Discover the Magna Carta…On Our Shelves!

Signing the Magna Carta from Calrendon's History of England [942/CLA/vol I]
Signing the Magna Carta from Clarendon’s History of England [942/CLA/vol I]

Northward of Egham, between the town and the Thames, is Runnymead, which will ever be celebrated in the history of this country as the spot where the assembled barons, in 1215, compelled King John, who had in vain resorted to the most criminal prevarications, to grant what is emphatically denominated Magna Charta, the great charter of the liberties of Britons. Here his consent was extorted; ….In memory of this foundation of the glorious fabric of British freedom, a plan, patronized by some of the most distinguished political characters, was a few years since proposed for the erection of a pillar in this celebrated mead; but for some reason or other it has been relinquished by the projectors.

From; Volume 14 of The Beauties of England and Wales by Edward Wedlake Blake published in 1813 (914.2/ENG/BEA)

Today is the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta which established the “glorious fabric of British freedom” and here on our shelves you can find out more about the Great Charter and it’s legacy from various eras in British History. The Beauties of England and Wales, published nearly 600 years after the charter was signed, gives an idea of how important the Charter was at that time.

Hugh Clarendon’s History of England, published around 1770, gives a description of the Magna Carta and the smaller Charter of the Forests, also signed on this day 800 years ago, gives another impression of the importance of the Magna Carta…

Magna Charta, or the Great Charter, confirmed what was lately granted to the clergy, relative to the freedom of elections; allowed persons to leave the kingdom without special licence, except in time of war; ordained that no clergyman should be amerced in proportion to his benefice, but according to his lay tenement; secured to the lay nobility, the custody of vacant abbies and convents, which were under their patronage; ascertained the reliefs for earldoms, baronies, and knight’s fees, which before were arbitrary; decreed that barons should recover the lands of their vassals, forfeited for felony, after they shall have been a year and a day in the possession of the crown; that they should enjoy the wardships of their military tenants, who held no other lands of the crown by a different tenure; that a person, knighted by the king, though a minor, should enjoy the privileges of an adult at law, provided he was a ward of the crown; but such knighthood, conferred on a ward of a baron, should not deprive that baron of his wardship; that widows should not be forced to marry against their inclination, or pay any fine for their dower; that the wardships of minors should not be sold; that guardians should not take unreasonable profits from the lands of their wards, or commit waste, but keep the houses in good repair, leave the farms well stocked, and dispose of their wards in marriage, without disparagement; that no scutage should be levied in the kingdom. Without the consent of the common-council of the realm, except in the cases of ransoming the king’s person, knighting his eldest son, or marrying his eldest daughter; that no freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, or free customs, but by the lawful judgement of his peers, or by legal process; that sheriff’s should not hold county courts above once a month; that they as well as castellans, coroners, and king’s bailiffs, should be restrained from holding pleas of the crown; that sheriffs, who had the management of the crown revenues, within their several districts, should raise the farms of counties, hundreds and tythes, according to their pleasure, except in the king’s demese manors; that the people should not be unjustly prosecuted, and put to canonical purgation, without legal proof, in regard to carriages, purveyance of victuals, and other services; that amerciaments, should be proportioned to the offence, and circumstances of the offender, so as not to affect his landed estate, or disable him from following his vocation, but be rated by the verdict of twelve creditable men in the neighbourhood.

From: Clarendon’s History of England (942/CLA volume I)

In 1829 Richard Thomson published An Historical Essay on the Magna Charta of King John (942.03/THO) and includes the orignal charters of 1215 and their successors (the first of which was signed a year later under Henry III) both in their original Mediaeval Latin alongside the translation as well as background and analysis of the charters.

These items along with other gems can be found in our Library Collection for more details about the collections visit the Library Collection page on our website and search our Library CatalogueBarum Athena

The Royal Seal
The Royal Seal

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