Una mensura vini sit per totum regnum nostrum, et una mensura cervisie, et una mensura bladi, scilicet quarterium Londoniense, et una latitudo pannorum tinctorum et russetorum et halbergettorum, scilicet duae ulnae infra listas; de ponderibus autem sit ut de mensuris.
There is to be one measure of wine throughout our kingdom, and one measure of ale, and one measure of corn, namely the quarter of London, and one breadth of dyed, russet and haberget cloths, that is, two ells within the borders; and let weights be dealt with as with measures.
Uniformity of weights and measures was something English kings had been trying to achieve since well before the Norman Conquest, in attempts to overcome local variations which hindered the effectiveness of government and hampered trade. It was an uphill struggle, and even very recent efforts sometimes failed. The clauses relating to the measuring of cloth in an enactment of 1196 were abandoned in 1202, while King John’s attempt to fix the price of wine in 1199 met so much resistance that this, too, was given up. But although such initiatives could be intrusive or over-ambitious, it would appear that inLondon, in particular, they represented aspirations that were generally welcome. In fact Clause 35 was one of the elements in Magna Carta which instead of pointing to resistance to recent developments in governmental practice, show that there was a demand for more of it. Its recommendation for weights was vague, and nothing was said about prices, but it demonstrates that where measures were concerned the interests of the crown and of English merchants coincided.
The Copies at Lincoln and Salisbury of the 1215 Magna Carta (Features of the Month)
Please note: commentaries are presently available only for clauses marked with *; more commentary to be added in due course.