What Happened in the Year 1215?

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The most significant event of 1215 was the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymeade. This act limited the powers of the king and placed him within the limitations of the law.

Prior to the signing of the Magna Carta, the king had supreme rule. He could make and change laws as he chose. When King John assumed the throne in 1199 after the death of Richard the Lionhearted, many considered him disrespectful of and abusive to the feudal system on which England's economy was based. He was also unpopular amongst landowners, because he taxed them heavily in order to fund his travels. King John was also not very popular with the church. He conflicted with the pope and used the church as a moneymaking tool. The Archbishop of Canterbury finally approached the landowners about imposing limitations on the king's powers. In return for his signing the Magna Carta and granting supreme rule to the pope, the landowners agreed to re-pledge their allegiance to the king. Even though King John agreed to the Magna Carta under force, many landowners rejected it at the time. It was King John's death a few months later that secured the validity of the document.