus nisi catallum contentum in carta.


If anyone has taken a loan from Jews, great or small, and dies before the debt is paid, the debt is not to incur interest for as long as the heir is under age, whoever he may hold from. And if the debt comes into our hands, we will take only the principal recorded in the charter.

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Commentary for general audience

Clauses 10, like Clause 11 immediately following it, was concerned with the effects of indebtedness to Jews (Clause 11 also dealt with debts owed to other people). In the 150 years since the Norman Conquest, Jews had gained an effective monopoly of credit transactions in England, primarily because they were not forbidden, as Christians were, to lend money at interest.  Their role as money-lenders, with the high interest rates they usually charged, along with their religious practice, made them deeply unpopular, and they needed the protection which only the king could provide.  That protection came at a high price, however, and King John, in particular, made very heavy demands on English Jews, demands which the Jews had no choice but to pass on to those who owed them money.  Eventually, indeed, John took to acting himself as a collector of Jewish debts, the more readily because many of these had in various ways come into his hands.  He taxed the Jews very heavily, and also pursued the debts owed to them, in ways which came to be greatly resented, but John persevered in his policies until Magna Carta attempted to impose limited restraints on them.  That it did not do more in this respect may have been due to an acceptance by the barons that the relationship of the Jews with the king was such as to rule out any more extensive interference with it, as well to an appreciation that Jews had financial skills which made them indispensable to England’s economic life.

Referenced in

John deals with Loretta de Braose and Isaac of Norwich (The Itinerary of King John)

Magna Carta 1215
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