Magna Carta, one of the most important documents in history is 800 years old today.
15 June 1215 at Runnymede near Windsor, Bad King John was forced, as good as at swordpoint, to sign this compact with his Barons which became not only the first chink in the concept of the Divine Right of Kings, but also led to the rule of Habeus Corpus in law.
Actually, King John didn't "sign" Magna Carta because he couldn't read or write, instead he attached his Royal seal, which was just as good.
Much of the document didn't really amount to much, but critically, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons (the first Parliament) and although both parties reneged on it in many cases, Edward I (Longshanks himself) repeated the issuance of the Charter in 1297, this time confirming it as part of English Statute Law.
It was instrumental in the abolition of slavery in England many years before the US had a bloody civil war over the issue, and is still used today, for instance when Tony Benn invoked it in Parliament in 2008 during the debate on how long terrorist suspects could be held without charge.
Most of its clauses have since been repealed and relevant rights ensured by other statutes, but it still holds a place of great importance in our national consciousness and has been influential in the legal frameworks of many other countries, the US included.
Happy Birthday, Magna Carta. Keep up the good work.