23. HENRY I: CORONATION CHARTER (1100)

Henry, king of the English, to Samson, bishop [of Worcester], and to Urse d'Abetot,[1] and to all his barons and faithful men of Worcestershire, both French and English, greeting.

I. Know that by the mercy of God, and by the common counsel of the barons of the whole kingdom of England, I have been crowned king of the same kingdom. And since the kingdom has been oppressed by unjust exactions, I, through fear of God and through the love that I have for you all, in the first place make the Holy Church of God free, so that I will neither sell nor put at farm nor, on the death of an archbishop, bishop, or abbot, take anything from the demesne of a church, or from its men, until a successor enters upon it.[2] And I henceforth remove all the bad customs through which the kingdom of England has been unjustly oppressed; which bad customs I here in part set down.

2. If any one of my barons, earls, or other men who hold of me dies, his heir shall not redeem his land as he did in the time of my brother, but he shall relieve it by a just and legitimate relief. In the same way, furthermore, the men of my barons shall relieve their lands from their lords by just and legitimate reliefs.

3. And if any one of my barons or other men wishes to give in marriage his daughter, sister, niece, or [other] female relative, let him talk with me about the matter; but I will neither take anything from his property for this permission nor prohibit him from giving her [in marriage], unless he wishes to wed her to an enemy of mine. And if, on the death of a baron or other man of mine, a daughter remains as heiress, I will give her [in marriage], together with her land, by the counsel of my barons. And if, on the death of a husband, his wife survives and is without children, she shall have her dowry and marriage portion,[3] and I will not give her to a husband unless it is in accord with her own wish.

4. If, moreover, the wife survives with children, she shall yet have her dowry and marriage portion so long as she keeps her body legitimately, and I will not give her [in marriage] except in accord with her wish. And the guardian of the land and the children shall be either the widow or another one of the relatives who more rightly ought to be [in that position]. And I command that my barons shall conduct themselves in the same way toward the sons or daughters or wives of their men.

5. The common monetagium,[4] which has been collected throughout the cities and counties, and which did not exist in the time of King Edward, I utterly abolish for the future. If [however] any one, whether a moneyer or some one else, is taken with false money, let justice be done in the matter.

6. I pardon all pleas and debts that were owed to my brother, except my lawful farms and except those [payments] which were agreed on for the sake of others' inheritances or of those things that more rightly affected others.[5] But if any one has pledged anything for the sake of his own inheritance, that I pardon, as well as all reliefs that have been agreed on for the sake of rightful inheritances.

7. And if any one of my barons or men becomes infirm, as he himself may bestow his chattels or provide [by will] for their bestowal, so, I grant, shall they be bestowed. But if he, prevented by arms or infirmity, has not bestowed his chattels or provided [by will] for their bestowal, his widow or his children or his relatives or his liegemen shall divide them for the good of his soul as may seem to them best.

8. If any one of my barons or men commits an offence, he shall not [be declared] in mercy [and required to] give a pledge from his chattels,[6] as he was in the time of my father and my brother; but he shall pay compensation according to the measure of the offence, as was done before the time of my father, in the time of my other predecessors. But if he is convicted of treason or disgraceful crime,[7] let him make amends as is just.

9. I also pardon all murders[8] [committed] before that day on which I was crowned king, and those that have been committed afterwards are to be paid for by just compensation according to the law of King Edward.

10. By the common counsel of my barons, I have kept in my hands the forests as they were held by my father.[9]

11. To knights who hold their lands by military service (per loricas) I grant, of my own gift, the lands of their demesne ploughs[10] quit of all gelds and of all work; so that, inasmuch as they are thus relieved of a heavy burden, they may the better provide themselves with arms and horses, to be fit and ready for my service and the defence of my kingdom.

12. I establish my firm peace throughout the whole kingdom and command that it be henceforth maintained.

13. I restore to you the law of King Edward, together with those amendments by which my father, with the counsel of his barons, amended it.[11]

14. If any one, since the death of my brother William, has taken anything from my property or from the property of any one else, let him at once restore it without penalty; but if any one keeps anything [of that sort], he on whom it may be found shall pay me heavy compensation.

Witnesses: Maurice, bishop of London; William, bishop elect of Winchester; Gerard, bishop of Hereford; Henry, earl [of Warwick]; Simon, earl [of Northampton]; Walter Giffard, Robert de Montfort, Roger Bigot, Odo the Steward, Robert Fitz-Hamon, Robert Malet. At Westminster, when I was crowned. Farewell!

(Latin) Liebertnann, Gesetse, I, 521 f.


[1] Sheriff of Worcester. Other forms of address were of course used for the other counties.

[2] For examples of this feudal usage and of many others abolished or restricted in the Coronation Charter, see Henry's own pipe roll (no. 25).

[3] The marriage portion (maritagium) was the land conferred on a woman by her father or other relative; the dowry that given her by her husband. To the former she had an absolute title if she survived her husband; in the latter she had only a life estate. Cf. no. 27E, G.

[4] The monetagium, which is obscurely referred to in Domesday, was an exaction introduced in England by William I. On the continent it was usually a tax on sales, paid for a term of years on condition that, during such time, no change in the coinage would be made.

[5] Presumably payments made to secure lands and perquisites that had reverted to the crown through escheat or forfeiture. But the clause might also refer to a sum paid by one man to advance the claim of another. For examples see Henry's pipe roll.

[6] This was a promise to abolish the system of amercement, or arbitrary fine, introduced by the Conqueror, and to revert to the older system of bot and wite, but it was not kept; see Pollock and Maitland, II, 513 f. Many examples of amercement will be found in the following documents.

[7]Perfidiae vel sceleris — offences for which there was no lawful compensation in money; cf. Alfred, 4 (above, p. 10), and the subsequent dooms.

[8] See above, p. 36, n. 2.

[9] See no. 35 and the references there given.

[10] Cf. no. 22A. If carried out, the reform would have been equivalent to a heavy reduction of hidage on all baronial manors.

[11] Cf. no. 18, art. 7.