Magna Carta can’t be used to seize Edinburgh Castle

18 August 2021
What was claimed

It’s possible to “seize” Edinburgh Castle using powers granted by Magna Carta.

Our verdict

This is completely untrue. Magna Carta does not, and has never, been part of Scots law. The relevant clause only applies to 25 barons who lived in the 13th century, and was removed from the historic law a year after it was written.

On Tuesday 17 August a group of protesters attempted to “seize” Edinburgh Castle, citing “Article 61” of Magna Carta as their justification for doing so.

As we have written before, some people claim that clause 61 of the medieval law allows people to lawfully dissent or rebel if they feel they are being governed unjustly. 

It is untrue, in the context of the demonstration at Edinburgh Castle for three key reasons. 

Firstly, Magna Carta is not—nor has it ever been—a part of Scottish law

Secondly, the original version of the historic law, written in the 13th century, granted powers to “assail” the monarch and “seek redress”, but only to 25 barons. They were not granted to the population at large. 

Thirdly, within a year of it being written, the clause was removed from subsequent versions of Magna Carta. It was never incorporated into English statutory law.

If you want to know more about Magna Carta or the text of clause 61 we’ve written more here.

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