The William II Charter
King William II by John Faber Jr, after Unknown artist mezzotint, circa 1731 NPG D33924 © National Portrait Gallery, London
The William II Charter
This royal charter is the earliest surviving item within the Cathedral Archives, dating from July 1099/1100. Written in Latin, it provides confirmation from King William II to the canons of St Paul’s of their rights of jurisdiction over their property.
The Cathedral had held the land since its foundation in 604AD and continued to own property until the 19th century. This included the estates of Tillingham in Essex, as well as land to the north and east of the city of London in Stepney, Hackney and Clerkenwell. The ownership of this land provided essential income to fund the clergy’s work, both internally and throughout the Diocese of London.
‘The rights of sac and soc’
The Latin text is translated into English as follows:
William, King of the English, to the bishops, earls, thanes and sheriffs in whose counties the canons of St Paul’s hold lands, greetings.
Know that I have granted to the canons of St Paul’s the rights of sac and soc [the right to administer justice], within burgh and without, on land and shore, and rights of toll and theam and infangthief, and forfeiture in dispute and of military service and breach of the peace, within mass and without, as fully, in all things, as ever they had better in the days of any king. And I forbid anyone to injure them in any way.
So if my ministers, or any other, shall have committed injustice to them, he shall make serious amends to me.
Witnessed by Ranulf, Bishop of Durham. At Brockhurst on the eighth day of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
The William II Charter with seal attached.
The privileges granted by the King to the canons of St Paul’s meant that they had the right to impose a payment on the sale of the passage of goods or cattle on their lands, as well as the right to hold a court to judge those who may wrongfully possess goods or cattle.
The Charter is held at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), alongside many other items relating to the activities of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral. The records at LMA relate mostly to the constitution, administration, services, finances and fabric of the Cathedral, the Peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter (including probate), and the estates of the Dean and Chapter and Cathedral officials.