"JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his loyal subjects, Greetings."
In June 1215, King John sealed Magna Carta and this was to change the course of English History.
It was an agreement meant to bring to an end a bitter civil war which had broken out earlier in that year.
On one side was a group of barons, mainly from northern England and East Anglia, rebelling against what they saw as tyrannical royal rule. On the other, was a ruthless and autocratic monarch, King John.
After gaining the upper hand by capturing London, the barons forced King John to negotiate. On 15 June the two sides made an agreement known to history as Magna Carta, the Great Charter.
The terms of Magna Carta were eventually agreed at an ancient meeting place on the banks of the Thames at the place called Runnymede.
In its tersely written Latin clauses this document laid down the essential principles of good government.
Magna Carta was annulled by the Pope in August 1215 but it was re-enacted after King John's death by his son, King Henry III. This fine example of Henry III's seal is appended to the 1225 version of Magna Carta held in the Cathedral Library in Durham.
By Kind permission of Durham Cathedral
On 4 July 1776, the American Declaration Of Independence was peened by Thomas Jefferson. English common law enshrined within Magna Carta was incorporated in the declaration.
"No free man shall be taken, imprisoned, stripped of his rights or possessions, outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers and by the law of the land.
To no one will We sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice."
The principles enshrined in the Magna Carta form the basis of key democratic ideals including equality before the law and human rights. As a result of the Magna Carta, rulers could no longer govern unchallenged or without consent.
It led to the establishment of democratic institutions such as Parliament as well as the enshrinement of the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today. In so doing, the Magna Carta laid the foundations of democracy. And, perhaps most importantly, these foundations are shared not just in the United Kingdom, but across the World; from the United States of America to India, and from Europe to Australia. The Magna Carta is recognised as the foundation stone of our democratic life.