Magna Carta

(1215)

Impact

Upon its inception, the Magna Carta did not make much of an impact, as King John largely ignored it. It faded in importance during the Tudor period of English history, but the document was revived in the seventeenth century during the Stuart period, when Parliament was at odds with the king. Sir Edward Coke was the seventeenth-century champion of the Magna Carta. He asserted that it was proof of an ancient set of liberties that English people possessed. Coke invoked an ideal of the Magna Carta, rather than the probable intention of its authors. Although Coke died in 1634, his view of the Magna Carta was used as a spark to ignite the English Civil War of the 1640s and later the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which brought King William III and Queen Mary II from the Netherlands to the English throne and produced the English Bill of Rights. It was also the inspiration behind the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679. As time went on, power shifted increasingly from the king to...

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Portrait of King John (Yale University Art Gallery)

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