The clauses in the charter only spelled out the rights of free
Figures, Victoria & Albert Museum
Clause 1 states that theliberties
were confirmed “to
all freemen of my kingdom and their heirs for ever.”
The majority of the population were not free, they were villeins,
regarded as the property of the lord who owned the land on which they
lived or worked. They were only protected as part of the lords'
who were considered free
fell into four categories:
aristocracy (lords, barons, earls etc.)
rights come first because it was these men who brought King John to
the situation where he had no choice but to agree the charter.
main force behind Magna Carta was the Archbishop of Canterbury
Stephen Langton. While it was the barons who had the greatest
grievances against John, with his treatment of William de Braose and
his family the prime example, the Archbishop was a learned man and
helped frame the document. He also made sure that the church
benefitted as well.
and minor lords
show of force by the barons consisted of the men they could muster to
fight. They secured the support of their men by ensuring there were
provisions in the charter for them too. Clauses 15 and 60 stated that
the rights which were granted by the king to the barons would also be
granted by the barons to their own vassals.
charter confirms existing customs and privileges, which they had
already won for themselves, so although they are mentioned, they
actually received very little that was new.