Blogging the Magna Carta #17

by Phyllis Irene Radford

Sometimes we forget how well-traveled people were in the 13th C. In the previous century, the Crusades opened trade routes as well as pilgrim trails all through the Mediterranean and the Middle East and thus access to the Silk Road into Asia. Foreign merchants made their way to England just as English merchants carried wool and woven cloth as well as wine to the rest of the known world. Yes indeed, England had vineyards and a wine industry rivaling France’s in quality until the little ice age struck around 1300 A.D. and lasted 500 years until about 1800 A.D. English vines withered in the cold.  France, Spain, and Italy gained dominance in the wine trade and did not relinquish it until modern times.

Some realms charged foreign merchants a toll when they entered the country and for every sale they made. Not a good way to encourage trade. And when war broke out, (war was always breaking out despite treaties and betrothals among royal houses) foreign merchants were seized as hostages, or treated as spies and executed.

 41. All merchants shall have safe and secure exit from England, and entry to England, with the right to tarry there and to move about as well by land as by water, for buying and selling by the ancient and right customs, quit from all evil tolls, except (in time of war) such merchants as are of the land at war with us. And if such are found in our land at the beginning of the war, they shall be detained, without injury to their bodies or goods, until information be received by us, or by our chief justiciar, how the merchants of our land found in the land at war with us are treated; and if our men are safe there, the others shall be safe in our land.


Merchants weren’t the only ones who traveled extensively in the 13th century. Nobles often swore fealty to multiple kings for lands held in multiple countries. This led to complications in times of war. In times of peace they expected to travel back and forth. But if they displeased the king, he could punish them by forbidding them to leave the country. They might not return and end up on the opposite side when war broke out again, as it always did.

42. It shall be lawful in future for any one (excepting always those imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the kingdom, and natives of any country at war with us, and merchants, who shall be treated as is above provided) to leave our kingdom and to return, safe and secure by land and water, except for a short period in time of war, on grounds of public policy—reserving always the allegiance due to us.

For the entire document, you may go here:

For a more scholarly analysis of the Charter and its relevance to modern life:


Phyllis Irene Radford is a founding member of the Book View Café.  She first became interested in the Magna Carta while researching her master work series “Merlin’s Descendants.”  Book View Café is proud to reissue these five volumes in a variety of DRM free e-book formats. You can read more about the author on her her bookshelf:

The first book in the series, Guardian of the Balance, can be found here: and the final volume, Guardian of the Freedom, is new to the bookstore



About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


Blogging the Magna Carta #17 — 1 Comment

  1. Phyl, thanks again for perspective on lives past. I had no idea how much travel was going on then! And these important protections.