The Magna Carta Project

Magna Carta was engrossed, sealed and issued by King John at Runnymede, between Staines and Windsor, on 15 June 1215, following five days of intensive discussion and negotiation, during which many of the Articles of the Barons (which King John had accepted in principle) were extended, or re-arranged, or had their contents broken up and redistributed, while gaps in their coverage were filled.  Just one Article (no. 13) has no equivalent in Magna Carta, but six chapters of Magna Carta (1, 14, 19, 21, 24, 57) have no equivalents among the Articles of the Barons (the differences are discussed in the clause-by-clause commentary provided).  The fact that the Great Charter was composed in Latin, the language of religious liturgy, of scholarship, and of secular and ecclesiastical government, emphasised its importance, something also apparent in its length – no fewer than sixty chapters.  Even so, the name under which it has become famous was not the one under which it was originally known – when it was first issued and disseminated it was known as ‘the Charter of Runnymede’, and only came to be called Magna Carta from 1217, when it was re-issued in the name of John’s young son, King Henry III, in an amended form, alongside a new Charter of the Forest.  The text of the 1215 Charter chosen for presentation here is that edited by Bishop William Stubbs in the late nineteenth-century, which has been long accepted as reliable (the work of this project may, however, lead to some alterations being made to it, and by extension to the translation).  Four original manuscripts of that text are known to survive – two at the British Library, one at Lincoln Cathedral and one at Salisbury Cathedral.

Click on a clause in the left-hand menu or select ‘all clauses’ to view Magna Carta 1215.

Select a commentary option from the left-hand menu to learn more about each clause (work ongoing).

Further Reading:

D. A. Carpenter, Magna Carta (London, 2015)

D.A. Carpenter, ‘The Dating and Making of Magna Carta’, in his The Reign of Henry III (London, 1996), 1-16

J. C. Holt, Magna Carta (2nd edn., Cambridge, 1992)

J. S. Loengard (ed.), Magna Carta and the England of King John (Woodbridge, 2010)

N. C. Vincent, Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015 (London, 2015)

N. C. Vincent, Magna Carta: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012)

Audio commentary

Referenced in

Introduction: Articles of the Barons 1215 (The Articles of the Barons)

Magna Carta 1215
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Please note: commentaries are presently available only for clauses marked with *; more commentary to be added in due course.