The Magna Carta Project

XIV. Bodleian Library Rawlinson C 641, fos. 21v-29

by Professor David Carpenter

The text of Magna Carta is the latest document found in the collection,1 and is itself an addition in an early thirteenth century hand. This, therefore, is probably one of the earliest copies of the Charter. Each new chapter has a new line and begins with a large capital letter colored alternatively in blue and red. The divisions are similar to those in the text found in my Magna Carta, pp.36-69.

In chapter 2, the baronial relief is 100 marks not £100.

At the end of chapter 8, where a widow is not to marry without the consent of the king ‘vel sine assensu domini sui de quo tenuerit, si de alio tenuerit’, the text adds ‘quam de nobis’.

In chapter 9, forbidding the seizure of lands or rents so long as the chattels of the debtor suffice ‘ad debitum reddendum’, the text reads ‘solvendum’ not ‘reddendum’.

In chapter 20, it is ‘inciderit’ not ‘inciderint’.

In chapter 26, where the chattels of a deceased tenant-in-chief are not to be removed ‘donec persolvatur nobis debitum quod clarum fuerit’, ‘clarum’ is replaced by ‘planum’. The word in the Articles of the Barons is ‘liquidum’.

Chapter 44, stipulating that ‘homines’ outside the forest are not obliged to come before the forest judges, the text reads ‘omnes’ not ‘homines’.

In chapter  57 of the authorized version, John was to have ‘respectum usque ad communem terminum crucesignatorum’ in giving justice to Welshmen dispossessed by Henry II and Richard I, but was to give them justice immediately on his return from or abandonment of his crusade ‘secundum leges Walensium et partes predictas’. Here the Ralwinson text omits ‘et partes predictas’ and continues ‘et cum superius legantur  donec certo termino comprehendantur secundum leges Walensium and partes predictas’. This seems to be a comment, perhaps made in the margin of a text of the Charter, which has become incorporated into the Rawlinson copy or its exemplar. The memorandum was almost certainly made in 1215 or 1216, since the issue had no relevance after John’s death and the chapter does not appear in the Henry III charters.  

In chapter 58, the ‘filios’ of Llywelyn are to be released not the ‘filium’. 

At the end, the date of the Charter is 16 June. This is written out in full - ‘sexto decimo’ - as part of a dating clause (from ‘Data per manum’) in large lower case letters in double spaced lines.

Although there is no clear proof, taken together these variations make it possible that the copy derives from an unofficial text of the Charter made on 16 June.      

A late medieval or Tudor annotator has numbered the chapters (in Arabic numerals) down to chapter 27 (which is his chapter 25). His heading is ‘Carta de Roundimeid’. He has also occasionally related the chapters to Henry III’s Magna Carta and later legislation. Thus, against chapter 10 he notes in the margin that there is nothing on the subject of interest accumulating in a minority ‘in magna carta’, but there is in chapter 5 of the statute of Merton. Against chapter 27 (on the distribution of an intestate’s chattels), he again notes that there is nothing on the subject in ‘magna carta’. The same hand has listed the twenty-five barons of Magna Carta’s security clause.      


For this much cited legal collection, see B. R. O’Brien, Gods Peace and King’s Peace: The Laws of Edward the Confessor (Philadelphia, 1999), pp. 143-4.

The Copies of Magna Carta