Every free man shall allow his pigs to feed in the forest. We grant also that every free man can move his pigs through our royal forest freely to allow them to feed in his own woods or anywhere else he wishes. And if the pigs of any free man shall spend one night in our forest he shall not on that account be so prosecuted that he loses anything of his own.
 No one shall henceforth lose life or limb because of our venison (deer), but if anyone has been arrested and convicted of taking venison he shall be fined heavily if he has the means; and if he has not the means, he shall lie in our prison for a year and a day; and if after a year and a day he can find someone to pay the debt he may leave prison; but if not, he shall swear to leave the realm of England.
 Any archbishop, bishop, earl or baron whatever who passes through our forest shall be allowed to take one or two beasts under the supervision of the forester, if he is to hand; but if not, let him blow the hunting horn, lest he seem to be doing it secretly.
The Charter of the Forest is said to be Henry III’s recognition of the ordinary people of the realm. For example, Chapter 10 reduces penalties for offences like stealing the king’s deer to heavy fines rather than execution. Similarly, peasants are no longer punished if a peasant’s pigs wander into the royal forest. Is this an instance of the new king being more sympathetic to the ordinary people?
Extracts from the Charter of the Forest 1225
The National Archives
The Charter of the Forest was a companion document to Magna Carta. It providing a degree of economic protection for free men, who also used the forest to forage for food and to graze their animals.
It was first issued on 6 November 1217, but this document is the one re-issued in 1225, with some minor changes.
What was a medieval forest?
In medieval times, a ‘forest’ did not have quite the same meaning as it has today. It meant lands such as Sherwood Forest, but it also meant any managed ‘hunting ground’ usually filled with deer, and could be countryside, farmland, moorland, woods, fields, and even villages and towns. It wasn’t common land, but belonged to the King, therefore he could charge people for using it.
Test your understanding
The Charter of the Forest reduced the penalties for many crimes. Which of the below was reduced from execution, to just a fine or imprisonment?
Medieval laws were tougher than they are now, but not that unfair!
Why don’t you try studying the document and listening closely to the transcript again?
Correct! Yes, the Charter of the Forest removed the death penalty for stealing the king’s deer, or venison.
Why has Henry III re-issued Magna Carta?
- Is it because he has genuinely learned the lessons from the rule of his father, uncle and grandfather and he is offering a new way of ruling?
- Is it because Henry simply needs money because the French king has invaded Gascony and and is threatening Henry’s power in France?
- The view of this chronicle on why Henry is issuing Magna Carta now is…