TRANSLATION of A.D. 1215 Magna Carta in English,
YOU MUST READ SECTIONS 10 & 11
"MAGNA CARTA. A basic document that states the liberties guaranteed to the English people, the Magna Carta proclaims rights that have become a part of English law and are now the foundation of the constitution of every English-speaking nation. The Magna Carta, which means "great charter" in Latin, was drawn up by English barons and churchmen, who forced the tyrannical King John to set his seal to it on June 15, 1215 (see John of England).
King John's cruelty and greed united against him all classes of his kingdom--the powerful feudal nobles, the churchmen, and the townspeople. While the king was waging a disastrous war in France, the leading barons of England met secretly and swore to compel him to respect the rights of his subjects, as provided by previous law and custom." "When John returned, they presented him with a series of demands. John tried to gather support in order to avoid giving in to the demands, but almost all his followers deserted him. At last he met with the nobles and bishops along the south bank of the Thames in a meadow called Runnymede and affixed his seal to the Magna Carta. In many of their demands the barons and bishops who forced the Magna Carta on King John quite naturally acted in their own best interests. Careful provision was made for limiting royal taxes and assessments, for reforming laws and judicial procedures, and for suppressing the misuse and extension of forest law. In addition, the Magna Carta provided certain guarantees for the people as a whole." "The document has a total of 63 sections. Although much of it deals with feudal rights and duties, it also includes provisions that protect the rights of the church, merchants, and townspeople. One of the sections protecting merchants reads, translated from the original Latin: "All merchants shall be able to go out of and come into England safely and securely and stay and travel throughout England . . . for buying and selling . . . free from all evil tolls, except in time of war and if they are of the land at war with us.""
(c) Compton's Encyclopedia
TRANSLATION of Magna Carta in English
John, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants and all his officials and faithful subjects greeting. Know that we, from reverence for God and for the salvation of our soul and those of all our ancestors and heirs, for the honour of God and the exaltation of Holy Church and the reform of our realm, on the advice of our reverend fathers, Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Henry, Archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelin of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry and Benedict of Rochester, bishops, Master Pandulf, sub-deacon and member of the household of the lord pope, brother Aimeric, master of the knighthood of the Temple in England, and the noble men, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, William, Earl
of Salisbury, William, Earl of Warenne, William, Earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway, Constable of Scotland, Warin fitz Gerald, Peter fitz Herbert, Hubert de Burgh, seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip de Albini, Robert of Ropsley, John Marshal, John fitz Hugh and others, our faithful subjects:
1. In the first place have granted to God and by this our present Charter have confirmed, for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired; and we wish it thus observed, which is evident from the fact that of our own free will before the quarrel between us and our barons began, we conceded and confirmed by our charter, freedom of elections, which is thought to be of the greatest necessity and importance to the English church, and obtained confirmation of this from the lord pope Innocent III, which we shall observe and wish our heirs to observe in good faith in perpetuity. We have also granted to all the free men of our realm for ourselves and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written below, to have and hold, them and their heirs from us and our heirs.
2. If any of our earls or barons, or others holding of us in chief by knight service shall die, and at his death his heir be of full age and owe relief, he shall have his inheritance on payment of the ancient relief, namely the heir or heirs of an earl L100 for a whole earl's barony, the heir or heirs of a baron L100 for a whole barony, the heir or heirs of a knight 100s. at most for a whole knight's fee; and anyone who owes less shall give less according to the ancient usage of fiefs.
3. If, however, the heir of any such person has been under age and in wardship, when he comes of age he shall have his inheritance without relief or fine.
4. The guardian of the land of such an heir who is under age shall not take from the land more than the reasonable revenues, customary duties and services, and that without destruction and waste of men or goods. And if we entrust the wardship of the land of such a one to a sheriff, or to any other who is answerable to us for its revenues, and he destroys or wastes the land in his charge, we will take amends of him, and the land shall be entrusted to two lawful and prudent men of that fief who will be answerable to us for the revenues or to him to whom we have assigned them. And if we give or sell to anyone the wardship of any such land and he causes destruction or waste, he shall lose the wardship and it shall be transferred to two lawful and prudent men of the fief who shall be answerable to us as is aforesaid.
5. Moreover so long as the guardian has the wardship of the land, he shall maintain the houses, parks, preserves, fishponds, mills and the other things pertaining to the land from its revenues; and he shall restore to the heir when he comes of age all his land stocked with ploughs and wainage such as the agricultural season demands and the revenues of the estate can reasonably bear.
6. Heirs shall be given in marriage without disparagement, yet so that before marriage is contracted it shall be made known to the heir's next of kin.
7. After her husband's death, a widow shall have her marriage portion and her inheritance at once and without any hindrance; nor shall she pay anything for her dower, her marriage portion, or her inheritance which she and her husband held on the day of her husband's death; and she may stay in her husband's house for forty days after his death, within which period her dower shall be assigned to her.
8. No widow shall be compelled to marry so long as she wishes to live without a husband, provided that she gives security that she will not marry without our consent if she holds of us, or without the consent of the lord of whom she holds, if she holds of another.
9. Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent in payment of a debt so long as the chattels of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt; nor shall the sureties of the debtor be distrained so long as the debtor himself is capable of paying the debt; and if the principal debtor defaults in the payment of the debt, having nothing wherewith to pay it, the sureties shall be answerable for the debt; and, if they wish, they may have the lands and revenues of the debtor until they have received satisfaction for the debt they paid on his behalf, unless the principal debtor shows that he has discharged his obligations to the sureties.
10. If anyone who has borrowed from the Jews any amount, great or small, dies before the debt is repaid, it shall not carry interest as long as the heir is under age, of whomsoever he holds; and if that debt fall into our hands, we will take nothing except the principal sum specified in the bond.
11. And if a man dies owing a debt to the Jews, his wife may have her dower and pay nothing of that debt; and if he leaves children under age, their needs shall be met in a manner in keeping with the holding of the deceased; and the debt shall be paid out of the residue, saving the service due to the lords. Debts owing to others than Jews shall be dealt with likewise.
12. No scutage or aid is to be levied in our realm except by the common counsel of our realm, unless it is for the ransom of our person, the knighting of our eldest son or the first marriage of our eldest daughter; and for these only a reasonable aid is to be levied. Aids from the city of London are to be treated likewise.
13. And the city of London is to have all its ancient liberties and free customs both by land and water. Furthermore, we will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns and ports shall have all their liberties and free customs.
14. And to obtain the common counsel of the realm for the assessment of an aid (except in the three cases aforesaid) or a scutage, we will have archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls and greater barons summoned individually by our letters; and we shall also have summoned generally through our sheriffs and bailiffs all those who hold of us in chief for a fixed date, with
at least forty days' notice, and at a fixed place; and in all letters of summons we will state the reason for the summons. And when the summons has thus been made, the business shall go forward on the day arranged according to the counsel of those present, even if not an those summoned have come.
15. Henceforth we will not grant anyone that he may take an aid from his free men, except to ransom his person, to make his eldest son a knight and to marry his eldest daughter once; and for these purposes only a reasonable aid is to be levied.
16. No man shall be compelled to perform more service for a knight's fee or for any other free tenement than is due therefrom.
17. Common pleas shall not follow our court but shall be held in some fixed place.
18. Recognizances of novel disseisin, mort d'ancestor, and darrein presentment shall not be held elsewhere than in the court of the county in which they occur, and in this manner: we, or if we are out of the realm our chief justiciar, shall send two justices through each county four times a year who, with four knights of each county chosen by the county, shall hold the said assizes in the county court on the day and in the place of meeting of the county court.
19. And if the said assizes cannot all be held on the day of the county court, so many knights and freeholders of those present in the county court on that day shall remain behind as will suffice to make judgements, according to the amount of business to be done.
20. A free man shall not be amerced for a trivial offence, except in accordance with the degree of the offence; and for a serious offence he shall be amerced according to its gravity, saving his livelihood; and a merchant likewise, saving his merchandise; in the same way a villein shall be amerced saving his wainage; if they fall into our mercy. And none of the aforesaid amercements shall be imposed except by the testimony of reputable men of the neighbourhood.
21. Earls and barons shall not be amerced except by their peers and only in accordance with the nature of the offence.
22. No clerk shall be amerced on his lay tenement except in the manner of the others aforesaid and without reference to the size of his ecclesiastical benefice.
23. No vill or man shall be forced to build bridges at river banks, except those who ought to do so by custom and law.
24. No sheriff, constable, coroner or other of our baliffs may hold pleas of our Crown.
25. All shires, hundreds, wapentakes and ridings shall be at the ancient farm without any increment, except our demesne manors.
26. If anyone holding a lay fief of us dies and our sheriff or bailiff shows our letters patent of summons for a debt which the deceased owed us, it shall be lawful for the sheriff or our bailiff to attach and list the chattels of the deceased found in lay fee to the value of that debt, by the view of lawful men, so that nothing is removed until the evident debt is paid to us, and the residue shall be relinquished to the executors to carry out
the will of the deceased. And if he owes us nothing, all the chattels shall be accounted as the deceased's saving their reasonable shares to his wife and children.
27. If any free man dies intestate, his chattels are to be distributed by his nearest relations and friends, under the supervision of the Church, saving to everyone the debts which the deceased owed him.
28. No constable or any other of our bailiffs shan take any mans' corn or other chattels unless he pays cash for them at once or can delay payment with the agreement of the seller.
29. No constable is to compel any knight to give money for castle guard, if he is willing to perform that guard in his own person or by another reliable man, if for some good reason he is unable to do it himself, and if we take or send him on military service, he shall be excused the guard in proportion to the period of his service.
30. No sheriff or bailiff of ours or anyone else is to take horses or carts of any free man for carting without his agreement.
31. Neither we nor our bailiffs shall take other men's timber for castles or other work of ours, without the agreement of the owner.
32. We will not hold the lands of convicted felons for more than a year and a day, when the lands shall be retumed to the lords of the fiefs.
33. Henceforth all fish-weirs shall be completely removed from the Thames and the Medway and throughout all England, except on the sea coast.
34. The writ called praecipe shall not, in future, be issued to anyone in respect of any holding whereby a free man may lose his court.
35. Let there be one measure of wine throughout our kingdom and one measure of ale and one measure of corn, namely the London quarter, and one width of cloth whether dyed, russet or halberjet, namely two ells within the selvedges. Let it be the same with weights as with measures.
36. Henceforth nothing shall be given or taken for the writ of inquisition of life or limb, but it shall be given freely and not refused.
37. If anyone holds of us by fee-farm, by socage or by burgage, and holds land of someone else by knight service, we will not, by virtue of that fee-farm, socage or burgage, have wardship of his heir or of land of his that belongs to the fief of another; nor will we have custody of that fee-farm or socage or burgage unless --such fee-farm owes knight service. We will not have custody of the heir or land of anyone who holds of another by knight service, by virtue of any petty sergeanty which he holds of us by the service of rendering to us knives or arrows or the like.
38. Henceforth no bailiff shall put anyone on trial by his own unsupported allegation, without bringing credible witnesses to the charge.
39. No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised
or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go or send against him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.
40. To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.
41. All merchants are to be safe and secure in leaving and entering England, and in staying and travelling in England, both by land and by water, to buy and sell free from all maletotes by the ancient and rightful customs, except, in time of war, such as come from an enemy country. And if such are found in our land at the outbreak of war they shall be detained without damage to their persons or goods, until we or our chief justiciar know how the merchants of our land are treated in the enemy country; and if ours are safe there, the others shall be safe in our land.
42. Henceforth anyone, saving his allegiance due to us, may leave our realm and return safe and secure by land and water, save for a short period in time of war on account of the general interest of the realm and excepting those imprisoned and outlawed according to the law of the land, and natives of an enemy country, and merchants, who shall be treated as aforesaid.
43. If anyone dies who holds of some escheat such as the honours of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne or Lancaster, or of other escheats which are in our hands and are baronies, his heir shall not give any relief or do any service to us other than what he would have done to the baron if that barony had been in a baron's hands; and we shall hold it in the same manner as the baron held it.
44. Henceforth men who live outside the forest shall not come before our justices of the forest upon a general summons, unless they are impleaded or are sureties for any person or persons who are attachcd for forest offences.
45. We will not make justices, constables, sheriffs or bailiffs who do not know the law of the land and mean to observe it well.
46. All barons who have founded abbeys of which they have charters of the kings of England, or ancient tenure, shall have custody thereof during vacancies, as they ought to have.
47. All forests which have been afforested in our time shall be dis-afforested at once; and river banks which we have enclosed in our time shall be treated similarly.
48. All evil customs of forests and warrens, foresters and warreners, sheriffs and their servants, river banks and their wardens are to be investigated at once in every county by twelve sworn knights of the same county who are to be chosen by worthy men of the county, and within forty days of the inquiry they are to be abolished by them beyond recall, provided that we, or our justiciar, if we are not in England, first know of it.
49. We will restore at once all hostages and charters delivered to us by Englishmen as securities for peace or faithful service.
50. We will dismiss completely from their offices the relations of Gerard d'Athee that henceforth they shall have no office in England, Engelard de Cigogne, Peter and Guy and Andrew de Chanceux, Guy de Cigogne, Geoffrey de Martigny with his brothers, Philip Marc with his brothers and his nephew,
Geoffrey, and all their followers.
51. Immediately after concluding peace, we will remove from the kingdom all alien knights, crossbowmen, sergeants and mercenary soldiers who have come with horses and arms to the hurt of the realm.
52. If anyone has been disseised or deprived by us without lawful judgement of his peers of lands, castles, liberties or his rights we will restore them to him at once; and if any disagreement arises on this, then let it be settled by the judgement of the Twenty-Five barons referred to below in the security clause. But for all those things of which anyone was disseised or deprived without lawful judgement of his peers by King Henry our father, or by King Richard our brother, which we hold in our hand or which are held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the usual crusader's term; excepting those cases in which a plea was begun or inquest made on our order before we took the cross; when, however, we retum from our pilgrimage, or if perhaps we do not undertake it, we will at once do full justice in these matters.
53. We shall have the same respite, and in the same manner, in doing justice on disafforesting or retaining those forests which King Henry our father or Richard our brother afforested, and concerning custody of lands which are of the fee of another, the which wardships we have had hitherto by virtue of a fee held of us by knight's service, and concerning abbeys founded on fees other than our own, in which the lord of the fee claims to have a right. And as soon as we retum, or if we do not undertake our pilgrimage, we will at once do full justice to complainants in these matters.
54. No one shall be taken or imprisoned upon the appeal of a woman for the death of anyone except her husband.
55. All fines which were made with us unjustly and contrary to the law of the land, and all amercements imposed unjustly and contrary to the law of the land, shall be completely remitted or else they shall be settled by the judgement of the Twenty-Five barons mentioned below in the security clause, or by the judgement of the majority of the same, along with the aforesaid Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and others whom he wishes to summon with him for this purpose. And if he cannot be present the business shall nevertheless proceed without him, provided that if any one or more of the aforesaid Twenty-Five barons are in such a suit they shall stand down in this particular judgemcnt, and shall be replaced by others chosen and sworn in by the rest of the same Twenty-Five, for this case only.
56. If we have disseised or deprived Welshmen of lands, liberties or other things without lawful judgement of their peers, in England or in Wales, they are to be returned to them at once; and if a dispute arises over this it shall be settled in the March by judgement of their peers; for tenements in England according to the law of England, for tenements in Wales according to the law of Wales, for tenements in the March according to the law of the March. The Welsh are to do the same to us and ours.
57. For all those things, however, of which any Welshman has been disseised or deprived without lawful judgement of his peers by King Henry our father, or King Richard our brother, which we have in our possession or which others hold under our legal warranty, we shall have respite for the usual crusader's term; excepting those cases in which a plea was begun or inquest made on our order before we took the cross. However, when we retum, or if perhaps we do not go on our pilgrimage, we will at once give them full justice in accordance with the laws of the Welsh and the aforesaid regions.
58. We will restore at once the son of Llywelyn and all the hostages from Wales and the charters delivered to us as security for peace.
59. We will treat Alexander, King of the Scots, concerning the return of his sisters and hostages and his liberties and rights in the same manner in which we will act towards our other barons of England, unless it ought to be otherwise because of the charters which we have from William his father, formerly King of the Scots; and this shall be determined by the judgement of his peers in our court.
60. All these aforesaid customs and liberties which we have granted to be held in our realm as far as it pertains to us towards our men, shall be observed by all men of our realm, both clerk and lay, as far as it pertains to them, towards their own men.
61. Since, moreover, we have granted all the aforesaid things for God, for the reform of our realm and the better settling of the quarrel which has arisen between us and our barons, and since we wish these things to be enjoyed fully and undisturbed, we give and grant them the following security: namely, that the barons shall choose any twenty-five barons of the realm they wish, who with an their might are to observe, maintain and cause to be observed the peace and liberties which we have granted and confirmed to them by this our present charter; so that if we or our justiciar or our bailiffs or any of our servants offend against anyone in any way, or transgress any of the articlcs of peace or security, and the offence is indicated to four of the aforesaid twenty-five barons, those four barons shall come to us or our justiciar, if we are out of the kingdom, and shall bring it to our notice and ask that we will have it redressed without delay. And if we, or our justiciar, should we be out of the kingdom, do not redress the offence within forty days from the time when it was brought to the notice of us or our justiciar, should we be out of the kingdom, the aforesaid four barons shall refer the case to the rest of the twenty-five barons and those twenty-five barons with the commune of all the land shall distrain and distress us in every way they can, namely by seizing castles, lands and possessions, and in such other ways as they can, saving our person and those of our queen and of our children until, in their judgement, amends have been made; and when it has been redressed they are to obey us as they did before. And anyone in the land who wishes may take an oath to obey the orders of the said twenty-five barons in the execution of all the aforesaid matters, and to join with them in
distressing us to the best of his ability, and we publicly and freely permit anyone who wishes to take the oath, and we will never forbid anyone to take it. Moreover we shall compel and order all those in the land who of themselves and of their own free will are unwilling to take an oath to the twenty-five barons to distrain and distress us with them, to take the oath as aforesaid. And if any of the twenty-five barons dies or leaves the country or is otherwise prevented from discharging these aforesaid duties, the rest of the aforesaid barons shall on their own decision choose another in his place, who shall take the oath in the same way as the others. In all matters the execution of which is committed to those twenty-five barons, if it should happen that the twenty-five are present and disagree among themselves on anything, or if any of them who has been summoned will not or cannot come, whatever the majority of those present shall provide or order is to be taken as fixed and settled as if the whole twenty-five had agreed to it; and the aforesaid twenty-five are to swear that they will faithfully observe all the aforesaid and will do all they can to secure its observance. And we will procure nothing from anyone, either personally or through another, by which any of these concessions and liberties shall be revoked or diminished; and if any such thing is procured, it shall be null and void, and we will never use it either ourselves or through another.
62. And we have completely remitted and pardoned to all any ill will, grudge and rancour that have arisen between us and our subjects, clerk and lay, from the time of the quarrel. Moreover we have fully forgiven and completely condoned to all, clerk and lay as far as pertains to us, all offences occasioned by the said quarrel from Easter in the sixteenth year of our reign to the conclusion of peace. And more-over we have caused letters patent of the Lord Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Henry, Archbishop of Dublin, the aforesaid bishops and Master Pandulf to be made for them on this security and the aforesaid concessions.
63.Wherefore we wish and firmly command that the English Church shall be free, and the men in our realm shall have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights and concessions well and peacefully, freely and quietly, fully and completely for them and their heirs of us and our heirs in all things and places for ever, as is aforesaid. Moreover an oath has been sworn, both on our part and on the part of the barons, that all these things aforesaid shall be observed in good faith and without evil intent. Witness the above-mentioned and many others. Given under our hand in the meadow which is called Runnymede between Windsor and Staines on the fifteenth day of June in the seventeenth year of our reign.
In a message dated 7/24/2004 8:30:43 PM Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Written in 1215. Needed today
Magna Carta is often invoked, yet its freedoms are being violated
Saturday July 24, 2004
Aside from their industriousness, Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown might seem to share little in common. Yet in his recent speech on Britishness, the chancellor revealed a mutual affection for Magna Carta as a cornerstone of our national identity. Famously, it was Mrs Thatcher who told Franï¿½ois Mitterrand at the 1989 bicentenary of the French revolution that "we, of course, had the Magna Carta".
For, 800 years on, the messy constitutional compromise hammered out at Runnymede between King John and the barons manages to retain a profound emotional pull on the Anglo-American political psyche. But even as it is honoured in name, the principles of 1215 have rarely been more widely breached.
The enduring legacy of Magna Carta lies in clauses 39 and 40, which state that "no free man shall be taken or imprisoned or deprived ... except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land", and "to no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice". It was this elevation of the rule of law above arbitrary power which transformed the charter from a grudging political settlement into a constitutional milestone. Rapidly translated from Latin into French and English, Magna Carta became part of British public memory, frequently appealed to whenever monarchs overstepped the line.
Its unique potency was revealed in the 1620s when another power-hungry king attempted to subvert the law of the land. Charles I's arbitrary use of royal authority - false imprisonments, forced loans, personal rule - was for many members of parliament a clear echo of wicked King John. MPs explicitly challenged the notion of executive privilege. Sir Edward Coke, introducing the 1628 Petition of Right to curtail Charles's tyrannical ambitions, was adamant that "Magna Carta is such a fellow, that he will have no 'sovereign'".
But the next group of revolutionaries to call upon the charter regarded parliament itself as the arbitrary power needing to be called to account. For what the rebellious American colonists of the 1770s were concerned with was not initially the creation of a new republic, but respect for their rights as English subjects under Magna Carta. Westminster's arbitrary and, at times, brutal rule of the 13 colonies was, according to John Adams, "directly repugnant to the great charter itself". Indeed, the revolutionaries' battle cry of "no taxation without representation" claimed root in the principles of 1215. Such was their reverence for Runnymede that the US constitution's fifth amendment is a direct echo of clause 39.
During the 19th century, the shadow of Magna Carta continued to resurface at regular intervals. In Britain, the Chartist campaign for a "People's Charter" was a conscious reminder of 1215, while Rudyard Kipling lovingly mythologised the "reeds at Runnymede" as a part of the sturdy, law-abiding English genius.
But it was in America that Magna Carta retained a more contemporary relevance. The combination of a legalistic culture and a reverence for foundation documents meant the charter was celebrated as America's revolutionary birthright whose abiding principles underpinned the US system. Today, supreme court jurists and Washington politicians display no embarrassment in citing Magna Carta to support their case.
All of which makes the current judicial rough-riding of Magna Carta in Guatï¿½namo Bay and elsewhere all the more startling. The much celebrated clauses 39 and 40, let alone the US fifth amendment, appear to have become redundant as habeas corpus and the rule of law are quietly abrogated under the Patriot Act. To the horror of Magna Carta-conscious lawyers, President Bush, like Charles I, has pleaded the exigencies of wartime to suspend the charter's terms. And the great virtue of the "war on terror" is that it is a war without end.
But, at last, on this side of the Atlantic, concern over the legacy of Magna Carta has also revived. Debates about the new European constitution have spurred renewed interest among conservatives in the written aspects of our unwritten constitution. According to Norman Tebbit, the constitution signals a dangerous "over-riding [of] the Magna Carta" along with the Act of Settlement and Coronation Oath. However, progressives tend to see in the constitution a welcome updating of 1215 and a renewed attempt to hold political power to account under law. The principles of Runnymede could finally apply to the unregulated Brussels super-state.
This is perhaps the key to the enduring currency of Magna Carta down the centuries: its perpetual ability to be invested with different meanings by utterly divergent parties. Yet even as politicians eulogise its place in our national heritage, governments remain keener than ever to undermine its principles.
ï¿½ Tristram Hunt's new Radio 4 series, Past Presence, begins on Monday at 8pm