56. ORDINANCES OF 1311
... Whereas, through bad and deceitful counsel, our lord the king and
all his men have everywhere been dishonoured and his crown in many ways has
been debased and ruined, while his lands of Gascony, Ireland, and Scotland are
on the point of being lost unless God improves the situation, and his realm of
England has been brought to the verge of rebellion through prises
and [other] oppressive and destructive measures — which facts are known
and proved — our lord the king of his free will has granted to the
prelates, earls, and barons, and to the other good men of his realm, that
certain persons should be elected to ordain and determine the condition of his
household and of his realm, as appears more fully in the commission issued by
our lord the king in this connection. Therefore we, Robert, by the grace of God
archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England, and the bishops, earls,
and barons elected by virtue of the said commission, do ordain for the honour
of God and Holy Church and of the king and his realm in the manner following:
1... In the first place it is ordained that Holy Church shall have all
its liberties as heretofore and as it should have them.
2. Item, it is ordained that the king's peace shall be firmly kept
throughout the entire kingdom; so that every one may safely go, come, and
remain according to the law and custom of the realm.
3. Item, it is ordained that, in order to acquit the king's debts, to
relieve his estate, and the more honourably to maintain it, no gift
of land, rent, liberty, escheat, wardship, marriage, or office shall be made to
any of the said Ordainers during their [tenure of] power under the said
ordinance, or to any other person, without the counsel and assent of the said
Ordainers or the majority of them — or of six of them at least — but
that all sources of profit shall be improved for the benefit of the king until
his estate is properly relieved and some other ordinance may be made for the
honour and profit of the king.
4. Item, it is ordained that the customs of the kingdom shall be
received and kept by men of the kingdom itself, and not by aliens; and that the
issues and profits of the same customs, together with all other issues and
profits pertaining to the kingdom from any source whatsoever, shall in their
entirety come to the king's exchequer and be paid by the treasurer and the
chamberlains for maintaining the king's household and [to be spent] in other
ways for his benefit; so that the king may live of his own without taking
prises other than those anciently due and accustomed. And all others shall
6. Item, it is ordained that the Great Charter shall be observed in all
its particulars; so that, if there is any point in the said charter that is
doubtful or obscure, it shall be interpreted by the said Ordainers and other
men whom they may see fit to call upon for that purpose....
7. And besides, since the crown has been so abased and ruined by
numerous grants, we ordain that all grants made to the damage of the king and
the impoverishment of the crown since the commission was given to us ... shall
be annulled; and we do annul them entirely, so that they shall not be given
back to the same persons without the common assent [of the
baronage] in parliament....
9. Whereas the king, on account of the many perils that he and his
kingdom may incur, ought not to undertake an act of war against any one, or to
go out of the kingdom, without the common assent of his baronage, we ordain
that henceforth the king shall neither go out of the kingdom nor undertake an
act of war against any one without the common assent of his baronage, and that
10. And whereas it is feared that the people of the land will rebel on
account of the prises and divers oppressions recently established, ... we
ordain that henceforth all prises shall be abolished except the ancient and
lawful prises due to the king and to others who are lawfully entitled to them.
And if any prises are taken contrary to the ordinance aforesaid by any one
whomsoever, no matter of what condition he may be — that is to say, if any
one, under colour of purveyance for the use of our lord the king or of some one
else, takes grain, wares, merchandise, or other goods against the will of those
to whom they belong, and does not immediately give in return money to the true
value [of the goods], unless he thereof has respite by the free will of the
seller according to the provision in the Great Charter regarding prises taken
by constables of castles and their bailiffs, saving the accustomed
prises aforesaid — notwithstanding any commission that may be [issued],
pursuit with hue and cry shall be raised against him and he shall be taken to
the nearest jail of the king, and the common law shall be enforced against him
as against a robber or thief, should he be convicted of such [wrongdoing] .
11. Also, [whereas] new customs have been levied and the old [customs]
have been increased upon wool, cloth, wines, avoirdupois, and other things
— whereby [our] merchants come more rarely and bring fewer goods into the
country, while alien merchants reside longer than they used to, and by such
residence things become dearer than they used to be, to the damage of the king
and his people — we ordain that all manner of customs and maltotes levied
since the coronation of King Edward, son of King Henry, are to be entirely
removed and utterly abolished forever, notwithstanding the charter which the
said King Edward granted to alien merchants, because it was issued contrary to
the Great Charter and contrary to the liberty of the city of London and without
the assent of the baronage....
13. And whereas the king, as aforesaid, has been badly advised and
guided by evil councillors, we ordain that all the evil councillors shall be
put out and utterly removed, so that neither they nor other such persons shall
be near him or shall be retained in any office under the king; and that other
persons who are fit shall be put in their places. And the same shall be done in
the case of domestics, officials, and other men in the king's household who are
14. And whereas many evils have been incurred through [the employment
of] such councillors and such ministers, we ordain that the king shall appoint
the chancellor, the chief justices of both benches, the treasurer, the
chancellor and the chief baron of the exchequer, the steward of the
household, the keeper of the wardrobe, the comptroller and a fit clerk to keep
the privy seal, a chief keeper of the forests on this side of Trent
and one on the other side of Trent, also an escheator on this side of Trent and
one on the other side, as well as the king's chief clerk of the common bench,
by the counsel and assent of the baronage, and that in parliament. And if by
some chance it happens that there is need to appoint any of the said ministers
before parliament meets, then the king shall make such appointments by the good
counsel [of those] whom he shall have near him up to the time of the
parliament. And so let it be done henceforth with regard to such ministers
whenever there is need.
15. Item, we ordain that the chief wardens of ports and of
castles on the sea shall be appointed and installed in the aforesaid manner,
and that such wardens are to be of the land itself.
16. And whereas the lands of Gascony, Ireland, and Scotland are in peril
of being lost through default of good ministers, we ordain that worthy and fit
ministers to keep ward in the said lands shall be named according to the form
set forth in the article before the last [preceding].
17. Moreover, we ordain that sheriffs shall henceforth be appointed by
the chancellor, the treasurer, and others of the council who are present; and
if the chancellor is not present, let them be appointed by the treasurer, the
barons of the exchequer, and the justices of the bench. And such men are to be
named and installed as are fit and worthy, and as have lands and tenements
through which they may be held responsible for their actions to the king or to
the people. And only such persons shall be appointed, and they shall have their
commissions under the great seal....
24. And whereas the people feel much aggrieved because of divers debts
demanded of them for the king's use by summons from the exchequer, of which
debts, being actually paid, the people have various acquittances ...; we ordain
that henceforth in the account of every sheriff, or other minister of the king
who is answerable at the exchequer, such tallies, writs, and franchises as are
allowable in the account shall be allowed.... And if the treasurer and the
barons of the exchequer do not act in the manner aforesaid, the plaintiffs
shall enjoy [the right of] recovery through petition in
25. Whereas ordinary merchants and many others of the people are allowed
to bring pleas of debt and trespass in the exchequer, through the fact that
they are received by the ministers of the said court more favourably than they
should be — whereby accounts and other concerns of the king
are greatly delayed and, in addition, a large number of people are aggrieved
— we ordain that henceforth no pleas shall be held in the said court of
the exchequer except pleas touching the king and his ministers: [namely] those
answerable at the exchequer by reason of their offices, the ministers of the
court itself, and their subordinates and servants who most of the time are with
them in those places where the exchequer may be. And if anybody is received by
the said court with permission to plead in the manner aforesaid, those
impleaded shall have their [right to] recovery in parliament.
26. Item, whereas the people feel much aggrieved because stewards and
marshals hold many pleas that do not pertain to their offices, and also because
they will not receive attorneys for defendants as well as for plaintiffs, we
ordain that henceforth they shall receive attorneys for defendants as well as
for plaintiffs, and that they shall hold no pleas of freehold, debt, covenant,
or contract, nor any common plea touching men of the people — saving [to
their jurisdiction] only trespasses of the household itself and other
trespasses committed within the verge, and contracts and covenants
which any one of the king's household may make with another of the same
household within the household itself and not elsewhere....
28. Whereas the people feel much aggrieved because men are emboldened to
kill and rob by the fact that the king, through evil counsel, so lightly grants
them his peace against the provisions of the law; we ordain that henceforth no
felon or fugitive shall be protected or defended in any sort of felony by the
king's charter granting his peace, except only in case the king can give grace
according to his oath, and that by process of law and the custom of the realm.
And if any charter is henceforth made and granted to any one in any other
manner, it shall be of no avail and shall be held as null. And no recognized
malefactor against the crown and the peace of the land is to be aided or
maintained by any one.
29. Whereas in the king's court persons find their cases delayed because
a party alleges that in the king's absence answer should not be made to
demands, and [whereas] also many persons wrongfully suffer injuries from the
king's ministers, with regard to which injuries one can secure recovery only in
common parliament; we ordain that the king shall hold a parliament once a year,
or twice if need be, and that in a convenient place. And [we ordain] that in
those parliaments pleas which are delayed in the said manner, and pleas wherein
the justices are of different opinions, shall be recorded and settled. And
likewise those bills which are brought to parliament shall be
settled as heretofore in accordance with law and right.
30. Whereas all the people suffer greatly in many ways whenever a change
of money is made in the kingdom, we ordain that, when there is need and the
king wishes to make a change [of the money], he shall do so by the common
counsel of his baronage, and that in parliament.
31. Item, we ordain that all statutes which were made in amendment of
the law and for the benefit of the people by the ancestors of our lord the king
shall be kept and maintained as heretofore in accordance with law and right;
provided that they are not contrary to the Great Charter or to the Forest
Charter or to the ordinances by us made. And if any statute is made contrary to
what has been said, it shall be held as null and as utterly void.
32. Whereas, to the great injury of the people, the law of the land and
common right have often been delayed by letters issued under the king's privy
seal, we ordain that henceforth neither the law of the land nor common right
shall be delayed or disturbed by letters under the said seal. And if, through
such letters issued under the privy seal contrary to right or to the law of the
land, anything is done in any session of the court of our lord the king, it
shall be of no avail and shall be held as null.
33. Whereas many of the people other than those known to be merchants
feel much aggrieved and injured by the Statute of Merchants made at Acton
Burnell, we ordain that hereafter this statute shall hold only as
between merchant and merchant and with regard to dealings made between
38. Item, we ordain that the Great Charter of Liberties and the Forest
Charter issued by King Henry, son of King John, shall be observed in all their
particulars, and that points in the said charters of liberties which are
doubtful shall be explained in the next parliament after this by the advice of
the baronage, the justices, and other persons learned in the law. And this is
to be done because we are unable to attend to the matter during our term [of
39. Item, we ordain that the chancellor, the treasurer, the chief
justices of both benches, the chancellor of the exchequer, the treasurer of the
wardrobe, the steward of the king's household, and all justices, sheriffs,
escheators, constables, investigators [named] for any cause whatsoever, and all
other bailiffs and ministers of the king, whenever they receive their offices
and bailiwicks, shall be sworn to keep and observe all the ordinances made by
the prelates, earls, and barons for that purpose elected and assigned —
[to maintain] every one of those [ordinances] without contravening them in any
40. Item, we ordain that in each parliament one bishop, two earls, and
two barons shall be assigned to hear and determine all plaints of those wishing
to complain of the king's ministers, whichever they may be, who have
contravened the ordinances aforesaid. And if the said bishop, earls, and barons
cannot all attend, or are prevented from hearing and determining the said
plaints, then two or three of them shall do so. And those who are found to have
contravened the said ordinances, in the interest of the king and in the
interest of the plaintiffs, shall be punished at the discretion of the persons
41. Item, we ordain that the aforesaid ordinances are to be maintained
and observed in all their particulars, and that our lord the king shall cause
them to be issued under his great seal and sent into every county of England,
to be published, held, and strictly kept as well within franchises as
These ordinances, having been shown to us and published on
Monday next before the feast of St. Michael just past, we agree to, accept, and
confirm. And we will and grant, for us and our heirs, that all and several of
the said ordinances, made according to the form of our letters aforesaid, shall
be published throughout our entire realm, henceforth to be strictly maintained
and observed. In testimony whereof we have caused these our letters patent to
be drawn up.
Given at London, October 5, in the fifth year of our reign.
(French) Ibid., I, 157 f.
 See arts. 4 and 10, below.
 The word constantly used throughout these records to denote
the king's legal position, including all powers and perquisites of the royal
 Cf. art 38, below.
 Cf. arts 9, 11, 14, etc.
 Arts. 28-31, above, p. 120.
 Saving to the king the ancient customs from wool and hides;
see no. 51A.
 When, in the thirteenth century, the chancellor ceased to
attend the meetings of the exchequer, his clerk became known as the chancellor
of the exchequer.
 For further details concerning these and other household
officials, see no. 57.
 Referring especially to the warden of the Cinque Ports and
constable of Dover Castle; see no. 50C.
 I.e., England.
 The next two articles provide for investigations
concerning the misdeeds of forest officials and the enforcement of the Forest
Charter (no. 45). Arts. 20-23 impose penalties on Piers Gaveston and three
other persons named.
 Cf. nos. 54G, 61A.
 Cf. no. 54C.
 The area distinguished by the king's presence and thereby
set apart from the common law.
 Various details follow in the text, including remedies at
common law provided for aggrieved parties.
 Cf. no. 64C.
 "Bill" and "petition" were at this time synonymous
 No. 52D.
 The seals for authenticating such transactions are to be
entrusted to groups of substantial citizens elected in certain specified towns:
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Exeter, Bristol, Southampton, Lincoln,
Northampton, London, and Canterbury. The next four articles deal with reforms
of the criminal law.
 King Edward II.