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15 June 2020

Magna Carta quiz

15 June 2020 marks the 805th anniversary of the granting of Magna Carta by King John. The British Library holds two of the four surviving copies of one of the most famous documents in the world, with the others being held at Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral. One clause of Magna Carta gave all 'free men' in 1215 the right to justice and a fair trial, a statement that has been reinterpreted by successive generations worldwide.

'No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.'


A miniature from an illuminated legal manuscript, showing King John hunting on a grey horse, accompanied by dogs, and with rabbits darting into their burrows

A portrait of King John hunting (England, 14th century): British Library, Cotton MS Claudius D II, f. 11r

In this quiz we ask you to test your knowledge of Magna Carta. There are no prizes but your pride may be at stake. If you're stuck, you can always look up the answers on the British Library's Magna Carta webspace. You may also enjoy this animation narrated by Terry Jones: What is Magna Carta?

The answers are now published below (don't peek if you want to guess first).

  1. What does 'Magna Carta' mean?
  2. Where did King John sign Magna Carta (this may or may not be a trick question)?
  3. Who was the archbishop of Canterbury in 1215, and who was the Pope?
  4. For how long did Magna Carta originally remain in force?
  5. How many clauses of Magna Carta remain on the United Kingdom statute book?
  6. Who described Magna Carta (allegedly) as 'Magna Farta'?
  7. Which future US President used Magna Carta when drawing up the Declaration of Independence?
  8. Which future President cited Magna Carta at their trial in 1963-64?


And the answers are:

  1. 'Magna Carta' is Latin for the 'Great Charter' or large charter, to distinguish it from the Forest Charter, also known as 'Parva Carta' or the small charter
  2. He confirmed the document by affixing to it the Great Seal of England, at Runnymede (so technically he didn't sign it)
  3. Stephen Langton and Pope Innocent III
  4. For 10 weeks, until it was declared null and void by the Pope on 24 August 1215
  5. There are 3 clauses still valid in UK law
  6. Oliver Cromwell
  7. Thomas Jefferson
  8. Nelson Mandela, at the Rivonia Trial

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