During the English Civil Wars, Magna Carta became a powerfully symbolic document, widely invoked by parliamentarians. For them the Great Charter, itself the outcome of a civil war, successfully forced the Crown to obey the rule of law, and so justified military resistance against another equally tyrannical king. As this design shows, parliamentary banners made frequent allusion to Magna Carta as protecting the rights of the subject against royal oppression. The ensign, which belonged to Captain Hooker, depicts an unfurled scroll emblazoned ‘Magna Charta’, above which is the Latin legend ‘Preserva Legem Domine’ (Preserve the Law O Lord). Hooker’s was not the only ensign to depict Magna Carta. Another belonging to Captain Francis Dowett displayed an armed knight, sword in hand, defending the Great Charter. Magna Carta was held by many to vindicate the actions of Parliament, as shown proudly in the design of such military banners.
- Article by:
- Geoffrey Robertson
- Magna Carta today
Geoffrey Robertson QC charts the history of jury trials and their relationship to Magna Carta. From medieval justice to the trial of Charles I, and the trials of John Lilburne to the Human Rights Act, discover the evolution of one of the most venerated features of Anglo-American law.