May 28, 2013
Committee Comments: A Brief Comment from Sir Robert Worcester
As I write, the 800th Committee awaits the draft “Master Plan” being developed by Surrey County Council in conjunction with the National Trust. The Committee has been promised sight of this at its next meeting, scheduled for 17th June at Royal Holloway, University London preceding the Annual RHUL Magna Carta Lecture. We know that consultants have been commissioned to come up with ideas for suitable events and public consultations have been done locally and a “Survey Monkey” questionnaire has been sent out asking people to give the ‘Local Stakeholders Group’ their views. The 800th Committee will then be able to react, and the Plan will go to the July meeting of the Surrey County Council Cabinet for its decisions on Surrey funding, both for what will happen on the 15 June 2015 at Runnymede, and for the local legacies.
I have just returned from a visit to St Edmundsbury Cathedral, where I joined the 800th Committee Member representing Bury St. Edmunds, Margaret Charlesworth, and others on their local Magna Carta Committee for lunch. We then attended a splendid initiative which gathered representatives of towns and villages across England with links with one or another of the 25 Barons who met at the Abbey 799 years ago this year. It included people from Thirsk, Long Crendon, Castle Hedingham and Castle Clare and Curry Mallet, Trowbridge and Skipton, Walkern and Huntingfield, amongst others, all with such wonderful and evocative towns’ names.
For the most part those attending were local councillors, town clerks and local historical societies, all coming together through the initiative of Peter Sinclair, who we are inviting onto the 800th Committee, so that he can continue his good work with full knowledge of what’s being pulled together for the Commemoration nationally and internationally, and feedback what we are doing to his ‘caputs’.
These are the sites of ancient castles, some long since in ruins and others restored. Others are the villages of the births and deaths of Barons long since forgot except by mediaeval historians and scholars such as Professor Nigel Saul, who is currently doing an inventory of the original 25 barons for our website. They are looking at questions such as why they did what they did then, how they were interlinked, who were, in effect, supporting the rule of law, and the question of the divine right of kings, the return of the ‘old ways’. The ways which had existed in one form or another in England for some 600 years before 15 June 1215 when they were obtained by force majeure, as King John saw it. Indeed he represented it as such in his petition to the Pope, Innocent III, when he appealed for the ‘Great Charter’ to be suspended.
It was heartening to meet these wonderful representatives of the towns and villages, some with populations as small as just 219 and 193, and who were excited to be a part of something that takes their histories back 800 years to link with an event that changed the world in which we live in today. Some arrived with their own plans for what they would be doing on the day, others admitting they’d not thought much about it until contacted by Peter, and others which so far as they knew had nothing to show for their link with Runnymede and were there to learn what others were doing and what might give them an idea that they could take back to their villages.
One such village, Odiham, has impressed us all with their foresight and initiative, and in this issue we highlight the commemorations being planned there already. They have truly embraced the role their village played in this momentous moment in history. They have driven their own progamme of events forward and offer a good model for other communities to mark the 800th Anniversary in their own way.
The Magna Carta Trail is building and developing, led by Visit Kent under the chairmanship of Amanda Cottrell and led by Lynette Crisp of Visit Kent, aided by a committee of some score of tourist officers and Magna Carta townspeople who are linking together tourist trail visits ranging from one day to a fortnight, to serve the interests of both domestic tourists and international visitors.
This will be featured in a travel article in the Daily Telegraph and also on the BBC Website on Saturday, 15 June, this year.
Just a week ago I was hosted by the Director of the National Archives, who are planning their own exhibition of the King’s (Henry III, John’s son) 1217 Magna Carta and Edward I’s copy of 1297 which enshrined it into law (there being no recognised Parliament in 1215 or even 1217, before the de Montford Parliament which is also commemorated in 2015 on its 750th anniversary, especially by the History of Parliament Trust and the Houses of Parliament themselves and to which the 800th Committee is collaborating).
Our aspirations list remains on the website designed by Ratio7, kindly supported by HCL, which can be viewed at www.magnacarta800th.com. We have made some notable progress since the last newsletter, and Greg Spring has kindly written here to update us on plans for a series of commemorative stamps to be produced for 2015.
Thanks also to everyone who is currently following us on Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t already, please do look for us. This is the very best place to stay up to date with the latest news and developments. Full details can be found below.
And as ever, if anyone has any thoughts on how we should be marking the anniversary, or comments on the work currently taking place, please do not hesitate to get in touch through our direct email addresses, [email protected] or [email protected].
Finally, the Master Engraver, Graham Clarke, who has researched, designed and etched the Magna Carta 800th etching, isn’t just a pretty face, but also a wit and poet. Graham has composed a poem for the 800th anniversary, which will feature in the next edition of this newsletter. Order forms for the Clarke etching can be found on www.magnacarta800th.com.