October 13, 2011
Magna Carta at Bury St Edmunds
By Lord Phillips
National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons ,Bury St Edmunds
The early settlers in the United States took with them copies of the Magna Carta. One undertaking given by King John in that Charter was as follows:
‘No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised, neither will we attack him or send anyone to attack him except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. To no-one will we refuse or delay right or justice.’
It is that undertaking for which Magna Carta is recognised and revered. It was an undertaking which Parliament was later to embody in our statute law. It was an undertaking which was, in due course, reflected in the writ of Habeus Corpus. It is that undertaking which the American Bar Association had in mind when they built in Runnymede the rotunda that stands as a tribute to Magna Carta, a symbol of freedom under the law. It is that undertaking, which we are celebrating so gloriously today.
I have to tell you that the undertaking for which Magna Carta is remembered today was not the foremost concern of the barons, who met, as I am firmly persuaded they did, at Bury St Edmunds on 20 November 1214.
Chapter 8 of the Charter provided: ‘no window shall be forced to marry so long as she wishes to live without a husband. Hitherto, if a baron died leaving a widow, her remarriage would be at the King’s command. Henry II had under his custody a widow called Isabel de Clare, whose estates in Normandy were so considerable that he consigned her to the Tower of London for safety.
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National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons