In the Footsteps of
An English AAR for Europa Universalis II
Written by Katapraktoi
12th of October, 2005
The document Magna Charta
Magna Charta – a document written in 1215 in England, regulated the rule of the English king. It had all begun after the year 1066 when William the Conqueror had defeated the Saxon king Harald II at the battle of Hastings. When William claimed the throne of the new England, he and the Normans created a branch from the general rule that held Europe in an iron fist – the feudal system.
Seeing the effects of a feudal system where only the retainers in direct decent would swear allegiance to their ruler – and thus the second layer of retainers had no legal loyalty to their master – a new more controlled feudal system had to be created. The Normans created a feudal system where all retainers, no matter how low or high their nobility status were, had to give their allegiance to their king.
The old French feudal system had the disadvantage that the lower ranking retainers
only swore allegiance to their direct master, so they could war on the king
The new English system made the king's position safer
since all retainers had to swear direct allegiance to him
Because of this more centralised system of power, and an expanding idea by the English kings that succeeded William the Conqueror, England grew to become one of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe by the thirteenth century. The power of the English king grew so immense that his own barons began to question him. By 1199, when Richard the Lionheart died, his brother John claimed the English throne and (presumably, though never proved) assassinated Richard’s son Arthur of Brittany. John’s way of gaining the crown appalled the baron’s in England and the people in France had rather seen Richard’s son become the next king of England.
This would become the first of three failures that would finally lead to the English barons’ revolt against their king. John’s second mistake was that he was unable to retake the French lands that were taken by the French king Philip Augustus. The barons demanded that he would feed the war effort, and although John tried to launch an attack at France eight years later, John’s efforts were halted in the battle of Bouvines in 1214.
John’s third and last mistake was to quarrel with the Catholic Church about the appointment of the office of Archbishop of Canterbury. John wanted to appoint his own bishop while the Church – according to the laws of thirteenth century ecclesiastical laws – claimed that the right to appoint bishops in Catholic countries lay within their power. John lost the quarrel with the Church when England was placed under the sentence of an interdict – the national equivalent of an excommunication for an individual person – which would not be cancelled until John accepted Church authority. In 1213 John accepted the Church’s will and his fate was sealed.
King John’s ineptness had made the baron’s in England gather their armies respectively and gather at London. On June 10th in 1215, they took London by force and forced the king to sign the document which came to be known as the Articles of the Barons. In return, the barons renewed their allegiance to King John, and they composed yet another document of their agreement. This document came to be known as Magna Charta. Although a distant idea, Magna Charta came to be a sort of forerunner of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’ constitutions that were introduced for monarchs. Magna Charta introduced 61 clauses that limited the king’s power, and which states that a council of twenty-five barons would have the right to forcefully remove a king if his rule became too inappropriate. King John had to accept that he had to let go of some rights and respect the law. The king would now in other words, be bound by law like every other Englishman, and not above it, as had been the case before.