Eight hundred years ago, on 15 June 1215, on the banks of the Thames in Runnymede, an embattled King John met the English barons, who had backed his failed war against the French and were seeking to limit his powers. The weakened monarch had little choice but to witness the sealing of what some say is the world’s most important document, one that, symbolically at least, established a new relationship between the king and his subjects.
Thus the original Magna Carta, 3,500 words in Latin on a calfskin parchment, came into being, its enduring relevance confirmed in the many legal cases in which it is cited today. Months of celebrations are planned around 15 June, the date of the great charter’s sealing 800 years ago.
The 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta will be a commemoration of national and international significance. Due to its central place in English history and its impact across the world, a wide range of events and activities are being planned. From specially commissioned BBC documentaries and books, to academic conferences, public exhibitions, local community events and a Magna Carta tourism trail, there will be hundreds of exciting events organised.
There will be medieval fairs at the nearby towns of Egham and Wraysbury, fireworks, peals of bells, beacon-lighting and river relays. Also, there’ll be a visit by the American Bar Association – the US constitution was greatly influenced by the Charter’s principles. The meeting between King John and his barons is thought to have taken place on Magna Carta Island in the Thames at Runnymede. The area is awash with monuments, including the Magna Carta memorial itself, the lodge and pier by Edwin Lutyens and the commemorative stone for President Kennedy, dedicated jointly by the Queen and Jacqueline Kennedy in May 1965. Don’t miss the invincible Ankerwycke Yewnearby, claimed to be the country’s oldest tree, at 1,400 years or more.
For a full list of events, see magnacarta800th.com