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Magna Carta

Magna Carta
King John of England pays homage to Philip II of France, in front of the royal court, c.1325-1350 © The British Library /HIP/TopFoto.co.uk

The charter that King John was persuaded to sign at Runnymede in 1215 remains the root of all the constitutional freedoms that the English (and later the British) people were to win for themselves over the following centuries.

Many of the issues it deals with might sound rather obscure to us today, but its one overriding principle, never superseded, was that the monarch was not above the law. He or she could only act in accordance with the legal principles that had been enacted by representatives of the people.

Magna Carta was the starting-point of the British constitution, and as such also lies at the foundation of the world's oldest written constitution, that of the United States.

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My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry