24 Facts About Magna Carta


Magna Carta originated as an unsuccessful attempt to achieve peace between royalist and rebel factions in 1215, as part of the events leading to the outbreak of the First Barons' War.

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Magna Carta was novel in that it set up a formally recognised means of collectively coercing the King.

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Preamble to Magna Carta includes the names of the following 27 ecclesiastical and secular magnates who had counselled John to accept its terms.

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Magna Carta became increasingly embedded into English political life during Henry III's minority.

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Magna Carta generally acted within the terms of the charters, which prevented the Crown from taking extrajudicial action against the barons, including the fines and expropriations that had been common under his father, John.

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The reformist barons argued their case based on Magna Carta, suggesting that it was inviolable under English law and that the King had broken its terms.

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Edward invoked Magna Carta in advancing his cause, arguing that the reformers had taken matters too far and were themselves acting against Magna Carta.

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Pope Clement V continued the papal policy of supporting monarchs against any claims in Magna Carta which challenged the King's rights, and annulled the in 1305.

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Between the 13th and 15th centuries Magna Carta was reconfirmed 32 times according to Sir Edward Coke, and possibly as many as 45 times.

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Pro-Catholic demonstrations during the 1536 uprising cited Magna Carta, accusing the King of not giving it sufficient respect.

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Francis Bacon argued that clause 39 of Magna Carta was the basis of the 16th-century jury system and judicial processes.

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Antiquarians Robert Beale, James Morice and Richard Cosin argued that Magna Carta was a statement of liberty and a fundamental, supreme law empowering English government.

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James I and Charles I both propounded greater authority for the Crown, justified by the doctrine of the divine right of kings, and Magna Carta was cited extensively by their opponents to challenge the monarchy.

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Magna Carta, it was argued, recognised and protected the liberty of individual Englishmen, made the King subject to the common law of the land, formed the origin of the trial by jury system, and acknowledged the ancient origins of Parliament: because of Magna Carta and this ancient constitution, an English monarch was unable to alter these long-standing English customs.

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John Lilburne, for example, argued that Magna Carta contained only some of the freedoms that had supposedly existed under the Anglo-Saxons before being crushed by the Norman yoke.

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Penn's comments reflected Coke's, indicating a belief that Magna Carta was a fundamental law.

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The colonists drew on English law books, leading them to an anachronistic interpretation of Magna Carta, believing that it guaranteed trial by jury and habeas corpus.

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Stubbs argued that Magna Carta had been a major step in the shaping of the English nation, and he believed that the barons at Runnymede in 1215 were not just representing the nobility, but the people of England as a whole, standing up to a tyrannical ruler in the form of King John.

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In many literary representations of the medieval past Magna Carta remained a foundation of English national identity.

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Magna Carta continues to have a powerful iconic status in British society, being cited by politicians and lawyers in support of constitutional positions.

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Magna Carta carries little legal weight in modern Britain, as most of its clauses have been repealed and relevant rights ensured by other statutes, but the historian James Holt remarks that the survival of the 1215 charter in national life is a "reflexion of the continuous development of English law and administration" and symbolic of the many struggles between authority and the law over the centuries.

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In many ways still a "sacred text", Magna Carta is generally considered part of the uncodified constitution of the United Kingdom; in a 2005 speech, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Woolf, described it as the "first of a series of instruments that now are recognised as having a special constitutional status".

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Magna Carta was reprinted in New Zealand in 1881 as one of the Imperial Acts in force there.

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British artist Cornelia Parker was commissioned to create a new artwork, Magna Carta, which was shown at the British Library between May and July 2015.

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