London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details

Royal writ [the "William Charter"]

Date of Creation:

c. 1067

Reference Code:


From Collection:


Scope and Content:
  • Addressed to the bishop, portreeve and burgesses in London, guaranteeing the citizens' rights [unspecified] as their fathers held them in King Edward the Confessor's time, and confirming that each man should be his father's heir. Endorsed with one contemporary word, now illegible, and "Carta regis Willelmi de libertatibus" in a [12th century] hand. Old English.

Other Formats: Digital surrogate available through online catalogue
Classification: CITY OF LONDON
Former Reference: CH 1A
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:
  • Document

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Administrative History:
  • This charter is the oldest document in the archive of the City of London Corporation.

    The charter was drawn up soon after William’s coronation in Westminster Abbey in December 1066. Following the Battle of Hastings in October 1066 William had subjugated much of the south-east of England as he marched towards London. With the City of London however he used a different approach, recognising the importance of safeguarding its wealth and international trading links. A peaceful agreement with Londoners was reached, seen in this charter which is written in Old English (not William’s native Norman French) and in the established form of administrative letter used by English kings.

    This charter is the earliest known royal document in Europe to guarantee the collective rights of all (not just a specific group of) the inhabitants of a town. The charter bears the earliest surviving impression of the seal of the new King of England.
Access Restrictions: Available only with advance notice and at the discretion of the LMA Director
Physical Condition: Size 6" x 1.5". Capital initial. Wrapping tie and tongue. Seal imperfect, detached and conserved.
Publication Notes:

The date of the charter and the discovery of fragments of the seal are referred to in Dr. A.H. Thomas" report to the Court of Common Council, presented on 15 Dec 1927 [Common Council Papers 15 Dec 1927].

The charter is cited in many historical works, including the following:
- London and the Kingdom by Reginald R. Sharpe (London, 1894)
- Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum 1066-1154 Volume 1 Regesta Willelmi Conquestoris et Willelmi Rufi 1066-1100 edited by H.W.C. Davis with R.J. Whitwell (Oxford, 1913)
- Facsimiles of English Royal Writs to A.D. 1100 Presented to Vivian Hunter Galbraith, ed. by T.A.M. Bishop and P. Chaplais (Oxford, 1957).
- The History of London: London 800 - 1216 The Shaping of a City by Christopher N.L. Brooke assisted by Gillian Keir (London, 1975)
- The Chronicles of London by Andrew Saint and Gillian Darley (London, 1994)
This charter has been inscribed on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register.

Language Notes: Old English