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19 June 1215 at Runnymede King John signed the Magna Carta


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Happy Birthday, Magna Carta

Steven Hayward

June 15, 2015


Today is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the first Magna Carta. There was more than one “Magna Carta” from those olden times, with later versions being perhaps more legally significant—I once got to see an original King Edward Magna Carta owned privately by a collector in Australia—but the first one was the most politically important.


To contemporary readers, there are some odd parts to the first Magna Carta, such as:



(10) If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective of whom he holds his lands. If such a debt falls into the hands of the Crown, it will take nothing except the principal sum specified in the bond.



There are several more like this, attesting to the calumny of Jews as less respectable moneylenders. Then there are these articles, certain to rankle feminists:



(8) No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband. But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent, if she holds her lands of the Crown, or without the consent of whatever other lord she may hold them of.




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