January 20, 2015
Did King John actually ‘sign’ Magna Carta?
The BBC, 20th January 2015 (Democracy Day)
‘The Royal Mint has been criticised for featuring a picture of King John signing Magna Carta with a quill on a coin celebrating its 800th anniversary. A wax seal was actually used, but does the mistake really matter, asks Justin Parkinson?
The £2 coin shows King John holding Magna Carta in one hand and a large quill in another. The meaning is obvious – he signed it.
Actually, he didn’t. John, like other medieval monarchs, used the Great Seal to put his name to the document, making concessions to England’s barons in 1215, following years of arguments over royal power.
The Royal Mint has been accused of making a “schoolboy error”. Historian Marc Morris stated that medieval kings “did not authenticate documents by signing them” but “by sealing them”.
The Mint has defended itself by saying the scene shown on the coin is not meant to give a “literal account of what actually occurred”.’