Not far from where I live there is a place called Runnymede. It is a pleasant place full of greenery. It was there that King John arrived from Windsor Castle in 2015 to "sign", or more accurately to attach his Royal Seal to Magna Carta which would limit the powers of Kingship.
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This article is about the English charter of 1215. For other uses, see Magna Carta (disambiguation).
One of only four surviving exemplifications of the 1215 text, Cotton MS. Augustus II. 106
|Location||The British Library and the cathedrals of Lincoln and Salisbury|
|Author(s)||John, King of England, his barons and Stephen Langton|
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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 English Parliament passed new laws, it lost some of its practical significance. At the end of the 16th century, however, 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, 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 used Magna Carta extensively in the early 17th century, arguing against the divine right of kings propounded by the Stuart monarchs. Both James I and his son Charles I attempted to suppress the discussion of Magna Carta, until the issue was curtailed by the English Civil War of the 1640s and the execution of Charles.
The political myth of Magna Carta and its protection of ancient personal liberties persisted after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 until well into the 19th century. It influenced the early American colonists in the Thirteen Colonies and the formation of the American Constitution in 1789, 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. 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 times – 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, held by the British Library and the cathedrals of Lincoln and Salisbury. 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. The original charters were written on vellum sheets using quill pens, in a particular style of abbreviated Latin. Each was sealed with the royal great seal using beeswax and resin, most of which have not survived. Although academics refer to the 63 numbered "clauses" of Magna Carta, this is a modern system of numbering, introduced by Sir William Blackstone in 1759; the original charter formed a single, long unbroken text. The four original 1215 charters will be on joint display at the British Library in 2015 to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
- 1 History
- 1.1 13th century
- 1.2 14th–15th centuries
- 1.3 16th century
- 1.4 17th–18th centuries
- 1.5 19th–21st centuries
- 2 Content
- 3 Usage of the definite article and spelling
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 External links