Magna Carta 800 Celebrations

Salisbury home of a Magna CartaThere are certain dates that we learnt at school (the infamous ‘1066 and all that’ memory), and 1215 is one date that will be familiar to most people.

To save you racking your brains and recalling your bygone history lessons, 1215 was the date of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John at Runnymede.

In fact, it was probably the only thing that King John was really famous for apart from appearing as the bad guy in numerous movies inevitably featuring his noble older brother or a tightly-clad outlaw.

This year marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta (or The Great Charter), which is actually one of the most famous documents in the world. And not that we need an excuse, but the great British public will be out in force over the next few weeks in celebration. Which means the caterers will be out so if that’s you, make sure you have given yourself plenty of time to prepare your equipment.

King John of England issued the Magna Carta document as a practical solution to the political crisis he was facing at the time, and basically it stated that everyone, including the King himself, was subject to the law. Apparently at the time he was being hounded by rebel barons so he needed something to cover his back.

Backbone of the Constitution

Over the years, the charter has been rewritten, revised and repealed but one clause in particular, the 39th clause, stands as the cornerstone not only to the British constitution it became the backbone for the United States Bill of Rights (1791), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).

The clause states that all free men have the right to justice and a fair trial: in full, “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

This historic document was signed at Runnymede near Windsor on the 15th June 1215, 800 years ago. No-one knows how many copies were made, but four survive: in Lincoln Cathedral; in Salisbury Cathedral; and two at the British Library.

Although at the time, the document made very little difference to the country, simply serving to save King John’s bacon with the barons until they rebelled even more three months later. During this second revolt, John died and was buried in a magnificent tomb in Worcester Cathedral. The Magna Carta was reissued in November 1216 in the name of the nine-year old new king, Henry III.

Anniversary Dinners

In 2015, we are planning to celebrate, with Magna Carta anniversary festivities  taking place throughout the land. A two-day river relay and pageant is taking place in the original location on the River Thames, over the weekend of 13 and 14 June 2015.

Further afield, both Cilgerran and Chepstow Castles  will host re-enactments weekends with a full weekend of Magna Carta-themed events over 13th and 14th June at both sites. The celebrations will finish in September with a two-day flower festival at Cilgerran Castle.

So if you want to celebrate some true history, take yourself off to one of the places around the country that are holding events. And if you are in the catering market, then put your Rational oven to good use and hold a Magna Carta feast. A few wild hunting boar and a dozen flagons of ale should go down a treat!

Published Date: 9th June 2015
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