This year people in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and plenty of other nations will mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. The document will be lauded for establishing one vital principle.
A new book about Magna Carta is published today which claims to offer new insights into one of the most famous documents in British history.
This year marks the 800th anniversary of the charter’s first signing on 15 June 1215 at Runnymede on the banks of the Thames between Windsor and Staines.
I’ve been to Runnymede. Lovely place.
- Magna Carta outlined basic rights with the principle that no-one was above the law, including the king
- It charted the right to a fair trial, and limits on taxation without representation
- It inspired a number of other documents, including the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Only three clauses are still valid – the one guaranteeing the liberties of the English Church; the clause confirming the privileges of the City of London and other towns; and the clause that states that no free man shall be imprisoned without the lawful judgement of his equals
Few documents have been more influential in world history.
It also led indirectly to the development of a new kind of state, in which the money to govern the country came from taxation agreed by parliament by preventing the king from extracting money from his subjects in arbitrary ways. Magna Carta laid down that the king could not levy taxes “save by the common counsel of our kingdom” and set out how that counsel was to be obtained. Fifty years later England’s first parliament was called.
And to this day in NZ, the Government needs the permission of Parliament to levy taxes.