King John was an English king. He was not a very
pleasant person. He told lies. He put innocent people in prison so
that he could steal their belongings. He put a poor man in prison once
just so he could steal the man's horse and cart.
There was a rumor
that he murdered his nephew, but it was never proved. The King of
France demanded to know where the boy was. King John was a vassal of
the King of France. That meant he had to answer. But he did not
respond to the King of France.
Promises never bothered King John. He
would promise anything to anybody, especially if there was money in it
for him, but he soon broke his word.
When the archbishop of Canterbury died, King John
seized the monastery, banished all the monks, and kept the land and
the wealth for himself.
This made the archbishop furious. The
archbishop called all the nobles together and read the law of the land
to them. He made sure they understood their rights under the law. Some
could not read, and many did not know their rights. The nobles were amazed to
discover that King John was breaking the law, and that they could do
something about it.
The nobles confronted King John. King John
promised he would do better. He promised the nobles that he would
raise taxes again without discussing it first. After all, it was the
In truth, however, the law had as much value to King John as did
his word. Weeks later, he raised taxes again without consulting
anyone. He had two of his nobles arrested, and seized their lands,
without allowing them to present any defense.
The nobles were furious. Armed and ready, they
gathered a huge force of nobles at the town of Runnymede. They brought
the king there. The archbishop read aloud to the king from a parchment
he held, a parchment called the Magna Carta, the Great Charter.
As the king listened, he became more and more
angry. How dare his nobles treat him like this. How dare the
archbishop read from a piece of paper and except him to sign it. It
was clear, even to selfish King John, that if he did not sign, his
nobles would desert him. Without an army behind him, some pretender
would soon steal his throne. The king was furious about it, but he
signed the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta was a list of rights. Most rights
were already law. The Magna Carta stated them again so there would be no
confusion. Plus, the Magna Carta added new rights. One of the new rights was
that nobles could keep watch over the king. They could seize his
castles if he did not keep his word.
Some historians say that after signing the Magna
Carta, King John went home in a huff, and screamed, and rolled around
on the floor like a madman. Perhaps he did. But it did not matter.
From that day on, things changed in England forever. The king could no
longer do whatever he wanted. He had to obey the law just like
everyone else. If he did not, his nobles could seize his lands and
banish him from England.
John and the Magna Carta
of the Law
Magna Carta (text, written in 1215 CE)
Limits English Monarchy ppt
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