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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.

* Click here for further information
* Click here for tickets:

[*1]: Jeff Lovell is Bristol’s first citizen: its Lord Mayor. See:

[*2]: Mrs Josette Lebrat, French Honorary Consul for Bristol & the South West of England. See:
and ‘North Somerset Times': “War veteran, 96, given French service medal for D-Day efforts”, 2nd November 2016:

[*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:

[*4]: “A Magna Carta for All Mankind”:

[*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:
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:
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.”:

[*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:

[*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:

[*10]: Another anniversary marked by Bristol800 is the 40th anniversary of Concorde’s first commercial flight:

[*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):

July 2, 2014

Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor Exhibition at Library of Congress

From 6th November 2014 to 19th January 2015, the Library of Congress will display the Lincoln copy of the 1215 Magna Carta in its exhibition “Magna Carta: Muse or Mentor”.

The exhibition is the final part of Lincoln’s Magna Carta current visit to the United States. It will be on display between 2nd July and 1st September at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and then from 6th September to 2nd November at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachuesetts.

For more information about the Library of Congress exhibition, please click here.
For more information about the Lincoln Magna Carta, please click here.

June 30, 2014

Magna Carta to take Centre Stage at City of London Corporation’s New Heritage Gallery

The 1297 Magna Carta will spearhead the launch of the new City of London Heritage Gallery which opens to the public on Friday 12 September. Admission will be free to this permanent, purpose-built exhibition space which will showcase a rotating selection of rare, fascinating and sometimes surprising documents from the extensive archives of the City of London Corporation, at the heart of both London’s and the nation’s political and social history for over 1,000 years. Click here for more details.

Located at the Guildhall Art Gallery and provided by the City of London Corporation, the Heritage Gallery will be open daily.

As part of the City of London Corporation’s contribution to the international celebrations to mark the 800thanniversary of Magna Carta, visitors to the Heritage Gallery will have the unique opportunity to see the finest surviving 13th century version in existence. Featuring what could be described as the world’s first ‘Post-It’ note – a superimposed memorandum which reads ‘Make it happen’ – this historic document reflects the central role of the City of London in implementing the charter. Furthermore, London is the only city specifically to be named – ‘the City of London shall have all its ancient liberties by land as well as by water’.


May 20, 2014

Magna Carta in British History: Memory, Inventions and Forgetting

2015 will witness celebrations of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Yet how this iconic text has been understood, used and commemorated has changed markedly over the centuries, not just in England, but throughout the British Isles and in the one-time British Empire. This lecture explores some of these shifts over time, and discusses how – and how far – the cult that evolved
around this text can be related to the UK’s lack of a written constitution.

This is the 10th lecture in the series, hosted by Royal Holloway and run in association with the Magna Carta Trust. The last lecture in the series will be in 2015.

All welcome, admission free.  The lecture will be followed by a reception in the Windsor Building Foyer. For more information, click here.

Runnymede, a giant’s picnic, 15th June 2014

779 year anniversary celebration, a giant’s picnic

Surrey County Council in partnership with the National Trust invite you to a celebration of the 799 year anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede Meadows on 15 June, 2014 at 2.30pm.

Bring a Father’s Day picnic and join our eight Magna Carta giants, created by students from Thorpe-Lea, Churchmead, Magna Carta and The Hythe schools for a parade, live music and cake at the Magna Carta memorial at Runnymede.

April 4, 2014

Magna Carta, Religion and the Rule of Law

The Temple Church, in association with the Institute of Contemporary British History, the Dickson Poon School of Law and the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College, London, invites you to this international conference in preparation for the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta, 2015.

The international conference will take place at the Temple, London on Saturday 7th June 2014. For more information, click MagnaCartaandReligionConferenceTemple7June2014-2-hyperlinks.

February 18, 2014

Service And Sermon At The Temple Church, Radio 4 Morning Service, Sunday 16 February 2014

Sermon: The Rev. Robin Griffith-jones, Master Of The Temple

BBC Radio 4’s Morning Service on 16 February 2014 was broadcast live from the Temple Church in London – Click here to listen now on the BBC website.

On the 15th of February 1214, King John arrived in France for his last and most disastrous campaign. Its failure led to rebellion and, in 1215, to the sealing of Magna Carta.

The Temple was the London headquarters of the crusading Knights Templar. It was also King John’s London headquarters during the crisis of 1214-15. From here the King issued charter after charter; here he and the barons met for pivotal negotiations; here three of the Charter’s protagonists were buried, two with effigies that survive to this day.

Today, the Temple is at the centre of legal London – the home of the two legal colleges or Inns of Court, Inner and Middle Temple. That Sunday morning here in February was a fitting place and time at which to reflect upon the fundamental debt all modern law – and so much of our way of life – owes to the principles of Magna Carta and upon the inspiring lives of those who crafted it.

The Temple Singers gathered in the mouth of the Temple’s Round Church, built by 1162. Behind them were the effigies of William Marshal, father and son. In front of the choir was the chancel built for Henry III in 1240. They sang praise where the choirmen and choristers of the Temple Church will in January 1215 have sung to King John and the barons in the constitutional crucible from whose fire emerged the rights, in their earliest form, that now protect from tyranny over two billion people in our world.

On 15th February 1214 King John arrived at Rochelle in Western France at the head of an army. He was determined to recover the lands he’d lost to the French king ten years before. John’s wars were ruinously expensive; he levied ever higher taxes to pay for them. On 27th July 1214, John lost, disastrously, the Battle of Bouvines. His French ambitions were at an end. He returned to England, bankrupt of authority and of cash.

Rebellion was in the air. But its success was not assured. There was no obvious rival to put on the throne. In prospect was a desperate, prolonged civil war. Who could stop it?

One man, vital to the coming months, had returned to England after eight years of exile: Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, chosen by the Pope in 1205 but acknowledged by King John only under threat of French invasion in 1213. Langton had spent his exile lecturing in theology, in Paris. He’d developed five principles for the constitution of a nation governed justly under God:

  • First: For protection against wicked kings in Israel, God had ordered the written codification of laws. Modern laws as well, then, should if necessary be codified.
  • Secondly: In honour of God, the people have the right to resist a wicked king if he commands a mortal sin.
  • Next: The people have a particular right to resist a king who renders a decision without the judgment of his court.
  • Fourthly: The Church is the congregation of all the faithful, including the clergy and laity who elect the king.
  • And finally: The Archbishop, because of his particular dignity, has the duty to act in the name of all the faithful, both clergy and laity.

Langton hadn’t been trained for high office. His thought might well have remained the work, deep but arcane, of an academic theologian. But in July 1213 Langton was recalled to England. He really was, at last, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Within weeks, at Winchester he made King John swear to abolish evil laws, establish good laws, and judge all his subjects by the just sentences of his courts. Days later he warned the king: to act against anyone without judgment of his court would violate the Winchester oath. Then Langton found the Coronation Charter of rights granted by the revered King Henry I, and swore to help the barons secure such a charter from John.

When the barons met the king here in the Temple, for a disastrous week of negotiations in January 1215, they invoked once more the Winchester oath and Henry’s charter. It was then, for the first time, that the barons demanded the king’s own allegiance to a charter. The king himself was to be subject to law.

Langton remained loyal to the beleaguered king. But he urged the king to meet the barons’ demands for a charter of rights and liberties. And eventually, at Runnymede on 15 June 1215, the king reluctantly put his seal to ‘the Great Charter’, Magna Carta, ‘for the honour of God and the exaltation of Holy Church and the reform of the king’s realm’.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Langton is not above reproach; and it was not just his own insistence which brought John to Runnymede. But all the authority he had, he used to keep the peace and to generate a just government under God. Informed by scripture and by years of exile among the king’s enemies, he was ready to be the statesman that England needed.

At the heart of Magna Carta lie two clauses, still part of English law, that have been embedded in every constitution in the Common Law world and in many beyond; they protect from tyranny over two billion people in the world today.

‘No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go or send against him except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.’

And who would check that the King was conforming to the Charter? The barons were to choose twenty-five of their number to maintain the peace and liberties which the King had granted. Those Twenty-Five ‘with the commune of all the land’ could seize the king’s own castles, lands and possessions, to force him to conform.

In such checks and balances on the use of power Magna Carta was reaching out towards principles that were hundreds of years ahead of their time. Within weeks, the Pope annulled the Charter at the king’s request. When Langton refused to publish the annulment, he was suspended by the Pope. The Archbishop was nobody’s man. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Neither the Church nor its leaders have now the authority in our nation’s life enjoyed by Langton and his English Church. It would be foolish to pine for such lost glory or to fantasize about its return. But Langton stands before us still, an example to all those who lead our Church and to all of us who ask what now should be its role. In this country, we’re all among the heirs, living all over the world, of this man who used his authority to maintain peace and generate justice. And on the freedoms which he helped to secure our whole culture of liberal democracy is ultimately built.

Most of us, most of the time, lead low-key, local and settled lives. May we all be worthy of that Archbishop who sought to realize in the Charter, for the whole endangered kingdom, the biblical conditions for just government under God. His vision, mediation and courage bore fruit that has ever since been a blessing to God’s world. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.

Robin Griffith-Jones is Master of the Temple at the Temple Church.

Click here to listen now on the BBC website.

January 25, 2014

The Battle of Bouvines 27 July 1214 and Magna Carta

The battle of Bouvines is probably the most important battle that most people have never heard of. This battle which took place outside Lille in Flanders, ended the 12 year war between England and the Holy Roman Empire, and France. The relatively unknown battle had far reaching results for the history of France and England. It was this battle which led King John to negotiate with the Barons and seal the Magna Carta.

A special lecture and sandwich lunch is being organised by The Battlefields Trust on Tuesday 18th February 2014 at the Tower of London.

Professor John France teaches War Studies at Swansea University. He works on the history of warfare and crusading and has written several books and many articles on the subject of warfare of the era. Our hosts will be the Fusiliers Museum and the event includes a sandwich lunch a glass of wine and the opportunity to network in the exclusive surroundings of the Fusiliers mess in HM Tower of London.

Booking via this Just Giving Page

For more information contact Frank Baldwin: [email protected]


May 28, 2013

The International Angle – Canada

The International Angle – Magna Carta

Len Rodness – Chair, Magna Carta Canada
It is a great pleasure to be invited to write for the UK’s Magna Carta 800th Committee newsletter and report to everyone in the UK and beyond on our plans for marking the 800th Anniversary here in Canada. I know there are a great number of people across the globe who share my passion and understanding of the importance of Magna Carta to all of our lives today.

To give you a little background, Magna Carta Canada is a not-for-profit organization based in Toronto, made up of likeminded volunteers who believe the 800th Anniversary offers us a once in a lifetime opportunity to highlight the importance and relevance of Magna Carta to the people of Canada.

The focus of our plans to commemorate the anniversary is going to be ‘Magna Carta 2015 Canada’, a travelling exhibition of an original copy of Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forests. This is being arranged with the support of our wonderful colleagues at Durham Cathedral, whose copies of both charters will be touring the country for six months in 2015, beginning on July 1 in Ottawa (July 1 is Canada Day, the anniversary of the passing of the British North America Act in 1867, pursuant to which Canada became a country in its own right).

Durham Cathedral is fortunate enough to hold three copies of the Magna Carta, and the copy visiting Canada will be the 1225 version, the first document to be issued voluntarily under the seal of the reigning monarch, King Henry III, and was confirmed by King Edward I in 1297. It will be joined by one of only two surviving copies of the 1217 Charter of the Forest, the first document to include the concept of universal rights.

The intention is for the exhibition to travel across the country, visiting Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Edmonton. The centrepiece will of course be the two charters, which will be displayed in jewel-like cases.

They will be accompanied by interpretative material, displayed in both English and French, focused on the key themes of ‘the History of the Charters’, ‘Beyond Britannia – how the achievements of the charters spread to the Americas’, and ‘Justice Today’, looking at how Magna Carta influences our lives today.

We will also have an 8 minute long high definition film to accompany the exhibition along with various interactive multimedia material, and a 50 page exhibition catalogue.

We are working with Lord Cultural Resources to design and interpret this important story, as well as find suitable venues and supporters for this venture.

It is hugely exciting to be a part of the programme of events marking the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta right around the world and I would welcome any support or comments you may have on our plans and how we could work together to ensure the whole world is aware of the importance of Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest to our day-to-day lives.

I can be contacted through Sir Robert and Mark Gill at the 800th Committee or directly at [email protected] and I look forward to working with everyone during the next two years to make the 800th Anniversary a success in Canada and around the world.

Odiham celebrates Magna Carta 800th Anniversary in stitches

John Champion, Odiham Society.

The focal point of our plans to commemorate Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary is the Odiham Embroidery. The design for this magnificent embroidered panel depicting key events in Odiham’s rich history was officially unveiled in March, and stitching is now well under way by around 70 volunteers from the local community. It is likely to take around 18 months to complete.

The complex embroidery, designed by Odiham-based artist Mary Turner, depicts 800 years of local history from the time of Magna Carta. It features King John and the barons setting off for Windsor and Runnymede; visits by both Queen Elizabeth I and II; the meeting in Odiham that led to the founding of the veterinary profession in Britain; French prisoners of war held on parole at Odiham and North Warnborough during the Napoleonic war; and the great heavyweight boxing match between Mendoza and Humphreys in 1788 – among many other scenes.

Eleanor de Montfort, King John’s daughter, is also shown, along with her husband Simon de Montfort, who returned to join her Odiham Castle following the first Parliament with elected representatives in 1265.

The panel reflects the history of England as it was played out in this historic parish. This is very much a community project which will bring the both heritage of the Parish of Odiham and the sealing of the Magna Carta alive for residents and visitors, young and old alike.

The panel has been divided into individual parts that are being worked on separately by volunteer stitchers from Odiham and surrounding villages. Once completed, all the parts will be stitched on to the main canvas to complete the design.

Considerable research and planning has gone into the project to ensure authenticity of design, materials and stitching. It is being stitched in traditional materials and techniques that have been recommended by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court and the National Needlework Archive in Newbury.

The embroidery will be finished and framed in time to be unveiled at the Odiham Magna Carta Festival on 23 May 2015.

On 6th June 2015 a walking event will recreate King John’s journey from Odiham to Runneymede, using the Basingstoke Canal towpath and ending in a picnic besides the Thames (with shorter versions for those unable to manage the full 40 miles!). Sequential bell ringing on 14 June 2015 will begin at Odiham with successive towers along the way joining in until bells are ringing all the way to Wraysbury, Windsor and Runnymede.

There is much local support for our planned commemorations in Odiham, and the 800th Committee is a very useful resource which we will be making use of between now and 2015. We know that there are many other local communities like ours with historic ties to the events surrounding the sealing of the Magna Carta and we hope that Odiham residents and local people will visit events at other locations, beginning with St Albans in 2013, and visitors will join our celebrations at Odiham.
We would hope that our events will be part of a network of celebrations across our region and indeed the whole of the UK, tying into the major national and international events which are in the pipeline. It is a going to be a hugely exciting time, and the people of Odiham are rightly proud of the role their village played in events which helped shape the world for the past 800 years.

May 16, 2013

2013 Stakeholder Networking Event

The Magna Carta 800th Committee is organising a Stakeholder Networking Event on Friday 2nd August in St Albans. The event will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the many aspirations, plans and events being organised to commemorate 800 years of Magna Carta. We will have special presentations by several key partners on their plans and there will be lots of opportunities for you to contribute your ideas and to network with our partners and colleagues.

The event is being organised to tie-in with St Albans’ Magna Carta commemorations from 2nd – 4th August. More details on these events can be found here.

If you would like to attend the Stakeholder Networking Event, please email Mark Gill: [email protected]

April 14, 2013

Magna Carta: its relevance for today and tomorrow

Our Democratic Heritage will be holding a debate on 15th June 2013 to discuss the contemporary relevance of Magna Carta and how its legacy should be carried forward. For more information on the event, click here.

July 25, 2012

Hereford Cathedral’s Magna Carta on Display until 27th August 2012

Hereford Cathedral’s 1217 copy of the Magna Carta is now on display in Mappa Mundi and Chained Library Exhibition along with an exhibition of images depicting travel by land and sea from the Cathedral’s historic collections.

There is also an interpretive display about the Magna Carta, with the original on display in the Mappa Mundi chamber, until Monday, 27 August, 2012. The exhibition is open Monday – Saturday 10am—5pm (last admission 4:30pm).

For more information, visit Hereford Cathedral’s website.






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