The king sends greetings to his justices who have the task of assessment and collection of the tax to the value of a fifteenth of moveable goods. This tax has been imposed for the peace and protection of our kingdom and for the common good and defence of all, and you should speak plainly and openly that all those who refuse to contribute to the tax, along with their heirs, shall not share in the freedom which has been granted to our honest men through our charters.
Also, we have heard that you take this tax even from very poor women, and even if they have next to nothing, you take from them something of small value, or a brooch worth one, two or three pennies. Because we do not wish to be blamed for the sufferings of the poor, we order that you do not take small things in the name of taxation, especially brooches or playthings. Playthings are excluded from this tax. With the king as witness, at Winchester, on 29th March.
Henry III is making a clear and strong case here, and in 1225 the great council have agreed to a pay for this war with a major new tax - £1 on anyone who owned over £15 in property. This is a high level of taxation - on the same scale as the taxes raised by his father King John. The King is arguing that this tax is to recover lost French lands but also to defend the realm. He is encouraging his officers to explain this to those who object to paying it. But is he also threatening a loss of rights to those who will not pay? Is this a reasonable approach or is the king expecting a lot of resistance?
Tax documents 1225
C 66/32 m 6d
The National Archives
The King witnessed this document at Winchester Castle - the place where he was born. It was built in 1067, but Henry III himself added to it between 1222 and 1235, including a ‘Great Hall’ which is the only part of the castle which still stands today!
Test your understanding
What was excluded from this new tax?
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Yes — well done!
The answer is brooches and playthings this meant that personal items such as toys and jewellery will not be taken as tax. This also included books, church ornaments, weapons, the contents of your larder, even hay!
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…