Magna Carta Assembly

mc 02Where better to start than the 800 year commemoration of democracy….the signing of the……

In this first ‘assembly post’ I’ll reflect the detail and depth that we invariably go to, to engage the children. We used a book called ‘Rupert’s Parchment’ to tell the story………

Imagine walking onto a field at Runnymede in June, 800 years ago in 1215. Things were probably quite different back then! You’ve spent your life in small, nearby town where you help your father in his workshop. There’s no technology, no internet and you’ve never seen anything quite like it…

The field is rocking with vibrant colour and sound. Horses prance, knights’ chain mail clinks, shields and weapons shine, tents fill the field with banners waving, and the smell of cooks lighting fires and beginning preparations for a feast are in the air. Barons (men who own a lot of land, and are much wealthier than yourself) stride about in battle gear. Bishops seem to glide along the ground in their long, flowing robes. Clerks set up writing tables.

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Overwhelmed, you walk through the field, weave in and out of all these important people and listen to their conversations. It seems that everyone is mad at the King.

You shudder – you’ve heard tales of King John abusing his people. You know that he has raised taxes to the point where ordinary people cannot pay them, seized whole castles from barons, taken timber from the forests that grow on their land and the grain needed for bread from their fields, without paying any money to the owners. You hear another man saying he was pulling a cart of cabbages he had grown to market to sell, and had been stopped by the King’s sheriffs and forced to hand over all his produce.

This isn’t fair, you think. But what can be done about it? The King is the King after all!

That’s where the Magna Carta comes in.

800 years ago the king of England was challenged about how he treated his people. Churchmen, barons and knights challenged the king’s rule and took control (by force) of the rich city of London. The king needed control over the city, since it was so wealthy and was an enormous source of income for him, and so he heeded the demands of the people, and vowed to stop taking their goods.

And that is when the Magna Carta was born. It is a document or “charter” which lays out the rights of the people and states that the law applies to everyone. Even the king.

The Magna Carta is celebrated for creating the very idea of human rights, the idea that “all men are equal” and was the start of people’s human rights being protected in the UK and elsewhere. A section of the document reads:

No free man shall be imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions… except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

Translation: nobody will be put in prison or punished unless they are found guilty by trial. AND those in power (kings, queens, prime ministers) cannot just send someone to prison, or take their things because they feel like it – the person has to have been found guilty of breaking a law.

Essentially the Magna Carta protected normal, everyday people from being completely controlled by their rulers, giving them the freedom to live their lives the way they choose, own things without fearing they will be taken away, and have freedom and independence. It also allowed the general population to hold their rulers to account. Before the Magna Carta, the king could take whatever he felt like from anyone, but after signing the charter, if the king tried to take something that didn’t belong to him, he could be arrested and put in prison the same as the rest of the people in his kingdom.

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Here’s an image of King John signing the Magna Carta at Runnymede in Surrey on 15 June 1215

The field is rocking with vibrant colour and sound. Horses prance, knights’ chain mail clinks, shields and weapons shine, tents fill the field with banners waving, and the smell of cooks lighting fires and beginning preparations for a feast are in the air. Barons (men who own a lot of land, and are much wealthier than yourself) stride about in battle gear. Bishops seem to glide along the ground in their long, flowing robes. Clerks set up writing tables.

Overwhelmed, you walk through the field, weave in and out of all these important people and listen to their conversations. It seems that everyone is mad at the King.mc 04

You shudder – you’ve heard tales of King John abusing his people. You know that he has raised taxes to the point where ordinary people cannot pay them, seized whole castles from barons, taken timber from the forests that grow on their land and the grain needed for bread from their fields, without paying any money to the owners. You hear another man saying he was pulling a cart of cabbages he had grown to market to sell, and had been stopped by the King’s sheriffs and forced to hand over all his produce.

This isn’t fair, you think. But what can be done about it? The King is the King after all!

That’s where the Magna Carta comes in.

800 years ago the king of England was challenged about how he treated his people. Churchmen, barons and knights challenged the king’s rule and took control (by force) of the rich city of London. The king needed control over the city, since it was so wealthy and was an enormous source of income for him, and so he heeded the demands of the people, and vowed to stop taking their goods.

The Magna Carta has been called “The Foundation of Liberty”, because it has evolved over past 800 years and influenced change in many countries. The American Founding Fathers for example, used the Magna Carta as evidence when they were trying to gain independence from England. Without the Magna Carta, the United States might have been a very different place, or perhaps not existed as we know it at all!

Fast forward to today and a great event was again scheduled in the field of Runnymede on 15 June 2015. The green meadows were alive with excitement, colour and sound when hundreds of people returned to celebrate the signing of the Magna Carta.

The charter marked the beginning of freedoms which we might take for granted today, and the signing of it remains one of the most historic and influential moments in British and world history.

On June 15th 2015 the children joined a live online ‘Discovery Channel’ celebration held at Runnymede 800 years since the original Magna Carta was signed.

 

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