The rare 13th century King John Royal Charter found in British Ushaw College Library

The rare 13th century King John Royal Charter found in British Ushaw College Library

The rare 13th century King John Royal Charter found in British Ushaw College Library

A rare original royal charter, dating back 819 years, dubbed the first ever British ‘Who’s Who,’ was discovered by a stunned historian.

The document bears the seal of King John, who reigned from 1199 to 1216, and was issued in York on 26 March 1200.

It was thought to have been lost or destroyed centuries ago, but it was found in the Ushaw College Library, which is managed by Durham University.

Dr Benjamin Pohl, a senior lecturer in Medieval History at Bristol University, discovered a rare original royal charter dating back 819 years and dubbed it the first ever ‘Who’s Who’ of Britain

Fewer than a dozen original charters have survived since the first year of King John’s reign.

Dr. Benjamin Pohl, a senior lecturer in medieval history at Bristol University, uncovered the charter by chance while studying medieval manuscripts at Ushaw College.

The document carries the seal of King John, who reigned from 1199 until 1216, and was issued in York on March 26, 1200

The list names rich and powerful barons from the north of England eager to do business with King John – in what Dr Pohl describes as a ‘Who’s who’ of those in charge at the time.

Dr Pohl said: ‘Discovering the original charter at Ushaw is extremely exciting, not least because it allows us to develop a fuller picture of the people who were present at York on March 26, 1200, and eager to do business with the new king.

‘Medieval charters are important not just because of the legal acts they contain, but also for what they can tell us about the society and political culture at the time.

‘Indeed, their issuing authorities, beneficiaries and witnesses provide a cross-section of medieval England’s ruling elites.

‘Our charter might best be described, therefore, as a kind of ‘who’s who’ of Northern England (and beyond) at the turn of the thirteenth century.’

Fewer than a dozen original charters have survived from the first year of King John’s reign

The document confirmed the granting of possessions in County Durham, namely the two hamlets of Cornsay and Hedley Hill, to Walter of Caen and Robert FitzRoger, Lord of Warkworth and Sherriff of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Walter and Robert were nephews of Simon, a chamberlain of Durham who had originally received the grants from his bishop, Hugh de Puiset, sometime before 1183, but who later decided to part with the bequests in order to provide for his two younger relatives.

Professor David Cowling, pro-vice-chancellor for arts and humanities at Durham University, said: ‘For one of our visiting fellows to identify an item from the collection as a previously uncatalogued medieval royal charter is a wonderful example of the benefits and advances that can be made by working and exploring our archives together.’

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