(A) Henry III: Letters Agreeing to Reform (1258)

The king to all, etc. You are to know that, through an oath given on our behalf[1] by Robert Waleran, we have granted to the nobles and magnates of our kingdom that, by twelve faithful men of our council already elected and by twelve other faithful men of ours elected on the part of those nobles, who are to convene at Oxford one month after the feast of Pentecost next, the state of our kingdom shall be ordered, rectified, and reformed according to what they shall think best to enact for the honour of God and our faith and the good of our kingdom. And if, perchance, any of those elected on our part are absent, those who are present shall be permitted to substitutothers in place of the absentees; and the same shall be done [with regard to those elected] on the part of the aforesaid nobles and faithful men of ours. And whatever is ordained in this matter by the twenty-four elected by both sides and sworn to the undertaking, or by the majority of them, we will inviolably observe, wishing and henceforth straitly enjoining that their ordinance be inviolably observed by all. And whatever security those men, or the majority of them, may provide for the observance of this matter we will fully grant and cause to be granted. We also attest that Edward, our first-born son, through an oath personally taken, has by his letters granted that he will faithfully and inviolably observe, and will cause ever to be observed, all that has been expressed and granted above, so far as in him lies. Furthermore, the said earls and barons have promised that, on the completion of the business noted above, they will strive in good faith to see that a common aid is rendered to us by the community of our kingdom. In testimony whereof, etc.... Given at Westminster, May 2.

(Latin) Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 372.

(B) The Provisions of Oxford (1258)

It has been provided that from each county there shall be elected four discreet and lawful knights who, on every day that the county [court] is held, shall assemble to hear all complaints touching any wrongs and injuries inflicted on any persons by sheriffs, bailiffs, or any other men, and to make the attachments that pertain to the said complaints [for keeping] until the first arrival of the chief justiciar in those parts: so that they shall take from the plaintiff adequate pledges for his prosecution [of the case], and from the defendant for his coming and standing trial before the said justiciar on his first arrival; and that the four knights aforesaid shall have all the said complaints enrolled, together with their attachments, in proper order and sequence — namely, for each hundred separately and by itself — so that the said justiciar, on his first arrival, can hear and settle the aforesaid complaints singly from each hundred. And they shall inform the sheriff that they are summoning all his hundredmen and bailiffs before the said justiciar on his next arrival, for a day and a place which he will make known to them: so that every hundredman shall cause all plaintiffs and defendants of his bailiwick to come in succession, according to what the aforesaid justiciar shall bring to trial from the aforesaid hundred; also as many men and such men — both knights and other free and lawful men — as may be required for best proving the truth of the matter. [This, however, is to be done] in such a way that all are not troubled at one and the same time; rather let [only] as many come as can be [used in cases to be] tried and concluded in one day.

Likewise it is provided that no knight of the aforesaid counties, by virtue of an assurance that he is not to be placed on juries or assizes, shall be excused by a charter of the lord king or be exempt from [the obligations of] this provision thus made for the common good of the whole kingdom.

Elected on the part of the lord king: the lord bishop of London; the lord bishop elect of Winchester; the lord H[enry], son of the king of Germany; the lord J[ohn], earl de Warenne; the lord Guy de Lusignan; the lord W[illiam] de Valence; the lord J[ohn], earl of Warwick; the lord John Mansel; Brother J[ohn] of Darlington; the abbot of Westminster; the lord H[enry] of Hengham.

Elected on the part of the earls and barons: the lord bishop of Worcester; the lord Simon, earl of Leicester; the lord Richard, earl of Gloucester; the lord Humphrey, earl of Hereford; the lord Roger Marshal; the lord Roger de Mortimer; the lord J[ohn] Fitz-Geoffrey; the lord Hugh le Bigot; the lord Richard de Gray; the lord W[illiam] Bardulf; the lord P[eter] de Montfort; the lord Hugh le Despenser. And if it should happen that of necessity any one of these cannot be present, the rest of them shall elect whom they please in place of the absentee, namely, another person needful for carrying on that business.

Thus swore the community[2] of England at Oxford....

This is the oath [administered] to the twenty-four....

Thus swore the chief justice of England....

Thus swore the chancellor of England....

This is the oath taken by the wardens of the castles....

These are the men sworn [to be] of the king's council.[3] ...

The twelve on the king's side have chosen from the twelve on the side of the community the earl Roger Marshal and Hugh le Bigot. And the party of the community has chosen from the twelve who are on the side of the king the earl of Warwick and John Mansel. And these four have power to elect the council of the king; and when they have made the election, they shall designate those [elected] to the twenty-four. And that shall hold on which the majority of these [four] agree.

These are the twelve who have been elected by the barons, on behalf of the whole community of the land, to consider common needs along with the king's council at the three annual parliaments....

These are the twenty-four appointed by the community to consider aid for the king.... And if any one of these cannot or will not be present, those who are present shall have power to elect another in his place.

Concerning the state of Holy Church: — It should be remembered that the state of Holy Church is to be amended by the twenty-four chosen to reform the state of the kingdom of England — at what time and place they think best, according to the powers that they hold by writ of the king of England.[4]

Concerning the chief justice: — [It has been decided] furthermore that a chief justice — or two [chief justices] — shall be appointed; also what power he shall have; and that he shall be [in office] for only one year, so that at the end of the year he shall render account of his term before the king and the royal council and before the man who is to follow him [in office].

Concerning the treasurer and the exchequer: — The same [has been decided] with regard to the treasurer; so that he shall render account at the end of the year. And according to the ordinance of the said twenty-four, other good men are to be appointed to the exchequer, whither all the issues of the land are to come, and not elsewhere. And let that be amended which seems in need of amendment.

Concerning the chancellor: — The same [has been decided] with regard to the chancellor; so that he shall render account of his term at the end of the year, and that merely by the king's will he shall seal nothing out of course,[5] but shall do so by [the advice of] the council that surrounds the king.

Concerning the power of the justice and of the bailiffs: — The chief justice has power to redress the misdeeds of all other justices, of bailiffs, of earls, of barons, and of all other people, according to the rightful law of the land. And writs are to be pleaded according to the law of the land in the proper places. And [it has been decided] that the justices shall accept nothing unless it is a present of bread and wine and like things: namely, such meat and drink as have been customarily brought for the day to the tables of the chief men. And this same regulation shall be understood [to hold] for all the king's councillors and all his bailiffs. And [it has been ordered] that no bailiff, by virtue of his office or of some plea, shall take any fee, either by his own hand or in any manner through another person. And if he is convicted [of so doing], let him be punished; likewise the man who gives [the fee]. And the king, if it is suitable, shall give [fees] to his justices and to his people who serve him, so that they shall have no need of taking anything from others.

Concerning the sheriffs: — As sheriffs there shall be appointed loyal persons, good men who are landholders; so that in each county there shall be as sheriff a feudal tenant of the same county, who shall well, loyally, and justly treat the people of the county. And [it is ordered] that he shall take no fee; that he shall be sheriff for no more than a year in all; that during the year he shall render his accounts at the exchequer and be responsible for his term [of office]; that the king, from the royal income, shall make [allowance] to him in proportion to his receipts, so that he may rightly keep the county; and that he shall take no fees, neither he nor his bailiffs. And if they are convicted [of such wrongdoing], let them be punished. It should be remembered that, with regard to the Jewry and the wardens of the Jewry, such reforms are to be established as shall carry out the oath in this respect.

Concerning the escheators: — Good escheators are to be appointed. And [it is ordered] that they shall take nothing from goods of deceased persons whose lands ought to be in the king's hands; but that, if a debt is owing to him, the escheators shall have free administration of the goods until they have carried out the king's wishes — and this according to the provision in the charter of liberties.[6] Also [it is ordered] that inquiry shall be made concerning the misdeeds committed there by escheators, and that redress shall be made for such [wrongs]. Nor shall tallage or anything else be taken, except as it should be according to the charter of liberties. The charter of liberties is to be strictly observed.

Concerning the exchange of London: — It should be remembered to establish reforms touching the exchange of London; also touching the city of London and all the other cities of the king, which have been brought to shame and ruin by tallages and other oppressions.

Concerning the household of the king and queen: — It should be remembered to reform the household of the king and queen.

Concerning the parliaments, as to how many shall be held annually and in what manner: — It should be remembered that the twenty-four have ordained that there are to be three parliaments a year: the first on the octave of St. Michael, the second on the morrow of Candlemas, and the third on the first day of June, that is to say, three weeks before [the feast of] St. John. To these three parliaments the chosen councillors of the king shall come, even if they are not summoned, in order to examine the state of the kingdom and to consider the common needs of the kingdom and likewise of the king; and by the king's command [they shall come] also at other times, whenever it is necessary. So too it should be remembered that the community is to elect twelve good men, who shall come to the three parliaments and at other times, when there is need and when the king and his council summon them to consider the affairs of the king and the kingdom. And [it has been decided] that the community shall hold as established whatever these twelve shall do — and this is to reduce the cost to the community. Fifteen are to be named by these four men — that is to say, by the earl Marshal, the earl of Warwick, Hugh le Bigot, and John Mansel — who have been elected by the twenty-four to name the aforesaid fifteen, who are to form the king's council. And they are to be confirmed by the aforesaid twenty-four, or by the majority of those men. And they shall have the power of advising the king in good faith concerning the government of the kingdom and concerning all matters that pertain to the king or the kingdom; and of amending and redressing everything that they shall consider in need of amendment or redress. And [they shall have authority] over the chief justice and over all other people. And if they cannot all be present, that shall be firm and established which the majority of them shall enact.

These are the names of the principal castles of the king, and of those who have charge of them....

(Latin and French) Ibid., pp. 378 f.

(C) The Provisions of Westminster (1259)

In the year 1259 from the Incarnation of the Lord, the forty-third of the reign of King Henry, son of King John, at a meeting of the lord king and his magnates at Westminster on Michaelmas fortnight, the provisions hereinunder written, by the common counsel and consent of the said king and his magnates, were enacted and published by the same king and his magnates in this form: —

1. With regard to the performance of suit to the courts of the magnates and of other lords who have such courts, it is provided and established by general agreement that no one who is enfeoffed by charter shall henceforth be distrained to perform suit to his lord's court, unless he is specifically obliged by the tenor of his charter to perform the suit; with the sole exception of those whose ancestors were accustomed to perform suit of this kind, or who themselves [were accustomed so to do], before the first crossing of the said lord king into Brittany — after the time of which crossing twenty-nine and a half years had elapsed down to the time that this constitution was made. And likewise no one enfeoffed without charter since the time of the Conquest, or by other ancient enfeoffment, shall be distrained to perform suit of this kind, unless he or his ancestors were accustomed to perform it before the first crossing of the lord king into Brittany....

4. With regard to the sheriff's tourn,[7] it is provided that, unless their presence is specially demanded, archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, and barons, or other men of religion, or women, shall not of necessity come thither.... And the tourns shall be held according to the form of the king's Great Charter, and as they were customarily held in the time of the kings John and Richard.

5. It is also provided that neither on the eyres of the justices nor in the [courts of the] counties nor in the courts of barons shall fines henceforth be taken from anybody for miskenning,[8] or for avoidance of trouble on that score....

8. Moreover, with regard to charters of exemption and liberty, [to the effect] that those securing them are not to be put on assizes, juries, or recognitions, it is provided that, if their oath is so essential that without it justice cannot be administered ... , they shall be forced to swear, saving to them their aforesaid liberty and exemption in other respects....

11. Henceforth no one except the lord king and his ministers shall be permitted, for any cause whatsoever, to levy distraints outside his fief, or on a royal or a common highway....

16. Hereafter no one but the king shall hold in his court a plea concerning false judgment rendered in a court of his tenant; for pleas of this sort especially pertain to the crown and dignity of the king....

18. Without the king's writ, no one may henceforth distrain his free tenants to respond concerning their free tenements or anything that pertains to their free tenements. Nor may he cause his free tenants against their will to take oaths; so that no one may do this without the king's precept....

21. Hereafter itinerant justices shall not amerce vills on their eyres because particular twelve-year-old persons do not come before sheriffs and coroners for inquests concerning a man's death or other matters pertaining to the crown; so long as, nevertheless, enough men come from those vills for satisfactorily carrying out such inquests.

22. No judgment of murder[9] shall henceforth be rendered before the justices in a case that is adjudged merely one of accident; but [a judgment of] murder shall be proper in the case of a man feloniously slain, and not otherwise....

(Latin) Ibid., pp. 390 f.

(D) The Decision of Louis IX (1264)

... In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. By our [present] decision or ordinance we quash and annul all the aforesaid provisions, ordinances, statutes, and obligations,[10] however called, and whatever has followed from them or by occasion of them, especially since it appears that the supreme pontiff by his letters has proclaimed them quashed and annulled; ordaining that as well the said king as all the barons and others who have consented to the present arbitration, and who in any way have bound themselves to observe the aforesaid [provisions], shall be utterly quit and absolved of the same. We likewise add that, by virtue or force of the aforesaid provisions or obligations or ordinances, or of any authority already granted by the king on that account, no one shall make new statutes or hold or observe those already made; nor ought any one, through non-observance of the aforesaid [provisions], to be held the enemy, either principal or otherwise, of any one else, or for that reason incur any penalty.... We also decree and ordain that the aforesaid king at his own volition may freely appoint, dismiss, and remove the chief justice, chancellor, treasurer, counsellors, lesser justices, sheriffs, and any other officials and ministers of his kingdom and his household, as he was used and able to do before the time of the provisions aforesaid. Furthermore, we repeal and quash the statute made to the effect that the kingdom of England should henceforth be governed by natives and that all aliens should leave the kingdom, never to return, except those whose residence the faithful men of the kingdom commonly agreed to, ordaining by our decision that aliens may safely remain in the said kingdom, and that the king may safely call to his counsel such aliens and natives as shall seem to him useful and loyal, just as he was able to do before the time aforesaid. Likewise we declare and ordain that the said king shall have full power and unrestricted rule within his kingdom and its appurtenances, and shall in all things and in every way enjoy such status and such full power as he enjoyed before the time aforesaid. By the present ordinance, however, we do not wish or intend in any way to derogate from royal privileges, charters, liberties, establishments, and praiseworthy customs of the kingdom of England existing before the time of the same provisions....

Now this our ordinance or decision we have promulgated at Amiens on the morrow of the blessed Vincent the Martyr, a.d. 1263, in the month of January. In testimony whereof we have caused our seal to be attached to the present letters.

(Latin) Ibid., pp. 396 f.

(E) The Dictum of Kenilworth (1266)[11]

... I. We declare and provide that the most serene lord prince Henry, illustrious king of England, shall have, fully receive, and freely exercise his dominion, authority, and royal power without impediment or contradiction of any one, whereby, contrary to the approved rights and laws and the long established customs of the kingdom, the regal dignity might be offended; and that to the same lord king and to his lawful mandates and precepts full obedience and humble attention shall be given by all and singular the men of the same kingdom, both greater and lesser. And all and singular shall through writs seek justice in the court of the lord king and shall [there] be answerable for justice, as was accustomed to be done up to the time of the recent disorders.

2. Furthermore, we ask the same lord king and reverently urge his piety that, for doing and rendering justice, he will nominate such men as, seeking not their own [interests] but those of God and the right, shall justly settle the affairs of subjects according to the praiseworthy laws and customs of the kingdom, and shall thereby strengthen with justice and restore the throne of royal majesty.

3. We likewise ask and urge the same lord king fully to guard and observe the liberties of the Church and the charters of liberties and of the forest, to keep and hold which he is expressly bound by his own oath.

4. Also the lord king shall provide that grants which up to the present he has made of his free will, and not under compulsion, shall be observed; and that he will firmly establish other necessary [measures] determined by his men and at his own pleasure. And furthermore the English Church shall be fully restored to its liberties and customs, which it had and rightly held before the time of such disorders, and shall be permitted to enjoy them freely....[12]

37. All henceforth shall maintain firm peace, and none shall commit homicide, arson, robbery, or other transgression against the peace. And if any one does so and is convicted, let him have judgment and law according to the custom of the kingdom.

38. Likewise all interested persons shall swear on the Holy Gospels that, on account of the disorders, no one will take private revenge, nor will he procure or consent or tolerate that private revenge should be taken. And if any one takes private revenge, let him be punished by the court of the lord king, and let those who have injured the Church make satisfaction to it.

39. Also, if any one is unwilling to observe this decision, or to undergo judgment by his peers in the court of the lord king, such persons as thus declare themselves, and are accordingly disinherited, shall have no right of recovering their lands. And if any one holding lands of disinherited men rebels against the decision, he is to have no just claim, by the gift of the lord king, either to the land or to what is paid for redeeming it. Moreover, if any person does not consent to this decision, he is to be a public enemy of the lord king and of his sons and of the community; the people and clergy, in so far as is permitted by canon law, shall prosecute him as an enemy to the peace of the Church and of the kingdom....

Given and published in the castle of Kenilworth on the day before the Kalends of November in the year of grace 1266, the fifty-first year of the reign of the lord Henry, king of England.

(Latin) Ibid., pp. 407 f.

[1] In animam nostram; kings very commonly named proxies to swear for them.

[2] Le commun — a phrase which is shown by the context to have meant parliament or the baronial party. The oaths, which are here omitted, add nothing to the information given in the following articles.

[3] Fifteen men, of whom eleven were of the twenty-four named above.

[4] No. 47A, preceding.

[5] That is to say, nothing but routine documents.

[6] Art. 26 of Magna Carta, above, p. 119.

[7] See above, p. 123, n. 45.

[8] See above, p. 62, no. 10.

[9] Cf. nos. 40B, 54D.

[10] The Provisions of Oxford, concerning which the French king had been called upon to arbitrate the quarrel between Henry III and the opposing party of the baronage.

[11] The final settlement of the Barons' War, dictated by a commission of four bishops, two earls, and six other barons appointed for that purpose.

[12] The omitted articles take up in detail the restoration of lawful rights, the cancellation of Simon de Montfort's acts, and the rehabilitation, on various conditions, of those who had been disinherited.