Magna Carta

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Magna Carta

n. Latin for "Great Charter," it was a document delineating a series of laws establishing the rights of English barons and major land owners, which limited the absolute authority of the King of England and became the basis for the rights of English citizens. It was signed reluctantly by King John on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede, at a table set up in a field under a canopy and surrounded by the armed gentry. The Magna Carta was confirmed by John's son, Henry III, and in turn by Henry's son, Edward I. As John Cowell would write four centuries later: "although this charter consists of not above thirty seven Charters or Lawes yet it is of such extent, as all the Law wee have, is thought in some form to depend on it." Essentially a document for the nobility, it became the basis of individual rights as a part of the English Constitution, which is generally more custom than written documents. It is also spelled: Magna Charta.

Magna Carta

the ‘Great Charter’ of liberties, signed by King John at Runymede, 15 June 1215 One of the foundations of the notion of the rule of law. The barons made it clear that the king operated under legal constraints. Two clauses, 39 and 40, were developed to become a basis of the liberty of the subject to the present: ‘No freeman shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possession, or outlawed or exiled or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land’ (Clause 39); ‘To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice’ (Clause 40).