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The significance of the Magna Carta on its 800th anniversary

Posted by: Laurence Simons 15/06/15

Rejected, disliked and declared “illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people” - how wrong could King John have been?

 
Having just spent a weekend celebrating Magna Carta in Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire, the home of William Marshal who was one of the Magna Carta Barons, the historic importance of this date has been well and truly brought home to me and everyone living in the village over the last few months. At the weekend it was also brought to life for us, as we watched live jousting and a medieval pageant celebrating the life of William Marshal, described as the greatest Knight in Christendom.

Today marks the 800th year of the signing of Magna Carta, which inspired parliamentary democracy and established the principle that all people are equal when it comes to the law, including the monarch. Magna Carta inspired a system of government not just in the UK, but around the world. From our current system of law to the US constitution to the universal declaration of human rights, Magna Carta’s importance in history is immeasurable.

Whilst the words used in the original Magna Carta are arcane, the ideas and the principles on which it is founded are as relevant today as 800 years ago. While the majority of the document is now outdated, there are still three clauses in the Magna Carta which remain valid, namely the clauses guaranteeing the liberties of the English Church, confirming the privileges of the City of London and other towns and the clause which states that no free man shall be imprisoned without lawful judgement of his equals.

There is no doubting the lasting significance and profound impact of this date in 1215.