Magna Carta is one of the most famous documents in English history. The charter is often referred to as laying the foundation of the rights of the common man but, in 1215, it was essentially an agreement to solve the dispute between King John and a significant number of his barons and most of the clauses were intended to limit the king’s exploitation of the rights and customs of the nobility. After 1215, however, the charter was re-issued several times in revised forms and it is these versions rather than that issued in 1215 that were seen as containing important legal principles. There is no evidence that a single Magna Carta was written up and sealed when King John met the barons at Runnymede in June 1215. Instead, once the terms of the agreement had been finalised, they were retrospectively written up in the royal chancery. Many copies of this grant, which became known as Magna Carta, were then sent out to officials throughout England. Four copies now survive, one in Lincoln, one in Salisbury and two in the British Library.

Manuscripts

  • Cs: London, British Library, Charter Cotton Augustus II. 106, f. 1r
    description & facsimiles
  • Ct: London, British Library, Cotton Charters XIII, no. 31A, f. 1r
    description & facsimiles
  • Lic: Lincoln, Cathedral Library, MS, f. 1r
  • Sl: Salisbury, Salisbury Cathedral, MS, f. 1r

Other versions of this law