Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent (before 1180–1243)
Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury (1150-1228)
William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1146-1219)
Parliament of England, 1297
Parties to the Magna Carta of 1215:
Surety Barons: William d'Albini, Lord of Belvoir Castle; Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk; Hugh Bigod, Heir to the Earldoms of Norfolk and Suffolk; Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford; Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford; Gilbert de Clare, heir to the earldom of Hertford; John FitzRobert, Lord of Warkworth Castle; Robert Fitzwalter, Lord of Dunmow Castle; William de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle; William Hardell, Mayor of the City of London; William de Huntingfield, Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk; John de Lacie, Lord of Pontefract Castle; William de Lanvallei, Lord of Standway Castle; William Malet, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset; Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex and Gloucester; William Marshall Jr, heir to the earldom of Pembroke; Roger de Montbegon, Lord of Hornby Castle, Lancashire; Richard de Montfichet, Baron; William de Mowbray, Lord of Axholme Castle; Richard de Percy, Baron; Saire/Saher de Quincy, Earl of Winchester; Robert de Roos, Lord of Hamlake Castle; Geoffrey de Saye, Baron; Robert de Vere, heir to the earldom of Oxford; Eustace de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick Castle Bishops of the Catholic Church: Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury; Henry, Archbishop of Dublin; Bishops of London, Bath, Winchester, Lincoln, Salisbury, Rochester, Worcester, Ely, Hereford, Chichester, Exeter Abbots of the Catholic Church: Abbots of St. Edmunds, St. Albans, Bello, St. Augustines in Canterbury, Evesham, Westminster, Peterborough, Reading, Abingdon, Malmesbury Abbey, Winchcomb, Hyde, Certesey, Sherborne, Cerne, Abbotebir, Middleton, Selby, Cirencester, Hartstary Others: Llywelyn the Great and other princes of Wales; Master Pandulff, subdeacon and member of the Papal Household; Brother Aymeric, Master of the Knights Templar in England; Alexander II, King of Scotland
Upon his coronation in 1100, Henry I issued a Charter of Liberties which sought to rectify certain abuses of power inflicted upon the clergy and nobility by his predecessor, William II. These offenses included the plunder of vacant sees, the sale of church offices, and the heavy taxation levied on the barons. The Charter was promptly forgotten, by Henry's successors if not by Henry himself.
Two centuries later, Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton led the campaign to revive that law. On August 4, 1213, he presided over a conference at St. Albans that produced a revision of the Charter - the first draft of the Magna Carta ("Great Charter"). Later that month on the 25th, at Westminster before a crowd of barons and church leaders, Langton read aloud this Great Charter and called upon the Crown for its instalment into law. King John refused, but on June 10, 1215, a number of barons entered London and coerced the king to place his Great Seal on the document at the Runnymede field.
After the barons' departure, John wasted little time renouncing his official imprimatur on the Magna Carta, thus triggering the First Barons' War. What began as a civil war turned into a war between England and France. At the barons' request, Prince Louis (the future Louis VIII) pledged troops to aid their cause, but Louis eventually took the opportunity to invade England, an act which united the barons and many of John's supporters.
On October 28, 1216, King John died of dysentery. His nine-year-old son Henry was crowned King Henry III ten days later at Gloucester Cathedral. (The French occupied London at the time.) On November 12, a revised draft of the Magna Carta was signed by Henry's regent, William Marshal; a few clauses were omitted, most notably Clause 61 (more on that later). When Henry came of age in 1225, he reissued a much shorter version containing 37 clauses; it was reconfirmed by the Parliament under Edward I on October 12, 1297.
The document would not have enjoyed those years of official tenure without an England to enshrine it - France's bid for conquest had to be stopped. The duty of commander-in-chief fell on Marshal. The 70-year-old regent led a successful land campaign, culminating with the battle at Lincoln in May of 1217. France's fate was sealed with the destruction of its navy at the hands of Hubert de Burgh (Marshal's eventual successor as regent), in battles at Dover and Sandwich. The formal end of the war came with the Treaty of Lambeth, signed on September 11, 1217.
[Update: Many successive generations of monarchs and even Parliaments resisted or ignored the Magna Carta. Royals often viewed the document as something that was forced illegally upon the Crown. The Magna Carta's lasting effects on British law took centuries to come about.]
The Magna Carta established several lasting legacies in the cause for freedom. First and foremost is the basis for rule of law. As Winston Churchill said of the Great Charter in 1956:
Throughout the document it is implied that here is a law which is above the king and which he must not break.
(Source: Constitutional History of the UK, Ann Lyon, p. 39)
Clause 14, which called for occasional assemblies of "archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons" to serve as counsel to the King, and Clause 61, which provided for a body of barons elected by their own numbers to (among other things) serve to enforce the laws of the Magna Carta, together influenced the formation of separation of executive and legislative powers. England's early parliaments were temporary affairs, but Parliament eventually took hold as a permanent institution (the English Civil War and interregnum notwithstanding) and struggled for its position as a check on the Crown.
Unlike the Charter of Liberties, the Magna Carta enumerated rights held by all citizens and not just those of noble and ecclesiastical rank. Among these stipulated freedoms (per the 1215 copy) are rights to habeas corpus (Clauses 36, 38, 39, 40), trial by jury and due process of law (Clause 39), and freedom from taxation without representation (Clauses 12 and 14). Over time, British subjects - especially the American colonists - invoked the Magna Carta to petition their government for restoration of various rights. The Great Charter is even cited in United States case law - see Klopfer v. North Carolina (1967) for an example.
The American constitution was the first document devised to structure a national government at its inception, specifying the powers and limits thereof for its major institutions, and distributing power sufficiently that the document could remain enforceable. The Magna Carta was not nearly as thorough defining the limits of English government, but its echoes can be found in America's founding legal document.
Liberty represents these four basic rights: to life and physical safety, to property, to choice and expression of personal
beliefs, and to choice and pursuit of personal interests. The State exists to protect individual rights, and society exists
to provide opportunity for individuals to voluntarily associate with others to engage in commerce, to share ideas, and to
pursue common peaceable interests. Any person, whether acting as a private party or as an agent of the State, is guilty of
violating these rights when that person commits assault against person and property, theft of property, fraudulent trade,
coercion to prevent peaceable speech and pursuit of peaceable interest, or coercion to adopt and express undesired beliefs
and to pursue undesired interests. Liberty is advanced with the broadening of support for individual rights within a society,
with legislation that brings a body of laws into greater compliance with individual rights, and with the overthrow of
tyrannical governments that have violated the rights of the people and that have abolished all means of seeking redress of
grievances against the crimes of the State. -- A Statement of Individual Rights, finalized version July 9, 2003