Most people in the UK have heard of the Magna Carta but very few have actually read it. Below is a summary taken from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Magna-Carta.
When you hear people referring to Common Law, they mean the law of the land and in the UK it is the law as outlined in our original constitution as set out in the Magna Carta. Originally issued under the rule of England’s King John back in 1215, the Magna Carta outlined the basic rights of citizens and declared that no one was above the rule of law—not even the king.
By the end of the 16th century the admiralty courts had come to exercise an extremely wide jurisdiction, reaching far beyond saltwater transportation into many areas of commercial law. (see the link below to understand more about Maritime Law.
What is the Magna Carta?
The Magna Carta (“Great Charter”) is a document guaranteeing English political liberties that was drafted at Runnymede, a meadow by the River Thames, and signed by King John on June 15, 1215, under pressure from his rebellious barons. By declaring the sovereign to be subject to the rule of law and documenting the liberties held by “free men,” it provided the foundation for individual rights in Anglo-American jurisprudence.
Among the Magna Carta’s provisions were clauses providing for a free church, reforming law and justice, and controlling the behavior of royal officials. One of the charter’s 63 clauses tasked the barons with choosing 25 representatives to serve as a “form of security” ensuring the preservation of the rights and liberties that had been enumerated. Above all, the Magna Carta guaranteed that government, royal or otherwise, would be limited by the written law of the land.
The charter of 1216 was considerably shorter than its predecessor—42 clauses versus 63 in the 1215 document—as the council had omitted clauses dealing with purely temporary and political matters as well as those that might limit its own power to raise money or forces to carry on the war.
The church, while keeping a general promise of freedom, lost its specific guarantee of free election to office.
Even in that moment of danger, the council did not forget one main purpose of the charter: to provide a definitive statement of feudal law. It tried to address points in doubt, such as specific matters of inheritance law and the precise year at which an heir should attain his majority (age 21). Instead of the “form of security,” the council stated that all omissions were postponed for future consideration. They were never replaced.
Historical Significance Of The Magna Carta
Magna Carta's 800th Anniversary (2012)
In 2012, David Cameron spent an excruciatingly long two minutes discussing the Magna Carta with David Letterman. The British prime minister struggled to name the location where the iconic English document was signed and the whereabouts of the original copies. But he perked up when describing the charter’s significance.
“The big moment of the Magna Carta was basically people saying to the king that other people have to have rights”—it was about “the crown not being able to just ride roughshod over everybody,” he said. Then the soaring moment hurtled back to earth. “And the literal translation [of Magna Carta] is what?” Letterman asked. Cameron had no idea.