Et civitas Londoniarum habeat omnes antiquas libertates et liberas consuetudines suas, tam per terras, quam per aquas. Praeterea volumus et concedimus quod omnes aliae civitates, et burgi, et villae, et portus, habeant omnes libertates et liberas consuetudines suas.
And the city of London is to have all its ancient liberties and free customs, both on land and water. Moreover we wish and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns and ports are to have all their liberties and free customs.
Clause 60 (The 1215 Magna Carta)
Please note: commentaries are presently available only for clauses marked with *; more commentary to be added in due course.
In 1215 London demonstrated its political weight as never before. Its citizens already claimed a role in the choosing of English kings, at any rate when the succession to the throne was uncertain. Now, by admitting the rebellious barons within their walls, they gave the latter an access of strength which made their demands for reform irresistible. Londonand the other English towns had been kept under tight control by the Angevin kings. The capital had indeed obtained a grant of self-government – its `commune’ – when Richard I was absent on crusade, and this was afterwards accepted both by Richard himself on his return and by John shortly after his accession. But although John several times declared his good will towards the city, his words were seldom matched by his actions, for he made heavy financial demands upon London, as, indeed, he did on other cities and towns, and kept it under control as far as he could. Resenting the king’s exactions, the Londoners allied themselves with the barons in 1215. The city’s importance to the alliance against John is shown not only by the clauses, led by no. 13, which were devoted to securing its interests in Magna Carta, but also by the fact that its mayor was chosen to be one of the committee of twenty-five men responsible for seeing that the Charter was observed, and for taking action against the king if it was not. To outward appearances Clause 13 was only a general statement that the rights and privileges of London and other towns should be maintained, but in that statement lay much of its importance, in that for the first time it made a public declaration that the interests of urban communities were to be maintained, in the same way that those of bishops and lay lords were.