Cheshire's own Magna Carta

Home » Newsroom » Cheshire's own Magna Carta
Magna Carta 2

Many of you will know that this year marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta — the famous document which King John was forced by his barons to concede at Runnymede in 1215, and which still forms an important symbol of liberty today.

However, rather less well known is the fact that Cheshire had its own Magna Carta. It was issued by Earl Ranulf III of Chester, sometime in 1215 or 1216, almost certainly in the months after England's Magna Carta. Earl Ranulf was one of the most powerful barons in England, and the Earldom of Chester had a special status under the Crown, reflecting its crucial strategic position on the border with Wales.

Unlike England's Magna Carta, the Cheshire document was not issued under threat of rebellion, although how willingly the Earl issued it is unclear. The text said that it was issued at the request of his barons, but also that the Earl had not granted everything they asked for. It may be that in issuing it Earl Ranulf was imitating King John and so seeking to give himself almost equal status, as if he were effectively the King of Cheshire.

The Cheshire Magna Carta was quite a bit shorter that the "other" Magna Carta. It only had 13 clauses, compared to more than 60 in King John's charter. Some of the clauses are similar, but it is not just a copy or cut-down version of King John's charter. There has even been a suggestion that the Cheshire document might have come first. Most of the clauses (like most of the clauses in the English Magna Carta) are about the relationship between the Earl and his subordinate barons, their rights and duties, but the final clause requires the barons to offer similar concessions to their tenants, so that the protections offered by the charter should "trickle down", as we might say, to the lower levels of society.

In 1237 the Earldom of Chester reverted to the King (Henry III, as by now King John was dead). From then on England's Magna Carta clearly applied to Cheshire, but Earl Ranulf's charter was reissued more than once, suggesting it was still seen as important locally.
Unfortunately no original copy of the Cheshire Magna Carta survives, so it will not be joining the copies of King John's charter to be displayed this year at the British Library.

(With thanks to Jonathan Pepler, former County Archivist, for most of the information in this article)

popular recent storiesAlso in the news

vandalised trees
Sat 16 Jun 6:00am  |  hits: 750

Last Friday night a group of teenagers...not from this development.... broke down virtually all the young trees in the little childrens' playground on the Saxon Heath TW development.The residents of the development will now have to pay additional fees to the ground maintenance company that looks after the public areas of the development (Something the LA should be doing!!!-...

THR Tarvin Carnival June 1991 Scan_20180610 (4)
Mon 18 Jun 6:00am  |  hits: 462

In June 1991 villagers refused to be downhearted by what was described as "appalling weather" and hence helped to still raise £1,500 at the 20th Tarvin Carnival. Despite what at time amounted to torrential rain the show went on with the then traditional parade of floats round the village, with the first prize going to the Tarvin Primary School. Again in those days, there was the...

gnome1
Thu 14 Jun 6:00am  |  hits: 294

Half way through, and how many gnomes have you found?Its been wonderful watching so may people walking around the village, trying to find the most elusive of the 76 gnomes. The beautiful weather has helped, but it is the creativity on show that has been the main event.There is still plenty of time to take part, it runs until 22nd June, and Trails can be bought for £2...