On This Day

Magna Carta

The Magna Carta, written in iron gall ink on parchment in medieval Latin
The Magna Carta, written in iron gall ink on parchment in medieval Latin

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.

Document Info

Date taken: June 15, 1215

Source: British Library

Related Events

  • 1215-05-12 English barons serve ultimatum on King John which eventually leads to the creation and signing of the Magna Carta
  • 1215-06-15 King John signs Magna Carta at Runnymede, near Windsor, England
  • 1215-08-24 Pope Innocent III declares the 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
  • 2015-06-15 800 year anniversary of "the birthplace of modern democracy", the signing of the Magna Carta by King John at Runymede, England

Historical Documents