“Why is this old piece of parchment considered to be such a powerful symbol of our rights and freedoms? Narrated by Monty Python’s Terry Jones, this animation takes you back to medieval times, when England was under the reign of Bad King John. It asks why Magna Carta was originally created and what it meant to those living in the 13th century.” Initially, the Magna Carta was not as important as it appears in retrospect. King John and his successors did not really adhere to it. But 500 years later, a leading lawyer in England named Edward Coke challenged the absolutism of King James and then King Charles, asserting that they did not have absolute power but were accountable to the British Parliament and the people, citing the Magna Carta as precedent.
“Professor Justin Champion and Geoffrey Robertson QC discuss the reinvention of Magna Carta in the 17th century and its use against the Stuart kings. They explore Magna Carta as a legal document, its use as a symbol against tyranny, and the role of Sir Edward Coke.” This debate in England in the 1700s spilled over into the American colonies and was one of the philosophical arguments used for the American revolution, because colonists asserted that their rights as British citizens had been abridged by King George.