On June 15, 1215, Magna Carta was sealed in Runnymede, England. Although the “Great Charter of Liberties” was declared “illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people” just two months later, today it is considered one of the foundations of Western democracy.Magna Carta was a peace treaty between King John and a group of wealthy nobles called barons. The barons wanted more financial and political power than the king was willing to give them. These barons vowed to “stand fast with the liberty of the church and the realm”—not the king. The rebel barons organized a military and quickly occupied England’s capital city, London. At that point, King John decided to negotiate with them.Magna Carta has 63 chapters, called clauses. Most of these clauses protected the rights of the church and limited the amount of taxes owed to the king. The most significant clauses, however, are the 39th and 40th:
Magna Carta did not have an immediate impact. The liberties in the charter actually applied to very few people in medieval England. Most people were villeins—peasants who had to appeal to landowners to seek justice. Moreover, the document was rejected by both the pope and King John in August 1215, leading to the “First Barons’ War” in England. However, King John’s son and grandson (King Henry III and King Edward I) reissued Magna Carta as part of the law during their reigns.
- 39: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, 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.”
- 40: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay, right or justice.”
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry appeal Noun
request for assistance, support, or aid.
Bill of Rights Noun
first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
city where a region's government is located.
Encyclopedic Entry: capital charter Noun
document that outlines rules for how a state or other organization will be organized.
civil rights Plural Noun
set of fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all individuals, such as participation in the political system, ability to own property, and due process and equal protection under the law.
one part of a contract, treaty, or other agreement.
system of organization or government where the people decide policies or elect representatives to do so.
forced ejection from a country, or a person who feels forced to leave.
having to do with money.
basis of something.
human rights Noun
basic freedoms belonging to every individual, including the rights to social and political expression, spirituality, and opportunity.
quickly or right away.
meaning or effect.
to confine or put in a jail-like facility.
administration of law.
allowed by law.
Magna Carta Noun
(1215) "great charter" granted by King John, recognizing the rights and privileges of the aristocrats, the church, and freemen in England.
having to do with the Middle Ages (500-1400) in Europe.
to discuss with others of different viewpoints in order to reach an agreement, contract, or treaty.
person born into a position with a high rank or class.
person of low social rank and little social mobility in medieval society, usually a small farmer, farmworker, or owner of a houshold industry.
having to do with public policy, government, administration, or elected office.
leader of the Catholic Church.
rule or standard.
region of the Earth that harbors similar groups of species.
rebel noun, adjective
person who resists the authority of government.
to rule as a monarch.
specific freedom or opportunity granted to an individual or organization based on the law.
having to do with a monarchy.
formal or official stamp, emblem, or other mark.
to take suddenly.
important or impressive.
money or goods citizens provide to government in return for public services such as military protection.
official agreement between groups of people.
most common type of unfree peasant (serf) in medieval England, owing dues and services to his or her lord.