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Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Literary Latin used in Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local languages were also written to varying deg ...
for "Great Charter of Freedoms"), commonly called (also ''Magna Charta''; "Great Charter"), is a
royal charter A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under royal prerogative The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in Civil law (legal system), civil law ...
of
rights Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people according to some legal system, social convent ...
agreed to by
King John of England King is the title given to a male monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for life or until abdication, and therefore the head of state of a mo ...
at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215. First drafted by the
Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally resp ...
, Cardinal Stephen Langton, to make peace between the unpopular king and a group of rebel
baron Baron is a rank of nobility Nobility is a social class found in many societies that have an aristocracy (class), aristocracy. It is normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty. Nobility has often been an Estates of the rea ...
s, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on
feudal Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, cultural and political customs that flourished in Middle Ages, medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a wa ...
payments to
the Crown The Crown is the state (polity), state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as the Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories, overseas territories, Provinces and territorie ...
, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons. Neither side stood behind their commitments, and the charter was annulled by
Pope Innocent III Pope Innocent III ( la, Innocentius III; 1160 or 1161 – 16 July 1216), born Lotario dei Conti di Segni (anglicized as Lothar of Conti di Segni, Segni), was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 8 January 1198 to h ...
, leading to the
First Barons' War The First Barons' War (1215–1217) was a civil war in the Kingdom of England in which a group of rebellious major landowners (commonly referred to as English feudal barony, barons) led by Robert Fitzwalter waged war against John of England, Ki ...
. After John's death, the regency government of his young son, Henry III, reissued the document in 1216, stripped of some of its more radical content, in an unsuccessful bid to build political support for their cause. At the end of the war in 1217, it formed part of the peace treaty agreed at Lambeth, where the document acquired the name "Magna Carta", to distinguish it from the smaller
Charter of the Forest The Charter of the Forest of 1217 ( la, Carta Foresta) is a charter that re-established for free tenant, free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by King William the Conqueror and his heirs. Many of its provisions were i ...
which was issued at the same time. Short of funds, Henry reissued the charter again in 1225 in exchange for a grant of new taxes. His son,
Edward I Edward I (17/18 June 1239 – 7 July 1307), also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1272 to 1307. Concurrently, he ruled the duchies of Duchy of Aquitaine, Aquitaine and D ...
, repeated the exercise in 1297, this time confirming it as part of England's
statute law Statutory law or statute law is written law passed by a body of legislature. This is opposed to Oral law, oral or customary law; or regulatory law promulgated by the Executive (government), executive or common law of the judiciary. Statutes may or ...
. The charter became part of English political life and was typically renewed by each monarch in turn, although as time went by and the fledgling
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the 13th century until 1707 when it was replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain. Parliament evolved from the great council of bishops and peers that advis ...
passed new laws, it lost some of its practical significance. At the end of the 16th century, there was an upsurge in interest in Magna Carta. Lawyers and historians at the time believed that there was an ancient English constitution, going back to the days of the
Anglo-Saxons The Anglo-Saxons were a Cultural identity, cultural group who inhabited England in the Early Middle Ages. They traced their origins to settlers who came to Britain from mainland Europe in the 5th century. However, the ethnogenesis of the Anglo- ...
, that protected individual English freedoms. They argued that the Norman invasion of 1066 had overthrown these rights, and that Magna Carta had been a popular attempt to restore them, making the charter an essential foundation for the contemporary powers of Parliament and legal principles such as '' habeas corpus''. Although this historical account was badly flawed, jurists such as Sir
Edward Coke Edward is an English given name A given name (also known as a forename or first name) is the part of a personal name quoted in that identifies a person, potentially with a middle name as well, and differentiates that person from the other ...
used Magna Carta extensively in the early 17th century, arguing against the
divine right of kings In European Christianity, the divine right of kings, divine right, or God's mandation is a political and religious doctrine of political legitimacy of a monarchy. It stems from a specific Metaphysics, metaphysical framework in which a monarch ...
. Both James I and his son Charles I attempted to suppress the discussion of Magna Carta. The political myth of Magna Carta and its protection of ancient personal liberties persisted after the
Glorious Revolution The Glorious Revolution; gd, Rèabhlaid Ghlòrmhor; cy, Chwyldro Gogoneddus , also known as the ''Glorieuze Overtocht'' or ''Glorious Crossing'' in the Netherlands, is the sequence of events leading to the deposition of King James II and ...
of 1688 until well into the 19th century. It influenced the early American colonists in the Thirteen Colonies and the formation of the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It superseded the Articles of Confederation, the nation's first constitution, in 1789. Originally comprising seven articles, it delineates the nat ...
, which became the supreme law of the land in the new republic of the United States. Research by Victorian historians showed that the original 1215 charter had concerned the medieval relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of ordinary people, but the charter remained a powerful, iconic document, even after almost all of its content was repealed from the statute books in the 19th and 20th centuries. None of the original 1215 Magna Carta is currently in force as it was repealed, however four clauses of the original charter (1 (part), 13, 39 and 40) are enshrined in the 1297 reissued Magna Carta and do still remain in force in England and Wales (as clauses 1, 9 and 29 of the 1297 statute). Magna Carta still forms an important symbol of liberty today, often cited by politicians and campaigners, and is held in great respect by the British and American legal communities, Lord Denning describing it as "the greatest constitutional document of all —the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot". In the 21st century, four exemplifications of the original 1215 charter remain in existence, two at the
British Library The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and is one of the List of largest libraries, largest libraries in the world. It is estimated to contain between 170 and 200 million items from many countries. As a legal de ...
, one at Lincoln Castle and one at Salisbury Cathedral. There are also a handful of the subsequent charters in public and private ownership, including copies of the 1297 charter in both the United States and Australia. Although scholars refer to the 63 numbered "clauses" of Magna Carta, this is a modern system of numbering, introduced by Sir
William Blackstone Sir William Blackstone (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English jurist, judge and Tory (British political party), Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the ''Commentaries on the Laws of England''. Bo ...
in 1759; the original charter formed a single, long unbroken text. The four original 1215 charters were displayed together at the British Library for one day, 3 February 2015, to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.


History


13th century


Background

Magna Carta originated as an unsuccessful attempt to achieve peace between royalist and rebel factions in 1215, as part of the events leading to the outbreak of the
First Barons' War The First Barons' War (1215–1217) was a civil war in the Kingdom of England in which a group of rebellious major landowners (commonly referred to as English feudal barony, barons) led by Robert Fitzwalter waged war against John of England, Ki ...
. England was ruled by King John, the third of the Angevin kings. Although the kingdom had a robust administrative system, the nature of government under the Angevin monarchs was ill-defined and uncertain. John and his predecessors had ruled using the principle of , or "force and will", taking executive and sometimes arbitrary decisions, often justified on the basis that a king was above the law. Many contemporary writers believed that monarchs should rule in accordance with the custom and the law, with the counsel of the leading members of the realm, but there was no model for what should happen if a king refused to do so. John had lost most of his ancestral lands in France to King Philip II in 1204 and had struggled to regain them for many years, raising extensive taxes on the barons to accumulate money to fight a war which ended in expensive failure in 1214. Following the defeat of his allies at the
Battle of Bouvines The Battle of Bouvines was fought on 27 July 1214 near the town of Bouvines in the County of Flanders. It was the concluding battle of the Anglo-French War (1213–14), Anglo-French War of 1213–1214. Although estimates on the number of troop ...
, John had to sue for peace and pay compensation. John was already personally unpopular with many of the barons, many of whom owed money to the Crown, and little trust existed between the two sides. A triumph would have strengthened his position, but in the face of his defeat, within a few months after his return from France, John found that rebel barons in the north and east of England were organising resistance to his rule. The rebels took an oath that they would "stand fast for the liberty of the church and the realm", and demanded that the King confirm the Charter of Liberties that had been declared by King Henry I in the previous century, and which was perceived by the barons to protect their rights. The rebel leadership was unimpressive by the standards of the time, even disreputable, but were united by their hatred of John; Robert Fitzwalter, later elected leader of the rebel barons, claimed publicly that John had attempted to rape his daughter, and was implicated in a plot to assassinate John in 1212. John held a council in London in January 1215 to discuss potential reforms, and sponsored discussions in
Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2020, its population was estimated at 151,584. It is north-west of London, south-east of Birmingham and north-east of Bristol. The city is home to the Un ...
between his agents and the rebels during the spring. Both sides appealed to
Pope Innocent III Pope Innocent III ( la, Innocentius III; 1160 or 1161 – 16 July 1216), born Lotario dei Conti di Segni (anglicized as Lothar of Conti di Segni, Segni), was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 8 January 1198 to h ...
for assistance in the dispute. During the negotiations, the rebellious barons produced an initial document, which historians have termed "the Unknown Charter of Liberties", which drew on Henry I's Charter of Liberties for much of its language; seven articles from that document later appeared in the "Articles of the Barons" and the subsequent charter. It was John's hope that the Pope would give him valuable legal and moral support, and accordingly John played for time; the King had declared himself to be a papal vassal in 1213 and correctly believed he could count on the Pope for help. John also began recruiting mercenary forces from France, although some were later sent back to avoid giving the impression that the King was escalating the conflict. In a further move to shore up his support, John took an oath to become a crusader, a move which gave him additional political protection under church law, even though many felt the promise was insincere. Letters backing John arrived from the Pope in April, but by then the rebel barons had organised into a military faction. They congregated at
Northampton Northampton () is a market town and civil parish in the East Midlands of England, on the River Nene, north-west of London and south-east of Birmingham. The county town of Northamptonshire, Northampton is one of the largest towns in England; ...
in May and renounced their feudal ties to John, marching on
London London is the capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom, with a population of just under 9 million. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a estuary dow ...
, Lincoln, and
Exeter Exeter () is a city in Devon, South West England. It is situated on the River Exe, approximately northeast of Plymouth and southwest of Bristol. In Roman Britain, Exeter was established as the base of Legio II Augusta under the personal comm ...
. John's efforts to appear moderate and conciliatory had been largely successful, but once the rebels held London, they attracted a fresh wave of defectors from the royalists. The King offered to submit the problem to a committee of arbitration with the Pope as the supreme arbiter, but this was not attractive to the rebels. Stephen Langton, the
archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally resp ...
, had been working with the rebel barons on their demands, and after the suggestion of papal arbitration failed, John instructed Langton to organise peace talks.


Great Charter of 1215

John met the rebel leaders at Runnymede, a water-meadow on the south bank of the
River Thames The River Thames ( ), known alternatively in parts as the River Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London London is the capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and th ...
, on 10 June 1215. Runnymede was a traditional place for assemblies, but it was also located on neutral ground between the royal fortress of
Windsor Castle Windsor Castle is a List of British royal residences, royal residence at Windsor, Berkshire, Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. It is strongly associated with the Kingdom of England, English and succeeding British royal family, and ...
and the rebel base at Staines, and offered both sides the security of a rendezvous where they were unlikely to find themselves at a military disadvantage. Here the rebels presented John with their draft demands for reform, the 'Articles of the Barons'. Stephen Langton's pragmatic efforts at mediation over the next ten days turned these incomplete demands into a charter capturing the proposed peace agreement; a few years later, this agreement was renamed Magna Carta, meaning "Great Charter". By 15 June, general agreement had been made on a text, and on 19 June, the rebels renewed their oaths of loyalty to John and copies of the charter were formally issued. Although, as the historian David Carpenter has noted, the charter "wasted no time on political theory", it went beyond simply addressing individual baronial complaints, and formed a wider proposal for political reform. It promised the protection of church rights, protection from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and, most importantly, limitations on taxation and other feudal payments to the Crown, with certain forms of feudal taxation requiring baronial consent. It focused on the rights of free men—in particular, the barons; however, the rights of
serf Serfdom was the status of many peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism, and similar systems. It was a condition of debt bondage and indentured servitude with similarities to and differences from slavery, which developed ...
s were included in articles 16, 20 and 28. Its style and content reflected Henry I's Charter of Liberties, as well as a wider body of legal traditions, including the royal charters issued to towns, the operations of the Church and baronial courts and European charters such as the Statute of Pamiers. Under what historians later labelled "clause 61", or the "security clause", a council of 25 barons would be created to monitor and ensure John's future adherence to the charter. If John did not conform to the charter within 40 days of being notified of a transgression by the council, the 25 barons were empowered by clause 61 to seize John's castles and lands until, in their judgement, amends had been made. Men were to be compelled to swear an oath to assist the council in controlling the King, but once redress had been made for any breaches, the King would continue to rule as before. In one sense this was not unprecedented; other kings had previously conceded the right of individual resistance to their subjects if the King did not uphold his obligations. Magna Carta was, however, novel in that it set up a formally recognised means of collectively coercing the King. The historian Wilfred Warren argues that it was almost inevitable that the clause would result in civil war, as it "was crude in its methods and disturbing in its implications". The barons were trying to force John to keep to the charter, but clause 61 was so heavily weighted against the King that this version of the charter could not survive. John and the rebel barons did not trust each other, and neither side seriously attempted to implement the peace accord. The 25 barons selected for the new council were all rebels, chosen by the more extremist barons, and many among the rebels found excuses to keep their forces mobilised. Disputes began to emerge between the royalist faction and those rebels who had expected the charter to return lands that had been confiscated. Clause 61 of Magna Carta contained a commitment from John that he would "seek to obtain nothing from anyone, in our own person or through someone else, whereby any of these grants or liberties may be revoked or diminished". Despite this, the King appealed to Pope Innocent for help in July, arguing that the charter compromised the Pope's rights as John's feudal lord. As part of the June peace deal, the barons were supposed to surrender London by 15 August, but this they refused to do. Meanwhile, instructions from the Pope arrived in August, written before the peace accord, with the result that papal commissioners excommunicated the rebel barons and suspended Langton from office in early September. Once aware of the charter, the Pope responded in detail: in a letter dated 24 August and arriving in late September, he declared the charter to be "not only shameful and demeaning but also illegal and unjust" since John had been "forced to accept" it, and accordingly the charter was "null, and void of all validity for ever"; under threat of excommunication, the King was not to observe the charter, nor the barons try to enforce it. By then, violence had broken out between the two sides; less than three months after it had been agreed, John and the loyalist barons firmly repudiated the failed charter: the First Barons' War erupted. The rebel barons concluded that peace with John was impossible, and turned to Philip II's son, the future Louis VIII, for help, offering him the English throne. The war soon settled into a stalemate. The King became ill and died on the night of 18 October 1216, leaving the nine-year-old Henry III as his heir.


= Charters of the Welsh Princes

= The Magna Carta of 1215 was the first document in which reference is made to English and Welsh law alongside one another, including the principle of the common acceptance of the lawful judgement of peers. Chapter 56: The return of lands and liberties to Welshmen if those lands and liberties had been taken by English (and vice versa) without a law abiding judgement of their peers. Chapter 57: The return of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, illegitimate son of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great) along with other Welsh hostages which were originally taken for "peace" and "good".


=Lists of participants in 1215

=


Counsellors named in Magna Carta

The preamble to Magna Carta includes the names of the following 27 ecclesiastical and secular magnates who had counselled John to accept its terms. The names include some of the moderate reformers, notably Archbishop Stephen Langton, and some of John's loyal supporters, such as William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. They are listed here in the order in which they appear in the charter itself: * Stephen Langton,
Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally resp ...
and Cardinal * Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin * William of Sainte-Mère-Église, Bishop of London *
Peter des Roches Peter des Roches (died 9 June 1238) (List of Latinised names, Latinised as ''Peter de Rupibus'' ("Peter from the rocks")) was bishop of Winchester in the reigns of King John of England and his son Henry III of England, Henry III. He was not an E ...
,
Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Winchester in the Church of England. The bishop's seat (''cathedra'') is at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire. The Bishop of Winchester has always held ''ex officio'' (except dur ...
* Jocelin of Wells, Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury * Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln * Walter de Gray,
Bishop of Worcester A bishop is an ordained Ordination is the process by which individuals are Consecration, consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are thus then authorization, authorized (usually by the religious ...
* William de Cornhill, Bishop of Coventry * Benedict of Sausetun, Bishop of Rochester * Pandulf Verraccio, subdeacon and
papal legate image:K. Henry 2. Kissing the knee of the Popes Legate comming into England.gif, 300px, A woodcut showing Henry II of England greeting the pope's legate. A papal legate or apostolic legate (from the Ancient Rome, ancient Roman title ''legatus'') ...
to England * Eymeric, Master of the
Knights Templar The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon ( la, Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici), also known as the Order of Solomon's Temple, the Knights Templar, or simply the Templars, was a Catholic military order, o ...
in England * William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke * William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury * William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey * William d'Aubigny, Earl of Arundel * Alan of Galloway, Constable of Scotland * Warin FitzGerold * Peter FitzHerbert *
Hubert de Burgh Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent (; ; ; c.1170 – before 5 May 1243) was an English nobleman who served as Justiciar, Chief Justiciar of England and Ireland during the reigns of King John, King of England, John and of his son and successor Kin ...
, Seneschal of Poitou * Hugh de Neville * Matthew FitzHerbert * Thomas Basset * Alan Basset * Philip d'Aubigny * Robert of Ropsley * John Marshal * John FitzHugh


The Council of Twenty-Five Barons

The names of the Twenty-Five Barons appointed under clause 61 to monitor John's future conduct are not given in the charter itself, but do appear in four early sources, all seemingly based on a contemporary listing: a late-13th-century collection of law tracts and statutes, a Reading Abbey manuscript now in Lambeth Palace Library, and the and of Matthew Paris. The process of appointment is not known, but the names were drawn almost exclusively from among John's more active opponents. They are listed here in the order in which they appear in the original sources: * Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford * William de Forz, Earl of Albemarle * Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex and Gloucester * Saer de Quincy, Earl of Winchester * Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford * Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk and
Suffolk Suffolk () is a ceremonial Counties of England, county of England in East Anglia. It borders Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south; the North Sea lies to the east. The county town is Ipswich; other important t ...
* Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford * William Marshal junior * Robert Fitzwalter, baron of Little Dunmow * Gilbert de Clare, heir to the earldom of Hertford * Eustace de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick Castle * Hugh Bigod, heir to the Earldoms of
Norfolk Norfolk () is a ceremonial county, ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in East Anglia in England. It borders Lincolnshire to the north-west, Cambridgeshire to the west and south-west, and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern bounda ...
and
Suffolk Suffolk () is a ceremonial Counties of England, county of England in East Anglia. It borders Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south; the North Sea lies to the east. The county town is Ipswich; other important t ...
* William de Mowbray, Lord of Axholme Castle * William Hardell,
Mayor In many countries, a mayor is the highest-ranking official in a municipal government A municipality is usually a single administrative division having municipal corporation, corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as ...
of the
City of London The City of London is a City status in the United Kingdom, city, Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre and constitutes, alongside Canary Wharf, the primary central bu ...
* William de Lanvallei, Lord of Walkern * Robert de Ros, Baron of Helmsley * John de Lacy, Constable of
Chester Chester is a cathedral city and the county town of Cheshire, England. It is located on the River Dee, Wales, River Dee, close to the England–Wales border, English–Welsh border. With a population of 79,645 in 2011,"2011 Census results: Peop ...
and Lord of Pontefract Castle * Richard de Percy * John FitzRobert de Clavering, Lord of Warkworth Castle * William Malet * Geoffrey de Saye * Roger de Montbegon, Lord of Hornby Castle, Lancashire * William of Huntingfield, Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk * Richard de Montfichet * William d'Aubigny, Lord of Belvoir


Excommunicated rebels

In September 1215, the papal commissioners in England— Subdeacon Pandulf,
Peter des Roches Peter des Roches (died 9 June 1238) (List of Latinised names, Latinised as ''Peter de Rupibus'' ("Peter from the rocks")) was bishop of Winchester in the reigns of King John of England and his son Henry III of England, Henry III. He was not an E ...
,
Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Winchester in the Church of England. The bishop's seat (''cathedra'') is at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire. The Bishop of Winchester has always held ''ex officio'' (except dur ...
, and Simon, Abbot of Reading—excommunicated the rebels, acting on instructions earlier received from Rome. A letter sent by the commissioners from
Dover Dover () is a town and major ferry port in Kent, South East England. It faces France across the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel at from Cap Gris Nez in France. It lies south-east of Canterbury and east of M ...
on 5 September to Archbishop Langton explicitly names nine senior rebel barons (all members of the Council of Twenty-Five), and six clerics numbered among the rebel ranks: Barons * Robert Fitzwalter * Saer de Quincy, Earl of Winchester * Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford * Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex and Gloucester * Eustace de Vesci * Richard de Percy * John de Lacy, Constable of
Chester Chester is a cathedral city and the county town of Cheshire, England. It is located on the River Dee, Wales, River Dee, close to the England–Wales border, English–Welsh border. With a population of 79,645 in 2011,"2011 Census results: Peop ...
* William d'Aubigny * William de Mowbray Clerics * Giles de Braose, Bishop of Hereford * William, Archdeacon of Hereford * Alexander the clerk (possibly Alexander of St Albans) * Osbert de Samara * John de Fereby * Robert, chaplain to Robert Fitzwalter


Great Charter of 1216

Although the Charter of 1215 was a failure as a peace treaty, it was resurrected under the new government of the young Henry III as a way of drawing support away from the rebel faction. On his deathbed, King John appointed a council of thirteen executors to help Henry reclaim the kingdom, and requested that his son be placed into the guardianship of
William Marshal William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1146 or 1147 – 14 May 1219), also called William the Marshal (Anglo-Norman language, Norman French: ', French language, French: '), was an Anglo-Normans, Anglo-Norman soldier and statesman. He served five ...
, one of the most famous knights in England. William knighted the boy, and Cardinal
Guala Bicchieri Guala Bicchieri ( 1150 – 1227) was an Italian diplomat, papal official and cardinal. He was the papal legate in England from 1216 to 1218, and took a prominent role in the politics of England during King John’s last years and Henry III ...
, the
papal legate image:K. Henry 2. Kissing the knee of the Popes Legate comming into England.gif, 300px, A woodcut showing Henry II of England greeting the pope's legate. A papal legate or apostolic legate (from the Ancient Rome, ancient Roman title ''legatus'') ...
to England, then oversaw his coronation at Gloucester Cathedral on 28 October. The young King inherited a difficult situation, with over half of England occupied by the rebels. He had substantial support though from Guala, who intended to win the civil war for Henry and punish the rebels. Guala set about strengthening the ties between England and the Papacy, starting with the coronation itself, during which Henry gave homage to the Papacy, recognising the Pope as his feudal lord. Pope Honorius III declared that Henry was the Pope's
vassal A vassal or liege subject is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for life or until a ...
and ward, and that the legate had complete authority to protect Henry and his kingdom. As an additional measure, Henry took the cross, declaring himself a crusader and thereby entitled to special protection from Rome. The war was not going well for the loyalists, but Prince Louis and the rebel barons were also finding it difficult to make further progress. John's death had defused some of the rebel concerns, and the royal castles were still holding out in the occupied parts of the country. Henry's government encouraged the rebel barons to come back to his cause in exchange for the return of their lands, and reissued a version of the 1215 Charter, albeit having first removed some of the clauses, including those unfavourable to the Papacy and clause 61, which had set up the council of barons. The move was not successful, and opposition to Henry's new government hardened.


Great Charter of 1217

In February 1217, Louis set sail for France to gather reinforcements. In his absence, arguments broke out between Louis' French and English followers, and Cardinal Guala declared that Henry's war against the rebels was the equivalent of a religious crusade. This declaration resulted in a series of defections from the rebel movement, and the tide of the conflict swung in Henry's favour. Louis returned at the end of April, but his northern forces were defeated by William Marshal at the Battle of Lincoln in May. Meanwhile, support for Louis' campaign was diminishing in France, and he concluded that the war in England was lost. He negotiated terms with Cardinal Guala, under which Louis would renounce his claim to the English throne; in return, his followers would be given back their lands, any sentences of excommunication would be lifted, and Henry's government would promise to enforce the charter of the previous year. The proposed agreement soon began to unravel amid claims from some loyalists that it was too generous towards the rebels, particularly the clergy who had joined the rebellion. In the absence of a settlement, Louis stayed in London with his remaining forces, hoping for the arrival of reinforcements from France. When the expected fleet did arrive in August, it was intercepted and defeated by loyalists at the Battle of Sandwich. Louis entered into fresh peace negotiations, and the factions came to agreement on the final
Treaty of Lambeth The Treaty of Lambeth of 1217, also known as the Treaty of Kingston to distinguish it from the Treaty of Lambeth (1212), Treaty of Lambeth of 1212, was a peace treaty signed by Louis VIII of France, Louis of France in September 1217 ending the camp ...
, also known as the Treaty of Kingston, on 12 and 13 September 1217. The treaty was similar to the first peace offer, but excluded the rebel clergy, whose lands and appointments remained forfeit; it included a promise, however, that Louis' followers would be allowed to enjoy their traditional liberties and customs, referring back to the Charter of 1216. Louis left England as agreed and joined the Albigensian Crusade in the south of France, bringing the war to an end. A great council was called in October and November to take stock of the post-war situation; this council is thought to have formulated and issued the Charter of 1217. The charter resembled that of 1216, although some additional clauses were added to protect the rights of the barons over their feudal subjects, and the restrictions on the Crown's ability to levy taxation were watered down. There remained a range of disagreements about the management of the royal forests, which involved a special legal system that had resulted in a source of considerable royal revenue; complaints existed over both the implementation of these courts, and the geographic boundaries of the royal forests. A complementary charter, the
Charter of the Forest The Charter of the Forest of 1217 ( la, Carta Foresta) is a charter that re-established for free tenant, free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by King William the Conqueror and his heirs. Many of its provisions were i ...
, was created, pardoning existing forest offences, imposing new controls over the forest courts, and establishing a review of the forest boundaries. To distinguish the two charters, the term ("the great charter of liberties") was used by the scribes to refer to the larger document, which in time became known simply as Magna Carta.


Great Charter of 1225

Magna Carta became increasingly embedded into English political life during Henry III's minority. As the King grew older, his government slowly began to recover from the civil war, regaining control of the counties and beginning to raise revenue once again, taking care not to overstep the terms of the charters. Henry remained a minor and his government's legal ability to make permanently binding decisions on his behalf was limited. In 1223, the tensions over the status of the charters became clear in the
royal court A royal court, often called simply a court when the royal context is clear, is an extended royal household in a monarchy, including all those who regularly attend on a monarch, or another central figure. Hence, the word "court" may also be appli ...
, when Henry's government attempted to reassert its rights over its properties and revenues in the counties, facing resistance from many communities that argued—if sometimes incorrectly—that the charters protected the new arrangements. This resistance resulted in an argument between Archbishop Langton and William Brewer over whether the King had any duty to fulfil the terms of the charters, given that he had been forced to agree to them. On this occasion, Henry gave oral assurances that he considered himself bound by the charters, enabling a royal inquiry into the situation in the counties to progress. Two years later, the question of Henry's commitment to the charters re-emerged, when Louis VIII of France invaded Henry's remaining provinces in France, Poitou and Gascony. Henry's army in Poitou was under-resourced, and the province quickly fell. It became clear that Gascony would also fall unless reinforcements were sent from England. In early 1225, a great council approved a tax of £40,000 to dispatch an army, which quickly retook Gascony. In exchange for agreeing to support Henry, the barons demanded that the King reissue Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest. The content was almost identical to the 1217 versions, but in the new versions, the King declared that the charters were issued of his own "spontaneous and free will" and confirmed them with the royal seal, giving the new Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest of 1225 much more authority than the previous versions. The barons anticipated that the King would act in accordance with these charters, subject to the law and moderated by the advice of the nobility. Uncertainty continued, and in 1227, when he was declared of age and able to rule independently, Henry announced that future charters had to be issued under his own seal. This brought into question the validity of the previous charters issued during his minority, and Henry actively threatened to overturn the Charter of the Forest unless the taxes promised in return for it were actually paid. In 1253, Henry confirmed the charters once again in exchange for taxation. Henry placed a symbolic emphasis on rebuilding royal authority, but his rule was relatively circumscribed by Magna Carta. He generally acted within the terms of the charters, which prevented the Crown from taking extrajudicial action against the barons, including the fines and expropriations that had been common under his father, John. The charters did not address the sensitive issues of the appointment of royal advisers and the distribution of patronage, and they lacked any means of enforcement if the King chose to ignore them. The inconsistency with which he applied the charters over the course of his rule alienated many barons, even those within his own faction. Despite the various charters, the provision of royal justice was inconsistent and driven by the needs of immediate politics: sometimes action would be taken to address a legitimate baronial complaint, while on other occasions the problem would simply be ignored. The royal courts, which toured the country to provide justice at the local level, typically for lesser barons and the gentry claiming grievances against major lords, had little power, allowing the major barons to dominate the local justice system. Henry's rule became lax and careless, resulting in a reduction in royal authority in the provinces and, ultimately, the collapse of his authority at court. In 1258, a group of barons seized power from Henry in a '' coup d'état'', citing the need to strictly enforce Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest, creating a new baronial-led government to advance reform through the Provisions of Oxford. The barons were not militarily powerful enough to win a decisive victory, and instead appealed to
Louis IX of France Louis IX (25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270), commonly known as Saint Louis or Louis the Saint, was King of France from 1226 to 1270, and the most illustrious of the House of Capet, Direct Capetians. He was Coronation of the French monarch, c ...
in 1263–1264 to arbitrate on their proposed reforms. The reformist barons argued their case based on Magna Carta, suggesting that it was inviolable under English law and that the King had broken its terms. Louis came down firmly in favour of Henry, but the French arbitration failed to achieve peace as the rebellious barons refused to accept the verdict. England slipped back into the Second Barons' War, which was won by Henry's son, the Lord Edward. Edward also invoked Magna Carta in advancing his cause, arguing that the reformers had taken matters too far and were themselves acting against Magna Carta. In a conciliatory gesture after the barons had been defeated, in 1267 Henry issued the Statute of Marlborough, which included a fresh commitment to observe the terms of Magna Carta.


=Witnesses in 1225

= The following 65 individuals were witnesses to the 1225 issue of Magna Carta, named in the order in which they appear in the charter itself: * Stephen Langton,
Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally resp ...
and Cardinal * Eustace of Fauconberg, Bishop of London * Jocelin of Wells, Bishop of Bath *
Peter des Roches Peter des Roches (died 9 June 1238) (List of Latinised names, Latinised as ''Peter de Rupibus'' ("Peter from the rocks")) was bishop of Winchester in the reigns of King John of England and his son Henry III of England, Henry III. He was not an E ...
,
Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Winchester in the Church of England. The bishop's seat (''cathedra'') is at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire. The Bishop of Winchester has always held ''ex officio'' (except dur ...
* Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln * Richard Poore, Bishop of Salisbury * Benedict of Sausetun, Bishop of Rochester * William de Blois,
Bishop of Worcester A bishop is an ordained Ordination is the process by which individuals are Consecration, consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are thus then authorization, authorized (usually by the religious ...
* John of Fountains,
Bishop of Ely The Bishop of Ely is the Ordinary (officer), ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Ely in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese roughly covers the county of Cambridgeshire (with the exception of the Soke of Peterborough), together with ...
* Hugh Foliot, Bishop of Hereford * Ralph Neville,
Bishop of Chichester The Bishop of Chichester is the Ordinary (officer), ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Chichester in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese covers the counties of East Sussex, East and West Sussex. The Episcopal see, see is based in t ...
* William Briwere, Bishop of Exeter * William of Trumpington, Abbot of St Albans * Hugh of Northwold, Abbot of
Bury St Edmunds Bury St Edmunds (), commonly referred to locally as Bury, is a historic market town, market, cathedral town and civil parish in Suffolk, England.OS Explorer map 211: Bury St.Edmunds and Stowmarket Scale: 1:25 000. Publisher:Ordnance Survey – ...
* Richard, Abbot of Battle * the Abbot of St Augustine's, Canterbury * Randulf of Evesham, Abbot of
Evesham Evesham () is a market town and Civil parishes in England, parish in the Wychavon district of Worcestershire, in the West Midlands (region), West Midlands region of England. It is located roughly equidistant between Worcester, England, Worcester ...
* Richard of Barking, Abbot of Westminster * Alexander of Holderness, Abbot of Peterborough * Simon, Abbot of Reading * Robert of Hendred, Abbot of Abingdon * John Walsh, Abbot of Malmesbury * the Abbot of Winchcombe * the Abbot of Hyde * the Abbot of
Chertsey Chertsey is a town in the Borough of Runnymede, Surrey, England, south-west of central London. It grew up round Chertsey Abbey, founded in 666 CE, and gained a municipal charter, market charter from Henry I of England, Henry I. A bridge across ...
* the Abbot of
Sherborne Sherborne is a market town and civil parishes in England, civil parish in north west Dorset, in South West England. It is sited on the River Yeo (South Somerset), River Yeo, on the edge of the Blackmore Vale, east of Yeovil. The parish includ ...
* the Abbot of Cerne * the Abbot of Abbotsbury * the Abbot of Milton * the Abbot of Selby * the Abbot of Whitby * the Abbot of
Cirencester Cirencester (, ; see #Pronunciation, below for more variations) is a market town in Gloucestershire, England, west of London. Cirencester lies on the River Churn, a tributary of the River Thames, and is the largest town in the Cotswolds. It ...
*
Hubert de Burgh Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent (; ; ; c.1170 – before 5 May 1243) was an English nobleman who served as Justiciar, Chief Justiciar of England and Ireland during the reigns of King John, King of England, John and of his son and successor Kin ...
,
Justiciar Justiciar is the English form of the medieval Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area ...
of England and Ireland * Ranulf, Earl of Chester and Lincoln * William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury * William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey * Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford * William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby * William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex * Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk * William de Forz, Earl of Albemarle * Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford * John de Lacy, Constable of
Chester Chester is a cathedral city and the county town of Cheshire, England. It is located on the River Dee, Wales, River Dee, close to the England–Wales border, English–Welsh border. With a population of 79,645 in 2011,"2011 Census results: Peop ...
* Robert de Ros * Robert Fitzwalter * Robert de Vieuxpont * William Brewer * Richard de Montfichet * Peter FitzHerbert * Matthew FitzHerbert * William d'Aubigny * Robert Gresley * Reginald de Braose * John of Monmouth * John FitzAlan * Hugh de Mortimer * William de Beauchamp * William de St John * Peter de Maulay * Brian de Lisle * Thomas of Moulton * Richard de Argentan * Geoffrey de Neville * William de Maudit * John de Baalun


Great Charter of 1297: statute

King
Edward I Edward I (17/18 June 1239 – 7 July 1307), also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1272 to 1307. Concurrently, he ruled the duchies of Duchy of Aquitaine, Aquitaine and D ...
reissued the Charters of 1225 in 1297 in return for a new tax. It is this version which remains in
statute A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislature, legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, State (polity), state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare Public p ...
today, although with most articles now repealed. The (''Confirmation of Charters'') was issued in
Norman French Norman or Norman French (, french: Normand, Guernésiais: , Jèrriais: ) is a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Langues d'oïl, Oïl languages along with French language, French, Picard language, Picard and Walloon language, ...
by Edward I in 1297. Edward, needing money, had taxed the nobility, and they had armed themselves against him, forcing Edward to issue his confirmation of Magna Carta and the Forest Charter to avoid civil war. The nobles had sought to add another document, the , to Magna Carta. Edward I's government was not prepared to concede this, they agreed to the issuing of the , confirming the previous charters and confirming the principle that taxation should be by consent, although the precise manner of that consent was not laid down. A passage mandates that copies shall be distributed in "cathedral churches throughout our realm, there to remain, and shall be read before the people two times by the year", hence the permanent installation of a copy in Salisbury Cathedral. In the Confirmation's second article, it is confirmed that With the reconfirmation of the Charters in 1300, an additional document was granted, the (''The Articles upon the Charters''). It was composed of 17 articles and sought in part to deal with the problem of enforcing the Charters. Magna Carta and the Forest Charter were to be issued to the
sheriff A sheriff is a government official, with varying duties, existing in some countries with historical ties to England where the office originated. There is an analogous, although independently developed, office in Iceland that is commonly transla ...
of each county, and should be read four times a year at the meetings of the county courts. Each county should have a committee of three men who could hear complaints about violations of the Charters.
Pope Clement V Pope Clement V ( la, Clemens Quintus; c. 1264 – 20 April 1314), born Raymond Bertrand de Got (also occasionally spelled ''de Guoth'' and ''de Goth''), was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 5 June 1305 to his de ...
continued the papal policy of supporting monarchs (who ruled by divine grace) against any claims in Magna Carta which challenged the King's rights, and annulled the in 1305. Edward I interpreted Clement V's papal bull annulling the as effectively applying to the , although the latter was not specifically mentioned. In 1306 Edward I took the opportunity given by the Pope's backing to reassert forest law over large areas which had been "disafforested". Both Edward and the Pope were accused by some contemporary chroniclers of "perjury", and it was suggested by Robert McNair Scott that
Robert the Bruce Robert I (11 July 1274 – 7 June 1329), popularly known as Robert the Bruce (Scottish Gaelic: ''Raibeart an Bruis''), was King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329. One of the most renowned warriors of his generation, Robert eventuall ...
refused to make peace with Edward I's son,
Edward II Edward II (25 April 1284 – 21 September 1327), also called Edward of Caernarfon, was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1307 until he was deposed in January 1327. The fourth son of Edward I, Edward became the heir apparent to the ...
, in 1312 with the justification: "How shall the king of England keep faith with me, since he does not observe the sworn promises made to his liege men ...".


Magna Carta's influence on English medieval law

The Great Charter was referred to in legal cases throughout the medieval period. For example, in 1226, the knights of
Lincolnshire Lincolnshire (abbreviated Lincs.) is a Counties of England, county in the East Midlands of England, with a long coastline on the North Sea to the east. It borders Norfolk to the south-east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south-we ...
argued that their local sheriff was changing customary practice regarding the local courts, "contrary to their liberty which they ought to have by the charter of the lord king". In practice, cases were not brought against the King for breach of Magna Carta and the Forest Charter, but it was possible to bring a case against the King's officers, such as his sheriffs, using the argument that the King's officers were acting contrary to liberties granted by the King in the charters. In addition, medieval cases referred to the clauses in Magna Carta which dealt with specific issues such as wardship and dower, debt collection, and keeping rivers free for navigation. Even in the 13th century, some clauses of Magna Carta rarely appeared in legal cases, either because the issues concerned were no longer relevant, or because Magna Carta had been superseded by more relevant legislation. By 1350 half the clauses of Magna Carta were no longer actively used.


14th–15th centuries

During the reign of King
Edward III Edward III (13 November 1312 – 21 June 1377), also known as Edward of Windsor before his accession, was King of England and Lord of Ireland from January 1327 until his death in 1377. He is noted for his military success and for restoring ro ...
six measures, later known as the ''Six Statutes'', were passed between 1331 and 1369. They sought to clarify certain parts of the Charters. In particular the third statute, in 1354, redefined clause 29, with "free man" becoming "no man, of whatever estate or condition he may be", and introduced the phrase " due process of law" for "lawful judgement of his peers or the law of the land". Between the 13th and 15th centuries Magna Carta was reconfirmed 32 times according to Sir
Edward Coke Edward is an English given name A given name (also known as a forename or first name) is the part of a personal name quoted in that identifies a person, potentially with a middle name as well, and differentiates that person from the other ...
, and possibly as many as 45 times. Often the first item of parliamentary business was a public reading and reaffirmation of the Charter, and, as in the previous century, parliaments often exacted confirmation of it from the monarch. The Charter was confirmed in 1423 by King Henry VI. By the mid-15th century, Magna Carta ceased to occupy a central role in English political life, as monarchs reasserted authority and powers which had been challenged in the 100 years after Edward I's reign. The Great Charter remained a text for lawyers, particularly as a protector of property rights, and became more widely read than ever as printed versions circulated and levels of literacy increased.


16th century

During the 16th century, the interpretation of Magna Carta and the First Barons' War shifted. Henry VII took power at the end of the turbulent
Wars of the Roses The Wars of the Roses (1455–1487), known at the time and for more than a century after as the Civil Wars, were a series of civil wars fought over control of the throne of England, English throne in the mid-to-late fifteenth century. These w ...
, followed by
Henry VIII Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for his Wives of Henry VIII, six marriages, and for his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) ...
, and extensive propaganda under both rulers promoted the legitimacy of the regime, the illegitimacy of any sort of rebellion against royal power, and the priority of supporting the Crown in its arguments with the Papacy. Tudor historians rediscovered the Barnwell chronicler, who was more favourable to King John than other 13th-century texts, and, as historian Ralph Turner describes, they "viewed King John in a positive light as a hero struggling against the papacy", showing "little sympathy for the Great Charter or the rebel barons". Pro-Catholic demonstrations during the 1536 uprising cited Magna Carta, accusing the King of not giving it sufficient respect. The first mechanically printed edition of Magna Carta was probably the of 1508 by Richard Pynson, although the early printed versions of the 16th century incorrectly attributed the origins of Magna Carta to Henry III and 1225, rather than to John and 1215, and accordingly worked from the later text. An abridged English-language edition was published by John Rastell in 1527. Thomas Berthelet, Pynson's successor as the royal printer during 1530–1547, printed an edition of the text along with other "ancient statutes" in 1531 and 1540. In 1534, George Ferrers published the first unabridged English-language edition of Magna Carta, dividing the Charter into 37 numbered clauses. At the end of the 16th century, there was an upsurge in antiquarian interest in England. This work concluded that there was a set of ancient English customs and laws, temporarily overthrown by the Norman invasion of 1066, which had then been recovered in 1215 and recorded in Magna Carta, which in turn gave authority to important 16th-century legal principles. Modern historians note that although this narrative was fundamentally incorrect—many refer to it as a "
myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of Narrative, narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or Origin myth, origin myths. Since "myth" is widely used to imply that a story is not Objectivity (philosophy), ...
"—it took on great importance among the legal historians of the time. The antiquarian William Lambarde, for example, published what he believed were the Anglo-Saxon and Norman law codes, tracing the origins of the 16th-century English Parliament back to this period, albeit misinterpreting the dates of many documents concerned.
Francis Bacon Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (; 22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England England is a Countries of ...
argued that clause 39 of Magna Carta was the basis of the 16th-century jury system and judicial processes. Antiquarians Robert Beale, James Morice and Richard Cosin argued that Magna Carta was a statement of liberty and a fundamental, supreme law empowering English government. Those who questioned these conclusions, including the Member of Parliament Arthur Hall, faced sanctions.


17th–18th centuries


Political tensions

In the early 17th century, Magna Carta became increasingly important as a political document in arguments over the authority of the English monarchy. James I and Charles I both propounded greater authority for the Crown, justified by the doctrine of the
divine right of kings In European Christianity, the divine right of kings, divine right, or God's mandation is a political and religious doctrine of political legitimacy of a monarchy. It stems from a specific Metaphysics, metaphysical framework in which a monarch ...
, and Magna Carta was cited extensively by their opponents to challenge the monarchy. Magna Carta, it was argued, recognised and protected the liberty of individual Englishmen, made the King subject to the common law of the land, formed the origin of the trial by jury system, and acknowledged the ancient origins of Parliament: because of Magna Carta and this ancient constitution, an English monarch was unable to alter these long-standing English customs. Although the arguments based on Magna Carta were historically inaccurate, they nonetheless carried symbolic power, as the charter had immense significance during this period; antiquarians such as Sir Henry Spelman described it as "the most majestic and a sacrosanct anchor to English Liberties". Sir Edward Coke was a leader in using Magna Carta as a political tool during this period. Still working from the 1225 version of the text – the first printed copy of the 1215 charter only emerged in 1610 – Coke spoke and wrote about Magna Carta repeatedly. His work was challenged at the time by Lord Ellesmere, and modern historians such as Ralph Turner and Claire Breay have critiqued Coke as "misconstruing" the original charter "anachronistically and uncritically", and taking a "very selective" approach to his analysis. More sympathetically, J. C. Holt noted that the history of the charters had already become "distorted" by the time Coke was carrying out his work. In 1621, a bill was presented to Parliament to renew Magna Carta; although this bill failed, lawyer
John Selden John Selden (16 December 1584 – 30 November 1654) was an English jurist, a scholar of England's ancient laws and constitution and scholar of Jewish law. He was known as a polymath; John Milton hailed Selden in 1644 as "the chief of learned ...
argued during Darnell's Case in 1627 that the right of ''habeas corpus'' was backed by Magna Carta. Coke supported the Petition of Right in 1628, which cited Magna Carta in its preamble, attempting to extend the provisions, and to make them binding on the judiciary. The monarchy responded by arguing that the historical legal situation was much less clear-cut than was being claimed, restricted the activities of antiquarians, arrested Coke for treason, and suppressed his proposed book on Magna Carta. Charles initially did not agree to the Petition of Right, and refused to confirm Magna Carta in any way that would reduce his independence as King. England descended into
civil war A civil war or intrastate war is a war between organized groups within the same Sovereign state, state (or country). The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independence for a region, or to change go ...
in the 1640s, resulting in Charles I's execution in 1649. Under the
republic A republic () is a "sovereign state, state in which Power (social and political), power rests with the people or their Representative democracy, representatives; specifically a state without a monarchy" and also a "government, or system of gov ...
that followed, some questioned whether Magna Carta, an agreement with a monarch, was still relevant. An anti- Cromwellian pamphlet published in 1660, ''The English devil'', said that the nation had been "compelled to submit to this Tyrant Nol or be cut off by him; nothing but a word and a blow, his Will was his Law; tell him of Magna Carta, he would lay his hand on his sword and cry Magna Farta". In a 2005 speech the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Woolf, repeated the claim that Cromwell had referred to Magna Carta as "Magna Farta". The radical groups that flourished during this period held differing opinions of Magna Carta. The Levellers rejected history and law as presented by their contemporaries, holding instead to an "anti-Normanism" viewpoint. John Lilburne, for example, argued that Magna Carta contained only some of the freedoms that had supposedly existed under the Anglo-Saxons before being crushed by the Norman yoke. The Leveller Richard Overton described the charter as "a beggarly thing containing many marks of intolerable bondage". Both saw Magna Carta as a useful declaration of liberties that could be used against governments they disagreed with. Gerrard Winstanley, the leader of the more extreme Diggers, stated "the best lawes that England hath, iz., Magna Cartawere got by our Forefathers importunate petitioning unto the kings that still were their Task-masters; and yet these best laws are yoaks and manicles, tying one sort of people to be slaves to another; Clergy and Gentry have got their freedom, but the common people still are, and have been left servants to work for them."


Glorious Revolution

The first attempt at a proper
historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians ha ...
was undertaken by Robert Brady, who refuted the supposed antiquity of Parliament and belief in the immutable continuity of the law. Brady realised that the liberties of the Charter were limited and argued that the liberties were the grant of the King. By putting Magna Carta in historical context, he cast doubt on its contemporary political relevance; his historical understanding did not survive the
Glorious Revolution The Glorious Revolution; gd, Rèabhlaid Ghlòrmhor; cy, Chwyldro Gogoneddus , also known as the ''Glorieuze Overtocht'' or ''Glorious Crossing'' in the Netherlands, is the sequence of events leading to the deposition of King James II and ...
, which, according to the historian J. G. A. Pocock, "marked a setback for the course of English historiography." According to the Whig interpretation of history, the Glorious Revolution was an example of the reclaiming of ancient liberties. Reinforced with Lockean concepts, the Whigs believed England's constitution to be a
social contract In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually, although not always, concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. Soci ...
, based on documents such as Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, and the Bill of Rights. The ''English Liberties'' (1680, in later versions often ''British Liberties'') by the Whig propagandist Henry Care (d. 1688) was a cheap polemical book that was influential and much-reprinted, in the American colonies as well as Britain, and made Magna Carta central to the history and the contemporary legitimacy of its subject. Ideas about the nature of law in general were beginning to change. In 1716, the Septennial Act was passed, which had a number of consequences. First, it showed that Parliament no longer considered its previous statutes unassailable, as it provided for a maximum parliamentary term of seven years, whereas the Triennial Act (1694) (enacted less than a quarter of a century previously) had provided for a maximum term of three years. It also greatly extended the powers of Parliament. Under this new constitution, monarchical absolutism was replaced by parliamentary supremacy. It was quickly realised that Magna Carta stood in the same relation to the King-in-Parliament as it had to the King without Parliament. This supremacy would be challenged by the likes of Granville Sharp. Sharp regarded Magna Carta as a fundamental part of the constitution, and maintained that it would be treason to repeal any part of it. He also held that the Charter prohibited
slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave—someone forbidden to quit one's service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as property. Slavery typically involves slaves being made to perf ...
. Sir
William Blackstone Sir William Blackstone (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English jurist, judge and Tory (British political party), Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the ''Commentaries on the Laws of England''. Bo ...
published a critical edition of the 1215 Charter in 1759, and gave it the numbering system still used today. In 1763, Member of Parliament John Wilkes was arrested for writing an inflammatory pamphlet, ''No. 45, 23 April 1763''; he cited Magna Carta continually. Lord Camden denounced the treatment of Wilkes as a contravention of Magna Carta.
Thomas Paine Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain; – In the contemporary record as noted by Conway, Paine's birth date is given as January 29, 1736–37. Common practice was to use a dash or a slash to separate the old-style year from the new-style year. In th ...
, in his '' Rights of Man'', would disregard Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights on the grounds that they were not a written constitution devised by elected representatives.


Use in the Thirteen Colonies and the United States

When English colonists left for the New World, they brought royal charters that established the colonies. The Massachusetts Bay Company charter, for example, stated that the colonists would "have and enjoy all liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects." The Virginia Charter of 1606, which was largely drafted by Sir Edward Coke, stated that the colonists would have the same "liberties, franchises and immunities" as people born in England. The Massachusetts Body of Liberties contained similarities to clause 29 of Magna Carta; when drafting it, the Massachusetts General Court viewed Magna Carta as the chief embodiment of English common law. The other colonies would follow their example. In 1638,
Maryland Maryland ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It shares borders with Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; ...
sought to recognise Magna Carta as part of the law of the province, but the request was denied by Charles I. In 1687, William Penn published ''The Excellent Privilege of Liberty and Property: being the birth-right of the Free-Born Subjects of England'', which contained the first copy of Magna Carta printed on American soil. Penn's comments reflected Coke's, indicating a belief that Magna Carta was a fundamental law. The colonists drew on English law books, leading them to an anachronistic interpretation of Magna Carta, believing that it guaranteed trial by jury and ''habeas corpus''. The development of parliamentary supremacy in the British Isles did not constitutionally affect the Thirteen Colonies, which retained an adherence to
English common law English law is the common law list of national legal systems, legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly English criminal law, criminal law and Civil law (common law), civil law, each branch having its own Courts of England and Wales, ...
, but it directly affected the relationship between Britain and the colonies. When American colonists fought against Britain, they were fighting not so much for new freedom, but to preserve liberties and rights that they believed to be enshrined in Magna Carta. In the late 18th century, the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It superseded the Articles of Confederation, the nation's first constitution, in 1789. Originally comprising seven articles, it delineates the nat ...
became the supreme law of the land, recalling the manner in which Magna Carta had come to be regarded as fundamental law. The Constitution's Fifth Amendment guarantees that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law", a phrase that was derived from Magna Carta. In addition, the Constitution included a similar writ in the Suspension Clause, Article 1, Section 9: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it." Each of these proclaim that no person may be imprisoned or detained without evidence that he or she committed a crime. The Ninth Amendment states that "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The writers of the U.S. Constitution wished to ensure that the rights they already held, such as those that they believed were provided by Magna Carta, would be preserved unless explicitly curtailed. The U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly referenced Edward Coke's analysis of Magna Carta as an antecedent of the Sixth Amendment's right to a speedy trial.


19th–21st centuries


Interpretation

Initially, the Whig interpretation of Magna Carta and its role in constitutional history remained dominant during the 19th century. The historian William Stubbs's ''Constitutional History of England'', published in the 1870s, formed the high-water mark of this view. Stubbs argued that Magna Carta had been a major step in the shaping of the English nation, and he believed that the barons at Runnymede in 1215 were not just representing the nobility, but the people of England as a whole, standing up to a tyrannical ruler in the form of King John. This view of Magna Carta began to recede. The late-Victorian jurist and historian Frederic William Maitland provided an alternative academic history in 1899, which began to return Magna Carta to its historical roots. In 1904, Edward Jenks published an article entitled "The Myth of Magna Carta", which undermined the previously accepted view of Magna Carta. Historians such as Albert Pollard agreed with Jenks in concluding that Edward Coke had largely "invented" the myth of Magna Carta in the 17th century; these historians argued that the 1215 charter had not referred to liberty for the people at large, but rather to the protection of baronial rights. This view also became popular in wider circles, and in 1930 Sellar and Yeatman published their parody on English history, '' 1066 and All That'', in which they mocked the supposed importance of Magna Carta and its promises of universal liberty: "Magna Charter was therefore the chief cause of Democracy in England, and thus a ''Good Thing'' for everyone (except the Common People)". In many literary representations of the medieval past, however, Magna Carta remained a foundation of English national identity. Some authors used the medieval roots of the document as an argument to preserve the social status quo, while others pointed to Magna Carta to challenge perceived economic injustices. The Baronial Order of Magna Charta was formed in 1898 to promote the ancient principles and values felt to be displayed in Magna Carta. The legal profession in England and the United States continued to hold Magna Carta in high esteem; they were instrumental in forming the Magna Carta Society in 1922 to protect the meadows at Runnymede from development in the 1920s, and in 1957, the
American Bar Association The American Bar Association (ABA) is a voluntary association, voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. Founded in 1878, the ABA's most important stated activities ar ...
erected the Magna Carta Memorial at Runnymede. The prominent lawyer Lord Denning described Magna Carta in 1956 as "the greatest constitutional document of all times—the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot".


Repeal of articles and constitutional influence

Radicals such as Sir Francis Burdett believed that Magna Carta could not be repealed, but in the 19th century clauses which were obsolete or had been superseded began to be repealed. The repeal of clause 26 in 1829, by the Offences Against the Person Act 1828 (9 Geo. 4 c. 31 s. 1) was the first time a clause of Magna Carta was repealed. Over the next 140 years, nearly the whole of Magna Carta (1297) as statute was repealed, leaving just clauses 1, 9 and 29 still in force (in England and Wales) after 1969. Most of the clauses were repealed in England and Wales by the Statute Law Revision Act 1863, and in modern
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and also in the modern
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by the Statute Law (Ireland) Revision Act 1872. Many later attempts to draft constitutional forms of government trace their lineage back to Magna Carta. The British dominions, Australia and New Zealand, Canada (except
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), and formerly the
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and
Southern Rhodesia Southern Rhodesia was a landlocked self-governing colony, self-governing British Crown colony in southern Africa, established in 1923 and consisting of British South Africa Company (BSAC) territories lying south of the Zambezi River. The reg ...
, reflected the influence of Magna Carta in their laws, and the Charter's effects can be seen in the laws of other states that evolved from the
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.


Modern legacy

Magna Carta continues to have a powerful iconic status in British society, being cited by politicians and lawyers in support of constitutional positions. Its perceived guarantee of trial by jury and other civil liberties, for example, led to Tony Benn's reference to the debate in 2008 over whether to increase the maximum time terrorism suspects could be held without charge from 28 to 42 days as "the day Magna Carta was repealed". Although rarely invoked in court in the modern era, in 2012 the Occupy London protestors attempted to use Magna Carta in resisting their eviction from St. Paul's Churchyard by the
City of London The City of London is a City status in the United Kingdom, city, Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre and constitutes, alongside Canary Wharf, the primary central bu ...
. In his judgment the Master of the Rolls gave this short shrift, noting somewhat drily that although clause 29 was considered by many the foundation of the rule of law in England, he did not consider it directly relevant to the case, and that the two other surviving clauses ironically concerned the rights of the Church and the City of London and could not help the defendants. Magna Carta carries little legal weight in modern Britain, as most of its clauses have been repealed and relevant rights ensured by other statutes, but the historian James Holt remarks that the survival of the 1215 charter in national life is a "reflexion of the continuous development of English law and administration" and symbolic of the many struggles between authority and the law over the centuries. The historian W. L. Warren has observed that "many who knew little and cared less about the content of the Charter have, in nearly all ages, invoked its name, and with good cause, for it meant more than it said". It also remains a topic of great interest to historians; Natalie Fryde characterised the charter as "one of the holiest of cows in English medieval history", with the debates over its interpretation and meaning unlikely to end. In many ways still a "sacred text", Magna Carta is generally considered part of the
uncodified constitution An uncodified constitution is a type of constitution where the fundamental rules often take the form of custom (law), customs, usage, precedent and a variety of statutes and legal instruments.Johari, J. C. (2006) ''New Comparative Government'', ...
of the United Kingdom; in a 2005 speech, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Woolf, described it as the "first of a series of instruments that now are recognised as having a special constitutional status". Magna Carta was reprinted in
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in 1881 as one of the Imperial Acts in force there. Clause 29 of the document remains in force as part of New Zealand law. The document also continues to be honoured in the United States as an antecedent of the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It superseded the Articles of Confederation, the nation's first constitution, in 1789. Originally comprising seven articles, it delineates the nat ...
and Bill of Rights. In 1976, the UK lent one of four surviving originals of the 1215 Magna Carta to the United States for their bicentennial celebrations and also donated an ornate display case for it. The original was returned after one year, but a replica and the case are still on display in the
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Crypt in Washington, D.C.


Celebration of the 800th anniversary

The 800th anniversary of the original charter occurred on 15 June 2015, and organisations and institutions planned celebratory events. The
British Library The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and is one of the List of largest libraries, largest libraries in the world. It is estimated to contain between 170 and 200 million items from many countries. As a legal de ...
brought together the four existing copies of the 1215 manuscript in February 2015 for a special exhibition. British artist Cornelia Parker was commissioned to create a new artwork, '' Magna Carta (An Embroidery)'', which was shown at the British Library between May and July 2015. The artwork is a copy of the
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article about Magna Carta (as it appeared on the document's 799th anniversary, 15 June 2014), hand-embroidered by over 200 people. On 15 June 2015, a commemoration ceremony was conducted in Runnymede at the National Trust park, attended by British and American dignitaries. On the same day,
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celebrated the anniversary with a Google Doodle. The copy held by Lincoln Cathedral was exhibited in the
Library of Congress The Library of Congress (LOC) is the research library A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are accessible for use and not just for display purposes. A library provides physical (hard copies) or digital access (so ...
in Washington, D.C., from November 2014 until January 2015. A new visitor centre at Lincoln Castle was opened for the anniversary. The Royal Mint released two commemorative two-pound coins. In 2014,
Bury St Edmunds Bury St Edmunds (), commonly referred to locally as Bury, is a historic market town, market, cathedral town and civil parish in Suffolk, England.OS Explorer map 211: Bury St.Edmunds and Stowmarket Scale: 1:25 000. Publisher:Ordnance Survey – ...
in
Suffolk Suffolk () is a ceremonial Counties of England, county of England in East Anglia. It borders Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south; the North Sea lies to the east. The county town is Ipswich; other important t ...
celebrated the 800th anniversary of the barons' Charter of Liberties, said to have been secretly agreed there in November 1214.


Content


Physical format

Numerous copies, known as exemplifications, were made of the various charters, and many of them still survive. The documents were written in heavily abbreviated medieval Latin in clear handwriting, using
quill A quill is a writing tool made from a moulted flight feather (preferably a primary wing-feather) of a large bird. Quills were used for writing with ink before the invention of the dip pen, the metal-Nib (pen), nibbed pen, the fountain pen, and, ...
pens on sheets of parchment made from sheep skin, approximately across. They were sealed with the Great Seal of the Realm, royal great seal by an official called the spigurnel, equipped with a special seal press, using beeswax and resin. There were no signatures on the charter of 1215, and the barons present did not attach their own Seal (emblem), seals to it. The text was not divided into paragraphs or numbered clauses: the numbering system used today was introduced by the jurist Sir
William Blackstone Sir William Blackstone (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English jurist, judge and Tory (British political party), Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the ''Commentaries on the Laws of England''. Bo ...
in 1759.


Exemplifications


1215 exemplifications

At least thirteen original copies of the charter of 1215 were issued by the royal Chancery (medieval office), chancery during that year, seven in the first tranche distributed on 24 June and another six later; they were sent to county sheriffs and bishops, who were probably charged for the privilege. Slight variations exist between the surviving copies, and there was probably no single "master copy". Of these documents, only four survive, all held in England: two now at the
British Library The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and is one of the List of largest libraries, largest libraries in the world. It is estimated to contain between 170 and 200 million items from many countries. As a legal de ...
, one at Salisbury Cathedral, and one, the property of Lincoln Cathedral, on permanent loan to Lincoln Castle. Each of these versions is slightly different in size and text, and each is considered by historians to be equally authoritative. The two 1215 charters held by the British Library, known as ''Cotton MS. Augustus II.106'' and ''Cotton Charter XIII.31A'', were acquired by the antiquarian Sir Robert Cotton, 1st Baronet, of Connington, Sir Robert Cotton in the 17th century. The first had been found by Humphrey Wyems, a London lawyer, who may have discovered it in a tailor's shop, and who gave it to Cotton in January 1629. The second was found in Dover Castle in 1630 by Sir Edward Dering, 1st Baronet, Sir Edward Dering. The Dering charter was traditionally thought to be the copy sent in 1215 to the Cinque Ports; but in 2015 the historian David Carpenter argued that it was more probably that sent to Canterbury Cathedral, as its text was identical to a transcription made from the Cathedral's copy of the 1215 charter in the 1290s. This copy was damaged in the Cotton library#The Ashburnham House fire, Cotton library fire of 1731, when its seal was badly melted. The parchment was somewhat shrivelled but otherwise relatively unscathed, and an engraved facsimile of the charter was made by John Pine in 1733. In the 1830s, however, an ill-judged and bungled attempt at cleaning and Conservation and restoration of parchment, conservation rendered the manuscript largely illegible to the naked eye. This is, nonetheless, the only surviving 1215 copy still to have its great seal attached. Lincoln Cathedral's copy has been held by the county since 1215. It was displayed in the Common Chamber in the cathedral, before being moved to another building in 1846. Between 1939 and 1940 it was displayed in the British Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair, 1939 World Fair in New York City, and at the
Library of Congress The Library of Congress (LOC) is the research library A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are accessible for use and not just for display purposes. A library provides physical (hard copies) or digital access (so ...
. When the Second World War broke out, Winston Churchill wanted to give the charter to the American people, hoping that this would encourage the United States, then neutral, to enter the war against the Axis powers, but the cathedral was unwilling, and the plans were dropped. After December 1941, the copy was stored in United States Bullion Depository, Fort Knox, Kentucky, for safety, before being put on display again in 1944 and returned to Lincoln Cathedral in early 1946. It was put on display in 1976 in the cathedral's Lincoln Cathedral Library, medieval library. It was subsequently displayed in San Francisco, and was taken out of display for a time to undergo conservation in preparation for another visit to the United States, where it was exhibited in 2007 at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Center of Virginia and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. In 2009 it returned to New York to be displayed at the Fraunces Tavern Museum. It is currently on permanent loan to the David Ross (businessman), David P. J. Ross Vault at Lincoln Castle, along with an original copy of the 1217
Charter of the Forest The Charter of the Forest of 1217 ( la, Carta Foresta) is a charter that re-established for free tenant, free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by King William the Conqueror and his heirs. Many of its provisions were i ...
. The fourth copy, held by Salisbury Cathedral, was first given in 1215 to its predecessor, Old Sarum Cathedral. Rediscovered by the cathedral in 1812, it has remained in Salisbury throughout its history, except when being taken off-site for restoration work. It is possibly the best preserved of the four, although small pin holes can be seen in the parchment from where it was once pinned up. The handwriting on this version is different from that of the other three, suggesting that it was not written by a royal scribe but rather by a member of the cathedral staff, who then had it exemplified by the royal court.


Later exemplifications

Other early versions of the charters survive today. Only one exemplification of the 1216 charter survives, held in Durham Cathedral. Four copies of the 1217 charter exist; three of these are held by the Bodleian Library in Oxford and one by Hereford Cathedral. Hereford's copy is occasionally displayed alongside the Hereford Mappa Mundi, Mappa Mundi in the cathedral's chained library and has survived along with a small document called the that was sent along with the charter, telling the sheriff of the county how to observe the conditions outlined in the document. One of the Bodleian's copies was displayed at San Francisco's California Palace of the Legion of Honor in 2011. Four exemplifications of the 1225 charter survive: the British Library holds one, which was preserved at Lacock Abbey until 1945; Durham Cathedral also holds a copy, with the Bodleian Library holding a third. The fourth copy of the 1225 exemplification was held by the museum of the Public Record Office and is now held by The National Archives (United Kingdom), The National Archives. The Society of Antiquaries of London, Society of Antiquaries also holds a draft of the 1215 charter (discovered in 2013 in a late-13th-century register from Peterborough Abbey), a copy of the 1225 third re-issue (within an early-14th-century collection of statutes) and a roll copy of the 1225 reissue. Only two exemplifications of Magna Carta are held outside England, both from 1297. One of these was purchased in 1952 by the Australian Government for £12,500 from King's School, Bruton, England. This copy is now on display in the Members' Hall of Parliament House, Canberra, Parliament House, Canberra. The second was originally held by the Earl of Cardigan, Brudenell family, earls of Cardigan, Ceredigion, Cardigan, before they sold it in 1984 to the Perot Foundation in the United States, which in 2007 sold it to U.S. businessman David Rubenstein for US$21.3 million. Rubenstein commented "I have always believed that this was an important document to our country, even though it wasn't drafted in our country. I think it was the basis for the Declaration of Independence and the basis for the Constitution". This exemplification is now on permanent loan to the National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives in Washington, D.C. Only two other 1297 exemplifications survive, one of which is held in the UK's National Archives, the other in the Guildhall, London. Seven copies of the 1300 exemplification by Edward I survive, in Faversham, Oriel College, Oxford, the Bodleian Library, Durham Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the
City of London The City of London is a City status in the United Kingdom, city, Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre and constitutes, alongside Canary Wharf, the primary central bu ...
(held in the archives at the London Guildhall) and Sandwich, Kent, Sandwich (held in the Kent County Council archives). The Sandwich copy was rediscovered in early 2015 in a Victorian scrapbook in the town archives of Sandwich, Kent, one of the Cinque Ports. In the case of the Sandwich and Oriel College exemplifications, the copies of the
Charter of the Forest The Charter of the Forest of 1217 ( la, Carta Foresta) is a charter that re-established for free tenant, free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by King William the Conqueror and his heirs. Many of its provisions were i ...
originally issued with them also survive.


Clauses

Most of the 1215 charter and later versions sought to govern the feudal rights of the Crown over the barons. Under the Angevin kings, and in particular during John's reign, the rights of the King had frequently been used inconsistently, often in an attempt to maximise the royal income from the barons. Feudal relief was one way that a king could demand money, and clauses 2 and 3 fixed the fees payable when an heir inherited an estate or when a minor came of age and took possession of his lands. Scutage was a form of medieval taxation; all knights and nobles owed military service to the Crown in return for their lands, which theoretically belonged to the King, but many preferred to avoid this service and offer money instead; the Crown often used the cash to pay for mercenaries. The rate of scutage that should be payable, and the circumstances under which it was appropriate for the King to demand it, was uncertain and controversial; clauses 12 and 14 addressed the management of the process. The English judicial system had altered considerably over the previous century, with the royal judges playing a larger role in delivering justice across the country. John had used his royal discretion to extort large sums of money from the barons, effectively taking payment to offer justice in particular cases, and the role of the Crown in delivering justice had become politically sensitive among the barons. Clauses 39 and 40 demanded due process be applied in the royal justice system, while clause 45 required that the King appoint knowledgeable royal officials to the relevant roles. Although these clauses did not have any special significance in the original charter, this part of Magna Carta became singled out as particularly important in later centuries. In the United States, for example, the Supreme Court of California interpreted clause 45 in 1974 as establishing a requirement in common law that a defendant faced with the potential of incarceration be entitled to a trial overseen by a legally trained judge.''Gordon v. Justice Court''
12 Cal. 3d 323
(1974).
Royal forests were economically important in medieval England and were both protected and exploited by the Crown, supplying the King with hunting grounds, raw materials, and money. They were subject to special royal jurisdiction and the resulting forest law was, according to the historian Richard Huscroft, "harsh and arbitrary, a matter purely for the King's will". The size of the forests had expanded under the Angevin kings, an unpopular development. The 1215 charter had several clauses relating to the royal forests; clauses 47 and 48 promised to deforest the lands added to the forests under John and investigate the use of royal rights in this area, but notably did not address the forestation of the previous kings, while clause 53 promised some form of redress for those affected by the recent changes, and clause 44 promised some relief from the operation of the forest courts. Neither Magna Carta nor the subsequent Charter of the Forest proved entirely satisfactory as a way of managing the political tensions arising in the operation of the royal forests. Some of the clauses addressed wider economic issues. The concerns of the barons over the treatment of their debts to Jewish moneylenders, who occupied a special position in medieval England and were by tradition under the King's protection, were addressed by clauses 10 and 11. The charter concluded this section with the phrase "debts owing to other than Jews shall be dealt with likewise", so it is debatable to what extent the Jews were being singled out by these clauses. Some issues were relatively specific, such as clause 33 which ordered the removal of all fishing weirs—an important and growing source of revenue at the time—from England's rivers. The role of the English Church had been a matter for great debate in the years prior to the 1215 charter. The Norman and Angevin kings had traditionally exercised a great deal of power over the church within their territories. From the 1040s onwards successive popes had emphasised the importance of the church being governed more effectively from Rome, and had established an independent judicial system and hierarchical chain of authority. After the 1140s, these principles had been largely accepted within the English church, even if accompanied by an element of concern about centralising authority in Rome. Investiture Controversy, These changes brought the customary rights of lay rulers such as John over ecclesiastical appointments into question. As described above, John had come to a compromise with Pope Innocent III in exchange for his political support for the King, and clause 1 of Magna Carta prominently displayed this arrangement, promising the freedoms and liberties of the church. The importance of this clause may also reflect the role of Archbishop Langton in the negotiations: Langton had taken a strong line on this issue during his career.


Clauses in detail


Clauses remaining in English law

Only three clauses of Magna Carta still remain on statute in England and Wales. These clauses concern 1) the freedom of the English Church, 2) the "ancient liberties" of the City of London (clause 13 in the 1215 charter, clause 9 in the 1297 statute), and 3) a right to due legal process (clauses 39 and 40 in the 1215 charter, clause 29 in the 1297 statute). In detail, these clauses (using the numbering system from the 1297 statute) state that:


See also

* Civil liberties in the United Kingdom *
Charter of the Forest The Charter of the Forest of 1217 ( la, Carta Foresta) is a charter that re-established for free tenant, free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by King William the Conqueror and his heirs. Many of its provisions were i ...
* Fundamental Laws of England * Haandfæstning * History of democracy * History of human rights * List of most expensive books and manuscripts * – an issue of the English Magna Carta, or Great Charter of Liberties in Ireland * Statutes of Mortmain


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * *


External links


Government websites


British Library

National Archives UK

British Parliament


Academic websites


The Magna Carta Project


Texts

*

Latin and English text of the 1215 charter
Text of Magna Carta
English translation, with introductory historical note. From the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. * {{Authority control Magna Carta, 1215 in England 1210s in law 1215 works 13th-century manuscripts Articles containing video clips Barons' Wars Civil rights and liberties in the United Kingdom Civil rights and liberties legislation Constitutional laws of England Cotton Library History of human rights Medieval charters and cartularies of England Medieval English law Memory of the World Register Political charters Political history of medieval England