Segments in this Video

Magna Carta: Introduction (01:31)


This segment orients viewers to the topic of the Magna Carta and its current importance.

River Thames (02:24)

In the Middle Ages, the river was a major "highway." In 1215, England was in a constitutional crisis; hear a quote from "Chronicle of Melrose Abbey."

Abuse of Power (03:18)

In the 13th century, a demand for a fairer society caused conflict between King John and his subjects. The principle grievance between King John and his barons was financial. Starkey quotes the opinions of monastic chroniclers.

Fighting for French Lands (02:01)

In 1212, King John launched an attack against King Phillip Augustus. In 1214, French troops routed John and his allies and he returned home to find his realm in disarray. In 1215, Robert Fitzwalter lead the barons in a demand for ancient rights and liberties.

Escalating Conflict (02:00)

In 1215, the barons demanded King John agree to Henry I's Charter of Liberties; he refused. The barons renounced their allegiance and seized London. The two sides met to negotiate at Runnymede.

Binding Agreement (02:56)

At Runnymede in June 1215, King John confirmed the Articles of the Barons with his great seal. Starkey reviews the document under glass. No original sealed copy of Magna Carta survived; it may never have existed.

"The Great Charter" (04:23)

The Articles of the Barons was transformed into Magna Carta. Specific clauses forbade the state from confiscating private property at will and established universal freedoms. The British Library plans an exhibition for the 800th anniversary.

Unjust Charter (02:47)

In 1215, King John publicly accepted the document but appealed to Rome; Pope Innocent III declared the document illegal. The king recruited Muslims for his army while barons backed an alternative claimant to the throne.

Power of a Regent (02:13)

On October 19, 1216, King John died; his son was crowned Henry III. William the Marshal reissued Magna Carta after removing Clause 61 and defeated rebel barons and Prince Louis at the Battle of Lincoln Fair.

Power Under the Law (03:44)

In 1225, Henry III reissued Magna Carta in its definitive form. The Great Charter laid the foundations for the Houses of Parliament; Parliament used taxation to extort concessions from the crown.

Shifting Power (03:26)

Charles I's reign began in 1625; his Palace of White Hall ceiling holds a political message. The Magna Carta pitted the power of a king against the power of Parliament.

Religious Tension (04:06)

Charles I and his leading subjects disagreed about religion. In 1628, Sir Edward Coke tried to turn the key principles in Magna Carta into constitutional law. In 1642, the king declared war on Parliament.

Public Trial (02:24)

Charles I went on trial in 1649. He refused to enter a plea and was sentenced to death for crimes against the people.

Glorious Revolution (02:40)

Cromwell fronted a military dictatorship and denounced the Magna Carta. James II secretly converted to Catholicism and the royal family split. In 1689, William III and Mary II accepted the Bill of Rights and became king and queen.

Commemorating Magna Carta (02:39)

In 1957, the American Bar Association created a monument at Runnymede. Settlers brought the rights of Englishmen to America as evident in the Charter of Virginia.

Breaking from Britain (02:37)

In 1765, King George III's government imposed a tax on paper, sparking a conflict that would lead to a war of independence. The Founding Fathers drafted and ratified the Declaration of Independence.

Authority of Law (03:02)

The Magna Carta is fundamental to the U.S. Constitution and governmental conduct. Starkey examines a golden replica of the charter located in the Rotunda and the symbolism on the doors of the Supreme Court.

Ready Made Banner (01:54)

Supreme Court justices have cited the Magna Carta 400 times since 1790. Hear Rep. Peter Rodino's remarks regarding Magna Carta and Richard Nixon.

After the 9/11 Attacks (02:52)

President Bush announced America's war on terror. Lawyers brought cases against the Bush administration for unlawful detention of suspected terrorists. The Supreme Court ruled detention without trial unconstitutional but a lesser appeals court bypassed the ruling.

Constitutional Integrity (02:45)

In 2008, David Davis resigned, citing actions against Magna Carta. In the name of the War on Terror, increasing personal liberty infringements occurred. Starkey reflects on the idea of sacrificing freedom for security.

Is Magna Carta a Myth? (02:36)

Starkey reflects on the power of Magna Carta over the centuries. Former Chief Justice Lord Judge discusses the validity of Magna Carta.

Credits: Magna Carta with David Starkey (00:40)

Credits: Magna Carta with David Starkey

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Magna Carta, with David Starkey

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Invoked against the excesses of royal power in 1215, Magna Carta is perhaps the most famous constitutional document in history. Though very much a product of its time, it has inspired many others, including the American Declaration of Independence and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. David Starkey explores its deployment, its contribution to making everyone—even the monarch—subject to the rule of law, and how this quintessentially English document migrated to the North American colonies and eventually became the foundation of the US constitution. Magna Carta has become a universal symbol of individual freedom against the tyranny of the state, but with ever-tightening government control on our lives, is it time to resurrect it?

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL94786

ISBN: 978-1-68272-117-9

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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