Its 804 years ago since the Magna Carta was signed in England. This was the great charter that was supposed to limit the power of the monarch and it did, sort of.
So what’s the background? Well it’s fair to say King John (27 May 1199 to 19 October 1216) was not the most popular King. Think the tales of Robin Hood and the Prince John character. The nobles of the country really didn’t like him and during his reign they tried to get rid of him. Some wanted to replace him with his nephew Arthur the son of his late older brother Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany. John got passed that by having Arthur imprisoned and possibly murdered when he was 16 years old.
Next the barons tried to replace John with his nephew by marriage Prince Louis of France. He was the husband of Blanche of Castile who was the daughter of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and his consort Eleanor of England (John’s sister). Big problem, Louis was the heir to the French throne (he would later become King Louis VIII of France and really the barons didn’t want England to fall into the hands of the French.
In June 1215 the barons entered London with the support of both Prince Louis and the Scottish King Alexander II. The plan was to force John to recognise their rights and implement the Charters of Liberties. This was signed in 1100 by King Henry I. In basic terms this charter meant the King had to recognise all laws regarding the nobles such as the right of succession of sons, the rights of noble women to marry and that the crown could force nobles to stand trial for crimes they committed. It also protected the church in that the crown could not take property from them.
King John basically thought he was above the laws of the land. He was taking what he wanted and doing what he wanted when he wanted. Something had to be done so the barons drew up the Magna Carter (great charter). On the 15th June 1215 the barons met King John at Runnymede on the banks of the river Thames. It was here that the Magna Carta was signed. In a sense it was a peace treaty between the crown and the nobles. Still neither side trusted the other, and several days after it was signed the King was already going against the act and trying to get out of it.
Now the sticking point was clause 61 which said that an elected council of nobles was to be put in place to keep an eye on the king. The king didn’t like this one bit so a matter of days after he signed the charter he started to go against it. He ran to the Pope (metaphorically) for help. He told the Pope he was forced to sign it and planted the idea that if they could do that to a King what would they do to the church? The Pope agreed and said he would excommunicate the barons. This lead to the barons taking up arms and the Barons War ensued. This went on until October 2016 when King John died and rumbled on until 1225.
The new King Henry III was John’s son. He was 9 when he ascended the throne and so the country was ruled by his guardians. Once he was old enough he promised to uphold the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta still has prominence today. In the UK of the 63 clauses in the original document some are still in place today. These are:
Clause 1: “FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.”
Clause 13: “The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs.”
Clause 39: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”
Clause 40: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”
All taken from: https://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/magna-carta-what-magna-carta/key-clauses-magna-carta
In the USA the Magna Carta played a large part in the drawing up of the Constitution.
So It may have happened 804 years ago but it is still relevant today, and if you want to see one of the 4 original documents then you can see them at the British Library (2 copies), Salisbury Cathedral or Lincoln Castle. I’ve seen it and whoever wrote it down had the smallest writing I’ve ever seen.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!