via Magna Carta translated into Anglo-Norman French – The British Library

Magna Carta translated into Anglo-Norman French

To make Magna Carta readily intelligible to the barons, it was translated into French, their spoken language. One translation can be dated to 1215 itself, but the translation seen here is later, being found in an unofficial collection of legal material compiled in the reign of Edward I (r. 1272–1307). The heading, ‘Icy comence la chartre le Rey Johan done a Renemede’, reflects the way the 1215 Charter was often described as ‘The Charter of Runnymede’, ‘Magna Carta’ itself being reserved for the versions of that document issued by Henry III (r. 1216–72). The translation was made from a text containing elements of an earlier draft which differed from the authorised 1215 version. Indeed, the circulation of unofficial texts played a significant part in spreading awareness of the 1215 charter. During the 13th century, both the 1215 charter and the later versions of Magna Carta were copied into numerous chronicles, cartularies and legal collections.

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