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Magna Carta

Known as the "Keystone of English Liberty," the Magna Carta was granted by King John to the barons at Runnymede on June 15, 1215.

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Also known as Magna Charta, the name in Latin means "Great Charter." The charter was demanded by the barons, who had suffered under unjust burdens and aggresions at the hands of Henry II, Richard I, and John. In July, 1214, John was defeated by the French at Bouvines and forced to make peace. When he returned to England in October, he was determined to make the barons pay for his just completed campaign. Instead, a confederation of barons met him and demanded a charter of their rights, based on the charter of Henry I.

The principal provisions of the charter are that the church of England is free, that the obligations of the king are defined and limited, that law courts will be held at fixed places, that earls and barons are to be tried by their peers, no extraordinary taxation, no denial, sale, or delay of justice, and standard weights throughout the kingdom.

Copies were made and distributed throughout England. Four remain, two at the British Museum, and at Lincoln and Salisbury.