Sophie (age 7) and Ellie (age 5) tell the story of Magna Carta, which was signed at Runnymede in 1215, what it was, and what it means today.----more----
King John is not a good man. He is mean to his Barons. He taxes the poor so much that the legend of Robin Hood comes from this period. He loses most of the English lands in France. Now the Barons have to see him all the time which makes them like him even less. King John thinks that he can do what he likes and that laws are for the little people.
The Barons write a list of demands down about things that they think should happen and rules which the King should obey. They call this the Great Charter which is Latin is Magna Carta. Some the demands are selfish ones that the Barons want like things about the rules for their children. Some of them are great for everyone like stopping the King putting people in prison without a trial. Some of them are good for people but seem a bit old fashioned today – like stopping the King taking someone’s horse and cart without permission.
However, the most important thing about Magna Carta is that it is a set of rules that the King had to follow. No longer could he say that the laws did not apply to him. He had to follow them just like anyone else.
At first King John refused to sign. However, the Barons were too strong and he was forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215.
Remember though that King John was a bad man. He did not intend to keep his promises. He got away from Runnymede and started a war with the Barons. The Barons got help from the French.
However, when crossing some marshland the sea came in. King John lost all his crown jewels and his crown. He was so upset that he rolled over and died.
The Barons offered to stop fighting if they King's young son agreed to the Magna Carta. The people looking after the young king agreed and the fighting stopped.
All Kings and Queen afterwards agreed to follow Magna Carta. Whenever a King tried to do something naughty, people would point to Magna Carta and tell him not to be so naughty.
Only a few parts of Magna Carta are still law. However, the principle that the King has to follow the law was made then. That is still the law now. Even though the Queen is not in charge of everything anymore, the idea of Magna Carta means that the government have to follow the law too. Magna Carta was so long ago that all those countries which were founded by Britain also used Magna Carta as the basis of their laws – places like the America, Canada and Australia.
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