In June 1215 a group of English barons forced King John of England to accept the sixty-three provisions of the Magna Carta (“Great Charter”) at Runnymede, England. The Magna Carta was not originally intended to secure rights for all English citizens. Rather, it was meant to assert the feudal rights of England's barons, who had become disenchanted with King John's rule. Soon after it was signed, John ignored the tenets of the charter and began warring with his barons again. Despite the motivations of the authors and signers, the document contains political principles that remain important today. After its original issuance in 1215, the Magna Carta was revised and reissued. The 1297 version of the charter, which is the version used here, was renewed under King Edward I and remains on the statute books to this day, although numerous provisions have been repealed by specific legislation.
The Magna Carta has gained significance as the centuries have passed and has come to...
Portrait of King John (Yale University Art Gallery)View Full Size