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Magna Carta

1215 - 1215

Originally drawn up in 1215, Magna Carta Libertatum (Great Charter of Freedoms) was designed to make peace between the tyrannical King John and the English barons rebelling against him. Hearking back to the Charter of Liberties of Henry I of England, which rectified the abuses of his predecessor William II, Magna Carta bound the king to certain duties and restricted his rule, and guaranteed the rights and freedoms of the feudal barons and the church. Though all but three of its clauses have been repealed due to obsolescence, it remains a cornerstone legal document in Western society and jurisprudence.

Clause I guarantees the sovereignty of the church: ‘We have granted to God, and by this our present Charter have confirmed, for Us and our Heirs for ever, that the Church of England shall be free, and shall have all her whole Rights and Liberties inviolable.’

Clause XXIX guarantees the right to trial by a jury of peers and prevents any person uncondemned by law from being imprisoned or held against their will: ‘No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.

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