It follows that the reality is that the Magna Carta by that name dates not from 1215, but from 1217. The Charter of Liberties of 1215 survived less than three months and was never a law of England – nor was the later Magna Carta. It did not create rights, so much as declare existing laws (with a few additions). Its shrinking terms are to be found in many documents spanning 85 years and not all identical. Its principal other party was the Church, not the barons. Its significance, however, is real – and it lies not so much in the text of any of the documents but in the principles behind the text – the values and concepts that support it and their derivation from the “good old” laws of England.

And the Magna Carta did not acquire its name because of the portentous nature of its contents – it was because it was bigger than the Forest Charter.