Free Online Bible Library | Mortmain

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The third reissue of Magna Carta (1217) forbade subtenants to donate lands fraudulently to “any religious house” and then receive them back at a rent. Such donations enabled subtenants to evade paying their superior lords feudal incidents like wardships and reliefs, legally due from the lands. These donations were known as gifts into mortmain. In 1279 Edward I's famous statute of mortmain forbade any gifts of land to ecclesiastical corporations, regardless of whether they were to be received back or not, or whether the superior lords had consented. In practice a license permitting such gifts was obtainable from the king for a fee, and thousands of licenses were granted. Mortmain Acts were also passed in 1290, 1391, 1531, 1736, and 1888. The 1960 Charities Act abolished mortmain.