The Magna Carta Project

Original Latin


Nec nos nec ballivi nostri capiemus alienum boscum ad castra, vel alia agenda nostra, nisi per voluntatem ipsius cujus boscus ille fuerit.


Neither we nor our bailiffs are to take another man’s wood to a castle, or on other business of ours, except with the consent of the person whose wood it is.

Audio commentary

Commentary for general audience

Clause 31 was the fourth and last in a sequence intended to prevent abuses of power by officials, especially royal ones and particularly where castles were concerned. Castles were essential to the maintenance of the king’s authority, and they needed a great deal of timber. Some, indeed, were entirely made of it. Henry II and his sons not only exploited to the full the rights which forest law gave them, they also felled large numbers of trees on lands forfeited by rebels or the estates of vacant bishoprics, when these came into their hands, and moreover they appear to have claimed the privilege of taking timber needed for the upkeep of their fortresses from nearby woods, regardless of who owned them – the evidence for this practice consists mainly of exemptions from it, which were very rarely granted, showing how important it was to the crown. Although the evidence is meagre, it is clear that King John maintained the pressure on his subjects’ woods, and intensified it in the later years of his reign, as the danger of rebellion grew and his castles needed strengthening. It aroused resentment in itself, while curbing it also had the effect (like a number of other clauses) of weakening the king militarily. But the barons did not try to abolish the king’s right to take timber for his castles, only to make it subject to consent.

Commentary for secondary school students

Like the previous clauses, but with none of their ambiguities, Clause 31 was directed against abuses of power by the king and his officers, and specifically against their seizures of timber for castles. Henry II and his sons were great builders of castles, which they saw as a mainstay of their rule. To an increasing extent they were mostly built of stone, but some wooden ones survived, for instance York, while stone castles still needed huge quantities of timber, for fittings and minor structures like storerooms, and also for firewood. The need was met from many sources. The king’s bailiffs took wood from forfeitures and escheats, and also from the lands of bishoprics when these fell vacant, and they exploited the royal forests, and placed strict limits on the right of people who possessed land within them to cut down trees on their own property. More generally, they appear also to have claimed that the king had the right to take wood for castles from nearby estates, whoever owned them (the clearest evidence for this comes from Scotland, but it probably records a practice copied from England).

An order of 1205, which in return for horses worth ten marks (£6, 13s. 4d.) freed a Norfolk landowner from having anything taken from his wood or park for the repair of Norwich Castle, by its very rarity demonstrates how valuable this practice was to the crown, and also how it could be a threat to the property of any landowner with estates near a royal castle, Direct evidence is in fact limited, but it seems clear that King John made heavy demands on the woods of his subjects, especially once he faced the threat of revolt and responded to it by strengthening his castles, while after civil war broke out not only did he continue to take timber, but he sometimes also ordered the destruction of the woods of his enemies. Clause 31 attests the resentment aroused by royal expropriations of timber, and (not for the only time) also shows his opponents acting to prevent an abuse in a way which would reduce the king’s military power as well. But it is noteworthy that the barons did not deny the king’s basic right in this respect and attempt to prevent his calling upon his subjects to supply his castles with wood, instead they laid down that he and his agents were to take what they needed only with the consent of those affected.

Commentary for academic researchers

The needs of castles

Clause 31 was the last of a group of four clauses concerned principally with the manning and maintenance of castles and with bringing under control the activities of the king’s officials responsible for this. It followed naturally from Clause 30, forbidding the seizure of carts, given that loads of timber must have been among the items most often carried in the carts whose seizure that clause prohibited, and was like it in not imposing an absolute ban on the actions proscribed – after 1215 other men’s carts and wood could both still be taken, but only with the consent of their owners. They differed, however, in the role ascribed to the king, who is named directly in Clause 31 in a way that is not found in Clause 30, being represented by the royal `we’ and as referring to `our’ bailiffs. The choice of phrasing, which differed from its equivalent Article, no. 21, only in that the latter spoke in impersonal terms of `the king’ and of `his’ bailiff, was a significant one.

The `wood’ of the clause, represented by the Latin word boscus, meant growing trees rather than timber (maeremium),1 even though the trees must usually have ended up as timber in the sense of building material – as they did, for instance, in the payment recorded in 1201 of £12. 5s. 6d. `for timber from the count of Eu’s wood (pro maeremio de bosco) for the repair of the king’s castles of Dover, Rochester and Southampton ...’.2 Its purpose, in effect, was to prevent raids upon private woods, and the devastation of trees which could follow, for the construction or strengthening of royal castles. The phrasing of the Clause was surprisingly vague about this. Neither the Latin word here translated as `business’ (agenda), nor the term `chose’ used in later French translations of Magna Carta, offered any clear indication as to what purpose the wood, in any form, was intended to serve. But the earliest such translation, probably made in the same year as the Charter itself, did spell out what was at issue, when instead of `chose’ it employed the word `ovres’ – the timber was to be used for `works’.3

Wood was a basic necessity where castles were concerned.4 Some castles were in fact made of wood – York Castle appears to have consisted of a wooden keep surrounded by palisades, and when the buildings were destroyed by fire in the riots of 1190 their replacements, too, were made of wood;5 the fortress at Wheldrake for which the Yorkshire landowner Richard Malebisse took no fewer than 200 oaks from Galtres Forest in about 1204 must have been similarly constructed.6 Although by 1200 most important castles had curtain walls which were made of stone, as were the main buildings inside them, the fittings of the latter – joists, rafters, stairs and the like – were made of wood, as were the numerous ancillary buildings, like stables, storerooms and kitchens (often placed outside the halls where the garrison ate, to minimise the danger of fire) in the open spaces within the walls. If there was any likelihood of a castle facing attack, moreover, timber was also needed for the brattices and hoardings which were set along the battlements to protect the men on the walls and give them vantage points from which to shoot down. Hard usage, as well daily weathering, meant that there was a constant need for repairs, and thus for more wood. It was with good reason that in the tense period following the death of Richard I in 1199 the garrison of Tickhill Castle included no fewer than six carpenters,7 and that in 1215 the stocks needed to put Oxford Castle in a state of defence included timber (maireno) as well as weapons, victuals and stones.8


Royal rights and their implementation

Castles became larger and more complicated under Henry II and his sons, which in turn generated a still greater demand for supplies of wood, one which the Angevin kings satisfied through every means at their disposal. Under Henry II these included the exploitation of vacant bishoprics – in 1173, for instance, the see of Chichester, which had been unoccupied since 1169, contributed 2000 boards to works on the king’s houses in Winchester9 – and also of wardships and escheats – in 1177 Ranulf de Glanville accounted for 140 cartloads of timber, taken both from the county of Yorkshire and from the lands of Everard de Ros, who had only just entered upon his inheritance as lord of Helmsley, and a year later he spent nearly £40 on sending timber for repairs to the Tower of London from the honour of Richmond, which was in the king’s hands following the death of Count Conan of Brittany.10 The lands of rebels, too, might be ransacked for their wood. In 1179 Gervase of Cornhill accounted for £27. 3s. 4d. for wood from three Kentish estates `which were the king’s enemies’, sold in time of war ...’, and followed this up with a further £12. 4s. 5d. from the same source three years later.11

Richard I was principally concerned with the defence and construction of castles in Normandy, but King John renewed, and intensified, his father’s methods where English ones were concerned. In 1200 the lands of the counts of Brittany were again in royal hands, and were exploited accordingly – the king’s agent accounted for a total of £177. 13s. 6d. from woods in Hertfordshire, along with £11 from Yorkshire and £31. 11s. 2d. from Lincolnshire.12 Two years later John came to an agreement with Guy de Thouars, who claimed to be count of Brittany in the right of his wife, whereby the woods of the lordship of Richmond, in Yorkshire and the home counties, were to be sold by the serjeants of the count and the king acting together, and the proceeds divided equally between them.13 In the meantime the death of Brice the chamberlain had put his manor of Costessey in Norfolk at the king’s disposal, and in 1201 brought no less than £130. 10s. into the exchequer from the sale of wood.14 The lands of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, confiscated by the king in 1207, yielded £106. 13s. 4d. de bosco vendito in 1210,15 and the earl’s death in 1212 brought another windfall, this time of £61. 3s. 4d.16

John’s quarrel with the church led to widespread despoliation of woodlands, with the king’s full encouragement – in August 1207 he gave formal backing to all the sales of wood and other property belonging to Canterbury Cathedral Priory carried out by two of his officials,17 and in the following November gave approval to such sales of woods of the archbishopric of York as Robert de Vieuxpont should implement.18 The woods of the archbishopric of Canterbury were treated in like manner, yielding £147. 0s. 11d. in two instalments in 1212.19 Other dioceses also saw their silvan assets stripped. When in 1212 the king wanted to give William Brewer the timber for a hall at Petworth in Sussex, he had it taken from the estates of the bishops of London and Chichester.20 So comprehensively was the bishop of Lincoln’s park at Stow-in-Lindsey wasted during the interdict that in 1215 John gave him Harthey wood in compensation.21

The king had long been entitled to exploit the assets which came to him through forfeitures, escheats, wardships and episcopal vacancies. He might – clearly did – take it to extremes, but his underlying right was undeniable. The same was true of another, and even more contentious, aspect of the royal prerogative, one which gave the king an overriding authority within every area designated as forest, regardless of whether he was the actual owner of the land affected or not. An assize issued in 1198 laid down the rules, that although lords who had property within a forest could take wood from it (on a modest scale, and without committing what was known as `waste’, defined by the Dialogue of the exchequer as the cutting down of trees `in such a way that someone standing by the trunk of a felled oak or other kind of tree and looking around can see five other felled trees’),22 they could do so only in the presence of a royal forester, that they must appoint foresters of their own to manage their woods, and that these private officials were to act under the supervision of royal ones, who were to ensure that the king’s woods were not destroyed.23 These constraints were greatly resented, and many lords, lay and secular, obtained exemption from them, from the late eleventh century onwards. Hence, for example, the clause in the charter which Henry I gave to Chertsey Abbey in Surrey, a county entirely under forest law, which entitled the monks to `have from their own wood all that is necessary for their own use, without leave of the royal foresters or hindrance from them ...’.24 The `Unknown Charter’, seemingly drawn up early in 1215 during the negotiations which led to the issue of Magna Carta, similarly represented the king as guaranteeing the rights of lords (literally `knights’) who owned woods `in my own forests’ to take what they needed from them for house-repairs and firewood.25

Whether the king’s foresters took other people’s trees on their master’s behalf is unclear, but evidence from later in the thirteenth century suggests that landowners convicted at forest eyres of `waste’ on their own property within a royal forest risked at least the temporary loss of their property, for not only were they amerced for the offence, but they also had to pay to recover their wood (boscus – in this context the term could mean either woodland or cut wood), and in addition must give 6s. 8d. at every successive forest eyre until the trees had grown back to the height at which they stood when they were cut down.26 Such measures, when considered alongside the tight controls exercised over the disposal of woodlands, not to mention the reputation and recorded conduct of King John’s foresters generally, suggest that the lords of lands within the king’s forests could consider themselves fortunate if they did not sometimes, and perhaps often, lose timber which they could reasonably have regarded as their own. No doubt it was in awareness of this possibility that Walter de Baskerville, a Herefordshire landowner who had been disseised of property at Orcop, in the king’s forest, proffered sixteen marks (£10. 13s. 4d.) when he recovered it in 1208 `for having his wood in peace’.27

The practice condemned in Clause 31 was not directly related either to the forest law – the clause referred to the king and his bailiffs, not his foresters – or to the king’s exploitation of forfeitures and the like, though successive rulers’ treatment of all these assets may well have fostered a mentality in government circles which encouraged the belief that the woods of the king’s subjects should be at the king’s disposal. It stood closer to purveyance, but although the latter privilege could plausibly have entitled its possessor to firewood, its extension to castle-building would have entailed going some way beyond what was essentially the king’s traditional right to take what he needed for the maintenance of himself and his household against a promise of future repayment. In any case there is some evidence that the rights of the crown included the power to commandeer wood for building or repairing castles. The stress laid by Clause 31 on the king’s involvement in such activities could certainly be construed as implying such a right, as, indeed, does the fact that it did not prohibit the taking of wood, but only subjected it to the consent of the men affected.


The evidence of exemptions

It is possible that this apparent right originated in the demands which pre-Conquest rulers were entitled to make upon their subjects for military services which included the building of bridges and fortresses. Exemptions from such duties were regularly included in royal charters after 1066, and that they still had meaning is shown by the charter which Hubert de Burgh, in his capacity of justiciar, issued for the monks of Canterbury Cathedral Priory in 1215 or 1216.28 In a time of military crisis the city of Canterbury had been put in s state of defence, and the monks were prevailed upon to sell wood to the defenders so that the walls could be fitted with hoardings. The priory’s exemptions, as set out in charters like one issued by Henry II in 1175, included `work on bridges, castles, parks, enclosures ...’,29 and Hubert pledged that this contribution to the defence of Canterbury would not be treated as a precedent in the future. However, the king’s specific right to take wood for defensive purposes, or a subject’s duty to provide it, can only be a matter of inference from such a grant, and in fact the earliest explicit evidence for any king’s right to take wood for a castle comes from Scotland, albeit at a place very close to that country’s border with England. A charter of Malcolm IV for Durham’s daughter-house of Coldingham, issued between 1153 and 1162, placed all its woods under the control of its prior and forbade anyone to take anything from them, on pain of a £10 fine, `except only for the needs of my castle of Berwick, which are a matter for myself alone ...’. To meet those needs, the king’s servants were to meet with the prior or his servants and take the wood wherever the latter saw fit.30 English-style castles were introduced into Scotland in the early twelfth century. That of Berwick is first recorded in Malcolm’s reign,31 and the needs which the grant refers to may well have been those involved in building it. Perhaps the king’s right to nearby woods was similarly imported, as an essential support for this new form of construction-work.

Although there is no certain record of the existence of such a right in England itself before the last years of the twelfth century, pleadings at the 1221 Warwickshire eyre strongly suggest that it was exercised under Henry II. The abbot of Stoneleigh complained to the justices that he was being `vexed’ in breach of his charters, and that `he cannot enjoy his charters and liberties in the wood of Stoneleigh’. To this William de Cantilupe, sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire and keeper of Kenilworth Castle, some three miles west of Stoneleigh, responded that the abbot `has never had that wood, on the contrary the lord king always was in seisin thereof from the time of Bertram de Verdun, the sheriff etc., till the present day, because all the sheriffs who succeeded him always had their foresters to keep that wood, so that the abbot could take nothing therein, save by view of the foresters ...’.32

Kenilworth Castle had been expropriated from the Clinton family by Henry II in around 1173 and remained in royal hands thereafter,33 administered by the sheriff (Bertram de Verdun held that office from 1170 to 1184). Since Cantilupe, who had been sheriff since 1209, was described as `the keeper of the castle of Kenilworth with the village of Stoneleigh and several other villages’, it would appear that when the king seized the castle, he made sure of its maintenance, and also of its timber supply, by giving its keeper control of the nearby settlements, along with their woodlands, regardless of who held them or what rights their owners claimed in them. Stoneleigh Abbey was a Cistercian house re-founded on royal demesne in 1155 by Henry II, who had granted its monks privileges which included `all their easements in my forest and woods and coverts, and wood and material for all their needs and to build their houses and for their fire, without waste and by view of my forester ...’.34 On 12 May 1204 King John gave them the same franchise in identical words, in a charter whose witnesses included William de Cantilupe.35 Perhaps the expression `without waste’ was stretched to prevent the monks from taking any wood at all, effectively reserving it entirely for the use of the castle  In 1221 the justices put the case aside for later judgment, and its outcome is not recorded, but the case certainly appears to show that royal officials in need of timber had felt free to ignore the explicit terms of royal charters in order to be sure of obtaining it.  

This possibility doubtless accounts for the appearance in a few grants of exemptions from such seizures. Unfortunately the relevant waters have been seriously muddied by tamperings and forgeries. Thus one of Henry II, ostensibly of 1177, which refounded Waltham Priory in Essex as a house of Austin canons, and contained a clause not only exempting its beneficiaries from works on castles and bridges, but also ordering that `their woods are in no way to be taken for the aforesaid works, or for any other ...’, shows clear signs, including this clause, of having been doctored.36 A charter for the priory of St Osyth at Chich, also in Essex, drawn up around the same time and containing the same exemption, is similarly suspect.37 Such alterations were themselves a sign of the times, however. Copies of the Waltham charter, with all its dubious components, were made in the first decade of the thirteenth century, raising the possibility that they, along with the charter attributed to King Henry, were made after the example of more authentic charters which had been issued in the meantime. The authenticity of further charters given to Waltham and St Osyth’s by Richard I, also containing the exemption clause for their woods,38 may be as untrustworthy as those ostensibly granted by Henry II. But a charter containing that clause which Richard gave to Peterborough Abbey on 5 December 1189, and re-issued on 15 September 1198,39 does appear to be genuine, and the same conclusion seems warranted for the same king’s charter for Sempringham Priory of 11 November 1198, in which the exemption clause is rather clumsily placed, as if it was a last-minute addition – Richard’s first confirmation charters for Sempringham, dated 13 September 1189, contained no clause ordering that the monastery’s woods be spared.40

All these documents, whether genuine or spurious, suggest that in the last years of the twelfth century the crown was exerting growing pressure on private woodlands as a way of providing for works on royal castles. The existence of Malcolm IV’s charter (which was confirmed in identical terms by his successor),41 and the abbot of Stoneleigh’s later complaint, make it unlikely that Henry II and Richard I had claimed a new right for themselves, but they could well have revived an old one, or enforced it with unprecedented rigour. Perhaps a demand for wood constituted part of Henry II’s reaction to the revolt of 1173/4. His main castle-building campaigns took place before 1173, but important works were nonetheless carried out on a number of castles in the years which followed, in a few cases, notably Dover and Nottingham, on a very considerable scale.42 It was only in the years 1177, 1185 and 1187 that Henry enjoyed revenues in England comparable to those of his grandfather as they were recorded in 1130, raising the possibility that his successful pursuit of his subjects’ cash was matched by heavy demands upon their trees, justified in each case by the recent rebellion as well as by his present needs. Moreover it may not be irrelevant, either to the king’s revenue or to the fate of woodlands, that the forest laws were administered with increasing stringency from 1175 onwards,43 also, it would seem, in response to, or even as revenge for, armed resistance to his rule. But whatever the king’s motivation, his subjects clearly perceived his demands for wood as effectively new, and thus as needing responses in the form of new exemptions.


The policy of King John

King John, too, issued a very small number of charters whose beneficiaries were exempted from the seizure of their woods for royal works. In the early months of his reign the Knights Templar and Hospitaller were both favoured in this way, as were the Gilbertines and, on 29 May 1200, the canons of Waltham.44 Later in his reign his own foundation of Beauliey Abbey received the same exemption, in a charter issued on 25 January 1205,45 while Hubert Walter’s grant of the manor of Wolverhampton to the Cistercians would have done so had the king’s confirmation of it not been cancelled following the archbishop’s death later that year.46 But the rarity of such grants suggests that the king’s right to take wood, implicit in such grants, however recently it may have been instituted or revived, was usually seen as too valuable to be easily dispensed with – its potential usefulness can be seen in orders like one directed to the sheriff of Staffordshire on 14 February 1205, that he should take `cause to be taken from nearby woods outside our forest for the repair of Newcastle-under-Lyme’.47 He was to do so by the view of `lawful men’, and was presumably expected to account for his expenditure, though the king’s order did not say so; but whether his outlay was included in the £54. 6s. 9d. recorded as having been spent on works there in this year,48 or whether the men whose wood was taken received any part of it, there is no way of telling. As with purveyance, the rules governing repayment and compensation for works of this kind may have been honoured more in the breach than the observance.

Other kinds of exemption continued to be granted, in terms sometimes demonstrating the closeness of the practice forbidden by Clause 31 to ones licensed by forest law. On 21 April 1200, for instance, John Lestrange proffered twenty marks (£13. 6s. 8d.) to have his wood at Cheswardine `outside the regard and that it may not be afforested and that no-one may take anything from it except by his licence ...’ (he cleared his debt three years later).49 More immediately relevant, though, was the proffer by William de Gisnei in 1205 of two palfreys (to be handed over in that form, though the debt was also calculated as amounting to ten marks in cash) `that nothing may be taken from his wood or park for the repair of Norwich Castle’. The king’s order to the sheriff of Norfolk, which was sent after the first horse had been handed over, instructed him to make no further demand on Gisnei’s land, and referred to his having sent an earlier command for the taking of the wood, and to William’s having paid `for having peace’ both for his wood and also `for carriage’ – a clear pointer to the closeness of Clauses 30 and 31.50 Gisnei’s principal estate lay at Haveringland, north-west of Norwich, and he also held manors at Whitwell, Dilham and Panxworth, none of them far from the city.51 There were significant works on Norwich Castle at this time,52 in a county which contained no royal forest at all, and it is easy to see why the king should have been anxious to exploit the woods of others. Thomas FitzSimon’s proffer of 40s. (later changed to two sparrow-hawks), which was made in the same year, `that he may have his wood in Holt and Cley [next the Sea] in peace’,53 doubtless originated in identical circumstances, though unlike William de Gisnei, who cleared his debt in 1208,54 Thomas, whose property lay in the north of the county, a considerable distance from Norwich, seems not to have paid what he owed to the king.55


Pressure and resistance

Other resources were also exploited for works on castles. In 1208 the bailiffs in charge of the diocese of Exeter, vacant since the death of Bishop Henry Marshal two years earlier, were instructed have the wood for 100 rafters and forty joists taken from the bishopric’s woods `for the repair of our castle of Exeter’ (significantly, the men of the bishopric’s manors were to provide the carriage).56 And the king also made use of his own forests, as when in 1213 he ordered that timber from Aconbury wood, part of the royal forest of Haywood, be used to strengthen Hereford Castle and provide it with hoardings.57 In the latter case he directed that there should be no waste or destruction of woods, and he showed a similar concern for the protection of his own property in an order of 21 April 1215 for the supplying of Fotheringhay Castle with firewood and timber for hoardings, for these, too, were to be taken with the minimum damage (ad minus nocumentum) of the forest (Rockingham in this case).58 On 2 April 1215 John ordered the men of Colchester, which also lay within the king’s forest, to take timber `in the wood nearest to your town to enclose it’, and two weeks later ordered Hugh de Neville, the chief forester, to allow the townsmen to take wood in his bailiwick for the defences of both town and castle.59 The woods of Colchester abbey were clearly targeted as a result of these orders, for on 30 April, presumably after a protest, John instructed the castle’s constable `to take nothing from the wood of the abbot of Colchester except with his licence’.60

The concession to the abbot, and the terms in which it was made, may show that John was becoming aware of the resentment which his seizures of wood had aroused and which Clause 31 was intended to prevent. If so, the threat, and then the outbreak of civil war saw a reversion to earlier practice, and now at the expense of his enemies, whose woods could, indeed, be seized as a consequence of their owners’ forfeiture. Hence, perhaps, the sale in the first half of the financial year 1214/15 of wood worth £13. 6s. 8d. belonging to Peter Malesoure, the lord of the manor of Lamport and other estates in Northamptonshire and subsequently a rebel,61 and, more certainly, the order of March 1216 that the wood of an East Anglian rebel, John de Boville, should be taken in order to strengthen the royalist earl of Arundel’s stronghold at Castle Rising.62 In the following month the woods of another rebel, Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, came under attack, when the king ordered that they should be exploited `wholeheartedly’ (viriliter) on his behalf, apparently to help pay the wages of the garrison which he had installed in Framlingham Castle after capturing it from the earl.63 In these last two cases, at least, the taking of wood was intended to serve a military purpose, and the same was true, in a rather different way, of the attack made upon Robert de Bekele’s property – in late April order was given that the felling of his woods and the demolition of his houses should cease, now that Robert had surrendered to the king’s allegiance.64 But as the civil war continued, and John lost the military initiative, his policy where woodlands were concerned became overtly and crudely destructive, to serve no other purpose, apparently, than to satisfy his desire for revenge upon his adversaries. On 2 October 1216 he gave orders that the knights whom the sheriff of Northamptonshire had assigned forfeited land in the royal forest were not sell anything from the woods where the king had his own hunting grounds, but that they should be allowed to do whatever they wanted on lands adjoining those of Earl David [of Huntingdon] `and others our enemies ... so that traces of their deeds may appear for ever’ (ita quod vestigie factorum suorum perpetuo appareant).65

Although the evidence is only occasionally directly relevant to Clause 31, there is enough to make it clear that King John made determined efforts to enforce every claim which either traditional usage or temporary circumstances enabled him to make on the woods of his subjects, in order to meet his own military needs. It is likely that the pressure thus exerted intensified, as it did in other areas of governance, in the later years of his reign, and especially once the danger of civil war became apparent and his many castles had to be made ready for action, while it seems to have reached new heights of aggression once war finally broke out. As far as John’s victims were concerned, his actions in 1215-16 can only have confirmed them in their determination to protect their woods against royal exploitation, all the more so because their resistance could also be expected, like several other clauses in the Charter, to have the further advantage of weakening the military resources of the crown. Clause 31 was therefore carried over, without significant change, into all the subsequent re-issues of Magna Carta.


I have followed the definitions in R.E. Latham et al. (eds.), Dictionary of medieval Latin from British sources (1975-2013).


PR 3 John (1201), 284.


J.C. Holt, Magna Carta and medieval government (1985), 253. Other French translations, for example British Library MSS Additional 32085, fol. 103v, and 38821, fol. 87v, were made later – I owe these references to Paul Brand.


N.J.G. Pounds, The medieval castle in England and Wales: a social and political history (Cambridge, 1990), 126-7, 199-200.


R.A. Brown, H.M. Colvin, A.J. Taylor, The history of the king’s works ii: the middle ages (1963), 889.


TNA, C 47/11/1 m.1. J.C. Holt, The northerners: a study in the reign of King John (Oxford, 1961), 161, describes Richard as having taken 250 trees, but this figure includes fifty recorded as taken on other occasions.


PR 8 John (1206), 78.


T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli litterarum clausarum i, 1204-1224 (Record Commission, 1833 – hereafter Rot.Lit.Claus. i), 198.


PR 19 Henry II (1173), 30


PR 23 Henry II (1177), 81-2; PR 24 Henry II (1178), 73.


PR 25 Henry II (1179), 120; PR 28 Henry II (1182), 152.


PR 2 John (1200), 88-9.


T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli de oblatis et finibus ... tempore regis Johannis (Record Commission, 1835 – hereafter Rot.Ob.Fin.), 185.


PR 2 John (1200), 134-5; PR 3 John (1201), 142.


PR 12 John (1210), 96.


PR 14 John (1212), 141.


T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli litterarum patentium, 1201-1216 (Record Commission, 1835), 75.


Ib., 76.


PR 14 John (1212), 40.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 127.


Ib., 217.


E. Amt and S.D. Church (eds. and trans.), Dialogus de Scaccario (Oxford, 2007), 92-3.


W. Stubbs (ed.), Chronica Magistri Rogeri de Houedene, 4 vols. (Rolls Series, 1868-71), iv, 63-4.


C. Johnson and H.A.Cronne (eds.), Regesta regum Anglo-Normannorum 1066-1154 ii: Regesta Henrici Primi, 1100-1135 (Oxford, 1956), no. 1818 (p. 273).


J.C. Holt, Magna Carta (2nd edn., Cambridge, 1992), 428.


G.J. Turner (ed.), Select pleas of the forest, Selden Society 13 (1899), lxxxiii-iv.


PR 10 John (1208), 191. Walter’s disseisin may have resulted from his having been charged with homicide in 1203 – PR 5 John (1203), 57-8.


Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Dean and Chapter Cartae Antiquae, C 1226 – transcript supplied by Nicholas Vincent


L. Landon (ed.), The Cartae Antiquae rolls 1-10, Pipe Rolls Society new series 17 (1939), no. 184 (p. 92).


G.W.S. Barrow, The Anglo-Norman era in Scottish history (Oxford, 1980), 169-70.


Apart from Malcolm’s charter, the earliest record of Berwick Castle, dated to his reign, occurs in J. Raine (ed.), Reginaldi monachi Dunelmensis libellus de admirandis beati Cuthberti, Surtees Society 1 (1835), 41-4 (an account of how a prisoner there was freed by St Cuthbert).


D.M. Stenton (ed.), Rolls of the justices in eyre ... for Gloucestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire, 1221, 1222, Selden Society 59 (1940), no. 501 (pp. 213-14).


R.A. Brown, `A note on Kenilworth Castle: the change to royal ownership’, Archaeological Journal 110 (1953), 120-4.


R.H. Hilton (ed.), The Stoneleigh Leger Book, Dugdale Society 24 (1960), 15-16.


Ib., 22-3.


Printed J.C. Davies (ed.), The Cartae Antiquae rolls 11-20, Pipe Roll Society new series 33 (1960 for 1957), no. 357 (pp. 38-41). A re-edited text, with commentary, will appear in N. Vincent (ed.), The letters and charters of Henry II, king of England (1154-1189) (Oxford, forthcoming), nos. 2765-6.


Calendar of Charter Rolls, 1257-1300, 332-4. Also Vincent (ed.), Letters and charters of Henry II, no. 2375.


Davies, The Cartae Antiquae rolls 11-20, no. 360 (pp. 44-8 – Waltham); Landon, The Cartae Antiquae rolls 1-10, no. 172 (pp. 85-7 – St Osyth’s). Re-edited texts of these charters, with commentary, are presently numbered 2640R (St Osyth’s) and 3134R (Waltham) in the collection of Richard I’s charters which Nicholas Vincent is preparing for publication.


TNA, C 52/28 m. 3, no. 17, and Calendar of Charter Rolls, 1327-1341, 274-8 (charter of 1189); TNA, C 52/29 m. 1, no. 4 (confirrnation of 1198) – no. 2706R in Nicholas Vincent’s collection of Richard I’s charters.


British Library, MS Cotton Claudius D. xi, fols. 30v-31r – nos. 2021R and 3220R in Nicholas Vincent’s collection of Richard I’s charters.


G.W.S. Barrow (ed.), Regesta regum Scottorum ii: the acts of William I (Edinburgh, 1971), no. 46 (pp. 152-3).


Details from History of the king’s works ii, 553-894.


C.R. Young, The royal forests of medieval England (Leicester, 1979), 23-5.


T.D. Hardy, Rotuli Chartarum, 1199-1216 (Record Commission, 1837), 1-2, 15, 18, 65-6.


Landon, Cartae Antiquae rolls 1-10, no. 222 (pp. 109-111).


Rotuli Chartarum, 154.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 20.


PR 7 John (1205), 156.


Rot.Ob.Fin., 59; PR 5 John (1203), 67.


Rot.Ob.Fin., 242; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 54; PR 7 John (1205), 235.


F. Blomefield and C. Parkin, An essay towards a topographical history of Norfolk, 11 vols. (1805-10), viii, 227, 292; xi, 30.


History of the king’s works ii, 754.


Rot.Ob.Fin., 243; Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 19; PR 7 John (1205), 235.


PR 10 John (1208), 7.


Thomas was recorded as owing the birds in 1209, but as owing three marks in 1210, after which the debt ceased to be entered on the pipe rolls in any form, without any indication that it had been paid – PR 11 John (1209), 44, PR 12 John (1210), 47.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 109.


Ib., 133-4.


Ib., 196.


Ib., 193, 195.


Ib., 198.


PR 17 John (1215), 55; Peter’s return to the king’s allegiance in 1217 is recorded Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 329.


Ib., 255.


Ib., 258.


Ib., 266. This entry is problematic. The index suggests that Robert should be identified with Robert of Berkeley, but there is no evidence that Robert, though certainly a rebel, came into the king’s allegiance at this time, or even considered doing so. The order was addressed to Philip the clerk, his colleague Matthew, and the other bailiffs of Furnell’, but neither of the named men seems to be recorded elsewhere, and Furnell’, which appears in that form in TNA, C 54/13 m. 2 but as Furmer’ in the published text (presumably taken from C 54/12, which was not available for inspection), is no less mysterious. It could represent Furness in Lancashire, but the abbey was not vacant in 1216 and there is no evidence that either it or its region was in the king’s hands. Alternatively it could be a form of the family name conventionally rendered as Furneaux, but again there is no evidence that its members were enemies of King John. As a result it is impossible to say whose woods had been subjected to depredation, or where they were.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 290.

Referenced in

Clause 30 (The 1215 Magna Carta)

Clause 30 (The 1215 Magna Carta)

Magna Carta 1215
Choose commentary
None General Secondary Academic All

Please note: commentaries are presently available only for clauses marked with *; more commentary to be added in due course.