Source 1

Extract from the Charter of Liberties – King John confirms King Henry I’s liberties to the Jews, c. 1201. Catalogue Ref: C 53/4, m. 4.

Latin transcript

Carte Libertatum concessarum et confirmatarum Judeis Anglie anno Regni Johannis Secundo.

Johannes, Dei gratia etc. Sciatis Nos concessisse omnibus Judeis Anglie et Normannie libere et honorifice habere residenciam in terra nostra, et omnia illa de Nobis tenenda que tenuerunt de Rege Henrico, avo patris nostri, et omnia illa que modo racionabiliter tenet in terries et feodis et vadiis akatis suis, et quod habeant omnes libertates et consuetudines suas, sicut eas habuerunt tempore predicti Regis Henrici, avi patris nostril, Melius et quiecius et honorabilius.

Et si querela orta fuerit inter Christianum et Judeum, ille qui alium appellaverit ad querelam suam diracionandam habeat testes, scilicet, legittimum Christianum et legittimum Judeum. Et si Judeus de querela sua breve habuerit, breve suum erit ei testis; et si Christianus habuerit querelam ad versus Judeum, sit judicata per pares Judei.


Et liceat Judeis omnia que eis apportata fuerint sine occasione accipere et emere, exceptis illis que de Ecclesia sunt et panno sanguinolento. Et si Judeus ab aliquo appellatus fuerit sine teste, de illo appellatu
erit quietus solo sacramento suo super Librum suum. Et de appellatu illarum rerum que ad Coronam nostram pertinent similiter quietus erit solo sacramento suo super Rotulum suum.

Et si inter Christianum et Judeum fuerit dissensio de accommodatione alicujus pecunie, Judeus probabit catallum suum et Christianus lucrum.


Et Judei non intrabunt in placitum nisi coram Nobis, vel coram illis qui turres nostras custodierint, in quorum ballivis Judei manserint.


Et mandamus vobis et precipimus, quod eos custodiatis et defendatis et manuteneatis. Et prohibemus, ne quis contra Cartam istam de biis supradictis eos in placitum […]

Simplified translation

Charter of Liberties granted and confirmed to the Jews of England in the Second Year of the reign of King John.

[Issued by King] John, by the grace of God, etc. Know that we have granted to all the Jews of England and Normandy free and honourable 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 hold in land, fees, 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, in better and more peaceful and honourable enjoyment.

And if any dispute arises between a Christian and a Jew, he who summons the other to answer his complaint should have witnesses: a lawful Christian and a lawful Jew. And if a Jew has a writ (a written command) 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.


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.

And if any Jew is summoned by anyone without a witness, he shall be quit (freed) of that appeal by his oath upon his Book [the Torah]. And in like manner, he shall be quit (freed) of an appeal of those things that belong to our crown by his oath upon his Roll [a Torah scroll].

And if there is a dispute between Christian and Jew about a loan of money, the Jew shall prove the capital (evidence of the loan) and the Christian the interest.


And Jews shall not enter court proceedings except before us and before those who guard our castles (royal sheriffs) in whose bailiwicks the Jews live.


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 […]


« Return to Jews in England 1066


These are extracts from a royal charter issued by King John on 10th April 1201 that outline how Jews should be treated during his reign as king. Read through the translation and consider the following questions:

  1. What two areas does the charter concern? Why might the charter address Jews in both these places?
  2. Is King John the first English king to grant these freedoms to Jewish communities?
  3. Why might the King want to ‘guard’ and ‘protect’ Jews?
  4. Why do you believe the King needed to restore these rules in his kingdom?
  5. Why might the King only want Jewish individuals to be seen in his own law courts?
  6. Is there evidence in the charter that suggests King John respected the religious practices of Jews? Explain your answer.