The long-lived charter: Magna Carta’s 800 year legacy

The History of Parliament

800 years ago today, Magna Carta was sealed at Runnymede. In the last of our series celebrating the anniversaries of Magna Carta and Simon de Montfort’s Parliament, Dr Alexander Lock, Curator of Modern Historical Manuscripts at the British Library and lead researcher for the Library’s acclaimed Magna Carta exhibition, discusses how Magna Carta came to become an important symbol of the parliamentary system…

Though Magna Carta does not – as is occasionally claimed – represent the foundation of democracy, Magna Carta holds an important place in the history of parliament. In its medieval context it for the first time placed the executive under the rule of law and explicitly limited the Crown’s capacity to raise revenue without the consent of a ‘common counsel of the realm’. Clause 12 for instance stated that ‘No scutage or aid is to be levied…except by the common counsel of our realm…’…

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