What is the Magna Carta?
What is the Magna Carta? The Magna Carta is a document that King John of England (1166 - 1216) was forced into signing. King John was forced into signing the charter because it greatly reduced the power he held as the King of England and allowed for the formation of a powerful parliament. The Magna Carta became the basis for English citizen's rights.
What was the purpose of the Magna Carta?
What was the purpose of the Magna Carta? The purpose of the Magna Carta was to curb the King and make him govern by the old English laws that had prevailed before the Normans came. The Magna Carta was a collection of 37 English laws - some copied, some recollected, some old and some new. The Magna Carta demonstrated that the power of the king could be limited by a written grant.
Who wrote the Magna Carta?
The content of the Magna Carta was drafted by Archbishop Stephen Langton and the most powerful Barons of England. King John signed the document which was originally called the 'Articles of the Barons' on June 10, 1215. The barons renewed the Oath of Fealty to King John on June 15, 1215. The royal chancery produced a formal royal grant, based on the agreements reached at Runnymede, which became known as Magna Carta. Copies of the Magna Carta were distributed to bishops, sheriffs and other important people throughout England.
Important Facts about the Magna Carta
Interesting information and important facts:
- Key Dates relating to the event: The Magna Carta was signed by King John on June 15, 1215
- Other names for Magna Carta: It is also referred to as the Magna Charter or the Great Charter
- Where was the Magna Carta signed? The Magna Carta was signed by King John in a meadow at Runnymede in Egham, Surrey, South England ( between Windsor and Staines)
- Key People relating to the event: King John of England, Archbishop Stephen Langton and the Barons
- Why the Magna Carta was famous and important to the history of England? The charter is considered to be the beginning of constitutional government in England. The Magna Carta demonstrated that the power of the king could be limited by a written grant.
Whythe Magna Carta was important to the History of America
A document signed by an English King in 1215! Why the Magna Carta was important to the history of America? The Magna Carta is considered the founding document of English liberties and hence American liberties. The influence of Magna Carta can be seen in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Article 21 from the Declaration of Rights in the Maryland Constitution of 1776 reads:
"That no freeman ought to be taken, or imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed, or deprived of his life, liberty, or property, but by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land."
King John and the Magna Carta
What events led up to King John being forced into the signing of the Magna Carta?
- In 1205 King John quarrelled with the Pope Innocent III about who should be archbishop of Canterbury. The Pope wanted a man named Stephen Langton to be archbishop, but King John swore he should never come to England.
- In 1209 The pope retaliated, excommunicated King John and banned all church services in all parish churches
- King John gave in, and Pope Innocent made the king and people pay him money whenever he demanded it.
- Taxes levied by King John were extortionate. His reprisals against defaulters were ruthless and his idea justice was considered avaricious
- In 1212 King John imposes taxes on the Barons in his attempts to regain the lost lands of Aquitaine, Poitou and Anjou
- King John quarrels with the Barons over his methods of ruling England
- The Barons and Stephen Langton decided to curb the King and make him govern by the old English laws that had prevailed before the Normans came. The demands of the Barons were documented in the 'Articles of the Barons' in January 1215
- The Barons took up arms against King John
- The Barons captured London in May 1215
- In June the Barons, in full armor, took King John by surprise at Windsor and he agreed to a meeting at Runnymede
- King John signed and sealed the document on June 10, 1215
- The barons renewed the Oath of Fealty to King John on June 15, 1215
- The royal chancery produced a formal royal grant, based on the agreements reached at Runnymede, which became known as Magna Carta
- Copies of the Magna Carta were distributed to bishops, sheriffs and other important people throughout England
King John had no intention of abiding by the Magna Carta. His duplicity leads to the Barons War between 1215 - 1217. The rebel barons support the son of the king of France, Prince Louis in preference to King John. In 1216 Prince Louis invades England and marches to London where he receives support and is was proclaimed and accepted as King of England (although not actually crowned). King John dies in October. The Barons turn on Prince Louis and supports the nine year old son of King John who then became King Henry III of England.
Biography of King John
Summary of the Magna Carta
The summary of the Magna Carta is as follows:
- The Church - The Church was to be free from royal interference, especially in the election of bishops
- Taxes - No taxes except the regular feudal dues were to be levied, except by the consent of the Great Council, or Parliament
- The right to due process which led to Trial by Jury
- Weights and Measures - All weights and measures to be kept uniform throughout the realm