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June 2, 2015

Royal Mail issues Magna Carta stamps to commemorate 800th Anniversary

A new stamp set also pays tribute to other bills declarations inspired by Magna Carta.

Royal Mail has issued Special Stamps to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

Royal Mail worked closely with the Magna Carta 800th Committee to produce six stamps to celebrate the Magna Carta itself and other landmark bills and declarations from which the rule of law developed throughout history and across the world.

As well as reproducing key texts from Magna Carta, the other stamps mark the 750th anniversary of Simon de Montfort’s Parliament, the Bill of Rights, the American Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the Commonwealth.

The Magna Carta was the Charter of Liberties that King John granted at Runnymede on 15 June 1215.

The issuing of the Special Stamps and the signing of the Magna Carta will also be recognised with two special postmarks from 2-6 June and on 15 June.

Royal Mail vans in the 12 Magna Carta towns will feature the Magna Carta stamp.

The stamps will be on sale from 2 June 2015 at and from 8,000 Post Office branches across the UK.

Royal Mail worked closely with the Magna Carta 800th Committee to produce a six-stamp set commemorating Magna Carta itself, as well as major charters, bills and declarations that have developed the rule of law in the centuries since around the world.

Meaning ‘The Great Charter’, it was reluctantly granted by King John of England in Runnymede on 15 June 1215, as a practical solution to the political crisis he faced. Written in Latin on a single parchment and comprising a total of 63 clauses, the Magna Carta established for the first time, that the King was subject to the law rather than above it. By its terms, the King was committed to upholding the Rule of Law and ensuring that justice was done equally to every free man “by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land”.

Sir Robert Worcester, Chairman, Magna Carta 800th Committee, said: “The relevance of the Magna Carta in the 21st century is that it is the foundation of liberty. I am delighted that Royal Mail has marked this landmark document, and other key bills and declarations it inspired, with these striking stamps. It is fitting that they will be seen by people all around the world.”

Andrew Hammond, Director, Stamps and Collectibles, Royal Mail said: “The legacy of Magna Carta has been far-reaching. The Charter’s unique status as a fundamental text, guaranteeing freedom under the law, has been the inspiration for many key charters, bills and declarations which have become milestones in the development of the rule of law throughout history and across the world.”

The issuing of the Special Stamps set and the sealing of the Magna Carta will also be recognised with two special postmarks which will be applied to all stamped mail across the UK. The Special Stamps postmark will run from Tuesday 2 June to Friday 6 June and will say ‘Magna Carta stamps – Commemorating the foundation of liberty’. While the second will appear on Monday 15 June and will say; ‘Magna Carta 800th anniversary’.

There are 12 towns linked to the story of the Magna Carta unfolding and Royal Mail vans these in towns will feature a stamp from the set. The towns are: Runnymede; Faversham; Durham; Canterbury; Sandwich; Bury St Edmunds; St Albans; Salisbury; Oxford; City of London; Lincoln and Hereford.


Simon de Montfort’s Parliament, 1265
Simon de Montfort’s parliament of January 1265 was the first to which the burgesses, the representatives of the towns, were summoned. De Montfort, a French political adventurer who had come to England in 1231 having inherited the earldom of Leicester, was the leader of the baronial opposition to King Henry III. In May 1264, he inflicted a massive defeat on the royalists at the Battle of Lewes, capturing both the king and his son. His radicalism, however, alienated most of the higher nobility, the leading men in the realm, and to compensate for their loss of support, he turned to the gentry and leading townsmen. In 1264, he summoned a parliament to which he gave orders that knights from the shires be elected. In the following year, in an initiative which acknowledged the growing importance of the towns, he went further by arranging for the election of burgesses. Together, these groups were to form the nucleus of the future House of Commons. De Montfort used parliaments both to promote his policies and to seek popular backing for them. His initiative in widening parliamentary representation was to survive his death in battle at Evesham in August 1265. In the reign of Henry III’s son, Edward I, the presence of the knights and burgesses was to become established, and their presence was required whenever the king sought assent to taxation.

Bill of Rights, 1689
The Bill of Rights, approved in December 1689, restated in statutory form the Declaration of Right presented by parliament to King William III and Queen Mary, in the wake of James II’s deposition in the previous year. Drawing on the political thinking of the philosopher John Locke, and following in the path of Magna Carta, the Bill laid down certain fundamental personal liberties, chief among them no royal interference with the law, no taxation by royal prerogative, freedom to petition the monarch and freedom of speech in parliament. Along with the other enactments of the years 1689 to 1701, the Bill successfully established the principle of parliamentary sovereignty in England.

American Bill of Rights, 1791
The Bill of Rights is the collective name given to the first ten amendments to the American constitution, approved in 1791. With the aim of entrenching the rights of the individual, neglected in the constitution, they guaranteed freedom of religion and speech, the liberty of the press, the right to petition and bear arms, and immunity against arbitrary search and arrest and excessive punishment. The tenth amendment reserved to the states all powers except those specifically delegated to the federal government. The indebtedness of the Bill of Rights to Magna Carta is especially clear in the wording of the fifth amendment, which promised that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”, echoing the Charter’s 39th clause.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
The Declaration was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 in response to the horrors of war and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are entitled. The first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which was charged with drafting the Declaration, was Eleanor Roosevelt. The Declaration’s provisions fall into four main groups. The first affirms the rights of the individual, such as the right to life; the second, the rights of the individual in civil society, such as the right to own property and to marry; the third, such essential freedoms as freedom of association, thought and religion; and the fourth, social, economic and cultural rights, such as the right to work and enjoy leisure. While the Declaration is not a treaty, it forms the foundation of many national and international laws, and acts as a tool in applying pressure on governments that violate its terms.

Charter of the Commonwealth, 2013
The Charter of the Commonwealth, a document setting out the core values of the member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, was adopted in December 2012 and officially signed by Her Majesty the Queen in March the following year. It enshrines commitments to: participatory democracy; human rights; international peace and security; tolerance and understanding; freedom of expression; separation of judicial and governmental powers; good governance and the rule of law; sustainable development; protecting the environment; access to health, education, food and shelter; gender equality; the active involvement of young people; recognising the needs of small and vulnerable states; and the role of civil society.

For more information contact:
Natasha Ayivor
Royal Mail Press Office
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0HQ
Tel: 020 7449 8250
Mobile: 07436 280 002
Email: [email protected]

About Royal Mail plc
For 50 years Royal Mail’s Special Stamp programme has commemorated and celebrated events and anniversaries pertinent to UK heritage and life. Today, there are an estimated 2.5 million stamp collectors and gifters in the UK and millions worldwide. Her Majesty the Queen approves all UK stamp designs before they are printed.



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