Magna Carta in the context of limiting the power of an arbitrary ruler is a central topic of my master thesis. Magna Carta was created in the 12th century, when Angevin King John »Lackland« ruled England. At that time, it was thought that the king ruled his realm in the name of God. Earls, barons and knights held their land »in fee« (feudum) from the king in return for knight service; ecclesiastical magnates also held land directly from the king on similar terms.
I use Policraticus, a contemporary work by John of Salisbury to analyse systemic and personal aspects of king John’s arbitrary rule and I come to the conclusion that king John was justifiably labelled as a tyrant by his subjects. In the light of doctrine of tyrannicide of John of Salisbury I examine possible modalities of resistance against king’s arbitrary rule.
I present reasons and describe the developments regarding the creation of Magna Carta, as well as the influences of previous documents on the text of Magna Carta of 1215 (Coronation Charter of Henry I., The unknown charter, The Articles of Barons). The focus of my research are the provisions concerning limitations of the power of an arbitrary ruler with the special emphasis being put on the security clause, because it was the most important new mechanism of limiting the power of an arbitrary ruler (the creation of the committee of Twenty-Five and the cooperation of the commune of all the land). Based on the comparison and detailed presentation of the Hungarian Golden Bull of Andrew II. I can conclude that during that period we can find similar examples of limiting the power of an arbitrary ruler throughout Europe.
By analysing the developments in the period between 1215 and 1225 I present practical effects of Magna Carta 1215 and the importance of its re-issues but with an already different scope and content of provisions, which followed up until the year 1297.