What is article 61 of the Magna Carta? Text explained following ‘seize’ of Edinburgh Castle by protesters

The protesters claimed that they were ‘taking the castle back’ under article 61 of the Magna Carta

On Tuesday (17 August), a group of protesters identifying as “peaceful, sovereign” people claimed to have seized Edinburgh Castle under article 61 of the Magna Carta.

This is what you need to know about the Magna Carta - and what article 61 being cited by the protesters actually means.

What happened?

The small group of protesters was seen at the landmark in a Facebook Live video on Tuesday afternoon, with Police Scotland confirming officers were still in attendance hours later.

In the 13-minute video, a woman says the castle “belongs to the people” and that they are “taking our power back”. She adds the Scottish people have been “lied to all our lives” and that the “building belongs to us, we have taken the castle back” in an effort to “restore the rule of law”.

Another man then says: “Treason’s been going on for that long now, we can’t sit back and let everybody perish under the stupid legislation and fraudulent government tyranny, so let’s just take it all back, not just the castle.”

The woman then speaks again calling for “no more enslavement” and the “people and commonwealth are going to be free”. She tells viewers they are going to “take everybody down”, including government, the courts and “the crown is coming down today”.

The woman also claims “corrupt, evil, satanic paedophiles are running this country” and Scots have been kept “like peasants for 800 years”.

As police appear, she shouts “notice to compel” and informs officers they are seizing the castle under article 61 of Magna Carta – “the only law in the land” – which predates the Act of Union.

The woman says she put Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone “on notice” about them taking the castle.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Officers are currently in attendance at Edinburgh Castle and are engaging with a group of people who have gathered within the castle grounds.”

What is the Magna Carta?

The Magna Carta, which means “The Great Charter”, has its origins traced back to medieval England.

The British Library explains that in June 1215, “King John imposed heavy taxes on his barons in order to pay for his expensive foreign wars” and that if they refused to pay, he would punish them severely or seize their property.

The barons on the other hand demanded that King John obey the law - when he refused, the barons captured London and the King was forced to negotiate.

“The two sides met at Runnymede in June 1215. The result of the negotiations was written down by the king’s clerks in the document we know as Magna Carta,” the British Library says.

“Although most of the charter’s clauses dealt with medieval rights and customs, Magna Carta has become a powerful symbol of liberty around the world.”

Its most famous clause is that of giving all “free men” the right to justice and a fair trial.

The document consisted of 63 clauses which sought to reform English law and move society on from the feudal system of rule in which the king’s word was law.

After King John died in 1216 and the nine year old Henry III took the throne, Magna Carta was reissued several times until it was made part of English law.

What does article 61 say?

Article, or clause, 61 states that the king must adhere to the Magna Carta’s rules, and that under any transgressions, his castles and lands could be seized by a council of 25 barons created to oversee his adherence.

Clause 61, also known as the security clause, states: “We give and grant to the barons the following security: The barons shall elect twenty-five of their number to keep, and cause to be observed with all their might, the peace and liberties granted and confirmed to them by this charter.

“If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us - or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice - to declare it and claim immediate redress.

“If we, or in our absence abroad the chief justice, make no redress within forty days, reckoning from the day on which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon.”

Does the Magna Carta apply in Scotland?

It appears that the group seizing Edinburgh castle failed to realise that the Magna Carta actually only applies in England, and has never been a part of Scots law as it predates the Act of Union.

On top of that, only four of the original 63 clauses are still recognised in English law today, and clause 61 is not one of them.

The UK Parliament states: “Only four of the 63 clauses in Magna Carta are still valid today - 1 (part), 13, 39 and 40. Of enduring importance to people appealing to the charter over the last 800 years are the famous clauses 39 and 40:

““No free man shall be seized, imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, exiled or ruined in any way, nor in any way proceeded against, except by the lawful judgement of his peers and the law of the land.

““To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.””

It adds: “These clauses remain law today, and provided the basis for important principles in English law developed in the fourteenth through to the seventeenth century, and which were exported to America and other English-speaking countries.

“Their phrasing, ‘to no one’ and ‘no free man’ gave these provisions a universal quality that is still applicable today in a way that many of the clauses relating specifically to feudal custom are not.”

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