“…here is a law which is above the King and which even he must not break. This reaffirmation of a supreme law and its expression in a general charter is the great work of Magna Carta; and this alone justifies the respect in which men have held it.”
—Winston Churchill, 1956
The Magna Carta, also known as the Magna Charter or the Great Charter, is considered one of the most important events of the Medieval Era and one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy.
After Richard the Lionheart died, his brother John became the King of all England. He is considered to be one of the worst kings in England’s history. In 1205, King John had a disagreement with Pope Innocent III over the candidate choices for the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Pope had suggested Stephen Langton, which King John opposed.
In 1209, Pope Innocent III excommunicated King John and threatened to close all the churches. These events — along with King John’s unjust reign — led to the rebellion of his subjects.
In 1212, King John decided to tax the Barons further to recover the lost lands of Aquitaine, Poitou and Anjou. This form of extortion disguised as a tax caused the Barons to fight with King John over his unfair ruling and resulted in complete rebellion.
In January of 1215, the Barons of England, along with Archbishop Stephen Langston, demanded King John to rule by the old English laws as stated in the “Articles of the Barons”.
In June 1215 the Barons, dressed in full armor, met King John at Windsor and forced him to a meeting at Runnymede. On June 15, 1215 King John signed and sealed the document which later became the Magna Carta. In return, the Barons renewed the Oath of Fealty to King John. A formal royal grant was then drafted from this agreement which became the “Magna Carta”.
This charter was set to guarantee the Barons certain rights and protection, including:
(1) Trial by jury or judge
(2) No new tax laws without the approval of the Great Council
(3) The poor and rich alike must be tried in court to establish a just judgment
(4) The King himself was subject to the law
(5) The church was to elect Bishops without approval from the King.
King John ignored the Magna Carta many times, which led to the Barons War between 1215 and 1217. In 1216, the Barons supported Prince Louis (French king’s son) and brought him to London to become the King of England. However he was not actually crowned. After King John died, the Barons turned their support to his son, King Henry III.
— Nazanin Hebel
About the Author: Liberty loving Nazanin Hebel is a Biology Professor and Biology Discipline Chair (Program Coordinator) in the Houston Community College System. She is also a Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Texas Health Science Center Dental Branch, Houston who home schools her daughter. A self-described “Reagan Conservative”, Nazanin’s passion for the USA and freedom compelled her to contribute to the Freedom Forum. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook and follow her on twitter @NHebel.