Magna Carta For Dummies

If you are living in Lincolnshire then it is a good chance that you heard about the celebrations that took place for the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

What you may not know is why the Magna Carta is so important and why residents of Lincoln are celebrating its anniversary.

The history of the Magna Carta is fairly complex and there’s a lot to learn. However, we’ve picked out the most interesting facts about the Magna Carta that are easy to remember and perfect for when you want to wow your friends with your knowledge.

Eleven facts about the Magna Carta;

1. Its Meaning

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

2. Commissioned in June, 1215

The Magna Carta was commissioned by King John of England, who 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

The Magna Carta 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

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

6. Only Four Original Copies

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

7. Within Fort Knox

A copy of the Magna Carta 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 belonged to Lincoln Cathedral, and not the government, and was not his to give away.

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 comes from the Magna Carta.

10. 800 Years Old in 2015

The original 1215 copy of the Magna Carta reached an historic anniversary that year and the four copies embarked on a tour of the United States and the UK.

11. A New Home

Lincoln Castle underwent a million-pound refurbishment over the past ten years and displays its copy of the original Magna Carta in the new David P J Ross Magna Carta Vault.


If you’re looking to visit the Castle after the launch, there are some great places to stay, including Mill Lodge Lincoln.