The Magna Carta & The British Parliament.Posted: November 11, 2011
The Magna Carta – By Stuart McLean
People involved: King John, The Barons, the Archbishop and the Pope (Pope Innocent III).
Hello, reader. I hope that this document will inform you on the topic of the Magna Carta. I hope that after reading this, you will feel smarter.
What was the Magna Carta??
The Magna Carta was a document in medieval history, that King John of England was forced into signing. It consisted on 63 clauses that ensured that no monarch could rule England as a dictatorship, and that the people must have some power. This document, restricting the King’s power, was not voluntarily signed – King John was forced into signing it by his barons.
How did the Magna Carta influence Medieval Life?
The Magna Carta influenced medieval life because it allowed the people more freedoms, and more rights. Before the Magna Carta was introduced, anyone accused of a crime would be tried by a Trial of Ordeals, such as Trial by Fire or Trial by Water. After the Magna Carta was introduced, people were tried by a jury, which vastly increased the fairness of the criminal trial process.
The signing of the Magna Carata also restricted the King from being able to take anything he wanted from his subjects. Before the Magna Carta, if the King wanted someone’s horse, he was able to take it. If the King wanted someone’s corn, it was able to be taken. The signing of the Magna Carta forced the King to buy someone’s property, rather than simply seize it.
This document stopped King John from being able to introduce tax he wanted, but having to get the consent of the people.
The signing of the Magna Carta also introduced the House of Lords, where the Barons & The King would meet to discuss matters such as taxes and laws, which is the basis for English Parliament today.
Why would King John sign such a document?
Well, why would King John ever seal such a document? I will emphasize “seal” because King John most likely didn’t know how to write – literacy skills were usually only possessed by church workers such as bishops.
King John sealed the Magna Carta because of many reasons. Firstly, after quarrelling with Pope Innocent III about whom the Archbishop should be. Pope Innocent III then banished King John, and banned all church services in England. Because England at that point was very extreme Catholic, the people felt that if they could not attend church they would not go to heaven. This was one cause of King John being forced to seal the Magna Carta.
Secondly, King John was served by multiple Barons. These barons provided him with men to fight and also collected taxes. Whenever King John raised taxes, he consulted with his barons first. King John was struggling to win wars overseas, but still demanded more men and tax from his barons. This enraged the barons, who then declared war on King John. The barons captured London, and then arranged to meet with King John in Runnymede. When they met up, King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, at threat of a full civil war between those loyal to King John and those loyal to the Barons.
What happened AFTER the Magna Carta was sealed?
King John did not plat to follow the Magna Carta, even though he sealed it. He wrote to Pope innocent III and asked him to cancel the Magna Carta. The Pope declared the Magna Carta null and void, angering the barons further. The barons again declared war on King John, but after King John ate a large meal he got a case of dysentery (extreme diarrhoea) and died. King John’s 9 year old son was crowned as king, and the Magna Carta was re-introduced in his name, with the support of the Pope this time.
With King John out of the picture, the conflicts died down, and peace was restored (somewhat) in England.
The Magna Carta’s influence today?
The Magna Carta still holds influence today, even though it was signed almost 850 years ago. We still have excerpts from the Magna Carta in the American Constituion and bill of Rights, such as that “That no freeman ought to be taken, or imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed, or deprived of his life, liberty, or property, but by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.” – ARTICLE 21 of the Declaration of Rights.