246. Magna Carta (1215)

“No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseized, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go or send against him, except by the legal judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. To no one will be sell, to no one will be deny or delay, right or justice” 

Clauses 39 and 40, Magna Carta 1215.

Source :  Magna Carta : the making and legacy of the Great Charter, by Dan Jones, published by Head of Zeus, 2014.

Magna Carta continues to be touted as a charter of basic rights 800 years after the first version was confirmed at Runnymede in 1215. It is actually more a recognition of the rights of the Church and the aristocracy, with the warning that should the King renege on any clauses, the Barons would be allowed to “uphold and cause to be observed the peace and liberties .. confirmed in this present charter … shall distrain and distress us in all ways possible, by taking castles, lands, possessions and in any other ways they can, until it has been put right”  (clause 61, Magna Carta)

Thoughts : Dan Jones’ book provides background not just on King John’s reign and tyrannies, but also his brother Richard and father Henry II’s reigns where the rot set in. It is a quick read but provides an excellent overview of the situation away from the myths (for instance, John did not sign anything, the Royal Seal would have been affixed to the document by one of his court officials).

Favourite quotes/scenes:  John took the cross and promised to eventually join the Crusades (which he never did, dying of dysentery and a surfeit of fresh peaches during the civil war of 1216. However, this was a politically astute move as it lifted the excommunication and gave him the support of Pope Innocent III, which led to Innocent making the following pronouncement regarding Magna Carta:

“Although our well-beloved son in Christ, John, illustrious King of the English, grievously offended God and the Church … the king at length returned to his senses.  …. [the barons showed] shameless presumption that the King’s rights were injured, the English nation shamed and the whole plan for a crusade seriously endangered …. we utterly reject and condemn this settlement and under threat of excommunication we order that the king should not dare to observe it”

Digressions/diversions:   During my recent holiday in England, I saw one of the 1215 copies of Magna Carta at Sailsbury Cathedral (the one attacked by a hammer wielding idiot a few years ago) and a 1217 copy at Hereford Cathedral (also home of the very impressive chained library and the Mappa Mundi, a detailed Medieval map of the entire known world).

Personal rating:  Interesting. 5/10

In the years 1210-1219:

  • Pope Innocent III authorizes St Francis of Assisi and 11 others to be roving preachers, 1210
  • Aztec civilization active in Mexico
  • Thousands of children set out on the Children’s Crusade to the Holy Land, most perishing,1212
  • Spanish Christians defeat Moorish Almohades at Las Navas de Tolosa, completing Christian reconquest of Spain, 1212
  • Genghis Khan’s Mongols seize Bokhara (Uzbekistan), 1219
  • Hojo family ends Minamoto reign in Japan, ruling as regents for the Shoguns, 1219

from The Book of Key Facts, Paddington Press, 1978

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2 comments

  1. My weird sister had a framed copy of the Magna Carta on her bedroom wall when she was a student (of medieval history, so there was some slight excuse for her). I couldn’t have given it more than 5/10 either, whereas my opposite poster of Marc Bolan was definitely a 10… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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