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Page 3 Profile: King John, former King of England

Which one was King John again?

The youngest of five sons of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, he became his father’s favourite and following the deaths of all four of his brothers he ascended to the throne aged 32 in 1199 and ruled until 1216.

Did he do anything special?

799 years ago yesterday he was forced to put his seal to the Magna Carta, or Great Charter, a legal document drawn up by a group of powerful barons, which curbed the king’s power, and became the cornerstone of democracy.

That’s a big claim. What does it say?

Choice quotes include: “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice” – meaning that justice cannot be bought or sold. The creation of Magna Carta marked the first time limits were imposed on a king of England’s powers, making it clear that he was subject to the law, not above it. The agreement is believed to have paved the way to the rule of constitutional law as well as political representation and the development of Parliament.

So the Prime Minister’s a fan?

David Cameron wants to use next year’s 800th anniversary of the document as an opportunity to teach all children “the foundation of all our laws and principles”. He has pledged to teach them about Magna Carta to promote values such as democracy, equality and tolerance, and to fight extremism              

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