Magna Carta and the UK's newest citizens

The Salisbury copy of Magna Carta is thought to be the best of the four remaining copies on display in the UK.

And the 800 year-old bill of British rights has a huge emotional impact on some of the tourists who come to see it.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Latin text of the Salisbury Magna Carta

At the Cathedral this week one of the guides told me he often sees visitors from America or Australia coming out of the historic Chapter House in tears.

Could it be that in this country we have become so used to our inheritance of freedom and the rule of law that we take it for granted?

We were in Salisbury to see 30 new citizens from Dorset and Wiltshire being given their British passports.

The modern citizenship process involves them passing a multiple choice test.

An example question: Is the Grand National a) a football match b) a cricket match c) a horse race?

But most importantly these 30 people had chosen the United Kingdom over all other countries in the world as their new home. They value the basic truth of Magna Carta, still alive in our beliefs and values as well as our systems of government.

Image copyright Matt Cardy
Image caption New citizens at Salisbury Cathedral

The concept that a ruler had to extend not only rights but a system of checks and monitoring by the barons led to the first de Montfort Parliament.

Magna Carta set basic standards such as no detention without the right to a trial by your peers and the end of forced marriage in a time when widows were regularly compelled into an unwanted union.

Yes, only "free men" were granted these privileges, and King John ignored many of his concessions while monarchy and wider civil government had to be held to account over and over right up to the suffragettes and beyond. But this was the start.

Celebrating Magna Carta is celebrating the fact that power was no longer vested solely in an individual, but in the country itself - it was no longer the King's law, now it was the law of the land.

And that land is ours.