Magna Carta: the things you didn’t know

800 years ago, Magna Carta was signed. Since then, it has been variously appropriated. But what exactly did it say?

“…John’s reputation was abysmal in his time, and has remained so ever since. “Tyrannous whelp”, was how one chronicler described him: he was generally thought to be untrustworthy, mean-spirited, cruel, violent and paranoid. He had a legalistic mind and grasp of the machinery of government that amounted almost to genius, but he was also a second-rate and unlucky military leader and an eminently dislikable man.

In 1203-04, John lost the Plantagenet lands in Normandy, Anjou, Maine and Touraine. He subsequently fell out with the church to the point where the Pope placed England under Interdict and excommunicated John personally. He murdered his nephew and rival Arthur of Brittany and killed scores of hostages and several old friends – including one baron’s wife, Matilda de Briouze, who was starved to death in the same cell as her son and died mad with hunger trying to eat her dead boy’s face.”

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