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Magna Carta 101

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Magna Carta

Twenty-five barons made an oath to enforce Magna Carta. They are known as the Surety Barons of Magna Carta, and this is their story.[1]

Magna Carta - A Chronology of Events

Events that lead up to Magna Carta

  • 1205: King John quarrels with Pope Innocent III about who should be archbishop of Canterbury. The Pope wants Stephen Langton, but King John swore he should never come to England.
  • 1209: Pope retaliates. Excommunicates King John and bans all church services in all parish churches
  • King John gives in. Innocent III makes the king and people pay him money when he demands.
  • Taxes levied by King John were extortionate. His reprisals against defaulters were ruthless and his idea justice was considered avaricious
  • 1212: King John imposes taxes on Barons in attempts to regain lost lands of Aquitaine, Poitou and Anjou.
  • King John quarrels with Barons over his methods of ruling England
  • Barons and Stephen Langton decide to curb the King, and make him govern by old English laws that prevailed before the Normans came. Demands of the Barons were documented in the 'Articles of the Barons' in January 1215
  • Barons take up arms against King John
  • May 1215: Barons capture London.
  • June: In full armor, Barons take King John by surprise at Windsor. The king agrees to meet at Runnymede.
  • 10 June 1215: King John signs and seals the document.
  • June 15: King John set his seal to Magna Carta
  • June 17: Barons sign their vow to enforce it.
  • June 19: Barons renew oaths of fealty to King John.
  • July 19: The royal chancery creates a formal document recording the agreement. Copies are sent throughout the land.

But then... King John goes to war against the barons who had said they would be surety for him keeping his promises, breaking his oath not to do so.

Specific issues in Magna Carta

  • 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

Churchmen from Preamble of Magna Carta

The rights of the church are featured prominently in Magna Carta. The following list of churchmen is in the preamble. They advised King John and they influenced the way Magna Carta was written.

  • Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman Church
  • Henry archbishop of Dublin
  • William of London
  • Peter of Winchester
  • Jocelyn of Bath and Glastonbury
  • Hugh of Lincoln
  • Walter of Worcester
  • William of Coventry
  • Benedict of Rochester
  • Pandulf, subdeacon and member of the household of our lord the Pope
  • brother Aymeric (master of the Knights of the Temple in England)

Why was the Magna Carta 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.
  • Article 39 (changed to Article 29 in the later version that became a statute) established that the government (king) cannot deprive anyone (originally "freemen" but later expanded) of life, liberty, and property without due process of the law. These individual rights were later written into Amendments 5 and 6 of the U.S. Constitution. Magna Carta is also a root of the English constitutional principle of "no taxation without representation" which featured strongly in the motivation for the American Revolution.

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.

Sources for Magna Carta outside WikiTree

  • Magna Carta, Wikipedia: overview of the history of Magna Carta with footnotes, images and linked list of additional resources.

  1. This information was included by the originators of WikiTree's Magna Carta Project on the Magna Carta category page. Later WikiTree guidelines recommend minimal text on category pages, so text from Magna Carta Project categories are being moving to space pages. For more information about the Grand Charter, or Magna Carta, see the Magna Carta Project Page and information posted elsewhere:
    For Project information, see the Magna Carta Project 101 page.


Categories: Magna Carta Project