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.”

  • I see no problem taking even disparate terms from the Magna Carta and using them as a starting point for common law (ie- due process). The fruits of this charter are well-remembered.

    • When the legend becomes fact, print the legend

      The Man who shot Liberty Valance

    • ntt1

      some of them were taken or at least expanded or developed from ideas that were expressed in the Magna Carta and developed into the British Common Law that Canadians enjoyed until turdo the elder destroyed it by imposing his charter of rights and freedoms that has essentially surrendered law making to a bunch of marxist judges in fancy dress.

      • It’s time to get rid of the stupid Charter. The Bill of Rights was sufficient. Furthermore, we must have room to amend things and not let unelected judges decide law for us.

        • Alain

          Ageed. The problem is that the judicial activists take it upon themselves to write laws (legislate) instead of interpreting the laws written by Parliament (the elected government). One example was adding the category of sexual orientation to the charter that the writers had purposely excluded. There are plenty of other examples such as when they ignored English Common Law to declare that the truth is no defence. Those are just a couple of their abuse of power.

  • Mickey Oberman

    True. John was a baaad man and a worse king.
    But he was smart enough to give in to the barons before they took his head.
    “Discretion is the better part of valour” they say.

  • simus1

    John lacked a good head of “Mergers & Acquisitions”, who could have told him “Nationalism” and “globull warming” were the hot up and coming things and he needed to push them to the max in his French subsidiaries. A big makeover to his poisonous personality couldn’t hurt either.

  • Tom Forsythe

    A good political system is one which forces bad leaders to do good things, out of political expediency. What we have right now is the exact opposite; good leaders like Harper are constrained from doing what they know they should, because it would ruin them politically.

  • Hard Little Machine

    The document created a formally powerful aristocracy. Which I supposed isn’t that different from liberalism.

    • Minicapt

      It may have established a more powerful aristocracy, but it was at the cost of reducing the power of the throne. In turn, Simon de Montfort was persuaded to create the original Parliament in 1265.


  • Jason

    “Any party that stood on a platform that was true to the spirit of Magna Carta today would be massacred at the polls.” No doubt, and that is partly because our socialist, statist societies seem to have swallowed the idea that the government grants its citizens rights and freedoms. In reality, it is (or should be) the other way around.

    • It amazes me that people assume government is your friend.