The papal bull annulling Magna Carta



The papal bull annulling Magna Carta was issued by Pope Innocent III (1161–1216) on 24 August 1215. It was written by a scribe in the papal chancery, and is authenticated by the leaden bulla (seal) of the Pope. 

King John had probably sent his envoys to Rome during the council which met at Oxford between 16 and 23 July 1215. He was infuriated by the arrogant behaviour of the 25 barons, elected to enforce Magna Carta under its security clause, and by the continuing challenge to the authority of his local officials. John had hoped that the charter would bring peace and order, and then become no more than a vague symbol of good government. Instead, his opponents had refused to disarm, and they were insistent that the charter should be zealously enforced.

As overlord of the kingdom, and protector of a king who had taken a crusader’s vow, Innocent III had already sent a string of letters to England berating the barons. Now he explained how, ‘by such violence and fear as might affect the most courageous of men’, they had forced John to accept an agreement ‘illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people’. The Pope declared Magna Carta ‘null, and void of all validity for ever’, a judgement which reached England the following month.

Full title
Bulla Innocentii Papae III. pro rege Johanne, contra barones. (In membr.) 1216. 151.
24 August 1215, Anagni, Italy
Manuscript / Object / Seal
Held by
British Library
Usage terms
Public Domain
Cotton MS Cleopatra E I, ff. 155–156

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