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January 29, 2013

A Word from the Magna Carta Trust:

Lord Dyson, Chairman.

Thanks to the 800th Committee for pressing ahead on planning for the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215, and starting the commemoration in St. Albans this coming August.  Why then?  Because the first time the Barons gathered to discuss their petition to King John for the restoration of Englishmen’s rights was the first week in August 1215.

Much work has already taken place, started by my predecessor as Master of the Rolls and thereby then Chairman of the Magna Carta Trust, Lord Neuberger, who is now the President of the Supreme Court.  His set of objectives for the 800th steering committee in 2009 gave challenge to what could and should be done in order to properly recognise the importance of the Magna Carta to this country and the world. Since then there has been much planning and many people have joined the work of the 800th Committee, the 800th Advisory Board, the working Sub-Committees and other voluntary roles.

Why was the early start necessary?  Because it takes months, or in many cases years, to plan, raise funds, and execute the many activities which will take place from now until the anniversary year is ended.  Her Majesty the Queen agreed early on to become patron of the Magna Carta Trust and the 800th Anniversary Commemoration.  The Royal Mint has agreed to issue a commemorative £2 coin, both for circulation and for collectors, and a gold sovereign. Planning is well under way at the British Library (for the biggest exhibition the British Library have ever held), the Supreme Court (including a moot court charging the Barons and Archbishop with treason), and the Library of Congress for major exhibitions.  Some Magna Carta towns’ planning is well advanced.  Lincoln Cathedral has funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lincoln County Council to rebuild its forecourt and properly display its 1215 copy of the Magna Carta. The BBC is active in supporting the commemoration as is the Daily Telegraph, who at the beginning of this year produced both a news story (written by the Telegraph’s Chief Reporter Gordon Rayner) and an op-ed piece (written by Philip Johnston) announcing some of the activities and reflecting the importance of the Commemoration under the headline ‘an old piece of parchment that made us a nation – celebrate it’.  It observed that “pressure is growing in Parliament for a proper celebration.”

Many other ‘aspirations’ have been proposed for the commemoration by the committee.  Not all will happen, but many will, and others will be developed between now and 2015, and I have every confidence that the coordination of the commemoration will be well managed by the committee going forward.



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