The Magna Carta Project

Magna Carta 1215

by David Carpenter



The Red Book of the Exchequer: London, The National Archives, E 162/ 2, fos.ccxxxiiii-ccxxxvi verso.

Pride of place amongst the copies goes to that contained within the letter issued by Archbishop Langton, the archbishop of Dublin, a group English  bishops, and Master Pandulf, the papal ‘familiaris’, as testimony to the 1215 Charter’s authentic text. The letter  (of which there may have been several engrossments) was probably issued at Runnymede itself. No engrossment of the letter survives, but it was copied in 1323 into an exchequer volume known as ‘The Red Book of the Exchequer’ almost certainly from the original text then residing in the exchequer’s treasury.1 The copy in the ‘Red Book’  has never been published but it was collated with the Lincoln and the two British Library engrossments in Statutes of the Realm, published in 1810. The main variations  with these three originals, as also with the Salisbury engrossment, are also noted in the footnotes to the Lincoln text published in my own Magna Carta, pp.36-69.  The collation shows that the Red Book text has some small errors, presumably made by the copyist in 1323, but in all important respects it coincides with the texts found in the  four surviving engrossments, just as those four agree, in all essentials, with each other. Thank heavens!




A cartulary of Canterbury cathedral priory: Canterbury, Cathedral Archives,   Register E, fos.56-59v. 

The great cartulary or register of Canterbury cathedral, now known as  Register E, was a work of the  1290s.2  The  Charter is copied in a section of the cartulary dealing with ecclesiastical liberties. The  words  ‘Carte regum anglie  | De libertate ecclesiastica’ appear in red at the top of the folios. The heading of the copy itself is ‘Carta eiusdem magna de Ronnemed’, the ‘eiusdem’ referring to King John, whose charter granting the church freedom of elections immediately precedes the copy of Magna Carta. I have shown that  the copy of Magna Carta here was made from  the engrossment of Magna Carta now in the British Library and known as Ci (British Library Cotton Charter xiii. 31a).3

            At Canterbury a copy of Register E was made at once. Because of additions in the later middle ages it was subsequently broken up into four parts now known as Registers A to D.4 Register A was the one containing the copy of Magna Carta. However, the relevant folios were later removed and (to put it delicately) came into the possession of Sir Edward Dering, forming part of his collection of manuscripts at Surrenden.5 The whereabouts of the original folios, if they still exist, is unknown, but, as Nicholas  Vincent has discovered, copies of the folios survive. They were  made in 1844-5 by Lambert Larking as part of his general copying out  of the documents 'still preserved among the Muniments at Surrenden-Dering'. Larking's work is now British Library Additional MS. 34157. The text of Magna Carta is between fos.66-77. There can be no doubt the original was copied from the text in Register E because, like the latter, it reads 'catallis' for 'castellis' in chapter 52 and has the same repetition of words in chapter 53.6


A cartulary of Canterbury cathedral priory: London, British Library, Cotton Galba E III, fos.72v-80.

Galba E III is a composite Cotton volume, only partly related to Canterbury cathedral priory.7 The copy of Magna Carta is in the same hand as that which supplied a list of the archbishops of Canterbury down to Robert Kilwardby (1273-8). The period of his archiepiscopate is added in a different hand, as is (without any dates), the name of John Pecham. It seems quite likely, therefore, that the copy of Magna Carta was made during Kilwardby’s period of office and thus predates the copies made in Registers E and A.8 It is natural to assume that it was likewise copied from the Canterbury engrossment. One cannot, however, be sure since there are small variations in tense and word order and the telling mistake by the Register E scribe when he came to the addition at the bottom of the Canterbury engrossment does not occur.9


The Registrum of Lincoln cathedral: Lincoln, Linconshire Archives, D&C/A/1/6, fos.5v-7v.

The Registrum, referred to here, is ‘an enormous register of  Lincoln cathedral’s charters and privileges compiled and written uniformly about 1330.’10 A.J. Collins stated the Registrum  copy of Magna Carta was derived from the engrossment at the cathedral but gave no precise chapter and verse for his belief.11 It is unclear whether he or anyone else has actually checked the transcription in the Registrum against the engrossment to see if the two do indeed match up. I have now done the checking and  can say that they do.  There are several minor points of wording where the Lincoln engrossment differs both from the other three originals and  the copy of the Charter found in the letters testimonial guaranteeing the authentic text.   Those divergences all appear in the Registrum copy. I indicate them below. In the Registrum, the heading to the Charter, made in red, is ‘Carta de iuribus et libertatibus ecclesie Anglicane et regni Anglie’. This echoed the contemporary description on the back of the engrossment: ‘Concordia inter Regem Johannem et Barones per concessionem libertatum ecclesie et regni anglie.’  The heading shows, as does much other evidence, how important the first chapter on ecclesiastical liberties was to churchmen.  Indeed,  a  note in a later hand in the margin of the Lincoln copy draws attention to chapter 1 on the church:  ‘de libertate electionum concessa ecclesie anglicane per Johannem Regem anglie’.  


In  the Lincoln Registrum, as in some other cartularies and statute books,  the  copy of the 1215 Charter is followed by copies of Henry’s 1225 Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest.12 There was, therefore, no sense that the later versions of the Charter had rendered that of 1215 redundant. The idiosyncrasies of the Lincoln Magna Carta and Registrum copy as measured against the other three engrossments and the copy in the letters testimonial of the bishops are as follows.13


In chapter 6, both omit ‘tamen’ after ‘ita’.

In chapter 25, both omit ‘et’ before ‘hundredi’.

In chapter 29, both have ‘exercitum’ not ‘exercitu’.

In chapter 34, both have ‘possit amittere’ not ‘amittere possit’.

In chapter 41, both omit ‘et’ before ‘morari’.

In chapter 48, both have ‘prius sciamus’ not ‘sciamus prius’.14


A Salisbury cathedral cartulary: Salisbury, Dean and Chapter, Muniments, ii.3, fos. 5v-7v.

This cartulary, known as Liber Evidentiarum C, is late thirteenth-century. Its copy  of the 1215 Charter seems to have been unknown or forgotten until attention was drawn to it by Emily Naish, the archivist of the cathedral, at the  re-union of all four original engrossments of  Magna Carta at the British Library in 1215.15  The cartulary itself was apparently compiled before 1284. The latest dated document is from 1273 (f.131v). A document of 1284 (f.153) is clearly an addition.16 

As is well known, there are large numbers of minor differences between the Salisbury Charter and the other three engrossments. These re-appear in the cartulary copy as I show below.  There can, therefore, be little doubt that the copy was made from the Salisbury engrossment.


As in the Lincoln copy above, a  marginal comment, in a later hand, draws attention to chapter 1 on the church: ‘libera electio fuit concessa ecclesie anglicane per Johnannem Regem anglie et confirmata per papam Innocentium tercium’. The heading in red given to the Charter in the Salisbury cartulary runs as follows:


‘Carta Johnannis Regis anglie de reconciliatione facta sancte ecclesie anglicane et baronibus regni de legibus regni conservandis et de omnibus consuetudinibus et libertatibus comitum, baronum, militum et liberum tenencium inviolabiliter observandis et specialiter de libertate ecclesie et de mensuris ulnarum lagenarum perticarum in regno anglie discurrencium et aliis’.


'Charter of John, king of England, concerning the reconciliation made to the holy English church and the barons of the kingdom concerning the preservation of the laws of the kingdom and the observation inviolably of all customs and liberties of earls, barons, knights and free tenants, and especially concerning the liberty of the church and concerning measures of ells, gallons and perches current in the kingdom of England and other matters.'


Here again there is the emphasis on the liberties of the church, although combined with a recognition of the social range of the other beneficiaries – earls, barons, knights and free tenants.  The reference to the Charter being ‘inviolably’ observed made the point that it was still valid. What is unique, as far as I know, is the way the heading  drew attention to chapter 35 of the Charter on weights and measures. This was presumably  because of the great importance of Salisbury’s market to the prosperity of the town.17 Since the  heading must have been written before the Charter was copied out, it shows the scribe was already familiar with its contents.


The idiosyncrasies of the Salisbury Magna Carta and the copy in Liber Evidentiarum  as measured against the other three engrossments and the copy in the letters testimonial of the bishops are as follows.


In chapter 14, both have ‘aliter assidendo’ not ‘assidendo aliter’.

In chapter 23, both start ‘Nulla’ rather than ‘Nec’.

In chapter 28, both have ‘capiet’ not ‘capiat’.

In chapter 29, both have ‘in exercitum fuerit’ not ‘fuerit in exercitum’.18 

In chapter 30, both have ‘capiet’ not ‘capiat’.

In chapter 31, both have ‘illius’ not ‘ipsius’.

In chapter 32, both omit ‘de’.

In chapter 35, both omit ‘mensura’ before ‘cervisie’.

In chapter 40, both have ‘vel’ in place of the second ‘aut’.

In chapter 45, both insert ‘vel’ before ‘constabularios’.

In chapter 48, both insert ‘nos’ after  the ‘si’ at the end.

In chapter 52, both have ‘fiet’ not ‘fiat’.

In chapter 55, at the end, both have ‘substituentur’ not ‘substituantur’.

In chapter 57, both omit ‘elongatus’ and have ‘Walensis’ not ‘Walensium’.

In chapter 57 at the end, both have ‘Wallie’ not ‘Walensium’. The copy, however,  reads ‘per’ not ‘secundum’ as found in the engrossment and the other texts.

In chapter 59, both have ‘eius’ not ‘ipsius’.

In chapter 60,  both place ‘observent’ after ‘pertinet’.

In chapter 61, both read ‘firma et integra’ not ‘integra et firma’.

In chapter 61, both place ‘et’ before ‘petent’.

In chapter 61, both have ‘justiciariis nostris’ not ‘justiciario nostro’.

In chapter 61, both place ‘predictis’ after ‘noluerint jurare’. The other versions omit it.

In chapter 62, both omit the name of Henry, archbishop of Dublin.

In chapter 62, at the end, both have ‘illa’ not ‘ista’.

In chapter 63, both place ‘omnes’ after ‘concessiones’ and  omit ‘et’ after ‘bene’.




Nicholas Vincent has drawn attention to a copy of Magna Carta in one of the volumes of Selden manuscripts now preserved in the Library of Lincoln’s Inn in London.  A collation of  the text against the four surviving originals of the Charter  gives grounds for thinking that the Selden Magna Carta was copied from a damaged  engrossment of the Charter  which had much in common with the two originals, Ci (Canterbury) and Cii now preserved in the British Library.


John Selden (1584-1654) was one of the great jurists and legal historians of the seventeenth century. After his death a portion of his papers passed to his executor, Matthew Hale who left them in his will to Lincoln’s Inn. There they were bound into five volumes of ‘Collectanea Seldeni’ The contents of the  volume in which Magna Carta is found are  miscellaneous.19  Original documents are interspersed with both  material copied by amanuenses and notes and memoranda in Selden’s own hand.  The volume includes  ‘A list of the names of sixty-four  kinds of birds collected by Selden’, apparently ‘the only trace of Selden’s interest in natural history’.20 The copy of Magna Carta  was made by an amanuensis in a large clear hand. It was written on both sides of twelve  pages of paper  and (for no apparent reason) on  only one side of two more.  When the pages were bound into the Lincoln’s Inn volume they were arranged in the wrong order or at least not re-arranged into the right. The numbering of the pages, made after the binding was done, reflects this mistake.21  


The copy was made with reasonable care. The silliest mistake comes at the start of the security clause (chapter 61) where ‘pro deo’ is rendered ‘pro dono’. At the start of the Charter itself, amidst the list of John’s counselors, ‘Pandulf’ appears as ‘Randulf’. Chapter 26 reads ‘non’ rather than ‘nobis’,  chapter 29  ‘viderimus’ not ‘miserimus’, and   chapter 57 ‘autem’ rather than ‘ante’.  The amanuensis left gaps where  words in his text were missing or indecipherable. So there are gaps for  ‘dominis’ in chapter 31, ‘toltis’ and ‘invenientur’ in chapter 41,  and ‘fac’ in ‘[fac]emus’ at the start of the security clause (chapter 61).22  The text copied is that of the authorized version of the Charter. There are none of the variations found in some other copies.23


The text differs from that  found in both the Lincoln and Salisbury Charters since it follows none of their small variations in word order, tense and so on.24 On the other hand,  in chapter 4  the text follows the British Library’s  Canterbury Charter and Cii in reading  ‘nobis respondeant’ as against the ‘respondeant nobis’ found in the Lincoln and Salisbury charters.   In chapter 50,  which removed the kinsmen of Gerard d’Athée from office, the text follows Cii  in reading ‘Peter, Gio and Andrew’ as against ‘Andrew, Peter,  and Gio’ found in the other engrossments.


Most striking of all, the text omits altogether the three passages which were omitted from both the Canterbury Charter and Cii.  In both, the scribes had to add in the passages at the bottom of the Charters with an indication of where they should go in the text above. These passages were, in chapter 48,  ‘per eosdem ita quod nos hoc prius sciamus vel justiciarius noster si in Anglia non fuerimus’ (about them having to be informed before the abuses revealed by the local inquiries were abolished), and ‘et eodem modo de justicia exhibenda’ and ‘vel remansuris forestis’ in chapter 53.  In chapters 56 and 61 the Canterbury scribe also omitted two other short passages and included these too at the bottom of the Charter. These mistakes, however, were not repeated in either Cii or the Selden text.


The text of the Selden copy  is unfinished. On p.188 verso, early on in the security clause,  it breaks of in the middle of a sentence, the last word being ‘observare’.   There would have been room on the line for the next word ‘tenere’.  Eight lines are then left blank before the end of the page.  Because of the muddling of the pages, the next page, p.189, starts in the middle of chapter 47.


I now offer a few tentative suggestions as to what all this might indicate about the original text. The text from which Selden’s amanuensis worked was  damaged, hence the way he could not read individual words. Perhaps this also explains some of his mistakes.  Damage involving the loss of the last part of the text would likewise explain why the amanuensis broke off so abruptly in  the middle of a sentence in the security clause. If the text was indeed damaged in these ways, it would suggest it was on a single sheet of parchment for a single sheet would be more liable  to suffer  deterioration than a text in a book. Since in the Canterbury Charter and Cii the missing words are clear, and both Charters are complete,  Selden’s amanuensis cannot have worked from them,  however much both were in the collection of Cotton, Selden’s friend.  Had the scribe been copying from one of  them he would also surely have noticed the additions at the bottom and have incorporated them into his text, just as did the scribe who  copied the Canterbury Charter into the Canterbury Register.25    Since, however,  the Selden copy  omits the same passages as Canterbury and Cii,   the three are  closely linked. That is confirmed by the parallel word order mentioned above.  It  may be indeed that the missing passages in the single sheet were written in at its foot, as they were in Canterbury and Cii. This would explain why they were  lost to  Selden’s amanuensis along with the whole of the last part of the Charter.   The text is,  however,  more closely linked to Cii than to Canterbury for it follows Cii,  as against Canterbury and the other engrossments,  in its ordering of the names in chapter 50.  Likewise, in parallel with  Cii,  it does not repeat Canterbury’s omissions in chapters 56 and 61.


There are, therefore,  some grounds for thinking that the text copied by Selden’s amanuensis was a damaged  engrossment of Magna Carta.   In that case, at least three of the engrossments, Canterbury, Cii and the Selden text, were closely linked, notably by the omission of the three passages mentioned  above.  How this came about one can only speculate, but perhaps  all three derived from the same or a similar draft in which the three passages were omitted or included in such a way as initially to be obscure. It was only in a later check that the omissions were noticed and the missing passages added in at the foot of the three Charters.




Although not a copy of the Charter itself, I include here the evidence for another lost engrossment of the 1215 Charter contained in the  cartulary of the Cistercian Abbey of Byland in Yorkshire (British Library, Egerton 2823). The reference was drawn to my attention by Sophie Ambler. The cartulary dates to  the early fifteenth century, being compiled in the reign of Henry IV.26  It does not copy out the 1215 Magna Carta but refers to it on f.56v in a list of royal charters in the abbey’s possession: ‘Carta nobis commendata Regis Johannis de communibus legibus Anglie que dicitur Romenemede’.27   One wonders whether some or all of this description was on the back of the Charter itself.28 The description of the Charter as ‘Runnymede’, however, is probably considerably later than 1215   since it was in the course of the thirteenth century that the usage became established. One might also expect ‘liberties’ rather than ‘laws’ if the note had been written in 1215,  as in the annotation on the back of the Lincoln engrossment. Whatever its date,  the most striking part of the description is the statement that the Charter had been ‘commendata nobis’, apparently indicating that it had been entrusted to the abbey, presumably for safekeeping. It recalls the note on the back of  Lacock abbey’s engrossment of the 1225 Charter, ‘ex deposito militum Wiltisir’’.   One cannot of course be certain that Byland possessed an original engrossment of the Charter, but that is surely implied by the description.  Since  William de Mowbray, one of the twenty-five barons of Magna Carta’s security clause, was the patron of the Abbey, he may well have obtained an engrossment at Runnymede and entrusted it to Byland.29




The cartulary of the leper hospital of Saint Giles at Pont-Audemer in Normandy: Rouen, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS. Y 200, fos.81-87v. 

This copy,  in a cartulary of the  leper hospital of Pont-Audemer, is from a French translation of the Charter. It is fully discussed and printed in J.C. Holt, ‘A vernacular French text of Magna Carta, 1215’, English Historical Review, 89 (1974), pp. 346-64, reprinted in his first volume of collected essays: Magna Carta and Medieval Government (London, 1985), pp.239-58.  Holt believed that the translation was made in 1215 to facilitate the publication of the Charter in Hampshire. Given that the bishop of Winchester was Peter des Roches and the sheriff of Hampshire was William Brewer, the Charter in their areas needed all the help it could  get. The translation, Holt wrote,  was copied into the cartulary ‘within a few years of 1215 for it is entered in an early thirteenth-century hand’.30


One variant is that in chapter 20, having dealt with amercements imposed on villeins, the text continues ‘s’il chiet en nostre merci’, rather than the plural ‘si inciderint in misericordiam nostram’ of the authorized version.  Found in other copies, this anticipates a change made in the Charter of 1216. One wonders whether the singular appeared in some of the 1215 engrossments. (For discussion see Carpenter, Magna Carta, pp.111-2, 209, 354, 428, 456-7).


Another variation is that, in chapter 45, the sheriffs and other officials are to be those who ‘sachent la lei de la terre’ (as in the Articles of the Barons) whereas the four engrossments and the bishops’ copy have ‘sciant legem regni’.


Chapter 60, in the names of those to be removed from office,  has the order Peter, Guy, Andrew de Chanceaux, which is only found in C ii of the engrossments, the others having Andrew, Peter, Guy.


Chapter 61 has ‘a la commun de tote Engleterre’  rather than ‘cum communa totius terre’. 


One interesting point to emerge from Holt’s transcription is that the division into chapters and sections usually follows that found in the original engrossments, as indicated by the size of the  capitals letters.  (See the printed text in my  Magna Carta, pp.36-69.) The divisions thus  differ occasionally from those conventional since Blackstone’s work of 1759. This would support the view that the text was translated  direct from an engrossment. 




The following census of copies of the 1215 Charter  is divided between copies of ‘the authorized version’ and copies which have elements drawn from drafts. The criteria for inclusion in the latter category is where texts have material drawn not from the final authorized version of the Charter but instead from the Articles of the Barons. It may be that some of the variant readings in texts placed in the former category also contain draft material but that is less certain.




A cartulary of the abbey  of St Augustine’s Canterbury: London, Lambeth Palace, 1213, fos. 189-94.31  

In  this late thirteenth, early fourteenth century cartulary,  the copy of the Charter follows immediately the letter of the twenty-five barons of the security clause discovered by  Nicholas Vincent.32  In the list of the king's counselors in the preamble, the order differs from that found in the engrossments. In chapter 2, the heir or heirs of an earl owe relief ‘de comitatu integro’ rather than ‘de baronia comitis integra’.  The baronial relief is put at 100 marks not £100. These are variants found in many copies of the 1215, 1217 and 1225 Charters. I suggest below that they became official in the 1265 text of Magna Carta.33


A cartulary of St Peter's abbey Gloucester:  Gloucester,  Cathedral Library Froucester Reg. 1397 (formerly Reg. A),  fos.35v-40v.34

The cartulary dates from 1397.  The heading to Magna Carta is 'Carta Johannis Regis de libertatibus anglie et de xxv baronibus'. The significance of this knowledge of the twenty-five in the politics of the reign of Richard II is explored by Nigel Saul in one of the Magna Carta project's 'features of the month'.35 In the preamble, the name of Peter fitzHerbert is placed before that of Hubert de Burgh as in the British Library's Canterbury and Cii engrossments. In small variations in word order in chapters 6, 18, 25, 34, 41, 48 and 63 the copy agrees again with the Canterbury and Cii engrossments (and sometimes with Salisbury as well) rather than the Lincoln engrossment.36 The copy follows on immediately from a copy of the 1217 Magna Carta for which see Magna Carta 1217.


A cartulary of the  priory of St Nichola37 s at Exeter: London, British Library, Cotton  Vitellius D IX, fos. 94-6.

The last entry made in the hand which wrote out  the Charter is a document dated to 1335. The text of Magna Carta ends at the bottom of f.96 just after the start of chapter 26. Folio 96v and the two following folios are left blank as though the scribe meant to continue his transcription but never did. It would seem, however, judging from  as far as the copying went, that the priory had access to an authorized text of the 1215 Charter. 


London’s Liber Custumarum MS. B: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 70, fos. 173-80.

This volume (now split between Corpus Christ College MSS 70 and 258) contains legislation and other legal material. See N. Ker, ‘Liber Custumarum and other manuscripts formerly at the Guildhall’,  Guildhall Miscellany, 1 (1954), pp.135-6. After the transcription of the Charter, there is a brief narrative in the same hand running down to the birth of Henry III’s sons and daughters by Eleanor of Provence. The next entry mentioning Edward I’s confirmation of Henry III’s charter of liberties is in a smaller hand and darker ink. It would seem likely, therefore, that the 1215 Charter was copied in the reign of Henry III but after 1245 by which time he had both sons and daughters.  The Charter is described as ‘Carta de Ronnemede’. It is preceded by the following narrative.


Carta Regis Johnannis quam fecit baronibus suis Anglie in guerra tunc temporis pace formata et facta inter ipsum Regem et dictos Barones que pax in brevi tempore postea per ipsum Regem fracta fuit dicta carta numquam observata.


Against chapter 12, there is the note ‘de talliagio Lond’’.

In chapter 18, the king’s judges are to tour the counties three times a year not four.

In chapter 20, ‘magno delicto’ is written mistakenly as ‘magnitudine’.

In chapter 30, ‘vel aliquis alius capiat equos’ is omitted.

Chapter 44 reads ‘omnes summonitiones’ not ‘communes summonitiones’.

 Chapter 61 reads ‘petentes’ rather than ‘petent’ – ‘petentes ut excessum illum sine dilatione faciamus emendari’. This is a variant found in other copies.38

The Charter is given on 16 June, another common variant. The date may possibly go back to a draft or drafts written up on 16 June.39


London’s Liber Custumarum MS. C: London, British Library, Cotton Claudius D II, fos.119-22.

This London volume (now split between  Cotton Claudius D ii, and Oriel College 46) contains legislation going back to the time of King  Ine together with London documents. See Ker, ‘Liber Custumarum’, pp. 135-6.  The heading for Magna Carta is ‘Carta de Ronemede’.   The copy repeats the mistakes and variants  noted in MS B above as well as also sharing  small differences in word order.  It is possible, therefore, that MS C was copied from MS B or from a common exemplar.  It is unlikely to have been the other way round for C  makes mistakes in chapters 2 and 47  not found in B. C  corrects one of B's  omissions, against chapter 30 a later hand having added in the margin ‘capiat equos’. 


A series of marginal annotations are made in a later hand:  In chapter 2  besides the £100 baronial relief, ‘marcas’ is written.  Against chapter 12, with its section about aids levied on London, there is again ‘Nota de Lond’’.  Against chapter 34, there is ‘in capite’, referring here to the writ ‘precipe’ with which the chapter deals.


One wonders whether some of the variants these two London copies  have in common derive from a draft made at Runnymede, notably the  judges in chapter 18 coming three times a year, not four, the ‘petentes’ in chapter 61, and the date 16 June.  On the other hand, they could just be changes made in the process of transmission.


London’s  Liber Custumarum MS. D, fos.21-22: London,  Metropolitan Archives, COL/CS/01/006, fos. 21-2. 

This is a volume now split between the sections in the London Metropolitan Archives, Claudius D ii, and Oriel College 46.  See Ker, ‘Liber Custumarum’, pp. 135-9. It dates to around 1324 and was a volume of royal charters and city laws and customs.  Folios 21-22 have  a copy of the 1215 Charter from chapter 45 until the end, the earlier chapters having been on missing folios.  The surviving section has none of the small variations in word  order which the MS B and C  copies display in these chapters. It does not repeat C's mistakes in chapter 47. Unlike them, its date is 15 not 16 June. It is  unlikely, therefore, that D  was copied from B or C.  However, all three have ‘petentes’ rather than the authorized version’s ‘petent’. The volume also has copies of the Charters of 1217 and 1225 for which see Magna Carta 1217 and Magna Carta 1225.


A late thirteenth, early fourteenth-century statute book belonging  to  Luffield  priory: Cambridge,  University Library, Ee. I.I, fos.154-156v.40 

The heading is ‘Carta Johannis Regis que vocatur Runnemed’’.

In chapter 20 the text reads ‘si inciderit’ rather than ‘inciderint’.

In chapter 39, instead of ‘nec super eum ibimus, nec super eum mittemus’ the text reads ‘nec super eum manum mittemus’.

There are many omissions in chapters 41 and 42 on entry to and exit from the kingdom. There are also mistakes in the transcription of chapter 48, 52, 55, and 59. 

At the end, the Charter is given on 16 not 15 June.


A cartulary of  Montacute priory: Oxford, Trinity College, 85, deposited in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, fols.xiii-xviiiv.41

This copy of the Charter is found in the abbey’s general cartulary which dates to between 1305 and 1316.42   It is of the authorized version down to the start of chapter 18 at the bottom of fol.xiiii. Folios xv to xvii are then missing and text resumes on fos.xviii at the start of chapter 62. It then continues to the end once again as the authorized version. To  supply the lack of the missing section, however, folios were later inserted, of which only one survives. In a late medieval hand,  the inserted folio begins the text near the end of chapter 41 and continues until the end of chapter 61. The scribe, however, was here using one of the variant texts of the Huntington family, discussed below, not the authorized version. This is one of the rare copies of John's Charter where it is called Magna Carta.


A volume of Reading Abbey: London, Lambeth Palace, 371, fos.57v-59v.

C.R. Cheney described MS. 371 as ‘a small quarto volume from Reading Abbey, composed of many pieces written in various good thirteenth-century hands.’ The copy of the Charter immediately precedes a list of Magna Carta’s twenty-five barons, each with the number of knights they could raise. Cheney dated the hand found in the list to ‘not later than the last quarter of the thirteenth century’.43


In chapter 63 of the Charter – ‘precipimus quod Anglicana ecclesia libera sit at quod homines in regno nostro habeant et teneant omnes prefatas libertates’ - the text has ‘omnino’ between ‘ecclesia’ and ‘libera’ and reads ‘omnes’ rather than ‘homines’.


The chronicle of Stanley abbey (Wiltshire): Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I, ii,  ed. R. Howlett (Rolls Series,  1885), pp. 518-9.

This is the continuation of William of Newburgh’s chronicle made at Stanley abbey and later copied at Furness abbey. It contains extracts from the 1215 Charter’s preface, and chapters on the church (1), on the removing from office of the kinsmen of Gerard d’Athée (50), and on the expelling foreign soldiers from the country (51). The concluding dating clause is given in full. Either Stanley only had access to parts of the Charter (like Roger of Wendover at St Albans) or had the whole Charter but only thought these parts worthy of record.    


A late thirteenth, early fourteenth-century statute book: London, British Library, Harley 746, fos.59v-64.

In chapter 2, a later hand has altered the £100 baronial relief to 100 marks.

In chapter 4, where the text refers to sheriffs and others answering to the king ‘de exitibus illius’, a later hand has inserted ‘terre’ -  ‘exitibus terre illius’ - a word first introduced in the Charter of 1216.

 Chapter 20 reads ‘incidit’ not ‘inciderint’.

At the end of chapter 39, the word ‘convincatur’ is added.

Chapter 61 reads ‘petentes’ rather than ‘petent’.  

In the margin opposite chapter 61 another hand has added the names of the twenty-five barons of the security clause.


An early thirteenth-century legal collection: Oxford, Bodleian Library Rawlinson C 641, fos. 21v-29.  

For this much cited legal collection, see B. R. O’Brien, God's Peace and King’s Peace: The Laws of Edward the Confessor (Philadelphia, 1999), pp. 143-4. The text of Magna Carta, is the latest document found in the collection, and is itself an addition in an early thirteenth century hand.  This therefore is probably one of the earliest copies of the Charter. Each new chapter has a new line and begins with a large capital letter colored alternatively in blue and red. The divisions are similar to those in the text found in my Magna Carta, pp.36-69.


In chapter 2, the baronial relief is 100 marks not £100.

At the end  of chapter 8, where a widow is not to marry without the consent of the king ‘vel sine assensu domini sui de quo tenuerit, si de alio tenuerit’, the text adds ‘quam de nobis’.

 In chapter 9, forbidding the seizure of lands or rents so long as the chattels of the debtor suffice ‘ad debitum reddendum’, the  text reads ‘solvendum’ not ‘reddendum’.

In chapter 20 it is ‘inciderit’ not ‘inciderint’.

In chapter 26 where the chattels of a deceased tenant-in-chief are not to be removed ‘donec persolvatur nobis debitum quod clarum fuerit’, ‘clarum’ is replaced by ‘planum’. The word in the Articles of the Barons is ‘liquidum’.

Chapter 44, stipulating that ‘homines’ outside the forest are not obliged  come before the forest judges, the text reads ‘omnes’ not ‘homines’.

In chapter  57 of the authorized version, John was to have ‘respectum usque ad communem terminum crucesignatorum’ in giving justice to  Welshmen dispossessed by Henry II and Richard I, but was to give them justice immediately on his return from or abandonment of his crusade ‘secundum leges Walensium et partes predictas’. Here the  Ralwinson text omits ‘et partes predictas’ and continues ‘et cum superius legantur  donec certo termino comprehendantur secundum leges Walensium and partes predictas’.  This seems to be a comment, perhaps made in the margin of a text of the Charter, which has become incorporated into the  Rawlinson copy or its exemplar. The memorandum was most likely made in 1215 or 1216 since the issue had no relevance after John’s death and the chapter does not appear in the Henry III charters.  

In chapter 58, the ‘filios’ of Llywelyn are to be released not the ‘filium’. 

At the end, the date of the Charter is 16 June. This is written out in full - ‘sexto decimo’ -  as part of a dating clause (from ‘Data per manum’) in large lower case letters in double spaced lines.


Although there is no clear proof, taken together these variations make it possible that the copy derives from  an unofficial text of the Charter made on 16 June. If so, it shows  the idea that the baronial relief should be 100 marks was there from the start.          


A late medieval or Tudor annotator has numbered the chapters (in arabic numerals) down to chapter 27 (which is his chapter 25).  His heading is ‘Carta de Roundimeid’. He has also occasionally related the  chapters to Henry III’s Magna Carta and later legislation. Thus, against chapter 10 he notes in the margin that  there is nothing on the subject of interest accumulating in a minority ‘in magna carta’, but there is in chapter 5 of the statute of Merton. Against chapter 27 (on the distribution of an intestate’s chattels), he again notes that there is nothing on the subject in ‘magna carta’.  As we will see, this was an omission some copyists of Henry III's Charters sought to remedy.44 The same hand has listed the twenty-five barons of Magna Carta’s security clause.  




It is possible, as we have seen,  that some of the copies listed   above contain elements from drafts of the Charter. The next two sections group together copies where that is more certain since they all seem to have wording deriving from the Articles of the Barons.  I note all significant variations  from the authorized text, while omitting small differences in word order and some small mistakes, often due to homoeoteleuton.


An early single sheet copy of the Charter: Oxford, Bodleian Library,  MS Lat. Hist. a. 1 (P).45  

This  single sheet copy of Magna Carta is written on a long roll of parchment approximately 122 mm by 635 mm.  One side is covered fully with 152 lines of text. The other side has only 66 lines.  Teresa Weber kindly comments on the hand as follows. ‘The hand looks very English, recognizably related to the distinctively English variety of mid twelfth-century book hand, but with the usual variant forms incorporated in less formal versions of the hand and especially when used for documentary purposes. Close dating is very difficult, but there is nothing to preclude a date of production close to 1215, but equally a date anywhere in the first half of the thirteenth century is possible. It is unlikely to be later than that (e.g. the lack of use, as far as I have spotted, of a diacritical mark over i – the oblique strokes that at first sight look like diacritical marks over i are instead decorative strokes attached to the leading edge of the headstroke of t – and the still rather broad proportions of letters). If pushed, I would date it earlier within that half century than later, but I am unable to localize its place of production more closely.’


On the dorse, the document is described as containing privileges conferred by John ‘Re di Inghilterra’ on the kingdom ‘di Inghilterra’. Underneath the concluding dating clause there is written ‘1298 16 Guigno’, which would appear to be a reference to the Charter (in this copy) having been given on 16 June, ‘1298’, if it refers to the year of the Charter’s concession, being just  a mistake. Lower down on the dorse  there appears  (in Vincent’s transcription) ‘1298 papa Innon’ 3a’ and underneath that ‘16 Guigno’.  Vincent judges the hand of these annotations to be seventeenth/eighteenth century, which suggests the roll was in Italy then. It may, of course, have reached Italy much earlier but the number of variant readings and mistakes, make it unlikely that this was any kind of official text sent to Innocent III.


The chief variants are as follows.

 In the list of John’s counselors,  ‘Stephani Cantuariensis’ lacks the ‘Stephani’ and appears to have instead ‘Scilicet’. The ‘comes’ after William Marshal is nominative not genitive – ‘comes’ not ‘comitis’. Instead of ‘Petri filii Hereberti, Huberti de Burgo seneschalli Pictavie’, the text reads ‘Petro filii Herberti, de Burgh, Hug’ senesch’ Pictavie’.46

In chapter 2 about relief, the passage ‘heres vel heredes baronis de baronia integra per centum libras’ is omitted, and at the end, in ‘secundum antiquam consuetudinem feodorum’, ‘relevium’ is found in place of ‘consuetudinem’. 

Chapter 3 starts ‘Si vero’ rather than ‘si autem’. The scribe originally wrote ‘habeat terram’ but then immediately underlined ‘terram’ for deletion and went on correctly ‘hereditatem suam’. He was not always careless, therefore.

In Chapter 10, instead of ‘debitum not usuret’ the text reads ‘non surget’.

In Chapter 12, instead of ‘Nullum scutagium vel auxilium ponatur in regno nostro nisi per commune consilium regni nostri’, the text reads ‘Nullum scutagium vel auxilium ponatur in regno meo nisi per consilium nostrum’. The use of the first person singular appears again later in the copy. It is also found - ‘meus’ – throughout the Unknown Charter and sometimes in royal letters.47


In chapter 19, instead of ‘per quos possint iudicia sufficienter fieri’, the text reads ‘per quos possint iudicia (discerni) sufficienter fieri’, the ‘discerni’, I have put here in brackets, being crossed out.48 It is difficult to believe the scribe has just made up ‘discerni’.  More likely,  he was copying from a text where ‘discerni’ appeared – so ‘judgements can be determined’. He then saw that it had been marked for erasure  and ‘sufficienter fieri’ substituted.  Chapter 19 was created at Runnymede, for it is not in the Articles of the Barons and there must have been discussion about its wording.  This makes it possible that the text is derived here from a draft.


In the authorized version, chapter 20 reads ‘ villanus eodem modo amercietur salvo wainagio suo si inciderint in misericordiam nostram; et nulla predictarum misericordiarum ponatur nisi per sacramentum proborum hominum de visneto.’  In this text, however, there is a full stop after ‘suo’ and the passage continues  with an emphatic capital ‘S’ and with the subsequent ‘et’ being omitted:  ‘Si aliquis inciderit in misericordiam nostram  nulla predictarum misericordiarum...’.  This gives a different twist to the chapter. The protection given to villeins is no longer qualified by being restricted to when they fall into the king’s mercy. The implication also seems to be that only when people fall into the king’s mercy are amercements to be assessed by men of the neighbourhood.       


In chapter 35, it is ‘regnum meum’ not ‘nostrum’.

In chapter 37, ‘illius feudi firme vel scocagii vel burgagii’ is  crossed out because the scribe’s eye had skipped on and he had written it too soon.

In chapter 4, merchants are to have ‘salvum exitum’ from England as opposed to ‘salvum et securum exire’.

In chapter 48, the authorized version states that the evil customs revealed by the inquiry of the twelve knights in each county are to be ‘penitus ita quod numquam revocentur deleantur per eosdem’. The Bodleain text reads ‘penitus emendentur ita quod numquam revocentur per eosdem’.  The ‘emendentur’ here would seem to come from the Articles of the Barons  (chapter 39) where the evil customs are to be ‘emendentur’ by the twelve knights in each county.     

In chapter 52 ‘per henricum regem patrem meum vel Ricardum regem fratrem meum’ is crossed out because the scribe’s eye has skipped on and he has written it too soon. When it re-appears ‘meus’ is again used whereas it is ‘noster’ in the authorized texts.

At the start of chapter 63 the text has ‘regno meo’ rather than ‘regno nostro’.

The date is ‘xvi die Junii’.  At the end of the giving clause there is ‘valete’.




The following copies of the Charter all have one feature in common with a copy discovered by V.H. Galbraith in a late thirteenth-century statute book preserved in the Huntington Library in California. This is that the chapter on fines is closer in terms of its phraseology to the chapter as  found in the Articles of the Barons rather than to the chapter as it eventually appeared in Magna Carta. It also retains the position it enjoyed in the Articles rather than the position to which it was moved in Magna Carta. 


A late thirteenth-century statute book:  San Marino (CA), Huntington Library, 25782,  fos 1-6v, fully analysed in V.H. Galbraith, ‘A draft of Magna Carta (1215)’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 53 (1967), pp.345-60.49

Galbraith described the Huntington volume as ‘a handsome little book of early statutes which seems to have been compiled before 1290 and to have belonged to the famous Isabella de Fortibus (ob. 1293) or her legal agents.’ The 1215 Charter is the first document in the volume and appears under the heading ‘Incipit provisiones de Ronnemede, scilicet carta Regis Johannis’. 


The  variants from the authorized version, apart from minor changes in wordage and word order, are as follows.


In the preamble many of the Christian names of John’s counselors are omitted as are some names altogether. 

In chapter 2, the baronial relief is 100 marks not £100.

A section has been omitted from chapter 37, apparently by homoeoteleuton.

In chapter 41, the section ‘ad emendum et vendendum...inveniantur’ is omitted. This seems simply to be a mistake at some point in the process of transmission because the passage does not make sense as it stands.


In chapter 48, the  abuses revealed by the knights, within forty days, ‘penitus deleantur ita quod numquam revocentur ita quod nos prius hoc sciamus...’ . The authorized text, by contrast, reads: penitus ita quod numquam revocentur deleantur per eosdem ita quod nos prius hoc sciamus...’. This was a chapter redrafted at Runnymede so variations are not surprising.


The chapter on fines appears between chapter 48, on the inquiry into local abuses by the twelve knights, and chapter 49, on the surrender of hostages and charters. This is its place in the Articles of the Barons where, according to the conventional numbering, it is 37. In the engrossments of the Charter, by contrast, it loses its place and drops down to 55 between one new chapter, 54, on accusations by women, and

a much remodeled chapter on Welshmen who had suffered disseisin. Probably the chapter on fines lost its place in the course of its redrafting.50  The Huntington text of the chapter itself is much closer to the Articles of the Barons than to that found in Magna Carta. The Articles demand 'Ut fines qui facti sunt pro dotibus, maritagiis, hereditatibus at amerciamentis iniuste et contra legem tere omnino condonentur '. In the Huntington version this becomes  'Omnes fines qui facti sunt nobiscum pro dotibus,  maritagiis, hereditatibus et amerciamentis et aliis iniuste contra legem terre omnino condonentur'. In Magna Carta, by contrast,  references to dowers, marriages and inheritances are dropped and the Chapter simply covers all fines: 'Omnes fines qui iniuste et contra legem terre facti sunt nobiscum, et omnia amerciamenta facta iniuste et contra legem terre omnino condonentur.'  The scope of the chapter had thus been widened in an important way. Instead of limiting the fines subject to pardon to those for dowers, marriages, and inheritances (other than the vague reference to ‘et aliis’), it now covered all fines without qualification. It thus embraced the fines made with John to assuage his anger and recover his benevolence.


The whole of the first part of chapter 57, on giving justice to Welshmen disseised by Henry II  and Richard I once John had ended his crusade, is missing. This makes  unintelligible the final sentence of the chapter where John promises to give full justice when he returns from the crusade.  This was a chapter which was drafted at Runnymede so perhaps the copy goes back to a draft in which the reading was unclear.  


In the security clause, as set out in the Articles of the Barons, John was to give security through the charters of the archbishop, bishops and Pandulf that he would seek nothing from the pope by which his concessions might be revoked.  In the Huntington copy, as in Magna Carta, this becomes (in chapter 63) simply the promise to give the barons letters patent  of the archbishop, bishops and Pandulf testifying to (and thus in effect guaranteeing) the text of the concessions and the security clause. However, in the Huntington version, the pope still appears: ‘Et nos nihil impetrabimus per nos nec per alium a domino papa per quod aliqua istarum concessionum et libertatum revocetur vel minuatur’. In Magna Carta itself, the reference to the pope is dropped and the clause reads ‘Et nos nihil impetrabimus ab aliquo per nos....’.


My interpretation of what happened here is as follows. Langton first made clear that he could not issue letters barring John from contact with the pope, so this demand was dropped.  Instead, as the Huntington copy shows, the barons drafted a clause which simply prevented John appealing to the pope. Langton, however, made clear that this too would not do and in Magna Carta itself John’s promise  not to seek anything from the pope becomes just a promise not to seek anything from anyone.  


In the Huntington version of John’s undertaking to secure letters from Langton and the other ecclesiastics guaranteeing the text of the Charter, the name of Henry archbishop of Dublin is omitted. He does not feature in the Articles either, but appears in Magna Carta as he does amongst the list of John’s counselors at the start. It may be this is just a mistake. On the other hand, perhaps the Huntington copy derives from  a draft made before it was realized that the name of Archbishop Henry needed to go in to match up with the ecclesiastical counselors at the start. Interestingly the Salisbury engrossment of the Charter also omits the name of Archbishop Henry as one of the ecclesiastics guaranteeing the text.  


In the section about  John securing the letters testimonial,  the  Huntington text has  the future tense rather than the perfect of Magna Carta:  ‘faciemus habere’ instead of ‘fecimus fieri litteras testimoniales’. Earlier in the chapter, when John gives license to everyone to swear the oath, Huntington has  the future tense rather than the present: ‘dabimus’  as opposed to  ‘damus’.  The future tense is not found, however, in other copies from the Huntington family.   


In the final dating clause the Charter is given not at Runnymede on 15 June but at Windsor.

At  the end there is the note ‘Expliciunt provisiones de Ronnemede’


A cartulary of the priory of Llanthony Gloucester: London, The National Archives, C 115/ 78, fos.123-123v

This copy of the Charter is found in the Register of William Chiriton, prior of  the Augustinian house of Llanthony Gloucester, between 1376 and 1401.51  I am grateful to Jessica Nelson for bringing it to my attention. This is the only copy of the Charter so far found sharing with the Huntington copy a final clause with the Charter being  given at Windsor on 15 June rather than at Runnymede. Since the Gloucester copy only has the beginning and the end of the  Charter – the start  down to the conclusion of chapter 3 and the end from the security clause onwards -  it is impossible to know whether  the text from which it was copied followed Huntington in other respects, although I suspect it did. I have placed the copy here as part of the Huntington family on the basis of the shared appearance of Windsor and retention of the passage on the pope.  However, it is not in a direct line of descent from Huntington since it differs in its list of John’s counsellors at the start and has garbled version of chapter 2 on relief.


The heading is ‘Carta de Ronkemede’ despite the Charter being given at Windsor.  

The chief variants are as follows.

In the list of John’s counselors, at some point in the process of transmission, there have been problems in reading the names and we have ‘Q filii Hereberti de Burgh senescalli Pictavie’ instead of ‘Petri filii Hereberti, Huberti de Burgo senescalli Pictavie’.52

In chapter 2,  the text puts the size of a baronial relief as 100 shillings, omitting, presumably through homoeoteleuton  the baronial relief of £100 and the statement about the relief for the fee of a knight.

The section on the pope in chapter 61, reads

'Et nichil impetrabimus per nos vel per alium a domino papa vel ab alio per quod  aliqua istarum concessionum vel libertatum revocetur vel minuatur.’

The Huntington passage was similar although not identical.

‘Et nos nihil impetrabimus per nos nec per alium a domino papa per quod aliqua istarum concessionum et libertatum revocetur vel minuatur’.

As said above, like the Huntington copy, the Charter is given at Windsor on 15 June not Runnymede.


The Book of Robert de Swaffham:  Cambridge, University Library, Peterborough D&C MS 1.53

This is the largest and most comprehensive cartulary of Peterborough abbey. It was compiled around 1250 but has later additions. The copy of Magna Carta is part of the original text. The main variants are as follows.


In the preamble, the names of John’s consellors have been omitted.

In chapter 2, the earl is to owe a relief 'de comitatu integro' rather than for 'de baronia comitis'.

In chapter 4, there is a considerable alteration in word order.

In chapter 5, the clerk initially wrote ‘vinos’ but then underlined it for deletion and interlined correctly ‘domos’.

In chapter 41, the text reads ‘exitum ad Angliam’  (the ‘ad’ presumably being a mistake) in place of ‘exire ab Anglia’. The text then omits ‘et venire in Angliam. However, in the margin a contemporary but more cursive hand has added ‘venire ad Angliam’.

In chapter 42, the text reads ‘legem terre’ not ‘legem regni’.

Chapter 46 reads ‘antiquam longam tenueram’ rather than ‘antiquam tenuram’.


The chapter on fines has the same text as the authorized version but retains the place it held both in the Articles of the Barons and in the other copies of the Huntington family. It is difficult to see how the order  in the Peterborough copy can come from other than a draft in which a clerk has included the new  version of the chapter on fines but has somehow retained its original position.


Chapter 53 has ‘in alieno feodo’ rather than ‘in feodo alterius’. 

In chapter 56, the scribe initially wrote ‘nunc’ and then underlined it for deletion and interlined correctly ‘tunc’.

In chapter 57, the text reads ‘qui sunt in manu nostra’ rather than ‘in manu nostra habemus’.

In chapter 61, the security clause, the scribe first wrote ‘saturitatem’ and then underlined the ‘at’ for deletion and interlined  correctly ‘ec’.

At the end of the Charter the final section about the mutual oath has been omitted but it is then added in at the end of the Charter after the dating clause.


A late thirteenth-century statute book: London, The National Archives, E 164/ 9, fos.xiii-xv.

The earliest portion of this statute book (it was added to in the fourteenth century) seems to have been associated with the judge, Hugh de Cressingham, killed by the Scots in 1297, for it has writs relating to his northern eyre of 1292-1294. Richardson and Sayles thought that it was written in the exchequer (where it was preserved from 1298)   very probably for Cressingham’s  ‘personal use’.54 This makes its mistakes and variations  all the more interesting. 


The heading is ‘Carta Regis Johannis vocatur Ronnemede’  The chief variants are as follows:

Chapter 2 omits the relief of an earl, and gives that of a baron at 100 marks.

Chapter 3 is omitted.

Chapter 12, on scutage and aid, has ‘capiatur’ rather than ‘ponatur’ and omits ‘per commune consilium regni nostri’. This may be because at some point in the process of transmission a scribe’s eye has jumped on from the ‘nisi’ before this passage to the ‘nisi’ immediately after it. However, chapter 14 has been brought into line with chapter 12 as it here stands. Instead of starting ‘Et ad habendum commune consilium regni’ it starts ‘Et ad habendum commune auxilium regni’.

Chapter 23 instead of reading ‘Nec villa nec homo distringatur facere pontes...’, reads ‘Nec villa nec liber homo...’ a change which would have greatly reduced the range of beneficiaries.

Chapter 25 is omitted, as it was omitted from all the versions of the Charter post 1215.

Chapter 38 is omitted.

A mess has been made of chapters 39 and 40. They are run into one and read: 'Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut dissaisiatur de libero tenemento, nec utlagetur, nec exuletur, nec aliquo modo destruatur nec super eum ibimus nec super eum mittemus aut differemus rectum vel justiciam.' The ‘de libero tenemento’ is an insertion from the Charters of 1217/1225.

Chapter 43 makes no sense as it reads  reads ‘in manu nostra’ rather than ‘in manu baronis’.

Chapter 48 says that the abuses revealed by the knights 'penitus deleantur ita quod numquam revocentur ita quod nos prius sciamus...'. This is identical to what is found in the Huntington copy as opposed to the authorized version’s 'penitus ita quod numquam revocentur deleantur per eosdem ita quod nos prius hoc sciamus...’.

The chapter on fines is in the same place  and in the same words as in the Huntington copy.

At the end of chapter 61, John says he will seek nothing from the pope by which his concessions might be revoked: 'Et nos nihil impetrabimus per nos nec per alium a domino papa vel ab alio per quod...'. This is the same as in the Llanthony Gloucester copy (see above)  and compares with Huntington’s 'Et nos nihil impetrabimus per nos nec per alium a domino papa per quod' where ‘vel ab alio’ is omitted.


After the end of Magna Carta, the next document is ‘Magna Carta de libertatibus’ which is the Charter of Henry III in a hybrid version combining elements from 1217 and 1225, for which see Hybrids of Magna Carta 1217 and 1225.




A group of copies share the place and phraseology  of the Huntington family’s chapter on fines while differing in other ways. They all have ‘G’ archbishop of Canterbury in the preamble to the Charter instead of ‘S’ for Stephen, although this does become ‘S’ later in the Charter. With two exceptions, the copies are all found in statute books. Presumably, at some point in the process of transmission,  a scribe misread ‘S’ for ‘G’.  This cannot refer to another archbishop since there was no ‘G’ archbishop of Canterbury in the thirteenth century.  It is also difficult to see how there could be any confusion with the papal legate Guala who appears in the preamble to the Charters of 1216 and 1217. This group of copies include the passages omitted by Huntington in chapters 37, 41, 57. They also have variations from the authorized version not found in Huntington. Some of these are later additions. Others may go back to drafts at Runnymede.  Two particularly interesting variants are the words ‘contra nos ibunt’ instead of ‘gravabunt’ in the security clause and the omission in  chapter 48 of the need to inform the king or his justiciar  before the abolition of the local abuses. This was also omitted in the Selden copy and in two of the engrossments where it had to be included as an addition: see above.


The Liber Niger of Christ Church cathedral  priory Dublin:  Dublin, Representative Church Body Library, C.6. 1.1, fos.162v-165.55

The text here follows closely that in the Huntington version.   

There is the same mistake as in the Black Book of Peterborough copy (see next below) over running chapters 20 and 21 together.

Hands in the margin point to chapters 20, 27, 32, 37, 54.

Against chapter 30 forbidding sheriffs and royal bailiffs taking the carts of a free man for carriage unless with the consent of the free man, there is the note ‘de cariagio faciendo iusticiariis vel aliis ministeriis domini Regis.’  This is an interesting indication of the perceived relevance of the chapter.

Chapter 43 reads ‘si faceret baro’ as in the Black Book of Peterborough copy below.

In chapter 50, Philip Marc becomes ‘Philipum et Marcum’.

Chapter 58 has been worded so that the king is to return the hostages of Wales to the son of Llywelyn.

Against chapter 59, there is the marginal annotation ‘de Rege Scottorum Alexandro’.

Against chapter 61, the security clause, there is the marginal annotation, ‘pro baronibus Anglie et pacis’.

In chapter 61 there is neither  ‘petent’ nor ‘petentes’ but  ‘quem sine dilatione faciemus emendari’, as in Huntington  (apart from ‘faciemus’ rather than ‘faciamus’).

In the dating clause, the regnal year is given as sixteen as in the Black Book of Peterborough copy below.


The Black Book of Peterborough abbey:  London, Society of Antiquaries, 60, fos.225v-228v.

This is a cartulary of Peterborough abbey. The copy of the Charter differs from that copied into the other Peterborough cartulary known as the Book of Robert of Swaffham (see above).  The copy is included in a section with various statutes (in no chronological order) from the thirteenth century.  This part of the book was probably written in the late thirteenth century.56


The copy is very similar to the Huntington text, the main differences being


‘G’  archbishop of Canterbury heads a truncated list of John’s counselors. ‘Huberti’ before ‘de Burgo’ has dropped out so we have 'Petri filii Hereberti de Burgo senescalli Pictavie’.57

At the end of chapter 2, reliefs are to be levied ‘per legem et antiquam consuetudinem feodorum’ as opposed to the authorized version’s ‘secundum antiquam consuetudinem feodorum’.

Chapter 12 reads 'Nullum scutagium vel auxilium ponatur in regno nostro nisi per consilium nostrum et per consilium commune regni’ as  opposed to the authorized version’s 'Nullum scutagium vel auxilium ponatur in regno nostro nisi per commune consilium regni nostri.'

A scribe has mistaken the join between chapters 20 and 21 so that 20 ends ‘de visneto comitatus’ and 21 begins ‘Et barones...’. This mistake is also found in Roger of Wendover’s copy of the Charter, see The St. Albans Abbey Versions of Magna Carta and their Derivatives.

In chapter 37, the text reads ‘de alio teneat per servitium militare’. The authorized version inserts ‘terram’ here: ‘de alio terram teneat per servitium militare’. The Articles of the Barons (27) reads ‘de alio per servitium militis’. The text also omits ‘nec habebimus custodiam illius feodifirme vel sokagii vel burgagii.’

In chapter 43, the ‘baro’ is made the subject of the sentence: ‘Si quis si sit baro et faceret baro’. This does not seem to make sense.

Chapter 61 reads ‘petentes’ as in some other copies.58

The regnal year is given as sixteen.


A late thirteenth, early fourteenth-century statute book:  Cambridge, University Library, Ee. 2. 19, fos.1-5. 

This is a statute book from late in the reign of Edward I. Very unusually for  a 1215 Charter, the chapters are numbered in Roman numerals in the margin, although only down to chapter 33. This is its chapter 19. The text has nearly all the variations noted  in the Huntington copy above.

In the dating clause, the regnal year is correctly given as seventeen. 


An early fourteenth-century statute book: London, British Library, Additional 62534,  fos.1-5v.

The heading is ‘Carta regis Iohannis dicta de Ronemede’.

This copy has all the major variants of the Huntington text.

In the preamble’s list of John’s counselors  ‘G’ archbishop of Canterbury heads the list, but many names are then omitted. 

After chapter 19, the chapter from the Charter of 1217 (15)  about darrein presentment is added. 

Chapter 38 reads ‘ad legem manifestam’ rather than ‘ad legem simplici loquela’.

In chapter 50 ‘Cancellis’ appears as ‘Cantilupo’ and ‘Martini’ as ‘Sancto Marco. Philip Mark and his relations are omitted.

In chapter 61, the security clause, ‘petentes’ replaces ‘petent’.

‘G’ archbishop of Canterbury  appears in chapter 62 whereas the other ‘G’ versions revert to ‘S’ here.

The dating clause correctly has the regnal year as seventeen.

The volume featured in the British Library Magna Carta exhibition: see Magna Carta, Law, Liberty and Legacy, ed. C. Breay and J. Harrison (British Library, 2015), p.102.


A late thirteenth, early fourteenth-century statute book: Cambridge, University Library, GG 1 12, fos.21v-25v.

This copy is headed ‘Provisio de Ronnemede’.

In the preamble, the Christian names of many of John’s counselors are omitted and the first letter only is given.  J[oscelin] bishop of Bath and Glastonbury (1206-1242) becomes bishop of Bath and Wells, the style in use before and after his time. W[illiam] bishop of Coventry becomes bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, a style only found after 1239.


In chapter 2 on relief, where heirs of earls and barons are to enjoy the ancient relief, the text continues 'scilicet heres vel heredes comitis vel baronis de baronia integra per centum libras’. This contrast with the authorized version’s ‘scilicet heres vel heredes de baronia comitis integra per centum libras; heres vel heredis baronis de baronia integra per centum libras’. It may be that the clerk here was simply doing some editing, having seen that the baronial and comital relief were the same. On the other hand, there are many other passages copied  out in the text  which could also have been edited and are not. Given that this was a passage which had to be drafted at Runnymede, it is possible we have here a text derived from one of the suggested drafts. 


A section has been omitted from chapter 4 after ‘respondeant’ the eye of a scribe having jumped on to the next ‘respondeant’.

In chapter 4, wardships, if pillaged, are to be entrusted to two laworthy ‘viris’ of the fee rather than the authorized version’s  ‘hominibus’.

In chapter 5, the guardian is to answer for things ‘que ad terram pertinent et de exitu’ whereas the authorized text has him answering for things ‘ad terram illam pertinentia et de exitibus’.

In chapter 9, dealing with what happens if a chief debtor  fails to pay ‘non habens unde solvat’, the text adds ‘aut reddere nolit cum possit’. In the authorized versions of the Charter, this addition first appears in the Charter of 1216.

In chapter 10, debts owed the Jews ‘non usurabit’ during minorities. This is the same reading as in chapter 34 of the Articles of the Barons. The authorized version of Magna Carta reads ‘usuret’. 


In chapter 18, ‘de ultima presentatione’ is omitted, as it was to be from the Charters of 1217/1225, but the new chapter about the assize, introduced in 1217, is not included. The judges are only to visit the counties  three times a year, not four as in the 1215 Charter and once as in the Charters of 1217/1225. The judges are to hear the assizes not with four  knights of the county as in the Charters of 1215 and 1216,  but just with the knights as in the Charters of 1217/1225. However as these knights are still to be elected in the county court, a stipulation abandoned in the Charters of 1217/1225, it is possible that ‘four’ here has been omitted by mistake. It appears in other ‘Huntington G’ versions of the Charter.


Chapter 19 reads ‘iudicium’ as opposed to ‘negotium’.

In chapter 22, no clerk is to be amerced ‘de laico feudo suo’, thus following the text in the Articles of the Barons. The engrossments of  the 1215 Charter have ‘de laico tenemento suo’.

In chapter 34, ‘in capite’ has been added after ‘precipe’.

In chapter 44, the text (in a slightly different position) reads ‘per aliquam summonitionem’ rather than ‘per communes summonitiones’.


Chapter 48 has the inquiry into local abuses being made ‘per juramentum duodecim milites’ instead of ‘per duodecim milites iuratos’. As with other copies in this family, the need to iknform the king or the justiciar before the discovered abuses are abolished is omitted.


The next chapter is  that on fines. It is in the same place and in the same words as the other copies in the Huntington family save that it is ‘G’ archbishop of Canterbury.


Chapter 50 reads, ‘Nos amovebimus penitus de balliis nostris parentes Gerardi de Acia et totam eius sequelam ut de cetero nullam habeant balliam in Anglia’, the names then being listed.  This is close to the Articles of the Barons where the king is to remove ‘penitus de ballia parentes et totam sequelam Gerardi de Atyes’. The authorized version, by contrast,  just reads ‘penitus de balliis parentes Gerardi de

Athyes...’. The  ‘totam sequelam’ only appears at the end of the Chapter where the  king is to remove all those listed ‘et totam sequelam eorundem’. It appears there too at the end of the Chapter in this ‘G’ text, with the result that it has ‘totam sequelam’ twice. The Articles of the Barons only have it once at the start. In the list of names Andrew de Chanceaux appears between Peter and Gio de Chanceaux.  This is an order only found in the copies of the ‘Huntington G’ family.


In chapter 61, the security clause, the text reads ‘proponentes nobis excessum  quem sine dilacione faciamus emendari’ instead of the authorized version’s ‘proponentes nobis excessum: petent ut excessum illum sine dilatione faciamus emendari’.

The text has forty days ‘completum’ rather than the authorized version’s ‘computandum’.  In the same clause,  the twenty-five barons with the commune of all the land ‘distringent et contra nos ibunt’ as opposed to the authorized version’s ‘distringent and gravabunt’.

In chapter 62, in the passage about the letters testimonial to be issued by the ecclesiastics, it is now S archbishop of Canterbury.

In the dating clause the regnal year is given as sixteen not seventeen.


A late thirteenth century, early fourteenth-century statute book: London, British Library Additional 32085, fos.102-106v.

The chief interest of this text is that it is French.  Apart from the translation in the cartulary of the leper hospital of Pont Audemer, this is the only French translation of the 1215 Charter so far known. (There are, however, translations into French of the Charter of 1217).59  The translation is, however, a translation not of the authorized text, like the Pont Audemer copy, but of the Huntington ‘G’ variant of which it displays all the chief features. The same volume also contains a French translation of John’s submission to the pope (fos.110-111). The text was displayed at the British Library’s Magna Carta Exhibition: Breay and Harrison, Magna Carta. Law, Liberty and Legacy, p.74. 


In the text,  chapter 2 follows the form found in the ‘G’ variants, but adds at the end that the relief for a barony was to be 100 marks.  This is inconsistent with the earlier statement that both count and baron were to pay a relief of £100.  It must derive from a later addition made to bring the text into line with the view  that the baronial relief was 100 marks not £100.

Chapter 37 follows the same form as in the Black book of Peterborough version, pp.30-1.    

Chapter 39 says no free man is to be disseised ‘de son franc tenement’, thus incorporating an addition made in the Charter of 1217.

Chapter 43 does not follow the form in the Black Book of Peterborough version above but is of the authorized version.



A late thirteenth, early fourteenth century statute book: London, Lincoln’s Inn, Hale 140, fos.1-6.

This statute book copy has all the variants of the Huntington text. It lacks a dating clause. The heading at the top of the folios is ‘Magna Carta de Ronemede’. At the end there is ‘explicit carta de Ronemede’. The copy is followed by Magna Carta 1225 and the Charter of the Forest under the heading ‘incipit carta de libertatibus Anglie’.




  TNA E 162/ 2, fos.ccxxxiiii-ccxxxvi verso. (Throughout TNA in the footnotes stands for The National Archives.)   See Collins, ‘The documents of the Great Charter 1215’, Proceedings of the British Academy, xxxiv (1948),  pp.248-54; Vincent, Magna Carta, p.271 no.46.


  G.R.C. Davis, with revisions by C. Breay, J. Harrison and D. Smith, Medieval Cartularies of Great Britain and Ireland (British Library, 2010), no.168.


  Carpenter, Magna Carta, pp. 477-80.


  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, nos.169-72.


  The preceding folios  contained  (as in Register E)  charters  of William I, Stephen  and, immediately before Magna Carta, the charter  of  John's conceding freedom of election to the church. 


  See Carpenter, Magna Carta, pp.478-9.


  Bound in at the end are wardrobe accounts of Eleanor of Castile. For Leicester abbey material in the volume, see Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.549.1.


  However, a preceding chronicle, in the same hand, goes down to 1286.


  In the original edition of my Magna Carta, p.480 note, I related Galba E III to Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.182, whereas in fact this refers to  Galba E IV. The mistake was rectified in a subsequent reprint.


  The Registrum Antiquissimum of the Cathedral Church of Lincoln: volume I, ed. C.W. Foster (Lincoln Record Society, 27, 1910), pp.xli-ii (Canon Foster was here quoting from a note by Mr H. Bradshaw); Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.584.


  Collins, ‘The documents of the Great Charter 1215’, pp.264-5.


  See below p.66.


  In my Magna Carta, the Latin text of the Charter between pp.36-69 is that of the Lincoln Charter. The differences with the other engrossments and the copy in the bishops’ letters are noted in the footnotes.


  The copy by a mistake at the end has ‘Julii’ not ‘Junii’


  I am most grateful to Emily Naish for help in the cathedral archives.


  For this cartulary, see  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.869. There is no copy of Magna Carta (or any other public document) in another Salisbury cartulary: London, Inner Temple, 511.18 (Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.868.)  This cartulary dates to before 1272.


  This emerges very clearly in V. Jansen, ‘Displacements at Medieval Salisbury, Old Sarum and Wilton’, in Studies in Gothic Art, Liber Amicorum Paul Crossley, 2 vols., eds. Z. Opačić and A. Timmermann (Turnhout, 2011), i, pp.35-46.


  Lincoln here has ‘exercitu’.


  For the volume see  Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of  the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn,  edited by Joseph Hunter (London, 1838), p.16.  The copy of the Charter is no.70 on p.21.  The call number of the volume is Hale XII.  See J. H. Baker, ‘Note on Selden’s legal manuscripts’ in his English Legal Manuscripts: vol. II  Catalogue of the Manuscript Year Books, Readings and Law Reports in Lincoln’s Inn, the Bodleian Library and Gray’s Inn (Zug: Inter-Documentation, 1978) , pp.18-20 and D.E.C. Yale, ‘Appendix on Hale’s bequests of manuscripts to the Library of Lincoln’s Inn’ in Sir Matthew Hale’s The Prerogatives of the King, ed. D.E.C. Yale (Selden Society, 92, 1975), pp.lix-lxi. I am grateful to the Librarian of Lincoln’s Inn, Guy Holborn, for introducing me to these works.


  Catalogue of Manuscripts, ed. Hunter, p.20 no.63; Edward Fry, Biography of Selden in Dictionary of National Biography, xviii, p.1159. The biography in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is by Paul Christianson.


   The numbers in the current order run from pp.184 to 191. At the end of p.185 verso the text continues on p.190,   at the end of p.191 on  p.186 verso, at the end of p.187 verso  on p.189,  and at the end  of p.189 verso on p.188. The two pages left blank are pp.186 and 191 verso.


  The engrossments have here ‘facimus’.


  Below pp.21-34.


  It would be tedious to demonstrate this in detail. The text follows none of the Lincoln and Salisbury variations isolated in footnotes to the Latin text of the Charter in my Magna Carta between pp.36-69.


  Carpenter, Magna Carta, pp. 477-80.


  The Cartulary of Byland Abbey, ed. J. Burton (Surtees Society, 208, 2004).


  Cartulary of Byland Abbey, no.525, where the rubric is translated  as ‘Charter of commendation concerning the common laws of England, granted by King John and called Runnymede’.  The list says that some of the royal charters (although not Magna Carta) were marked with letters (those between ‘A’ and ‘L’). Janet Burton  suggests that they were stored in ‘the chest, scrinium’, apparently the  chest which also had the Mowbray Charters: Cartulary of Byland Abbey, pp.187, xxxii-iii. 


  For the rubrics replicating endorsements on the charters, see Cartulary of Byland Abbey, p.xxxv.


  For the Mowbrays and Byland, see also Charters of the Honour of Mowbray, ed. D. E. Greenway (London, 1972), pp. xli-ii, 274.


  Holt, 'A vernacular French text', p.348.


  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.201.


   Carpenter, Magna Carta, p.382.


  See below p.74.


  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.455B.


  Saul, ‘Magna Carta and the politics of the reign of Richard II’,


  For these small variations in word order, see the notes to the text of the Charter in my Magna Carta, 36-57.


  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.392;  ‘List of Charters in the Cartulary of St Nicholas at Exeter’, ed. T. Phillipps, Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, 1 (London, 1834), pp.60, 374 no.210.


  See below p.18 (Liber Customarum  MS. D); p. 20 (BL Harley 746); pp. 30-31 (Black Book of Peterborough and BL Add. MS. 62534).


  See Liber  Custumarum MS. C (below p.18); Luffield statute book (pp.18-9);  Bodleian Library Rawlinson C 641 (pp.20-1); Bodleian Library MS. Lat. Hist. a.1 (P) (pp.21-3); and Matthew Paris’s note cited on p.41.


  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.635.


  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.679.


   Calendared in The Two Cartularies of the Augustinian Priory of Bruton and the Cluniac Priory of Montacute, ed. H.C. Maxwell-Lyte and others, (Somerset Record Society, 8, 1894), with the reference to Magna Carta on p.130. 


  C.R. Cheney, ‘The twenty-five barons of Magna Carta’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 50 (1967-8), p.290; Holt, Magna Carta, pp.478-80/402-4.


  See below pp.71-2.


  For a full description and image see Vincent, Magna Carta: Origins and Legacy, pp.262-3.


  For other examples of mistakes connected with the name of Hubert de Burgh, see  below p.26 (Llanthony cartulary); p.30 (Black Book of Peterborough).


  For example ‘negocium meum’ in Rotuli Literarum Patentium, p.130. 


  Daniel Hadas has kindly helped me with the interpretation of ‘discerni’.


  I am a grateful to the Huntington Library for sending me images of the folios with the Charters of John and Henry III.


  For the re-ordering of the Charter at Runnymede, see my Magna Carta, pp.358-61.


  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.537.


  For other difficulties with the names, see above p.22 and note 63.


  See The Cartularies and Registers of Peterborough Abbey, ed. J.D. Martin (Northamptonshire Record Society, 28, 1978), pp.7-14;  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.757.



  See H.G. Richardson and G.O. Sayles, ‘The early statutes’, Law Quarterly Review 1 (1934), pp. 209, 217-23, with the quotation at p.218.  According to the TNA catalogue, citing  E 101/ 337/ 21/ 3, the volume  appears to have been in  exchequer custody by 1298. 


  Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.1373; ‘A Calendar of the Liber Niger and Liber Albus of Christ Church, Dublin’, ed. H.J. Lawlor, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 27 (1908-9), nos.58-59. I am most grateful to Raymond Refaussé, Librarian and Archivist of The Representative Church Body Library for sending me images the John and Henry III Charters in this volume.


  For the book and a calendar of its contents, see Cartularies and Registers of Peterborough Abbey, ed. Martin,  pp. 1-7 with p.6 for Magna Carta; and Davis, Breay, Harrison and Smith, Medieval Cartularies, no.754.


  For other examples of problems with the names, see above p.22 and note 63.


  For other examples see above p.17 and note 55.


  See below p.53 (Trinity College O.76) and p.56 (BL Add. MS. 38821).

Referenced in

Copies of Magna Carta in the Century After 1215 (The Copies of Magna Carta)

Copies of Magna Carta in the Century After 1215 (The Copies of Magna Carta)

Copies of Magna Carta in the Century After 1215 (The Copies of Magna Carta)

Copies of Magna Carta in the Century After 1215 (The Copies of Magna Carta)

The Copies of Magna Carta