King John Signing Magna Carta, 1215 - stock photo
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King John Signing Magna Carta, 1215

Magna Carta (Great Charter) is a charter agreed by King John of England on June 15, 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. The charter became part of English political life and was typically renewed by each monarch in turn, although as time went by and the fledgling English Parliament passed new laws, it lost some of its practical significance. Magna Carta still forms an important symbol of liberty today, often cited by politicians and campaigners, and is held in great respect by the British and American legal communities. Chroniclers were mostly critical of John's performance as king, and his reign has since been the subject of significant debate and periodic revision by historians from the 16th century onwards. He remains a recurring character within Western popular culture, primarily as a villain in films and stories depicting the Robin Hood legends. Image taken from page 178 of "A History of England for the Young" by Henry Tyrrell, 1872.

Science Source / British Library

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