When I was in England earlier this autumn I took a group of homeschool students to Runnymede and spoke to them about King John and the Magna Charta. (The picture on the right s of my at Runnymede.)
The signing of the Magna Charta was such an important milestone in Western history that I expected the place to be flooded with tourists and to at least have a gift shop. I expected it to be so crowded and noisy that I even considered giving my talk at the house before we arrived. But it is just a field and few visitors besides us were there. The monuments and plaques which do exist were donated by Americans. A local resident told me that most English people living in the area don’t even know that Runnymede exists, let alone the significance of the place.
In one sense this is understandable. The government of England - which controls the education of most British citizens - has not been keen to advertise the Magna Charta since they have abolished many of its provisions. Moreover, the totalitarian legislation that has flooded through parliament in the last 30 years is directly contrary to the spirit the Magna Charta. I just read today, in fact that Louise Casey, the Government's victims' commissioner, has called for the scrapping of the right to trial by jury trial for lesser offences that "clog up the courts", to save money.
But why was the Magna Charta so important and how did it come about? That is the question that I would like to address in the next post.