Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Signing of Magna Carta

On this day in 1215, England's unpopular King John was forced to sign Magna Carta by what can best be described as a passel* of disaffected nobles; the document was affixed with the Great Seal in a meadow at Runnymede, outside London. Said to be the first piece of legislation designed to curb the powers of a monarch, it is today considered the basis of English common law and is symbolically the load-bearing wall of the British Constitution, even though it was copied almost verbatim from the earlier Charter of Liberties, issued by Henry I in 1100**.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIts preamble - to be followed by 63 fun-filled clauses - reads: JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting.

The document was signed by many prominent nobles and clergymen thusly:

KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter Bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric master of the knighthood of the Temple in England, William Marshal earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warren, William earl of Arundel, Alan de Galloway constable of Scotland, Warin Fitz Gerald, Peter Fitz Herbert, Hubert de Burgh seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip Daubeny, Robert de Roppeley, John Marshal, John Fitz Hugh, and other loyal subjects...

Clearly, the whole 'separation of church and state' thing came later; in fact, any day now...

*If you know a better collective noun for a whole bunch of riled up aristocrats, feel free to suggest one...
**Also, the version still on the books in England and Wales isn't the one signed on this day at all, but one reaffirmed by Edward I in 1297.

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