November 12, 2016
800th anniversary of Bristol Magna Carta
Jeff Lovell is Bristol’s first citizen: its Lord Mayor.[*1] On Saturday 12th November, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress will be at Bristol’s St James’ Priory for the Bristol800 concert to mark that day’s 800th anniversary of the Bristol Magna Carta. Present, too, will be Mrs Josette Lebrat – French Honorary Consul for Bristol and the South West of England.[*2] The Bristol Magna Carta was the re-birth of the ‘Great Charter’. It was intended to coax England’s rebel barons to side with England’s Boy King, King Henry the Third, against his rival: the future King Louis the Seventh of France, whose forces, by then, controlled the eastern half of England.[*3] Mrs Josette Lebrat will be at the concert in her official capacity on this significant anniversary for England and France.
Magna Carta is seen, by many, as a major step in the history of human rights. Hence the view that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 was a “Magna Carta for All Mankind”.[*4] All proceeds from the Bristol800 Magna Carta concert go to Freedom from Torture. This UK charity provides therapeutic and clinical services to survivors of torture who arrive in the UK, as well as striving to protect and promote their rights.
On Saturday 12th November, choral works from the time of the 1215 and 1216 Magna Cartas and a few pieces composed since which relate to the Magna Carta will be sung, beautifully, by the acclaimed Chandos Singers. Historical insights will be provided by UWE History professor Peter Fleming. The venue –the oldest building in Bristol– is linked to the 1216 events and is next to Bristol bus station.
The world famous Magna Carta –agreed to by King John in June 1215 at Runnymede (near Windsor)– was declared ‘null and void of all validity for ever’ by the then Pope, at King John’s request, soon after Runnymede.[See *3]
From that moment: Magna Carta was dead! What followed? —
* a French invasion, at the request of England’s rebel barons;
* the death of King John on (it is thought) 18th October 1216;[*5]
* the coronation of his son: the 9-year old King Henry III at what is now Gloucester Cathedral on 28th October 1216;[*6]
* Magna Carta was revised and reissued, in Bristol, on 12th November 1216.[*7]
Only one copy of the Bristol Magna Carta is known to survive.[*8]
The 12th November concert is part of Bristol800 and of the Bristol 800 Universities Showcase weekend. Bristol800 is a year-long cultural and heritage partnership to mark the 800th anniversary of Bristol’s Mayorality and of the Bristol Magna Carta.[*9] Another in a series of anniversaries marked by Bristol800 is the 40th anniversary of the first commercial flight by Concorde – a major Anglo-French project.[*10]
Malcolm Hill, conductor of the Chandos Singers, said today: “Choral works performed during 1200-1220 and a few pieces composed since which relate both to the original Magna Carta in 1215 under King John, the proclamation at St. Paul’s Cathedral of the future Louis VIII as King of England, and to the reissue in Bristol under the boy-king Henry III in 1216 will be sung.”[*11]
Professor Peter Fleming added: “As a historian of medieval Bristol it’s great to be involved with this very worthwhile effort. In between the excellent renditions I’ll be saying a little about these historic documents, what they meant to Bristol, and what they continue to mean to our contemporary world.”
The organisers offer free tickets for carers accompanying ticket buyers: get in touch to arrange this. Seating is unreserved and on chairs, pews and benches. Some have restricted views, so please arrive early to choose your seat. Doors open 2.30pm.
[*1]: Jeff Lovell is Bristol’s first citizen: its Lord Mayor. See: http://www.northsomersettimes.co.uk/news/war_veteran_96_given_french_service_medal_for_d_day_efforts_1_4758574
[*2]: Mrs Josette Lebrat, French Honorary Consul for Bristol & the South West of England. See: https://www.embassypages.com/missions/embassy4440/
and ‘North Somerset Times': “War veteran, 96, given French service medal for D-Day efforts”, 2nd November 2016: http://www.northsomersettimes.co.uk/news/war_veteran_96_given_french_service_medal_for_d_day_efforts_1_4758574
[*3]: “the future King Louis the Seventh of France, whose forces, by then, controlled the eastern half of England.” The Runnymede Magna Carta of June 1215 was “effectively dead” by late August 1215, when – at King John’s request – the then Pope issued a document (known as a papal bull) declaring Magna Carta ‘null and void of all validity for ever’. In September 1215, civil war broke out between King John and his barons. The King raised an army of mercenaries to fight his cause, while the barons renounced their allegiance to him, and invited Prince Louis (1187-1226), son of the King of France, to accept the English crown. Louis invaded England in 1216, and England was still at war when John died of dysentery on the night of 18th October 1216. Magna Carta gained new life in the early years of the reign of the next king, Henry III. Henry was just nine years old when he succeeded to the throne, and in November 1216 in Bristol a revised version of Magna Carta was issued in his name, in order to regain the support of the rebel barons. Another version of Magna Carta was granted in the following year, after the French army had been expelled from England. Adapted from British Library account: https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-an-introduction
[*4]: “A Magna Carta for All Mankind”: https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/maps/Europe1948final.html
[*5]: ‘Foul as it is, hell itself is made fouler by the presence of King John.’ On 18th October 2016, The National Archives (London) held a free talk on the life and reign of King John, who died 800 years earlier. Professor David Carpenter, Professor Stephen Church and Dr Marc Morris discussed the man, his life, his world and his reputation, with plenty of opportunities for questions from the audience. For more information, visit: http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/life-death-king-john/
Media enquiries to: [email protected] or 020 8392 5277
[*6]: The 9-year old King Henry III was crowned at Gloucester on 28th October 1216. The 800th anniversary was marked by ‘What happened at Henry III’s Coronation at Gloucester in 1216?’ – a talk on 28th October 2016 at Gloucester Cathedral. That talk was part of Gloucester Cathedral’s King Henry III events: http://www.gloucestercathedral.org.uk/whats-on/lectures/lectures-2911.php
Further enquiries to the Cathedral’s development officer, Laura Neale: T: 01452 874965; e: [email protected] .
[*7]: “On the death of King John in 1216, the minority government of his son, Henry III (r. 1216–72), executed a complete change of policy and issued a new version of Magna Carta. The aim was to tempt supporters of Prince Louis back to Henry’s side. Only one original of the 1216 charter survives, in the archives of Durham Cathedral. Shown here is a contemporary copy, which probably came into Louis’s possession and left England with him in 1217; hence its descent in the French royal archives. There is no evidence that Louis responded by granting a charter of his own. The new version of the charter was issued in Henry’s name at Bristol on 12 November 1216, having been sealed by Guala (1150-1227), the papal legate, and the regent, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke (1147-1219). It omitted the security clause and other controversial features of the 1215 charter, but preserved its spirit and much of its letter.”: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/magna-carta-1216
[*8]: The only known copy of the November 1216 Bristol Magna Carta is at Durham Cathedral. It contains 42 clauses (as compared to the 61 of the 1215 issue). Media enquiries to Ruth Robson, Head of Marketing & Events, Durham Cathedral. Tel: 0191 386 4266 See also: https://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/magna-carta/cathedral-collections
[*9]: “Bristol800 is a year-long cultural and heritage partnership to mark the 800th anniversary of Bristol’s Mayorality and of the Bristol Magna Carta”. See: http://www.ideasfestival.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/BFOI-Bristol-800-Cultural-Weekenders-Brochure-24pp-A5-WEB.pdf
[*10]: Another anniversary marked by Bristol800 is the 40th anniversary of Concorde’s first commercial flight: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/UWE/from-warplanes-to-concorde-how-music-is-telling-aviation-history-a7384521.html?amp
[*11]: “the proclamation at St. Paul’s Cathedral of the future Louis VIII as King of England”: See the St Paul’s Cathedral website (published: June 2015): https://www.stpauls.co.uk/news-press/latest-news/st-pauls-in-the-time-of-magna-carta-a-place-staunchly-opposed-to-king-john