1—Magna Carta with Annotations, abridged
Magna Carta with Annotations, abridged.
The rule of law has its basis in Magna Carta. This concept, fundamental to democratic
forms of government, asserts that all – including a king, prime minister, or president – must
abide by the laws of the nation. While Magna Carta does not specifically state that the king is
subject to the rule of law, the provisions of this document establish that principle by imposing
limits on the king’s power. The fact that the barons are given the authority to enforce this
document in Chapter 61 of the original version reinforces the principle that the king could no
longer ignore or violate established laws, traditions, or customs, nor could he arbitrarily infringe
on the rights of his subjects. In short, the king would be compelled to abide by the rule of law.
The Magna Carta is not a carefully crafted constitution, or framework of government,
like the U.S. Constitution. Rather, it addresses the principal grievances of the barons,
merchants, and church officials through a set of rules designed to both restrict the power of the
king and protect the liberties of Englishmen, Scots, and Welshmen.
This abridged document focuses primarily on the provisions that relate to due process
of law. These provisions established the institutions and procedures needed to assure that an
individual would be treated fairly by the legal process. The fundamental principle of “due
process” as well as the specific provisions of the Magna Carta are generally considered as the
most lasting contributions of the Great Charter.
This annotated version of Magna Carta shows the modern translation provided on the
British Library Portal in bold. EDSITEment notes, which follow the respective chapters, are
indented and appear in normal font.
Clauses marked (+) are still valid under the charter of 1225, but with a few minor
amendments. Clauses marked (*) were omitted in all later reissues of the charter. In the