Sunday, June 15

The Magna Carta

The Magna Carta, drafted by Archbishop Stephen Langton, was forced upon King John at the field of Runnymede on this day in 1215. England's barons had been on the verge of revolt against the high-handed king who had never been able to match the popularity of his dashing older brother Richard Coeur de Lion. Though the charter was not the genesis of Western liberty as is often claimed—that honor should go to Robert the Bruce’s Arbroath Declaration of 1420—the Magna Carta did guarantee several key provisions of common law for the nobles including trial by a jury and a prohibition against new taxes without permission of mediating magistrates—both of which afforded them with the rudimentary beginnings of a representational parliament. John, loathe to yield even a fraction of his power, appealed to the pope, promising to become his vassal. The pope promptly voided Magna Carta.

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