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Magna Carta: A Celebration

Ric Carlyon - Monday, May 11, 2015

Updating the story leading to the Magna Carta and news of a special church service to celebrate the signing of the document 800 years ago.

A special service celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta will be held at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell on Sunday 14th June at 5pm.  

The Story so far... King John of England has met stalemate. His conciliatory negotiations with barons have failed. The rebellious gentry continue to maintain that the King has repeatedly exceeded reasonable authority, unfairly over-taxing them. Angry, they had gathered support and in May 1215 their opposition sparked civil war and they gained control of London. This encouraged others to join those opposing the King.

Mediation has bombed, antagonism mounts, and unrest has already turned ugly.  

So, 800 years ago King John was cornered and looked for a way out. He suggested arbitration to be led by the Pope. But the rebels rejected this. So the King looked to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, who had been in preliminary talks with the opposing barons.

“Papal arbitration’s obviously not going to work, so see if you can organise placatory peace talks” the King suggested to the Archbishop.

So about now... this month 800 years ago, the Archbishop was busy persuading the rebels to get around the table, using as an ‘agenda’ for the meeting an old Charter, never implemented, which curtailed Royal powers. The venue for the talks was carefully selected…near both the royal Windsor Castle and the rebel’s stronghold at Staines. Runnymede seemed perfect and the date selected was 10th June.

Would the parties show up? Well, they did and presented the King with the old Charter, amended and dressed up as “Articles of the Barons”. The Archbishop’s skills in mediation, severely exercised over 10 days, resulted in agreement, ultimately the Grant Charter, the Magna Carta. It was signed by all parties on the 15th June 1215 after which the rebels called off all opposition, swearing allegiance to King John.     

Scrawled on parchment in Latin and affirmed by the Monarch’s waxed seal, the Magna Carta promised the protection of church rights and ensured the monarch was subject to the rule of law. It safeguarded barons from illegal imprisonment, gave access to swift justice for all, and limited feudal payments to the Crown.

Ideas of freedom and democracy in the Magna Carta, and the rule of law to which all are subject, are significant today and its tenets have been included in constitutions around the globe. As the cornerstone of British Justice, the Magna Carta is reflected in due process in New Zealand:  close to the work all Justices of the Peace carry out in their daily duties.  

A special service celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta will be held at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell on Sunday 14th June at 5pm. Justices of the Peace will be welcome.  

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