The Magna Carta: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Magna Carta.

  • The Magna Carta was one of the most important legal documents of medieval England. It has been described as the earliest constitutional document ever written.

  • The Magna Carta, which means ‘great charter’ in Latin, was a document signed by King John and the feudal barons. It was a written promise that the King would govern according to feudal law.
  • The barons wanted to make sure that they were treated fairly. Because King John had lost a lot of land in France, he raised taxes without asking the barons first, which angered them.
  • The document was created and signed in 1215, at Runnymede near Windsor Castle. It was signed by 25 barons and witnessed by almost 30 bishops and abbots.
  • The Magna Carta contained 37 English laws, some new and some already in existence. Some are still in effect today, such as the requirement that a person’s legal rights are respected and not impeded.
  • One of the clauses of the Magna Carta was known as clause 61. It stated that the barons could meet at any time to go against what the king had decided if they felt they were being governed unfairly.
  • No original master copy of the document survives, although there are many copies in existence. Each time it was revised, a copy was made for each person signing it.
  • Today, there are 13th century copies in Lincoln, Durham and Salisbury Cathedrals. The British Library has one on display, as does Oxford’s Bodleian Library.
  • At least one copy is owned by a private collector and in 1952, the Australian government bought a copy for £12,000. It can be seen today in Parliament House, Canberra.
  • The Magna Carta influenced the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. Several charters written by early English colonists used laws or ideas from the document.