Magna Carta

Magna Carta


  • The Magna Carta, Latin for “Great Charter”, was a landmark legal document signed in 1215.
  • It was drawn up as a peace treaty between King John and his rebellious barons.
  • Crucially, it placed limits on the power of the monarch, establishing the principle that the king was not above the law.

Key Provisions

  • The Magna Carta contained 63 clauses addressing various grievances against King John’s rule.
  • Clause 39 is particularly noteworthy; it established the principle of Habeas Corpus, which states that no free man shall be imprisoned without the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.
  • Clause 40 stated that justice should not be sold, denied or delayed, laying the groundwork for due process in English law.

Impact on the English Monarchy

  • The Magna Carta signalled a shift in power from the monarchy to the barons.
  • Although King John repudiated the charter soon after signing it, future monarchs reissued it, establishing the Magna Carta as a cornerstone of English law.

Influence on Modern Politics

  • The Magna Carta had a profound impact, shaping legal and political systems around the world.
  • Principles found within the charter, such as the rule of law and due process, are key tenets of modern democracies.
  • Its influence can also be seen in documents like the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.