History of the Borough
3: The 1205 Charter
By the beginning of the 13th century it had become clear that written clarification of the borough's government was necessary, and the burgesses therefore approached the King with a request for a Royal Charter (the word 'charter' comes from the Latin 'carta,' meaning 'a writing'). The earliest charter was granted by King John on Sunday 7 August 1205. It confirmed the town's status as a borough, and gave Huntingdon the right to hold a weekly market.
The advantage to the King was financial, as towns had to pay for their charters. It had long been customary for English rulers to raise cash by granting royal charters to towns, and King John was in dire need of money following the military extravagances of Richard the Lionheart. In the year 1205 King John granted charters to Andover, Ayr, Dover, Hastings, Sandwich, New Romney, Waterford, and Lynn, as well as Huntingdon. Huntingdon had to pay the King £40 every year for the right to be a borough. This was a huge sum of money in medieval England, and it payment caused the town many problems during later centuries.
The cost to the town was called a 'fee farm,' an annual payment of a set amount. Huntingdon's fee farm was set at £30 per year, a very large sum of money which caused the borough many financial problems during the later middle ages.
Although the 1205 charter confirmed Huntingdon's status as a borough, it failed to clarify what the various duties, rights, and privileges the town's burgesses actually had. This caused confusion in later years, and many of the town's later charters went into much more detail about what these obligations really were.