On This Day In History

15 June 1215

The Magna Carta is agreed by King John of England

The document that has come to be known as Magna Carta or Great Charter, is recognised  as a fundamental part of the English constitutional tradition.

In 1215 King John of England (r.1199–1216) fought more than forty English barons & their followers in a civil war. The king had angered the barons by extracting revenues based on their feudal obligations in order to fight a war in France. After John lost the war, the barons rebelled against the king.

The rebels first demanded that the king confirm the Charter of Henry I, a coronation charter from 1100 in which King Henry I had promised to abolish all evil customs that oppressed the realm. Additional grievances were added to the charter, which King John was forced to accept at Runnymede, 15 June 1215, after the rebels occupied London.

Magna Carta contains sixty-three chapters. Many of the chapters defined the king’s feudal rights over his vassals, preventing the king from arbitrarily collecting revenue from the barons. Chapter 39 established the right to due process of law, & in chapter 40 the king promised that he would not sell, deny, or delay justice to anyone.

Magna Carta did not resolve the dispute between the barons & King John. Within months they were fighting again. In August 1215 the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, John’s feudal overlord, on the grounds that it had been executed under duress. In 1216, however, after John’s death the charter was reissued with some modifications. At the conclusion of the civil war in 1217, it was reissued again with minor revisions. This version of Magna Carta became part of the English constitutional tradition; confirmed by later kings & interpreted by Parliament, it is still revered as a symbol of English liberties.
800th anniversary of Magna Carta in Runnymede – 15 June 2015

LONDON — The 800th anniversary on Monday of Magna Carta, a medieval political truce that inspired protections for some of the world’s most cherished liberties, prompted a range of celebrations in Britain that were due to include a ceremony involving Queen Elizabeth II and a national beer day.  In Runnymede, England, the site by the banks of the Thames where the document was signed, the queen and Prime Minister David Cameron were due to attend an official commemoration.

Did you know the City Corporation owns one of the few copies of the Magna Carta in existence today? You don’t? Watch this video to see the story of the Magna Carta and the City of London (and then enjoy the little cartoon that Youtube suggests, as I did, showing you how Magna Carta is linked to the Human Rights Act). 


You can also read about the history of the Magna Carta here 

Google Doodle – interactive 

  King John known for murder.  

Today, Cameron ‘will fix human rights mess’ as he marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta by vowing to put right the “complete mess” of Britain’s human rights laws with a British bill of rights.