Magna Carta Celebrations in 2015, why?
Charlotte Gunnell, Metro.co.uk writes in detail about the Magna Carta, and why it is important.
This may answer some questions you have and help you understand why 2015 will be an important year for celebrating the 800th year of the sealing of the Magna Carta.
Faversham is playing a big part in the National celebrations and the Events calendar on faversham.org here has lots of wonderful events listed.
2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. It’s a document you’ll be hearing a lot more about over the next 12 months so, just in case that history lesson passed you by at school, here’s everything you need to know.
What is Magna Carta and why is it so important?
Magna Carta is a document created in 1215 that limited the power of the monarch and established human rights for everyone in England.
Signed on June 15 by King John of England in Runnymede, Surrey, Magna Carta was meant as a peace treaty between King John and his subjects, and demanded that every person had to obey the law, including the king.
Among the original 63 clauses in the 1215 Magna Carta – many of which dealt with King John’s wrongdoings during his tyrannical reign – were the right to a fair trial by jury for all ‘free men’ and the right of all cities, boroughs, towns and ports to enjoy ‘free customs’.
‘Magna Carta’ means ‘The Great Charter’ in Latin, and the signing of this new ‘peace treaty’ is considered a pivotal moment in the establishment of the human rights that we all enjoy today.
So we’ve got Magna Carta to thank for our justice system?
Yes – although the original clause relating to a trial by jury onlymakes reference to ‘free men’ which in medieval times excluded peasants, who still had to seek justice through the lords, in the 14th century this clause was reinterpreted to give all individuals, whatever their social standing, the right to a trial by jury.
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 other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
The original charter also included a clause demanding that people should be fined in proportion to their crime, so as not to threaten their livelihood.
Why did King John sign something that limited his powers?
King John was a tyrant, known to impose unfair taxes on his barons to pay his military costs. His tempestuous relationship with the church also caused the Pope to restrict the religious rights of the English people for five years, as well as banishing the king from the church.
By 1215, English barons had had enough and launched a campaign to bring their king to justice. They refused to acknowledge their allegiance to the king and captured the City of London, which forced the king to give in to the barons’ demands.
He agreed to sign a charter that reduced his power over his subjects – Magna Carta.
What happened next?
The peace was short-lived – after signing Magna Carta, King John immediately asked Pope Innocent III to decree it null and void, to which the Pope agreed.
Since the Pope had full control of the country, above the king and his barons, this meant that the charter could not be upheld by law.
In retaliation, the barons refused to surrender London back to the king and civil war broke out. King John died in 1216 while this war was ongoing, so never lived to feel the full effects of the charter that was supposed to stop his tyrannical hold on England’s subjects.
So is Magna Carta still relevant today?
Absolutely – in 1225 Henry III signed a new version of Magna Carta, which took the idea of a royal treaty one step further.
During the 10 years after it was signed, about a third of the charter was rewritten and many of its clauses have been repealed because they cannot be applied to modern law.
However, three of the 63 original clauses are upheld in English law today. These include the English Church’s right to freedom; the right of the City of London to its ‘ancient liberties and free customs'; and the right to trial by jury.
The ideas that all individuals have the right to freedom and that everyone, no matter what their standing, is subject to the law are considered to be cornerstones of the British constitution.
Can anyone actually read Magna Carta?
You can read a full translation of the original Magna Carta at The British Library website.
Where can I see it?
There are four surviving original copies of Magna Carta, and you can see them all in the UK.
There are two copies of the 1215 original in the British Library, which you can see for free in the main public gallery.
Another original is in Lincoln Cathedral – you’ll be able to see that one from April 1 2015, in a special vault near the cathedral that was purpose-built for the 800th anniversary.
The fourth original copy is held at Salisbury Cathedral.
Where can I find more information about Magna Carta?
Get yourself to the brilliant British Library Magna Carta website for details on its history, an English translation and events happening in 2015.
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