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You are here: Home Page > Leisure and Culture > Local History and Heritage > The Royal Charter

The Royal Charter

One of the notable achievements of King Henry II was the creation of about 150 chartered boroughs throughout the country. These gave the town liberties in exchange for annual taxes paid to the King. There were a number of liberties but they included the right to set up courts of law, freedom from manorial dues and other tolls. There was an annual rental paid direct to the King’s treasury (the first amount mentioned for Bedford, which had a population of about 3000, was £40).

The Bedford Charter was given in 1166. The original is in the Bedfordshire Record Office at Borough Hall. A framed copy is on the Parlour wall. There is also a copy on the wall of a painting, by K Petts, of the burgesses collecting the charter from the King in Rouen, France where he and his troops were fighting. However, it was clearly not the first charter since it confirms the privileges given in Henry I’s days. It is thought that the earlier charter (or charters) was destroyed during the civil wars in the early 12th Century during King Steven’s reign.

The Bedford Charter is probably the second oldest in the country. The oldest was presented to Oxford and is mentioned in the Bedford charter.



 

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