Magna Carta (Latin for “the Great Charter“), also called Magna Carta Libertatum (Latin for “the Great Charter of the Liberties“), is a charter agreed by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215. First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons. Neither side stood behind their commitments, and the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III . In other words the Magna Carta was all about protecting the King & his elite, ring any bells anyone? No?
After John’s death, the regency government of his young son, Henry III, reissued the document in 1216. At the end of the war in 1217, it formed part of the peace treaty agreed at Lambeth, where the document acquired the name Magna Carta.
The charter became part of English political life and was typically renewed by each monarch in turn, although as time went by and the fledgling English Parliament passed new laws, it lost some of its practical significance. At the end of the 16th century there was an upsurge in interest in Magna Carta. Lawyers and historians at the time believed that there was an ancient English constitution, going back to the days of the Anglo-Saxons, that protected individual English freedoms.
Although this historical account was badly flawed, the political myth of Magna Carta and its protection of ancient personal liberties persisted. Research by Victorian historians showed that the original 1215 charter concerned the medieval relationship between the monarch and the ruling elite. Nothing new there then, we’ve had the Queen’s Speech haven’t we? Stuffed full of goodies like further library cuts, police cuts, benefit cuts and public service cuts (l’or guv! We still have a public service?).
Magna Carta still forms an important symbol of liberty today, often cited by politicians and campaigners, and is held in great respect by the British and American legal communities, Lord Denning describing it as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot” go figure….
In the 21st century, four exemplifications of the original 1215 charter remain in existence, held by the British Library and the cathedrals of Lincoln and Salisbury. There are also a handful of the subsequent charters in public and private ownership, including copies of the 1297 charter in both the United States and Australia. The original charters were written on vellum sheets using quill pens, in a particular style of abbreviated Latin. So there we have it boys & girls! The history of the Magna Carta! At some point in time I feel certain I’ll get around to the history of ‘extraordinary rendition’ (see below),
Which I shall in turn be following up with an analytical explanation of the practice of waterboarding, something which its victims and Britain’s esteemable government agents would know all about, apparently…..
The Magna Carta, a very british tradition betokening the greatness of…..british tradition…unlike say, the introduction of closed material proceedings…………