by Phyllis Irene Radford
Over the decades of Plantagenet rule, many fines had been levied and lands confiscated, justly and unjustly. Now the barons want the money back. But some of it had been just punishment for crimes committed. Here John makes a plan to decide who deserves to get redress and who deserved to be punished. Please note, that if one of the twenty-five barons listed below is a plaintiff, he can’t sit in judgement of his own claim. Believe it or not, this was a novel idea. This clause also provides for the Archbishop of Canterbury, or his representatives, to be present at these hearings; a supposedly neutral voice of calm and compromise.
55. All fines made with us unjustly and against the law of the land, and all amercements (arbitrary punishments) imposed unjustly and against the law of the land, shall be entirely remitted, or else it shall be done concerning them according to the decision of the five-and-twenty barons of whom mention is made below in the clause for securing the peace, or according to the judgment of the majority of the same, along with the aforesaid Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he may wish to bring with him for this purpose, and if he cannot be present the business shall nevertheless proceed without him, provided always that if any one or more of the aforesaid five-and-twenty barons are in a similar suit, they shall be removed as far as concerns this particular judgment, others being substituted in their places after having been selected by the rest of the same five-and-twenty for this purpose only, and after having been sworn.
Previously we mentioned the taking of hostages from Welsh Prince Llewellyn to guarantee his standing down from rebellion against the English King. The prince continued to rebel against English invaders of his principality. John executed the hostages. Hostilities continued. Here we have an olive branch, of sorts, extended to the Welsh.
56. If we have disseised or removed Welshmen from lands or liberties, or other things, without the legal judgment of their peers in England or in Wales, they shall be immediately restored to them; and if a dispute arise over this, then let it be decided in the marches by the judgment of their peers; for tenements in England according to the law of England, for tenements in Wales according to the law of Wales, and for tenements in the marches according to the law of the marches. Welshmen shall do the same to us and ours.
The marches—stretches of land along the border between England and Wales were a sort of no-mans-land that changed hands frequently. They developed their own customs and laws that were a hybrid of both countries to help keep the peace and control violent crimes. Hence they are allowed to continue with their unique sets of laws to deal with judgement, fines and land seizure.
No one mentions that England’s invasion of Wales might be considered wrongful displacement of rightful lords…
For the entire Magna Carta document, you may go here: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/magnacarta.asp
For a more scholarly analysis of the Charter and its relevance to modern life: http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/magna-carta.htm
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. The first book in the series, “Guardian of the Balance” can be found here:
You can read more about the author on her her bookshelf: https://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/bvc-author/phyllis-irene-radford/