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Why the Magna Carta Came to Be
Transcript of Why the Magna Carta Came to Be
The Important People
King Richard, the third son of Henry II, was encouraged by his mother to join with his brothers Henry and Geoffrey to rebel against their father. When Henry II died in 1189, Richard, as the oldest son, became king of England, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou. After the Third Crusade, Richard was captured by Duke Leopold of Austria, so while his mother was busy raising the ransom money, Richard's younger brother, John, tried to seize the throne. After Richard was released, he was killed by a crossbow while carrying out a siege on a castle.
Born in 1167, he was the youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. After John's attempt to seize the thrown, Richard pardoned John. Before Richard's death, he nominated John as his successor.
Pope Innocent III
At the time of King John, Pope Innocent III, whose real name was Lothair of Segni, was the pope. He was probably one of the most powerful and influential popes during the middle ages. He called the Fourth Crusade and approved the works of Saint Dominic and Saint Francis of Assisi. He constructed the papacy into a more powerful, prestigious institution than it had ever been. He thought of the role of the pope as not merely a spiritual leader but a secular one as well, and while he was in office, he made that vision reality.
In 1200, King John became involved in a long, expensive war with France. John was forced to introduce new taxes to pay for the army, and this created resentment in England. Furthermore, the situation became worse when, in 1205, England lost control of Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, and Maine. In 1215, John made another attempt to regain the land in France, but was defeated. He was forced to pay £40,000 for a truce. He tried to get this money by passing more taxes.
When King John continued to impose taxes, the barons rebelled. They were led by barons including Richard of Clare, the third Earl of Hertford. Few remained loyal to King John, and he had very little support. He had no chance of victory.
Capture and Signing
On June 15, 1215, John was captured and brought to Runnymede, an island in the Thames River. There, he was forced to accept the terms of the barons and sign the Magna Carta. By signing this charter, the king agreed to a long list of promises, including that the king could not take land and money without Parliament's permission, no new taxes could be forced on the people without the support of his barons, and all freemen had the right to fair trial. The goal of the barons was to limit the king's power and protect their rights.
Actions of the Pope
After the signing of the Magna Carta, King John asked Pope Innocent III for help. The pope was worried about the rebellion, so he excommunicated the barons who had fought against the king. The pope even went as far as providing money to help King John recruit foreign mercenaries in order to go up against disloyal barons. Thus, the civil war resumed.
After the Signing
Impact on U.S. Constitution
The Magna Carta laid the foundation for the parliamentary government and declaration of rights in the United States. In order to keep the king's power in check, the document stressed the right of "due process of law". By the late 13th century, there was the idea of a "higher law", or one that even executive mandate or legislative acts could not alter. The leaders of the American Revolution believed it and wrote it in to the Constitution in the supremacy clause. These laws are enforced by the supreme court.
"Magna Carta: Cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution." EDSITEment. National Endowment for the Humanities, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. <http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/magna-carta-cornerstone-us-constitution>.
"The Meaning of Magna Carta since 1215." History Today. History Today, 2012. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. <http://www.historytoday.com/ralph-v-turner/meaning-magna-carta-1215>.
"Pope Innocent III." About Education. About.com, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2014. <http://historymedren.about.com/od/iwho/fl/Pope-Innocent-III.htm>.
Simkin, John. "King John." Spartacus Educational. Spartacus Educational, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2014. <http://spartacus-educational.com/MEDjohn.htm>.
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By Alexandra Li
After signing the Magna Carta, King John died in 1216. His son, nine-year-old King Henry III, took the throne. Many people doubted him. In 1258, when the powerful men of the kingdom had become impatient with Henry's rule, barons tried to get a committee of barons to supervise the king, as allowed in the Magna Carta. Their rebellion failed, but Magna Carta's position in England's political life was still strong.