Magna Carta–Part I

Next year is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, and I thought I’d start a series of posts on that text.  Much of Magna Carta dealt with feudal duties that are obsolete, and the document applied only to the Crown and to the aristocracy (you were largely out of luck as a serf.)  Some of its provisions are quaint, such as “[T]here shall be one measure of wine throughout Our kingdom, and one of ale, and one measure of corn, to wit, the London quarter, and one breadth of dyed cloth, russets, and haberjets, to wit, two ells within the selvages.”

Nevertheless, there are some parts that are surprising, especially with respect to aristocratic women.  For example, “[A] widow, after the death of her husband, shall immediately and without difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance.”  And “[n]o widow shall be compelled to marry so long as she has a mind to live without a husband.”  You can also see the germ of federalism in the guarantee the “The City of London shall have all her ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and water.  Moreover, We will grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall have all their liberties and free customs.”

More next week on property rights, freedom or religion, due process, and other Magna Carta wonders.

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