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Magna Carta For Dummies

If you are living in Lincolnshire, there is a very good chance that you have heard of Magna Carta.

What you may not know, however, is why it is so important and why residents of Lincoln celebrated its anniversary back in 2015.

The history of the Magna Carta is fairly complex and there’s a lot to learn. However, we’ve picked out eleven interesting facts which are easy to remember, should you want to wow your friends with your knowledge!

1. Its Meaning

Magna Carta means ‘Great Charter’ in Latin, but it’s also known as Magna Carta Libertatum; ‘The Great Charter of the Liberties’.

2. Commissioned in June, 1215

The Magna Carta was commissioned by King John of England. He didn’t actually draw up the original wording of the Magna Carta – that was done by the Barons of England so they could include all of their demands.

3. Prevented Civil War Erupting

The Barons of England were powerful and wealthy, while the King had spent most of England’s wealth on a failed war with France. The Magna Carta was drawn up to broker peace between them.

4. The King vs. The Law

It was the first document to state that the King was not above the law. It also included rules for how justice would be dealt out across England, fishing rights, church rights and rules against false imprisonment.

5. Annulled in August, 1215

King John did not want to honour the Magna Carta, so wrote to Pope Innocent III. Indeed, he annulled the document and declared it illegal (this didn’t stop it becoming one of the most influential documents in history).

6. Only Four Original Copies Remain

There are only four copies of the original 1215 document in existence today. One of these is kept at Salisbury Cathedral and the other two are held by the British Library.

7. Within Fort Knox

A copy was kept inside Fort Knox (USA). It was on tour of the United States when the war broke out and, rather than risk damaging or losing it by bringing it back to the UK, it was held there until the war was over.

8. Potential Gift During WWII

During World War II the then-Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, planned to give the copy held at Fort Knox to the US permanently to encourage them to join the Allied forces. His plan failed, as the document was not his to give away; it belonged to Lincoln Cathedral rather than the government.

9. Influenced US Democracy and Laws

America’s forefathers used the Magna Carta as a foundation for the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In fact, the term ‘burden of proof’ used in US courts today is taken from the original document.

10. 800 Years Old in 2015

The original 1215 copy of the Magna Carta reached an historic 800-year anniversary six years ago. The four copies embarked on a tour of the United States and the UK to celebrate! 

11. A New Home

Lincoln Castle has undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment over the past few years. It now displays its original copy in the new David P J Ross Magna Carta Vault.


If you’re looking to visit the Castle and see the historic document for yourself, there are some great places to stay, including Mill Lodge Lincoln.

Still a little confused about Magna Carta and want to find out more? Try these:

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