In 1810 the reformist Member of Parliament, Sir Francis Burdett (1770–1844), was imprisoned in the Tower of London by the House of Commons for breaching parliamentary privilege. Burdett had criticised the prosecution of the radical orator, John Gale Jones (1769–1838), who had discussed closed parliamentary proceedings in public. Burdett regarded the actions of Parliament as an unconstitutional violation of Magna Carta. His imprisonment caused an outcry, and many popular prints represented him, Magna Carta in hand, as a noble defender of English liberty. Hand-coloured by Charles Williams, this print depicts Burdett behind bars in the Tower menagerie, appealing to King George III (r. 1760–1820) who scrutinises him through his glass. Presenting a paper bearing the inscriptions ‘Magna Charta’ and ‘Trial by Jury’, Burdett declares ‘Magna Carta violated’; the King’s guide explains that Burdett ‘raves much about a thing call’d Magny Charty, which some say is nothing but nonsence’.
- Article by:
- Alex Lock
Dr Alexander Lock discusses Magna Carta’s relationship to parliamentary reform and to radicals fighting oppressive government. Find out how this medieval peace settlement was reinvented as a potent symbol of liberty and justice.