Bury St Edmunds Magna Carta 800

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Magna Carta is England’s greatest export. It is the foundation stone of the freedoms enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people in more than 100 countries. It enshrined the rule of law in English society, It limited the power of authoritarian rule, it paved the way for trial by jury, it linked taxation to democratic government and proclaimed certain religious liberties:

It has influenced constitutional thinking worldwide including USA, Europe, Commonwealth and in over 100 countries; as well as the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Denials of Magna Carta’s basic principles have led to a loss of liberties and human rights and even genocide in many countries for centuries.

The Bury Saint Edmunds connection is related in Flores Historiarum (The Flowers of History), a chronicle written by Roger of Wendover (d. 1236), a monk in the Benedictine monastery of St. Albans. He says that:

“About this time the earls and barons of England assembled at St Edmund’s as if for religious duties, although it was for some other reason; for after they had discoursed together secretly for a time, there was placed before them the charter of King Henry the First, which they had received, as mentioned before, in the City of London from Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury. This charter contained certain liberties and laws granted to the holy church as well as the nobles of the kingdom, besides some liberties which the king added of his own accord. All therefore assembled in the church of St. Edmund the king and martyr, and commencing from those of the highest rank, they all swore on the great altar that, if the king refused to grant these liberties and laws, they themselves would withdraw from their allegiance to him, and make war on him, till he should, by a charter under his own seal, confirm to them every thing they required; and finally it was unanimously agreed that, after Christmas, they should all go together to the king and demand the confirmation of the aforesaid liberties to them, and that they should in the meantime provide themselves with horses and arms so that if the king should endeavour to depart from his oath, they might by taking his castles compel him to satisfy their demands; and having arranged this, each man returned home.”

The date of this meeting is most likely to have been 20th November 1214, the feast day of the true patron saint of England, Saint Edmund.

More information here.

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