July 2013 | Jeremy Howell

Great Plans for "The Great Charter"

This week, the British Library announced that for three days in 2015, they will kick off a year long 800th anniversary celebration for the Magna Carta by bringing together the last four surviving original copies of the document for the very first time.

King John of England signing Magna Carta on Ju...

King John of England signing Magna Carta on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede; coloured wood engraving, 19th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Clair Breay, a medieval manuscripts curator at the British Library, recently said, "The Magna Carta is the most popular item in the Library's Treasures gallery, and is venerated around the world as marking the starting point for government under the law. Bringing the four surviving manuscripts together for the first time will create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for researchers and members of the public to see them in one place, and will be a fantastic start to a year of celebrations."

The Magna Carta is considered an integral part of the British Constitution. It was presented to, or rather forced upon, King John of England by rebelling nobleman after years of high taxes and failed wars. The Magna Carta stipulated that King John was required to follow English law just as his subjects were. Many copies of the charter were made and sent across the English kingdom. Today, two original copies survive in the British Library, and both Lincoln and Salisbury Cathedral hold an original copy.


The British Library's full press release can be read here.