Medieval History

Selected Sources Full Text Sources Saints' Lives Law Texts Maps Medieval Films Search Help

Selected Sources Sections Studying History End of Rome Byzantium Islam Roman Church Early Germans Anglo-Saxons Celtic World Carolingians 10 C Collapse Economic Life Crusades Empire & Papacy France England Celtic States Nordic Europe Iberia Italy Eastern Europe Intellectual Life Medieval Church Jewish Life Social History Sex & Gender States & Society Renaissance Reformation Exploration
IHSP Credits

Medieval Sourcebook:
Charter of Liberties of Henry I, 1100

This charter, granted by Henry when he ascended the throne, is important in two ways. First, Henry formally bound himself to the laws, setting the stage for the rule of law that parliaments and parliamentarians of later ages would cry for. Second, it reads almost exactly like the Magna Carta, and served as the model for the Great Charter in 1215.

Henry, king of the English, to Bishop Samson and Urso de Abetot and all hisbarons and faithful, both French and English, of Worcestershire, [copies weresent to all the shires] greeting.

1. Know that by the mercy of God and the common counsel of the barons of thewhole kingdom of England I have been crowned king of said kingdom; and becausethe kingdom had been oppressed by unjust exactions, I, through fear of god andthe love which I have toward you all, in the first place make the holy churchof God free, so that I will neither sell nor put ot farm, nor on the death ofarchbishop or bishop or abbot will I take anything from the church's demesne orfrom its men until the successor shall enter it. And I take away all the badcustoms by which the kingdom of England was unjustly oppressed; which badcustoms I here set down in part:

2. If any of my barons, earls, or others who hold of me shall have died, hisheir shall not buy back his land as he used to do in the time of my brother,but he shall relieve it by a just and lawful relief. Likewise also the men ofmy barons shall relieve their lands from their lords by a just and lawfulrelief.

3. And if any of my barons or other men should wish to give his daughter,sister, niece, or kinswoman in marriage, let him speak with me about it; but Iwill neither take anything from him for this permission nor prevent his givingher unless he should be minded to join her to my enemy. And if, upon the deathof a baron or other of my men, a daughter is left as heir, I will give her withher land by the advice of my barons. And if, on the death of her husband, thewife is left and without children, she shall have her dowry and right ofmarriage, and I will not give her to a husband unless according to her will.

4. But if a wife be left with children, she shall indeed have her dowry andright of marriage so long as she shall keep her body lawfully, and I will notgive her unless according to her will. And the guardian of the land andchildren shall be either the wife or another of the relatives who more justlyought to be. And I command that my barons restrain themselves similarly indealing with the sons and daughters or wives of their men.

5. The common seigniorage, which has been taken through the cities andcounties, but which was not taken in the time of King Edward I absolutelyforbid henceforth. If any one, whether a moneyer or other, be taken with falsemoney, let due justice be done for it.

6. I remit all pleas and all debts which were owing to my brother, except mylawful fixed revenues and except those amounts which had been agreed upon forthe inheritances of others or for things which more justly concerned others. And if any one had pledged anything for his own inheritance, I remit it; alsoall reliefs which had been agreed upon for just inheritances.

7. And if any of my barons or men shall grow feeble, as he shall give orarrange to give his money, I grant that it be so given. But if, prevented byarms or sickness, he shall not have given or arranged to give his money, hiswife, children, relatives, or lawful men shall distribute it for the good ofhis sould as shall seem best to them.

8. If any of my barons or men commit a crime, he shall not bind himself to apayment at the king's mercy as he has been doing in the time of my father or mybrother; but he shall make amends according to the extent of the crime as hewould have done before the time of my father in the time of my otherpredecessors. But if he be convicted of treachery or heinous crime, he shallmake amends as is just.

9. I forgive all murders committed before the day I was crowned king; andthose which shall be committed in the future shall be justly compensatedaccording to the law of King Edward.

10. By the common consent of my barons I have kept in my hands forests as myfather had them.

11. To those knights who render military service for their lands I grant of myown gift that the lands of their demesne ploughs be free from all payments andall labor, so that, having been released from so great a burden, they may equipthemselves well with horses and arms and be fully prepared for my service andthe defense of my kingdom.

12. I impose a strict peace upon my whole kingdom and command that it bemaintained henceforth.

13. I restore to you the law of King Edward with those amendments introducedinto it by my father with the advice of his barons.

14. If any one, since the death of King William my brother, has taken anythingbelonging to me or to any one else, the whole is to be quickly restored withoutfine; but if any one keep anything of it, he upon whom it shall be found shallpay me a heavy fine.

Witnesses Maurice bishop of London, and William bishop elect of Winchester, andGerard bishop of Hereford, and earl Henry, and earl Simon, and Walter Giffard,and Robert de Montfort, and Roger Bigot, and Eudo the steward, and Robert sonof Hamo, and Robert Malet. At London when I was crowned. Farewell.





translated in Albert Beebe White and Wallce Notestein, eds., Source Problems in English History (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1915).


Other works referred to in preparartion:

  • Elton, Geoffrey, The English (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992).
  • Maitland, F. W., The Constitutional History of England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965).
  • Smith, Lacey Baldwin and Jean Reeder Smith, eds., The Past Speaks: Sources and Problems in English History, vol. 1 (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1993).

Text prepared by Seth Seyfried of the University of Utah.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. 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.

(c)Paul Halsall Feb 1996
[email protected]

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 6 October 2023 [CV]