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Durham Cathedral in Durham City holds three editions of Magna Carta dated 1216, 1225 and 1300. Bishops of Durham held the unique status of Earls Palatine. With a bible in one hand and a bloodied sword in the other, they were effectively warlords who secured England’s northern border against Scots ambition.

The Durham Magna Cartas show the evolution of the original. After the death of King John in 1216 Magna Carta was reissued at Bristol by the counsellors of King John’s son Henry, then aged nine. The Durham copy is the only one that survives. The 1225 Magna Carta was issued when Henry reached the age of majority and includes a new statement that the charter was issued spontaneously and of the King’s own free will. The 1300 Durham copy is the final full issue of Magna Carta, with Edward I now on the throne.

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The early settlers in the United States took with them copies of the Magna Carta. One undertaking given by King John in that Charter was as follows: No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in...

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