“On this day 800 years ago – 15 June 1215 – King John set his royal seal on the Magna Carta in the idyllic Runnymede meadows near Windsor (see above),” FamilyVoice research officer Ros Phillips said today.
“As Pooh Bear’s creator A A Milne reminded us, King John was not a good man. He reluctantly agreed to the charter, drawn up by frustrated nobles who were guided by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury. The original charter was dismissed after just ten weeks, but later kings re-affirmed its wording. Its powerful ideas have echoed down through the ages:
- Freedom of religion
- The king is subject to the law, just like the rest of us
- Trial by peers – eventually developing into trial by jury
- The right to private property
- No imprisonment without trial
- No taxation without representation
- The law must follow due process.
Lord Denning, former UK Master of the Rolls, said the Magna Carta is: “The greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”
Ros Phillips said it is worth paying special attention to the principles of the Magna Carta at a time when the freedoms it upholds are under growing threat in our “politically correct” times.
“For example, governments increasingly want to limit the right of faith-based schools to choose staff who uphold the school’s ethos or even to teach students the values on which the school was founded,” she said.
“King John may be long dead, but today we face new despots.
“Long live the Magna Carta!”
- Christianity and culture
- Government and society