October 13, 2011
The Principles of Magna Carta: Under threat after 790 years of evolution?
By Sir Robert M. Worcester - Chairman, Magna Carta 800th Committee
Magna Carta Lecture ,Lincoln Cathedral
Today is the very anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, that great charter which laid down the basis for English common law, now spread throughout the world. Magna Carta gave protection of law against despotism by kings and their cronies, which has been challenged by self-appointed and elective dictatorships over centuries, but (mostly) upheld by both public opinion and legal testing over centuries, and which survives even today, 790 years later.
I take much pride and not a little pleasure being asked to attend this magnificent Cathedral this evening to deliver the inaugural Magna Carta/USA Week lecture. I do so for many reasons. One, historic. A short history compared to 790 years of English history since the barons met with King John at Runnymede, only 48 in my case.
In 1957 I first visited the country of my ancestors, England. My first visit to any museum, gallery or library on that occasion was to the British Museum to gaze with awe at their copy of the Magna Carta, my reason for our visit.
When I decided to come here to live in January 1969, my first weekend here with my family, we made a pilgrimage to Runnymede to visit the site of the signing of the Magna Carta.
I am still an American, and take pride and not a little pleasure in still claiming citizenship of the country of my birth. But I also take pride and a great deal of pleasure in now being able to claim British, that is dual, citizenship here, and great pride and pleasure of just last week being invested by Her Majesty as a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE). And, both as Chairman of the Pilgrims, which has as its only object the “Furtherance of Anglo-American relations” I can think of no greater link between our two countries, my two countries, than the Magna Carta.
And as Co-Chairman of the British Committee of the Jamestown 2007 Quadricentennial celebration, I’m as excited as can be about your tentative plans to tour American with the Lincoln Magna Carta starting in 2007.