First a notice of what promises to be an interesting talk at the British Library about the other Charters. It is called Statutes, Constitutions and a Golden Bull: Early European Parallels to Magna Carta. The Golden Bull has been mentioned on this blog before but the others,the Statute of Pamiers (1212, the Constitutions of Melfi (1231) and the imperial land peace of Mainz (1235) sound very interesting as well. If humanly possible, I shall be there and report on the event.

Meanwhile, I have been reminded by a blog reader of the chapter on King John (An Awful King) and the Magna Charter in that best of all history books, 1066 And All That. (Here is an excellent history quiz published in the Guardian that is taken from the test papers of that fine book; here is the text of the book but I would still recommend that people acquire a paper edition for the illustrations if nothing else.)

Meanwhile, what do the authors say in Chapter 19?

"Magna Charter

There also happened in this reign the memorable Charta, known as Magna Charter on account of the Latin Magna (great) and Charter (a Charter); this was the first of the famous Chartas and Gartas of the Realm and was invented by the Barons on a desert island in the Thames called Ganymede. By congregating there, armed to the teeth, the Barons compelled John to sign the Magna Charter, which said:
  1. That no one was to be put to death, save for some reason - (except the Common People).
  2. That everyone should be free - (except the Common People).
  3. That everything should be of the same weight and measure throughout the Realm - (except the Common People).
  4. That the Courts should be stationary, instead of following a very tiresome mediaeval official known as the King's Person all over the country.
  5. That 'no person should be fined to his utter ruin' - (except the King's Person).
  6. That the Barons should not be tried except by a special jury of other Barons who would understand.
Magna Charter was therefore the chief cause of Democracy in England, and thus a Good Thing for everyone (except the Common People).

After this King John hadn't a leg to stand on and was therefore known as 'John Lackshanks'."

That, I think, makes it all crystal clear. I shall be asking questions later. 


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