What did Magna Carta mean to the English in 1215?

It famously went on to inspire everyone from Cromwell to Gandhi, but what impact did King John's Great Charter have on his subjects in the year that it was sealed? David Carpenter investigates...

A scene from the Queen Mary Psalter (c1310-20)

This article was first published in the February 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

1215 will surely always be defined by Magna Carta. When, on 15 June of that fateful year, King John reluctantly agreed to seal a great charter in the meadow of Runnymede beside the river Thames, he put his name to a document that has perhaps done more than any other to champion the cause of the rule of law over absolute power. That fact alone makes 1215 a hugely significant year in English history.

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