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King John of England:
Fees for Use of the Great Seal, 1199

The uses to which the Great Seal of England was put and the fees exacted on these occasions were all carefully drawn up in a charter by King John. It is obvious that by this date the work of government was more complex and that some regulation was necessary in view of the exorbitant charges made in the time of King Richard.

. . . And since the seal of Richard, our illustrious brother, of glorious memory, formerly King of England, in his time had fallen into such a state that for certain things pertaining to the seal some things were received out of the usual and ancient course, rather by inclination than from reason, to the prejudice of royal dignity and the liberty of the kingdom; namely, for letters patent of protection eighteen solidi and four denarii were given, for which only two solidi ought to have been given; and for simple confirmations in which nothing new is inserted, twelve marks and five solidi were given, for which only eighteen solidi and four denarii ought to have been given; we, therefore, for the salvation of our soul and of the souls of Henry, one time King of England, our father of happy memory, and of the said King Richard, our brother, and of all our ancestors and successors, wish and grant, at the instance of the venerable father Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, our Chancellor, and decree that in the future nothing shall be taken for the use of the seal in our time or in the time of our successors, more than was anciently decreed to be received for the use of the seal of the Kings of England, and which was received for the use of the seal of Henry our father, one time King of England, of happy memory, namely, for a charter of new enfeoffment of lands, or tenements, or liberties, there shall be taken one mark of gold or ten of silver for the use of the Chancellor, and one of silver for the use of the Vice-Chancellor, and one of silver for the use of the protonotary, and five solidi for wax. For a simple confirmation to which nothing new has been added there shall be given for the use of the Chancellor one mark of silver, for the use of the Vice Chancellor one bysant, and one bysant for the use of the protonotary, and twelve denarii for wax. For a simple protection two solidi shall be given. If any one should presume to do anything contrary to this our decree, let him incur our anger and the anger of Almighty God, and every curse by which an anointed and consecrated king can curse. Moreover, the said Archbishop of Canterbury, our Chancellor, and all bishops who at our consecration laid hands upon us, with our consent, have promulgated sentence of general excommunication against all those who presume to do anything contrary to this our decree. To this decree, the first after our coronation, which we have made concerning our seal, we have put that seal in witness and perpetual confirmation.

Witnesses, etc.

Given by the hand of Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, our Chancellor, at Northampton, on the seventh day of June in the first year of our reign.


Thomas Rymer, ed., Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae, etc., (London, 1816), p. 75; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 395-396.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, October 1998
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