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Medieval Sourcebook:
King John of England and the Jews

A. Confirmation of the Charters of the Jews (10 Apr. 1201)

I. Charter of the Jews of England:

John, by the grace of God, &c. Know that we have granted to all the Jews of England and Normandy to have freely and honourably residence in our land, and to hold all that from us ,which they held from King Henry, our father's grandfather, and all that now they reasonably hold in land and fees and mortgages and goods, and that they have all their liberties and customs just as they had them in the time of the aforesaid King Henry, our father's grandfather, better and more quietly and more honourably.

II.- And if any dispute arise between a Christian and a Jew he who summons the other to answer his complaint should have witnesses, viz.: a lawful Christian and a lawful Jew.   And if a Jew has a writ about his complaint the writ shall be a witness for him, and if a Christian have a complaint against a Jew let it be judged by peers of the Jew.

III.- And when a Jew dies his body shall not be detained above earth, but his heirs shall have his money and his debts, so that he shall not be disturbed therefore if he has an heir who may answer for him and do what is right about his debts and his forfeit.   And let it be lawful for Jews to receive and buy without difficulty things that may be brought to them except things of the church or blood-stained cloth.

IV.- And if any Jew is summoned by anyone without testimony, he shall be quits of that summons on his sole oath on his Book.  And on the summons of those things that belong to our crown he shall be quits on his sole oath on his roll.  And if there is a dispute between Christian and Jew about accommodation of some money the Jew shall prove the capital and the Christian the interest.

V.- And let it be lawful to the Jew to sell his pledge after it is certain that he has held it for a whole year and one day.  And Jews shall not enter into pleadings except before us and before those who guard our castles in whose bailiwicks the Jews dwell.

VI.- And wherever the Jews may be let it be lawful for them to go when they will with all their chattels ' just as our own property, and let none stop or prevent them in this.

VII.- And we order that they be free through all England and Normandy of all the customs and tolls and modiation of wine just as our own chattels.  And we order you to guard, to defend, and to maintain them. And we prohibit anyone from summoning them against their charter on the above points on our forfeit such as the charter of King Henry our father reasonable declares.
Witnesses Godfrey son of  Peter Earl of  Essex, &C-, &C.  Given at Marlborough the tenth day of April in the second year of our reign. [M 5 f. 93]

[This is practically identical with the Charter of Richard I, of which we have extant a special form, supra p - 134.  At the same time is given us the important information that the Jews had a similar one even as early as the time of Henry I., John's great grandfathers. It is noteworthy that there is no statement to the effect that the Jews were the King's chattels, as stated in the interpolated clause of the laws of Edward the Confessor (supra p. 68).  On the contrary, VI speaks of Jewish chattels being treated "just as if they were our own property," which implies that they were not the King s property.]

II. Confirmation to the Jews of Their liberties.

John, by the grace of God, &c.  Know that we have conceded and by this present charter of ours confirmed to our Jews in England that excesses which may arise among them except those which belong to our crown and justice, as homicide, mayhem, premeditated assault, burglary, rape, theft, arson, and treasure-trove, shall be brought before them according to their law and remedied, and they shall do justice thereon among themselves.   And we also grant to them that if any of them summon another on a charge which pertains to us we will compel none of them to witness against any other, but if the summoner has a reasonable and suitable witness let him bring him with him.  But if some criminal and overt deed occur among them which pertains to our crown an justice, as in the aforesaid pleas of the crown, although none of them, has become an accuser thereon, we will cause that charge to be investigated by our lawful Jews of England, as the charter of King Henry our father reasonably testifies. . . . [Same witnesses, place and date as preceding.]

[Editor’s note: This is probably a confirmation of the liberty originally granted by Henry II. at the beginning of his reign and referred to in State papers of the period, supra, p. 42.  Several references occur to this separate jurisdiction of the Jews inter se in the Pipe Rolls (Nos. 20, 129).  The “Bishops” of the Jews were probably the judges in such cases.]

Rot.  Cart., i. 93, from Joseph Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England: Documents and Records (London, 1893), pp. 212-15.


B. 1201.-The Price of the Charters.

The Jews of England give our Lord the King four thousand marks to have their charters confirmed, and the charters were sent to Godfrey son of Peter by Stephen de Portico that they should cause them to be read in their presence, and in the presence of the Lord Bishops of London and Norwich and when they have received security for the payment of these four thousand marks, viz., 1000 immediately, 1000 at Michaelmas, 1000 at Easter, 1000 at Michaelmas, then they shall deliver to them the Charters in the presence of the aforesaid. [Obl. 2 Jo. m. i.]


Rot.  Obl. ed.  Roberts, 133, from. Joseph Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England: Documents and Records (London, 1893), p. 215.

Scanned by Elka Klein.

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