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.

Referenced in

Clause 30 (The 1215 Magna Carta)

Clause 30 (The 1215 Magna Carta)

Magna Carta 1215
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