On June 15, 1215, English nobles looked on as King John agreed to the demands listed in the Magna Carta.
On June 15, 2015, the United Kingdom celebrated the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter.” Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Philip, her grandson Prince William, British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and other officials gathered at Runnymede, a meadow along the River Thames. There, they stood at the exact spot where King John placed his royal seal upon the Magna Carta 800 years ago.
To commemorate the Magna Carta, a 13-foot statue of Queen Elizabeth II was unveiled at the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds. The royal barge Gloriana led a procession of 200 royal boats down the Thames to Runnymede. One of the boats, the royal shallop Jubilant, carried a replica of the Magna Carta. As they journeyed down the river, actors aboard the boats told the charter’s story. Throughout the month of June, the 53 nations of the British Commonwealth celebrated the Magna Carta with more than 1,000 special events.
On June 15, 1215, a group of rebelling English nobles presented King John of England with a list of 63 demands. Written as a contract, this document became known as the Magna Carta. By agreeing to the charter, King John promised to follow the same rules that others had to follow. For example, the king could no longer take people’s property without paying for it. To be sure that King John kept his promise, the Magna Carta gave the English nobles the right to go to war against the king.
The Magna Carta was originally written to protect the upper class. Over time, however, it became the basis for laws in Europe and the United States that protected the rights of everyone. America’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution were modeled after the Magna Carta. For example, the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, like the Magna Carta, gives people the right to trial by jury. The Magna Carta is an important early document that paved the way for today’s democratic governments.