The Charter of the Forest, 1217

The Charter of the Forest, transcript


The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater villain loose,
Who steals the common from off the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things that we don’t own,
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.


To mark the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, issued by Henry III together with his reissue of the Charter of Liberties (to be known as Magna Carta in 1218 to differentiate it from the Charter of the Forest), a lecture was given by Christian Liddy of the University of Durham on 29 April 2017. It was entitled ‘Common Rights and Natural Resources: The 1217 Charter of the Forest in Historical Perspective’ and took place in Newcastle.

After the Conquest, the crown enjoyed exclusive rights over large parts of England. The Charter of the Forest established wider access for hunting, grazing and fuel for the country’s free men. Christian’s lecture used the charter as an historical starting point to consider conflicts over our rights of access to common land.

It is included here courtesy of the Medievalists.Net and YouTube.

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