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June 20, 2016

Magna Carta & Australia – HE Alexander Downer

This Magna Carta Lecture was delivered by HE the Hon Alexander Downer, Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, at Lincoln Cathedral; Wednesday 1 June 2016.

• It is both an honour and a pleasure to be invited by Lord Cormack to give this year’s Magna Carta lecture.

• I follow in the footsteps of some very eminent and distinguished speakers, in what has become a fifteen-year tradition, including:

o Professor Lord Norton of Louth

o Lord Phillips, First President of the Supreme Court

o Professor Nicholas Vincent, and

o Lord Judge, former Lord Chief Justice.

• As we all take in our beautiful surroundings, I must start my lecture by acknowledging the historical significance of Lincoln Cathedral—our host for this evening.

• It has been said that ‘in a sense, Lincoln is where Magna Carta starts and ends.’

• Indeed, Lincolnshire’s Cardinal Archbishop Stephen Langton, who studied at the schools of Lincoln Cathedral, is credited with influencing the terms of Magna Carta.

Both Stephen Langton and the Bishop of Lincoln, Hugh of Wells, were present at Runnymede.

• Now, 800 years later, Lincoln Cathedral has one of only four surviving copies of the original 1215 Magna Carta, which I understand is now securely displayed at Lincoln Castle. Two are held at the British Library and the other, at Salsbury Cathedral.

• This leads me to reflect on how Australia came to own a 1297 version of Magna Carta—it is an extraordinary story.

• In 1936, after 639 years, our version was discovered by a schoolmaster in a desk at King’s School in Somerset.

• Fortunately for Australia, the governors of the school decided to sell it, to raise much-needed funds.

• The British Museum could not meet the asking price and only offered to pay 2000 pounds.

• The school’s preference was for it to be passed on to a British dominion —so Australia had a ‘head start’ over American interests.

• We understand that it was offered to our National Library’s London Office, via Sotheby’s.

• Our then Prime Minister, Robert Menzies supported the purchase, and even agreed to seek funds from prominent friends of the Library in London, such as Howard Florey and Lord Baillieu, via Sir Leslie Boyce, the Australian-born lord major of London.

Click here to read the entire speech.

October 22, 2015

English – Speaking Union: My Magna Carta winners announced

Wednesday, 21st October
The English – Speaking Union. Click here to read this article as it originally appeared.

The English-Speaking Union is delighted to announce the overall winners of the My Magna Carta international creative writing competition, following the grand final at Dartmouth House on Thursday 15 October 2015.

13 finalists from all corners of the globe presented their entries to an invited audience, leaving the judging panel with a very tough decision. Judges and audience members alike were overwhelmed by the quality of each presentation.

Jane Josefowicz
, from the USA, won the overall Junior prize and Mfundo Radebe, from South Africa, won the overall Senior prize. Jane and Mfundo each received a certificate and a manuscript of their winning entry, published on parchment thanks to William Cowley. Marie Georgette Spiteri, from Malta, was awarded a special commendation in the junior category, and Sofija Jovanovic, from Serbia, won a special commendation in the senior category. Mfundo’s and Jane’s essays can be read here, along with all of the other finalists’ entries.

All of the finalists enjoyed a full week in London, with cultural activities, public speaking training and opportunities to exchange ideas and make new friends.

“My favourite thing about being involved with the My Magna Carta Competition…was meeting a lot of new people – we clicked right away”

Sofija Jovanovic, Serbia, My Magna Carta Finalist (Special Commendation)

The judging panel consisted of [Chair] Professor Kate Williams (author, historian, broadcaster and lecturer at Royal Holloway), Professor Sir Robert Worcester (Chair of Magna Carta 800th Committee and former ESU Governor), Professor Justin Champion (Professor of the History of Ideas, President of the Historical Association and advisor to the 2015 Magna Carta Exhibition) and Professor James Raven (Deputy Chairman of the ESU, Fellow of Magdalene College University of Cambridge and Professor of Modern History The University of Essex and author).

“I believe that young people are still inspired by the Magna Carta because they want to make a better world…they want to increase equality and diversity”

Professor Kate Williams (Chair)

My Magna Carta was run in partnership with Royal Holloway, University of London. The ESU is grateful to the Magna Carta 800th Committee for its funding.

September 25, 2015

My Magna Carta Continental Winners Announced

The English-Speaking Union announces the winners of the My Magna Carta Competition and launches its legacy project, inviting a new audience to consider the important constitutional issues of the 21st Century.

In November 2014, the ESU, in partnership with Royal Holloway, University of London, launched My Magna Carta, an international creative writing competition for secondary school students all over the world. Young people were invited to submit their own modern constitutional document that safeguarded the rights, privileges and liberties that matter to them.

Following national and continent judging stages, we are proud to be able to announce the continent winners of both the junior and senior age categories:

Africa
Junior – Kayseka Geerjanan (Mauritius)
Senior – Mfundo Radebe (South Africa)

Asia
Junior – Xue-Ern Neo (Malaysia)
Senior – Fathima Nifra (Sri Lanka)

Australasia
Junior – Ella McEvoy (Australia)
Senior – Jack Donnelly (Australia)

Europe
Junior – Marie Georgette Spiteri (Malta)
Senior – Sofija Jovanovic (Serbia)

South America
Junior – Valentina Errazuriz (Chile)
Senior – Rocio Lopez (Chile)

North America
Junior – Jane Josefowicz (USA)
Senior – Isabelle McMullen (USA)

UK*
Junior – Laura White (Uxbridge)
Senior – Alice Wilson (Herefordshire)

*The UK was treated as a separate continent for the purposes of the competition.

Click here for more information on this project.

The judges were extremely impressed by the quality of the winning entries, with all of the young participants engaging with issues of rights, liberties and privileges. The continent winners have been invited to attend a finals week in October, culminating in a grand final on 15 October 2015, when an international junior and senior winner will be chosen.

The ESU would like to thank The Magna Carta Trust’s 800th Anniversary Committee for its funding of My Magna Carta; enabling the competition and its resources to reach millions of people all over the world. Thanks to a further grant of £3000 from the Committee, we are now pleased to announce a legacy project entitled My Magna Carta: The Constitutional Voice of Tomorrow, which will give the winning entries a further international platform. Utilising the existing My Magna Carta website we will reproduce some of the very best submissions together with short clips from the final event itself, as a way of highlighting key themes discussed by entrants around the globe. Through digital distribution we will allow more young people to access these resources, and develop and discuss their own ideas about some of the most important issues of the 21st Century.

The Magna Carta Trust’s 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee is charged by the Magna Carta Trust to co-ordinate activities, raise the profile of the anniversary and deliver a number of key national and international aspirations.

Note to Editors: The English-Speaking Union, Patron HM Queen Elizabeth II and President HRH The Princess Royal, was formed out of the Great War with a vision to foster understanding between peoples and communities through the use of the English language. It is both a uniquely qualified and truly contemporary operator in debate training and persuasive speech outreach work in the UK, and beyond. This work is coupled with a worldwide programme of cross-generational education scholarships which places the English-Speaking Union in the vanguard of thinkers, deliverers and facilitators in creating life-changing educational opportunities for people whatever their age and social background.
More information: Michael Pryke [Micha[email protected] telephone +44 (0) 207 529 1550]

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