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Magna Carta. The First Parliament



John the Lackland spent most of his reign in battles for English possessions in France. He took great money to wage these wars as taxes from his subjects and from the Church. Finally the English barons, many of them were Normans, refused to fight with the King of France. Barons' rebellion plunged the country into civil war in 1214. A year later, in 1215, when the struggle between the King and barons reached its climax, both sides accepted the famous document called Magna Carta (the Great Charter).

Magna Carta contained "the list of grievances" — the criticism of the King's abuses of power. It promised new rights to people and was based on the laws established by Henry II, Edward the Confessor and Alfred the Great. The most well-known laws of this Charter are these:

1.The King was not to make people pay taxes without the consent of the Great Council.

2.No one was to be punished for any wrong-doing without a proper trial according to the law of the land.

In general Magna Carta checked the despotic power of the King and was the first step in the long struggle, which led to the limitation of the King's power and establishing constitutional monarchy in England. Later the Charter was confirmed by other kings and reissued, but it always retained its original characteristics.

After John's death in 1216, the throne was succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry. The Great Council revised Magna Carta and made Lord Pembroke Regent and Protector of England as the King was too young. Lord Pembroke improved the Carta and governed justly, but died in three years of his protectionship. This death marked a period of great disorder in the country — the civil wars almost never stopped.

Henry III was deeply religious, constantly built and rebuilt churches and Abbeys. These projects needed much money and led to the constant fight between the King and the barons.

In 1257, the religious Henry III, who was under the great influence of the Church and the Pope was persuaded to accept the kingdom of Sicily for his son Edward. He needed money to conquer the island but barons refused to give it. In the course of the civil war, which started in the country, the barons and churchmen held an assembly and drew up the Provisions of Oxford. That document provided the appointment of the Justiciar, Chancellor and Treasurer, the Council of Fifteen was to govern England and control the ministers.

The barons led by Simon de Monfort defeated the King's forces in the civil war, captured the King and his son Edward. After it Simon de Monfort summoned the first English parliament in January 1265. It gathered barons, knights (2 knights from each shire) and burgesses (2 citizens from each town). The presence of burgesses aimed at giving the citizens of the towns the idea of new taxes.

The first Parliament had little time to show its merits — the barons began to quarrel; the people were dissatisfied with the barons. Simon was killed in the civil war and soon after it the son of Henry II Edward I came to power.

Task 2.Discussion. Read the text about the design of the House of Commons and compare it with the design of the Parliament building in your country. How many political parties are there in your country? Do you think the arrangement of the sitting places for Members of Parliament helps to create a political atmosphere?

What other medieval inventions in the British Parliament could be successfully introduced in your country?





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