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Beauties and myths of Magna Carta

We're late writing about glorious Magna Carta, whose anniversary was June 15th. Still, Magna Carta was not won on the 15th, but in the months that followed, when knights and people battled King John to keep the Great Charter he had affirmed.

One of the most destructive myths about Magna Carta is that it was just 'a grab-bag of clauses put into play by self-serving barons. Not true.

A number of knights fought for Magna Carta, including William Marshal, but all the people of England, Wales and Scotland rose up to rebel against King John and to proclaim the Great Charter. Londoners, whose liberties were guaranteed by Magna Carta, were especially keen. If they had not supported the knights, bishops and abbots, Magna Carta would never have been. You can read about them here.


Fiona Reynolds, the Director-General of the National Trust, is right to say that Magna Carta preserves lands for the people and that open lands and fresh air and country loveliness are exactly what we need to survive and thrive. But she is wrong to say - as so many others do - that clauses in Magna Carta which reached Parliament's statute book no longer have effect since they have been repealed.

Because certain clauses in Magna Carta have been mirrored in statutes passed by Parliament and subsequently repealed by Parliament does not mean that Magna Carta does not signify. Magna Carta belongs to the people - to those who first affirmed it almost 800 years ago in 1215 - and to those who affirm it today. We have never repealed it. For centuries people have defended Magna Carta, and Magna Carta has defended our liberties and helped to control the overweening power of government.

Winston Churchill wrote, 'In subsequent ages when the state swollen with its own authority has attempted to ride roughshod over the rights and liberties of the people it is to this doctrine that appeal has again and again been made and never as yet without success'.

Their appeals were never without success for one reason - they were willing to fight for justice and freedom.

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