One of King John’s rare genuine royal charters has been found in Durham.
He reigned from 1199 until 1216. The document was produced in York on March 26, 1200 – 819 years ago.
Among Durham University’s Ushaw College Library, it was discovered in the archives.
A total of less than a dozen charters from the first year of King John’s reign have been preserved.
It was stumbled upon by chance by Dr Benjamin Pohl, a senior lecturer in Medieval History at Bristol University, who was looking through mediaeval manuscripts at Ushaw College.
His report indicated that the paper was meticulously produced and written in a style known as “court hand”, most likely by a member of the king’s cabinet or chancery department.
I am really excited about finding the original charter, not least because it helps us to create a clearer image of the people who were there in York on 26 March 1200 and keen to do business with the new king.
They are important not just for the legal actions they contain, but also because of what they may teach us about the society and political culture of the period.
If you want to know who was in Northern England at the turn of the 13th century, our charter is a good place to start.
Robert FitzRoger, Lord of Warkworth and Sherriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, received holdings in County Durham, especially Cornsay and Hedley Hill.
In 1183 Simon, a Durham chamberlain got the donations from his bishop, Hugh de Puiset. However, he later decided to give them to his nephews, Walter and Robert.
A Durham University visiting fellow identified a mediaeval royal charter that had never been catalogued before. Prof David Cowling, pro-vice-chancellor for arts and humanities at Durham University, said: “This is a wonderful example of the benefits and advances that can be made by working and exploring our archives together.
In Durham is also the bishop’s charter, which records Simon’s initial grants. This allows the two original documents to be viewed side-by-side for the first time.