Sunday, January 18, 2015

UK celebrating 800th anniversary of Magna Carta

Magna Carta's 800th anniversary celebration | Toronto Star - Henry Stancu:

January 15, 2015 - "The Magna Carta turns 800 this June and England has invited the world to take part in a series of birthday celebrations throughout most of the year....

"Essentially a peace treaty between England’s King John (1166-1216) and a group of rebellious barons at odds with the unpopular ruler’s fiscal policies, the 'Great Charter' is considered the foundation of modern democracy and the cornerstone of western justice and liberty....

"The Magna Carta made everyone, including royalty, subject to the law. The bulk of the 63 clauses dealt with the series of grievances about ownership of land and taxation raised by irate barons and the English church against King John, but it was the 39th clause that granted all 'free men' the right to fair treatment and justice.

"Of course, only about 10 per cent of England’s population was considered 'free' under the feudal system of the time.

"Translated from Latin, the clause reads: 'No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.'

"It wasn’t even considered a prominent clause at the time, but its interpretation by future generations has made it the monumental declaration it is today.

"Those principles would later inspire the drawing up of constitutional documents around the globe, such as the U.S. Bill of Rights in 1791, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950.

"The famous decree had a rocky ride for a year as King John, who felt cornered into approving it, got Pope Innocent III to issue a papal bull declaring it null and void, but the king’s son and successor, Henry III, approved a series of revisions over the next decade as the monarchy continued to be at odds with the Church and the rebellious barons until the charter was accepted onto parliament’s roll of statutes in 1297.

"The revisions cut away about a third of the document’s clauses, but the 39th survived intact."

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