Posted by: cjjj1 | November 24, 2008

The Magna Carta by, Jessica Jones

The Magna Carta

“John, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, greeting.”

The Magna Carta is one of the most recognizable documents in medieval history. The Magna Carta also means Great Charter. Signed in 1215, it changed England forever. King John was the man responsible for the Magna Carta. King John of England was a greedy, unjust ruler and had many enemies. His troubles were endless. Pope Innocent III excommunicated John and placed England under interdict, for rejecting the pope’s nominee. Without church services, John was forced with no choice but to pay a yearly fine to Rome.

King Phillip II of France, also a very powerful leader at the time, went to war with John. After the loss to France, Phillip took control of all English territories in Normandy and Anjou. Military defeats and land lost, caused the loss of English income.  John needed money for armies so he taxed even more. 250px-king_john_of_england_signs_the_magna_carta_-_illustration_from_cassells_history_of_england_-_century_edition_-_published_circa_19021

John’s greed got the best of him. He oppressed the peasants, reducing them to nothing. The taxes were so high; most peasants couldn’t afford to live. The king abused his power so much the townspeople were enraged. While children starved, King John continued to take the people’s money. The people and barons of England were bound to rebel. A group of nobles eventually revolted, cornering King John. This uprising forced him to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede. This document gave King John limited power. John was not happy, but had no choice.

The barons wanted to protect their own legal rights; included in the Magna Carta, are the protection of the Church and townspeople’s legal rights also. John would not be allowed to tax the people without permission. The Great Council of lords and clergy would be the first people King John’s legal actions would have to go through. Each clause of the document had a purpose and affected the government for the better. For example, clause 39 states, “No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or diseased, or outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed… unless by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.” This clause would make sure no man would be accused unfairly. Not only would this one clause affect just England, but other countries would follow too.

The change that swept the country was enormous, even though it wasn’t instant. Peasants could afford to keep land again, eat normal food, and survive. But not all change was for the better. Clause 61 started many problems for the king. Clause 61 gave 25 barons power to overthrow the king at anytime, taking everything from him. King John had to remain loyal to the committee. King John and Pope Innocent III were outraged. The Pope annulled the Magna Carta, saying it was a demeaning agreement, forced upon King John. The Pope released King John from his oath to the document and committee. This caused England to go into a civil war, the First Barons’ War. This was included King John, rebellious irate barons, and the French, brought by the barons.

The Magna Carta was re-issued 1225. Only this time, it was shortened to 37 articles, excluding clause 61. After King John died, his nine year old son, Henry III, took over. When he turned 18 the Magna Carta was reinstated. For 56 years Henry ruled until he died. By then the Magna Carta was a solid part of England’s government.

The political structure of England still remained a monarchy after the Magna Carta, but a more orderly monarchy. After King Henry III died, his son, Edward I, took the throne. Ruling under the legal rights of the Magna Carta, Edward reissued the Magna Carta for the last time in October 1297.magnacarteg_468x5781

The Magna Carta not only changed England, but also affected us today. America’s constitution is based off the idea of the Magna Carta. Each clause protects the right of the English people. The U.S constitution is made up of amendments to give legal rights to the people of America. The people today would not have those rights, without the idea of the Magna Carta; a document to be signed for the people. Clause 39 would not only be recognized in England, but also in the U.S. constitution as “due process of law”. The idea of a monarchy, may have been changed some, gave a democracy the same idea for the rights of the people.


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