A version of Magna Carta with seal
A version of The Charter of The Forest
Filed in a Victorian scrapbook, the Magna Carta was found alongside an original Charter of the Forest which was issued in 1271 to complement Magna Carta and regulate the administration of those large parts of England governed under forest rather than common law. The Kent History & Library Centre is now one of only two institutions worldwide holding a 'pair' of the 1300 Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest – the other is Oriel College, Oxford.
This is the second surviving Magna Carta that belongs to a member of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports, the other – also issued in 1300 - belonging to the borough of Faversham.
Professor Nicholas Vincent of the University of East Anglia discovered the documents while working on an Arts & Humanities Research Council project to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, with the assistance of Dr Mark Bateson, Kent County Council's Community History Officer.
The Magna Carta document, at the moment, held in Maidstone, is an original from the issue made by Edward I in 1300. It was directed to the borough of Sandwich, one of the Cinque Ports, and preserved since then in the borough's historic archive, which is held at the Kent History & Library Centre on deposit from Sandwich Town Council (which remains the legal owner).
(Taken from Sandwich Town Council Statement 2015)
The Charter of the Forest was first issued on 6 November 1217 as a complementary charter to the Magna Carta from which it had evolved. It was reissued in 1225 with a number of minor changes to wording, and then was joined with Magna Carta in the Confirmation of Charters in 1297.
In contrast to Magna Carta, which dealt with the rights of barons, it provided some real rights, privileges and protections for the common man against the abuses of the encroaching aristocracy.
At a time when the royal forests were the most important potential source of fuel for cooking, heating and industries such as charcoal burning, and such hotly defended rights as pannage (pasture for their pigs), estover (collecting firewood), agistment (grazing), or turbary (cutting of turf for fuel), this charter was almost unique in providing a degree of economic protection for free men, who also used the forest to forage for food and to graze their animals.
The King was required to "disafforest" Royal Forest, which meant (rather than chopping trees down) a requirement to give up possession of forest land. This might or might not have trees: it could also be heathland. In doing so the land became available to commoners.
The Charter provided a right of common access to (royal) private lands. Only with the Acts of Union 1707 between England and Scotland were these rights equalled within the realm. It also rolled back the area encompassed by the designation "forest" to that of Henry II's time, essentially freeing up lands that had become more and more restricted as King Richard and King John designated greater and greater areas of land to become royal forest. Since "forest" in this context did not necessarily mean tree areas, but could include fields, moor or even farms and villages, it became an increasing hardship on the common people to try to farm, forage, and otherwise use the land they lived on.
The Charter specifically states that "Henceforth every freeman, in his wood or on his land that he has in the forest, may with impunity make a mill, fish-preserve, pond, marl-pit, ditch, or arable in cultivated land outside coverts, provided that no injury is thereby given to any neighbour."
Clause 10 repealed the death penalty for capturing venison (deer), though transgressors were still subject to fines or imprisonment for the offence; it also abolished mutilation as a lesser punishment. Special Verderers' Courts were set up within the forests to enforce the laws of the Charter.
By Tudor times, most of the laws served mainly to protect the timber in royal forests. However, some clauses in the Laws of Forests remained in force until the 1970s, and the special courts still exist today in the New Forest and the Forest of Dean. In this respect, the Charter was the statute that remained longest in force in England (from 1217 to 1971), being finally superseded by the Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Act 1971.
(Information from Wikipedia)
Magna Carta (Latin for "the Great Charter"), is a charter agreed by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215.
King John on a stag hunt
First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons.
Neither side stood behind their commitments, and the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons' War.
After John's death, the regency government of his young son, Henry III, reissued the document in 1216, stripped of some of its more radical content, in an unsuccessful bid to build political support for their cause.
At the end of the war in 1217, it formed part of the peace treaty agreed at Lambeth, where the document acquired the name Magna Carta, to distinguish it from the smaller Charter of the Forest which was issued at the same time.
The charter became part of English political life and was typically renewed by each monarch in turn, although as time went by and the fledgling English Parliament passed new laws, it lost some of its practical significance.
Information taken from Wikipedia
Translation of the full text of the original 1215 edition of Magna Carta from Latin into modern day English.
see: The British Library website
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