The Magna Carta Project

IV. The Book of Robert de Swaffham: Peterborough Dean and Chapter MS 1 on deposit at Cambridge University Library

by Professor David Carpenter

This is the largest and most comprehensive cartulary of Peterborough abbey.1 It was compiled around 1250 but has later additions. The copy of Magna Carta is part of the original text. The main variants are as follows.

In the preamble, the names of John’s counsellors have been omitted.

Chapter 2 starts as follows

‘Si quis comes vel baro sive alius tenens de nobis in capite per servitium militare obierit et heres eius plene etatis fuerit et relevium debeat, habeat hereditatem suam per antiquum relevium: scilicet heres vel heredes comitis de comitatu integro per centum libras...’

The authorized text by contrast reads

‘Si quis comitum vel baronum  nostrorum sive aliorum tenentium de nobis in capite per servitium militare mortuus fuerit et cum decesserit heres suus plene etatis fuerit et relevium debeat, habeat hereditatem suam per antiquum relevium: scilicet heres vel heredes comitis de baronia comitis integra per centum libras...’

This Peterborough copy then reads ‘de comitatu integro’ rather than ‘de baronia comitis integra’. In other words, the earl is to succeed to his earldom (which presumably included his barony), rather than just his barony. This is a reading found in many copies of Henry III’s Magna Carta although, unlike the 100 marks relief for a barony also found there (and in some copies of the 1215 Charter), it did not become ‘official’ by being included in Edward I’s confirmation of 1297. It is possible that ‘de comitatu integro’ is simply a scribal improvement. The Peterborough copy, however,  as will become clear, certainly has one element from a draft, and one wonders whether ‘de comitatu integro’ also goes back to Runnymede itself. The fact that the wording at the start of the chapter is different from the authorized version encourages this view. If the scribe had just wanted to clarify or improve, he could just have substituted ‘de comitatu integro’ for ‘de baronia comitis’. This is what happens in the St Augustine’s abbey copy of the 1215 Charter (See 2, no. V above) and in the copies of the Henry III Charters. The scribe had no need to re-write the start of the chapter as well.

In chapter 4, there is a considerable alteration in word order.

In chapter 5, the clerk initially wrote ‘vinos’ but then underlined it for deletion and interlined correctly ‘domos’.

In chapter 41, the text reads ‘exitum ad Angliam’ (the ‘ad’ presumably being a mistake) in place of ‘exire ab Anglia’. The text then omits ‘et venire in Angliam’. However, in the margin a contemporary but more cursive hand has added ‘venire ad Angliam’.

In chapter 42, the text reads ‘legem terre’ not ‘legem regni’.

Chapter 46 reads ‘antiquam longam tenueram’ (sic) rather than ‘antiquam tenuram’.

The chapter on fines has the same text as in the authorized version but retains the place it held both in the Articles of the Barons and in the copies of the Huntington family. In other words, the chapter is in effect 49, coming, as in the Articles, between the chapter on the inquiry into local government and that on hostages. In Magna Carta, by contrast, it is 55, coming between chapters on accusations by women and the disseisins suffered by the Welsh. It is difficult to see where the order in the Peterborough copy can come from other than a draft, in which a clerk has included the new version of the chapter on fines but has put it back, or arrowed it back, into its original position, whereas in the authorized version no such replacement took place.

Chapter 53 has ‘in alieno feodo’ rather than ‘in feodo alterius’. 

In chapter 56, the scribe initially wrote ‘nunc’ and then underlined it for deletion and interlined correctly ‘tunc’.

In chapter 57, the text reads ‘qui sunt in manu nostra’ rather than ‘in manu nostra habemus’.

In chapter 61, the security clause, the scribe first wrote ‘saturitatem’ and then underlined the ‘at’ for deletion and interlined correctly ‘ec’.

At the end of the Charter, the final section about the mutual oath has been omitted but it is then added in at the end of the Charter, after the dating clause.

1

See The Cartularies and Registers of Peterbrough Abbey, ed. J.D. Martin (Northamptonshire Record Society, 28, 1978), pp. 7-14; C. Breay, J. Harrison and D. M. Smith, Medieval cartularies of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 2010), no.757.

 

The Copies of Magna Carta