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Charter of Incorporation (Coventry Charter)

This is the 'foundation charter' or 'charter of incorporation' for the municipal city of Coventry, written on 20 January 1345.  It gave Coventry independant city status and the right to govern itself.

Establishing a commonalty with cogniscance of pleas, debts and gaol. Click here to read the translation -

Edward by the grace of God King of England and France and Lord of Ireland to his Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Priors, Earls, Barons, Justices, Sheriffs, Reeves, Ministers and all his bailiffs and faithful people, greeting. 

Let it be known that, at the instance and request of the most serene queen of England Isabella our mother, now tenant for her life of the manor of Cheylesmore in Coventry with the appurtenances in the county of Warwick, and out of consideration of our very dear first-born son, Edward, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester, to whom the said manor with its appurtenances is to remain after the death of our said mother: We, being willing to grant favours and privileges to the men of the town of Coventry, tenants of the said manor, that they and their heirs and successors may henceforth have a commonalty among themselves and may elect and create annually from among themselves a mayor and fit bailiffs who, having taken their oath, as is customary, may thenceforth do and maintain those things which have to be done and executed, and which appertain to the offices of mayor and bailiffs in the same town. We have also granted for us and our heirs to the aforesaid men, tenants of our same mother there, that they, their heirs and successors may have for ever cognisance of all pleas of trespasses, contracts, and covenants and of other matters whatsoever arising among themselves within the aforesaid town. And moreover, for the security and tranquillity both of the men and tenants aforesaid and of the merchants and others coming to the same town, we have granted for us and our heirs that henceforth they may have in the same town a certain seal of ours by us to be ordained, of two pieces, as is usual, for taking recognisances of debts there according to the form of the statutes of merchants. And the greater part of the aforesaid seal shall remain in the custody of the aforesaid mayor for the time being and the smaller part of the same seal in the custody of a certain clerk to be appointed by us and our heirs according to the form of the said statutes; and that the same mayor and clerk shall henceforth take recognisances of debts according to the tenor of the same statutes and shall duly put the same into execution. We will also grant for us and our heirs that a certain prison shall be made and had in the same town on the land of our said mother for the punishment of malefactors taken there, as is customary, of which prison and of the prisoners therein, from whatever cause it shall happen that they shall be taken there, the said mayor and bailiffs for the time being shall have the custody and care. Wherefore we will and firmly command for us and our heirs that the aforesaid men of the town of Coventry, tenants of our said mother, and their heirs and successors, may henceforth have a commonalty among themselves and may elect and create annually from among themselves a mayor and fit bailiffs, who, having taken their oaths, as is customary, may thenceforth do and maintain those things which have to be done and executed, and which appertain to the offices of mayor and bailiffs in the same town. And that they may have for ever cognisance of all pleas of trespasses, contracts, and covenants and of other matter whatsoever arising among themselves within the aforesaid town; and also that henceforth they may have in the same town a certain seal of ours by us to be ordained, of two pieces, as is usual, for taking recognizances of debts there according to the form of the statutes of merchants. And the greater part of the aforesaid seal shall remain in the custody of the aforesaid mayor for the time being and the lesser part in the custody of a certain clerk to be appointed by us and our heirs according to the form of the said statutes, and that the same mayor and clerk shall henceforth take the recognisances of debts according to the tenor of the same statutes and shall duly put the same into execution; and also that a certain prison shall be made and had in the same town on the land of our said mother for the punshment of malefactors taken there, as is customary, of which prison and of the prisoners therein from whatsoever cause it shall happen that they be taken there, the said mayor and bailiffs for the time being shall have the custody and care as is aforesaid.

Witnesses: John, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England; Robert, Bishop of Chichester; Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Derby; William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton; and Richard, Earl of Arundel; Robert of Sadyngton, our Chancellor; William de Edyngdon, our treasurer; Ralph de Stafford, the steward of our household, and others.

Given by our hand at Westminster on the twentieth day of January in the eighteenth year of our reign over England but the fifth over France.

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