The Magna Carta Project

Original Latin


Liceat unicuique de cetero exire de regno nostro, et redire, salvo et secure, per terram et aquam, salva fide nostra, nisi tempore gwerrae per aliquod breve tempus, propter communem utilitatem regni, exceptis imprisonatis et utlagatis secundum legem regni, et gente de terra contra nos gwerrina, et mercatoribus de quibus fiat sicut praedictum est.


It is to be lawful in future for every man to depart from our kingdom, and to return to it, safely and securely, by land and water, saving our allegiance, except in time of war for some short time, for the sake of the common utility of the kingdom, [and] excepting those imprisoned and outlawed according to the law of the kingdom, and people from the land against us in war, and merchants who are to be dealt with as aforesaid.

Audio commentary

Commentary for secondary school students

Clause 42 goes with Clause 41 in content as well as position. Clause 41 gave merchants the freedom to come and go as they wished, and Clause 42 extended that freedom to the rest of the king’s subjects. Basically similar limitations, mostly relating to wartime, were set out in both clauses. BecauseEnglandis an island, which in the thirteenth century had land borders only withWalesandScotland, it was easier for her kings to control the movements of those coming into and going out of their realm than it was for the rulers of most other countries. They can be seen doing so from at least the eleventh century. Those most affected were churchmen, whose allegiance to the pope inRomecould easily lead to their loyalty to the English king being called into question. Henry II’s dispute with Thomas Becket, and King John’s quarrel with the papacy over the appointment of Stephen Langton as archbishop ofCanterbury, both led to restrictions being placed on the movements of ecclesiastics, restrictions which could be applied to laymen as well. John was clearly regarded as having exercised his authority in this respect with undue forcefulness, but the powers at his disposal, though misused by him, must quickly (perhaps under the influence of the civil war of 1215-17) have come to be seen as ones which no government could responsibly surrender, for this clause did not appear in the later reissues of the Charter.

Magna Carta 1215
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