The Articles of the Barons, 1215
1 After the death of their predecessors, heirs of full age are to have their inheritance by the ancient relief to be set out in the charter.
2 Heirs who are under age and in wardship are when they come of age to have their inheritance without relief or fine.
3 The guardian of an heir’s land is to take reasonable issues, customs and services, without destruction and waste of his men and goods, and if the guardian of the land inflicts destruction and waste, he is to lose the wardship. And the guardian is to maintain buildings, parks, fishponds, pools, mills and other things pertaining to that land, out of the issues of the same. And heirs are to be so married that they are not disparaged, and this by the counsel of their near kinsmen.
4 No widow is to give anything for her dower or marriage portion after the death of her husband, but she may remain in his house for forty days after his death, and her dower is to be assigned to her within that period; and she is to have her marriage portion and her inheritance immediately.
5 Neither the king nor his bailiff are to seize any land for debt while the debtor’s chattels suffice; nor are the debtor’s pledges to be distrained, while the principal debtor has enough to make payment; if indeed the principal debtor defaults on his payment, the pledges are, if they wish, to have the debtor’s lands until the debt is fully paid, unless the principal debtor can show that he is quit with regard to the pledges.
6 The king is not to grant to any baron the right to take an aid from his free men, except to ransom his person, to knight his first-born son, and to marry, once, his first-born daughter, and he is to do this by way of a reasonable aid.
7 No-one is to do more service for a knight’s fee than is owed for it.
8 Common pleas are not to follow the king’s court, but are to be appointed to some fixed place. And recognitions are to be held in the same counties, in this manner: the king isto send two justices four times in the year, who with four knights of the same county, chosen by the county court, are to take assizes of novel disseisin, mort d’ancestor and darrein presentment, nor is anyone to be summoned on account of this except the jurors and the two parties.
9 A free man is to be amerced for a small offence in proportion to the nature of the offence, and for a great offence in accordance with its magnitude, saving to him his livelihood; the villein is also to be amerced in the same way, saving to him his crops under cultivation; and the merchant in the same way, saving to him his stock in trade, by oath of trustworthy men of the vicinity.
10 A cleric is to be amerced in respect of his lay fee in the same manner as the aforesaid, and without regard to his ecclesiastical benefice.
11 No township is to be amerced for making bridges over rivers, unless they used rightfully to be there of old.
12 The measure of corn and wine, and the widths of cloths and other things, are to be reformed; and weights likewise.
13 Assizes of novel disseisin and mort d’ancestor are to be expedited, and other assizes likewise.
14 No sheriff is to involve himself in pleas pertaining to the crown without the coroners; and counties and hundreds are to be at their old farms without any increment, except for the king’s demesne manors.
15 If anyone holding from the king dies, it is to be lawful for the sheriff or other royal bailiff to seize and record his chattels by the view of law-abiding men, as long as none of them are removed, until it is more fully known whether he owes any clear debt to the king; and then when the debt to the king is paid. the residue is to be relinquished to the executors to perform the testament of the deceased; and if nothing is owing to the king then all the chattels are to go to the deceased.
16 If any free man dies intestate, his goods are to be distributed by the hand of his nearest kinsmen on both sides of his family, under the supervision of the church.
17 Widows are not to be distrained to marry, when they wish to live without a husband, as long as they give security that they will not marry without the consent of the king, if they hold of him, or the consent of their lords of whom they hold.
18 No constable or other bailiff is to take corn or other chattels, unless he pays cash for them immediately, (or) unless he has respite with the consent of the seller.
19 No constable is to distrain any knight to give money instead of castle-guard, if he is willing to perform that guard in person or, if he is unable to do it for a satisfactory reason, through another reliable man; and if the king takes him in the army, he is to be quit of castle-guard in proportion to the amount of time [away].
20 No sheriff or royal bailiff, or anyone else, is to take any free man’s horses or carts for transporting things, except with his consent.
21 Neither the king nor his bailiff is to take another man’s wood to his castles or on other of his business, except with the consent of the person whose wood it is.
22 The king is not to hold the land of those who have been convicted of felony except for a year and a day, and then it is to be surrendered to the lord of the fee.
23 All fish-weirs are in future to be entirely removed from the Thames and Medway, and throughout the whole of England.
24 The writ called praecipe is not in future to be issued to anyone for any tenement in respect of which a free man could lose his court.
25 If anyone has been disseised or dispossessed without judgment by the king of lands, liberties and his right, it is to be restored to him immediately; and if a dispute arises about this, it is to be settled by judgment of the twenty-five barons; and those who were disseised by the king’s father or brother are to have their right without delay by judgment of their peers in the king’s court; and the archbishop and bishops are to deliver judgment at a specific day, without the possibility of an appeal, as to whether the king ought to have the term [of exemption] of other crusaders.
26 Nothing is to be given for a writ for an inquest concerning life or members, but it is to be granted without payment and not denied.
27 If anyone holds of the king by fee-farm, socage or burgage, and of someone else by knight service, the king is not to have the wardship of the knights of another man’s fee by reason of the burgage or socage, nor is he to have the wardship of the burgage, socage or fee-farm. And no free man is to lose his knights by reason of petty serjeanties, like those who hold a tenement by rendering knives or arrows or suchlike.
28 No bailiff is to put anyone to law by his accusation alone, without trustworthy witnesses.
29 The body of a free man is not to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way ruined, nor is the king to go against him or send forcibly against him, except by judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.
30 Right is not to be sold or delayed or withheld.
31 Merchants are to have safe conduct to go and come to buy and sell, without any evil exactions but paying only the old and rightful customs.
32 No scutage or aid is to be imposed in the kingdom except by the common counsel of the kingdom, unless for ransoming the person of the king, and knighting his first-born son, and marrying, once, his first-born daughter, and for this a reasonable aid is to be taken. Tallages and aids on the city of London, and on other cities which have such liberties, are to be taken in like manner. And the city of London is to have in full its ancient liberties and free customs, both by water and by land.
33 No scutage or aid is to be imposed in the kingdom except by the common counsel of the kingdom, unless for ransoming the person of the king, and knighting his first-born son, and marrying, once, his first-born daughter, and for this a reasonable aid is to be taken. Tallages and aids on the city of London, and on other cities which have such liberties, are to be taken in like manner. And the city of London is to have in full its ancient liberties and free customs, both by water and by land.
34 It is to be lawful for each man to leave the kingdom and return to it, saving his allegiance to the king, except in time of war for some short time, for the sake of the common utility of the kingdom.
35 If anyone has taken a loan from Jews, great or small, and dies before the debt is paid, the debt is not to incur interest as long as the heir is under age, whoever he may hold from. And if the debt falls into the hand of the king, he is to take only the principal recorded in the charter.
36 If anyone dies and is indebted to Jews, let his wife have her dower. And if there are surviving children, let their needs be met from the property, and let the debt be paid from the residue, saving the service of the lords. And let other debts be dealt with in like manner. And let the keeper of the land surrender to the heir, when he comes of age, his land stocked with what the issues of the land can reasonably provide by way of ploughs and other necessary implements.
37 If anyone holds of an escheat, as of the honour(s) of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne and Lancaster, or of other escheats which are in the king’s hand and are baronies, and dies, his heir will not give a relief or perform any service to the king other than he would to the baron; and the king is to hold it in the same manner in which the baron held it.
38 Fines made for dowers, marriages, inheritances and amercements, unjustly and against the law of the land, are to be entirely remitted; or they are to be dealt with by judgment of the twenty-five barons, or by judgment of the greater part of them, together with the archbishop and others whom he wishes to convoke to act with him. On condition that if any or some of the twenty-five are in such an action, they are to be removed and others substituted in their place by the rest of the twenty-five.
39 Hostages and bonds which were surrendered to the king as security are to be restored.
40 Those who have been outside the forest are not to come before the forest justices on the grounds of common summonses, unless they are involved in pleadings or [are] pledges. And the evil customs of forests and foresters, of warrens, and sheriffs, and rivers, are to be put right by twelve knights of each county, who should be chosen by the good men of that county.
41 Let the king remove entirely from office the kinsmen and whole brood of Gerard d’Athée, so that they may not hold office in future: namely, Engelard, Andrew, Peter and Guy de Chanceaux, Guy de Cigogné, Matthew de Martigny and his brothers; and his nephew Geoffrey, and Philip Mark.
42 And let the king remove the foreign knights, mercenaries, crossbowmen, routiers and serjeants who come with horses and arms to the detriment of the realm.
43 And let the king make justices, constables, sheriffs and bailiffs from those who know the law of the land and are willing to keep it well.
44 Let barons who have founded abbeys, for which they have royal charters or ancient tenure, have the custody of them when they are vacant.
45 If the king has disseised or dispossessed Welshmen of their lands, liberties or anything else in England or inWales, they are to be given back to them immediately, without any legal proceedings. And if they were disseised or dispossessed of their English tenements by the king’s father or brother without judgment of their peers, the king will without delay do them justice, in the same way that he is to do justice to Englishmen, for tenements in England according to the law of England, for tenements in Wales according to the law of Wales, and for tenements in the march according to the law of the march. Let the Welsh do the same for the king and his men.
46 Let the king give back the son of Llywelyn, and also other hostages from Wales, and the bonds which were handed over to him as security for peace, unless things should be otherwise under the charters which the king has, by judgment of the archbishop and such others as he wishes to convoke to act with him.
47 Let the king deal with the king of Scots for the returning of hostages, and over his liberties and right, in accordance with the terms he comes to with the barons of England, unless it should be otherwise under the charters which the king has, by judgment of the archbishop and such others as he wishes to convoke to act with him.
48 And all the forests which have been afforested by the king during his reign are to be disafforested, and let the same be done with regard to the rivers which are game reserves by this king’s doing.
49 What is more, all these customs and liberties which the king has granted to the realm, to be observed on his own account with regard to his own men, all the men of the realm, both clergy and laity, will observe on their own account with regard to their own men.
Reprinted with the kind permission of Professor Nicholas Vincent at The Magna Carta Project