King John assents to Magna Carta
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King John assents to Magna Carta

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Beneath lashing rain in June 1215 the gloomy, somewhat mad-looking King John confronts, at Runnymede, his barons, together with some clergy and some of the English Commons - including the Mayor of London. Here was signed the Great Charter, Magna Carta, which sought to define the limits of the king's powers. The barons had, of course, their own interests at heart, but many clauses were included in the document which have since been considered the foundation of national liberty. The king was forced to accept that henceforth money was not to be levied without the consent of the Common Council of the Realm. No free man was to be tried, save by his peers: which at a time when the mass of the people were not free was of limited effect. But with the decay of the feudal system this became a crucial right and a defence against tyranny.

John sealed the Charter with outward calm, but we are told that when he had ridden back to Windsor Castle he gnashed his teeth, rolled his eyes and even gnawed on the branches of trees, so great was his rage.

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(3) King John assents to Magna Carta

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King John assents to Magna Carta

This is one of eight monumental canvases commissioned in 1927 to fill the vacant spaces on the walls of St Stephen's Hall. The idea of this scheme was conceived by a committee including Lord Peel, Lord Crawford (Chairman of the Fine Arts Commission) and the Speaker of the House of Commons - at that time J.H. Whitley. The subjectmatter and artists were chosen by Sir Henry Newbolt, the unifying theme being 'The Building of Britain', during the eight centuries from King Alfred to Queen Anne. The result is an unusual attempt to produce in the 1920s High Art of the sort which was understood by the Victorian artists of the 19th-century Palace, of Westminster, but which was no longer popular or perhaps well understood. Advanced Category Search

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