The Magna Carta Project

Original Latin


Et ad habendum commune consilium regni, de auxilio assidendo aliter quam in tribus casibus praedictis, vel de scutagio assidendo, summoneri faciemus archiepiscopos, episcopos, abbates, comites, et majores barones, sigillatim per litteras nostras; et praeterea faciemus summoneri in generali, per vicecomites et ballivos nostros, omnes illos qui de nobis tenent in capite; ad certum diem, scilicet ad terminum quadraginta dierum ad minus, et ad certum locum; et in omnibus litteris illius summonitionis causam summonitionis exprimemus; et sic facta summonitione negotium ad diem assignatum procedat secundum consilium illorum qui praesentes fuerint, quamvis non omnes summoniti venerint.


And in order to have the common counsel of the kingdom for the levying of an aid, other than in the three instances aforesaid, or for the levying of scutage, we are to cause the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls and greater barons to be summoned individually by our letters; and moreover we are to have a general summons made, through our sheriffs and bailiffs, of all who hold in chief of us; for a fixed day, at least forty days thence, and at a fixed place. And in all the letters of summons we are to set out its cause. And after the summons has thus been made the business is to go forward on the appointed day according to the counsel of those present, even if not all those summoned have come.

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Commentary for general audience

Clause 14 was a necessary complement to Clause 12.  The latter had declared that aids and scutages, John’s principal forms of taxation, were only to be taken with `the common consent of our kingdom’.  Clause 14 set out who was to give such counsel and how they were to be assembled.  It envisaged a two tier system, as was probably traditional, with the greatest men, lay and ecclesiastical, receiving individual summonses, and the rest – ultimately everyone who held land directly from the crown – being convoked through general summonses announced by royal officials, probably in county courts.  Several hundred people might have gathered to discuss proposals for taxation.  This was in stark contrast with John’s usual methods of government.  He did sometimes hold formal assemblies which had been arranged well in advance, but usually preferred ad hoc decision-making, after informal consultations with a relatively small number of agents and courtiers, most of whom were regularly in his entourage.  Even at meetings described as councils, these men – most of them named in a celebrated list of `evil counsellors’ drawn up by the chronicler Roger of Wendover in 1211 – seem to have dominated proceedings, which also tended to be short, seldom lasting more than a day or two.  Claims in documents issued after these gatherings, that they were the result of deliberations involving many important men, are very seldom borne out by the records of attendance on these occasions.  On the whole John preferred to keep away from all but a very few of the magnates, both socially and in affairs of state.  In 1215 the magnates, and those immediately below them, responded by forcing themselves into the king’s counsels.  In 1216 Clause 14, along with Clause 12, was put to one side for further discussion, and it was then dropped from all the later reissues of Magna Carta, probably because once King John had died its provisions had ceased to be controversial.

Magna Carta 1215
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