Category Archives: ENGLAND:

Shakespeare: The Lord Chamberlain’s Men


The “Lord Strange’s Men” was an early group of actors, which were the forerunners to the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.”

So who were the Lord Chamberlain’s Men?

They were a group of actors who performed the plays as written by William Shakespeare, and he was in the early day’s one of its shareholders, and often stepped in, to play secondary roles, for he was no actor in the true sense of the word.

It was founded in 1594, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England with Henry Carey the 1stBaron Hunsdon, the Lord Chamberlain as their patron.

When their patron died on the 23rdJuly 1596 his son George Carey the 2ndBaron Hunsdon took over the position as their patron, and under his direction they were no longer known as “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” but “Lord Hunsdon’s Men.” When George Carey was appointed to Lord Chamberlain on the 17thMarch 1597, they reverted their stage name to that of “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.”

With the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603, having been on the throne for 45 years, and served her people well.  King James IV of Scotland became the new King James I of England when he ascended to the English throne in 1603.  He became the new patron to the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” who duly changed their name to the “Kings Men,” in honour of their new patron, and King.

Lord Chamberlain’s Men, came about by way of a former group known as “Lord Strange’s Men.”  For it was James Burbage an impresario who ran the company till his death in 1597, when sons Richard and Cuthbert took over ownership, with little involvement in the early days.

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men consisted in the early times with eight shareholders, who would share between them the profits and debts of their company.

One of the most remembered would be William Kempe who played the part of the clown, in Shakespeare’s plays; Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing and a Midsummer Night’s Dream, and by 1601 he had left the company.

George Bryan, a former member of the “Leicester’s Men” in the 1580’s and friend of William Kempe performed with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, until his retirement from the stage between 1597-1598.  Later he became Groom of the Chamber, within the household of King James.

Thomas Pope, a former member of the “Leicester’s Men,” also performed with the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” and retired from the stage in 1600, and died a few years later in 1603.

Augustine Phillips, formerly a member of the “Lord Strange’s Men,” remained with the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” until his death in 1605.

Henry Condell and John Heminges, two young actors, with a vision, who also came from the former “Lord Strange’s Men,” and onto “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.”  They made a name for themselves, when in 1623, for they were responsible for producing “Shakespeare’s First Folio,” of his works.

Two shareholders of the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” who would be remembered for their contributions: William Shakespeare as a secondary actor and playwright and Richard Burbage as lead actor, who performed in Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, and would go on to become a famous Renaissance actor.

It is known a number of boys within the group went on to have distinguished careers in their own rights. Alexander Cooke, played female roles in many of Shakespeare’s plays, whilst Christopher Beeston became a wealthy 17thcentury impresario.

The original members of the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” changed much over the years, as members died off, got old, or left to pursue other directions.

For one of those was William Kempe who was replaced by Robert Armin an author, offering the group an alternative to the works of William Shakespeare.  He had been credited with creating originality to the characters; “Feste” in Twelfth Night, “Touchstone” in As You Like It and the “Fool” in King Lear.

Yet, the majority of the work performed by the company was that of Shakespeare’s.  However, the earliest production of a non-Shakespearean play was performed in the summer of 1598.  “Every Man in His Humour,” by Ben Jonson’s and in 1599 its sequel “Every Man out of His Humour.”

In 1601, the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” tried to avoid involvement with the Earl of Essex and his insurrection; his attempt to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I.

It is a known fact that some of Essex supporters commissioned a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard II, hoping to get the public on their side, so they could overthrow the Queen, but they were thwarted by their actions.

Witness statements provided by the actors, claimed they had been offered forty shillings more than their standard fee for a performance … how could they refuse.

No charges were laid against the members of “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” and they performed for Queen Elizabeth I on the 24thFebruary 1601.

On the 25thFebruary 1601, the Earl of Essex was executed for his crime, against the monarchy.

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Shakespeare: First steps as a Writer

William Shakespeare

So what was William Shakespeare doing before he made his debut in London?

It was a known fact, that he had often poached deer from Charlecote Park, the lands of Sir Thomas Lucy. According to Nicholas Rowe and Archdeacon Davies, he had often been whipped for stealing venison and rabbits.

William Shakespeare’s performances on the London stage …

In the latter part of the 1580’s, Shakespeare arrived in London, hoping to make a name for himself. By 1592 he had several plays being performed on stage, including “As You Like it.”

Out of utter disgust, Robert Greene the university – educated writer attacked his words in print. “There is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes he is well able to bombarst out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake – scene in a country.”

Scholars agree it was Greene’s way of saying William Shakespeare was reaching above his rank, and matching those trained in the art of writing.

By the early part of the 1590’s William Shakespeare had become a partner in an acting company who performed in London, known as the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.”  In 1603 they changed their name to that of the “King’s Men” following the crowning of King James I.

One thing we have to note, is that during the 16thcentury, the theatre was not frequented very much by those of mobility or those of high ranking in society.  They showed their appreciation in other ways, by being patrons to the performing arts.

For William Shakespeare to make his mark he needed to attract somebody of importance to his works. He was fortunate, that the Earl of Southampton; Henry Wriothesley liked what he read and saw, written and produced by this virtual newcomer.

Shakespeare dedicated his first two published poems to the Earl:

“Venus and Adonis” was published in 1593.  The story within the poem, tells the reader that Adonis was being seduced by Venus the goddess of love, by all means possible to her.  Adonis rejects her advances, and is killed by a boar, whilst out hunting, and where his blood falls upon the ground, a flower sprouted in his memory.

“The Rape of Lucrece” was published in 1594, and the story contained within the poem, tells of how Lucrece was raped by Tarquin a family friend.  She tells her father and husband of the event, and they promise to avenge her, then out of guilt she stabs herself to death.

Each poem was designed to show the guilt and moral confusions from lustful acts.  These poems proved to be very popular during the life of William Shakespeare, being re-printed many times.

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William Shakespeare’s Early Years

William Shakespeare - 01
William Shakespeare

A question I put forward is, what do we know of the greatest playwright and poet: William Shakespeare, who walked this earth and whence he came from.  It is my intention to answer some of these questions in my blog … so enjoy the ride.

William Shakespeare has been credited as England’s greatest playwright and poet of all times, having written thirty-eight plays, one-hundred and fifty-four sonnets and countless other poems and verses.  His works have been performed worldwide, and his poetry read by countless millions.

His exact date of birth is unknown, but research has found he has been credited with the same date as St.George’s Day.  It was a common practice at that time to perform the baptism of a child within a few days of birth.

William Shakespeare was born on the 23rdApril 1564 to parents John Shakespeare an Alderman and Mary Arden in Stratford – upon-Avon, and baptised on the 26thApril at Holy Trinity Church.

We know little of young Shakespeare’s schooling, other than we believe he attended King’s New School in Stratford, for the school was only a few hundred yards from the family home. Based upon the teachings during the Elizabethan era, he would have received a grammatical education based upon Latin classical works.

When Shakespeare was 18, he married Anne Hathaway aged 26, and pregnant at the time, on the 27thNovember 1582 in Worcester.  She gave birth to a daughter; Susanna on the 26May 1583.

It is stated that the marriage had been by mutual consent according to locals, but you have to wonder. For the old age custom of marriage banns being read out three times, never took place, only one reading in their case.  All the signs were there, of pushing the marriage through quickly.

William and Anne had two more children on the 2ndFebruary; a daughter Judith, and son Hamnet who died aged eleven.

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Tudor England: Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell
Thomas Cromwell

In 1485, the last Plantagenet King of England; Richard III dies in Battle at Bosworth Field.  The Tudor Dynasty began in 1485, with Henry Tudor, victorious in battle and founder of the Tudor line.

Who would have believed that the young Thomas Cromwell, born on the back streets of London in 1485, would grow up and take his place in Tudor history?  He would be the architect of England’s break from the Roman Catholic Church, and responsible for the “Dissolution of the Monasteries.”

So who is the real Thomas Cromwell, and what do we know about him and the legacy he left?

Thomas Cromwell was born in London of 1485 to parents Walter Cromwell and Katherine Meverell.  He had two sisters; Katherine who married welsh lawyer Morgan Williams, whose son Richard changed his name to Cromwell, and his great grandson was Oliver Cromwell, who became England’s Lord Protector during the Stuart Dynasty.  His other sister Elizabeth married William Wellyfed a farmer.

His father Walter Cromwell by trade was a blacksmith, cloth merchant, owner of a hostelry and brewery. His father may have had prosperous business ventures, yet he was often brought up before the court, on many a drink problem.

By the time, the young Thomas Cromwell had reached fifteen, he was wild and out of control and lacked good judgement.  Father and son did not get on, which led to him running away from home to seek his fame and fortune.

Cromwell stowed away on a ship and wandered around France, later he became a soldier and fought at the “Battle of Garigliano” on the 28ThDecember 1503.  As the French Army is defeated by the Spanish, Cromwell flees the battlefield and travels to Italy.

In 1504, the penniless Cromwell, had taken to begging on the streets of Florence, when Francesco Frescobaldi, a member of a prominent banking family takes pity on him.  His luck had changed; he had a roof over his head, good clothes and money in his pocket.  He learns quickly and becomes a loyal servant.

His master, who had lifted him out of the gutters of Florence, had put Cromwell on a new destiny…

He went to the Netherland’s working as a cloth merchant.  In Antwerp and Bruges learned a trade, living amongst English merchants and learnt several languages including, German, French and Italian.

Cromwell returns to England, a better man than the wild teenager who had left years earlier.  He works as a cloth merchant and studies law.

Thomas Cromwell marries Elizabeth Wykys a widow in 1517, and they have three children; Gregory, Anne and Grace.  Henry Wykys his father-in-law proves to be a good contact in business, having served under Henry VII, and a significant figure in London’s cloth trade.

Later that year Cromwell is approached by Geoffrey Chambers seeking assistance to obtain an audience with Pope Leo X, for funding the “Guild of Our Lady,” in St. Botolph’s Church in Boston, Lincolnshire.  Cromwell’s reputation grew, as a fixer.

In 1521, he was employed by the London baker’s guild to draft petitions to the government.  In 1523, becomes a member of the House of Commons.

In 1524, Thomas Heneage recommended Cromwell to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, and by the end of the year was working for Thomas Wolsey.  In 1525 Wolsey selected Cromwell to sell the lands and goods of greedy monasteries and corrupted landlords to pay for the Cardinal College in Oxford (now known as Christ Church College).

In 1528, Thomas Cromwell’s life was shaken to its foundation, when his wife Elizabeth and their daughter’s died during the sweating sickness epidemic.

King Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his wife: Catherine of Aragon who had not given him a male heir, so he could marry Anne Boleyn.  Henry wanted an annulment to his marriage with Catherine.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey had to get the Pope’s permission for an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.  He claimed Henry married Catherine, his brother arthur’s wife following his death.

Catherine opposed the split and petitioned Rome to block it.

In 1529, Henry VIII lost faith in Wolsey abilities, and had him arrested and charged with acting against his King’s wishes.  Cardinal Thomas Wolsey died on the 29thNovember 1530 before he could be brought to trial.

By 1531, Thomas Cromwell had taken control of the King’s legal and parliamentary affairs.

In January of 1532, Cromwell calls into question the right of the church, to make laws of its own.

Henry VIII insists that the church should abandon its claim to make laws without royal permission, and he had Cromwell’s support in the House of Commons, who manipulated its members, encouraging clerical grievances.

William Warham, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, opposed the idea, and in August of 1532 died, only to be replaced by Thomas Cranmer, a man who believed in royal supremacy over the church.

On the 23rdMay 1533, Cranmore pronounced judgement at the Dunstable court, that King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, had not been valid, thus the request to annul the marriage was granted.

Thomas Cromwell was rewarded for the part he played in acquiring the annulment for Henry, by being appointed the new Chancellor of the Exchequer.

On the 1stJune 1533 King Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn.  On the 7thSeptember his daughter Princess Elizabeth was born, not the male heir he desired.

In December of 1533 Henry gave Cromwell all the resources of the state in discrediting the papacy.  In March of 1534, Pope Clement VII announced that Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was invalid.  Henry replied, stating the Pope no longer had any authority in England.

In April of 1534, Cromwell was confirmed as Henry’s principal secretary and chief minister.

In November of 1534, Parliament passed an act, proclaiming Henry VIII was now head of the Church of England.  In January of 1535, Thomas Cromwell was appointed Vicar-General, making him the King’s deputy as Supreme Head of the Church.

When Henry VIII realised how much wealth could be attained for the royal coffers, by closing of monasteries, and the seizure of goods and lands, and selling said land to nobles and merchants.

So it was, during the years 1536-1540 some 250 monasteries were closed by order of Henry VIII, and undertaken by Thomas Cromwell.  The effects of the “Dissolution of the Monasteries,” can still be seen to this day; ruins standing in our countryside.

Henry VIII’s marriage showed all the signs of disaster, one daughter and no son and heir to carry on the Tudor dynasty.  Henry needed new blood, and had chosen his new Queen.  It had now fallen on Cromwell, to find a way of releasing his King from this marriage.

Cromwell saw it as an opportunity, to remove Anne from her courtiers by twisting the language of courtly love, to support accusations of adultery and conspiring against the King’s life.

Cromwell used intimidation and torture forcing those in her close circle, into making false confessions. Anne Boleyn was tried for treason and adultery with five men, found guilty and executed in 1536.

In 1536 Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour who died in 1537, weeks after giving birth to a son and heir; Edward VI.

Cromwell searches Europe for a fourth wife for Henry.  He suggests Anne of Cleaves; it was more of a political move, an alliance with German princes against an ongoing Catholic threat.  Upon her arrival, Henry was disappointed, but persuaded by Cromwell to go through with the marriage, which took place on the 6thJanuary 1540.

Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleaves was a disaster, and to get it annulled Henry had to give evidence in front of a court of his failings in the bedroom.  Henry was embarrassed and angry with Cromwell for setting up such a marriage.

This marriage proved to be a mistake for Thomas Cromwell, for he had angered his King and left the door open for his enemies within Henry’s court to make their move against him.

Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester saw Cromwell as a heretic for the introduction of the Bible in the native tongue.  He opposed Cromwell’s attack on the monasteries and religious shrines.

Cromwell allowed radical preachers in England.  On the 28thFebruary 1540, Robert Barnes preached a sermon attacking Bishop Gardiner.  On the 3rdApril was arrested and taken to the Tower of London.

Quarrels in the Privy Council continue, it was clear either Cromwell’s party or that of the Bishop of Winchester must succumb.  On the 10thJune 1540, things came to a head in the Privy Council.  Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, called Cromwell a traitor and ripped the chains of authority from his neck.  Cromwell was arrested on charges of treason and heresy, taken by boat from Westminster to the Tower of London.

Thomas Cromwell, he who had risen from the gutters of Putney in London, to hold high offices in the court of King Henry VIII, was found guilty of treason and heresy by Parliament on the 29thJune 1540.  The sentence handed down, was that his body was to be hung, drawn and quartered. Henry commuted the sentence to decapitation.

On the 28thJuly 1540, Thomas Cromwell was led out to Tower Green to meet his executioner, but the executioner bungled it, taking two strokes to sever body and head. The final act was placing his head on a pike on London Bridge for all to see.

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The Kingdom of Great Britain

Map of England

On the 24thMarch 1603, Queen Elizabeth I of the House of Tudor died, leaving no heir to the English throne.  King James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, Queen of Scots and great-grandson of Mary Tudor, became King James I of England.

Since 1603, when England and Scotland had been ruled by the same King, many attempts had been undertaken to unite the kingdoms into one voice.

On the 1stMay 1707, the “Kingdom of Great Britain,” came into force, with the “Treaty of Union,” binding two ancient kingdoms into one; England and Scotland. This new kingdom, had a new flag, comprising of the crosses of St.George and St.Andrew.

English and Scottish Parliaments were abolished, only to be replaced by the “Parliament of Great Britain. The English held 513 seats plus 196 in the Lords, whilst the Scots held 45 seats plus 16 in the Lords.  As the Scots held the smaller number of seats, they only paid a fortieth of the British Tax bill, as they were now part of the British Tax System.

Scottish taxes north of the border had been relatively low, compared with those in the south.  Now they had to pay their share of England’s eighteen million pond debt, which sent uproar across the land.

With the Scots up in arms, and the ink on the agreement; union of the two countries barely dry. Something had to be done to sweeten the deal.  So it was the English Exchequer granted a tax concession on salt and malt, along with a payment just short of £400,000 pounds.  In August of 1707, the promised payment arrived by wagons, and only one quarter was paid in gold and silver ingots.  The balance was paid in paper money, Scotland was not happy by any means.

Towards the end of 1707, the Scottish Privy Council was abolished, and a new Treason Act for Scotland was introduced in 1709, based on English forms of law.  This was in clear breach of the treaty, and Scottish nobles felt betrayed.

One case in breach of the treaty: In 1711, an Anglican Clergyman was convicted for using the English Prayer Book, and had his sentence overturned by the House of Lords.  By 1715 London’s interference into how Scotland was run, led to conflict among its people.

After Scotland’s union with England in 1707, trade with France went on the decline, but the Scots still had a yearning for the finer things in life; French Brandy and Silks. Higher customs duties led to a rise in smuggling.

In 1713, a bill was put forward, calling for the abolishment of the Union, by an unhappy Scotland, but was defeated in the House of Lords by only four votes.

Ghosts of Culloden

Battle of Culloden
Battle of Culloden

Culloden moor – site of the last battle on British soil, has its share of ghostly traditions, perhaps befitting for the scene of so much bloodshed and slaughter.

The Battle of Culloden – April 16th 1746 – marked the fall of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, which sought to restore the Stuart monarchy to the throne. In barely 40 minutes of fighting, the massed army of Bonnie Prince Charlie had been slaughtered by government troops (which also contained Scottish clans) led by Prince William the Duke of Cumberland.

The odds were already stacked against them, the boggy, rain sodden ground of the moor was not suited to the Highland charge, they were vastly outnumbered, and they were exhausted after a many days marching back from England where they had failed to muster the support they badly needed to ensure victory. They had also launched a surprise attack on their foes during the night which had ended without them even coming into contact with the Duke’s men.

The battle started with an exchange of artillery that quickly became a one sided affair, as the Jacobite gunners were vastly outnumbered and outclassed. Twenty minutes of constant bombardment decimated the Jacobite lines as they awaited the order to charge. Bonnie Prince Charlie took no part in the battle, and with no leader to sound orders their hesitations was to play a large part in their defeat. When they finally did charge – taking it under their own initiative – the slaughter continued, those who did not die in a volley of bullets and grapeshot, were cut down when they reached the lines. The government troops used a new way of meeting the Highland charge, each soldier stabbed at the man to the right of those they faced directly, so their bayonet would pierce under the man’s raised sword arm, and avoid the targe, the highlander’s small shields most often held in the left hand.

There was no mercy for the wounded soldiers, many were slaughtered where they had fallen, and those who had managed to flee were hunted down and executed. Bonnie Prince Charlie managed to evade the Government forces, and after five months on the run throughout the Highlands, escaped to Italy via the Isle of Skye, never to return.

Ghostly Traditions

There is a tradition of haunted battle sites in Britain and Culloden is no exception, ghostly soldiers are supposed to appear on the anniversary of the battle on the 16th of April, and the cries of battle and the clash of steel have also been reported.

The spectre of one of the Highlanders is also said to frequent the area, he is tall in stature with drawn features – he is supposed to say, “defeated” in hushed tones when encountered. One woman visiting the moor from Edinburgh in August 1936 lifted a tartan cloth covering one of the mounds – which mark the Jacobite graves – to discover an apparition of a dead Highlander underneath it. Another tradition attached to these grave mounds is that birds do not sing in their vicinity, perhaps hushed by the ominous atmosphere.

There are numerous wells dotted around the area, on the battle site itself and nearby. St Mary’s Well is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the dead highlanders, and a Clootie Well in Culloden wood is festooned with brightly coloured rags, offerings from people wishing to be cured of ailments.

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The Magna Carta

King John signs Magna Carta
Signing of the Magna Carta

Plantagenet King John formally signed the Magna Carta on the 15thJune 1215 at Runnymede.  The final version was not issued until 1225, by his son King Henry III.

(1) FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church’s elections – a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it – and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.

TO ALL FREE MEN OF OUR KINGDOM we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs:

(2) If any earl, baron, or other person that holds lands directly of the Crown, for military service, shall die, and at his death his heir shall be of full age and owe a ‘relief’, the heir shall have his inheritance on payment of the ancient scale of ‘relief’. That is to say, the heir or heirs of an earl shall pay £100 for the entire earl’s barony, the heir or heirs of a knight 100s. at most for the entire knight’s ‘fee’, and any man that owes less shall pay less, in accordance with the ancient usage of ‘fees’

(3) But if the heir of such a person is under age and a ward, when he comes of age he shall have his inheritance without ‘relief’ or fine.

(4) The guardian of the land of an heir who is under age shall take from it only reasonable revenues, customary dues, and feudal services. He shall do this without destruction or damage to men or property. If we have given the guardianship of the land to a sheriff, or to any person answerable to us for the revenues, and he commits destruction or damage, we will exact compensation from him, and the land shall be entrusted to two worthy and prudent men of the same ‘fee’, who shall be answerable to us for the revenues, or to the person to whom we have assigned them. If we have given or sold to anyone the guardianship of such land, and he causes destruction or damage, he shall lose the guardianship of it, and it shall be handed over to two worthy and prudent men of the same ‘fee’, who shall be similarly answerable to us.

(5) For so long as a guardian has guardianship of such land, he shall maintain the houses, parks, fish preserves, ponds, mills, and everything else pertaining to it, from the revenues of the land itself. When the heir comes of age, he shall restore the whole land to him, stocked with plough teams and such implements of husbandry as the season demands and the revenues from the land can reasonably bear.

(6) Heirs may be given in marriage, but not to someone of lower social standing. Before a marriage takes place, it shall be made known to the heir’s next-of-kin.

(7) At her husband’s death, a widow may have her marriage portion and inheritance at once and without trouble. She shall pay nothing for her dower, marriage portion, or any inheritance that she and her husband held jointly on the day of his death. She may remain in her husband’s house for forty days after his death, and within this period her dower shall be assigned to her.

(8) No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband. But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent, if she holds her lands of the Crown, or without the consent of whatever other lord she may hold them of.

(9) Neither we nor our officials will seize any land or rent in payment of a debt, so long as the debtor has movable goods sufficient to discharge the debt. A debtor’s sureties shall not be distrained upon so long as the debtor himself can discharge his debt. If, for lack of means, the debtor is unable to discharge his debt, his sureties shall be answerable for it. If they so desire, they may have the debtor’s lands and rents until they have received satisfaction for the debt that they paid for him, unless the debtor can show that he has settled his obligations to them.

(10) If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective of whom he holds his lands. If such a debt falls into the hands of the Crown, it will take nothing except the principal sum specified in the bond.

(11) If a man dies owing money to Jews, his wife may have her dower and pay nothing towards the debt from it. If he leaves children that are under age, their needs may also be provided for on a scale appropriate to the size of his holding of lands. The debt is to be paid out of the residue, reserving the service due to his feudal lords. Debts owed to persons other than Jews are to be dealt with similarly.

(12) No ‘scutage’ or ‘aid’ may be levied in our kingdom without its general consent, unless it is for the ransom of our person, to make our eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry our eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable ‘aid’ may be levied. ‘Aids’ from the city of London are to be treated similarly.

(13) The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs.

(14) To obtain the general consent of the realm for the assessment of an ‘aid’ – except in the three cases specified above – or a ‘scutage’, we will cause the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons to be summoned individually by letter. To those who hold lands directly of us we will cause a general summons to be issued, through the sheriffs and other officials, to come together on a fixed day (of which at least forty days notice shall be given) and at a fixed place. In all letters of summons, the cause of the summons will be stated. When a summons has been issued, the business appointed for the day shall go forward in accordance with the resolution of those present, even if not all those who were summoned have appeared.

(15) In future we will allow no one to levy an ‘aid’ from his free men, except to ransom his person, to make his eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry his eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable ‘aid’ may be levied.

(16) No man shall be forced to perform more service for a knight’s ‘fee’, or other free holding of land, than is due from it.

(17) Ordinary lawsuits shall not follow the royal court around, but shall be held in a fixed place.

(18) Inquests of novel disseisin, mort d’ancestor, and darrein presentment shall be taken only in their proper county court. We ourselves, or in our absence abroad our chief justice, will send two justices to each county four times a year, and these justices, with four knights of the county elected by the county itself, shall hold the assizes in the county court, on the day and in the place where the court meets.

(19) If any assizes cannot be taken on the day of the county court, as many knights and freeholders shall afterwards remain behind, of those who have attended the court, as will suffice for the administration of justice, having regard to the volume of business to be done.

(20) For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a villein the implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood.

(21) Earls and barons shall be fined only by their equals, and in proportion to the gravity of their offence.

(22) A fine imposed upon the lay property of a clerk in holy orders shall be assessed upon the same principles, without reference to the value of his ecclesiastical benefice.

(23) No town or person shall be forced to build bridges over rivers except those with an ancient obligation to do so.

(24) No sheriff, constable, coroners, or other royal officials are to hold lawsuits that should be held by the royal justices.

(25) Every county, hundred, wapentake, and riding shall remain at its ancient rent, without increase, except the royal demesne manors.

(26) If at the death of a man who holds a lay ‘fee’ of the Crown, a sheriff or royal official produces royal letters patent of summons for a debt due to the Crown, it shall be lawful for them to seize and list movable goods found in the lay ‘fee’ of the dead man to the value of the debt, as assessed by worthy men. Nothing shall be removed until the whole debt is paid, when the residue shall be given over to the executors to carry out the dead man’s will. If no debt is due to the Crown, all the movable goods shall be regarded as the property of the dead man, except the reasonable shares of his wife and children.

(27) If a free man dies intestate, his movable goods are to be distributed by his next-of-kin and friends, under the supervision of the Church. The rights of his debtors are to be preserved.

(28) No constable or other royal official shall take corn or other movable goods from any man without immediate payment, unless the seller voluntarily offers postponement of this.

(29) No constable may compel a knight to pay money for castle-guard if the knight is willing to undertake the guard in person, or with reasonable excuse to supply some other fit man to do it. A knight taken or sent on military service shall be excused from castle-guard for the period of this service.

(30) No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent.

(31) Neither we nor any royal official will take wood for our castle, or for any other purpose, without the consent of the owner.

(32) We will not keep the lands of people convicted of felony in our hand for longer than a year and a day, after which they shall be returned to the lords of the ‘fees’ concerned.

(33) All fish-weirs shall be removed from the Thames, the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea coast.

(34) The writ called precipe shall not in future be issued to anyone in respect of any holding of land, if a free man could thereby be deprived of the right of trial in his own lord’s court.

(35) There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom. There shall also be a standard width of dyed cloth, russet, and haberject, namely two ells within the selvedges. Weights are to be standardised similarly.

(36) In future nothing shall be paid or accepted for the issue of a writ of inquisition of life or limbs. It shall be given gratis, and not refused.

(37) If a man holds land of the Crown by ‘fee-farm’, ‘socage’, or ‘burgage’, and also holds land of someone else for knight’s service, we will not have guardianship of his heir, nor of the land that belongs to the other person’s ‘fee’, by virtue of the ‘fee-farm’, ‘socage’, or ‘burgage’, unless the ‘fee-farm’ owes knight’s service. We will not have the guardianship of a man’s heir, or of land that he holds of someone else, by reason of any small property that he may hold of the Crown for a service of knives, arrows, or the like.

(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

(41) All merchants may enter or leave England unharmed and without fear, and may stay or travel within it, by land or water, for purposes of trade, free from all illegal exactions, in accordance with ancient and lawful customs. This, however, does not apply in time of war to merchants from a country that is at war with us. Any such merchants found in our country at the outbreak of war shall be detained without injury to their persons or property, until we or our chief justice have discovered how our own merchants are being treated in the country at war with us. If our own merchants are safe they shall be safe too.

(42) In future it shall be lawful for any man to leave and return to our kingdom unharmed and without fear, by land or water, preserving his allegiance to us, except in time of war, for some short period, for the common benefit of the realm. People that have been imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the land, people from a country that is at war with us, and merchants – who shall be dealt with as stated above – are excepted from this provision.

(43) If a man holds lands of any ‘escheat’ such as the ‘honour’ of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other ‘escheats’ in our hand that are baronies, at his death his heir shall give us only the ‘relief’ and service that he would have made to the baron, had the barony been in the baron’s hand. We will hold the ‘escheat’ in the same manner as the baron held it.

(44) People who live outside the forest need not in future appear before the royal justices of the forest in answer to general summonses, unless they are actually involved in proceedings or are sureties for someone who has been seized for a forest offence.

(45) We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs, or other officials, only men that know the law of the realm and are minded to keep it well.

(46) All barons who have founded abbeys, and have charters of English kings or ancient tenure as evidence of this, may have guardianship of them when there is no abbot, as is their due.

(47) All forests that have been created in our reign shall at once be disafforested. River-banks that have been enclosed in our reign shall be treated similarly.

(48) All evil customs relating to forests and warrens, foresters, warreners, sheriffs and their servants, or river-banks and their wardens, are at once to be investigated in every county by twelve sworn knights of the county, and within forty days of their enquiry the evil customs are to be abolished completely and irrevocably. But we, or our chief justice if we are not in England, are first to be informed.

(49) We will at once return all hostages and charters delivered up to us by Englishmen as security for peace or for loyal service.

(50) We will remove completely from their offices the kinsmen of Gerard de Athée, and in future they shall hold no offices in England. The people in question are Engelard de Cigogné, Peter, Guy, and Andrew de Chanceaux, Guy de Cigogné, Geoffrey de Martigny and his brothers, Philip Marc and his brothers, with Geoffrey his nephew, and all their followers.

(51) As soon as peace is restored, we will remove from the kingdom all the foreign knights, bowmen, their attendants, and the mercenaries that have come to it, to its harm, with horses and arms.

(52) To any man whom we have deprived or dispossessed of lands, castles, liberties, or rights, without the lawful judgement of his equals, we will at once restore these. In cases of dispute the matter shall be resolved by the judgement of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace. In cases, however, where a man was deprived or dispossessed of something without the lawful judgement of his equals by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and it remains in our hands or is held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, unless a lawsuit had been begun, or an enquiry had been made at our order, before we took the Cross as a Crusader. On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once render justice in full.

(53) We shall have similar respite in rendering justice in connexion with forests that are to be disafforested, or to remain forests, when these were first afforested by our father Henry or our brother Richard; with the guardianship of lands in another person’s ‘fee’, when we have hitherto had this by virtue of a ‘fee’ held of us for knight’s service by a third party; and with abbeys founded in another person’s ‘fee’, in which the lord of the ‘fee’ claims to own a right. On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once do full justice to complaints about these matters.

(54) No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of any person except her husband.

(55) All fines that have been given to us unjustly and against the law of the land, and all fines that we have exacted unjustly, shall be entirely remitted or the matter decided by a majority judgement of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace together with Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he wishes to bring with him. If the archbishop cannot be present, proceedings shall continue without him, provided that if any of the twenty-five barons has been involved in a similar suit himself, his judgement shall be set aside, and someone else chosen and sworn in his place, as a substitute for the single occasion, by the rest of the twenty-five.

(56) If we have deprived or dispossessed any Welshmen of lands, liberties, or anything else in England or in Wales, without the lawful judgement of their equals, these are at once to be returned to them. A dispute on this point shall be determined in the Marches by the judgement of equals. English law shall apply to holdings of land in England, Welsh law to those in Wales, and the law of the Marches to those in the Marches. The Welsh shall treat us and ours in the same way.

(57) In cases where a Welshman was deprived or dispossessed of anything, without the lawful judgement of his equals, by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and it remains in our hands or is held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, unless a lawsuit had been begun, or an enquiry had been made at our order, before we took the Cross as a Crusader. But on our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once do full justice according to the laws of Wales and the said regions.

(58) We will at once return the son of Llywelyn, all Welsh hostages, and the charters delivered to us as security for the peace.

(59) With regard to the return of the sisters and hostages of Alexander, king of Scotland, his liberties and his rights, we will treat him in the same way as our other barons of England, unless it appears from the charters that we hold from his father William, formerly king of Scotland, that he should be treated otherwise. This matter shall be resolved by the judgement of his equals in our court.

(60) All these customs and liberties that we have granted shall be observed in our kingdom in so far as concerns our own relations with our subjects. Let all men of our kingdom, whether clergy or laymen, observe them similarly in their relations with their own men.

(61) SINCE WE HAVE GRANTED ALL THESE THINGS for God, for the better ordering of our kingdom, and to allay the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, and since we desire that they shall be enjoyed in their entirety, with lasting strength, for ever, we give and grant to the barons the following security:

The barons shall elect twenty-five of their number to keep, and cause to be observed with all their might, the peace and liberties granted and confirmed to them by this charter.

If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us – or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice – to declare it and claim immediate redress. If we, or in our absence abroad the chief justice, make no redress within forty days, reckoning from the day on which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon. Having secured the redress, they may then resume their normal obedience to us.

Any man who so desires may take an oath to obey the commands of the twenty-five barons for the achievement of these ends, and to join with them in assailing us to the utmost of his power. We give public and free permission to take this oath to any man who so desires, and at no time will we prohibit any man from taking it. Indeed, we will compel any of our subjects who are unwilling to take it to swear it at our command.

If one of the twenty-five barons dies or leaves the country, or is prevented in any other way from discharging his duties, the rest of them shall choose another baron in his place, at their discretion, who shall be duly sworn in as they were.

In the event of disagreement among the twenty-five barons on any matter referred to them for decision, the verdict of the majority present shall have the same validity as a unanimous verdict of the whole twenty-five, whether these were all present or some of those summoned were unwilling or unable to appear.

The twenty-five barons shall swear to obey all the above articles faithfully, and shall cause them to be obeyed by others to the best of their power.

We will not seek to procure from anyone, either by our own efforts or those of a third party, anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished. Should such a thing be procured, it shall be null and void and we will at no time make use of it, either ourselves or through a third party.

(62) We have remitted and pardoned fully to all men any ill-will, hurt, or grudges that have arisen between us and our subjects, whether clergy or laymen, since the beginning of the dispute. We have in addition remitted fully, and for our own part have also pardoned, to all clergy and laymen any offences committed as a result of the said dispute between Easter in the sixteenth year of our reign (i.e. 1215) and the restoration of peace.

In addition we have caused letters patent to be made for the barons, bearing witness to this security and to the concessions set out above, over the seals of Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, Henry archbishop of Dublin, the other bishops named above, and Master Pandulf.

(63) IT IS ACCORDINGLY OUR WISH AND COMMAND that the English Church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably in their fullness and entirety for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever.

Both we and the barons have sworn that all this shall be observed in good faith and without deceit. Witness the above-mentioned people and many others.

The Great Charter of English Liberty (The Magna Carta) granted by King John at Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on June 15th1215.