Magna Carta

Magna Carta: "Workers' Rights"

The Revd Margaret Legg

It is Magna Carta that establishes the principle of Parliament. Without the force of law, worker’s rights in this country may never have been enforced. Clause 14 establishes the idea of a common council, as a means of obtaining common consent, rather than the King alone with one or two advisers he had chosen. KingJohn agreed to ‘cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls and greater barons and all who are his direct tenants, for a fixed date, when the business shall proceed.’ In 1215 the business was likely to be either the assessment of a financial aid, so the principle of ‘no taxation without representation’ comes from this, or of a scutage, the money paid by a vassal to his lord in lieu of military service.

Magna Carta: "Gay Rights"

The Revd Margaret Legg

Clause 39, reproduced at the beginning of the Service Sheet, establishes the principles of the rule law and of equality before the law. Most recently it inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, which states that people around the world should be protected by fundamental human rights, regardless of their citizenship, race, gender or beliefs. The paradox is that the ‘law of the land’ has systematically criminalised gay communities over the centuries. And Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was instrumental in the framing and sealing of MC by King John, represented a church which arguably was responsible for this approach.

Magna Carta: "Civil Liberties"

The Revd Robin Sims-Williams

When I read To Kill a Mocking Bird as part of the curriculum growing up in Canada, Atticus’ advice to his daughter Scout that, ‘you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb in his skin and walk around in it’ inspired me, it was one of those quotes I wrote on the back of my exercise book and even my cabbage patch doll was named Atticus, to free my first born from being so named. In the 1980s and 90s the story of To Kill a Mocking Bird was a reminder of how far we had come, but also how far we still had to go.

Magna Carta: "Women's Rights"

There is only one reference to ‘femina’, Latin for women, in Magna Carta.

It comes at Clause 54, which states that ‘No one shall be arrested or imprisoned, on the accusation of a woman, for the death of anyone, except her husband.’

If the accusation came from a man, the accused would be arrested; if from a woman,(unless it is the death of her husband) they only had to give sureties that they would appear and stand trial.

Magna Carta: "A Line in the Sand"

The Revd Margaret Legg

Magna Carta was revolutionary. It was iconic. It stated, for the first time, that no-one was above the law, not even the king, God’s representative on earth. The Crown was under the Law.

Magna Carta did not apply to Scotland. Perhaps this is why difficulties cropped up when the crown was inherited by the Scottish King James and his son Charles 1, who promoted the concept of the divine right of kings. He was beheaded.