Magna Carta

Magna Carta was issued in June 1215 and was the first document to put into writing the principle that the king and his government was not above the law. It sought to prevent the king from exploiting his power, and placed limits of royal authority by establishing law as a power in itself.

In 2015 the Houses of Parliament, along with the people of the UK, will be commemorating 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta (1215).

When was Magna Carta first issued?

The first version of it was issued in 1215 at Runnymede, an otherwise obscure field lying next to the Thames in Berkshire between Windsor and Staines. Charters granting rights and liberties to individuals and groups were issued by lords throughout society, including the king. They were written records of someone’s action and were authenticated with a wax seal. Although its form was normal for the time, Magna Carta was the product of political crisis and an uprising of the leading men of England.

Related information

Parliament in the Making

2015: Parliament in the Making is a year-long programme of events, projects and resources recognising 800 years of democratic heritage. Further information can be found via the 2015 portal.


You can access biographies of

King John
Henry III
Simon de Montfort, 8th earl of Leicester
Edward I

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

Glossary link

External links

View the Magna Carta on the British Library's website

Did you know?

Magna Carta was not intended to be a great charter of rights for all people, but designed by the barons to ensure that their rights were protected against the king's power.