Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III
Image of Pope Innocent III, British Library

Biography

Pope Innocent III (c. 1160 – 1216) played a major role in the events surrounding Magna Carta, including its annulment in August 1215. He had previously made many attempts to enforce papal authority over secular rulers, and his determination to impose his judicial authority over the whole Latin Church culminated in the reforms of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215.

Pope Innocent received messengers from King John in the summer of 1215, asking him to annul Magna Carta. The Pope issued a papal bull, which survives in the British Library, declaring Magna Carta to be ‘null and void of all validity for ever’, on the grounds that it was ‘illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people’.

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