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British history

Magna Carta

King John signs Magna Carta, 15th June 1215.King John signs Magna Carta, 15th June 1215.King John (ruled 1199–1216) was unpopular with the leading noblemen (barons) of his day. They objected to his high levels of taxation and the loss of English lands in France after 1204. The barons were also displeased by John’s bitter quarrel with the Pope over who was to be Archbishop of Canterbury, a dispute that led to many church services being banned. Following a disastrous defeat John suffered at the hands of the French, the barons rebelled. On 15th June 1215, they forced John to agree to Magna Carta (Great Charter), a list of demands by which the barons attempted to limit the power of the sovereign and gain rights for themselves.

Map of Angevin Empire possessions in FranceMap of Angevin Empire possessions in France

Loss of Normandy

When John ascended to the the English throne, English kings owned much of northern and western France—the Angevin Empire. In 1201 a powerful alliance of French nobles from Normandy, the Lords of Lusignan, rebelled against John, their feudal lord, over John's decision to marry Isabella of Angoulême, who was already engaged to Hugh de Lusignan. Although John crushed the uprising, King Philip II of France invaded Normandy, and, in 1204, drove the English out. Philip then advanced south to occupy Anjou and Poitou as well. John's only remaining possession in France was now the Duchy of Aquitaine.

Magna Carta means Great Charter. The "Great" refers to the wide range of its contents, not its length.

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