43. JOHN: CHARTER TO THE CHURCH (1214)

John, by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, knights, bailiffs, and all who may hear or see these letters, greeting. Since, by the grace of God, a full agreement with regard to damages and usurpations during the time of the interdict has been established, of the pure and free will of each party, between us and our venerable fathers — [namely,] Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the Holy Roman Church; and the bishops, William of London, Eustace of Ely, Giles of Hereford, Jocelyn of Bath and Glastonbury, and Hugh of Lincoln — we wish, not merely to give them satisfaction to the best, God willing, of our ability, but also to make sound and useful provision for the whole English Church in perpetuity. Accordingly, no matter what sort of custom has hitherto been observed in the English Church, either in our own time or in that of our predecessors, and no matter what right we have hitherto asserted for our self in the election of any prelates, we [now], on the petition of those [prelates], for the health of our soul and [the souls] of our predecessors and successors, kings of England, of our own pure and free will and by the common assent of our barons, have granted and established and by this our charter have confirmed that in all and singular of the churches, monasteries, cathedrals, and convents of our whole realm of England the elections of whatsoever prelates, both greater and lesser, shall henceforth and forever be free, saving to us and our heirs the custody of vacant churches and monasteries that belong to us. We also promise that we will not hinder, nor will we permit or authorize our men to hinder, the electors in any or all of the aforesaid churches and monasteries, when prelacies become vacant, from freely appointing a pastor over themselves whenever they please, providing, however, that permission to elect has first been sought from us and our heirs — which [permission] we will not deny or delay. And if perchance — which God forbid! — we should deny or delay [permission], the electors shall nevertheless proceed to make a canonical election. Moreover, after the election has been held, our confirmation is to be requested; which likewise we will not deny, unless we can bring forward and lawfully prove some reasonable cause for which we ought not to give confirmation. Wherefore we will and straitly enjoin that, when churches or monasteries are vacant, no one shall act or presume to act in any way contrary to this our grant and constitution. If, however, any one at any time or in any way shall act contrary to it, may he incur the malediction of Almighty God and our own!

These are the witnesses.... November 21, in the sixteenth year of our reign.

(Latin) Stubbs, Select Charters, pp. 283 f.


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