Literature Study GuidesThe Magna CartaSection 2 Section 8 Summary

The Magna Carta | Study Guide

King John

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The Magna Carta | Section 2–Section 8 | Summary

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Summary

Section 2

The king agrees to charge only the specified fees (reliefs) to transfer a title (such as earl or baron) to an heir.

Section 3

Heirs who are underage (minors) and already wards of the king will not have to pay any fees to assume an inherited title.

Section 4

Those guardians entrusted the estate of an heir who is underage will not be allowed to waste or destroy the heir's property. If they do waste or destroy the heir's property, they will be held accountable by the king, and he will replace them with trustworthy men.

Section 5

The guardians entrusted with the estate of an heir who is underage are responsible for maintaining the estate well. They must hand it over to the heir in excellent condition when he comes of age.

Section 6

Heirs will not lose their titles when they marry. Before the marriage occurs, the heir's next of kin will be notified.

Section 7

When the wife of an aristocrat is widowed, she may stay in her husband's house for 40 days. Within that time she will be given, without trouble or payment, her part of the property.

Section 8

Widows are not required to remarry. But if they do want to remarry, they must obtain permission from whoever is their authority.

Analysis

Under England's feudal system, the king had power over his barons, who were granted their lands in return for loyalty to the king. These barons had responsibilities to pay certain taxes (called aids). They had to give the king knights when he required them for military service (this service was called a knight's fee). However, King John abused his power in ways that made the barons angry. He raised taxes and gave no assurance that those taxes would not be raised over and over. He took advantage of his power of a baron's holdings when the baron died. This made the passing on of property and titles a difficult and expensive process. Sections 2 through 8 are limits to John's power. They are quite specific, giving a glimpse into the particular abuses of power the barons were most upset about.

The abuses of power perpetrated by the king were most difficult for widows and underage heirs. When a baron died and left an underage heir, the king would have control of the heir's lands until he came of age. During the time the heir was a ward of the king, the king would profit from the lands. Then, when the heir came of age, he would have to pay a fee, or relief, in order to assume the title and claim the lands. This amounted to a double benefit for the king and a hardship for the heir. Section 3 forbids this double-dipping. Sections 4 and 5 require the king appoint a responsible and trustworthy guardian for the lands. The guardian would ensure the lands be kept in good condition during the time of wardship.

Widows also had a difficult time obtaining what was theirs by law. This includes one-third of the lands and any lands she brought into the marriage. Sections 6 through 8 protect the widows from the worst of the abuses and ensure they were not left destitute.

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