Magna Carta is Latin for The Great Charter – The 3,500 words on the calfskin parchment, first drafted by the archbishop of Canterbury, were eventually extracted from King John by frustrated noblemen who captured London and held him to ransom. They wanted less power held by the monarchy – especially from this particular king, who was considered an evil and poorly skilled monarch – and more rights for landowning Englishmen like themselves. John never wanted it published and it was annulled by the pope nine weeks later. He ruled that the king had been forced to sign it under duress. But it was redrafted in 1216, 1217 and 1225, and confirmed in English law in 1297 – 81 years after the death of John. It is the first document granting rights and freedoms to common people, reflected in America’s Bill of Rights. Perhaps that is why the first memorial erected to honor it was made and paid for by the American Bar Association.
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