Magna Carta

Date taken: 15th June, 1215

Source: British Library

Historical Context

The Magna Carta or "the Great Charter" in Latin was agreed by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215.

First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons.

Neither side stood behind their commitments, and the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons' War.

The charter was later revived and eventually became part of English political life, typically being renewed by each monarch in turn.

This document, one of only four surviving is held at the British Library and is identified as "British Library Cotton MS Augustus II.106".

Originally authenticated with the Great Seal of King John, the original wax seal has been lost over the centuries.

Historical Events

  • 1215-05-12 English barons serve ultimatum on King John; leads to Magna Carta
  • 1215-06-15 King John signs Magna Carta at Runnymede, near Windsor, England
  • 1215-08-24 Pope Innocent III declares Magna Carta invalid
  • 1775-07-25 Maryland issues currency depicting George III trampling Magna Carta
  • 1976-06-03 US presented with oldest known copy of Magna Carta

Historical Photos