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The legacy of Magna Carta

Magna Carta's clauses provided the basis for important principles in English law developed in the fourteenth through to the seventeenth century. The phrases ‘to no one' and ‘no free man' gave these provisions a universal quality that is still applicable today in a way that many of the clauses relating specifically to feudal custom are not. The emphasis on grants of taxation requiring the consent of the kingdom also paved the way for the development of parliament.

What happened after the Magna Carta was issued?

A few months after he had issued the charter, John persuaded the Pope to declare Magna Carta illegal because it interfered with the rights of the king. The barons would not accept this and a civil war broke out, in which most of the barons fought for Magna Carta against John. They withdrew their allegiance to John and invited Louis, son of the King of France to be King of England instead. Several of the leading rebel barons had connections in Scotland and they encouraged King Alexander II of Scotland to take control of northern England.

In October 1216, King John died, with most of England under the control of Louis and the rebels including the king of Scotland. John's few remaining supporters and the Pope's representative, Guala, decided to make his nine-year-old son, Henry, king. King Henry III was knighted and then crowned on 28 October 1216. Following this, John's leading advisers sent out letters to all the rebels in the name of the new king, confirming Magna Carta and calling for their loyalty. Many of the barons left Louis of France and gave their loyalty to the young King Henry.

For the remainder of Henry III's childhood, Magna Carta was repeatedly confirmed and reissued and became well-known across England, not just among the barons, but also in the counties.


Key dates

1215-1603: The development of both Houses of Parliament over the Middle Ages

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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.