June 8, 2015
Princess Anne officially reopens Lincoln Castle
Monday 8th June, The BBC
Click here to read the article as it appeared on the site.
Princess Anne has officially reopened Lincoln Castle after a multi-million pound refurbishment.
The £22m works, which finished in March, included the construction of a vault for the city’s copy of Magna Carta.
A new exhibition in the Victorian prison will display objects found in the grounds during the renovation.
Exhibits include a facial reconstruction of a Saxon man, whose skeleton was found in the grounds.
There will also be a bronze Roman eagle and a limestone sarcophagus on show.
Antony Lee, of Lincoln Museum, said some exhibits dated back 2,000 years.
“What’s nice is we can show them very close to where they were excavated,” he said.
The reopening ceremony was open only to winners of a ballot.
Princess Anne entered the grand gate of the East Wing before greeting the assembled crowd and unveiling the plaque.
She also walked the castle walls, visited the Magna Carta vault and the Victoria Prison and is set to visit Boston Stump for a service of dedication.
June 7, 2015
Magna Carta: The troubled journey to an independent judiciary.
The Independent, Sunday 7th June.
Written by Will Gore.
Click here to read the article as it appeared on the independent.co.uk
In popular perception the Middle Ages was a time of lawlessness and cruelty. And to a degree, that characterisation holds true. Crusades abroad, ill-disciplined governance at home, England in the early thirteenth century was not exactly enlightened.
The creation of Magna Carta in 1215 is all the more remarkable against such a backdrop. An unpopular king brought to heel by a written agreement sounds much too good to be true – and it was, in the short-term, with peaceable discussions giving way to civil war within a matter of months.
Nevertheless, the legacy of the charter signed by King John and the barons at Runnymede 800 years ago has been compelling, both in this country and beyond. The original agreement may not have protected rights and freedoms in the detailed way which modern-day myth occasionally suggests, but it undoubtedly set Britain on a road towards non-autocratic government.
In particular, Magna Carta achieved acceptance for two key principles. The first was that regal authority should be limited by – and separated from – the will of the people. In the immediate context of the early 1200s, that meant that taxes could not be raised without the “general consent of the realm” – and for realm read barons and the church. Even so, as a guiding principle, it was crucial.
The second fundamental doctrine was that individuals were entitled to be treated in accordance with the laws of the land and would, when accused of wrongdoing, be judged by their equals. Again, the contemporary impact of this element of Magna Carta – the famed clause 39 – was limited to the minority of British citizens who were “free men”. However, it confirmed the notion of the Rule of Law and the applicability of trial by jury, which had seen its origins during Henry II’s rule in the previous century when the first judges emerged too.
Ultimately, then, Magna Carta was a bulwark against tyranny. For thirteenth century barons it was also a tool for the advance of oligarchy, a means of protecting their role as the advisors to the king – their positions as such having been established informally during the reign of William the Conqueror. Magna Carta certainly did not envisage genuine democratic rights as they are understood today.
It is the incremental reforms which have taken place in the last 800 years that are the hallmark of British government and governance (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) It is the incremental reforms which have taken place in the last 800 years that are the hallmark of British government and governance (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) Indeed, the continuing acceptance of a formalised and symbiotic relationship between the monarch and his (important) subjects was not without its hiccups – to put things mildly. And the development of regular parliaments in the mid- to late-thirteenth century (and especially their extension to include non-noble representatives) was largely the consequence of discord, rather than harmonious reform.
The security of parliament’s role – separated into two chambers from the mid-14th century – and the independence of the judiciary were largely dependent on the strength or weakness of successive monarchs. Henry VIII’s “great matter” and the subsequent break from Rome have been seen by many historians as the point at which parliamentary power took on a new character, although Tudor monarchs were canny enough to recognise that empowering parliament was a means to legitimising their own authority. Fundamentally, though, the monarch retained a firm grip on the power of the executive veto.
But if the Tudor period, rumbustious as it was, witnessed a new understanding of the need for balance in the relationship between executive, legislature and judiciary, so it was the dramatic failure of the Stuart kings to accept the limitations of their power which ultimately led to the more formal separation of the three arms of state.
The Star Chamber was originally conceived as a kind of supervisory body to oversee the operation of England’s lower courts and consider appeals, as well as to ensure enforcement of the law against those powerful enough to avoid the clutches of local judicial officials. Yet under James I, the Chamber effectively became the king’s private enforcement agency, meting out judgments on moral as well as legal matters. The court was used to suppress dissent and to bypass the necessity of calling parliaments.
The dismissal by James I of Edward Coke, the Chief Justice, for having suggested that the king was subject to the law, rather than the other way round, brought matters to a head. Incensed, Coke dedicated himself to writing The Institutes of the Lawes of England, which emphasised the role of Magna Carta as the basis for the common law and, notably, as having enshrined the independence of the judiciary from monarchical control. Coke subsequently drafted The Petition of Right, an updated Magna Carta, which parliament compelled the new king, Charles I, unhappily to accept. Charles responded by governing without parliament for 11 years and ramping up his persecution of those who opposed him. The English Civil War, which followed, ended with Charles’ execution, convicted by a jury of 120 officials of the highest rank available.
Coke’s assertion of Magna Carta’s formative place in English constitutional history, especially in confirming the independence of the judiciary, has been upheld with remarkable consistency throughout the last 350 years. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the subsequent passage of the Bill of Rights, followed a decade later by the Act of Settlement, finally – and for good – ended any pretensions that a monarch might have to absolute rule and cemented the separate functions of crown, parliament and courts.
In recent decades, constitutional changes have further reinforced the separation of state powers (even if the continued existence of the executive within the legislature raises theoretical difficulties). The last Labour government, for instance, ended the legal function of the House of Lords, transferring power to the Supreme Court as the UK’s highest legal authority, and provided for more independence in the appointment of judges.
Yet it is the great irony of Britain’s unwritten constitution that having arguably reached a point of greatest clarity, so it is up for renewed debate. The role of the European Convention on Human Rights, as legislated for by the Human Rights Act here; the existence of the Strasbourg court; clashes between ministers and judicial officials over their respective roles; and ongoing questions over House of Lords reform – not to mention the state of the Union between Scotland and England: all have become major talking points. Magna Carta, which was intended to resolve a specific set of contemporary problems in 1215, has come for many to represent a simpler, more English, representation of rights.
In the final analysis, however, it is the incremental reforms which have taken place in the last 800 years that are the hallmark of British government and governance. To ignore that is to disregard the struggles of those who have endeavoured to ensure respect for the Rule of Law and to maintain the delicate balance between the powers that rule our lives.
June 3, 2015
Transatlantic crossing for historic documents
The Durham Times, Tuesday 2nd June.
By Gavin Havery.
Click here to read the original article.
Durham Cathedral is making history by sending one of its three priceless Magna Carta issues across the Atlantic this week.
It is the first time the document, which dates back to 1300, will have ever left its North-East home and will be sent along with the accompanying Forest Charter.
They are heading overseas as part of a national exhibition, which will tour four Canadian cities until December.
Starting in Ottawa, the exhibition will give Canadians a unique opportunity to come face-to-face with the documents.
Cathedral guide and senior steward Gordon Summerbell had the idea to loan them following a family holiday four years ago.
It has been organised to mark the 800th anniversary of the creation of the original Magna Carta by King John at Runnymede in 1215 and coincides with an exhibition of the 1216 copy at Palace Green Library, near Durham Cathedral, over the summer.
The 74-year-old retired bank manager, from Shotley Bridge, in County Durham, and his wife, Rosemary, and her sister Bernadette Toner, will be guests of Magna Carta Canada at the Canadian Museum of History when the exhibition is launched in Ottawa next week.
He said: “One of the ideas is that the reputation of Durham will be pushed to the fore, and of course that will include the cathedral.”
The documents will be the centrepiece of a bilingual, interpretive and interactive exhibit based on three themes: History, Legacy and Justice Today.
A bilingual documentary film, Magna Carta: The Enduring Struggle for Rights and Freedoms, will also be featured as part of the exhibition.
Suzy Rodness, co-chair of Magna Carta Canada, said: “Durham Cathedral’s gracious generosity in bringing this original issue of the Magna Carta to us has afforded Canadians a tactile, tangible, teachable moment.”
June 2, 2015
Magna Carta 800th anniversary marked with commemorative stamps
BBC News, Tuesday 2nd June.
Click here to read the article as it appeared on the BBC.
A special set of commemorative stamps has been issued to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
The six stamps feature text from Magna Carta, and other charters, bills and declarations that have developed the rule of law around the world.
Magna Carta was granted by King John of England on 15 June 1215, establishing that the king was subject to the law rather than being above it.
A “foundation of liberty” postmark will also appear on letters this week.
Principles set out in Magna Carta charted the right to a fair trial, and limits on taxation without representation.
It also inspired a number of other documents, including the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Text from the American Bill of Rights of 1791, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, and the 2013 Charter of the Commonwealth are among other texts that feature on the commemorative stamps.
Sir Robert Worcester, chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Committee, said: “The relevance of 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 of stamps and collectibles at Royal Mail said the legacy of Magna Carta had 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,” he said.
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 www.royalmail.com/magnacarta 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:
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.
May 21, 2015
The Times Advocacy competition: Do we need a new Magna Carta for the digital age?
The Times, Student Law
Wednesday 21st May.
Click here to read the original article.
Trolls, instrusive advertising and surveillance: a debate is growing about the need for the protection of our privacy
The digital revolution of the past two decades has transformed our lives. But the promise of a communications Utopia has now turned sour in a bleak landscape of trolls, intrusive advertising and Big Brother surveillance.
So the question for entrants to this year’s Times Student Advocacy competition sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills is: “Do we need a new Magna Carta for the digital age?”
The competition is open to all students registered with a UK academic institution, with prizes on offer worth £6,500.
May 19, 2015
Runnymede Magna Carta Pageant tickets now available
Tuesday 19th May 2015
Secure your place to see a re-enactment of the events 800 years ago as part of the anniversary celebrations.
A pageant will take place in Runnymede to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and budding visitors can now book tickets to secure their place.
The event, which will include a performance reflecting the events of 1215 when the charter was sealed, will be held at Runnymede Pleasure Ground on Sunday June 14 from 10am-6pm.
Paul Turrell, chief executive of Runnymede Borough Council, said: “The pageant promises to be a great day out for all ages.
“It will be the culmination of the public commemorations in Runnymede, ahead of the Royal visit the following day.
“While the re-enactment of events 800 years ago will take place in the afternoon, there will be a range of entertainment activities throughout the day in the activities tent for families to get involved in.
“We look forward to commemorating this special occasion with everyone.”
The two-hour re-enactment of the sealing of the Magna Carta will be hosted by historical interpretation company Past Pleasures.
Children can get involved in activities such as face painting and key-ring making, and families are permitted to bring their dog along for the day.
Picnics are welcomed at the event and food and drink, including a bar tent, will also be available.
You can now register for free tickets to the event here.
Up to six tickets are available for each registration and are granted on a first come, first served basis.
There will be no public parking at the Pleasure Ground for the event, apart from a limited number of Blue Badge holders, but park-and-ride bus services will be available.
Tickets will not be required on the day to watch the River Relay from the riverbanks around Runnymede Pleasure Ground.
If you have any queries about attending the Pageant, email Runnymede Borough Council at [email protected]
Runnymede Surrey Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Garden takes Bronze at RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Tuesday 19th May.
A garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show commemorating Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary has been awarded Bronze.
The small artisan garden, was sponsored by Surrey County Council and Runnymede Hotel.
The layout of the garden evokes and is representative of both the medieval period, and the legacy of the Rule of Law.
Other features of the garden include ‘A wattle arbour over a turf bench provides support for climbing plants. Wattle obelisks, raised beds and a fountain – other typical garden features – add to the setting with heraldic pennants and other artefacts. The garden’s symmetry also symbolises the new law and order of the time.’
After Chelsea Flower Show closes, the garden will become a feature in the grounds of the Runnymede Hotel.
May 18, 2015
Bishops and Barons to go on Trial… 800 years after alleged crimes
The Metro.co.uk, Monday 18th May.
By Richard Hartley-Parkinson.
Click here to read the article as it originally appeared.
It sounds like something from the 13th-Century.
Bishops and Barons have been summonsed for trial at the Houses of Parliament accused of treason, sparking a possible constitutional crisis.
That’s because it is from the 13th-Century.
The Supreme Court is to hold a mock trial in front of three of the world’s top judges to help mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta.
Lawyers from across the Commonwealth will argue the defence and prosecution.
One of the key issues will focus on whether the barons and bishops were acting lawfully when they refused to surrender London to King John as agreed.
It will take place on July 31 at Westminster Hall and King John has been called as a prosecution witness.
Sir Robert Worcester, from the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, said it would be ‘more than just a bit of historical themed fun’.
He said: ‘The evidence being examined by these eminent judges will help explore some timeless questions of legal and constitutional importance. Is the King above the law? Is there ever a defence for breaking a solemn promise?’
Treason! Magna Carta barons face trial 800 years on
By Patrick Sawer, 17th May.
Click here to read the article as it originally appeared.
The Barons and Bishops who forced King John to sign Magna Carta, enshrining key rights such as rule of law and protection of property, are to face ‘charges of treason’ – 800 years after the historic document was written.
They have long been credited with helping to lay the foundations of the British state as we know it today, based on the rule of law, the right to a fair trial and the protection of private property.
But this summer the Barons and Bishops who forced King John to agree to the Magna Carta are to be tried for treason – 800 years after the historic signing of the document at Runnymede, Berkshire, on June 15, 2015.
Senior lawyers, including the President of the UK Supreme Court, will sit in judgment on the Barons and Bishops who gathered by the River Thames after refusing to surrender London to King John to decide whether they acted lawfully or were in fact guilty of treasonable behaviour.
Advocates from across the Commonwealth will make the cases for the prosecution and the defence when the mock-trial is staged on July 31 at Westminster Hall, central London.
The signing of the Magna Carta – drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons – was designed to ensure the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown.
Sir Robert Worcester, Chair of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, said: “The stage is being set for a show trial that will be more than just a bit of historical themed fun – the evidence being examined by these eminent judges will help explore some timeless questions of legal and constitutional importance. Is the King above the law? Is there ever a defence for breaking a solemn promise?”
Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice, who is playing the role of William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke – described as ‘the greatest knight that ever lived’ – at the mock trial John, said:
“While the weight of modern scholarship certainly suggests the barons’ and bishops’ resistance was the right thing to do, this the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta is a chance to test whether a court of law would say that their ends justified their means.
“In doing so, we’ll be exploring some of the key themes of Magna Carta, the rights of subjects, the limits on the power of monarchy, and the meaning of the rule of law.”
Magna Carta was an attempt to enforce the principle that not even the king was above the Common Law of the land and that the monarch’s powers could be held in check for the good of the country.
Thirteen copies of Magna Carta, or Magna Carta Libertatum – Latin for “the Great Charter of the Liberties” – were quickly made, complete with spelling mistakes, and distributed throughout the kingdom, and displayed to the public in the great cathedrals of England.
Although it was quickly annulled by Pope Innocent III, on the grounds that it was illegal and had been signed by King John under duress, Magna Carta went on to inspire wider challenges to absolutist monarchs and demands for greater liberty and justice for ordinary men and women, including the English Civil War and execution of Charles I; the American War of Independence; and the French Revolution.
July’s mock-trial is being staged to determine whether the Barons and Bishops behind the document were justified in law in breaching their promise to surrender London to King John and then forcing him to sign the document limiting his powers.
The trial will be judged by Lord Neuberger, President of the UK Supreme Court; Dame Sian Elisa, Chief justice of New Zealand and the Hon. Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.
King John will appear as a witness for the prosecution.
Among the witnesses for the defence will be Sir Robert Rogers, now Lord Lisvane, who was until last August the Clerk to the House of Commons. He is expected to argue that Parliamentary democracy might not exist today where it not for the actions of the Barons at Runnymede.
The two-hour mock-trial is being staged by the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary, with around half of the 800 seats at Westminster Hall open to members of the public via a ballot to be held at the end of June.
Sir Robert added: “I hope people from across the country, of all ages and backgrounds, enter the draw for tickets to come and witness what I am sure will be one of the highlights of this year of commemorations.”
For more information on the trial and the events commemorating the anniversary of Magna Carta go to www.magnacarta800th.com.
Would you like to be in the stands at the Mock Trial? Public tickets are available through our sign – up form on the Magna Carta 800th website here.
May 15, 2015
Hand-stitched Magna Carta Wikipedia page explores the fabric of democracy
The Guardian. Thursday 14th May, 2015.
Click here to read the article as it appeared on the site.
Prisoners, writers, politicians, musicians, campaigners – and embroiderers – help craft a digital-to-analogue work of art examining freedom in the modern age.
Jarvis Cocker began stitching the words “common people” when he was on a train; the human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith got his needle and thread out for “law of the land” while in Guantánamo Bay; and Julian Assange had little choice but to embroider the word “freedom” from his room in the Ecuadorian embassy.
All three are contributors to a work of art by Cornelia Parker that goes on display at the British Library on Friday: a 13-metre-long embroidery celebrating the Magna Carta by copying its Wikipedia article.
More than 200 people – including barons, lawyers, politicians, prisoners, writers and celebrities – contributed by stitching words and phrases that were significant to them.
“I wanted to create a portrait of our age,” said Parker. “All these people have opinions about democracy and I thought carefully about the words they should stitch.”
Parker got the idea quite straightforwardly after going online to Google “Magna Carta”. “The first thing you get is the Wikipedia page and I just got thinking that it’s an embroidery of history, really. The page has been made by lots of different people and it is quite subjective … it is a people’s encyclopaedia. I thought perhaps we should embroider the page.”
Parker had the page’s text printed lightly on to fabric which was then cut up into more than 80 sections. They were then sent off to 36 prisoners in 13 jails who embroidered the bulk of the text. Nearly 200 gaps were left for other contributors to do their bit.
Parker said she sent or gave willing participants the fabric section, a needle and thread, and a choice of three stitches to use: back, cable and stem.
Among those rising to the challenge were Baroness Doreen Lawrence, who stitched the words “justice”, “denial” and “delay” in line seven of the tapestry; the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (“user’s manual”); the former Guantánamo inmate Moazzam Begg (“held without charge”); and Paddy Hill, one of the men wrongly convicted of the Birmingham bombing (“Freeman”).
The detailed, and far trickier, pictures on the Wikipedia page, such as a mural of Pope Innocent III and 13th-century documents from the British Library collection, were tackled by members of the Embroiderers’ Guild, a national charity that promotes the craft.
Parker said she loves the idea of turning something digital into an analogue hand-crafted object.
“I wanted the embroidery to raise questions about where we are now with the principles laid down in the Magna Carta, and about the challenges to all kinds of freedoms that we face in the digital age.”
Magna Carta (An Embroidery) was commissioned by the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford University in partnership with the British Library and is part of a wider programme of events marking the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
Parker said she was delighted with the end product and the contributions.
Some of the stitching is clearly better than others and some of the contributors admitted needing assistance – former home secretary Kenneth Clarke, for example, enlisted the help of his wife, Gillian.
There is even blood, supplied by the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger. A metaphor for the lengths this organisation will go to in pursuit of truth and justice? “He pricked his finger,” said Parker.
May 6, 2015
Princess Michael of Kent: Magna Carta – Part of ‘2015, Year Of The Great Anniversaries’
Princess Michael of Kent,
The 5th May, The Huffington Post.
Click here to read the original article.
Eight Hundred years ago in June, King John of England signed Magna Carta, a word most English speaking peoples recognise, but what actually was it?
Other than Normandy, By 1204 England had lost most of her ancestral landholdings in France, but King John, an unpopular monarch, continued fighting for many years to regain them. To this end, he repeatedly raised taxes on the barons and the people. When storms destroyed his navy – and when much of his army succumbed to dysentery, by 1214 he failed in his military expedition to France. On his return to England, the king found himself faced with the combined distrust of his rebel barons in the north and east of England who were determined to resist his rule. The rebel leadership was unimpressive by the standards of the time, even disreputable, but the knights were united in their hatred of the king.
In order to bring an end to the subsequent civil war, King John agreed to come to Runnymede near Windsor and meet with his barons to discuss their problems but in reality, this was a delaying tactic to buy time until his mercenary army arrived. However, once the barons had captured London, they were able to force the king to negotiate.
On 15th June 1215, King John, the third of the Angevin kings, (the kings of England were also Counts of Anjou in France), signed Magna Carta or The Great Charter at Runnymede, in which he agreed to make peace with the rebel barons. First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the charter laid down the essential principles of good government. It promised the protection of Church rights; the protection of the barons from illegal imprisonment; access to swift justice; and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown. This charter was to be upheld through a council of 25 barons.
In August the same year, Magna Carta was annulled by the Pope but following King John’s death the following year, it was re-enacted by the regents for his nine-year-old son and heir, Henry III.
Unsurprisingly, the original agreement was not adhered to by either the Church or by the barons. It was subsequently re-drafted several times until 1297 when King Edward III confirmed it as a part of England’s statute law. Thereafter it was renewed by each monarch until the end of 16th century. In 17th century, Magna Carta was used to argue against the Divine Right of Kings advocated by both James I and Charles I of England (who lost his head predominantly due to his intransigence over his Divine Right to rule.) Thereafter, Parliament and the will of the people were deemed to have a greater say in the laws of the land than the monarch.
The political myth of Magna Carta and its protection of ancient personal liberties persisted even after the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 which established the Protestant King William of Orange and his English-born Queen, Mary as joint King and Queen of England. However, this concept of personal liberties first introduced by Magna Carta continued to be believed well into the 19th century. Lawyers made the charter an essential foundation for the contemporary powers of the English Parliament and legal principles such as habaes corpus.
Magna Carta also influenced the early American colonists in the Thirteen Colonies and the 1771 Bill of rights. Furthermore, in 1789, it was used in the formation of the American Constitution which became the supreme law of the land in the new republic of the United States.
On 4th July 1776, the American Declaration of Independence was penned by Thomas Jefferson. English Common Law, enshrined within Magna Carta, was incorporated in that declaration.
“No free man shall be taken, imprisoned, stripped of his rights or possessions, outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers and by the law of the land. To no one will We sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”
The principles enshrined in Magna Carta form the basis of key democratic ideals including equality before the law and human rights. Thereafter, English rulers could no longer govern unchallenged or without consent. In this way, Magna Carta led to democratic institutions such as Parliament and is the cornerstone of the English Constitution, laying the foundations of democracy which are shared not only in the United Kingdom but across the world; from the USA to India, from Europe to Australia.
Although later research showed that the original 1215 charter had concerned the medieval relationship between the monarch and the barons rather than the rights of ordinary people, nevertheless, it still forms an important symbol of liberty today. Both the British and American legal communities continue to hold Magna Carta in great respect.
“As an idea, it won’t lie down; as a formal document it won’t stand up” was said about Magna Carta in the 18th century, but happily its principles still shadow our laws today.
Magna Carta features in Presidential Proclamation – Law Day, U.S.A., 2015
LAW DAY, U.S.A., 2015
– – – – – – –
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Throughout the world, the rule of law is central to the promise of a safe, free, and just society. Respect for and adherence to the rule of law is the premise upon which the United States was founded, and it has been a cornerstone of my Presidency. America’s commitment to this fundamental principle sustains our democracy — it guides our progress, helps to ensure all people receive fair treatment, and protects our Government of, by, and for the people.
This Law Day, we celebrate a milestone in the extraordinary history of the rule of law by marking the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Centuries ago, when kings, emperors, and warlords reigned over much of the world, it was this extraordinary document — agreed to by the King of England in 1215 — that first spelled out the rights and liberties of man. The ideals of the Magna Carta inspired America’s forefathers to define and protect many of the rights expressed in our founding documents, which we continue to cherish today.
The Magna Carta has also provided a framework for constitutional democracies throughout the world, and my Administration is committed to supporting good governance based upon the rule of law. Around the globe, we support strong civil institutions, independent judiciaries, and open government — because the rule of force must give way to the rule of law. For more than two centuries, we have witnessed these values drive opportunity and prosperity here in the United States, and as President, I will continue to work to bolster our systems of justice and advance efforts that do the same overseas.
America is and always has been a nation of laws. Our institutions of justice are vital to securing the promise of our country, and they are bound up with the values and beliefs that have united peoples through the ages. The United States and our citizens are inextricably linked to all those around the world doing the hard work of strengthening the rule of law — joined in common purpose by our mutual interest in building freer, fairer, more just societies.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, in accordance with Public Law 87-20, as amended, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2015, as Law Day, U.S.A. I call upon all Americans to acknowledge the importance of our Nation’s legal and judicial systems with appropriate ceremonies and activities, and to display the flag of the United States in support of this national observance.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
May 1, 2015
Lincoln Castle triples visitor numbers after Magna Carta refurbishment
BBC News, 1st May 2015
Click here to read the article as it originally appeared on the BBC.
A castle that had a multi-million pound vault built to house a surviving copy of Magna Carta has almost tripled visitor numbers.
Lincoln Castle underwent a £22m renovation project ready for the document’s 800th anniversary.
Castle manager Rachel Thomas said about 34,000 people visited in April – up 21,000 on last year.
Last month, the castle was named as one of 12 sites in the county that could be outsourced to save the council money.
Since the 11th Century castle reopened at the beginning of April, 33,941 people have visited, compared with 12,503 last April.
Lincoln’s copy of Magna Carta, is one of only four surviving copies.
Ms Thomas said she had not expected so many visitors.
“Partly, no doubt, the coverage around Magna Carta and the raising in the public consciousness of Magna Carta has helped,” she said.
The renovation project included a new wall walk and the reopening of the Victorian prison to visitors.
The high-security underground vault houses the 1215 Magna Carta, alongside an original copy of the Charter of the Forest, which was signed two years later.
The work was funded by Lincolnshire County Council, Heritage Lottery money and private donations.
The authority said a final decision on whether to outsource 12 attractions including the castle, Gainsborough Old Hall and the Museum of Lincolnshire Life has not yet been made.
April 29, 2015
Lord Dyson, MR, Liberties, Customs, and the Free Flow of Trade
It is a real pleasure to have been asked to give the keynote address at this 4th annual British Irish Commercial Law Forum. Given its theme – Magna Carta – I am particularly delighted to have been invited to do so this year. I am, as you may know, chairman of the Magna Carta Trust; a position held by all Masters of the Rolls since the Trust was established in 1956. You can imagine that my term of office as chairman has been rather busier than that of my illustrious predecessors.
One of the aims of the Trust is to ‘perpetuate the principles of Magna Carta.’ Magna Carta is a curious hotch-potch of a document. Many of its provisions cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as principles. They include detailed measures of an intensely practical nature which reflect the economic and social conditions of the early 13th century. Some of them concern were aimed at resolving grievances that King John’s barons had at the time; grievances that were not only directed at him but were a reaction to Angevin rule.
For example, the Charter required him to remove a number of his more troublesome supporters from office. Chapter 50 provided: “We will entirely remove from our bailiwicks the relations of Gerard de Atheyes, so that for the future they will have no bailiwick in England; we will also remove Engelard de Cygony, Andrew, Peters and Gyon, from the Chan-cery; Gyon de Cygony, Geoffrey de Martyn and his brothers; Philip Mark and his brothers and his nephew, Geoffrey, and their whole retinue”. Quite a putsch.
But it is undeniable that Magna Carta does contain a numbers of chapters which we would recognise as setting out important principles which have real relevance today. They are the reason why it has been grandiloquently been claimed that Magna Carta is the inspiration for democracy; and why thousands of people from all over the World are planning to congregate in a field at Runnymede on 15th June to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Charter. I have in mind in particular the famous chapter 40 “To none will we sell, to none will we deny, or delay, the right of justice”. Words of captivating brevity. And chapter 20: “A freeman shall not be amerced for a small fault but after the manner of the fault; and for a great crime according to the heinousmess of it” (an early assertion of the principle of proportionality). I also have in mind other provisions concerning access to justice and due process of law and the right to fair trial as well as the requirement that justice should be dispensed from a fixed place , that it should be local ; and that judges should know the law, which often meant local law – an early instance of subsidiarity, perhaps. And that only judges should sit in judgment . The Charter was not, however, the source of trial by jury or the great writ of habeas corpus.
Its opening provision guaranteed the rights and liberties of the English Church , although it did not specify what they were. Plenty of room for manoeuvre there, and work for lawyers. And it provided a series of significant guarantees concerning trade and commerce. While it was neither the first nor the last instrument to do so, it established uniform weights and measures. England at the time was developing economically. Successful trade depends, to a large extent, on traders understanding and being in agreement as to what they are selling and buying. It would be a recipe for chaos if a seller took a length to mean 45 inches when the purchaser understood it to mean 37 inches. A thriving mercantile economy, much of which involved trading in a variety of types of cloth, needed a uniform approach.
So Magna Carta standardised the basis of trade. It sought to secure the free flow of trade. It required the removal of all fishweirs from rivers across England . Bad for fisherman, but good for traders. Fishweirs led to rivers silting up. Consequently they became less and less navigable. They clogged up important trade arteries. Their removal was needed to increase free trade.
Free movement of goods is not however sufficient for a thriving economy. There has also to be free movement of merchants. Thus chapter 41 provided “All merchants shall have safe and secure conduct, to go out of, and to come into England, and to stay there, and to pass as well by land as by water, for buying and selling by the ancient and allowed customs without any evil tolls; except in time of war, or when they are of any nation at war with us”. What better evocation of the idea of free trade? An early embodiment of the ideals which informed what is now known as the European Union.
Encouraging the free movement of goods and tradesmen is one thing. But trade and investment do not simply depend on an ability to trade. If they are to flourish, it is imperative that property rights of traders and investors are protected by the law. The parties to the Charter well understood this. A trader or investor has little incentive to engage in trade or to invest if they are at risk of arbitrary dispossession of their property interests. Such dispossession was not uncommon. King John routinely stripped his subjects of their property in order to fund his military adventures. An object of the Charter was to put a stop to this. It provided at chapter 39 that “no freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or banished, or any ways destroyed, nor will we pass upon him, nor will we send upon him, unless by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the laws of the land”. This was an early foreshadowing of Locke’s theory of government and the 14th amendment of the US Constitution.
So the Charter made provisions to ease trade and secure property rights. It also affirmed that the City of London and all other ‘cities, boroughs, towns and ports shall have their liberties and free customs.’ Commercial centres needed to be supported. The exact nature and extent of the liberties and free customs was not defined. It is right to note, however, that more than seventy charters had been issued to individual towns and cities. Magna Carta was declaratory of their continuing effect, as well as of the right of the City of London to be both self-governing and to continue to appoint its Lord Mayor.
The importance of Magna Carta today
So much for the Charter itself. What is its relevance for commerce and the rule of law today? Here I pause to note a warning that was given in a stimulating recent analysis of Magna Carta by Lord Sumption.
In a recent lecture in which he stripped away a number of what might be called the myths in which the Charter has become enveloped, Lord Sumption concluded with this warning:
‘We are frighteningly ignorant of the past, in large measure because we no longer look to it as a source of inspiration. We are all revolutionaries now, controlling our own fate. So when we commemorate Magna Carta, perhaps the first question that we should ask ourselves is this: do we really need the force of myth to sustain our belief in democracy? Do we need to derive our belief in democracy and the rule of law from a group of muscular conservative millionaires from the north of England, who thought in French, knew no Latin or English, and died more than three quarters of a millennium ago? I rather hope not.’
Not for him Sir Anthony Eden’s view that the road to 1215 ‘marked the road to individual freedom, to Parliamentary democracy and to the supremacy of the law.’
It may be that nobody directly bases their belief in democracy or the rule of law on the document that was sealed at Runnymede 800 years ago. But it cannot be denied that the Charter does set out a number of principles which, however rudimentary the form in which they were expressed, are now taken for granted as being central to a modern liberal democracy. It is right that, from a historical point of view, we should locate the Charter in the social and economic conditions of the 13th century and acknowledge that it reflects the values and mores of that time. But it is an inescapable fact that the Charter principles to which I have referred have been influential in the development of modern democratic systems. This is not the place to trace the checkered history of these principles. Suffice it to say that the Charter endured for no more than ten weeks, before the Pope annulled it at John’s request. It was brought back to life by William Marshall on John’s death. Thereafter, it languished until, as Lord Sumption explains in a little detail, it was resurrected with enthusiasm by Edward Coke in the 17th century.
John Adams, the second President of the United States, said that ‘Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.’ He believed that in democracies, as in other forms of government, individuals were prey to the same flaws of, as he put it, ‘fraud, violence and cruelty.’ The strength of any democracy lies in the robustness of its institutions of governance and in public confidence in them. Weaken either and democracy is weakened.
One of the great strengths of the UK and states which enjoy similar democratic systems has been their commitment to systems of justice. It is no good having wonderful laws if the state does not provide a fair and effective system of justice to enable individuals to vindicate their rights by reference to those laws. Everyone should have equal access to justice. And I do not simply mean formal equality of access in the sense that ‘The doors of the Ritz are open to all.’ I mean, of course, practical and effective equality. This includes that the courts, legal advice and representation are available to all those who require it. This an essential aspect of democratic participation in society. It is because it is the means by which the law (these days largely the creation of elected Parliaments) is given life. It is also the means by which aggrieved citizens can hold public authorities to account by judicial review in the courts.
Free and fair elections are, rightly, understood to be the central mechanism by which democracy is nurtured and sustained. Equal and effective access to the justice system is another, and equally important, mechanism. At the present time the justice systems in many democratic societies are under strain. Budgetary constraints are having a serious effect. Governments are strapped for cash and have to make hard political choices. These tend to be driven by their assessment of what the electorate regards as important. Sadly for those to whom the maintaining of high standards of justice is of paramount importance, expenditure on justice systems is not seen as a high priority by those in power. In a number of jurisdictions there has been a marked shift away from state-funded legal aid for civil and family justice. This has been particularly controversial in England and Wales. This shift has, to a certain degree, been mirrored by a liberalisation in other funding methods, such as the introduction of various forms of contingency fee funding and the growth of third party funding.
The merits of the public and private funding civil justice are issues for another day. However, if we are to continue to maintain access to the courts, our funding methods must be effective and affordable. If they are not, and individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises are unable to gain access to our courts, we will surrender our commitment to equality before the law and we will diminish our democracies, and their ability to develop their economies. A small or medium-sized business that is unable to enforce its debts, or to keep its trading partners to their bargains through litigation or the threat of litigation is one that will not long thrive or even survive. Diminution of funding is a modern analogue to the barriers to trade that Magna Carta sought to blow away.
Necessarily linked to litigation funding is the cost of litigation. By this I mean to refer to both court fees and lawyers’ costs. If either is too high, they inhibit access to the justice system. The individual litigant who wishes to have recourse to the courts in order to vindicate his private law rights or to hold a public authority to account by judicial review proceedings may not be able to do so. This is potentially very serious. Judicial review is a valuable means of holding public authorities to account. To curtail the ability of a citizen to seek judicial review of a decision is no doubt good for the decision-maker. For public authorities, judicial review is it best an irritant and at worst a road block to the journey it wishes to make. But the denial of judicial review is bad for the rule of law. If citizens cannot afford to have their disputes resolved by the courts, that too is bad for the rule of law. The spectre of self-help and disorder is not fanciful.
From a commercial perspective, if litigation costs are high and a dispute cannot be settled consensually, businesses must divert resources from commercially beneficial activity, such as investing in new products and developing new markets, to litigation. This is may be welcome to the legal profession; but it is of little benefit to the overall economy. Excessive litigation costs silt up the arteries of trade and access to justice as effectively as the fishweirs that were removed by Magna Carta were a barrier to river traffic in the 13th century.
The guarantee of due process vouchsafed by Magna Carta was predicated on the barons’ complaint about John’s resort to arbitrary justice. They wanted justice before the court of barons – their peers – which had been enjoyed before John decided to use the law as a means of increasing his finances. The barons have been portrayed as heroes. But that has not always the case. As Jeremy Bentham noted in his discussion about the laws which prohibited champerty and maintenance, ‘a man [could] buy a weak claim, in hopes that power might convert it into a strong one, and that the sword of a baron, stalking into court with a rabble of retainers at his heels, might strike terror into the eyes of a judge upon the bench.’
The days of barons or anybody else stalking into court, sword in hand, are long gone. But Bentham’s colourful image illustrates brilliantly what we now call “inequality of arms”. These days, inequality is usually demonstrated by a lack of availability of equal resources to opposing parties. It is often manifested by an imbalance between defendants and prosecuting authorities in the criminal law context; and between claimants and public authorities in the public law context. In the case of private law disputes, there can be a serious imbalance between the resources available to an individual of modest means and those available to a wealthy individual or a large corporation. The rule of law requires that a justice system is open to all; and that all who come before the courts are treated equally. Justice should not be at the beck and call of the highest bidder, contrary to King John’s view.
I recognise that the provision of an effective justice system is expensive. In England and Wales, as in many liberal democratic systems, the courts are under huge pressure to cut costs and improve efficiency. I accept that, in our system at least, there is scope for improvement without sacrificing access to justice. Lawyers are said to be conservative and resistant to change. There may be some force in that assessment. But in my country at least, the judges are co-operating in the reforms that are in train. There have been major changes in the processes of criminal, civil and family justice. These are reforms which would have been unthinkable when I entered the legal profession in the late 1960s. And there is much more to come. Perhaps the most fundamental change that now needs to be made is to modernise our IT systems. We have not yet realised the benefits that the IT revolution can bring to our system of justice, a revolution, which if carried through effectively, will increase the speed and efficiency of litigation and reduce costs. I hope, for example, that before long all documents will be filed and managed electronically; and that the majority of procedural applications will be dealt with electronically. The days when court buildings are bursting with paper files on the floor or stored on long shelves or in large cupboards are, I hope, numbered.
We are also exploring the possibility of a scheme for on-line dispute resolution. This is an exciting project which I am confident will get off the ground before long. We shall have to work out the details of how it will operate and, in particular, to what kinds of case it will apply. I can also see no practical reason why, assuming the court has jurisdiction, it should not be possible for hearings to take place across continents via the Internet, bringing litigants from one continent into the same court as litigants from another continent. Changes are taking place at great speed. The main impetus is the need to improve efficiency and reduce cost. In principle, that is a good thing. We need, however, to be vigilant to ensure that this rush to change, increased efficiency and saving of cost does not undermine access to justice. There is no reason in principle why it should have that effect. But we need to take care to protect an ideal that owes not a little to Magna Carta and which is fundamental to the rule of law. It hardly needs to be said that the rule of law is one of the hallmarks of our cherished democratic societies.
It took hundreds of years to move from Runnymede to liberal democracy and to secure firmly the commitment to the rule of law. If we are to maintain that commitment, we need to recognise that it cannot be taken for granted. We must be vigilant to ensure that we maintain an effective, accessible system of justice. It is essential to the promotion of confident economic activity that parties are able to make bargains in the knowledge that their disputes will be resolved in a court of law by independent judges in accordance with the law of the land and that the judgments that they obtain from the courts will be enforced by the state. Without such a system, there is chaos and trade becomes difficult, if not impossible. Our system is not perfect. Indeed, the recent cuts in resources which have been introduced in England and Wales (and other jurisdictions too) as a result of the economic downturn have put our system under enormous strain. The political reality, however, is that there are fewer votes in Justice than, for example, in Health and Housing. But we still enjoy a system which is the envy of most countries in the world. It is precious and we should value it. We should certainly do all we can to protect it.
April 28, 2015
How to teach … the Magna Carta
The Guardian, 27th April 2015.
Click here to read the article as it appeared on The Guardian.
Eight hundred years after the signing of the Magna Carta, The Guardian share useful lesson plans and ideas to engage students in its legacy
This summer marks 800 years since the signing of a document that would become a cornerstone of the British constitution: the Magna Carta.
The charter, sealed by King John at Runnymede on the banks of the River Thames, forms the basis of many freedoms we have today. To mark the anniversary, the Magna Carta Trust will send every UK state primary school a souvenir copy of this historic document later this month.
The Guardian Teacher Network is also celebrating this legacy with our own collection of ideas and resources to enthuse students.
Immerse primary pupils in the medieval context of the document using a short animation by the British Library. Narrated by Monty Python’s Terry Jones, it takes you back to medieval England and gives a potted history of the charter. As students watch, ask them to take notes about why Magna Carta was created and what it said, noting any words they do not understand such as “parchment”, “clause” or “exile”.
Next up, explore the life of King John himself with this British Library lesson plan that looks at events leading up to Magna Carta. Place King John in a royal family tree and get students to write a song, rap or poem about him. This key stage 2 lesson plan from the Magna Carta Project also gives pupils a particularly good feel for what a cruel and unpopular monarch he was. Based on what a medieval king was supposed to do, ask students to write an assessment of King John in the style of a school report card.
The Magna Carta Trust is also giving primary schools a timeline wallchart and newspaper chronicle charting 800 years in the fight for freedom and rights. Use these resources to help students create a Magna Carta of their own. Tear around the edges of a piece of paper, soak it in cold coffee or tea and then hang it up to dry. Students can write either a clause from the original Magna Carta or a rule they feel is important for their classroom or school on this “parchment”. Students could even create a great seal in the style of King John’s to attach to their documents, which would make a fabulous wall display if arranged together.
You’ll find lots more ideas in this teaching pack for key stage 2 by the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee. It includes eight lesson ideas across a range of curriculum areas including history, art, computing and English, that teachers can dip into or use in full.
For secondary students, the Parliament Education Service has created a Magna Carta video drama, which explores the origins of people’s rights, that can be used for citizenship lessons or for history lessons as part of the key stage 3 Magna Carta and the emergence of parliament curriculum. There’s also a Magna Carta assembly plan which includes useful notes on adapting the content for younger and older students.
There are great learning and teaching ideas for key stage 3 here by the Magna Carta Project, including a mock trial activity where students in groups assume the role of rebel barons to sit in judgement on King John.
Magna Carta has inspired everyone from Nelson Mandela, Thomas Jefferson and Mahatma Gandhi to Winston Churchill. Get students to identify how it is reflected in the lives and work of these famous individuals. Alternatively, ask students to research how groups, such as the chartists or suffragettes, or documents such as the US Bill of Rights or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, were influenced by the charter. As a debate or essay topic, can upper secondary students explain why Magna Carta has been described as the most valuable export of Great Britain to the rest of the world?
And what about its contemporaries? This activity from the British Library explores the significance of Magna Carta to the lives of people in the 13th century. Even though Magna Carta was annulled by the pope after just three months, why do pupils think it was retained, reissued and referred to in no less than 59 legal cases and several chronicles in the 13th century? Students can present their ideas in a cartoon strip or short video.
One of the original clauses of Magna Carta that remains part of English Law today is the right to justice. But many other values that can be traced back to Magna Carta – such as freedom of expression, equal opportunities and respect for diversity – are under threat. Working in groups, ask students to identify the rights and freedoms they would include in a Magna Carta for 2015. Students aged seven to 14 have until Monday 1 June to contribute a clause to the British Library’s Magna Carta for the digital age. Teachers who take part in the project will receive one free ticket to the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition which runs until Tuesday 1 September.
Finally, the British Council has developed a range of Magna Carta lesson plans to engage students of English as a second or foreign language that cover a variety of topics from the history of the 1200s to human rights, and the foundations of modern democracy.
April 27, 2015
Magna Carta and Europe – Yesterday & Today
By Torquil Dick-Erikson
The opinions expressed in the following are the views of the author, and do not represent the views of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee, or the Magna Carta Trust.
Magna Carta crossed the oceans. In all the lands where English is spoken, its principles are known and recognised.
But it never crossed the Channel.
In 1215, in England the Barons were confronting King John; in Rome Pope Innocent III was setting up the machinery of the Holy Inquisition.
A major purpose of Magna Carta was to limit the powers of the King – the central State authority.
In contrast, the Inquisition expanded and deepened the power of the authorities over the individual. Not only actions, and words, but even thoughts, were scrutinised and, if “culpable”, punished.
In ancient Rome, an accuser faced a defendant, and the case was decided by a judge, independent from both. Under the Empire, the Emperor’s word became law. The dark ages saw more primitive forms of judgement (trial by ordeal, by combat…)
As analysed by the late, great, Italo Mereu, Professor of the History of Law at Ferrara University, in his painstakingly detailed history of the Inquisitorial system from the origins to the 1970s, “Sospettare e Punire” (“To suspect and to punish”), the Inquisition brought together the functions of prosecutor and investigator with that of the judge, in the new figure of the Inquisitor. The Inquisitor’s job was to identify, seize, and interrogate a suspect, in order to arrive at the “truth”. Or, it might be said, at the desired result.
The arbitrary powers of the inquisitor, and of his superiors, were clearly vast. The machinery of the Law became a tool for the ruler to ensure complete command and control over his subjects.
Clearly Magna Carta constituted a potent obstacle to such arbitrary exercise of power. In fact the Pope was furious when informed about what had happened at Runnymede, and wrote to the English bishops and abbots who had helped set it up telling them they had done something “abominable” and “illicit”.
The specific constraints on the power of the State provided by Magna Carta include the famous and much celebrated clauses 39 “No free man shall be…. punished… save by judgement of his peers and by the law of the land”, and 40 “To no-one shall we deny, delay, or sell justice”. Clause 39 in particular removed from rulers a crucial power of government, the power to decide who should be punished and who not. This power was placed in the hands of a jury of the defendant’s peers, thus laying a foundation stone of democracy, and a bulwark against arbitrary punishments.
For eight hundred years since then, the English and the continental criminal procedures have gone off in different directions.
The Inquisition ravaged the nations of continental Europe for centuries, persecuting and prosecuting witches, heretics, and…. scientists. Initially an ecclesiastical institution, its methods were adopted by secular rulers, as a means of suppressing opposition of any kind.
England alone escaped its grip. We fought off the Spanish Armada, which would have brought the Spanish Inquisition to our shores. Elisabeth I rejected the inquisitional method – “I will not make windows into men’s souls”. A sort of papal “fatwa” promised a fast track to heaven for any Catholic who murdered her. Yet she did not outlaw those who followed the old religion, though subjecting them to some constraints.
The power of Parliament grew and in the mid-seventeenth century prevailed over that of the king in the civil war. Parliamentary supremacy – representing ultimately the will of the people – was then firmly consolidated with the glorious – and bloodless – revolution of 1688-89.
Meanwhile across the channel absolutism held sway. The King of France famously proclaimed “I am the State”.
The French Revolution swept away much of the old order. The “rights of man” were proclaimed. Then soon Napoleon took over the helm of France, and his armies set about invading most of Europe to export his notion of the “rights of man”. His codes of law to this day underlie the legal systems used on the continent.
Some of the original thinkers of the enlightenment, like Voltaire, whose ideas helped spark the French revolution, had drawn inspiration from the very different system of government they had seen in England. But Napoleon did not adopt Magna Carta, nor its principles, in criminal procedure. He adopted and adapted the basic elements of the inquisition, redirecting it to serve not the Church, but the State.
In the traditional English system, the powers of jurisdiction governing the different parts of criminal procedure are attributed to different bodies. Essentially, the police, divided into 43 independent local constabularies, investigate a case; the magistrates (mostly non-lawyers, unpaid volunteers working part-time) sign arrest warrants, and then decide bail and committal to trial in public hearings; a barrister is hired to conduct the prosecution in court, where he or she faces another barrister hired by the defence; the judge presides over the proceedings in court deciding procedural disputes between the parties, and handing down the sentence after a guilty verdict. And crucially, the verdict is entirely in the hands of a jury of 12 ordinary citizens, voters selected by lot from the electoral register, peers of the defendant, just as was establsihed by Magna Carta so long ago.
The distribution of these powers into different hands provides essential checks and balances, not just between the legislative, executive and judicial functions, as famously prescribed by Montesquieu, but within the judicial function itself, on whose delicate balance depends the individual freedom of each and every citizen from arbitrary arrest and wrongful imprisonment. The use of legal violence on people’s bodies, by arrest and imprisonment, is an exclusive prerogative of the sovereign State in any society. Its arbitrary use is a prime tool of tyranny. This is why effective legal safeguards against misuse are so necessary. Here lies the genius of Magna Carta, which 800 years ago in England provided the first legal safeguards against such arbitrary misuse.
Compare and contrast with today’s Napoleonic-inquisitorial systems, where a career judiciary, whose members are State employees, comprises prosecutors and judges, but excludes defenders. The prosecutor is nowadays no longer the selfsame person as the judge, but they are both servants of the State (though they may sometimes be institutionally independent from political control), and they are close colleagues, who can work in tandem together on case after case. The judges may have been prosecutors during the course of their careers, but normally they will never have been defenders.
Under the Napoleonic-inquisitorial dispensation used in continental Europe, all these powers are placed in the collective hands of one brotherhood – the career judiciary.
In Italy, for example, criminal investigations, prosecutions, assessments of evidence, decisions on arrest, bail or remand, the direction of courtroom proceedings, judgements of guilt or innocence and sentencing are all under the exclusive control of members of the career judiciary (“magistratura” – not to be confused with the idea of an English “magistrate” for which there is no equivalent).
After a law degree, young law graduates face three career alternatives: attorney, notary, or the judiciary (“magistrato”). To become a judge, they must pass a stiff State exam (set and marked by existing members of the judiciary), and then they are in. After one year’s “apprenticeship”
(“uditorato”), they are assigned to a judicial office as a prosecutor/investigator or a judge, where they sit, pen in hand, empowered to order criminal investigations, arrests, bail, committals, etc. They are not trained in detective techniques, relying on their book knowledge of the law. But they direct the police (who may have such training) in the conduct of criminal investigations. It is said that this separation between competence and responsibility in criminal investigations explains why numbers of cases are not investigated as fruitfully as might be hoped.
Trial by Jury – that great heritage of Magna Carta – has no place in the Napoleonic-inquisitorial dispensation. Most cases are dealt with by professional judges alone. Very serious cases are heard by what might look like a jury of ordinary citizens chosen by lot. Actually, the verdict and the sentence are decided by a mixed panel of six lay “jury-people” and two professional career judges. They all go into the jury-room together, where the “judge’s summing-up” is delivered in secret. Although the six jury-people can outvote the two professionals, the latter obviously take a leading role in guiding the verdict. They also have other means of ensuring that what they consider a “perverse” verdict can be appealed against. There are no safeguards against double jeopardy – the prosecution are perfectly entitled to appeal against an acquittal, even if no fresh evidence has emerged.
Two other direct legacies of Magna Carta are clause 40 – “to no-one shall we delay justice”, and the not-so-often celebrated clause 38. The latter is worth quoting in the original: “Nullus ballivus ponat de cetero aliquem ad legem simplici loquela sua, sine testibus fidelibus ad hoc aductis” – “No judicial officer shall initiate legal proceedings against anyone on his own mere say-so, without reliable witnesses brought for that purpose”.
These provisions are ensured by Habeas Corpus. Under Habeas Corpus, a suspect if arrested must be brought into open court within hours (or at the very most, a few days), and there charged formally. And the charge must be based on enough hard evidence, already collected, to shew that there is a prima facie case to answer.
It is perhaps taken for granted in English-speaking countries that any proceedings must be based on evidence. Not so however on the continent. In Italy, for example, a person may be arrested on the orders of two members of the judiciary (one acts as “prosecutor-cum-investigator” and the other as “judge of the preliminary investigations”), at the outset, on mere suspicion based on clues (“indizi”). Hence the title of Professor Mereu’s book. The prisoner becomes a “person-under-investigation” (“indagato”), and can be kept in prison during the investigation, which can last months, before the authorities are ready to commit him. There is no right to any public hearing during this time. Within hours of arrest, the prisoner is interrogated by the two judges who ordered his arrest, in a secret hearing. He is assisted by his lawyer (or by a lawyer appointed by his interrogators if he cannot afford his own), and he can try to persuade them that they have got the wrong person, but he cannot see any evidence against him until much later.
All this directly violates clauses 38 and 40 of Magna Carta. Yet this is what happens to British subjects and others who are subjected to the European Arrest Warrant. Under the EAW no British court is allowed to ask to see any evidence of a prima facie case. Presumably the Parliamentarians who voted for this measure must have believed that the foreign judicial authority issuing the EAW would already have the necessary evidence, to be exhibited in a public hearing soon after extradition took place. Yet numbers of innocent Britons can testify that this is not the case. Famously, Andrew Symeou spent 11 months in a Greek prison before his first appearance in an open court hearing, where the case was dropped, owing to lack of any serious evidence.
It is thought that the European Convention of Human Rights offers adequate safeguards for the innocent. It does not. The ECHR makes no provision for Habeas Corpus, let alone Trial by Jury. Article 6 vouchsafes an appearance in a public hearing within a “reasonable” time after arrest, but does not specify what is “reasonable”. For us it is a matter of hours or at most days. In Europe it can be months or even longer.
Our forefathers, in their wisdom, laid down these safeguards for our freedom. Their words have rolled down eight centuries, to protect us. Yet today, we are abandoning them, for an illusion, based on wishful thinking.
This 800th year after Magna Carta is also the 200th anniversary of Waterloo. How ironic if Napoleon should have the last laugh after all.
April 21, 2015
BBC: Copy of Magna Carta for every UK primary school
By Judith Burns, Education reporter
21st April, 2015.
Click here to read the original article.
Every primary school in the UK is to be sent a copy of Magna Carta to help pupils learn how the document forms the basis of many modern freedoms.
The aim is to explain the legacy of Magna Carta, as the 800th anniversary nears of its sealing by King John.
The charter is considered a cornerstone of the British constitution.
This is an “epic narrative that continues to shape our world”, said Sir Robert Worcester, chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee.
As well as a copy of the document, the schools will receive two young person’s guides to Magna Carta, explaining its significance to current political events.
These are a timeline wall-chart and a tabloid-style newspaper called the Magna Carta Chronicle, which together set out the history of the past 800 years in “the fight for freedom and rights”.
The initiative, led by the Magna Carta Trust and funded by charitable donations to the 800th Anniversary Committee, is part of ongoing celebrations of the document.
Magna Carta was sealed by King John on 15 June 1215, forced by a group of rebellious barons.
It was the first formal document to limit the power of the King, stating that a King had to follow the laws of the land and guaranteeing the rights of individuals.
It laid the foundations of trial by jury and of Parliament.
Sir Robert said the initiative would give young people the chance to learn more about the history and significance of Magna Carta.
“The fight for freedom and rights and the rule of law is a global story but one that should be extra special to everyone living in the UK, since its origins and dramas – from the freedom to choose our rulers and religion, to equality of opportunity and the right to live without fear of unlawful imprisonment – are so inextricably linked to the history of Britain itself,” he said.
“All these, and many other freedoms, are charted in this unique young person’s guide in a highly accessible and visually stunning style which all began when the will of the King was first challenged by 25 barons in the water meadow at Runnymede on 15 June 1215.”
Christopher Lloyd of publishers What on Earth? designed and wrote the guides in collaboration with illustrator Andy Forshaw.
The guides link Magna Carta with modern struggles for freedoms and rights, for example Malala Yousafzai’s campaign for the right of girls across the globe to an education.
Mr Lloyd said the aim had been to connect “the fragment of history of the signing of Magna Carta on a piece of parchment and put it into the context of an 800-year story”.
He said he wanted the timeline to be like the thread of a necklace with historic moments, which saw modern liberties and freedoms gradually developed over 800 years, like beads on the thread.
The pack will be sent out to all the UK’s 21,000 state primary schools later in April.
The publishers have also provided a series of free online lesson plans and activities.
Magna Carta guidebook and timeline donated to 21,000 UK primary schools
Every primary school in Britain is to receive a souvenir copy of Magna Carta along with a time-line wallchart and newspaper chronicle charting 800 years in the fight for freedom and rights.
The bold initiative, funded by charitable donations to the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee, will help teachers and pupils learn about the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta on 15th June 1215 by bad King John.
Sir Robert Worcester, Chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Committee, said this year marks the best opportunity in a century to present young people with an epic narrative that continues to shape our world.
“The fight for freedom and rights and the rule of law is a global story, but one that should be extra special to everyone living in the UK since its origins and dramas – from the freedom to choose our rulers and religion to equality of opportunity and the right to live without fear of unlawful imprisonment – are so inextricably linked to the history of Britain itself,” he said.
“All these, and many other freedoms, are charted in this unique young person’s guide in a highly accessible and visually stunning style which all began when the will of the King was first challenged by 25 barons in the watermeadow at Runnymede on June 15th, 1215.”
The Magna Carta Chronicle is the official young person’s guide to this year’s 800th anniversary commemorations. Its creator, world history author and educationalist Christopher Lloyd, said the book had been specially designed and illustrated by timeline artist Andy Forshaw to make the 800-year story accessible and exciting for younger people – as well as for teachers, parents and people of all ages.
“Few people carry an interconnected narrative of the past around in their heads because history has not been taught in schools this way for several generations. That’s why important stories such as how we have come to enjoy today’s liberties and freedoms can so easily get lost,” he said.
The Magna Carta Chronicle includes more than 45 tabloid newspaper stories so that the events of 800 years read as if they happened yesterday – making them easy and fun for anyone of any age to read.
A two metre long fold-out timeline charts nearly 100 moments from the laws of Hammurabi to the terrible experience of Malala Yousafzai after her attempted assassination by terrorists simply for daring to go to school.
“Her story reminds us that the freedom and rights we enjoy to day will still have to be fought for by future generations. We cannot just leave them to the legacy of people in the past. That’s why making these stories accessible to younger people today matters so much,” said Lloyd.
A souvenir facsimile copy of the 1215 edition of Magna Carta, now housed at Salisbury Cathedral, has been reproduced on the back of the Magna Carta Chronicle timeline so that schools can hang up it up on classroom walls. It comes with simple annotations that explain the key clauses in the document that are the foundation stones of liberty and the rule of law throughout many parts of the world today.
A further 50 copies of the Chronicle will be prizes on a social media quiz from 22nd April – follow @magnacarta800th on twitter for more details and to take part.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Copies of the Magna Carta Chronicle will be sent out to the head teachers of all UK primary schools beginning in the last week of April and first week of May, 2015. A selection of curriculum-mapped activities, lesson plans and worksheets that integrate the Magna Carta Chronicle across History, Citizenship, Literacy and Art in Key Stages 2 and 3 are available to download free at www.whatonearthbooks.com/magnacarta.
For press enquiries or for a review copy of the Magna Carta Chronicle please contact Louise Walker on 07882 655416, 01474 815714 or [email protected] . For interview requests, please contact Christopher Lloyd (07760 289589) or Sir Robert Worcester (07974 812723).
About the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee.
The Magna Carta Trust’s 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee is co-ordinating the 800th centenary commemorations of Magna Carta. Its chairman, Sir Robert Worcester, was the founder of MORI (Market & Opinion Research International Ltd). He was Chancellor of the University of Kent from 2007 to 2014. He is also vice president of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, the United Nations Association and is a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Kent.
About Christopher Lloyd
Christopher Lloyd has written numerous books on world history including the best-selling What on Earth Happened? The Complete Guide to Planet, Life and People from the Big Bang to the Present Day (Bloomsbury 2008) now translated into 15 languages worldwide. In 2010 he established the publishing house What on Earth Publishing, specialists in art of telling stories through timelines, with illustrator Andy Forshaw. They have since created a series of FIVE timeline titles covering Big History, Nature, Sport, Science and Shakespeare in partnership with the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Christopher lectures all over the world in museums, schools and festivals connecting the curriculum together to create a more holistic view of knowledge.
Magna Carta makes history with free copy for every primary
The Times Educational Supplement
21st April 2015,
By Helen Ward.
Click here to read the original article.
Primary schools across the UK are to be sent a copy of Magna Carta to help teach pupils about the legacy of the famous historic document during its 800th anniversary year.
Magna Carta, meaning the Great Charter, was a treaty agreed by King John in 1215 in a bid to make peace with a group of rebel barons. It set out the principle that nobody, even the king, was above the law and gave all free men the right to justice and a fair trial. It has been described as a cornerstone of the British constitution.
The Magna Carta Chronicle that will be sent to schools combines a souvenir copy of the charter, a fold-out timeline and more than 45 newspaper stories to allow pupils to read about the events of 800 years ago as if they happened yesterday.
The initiative, led by the Magna Carta Trust, is part of ongoing commemorations. Sir Robert Worcester, chairman of the committee, said the initiative was an opportunity for young people to learn about an “epic narrative that continues to shape our world”.
He said: “The fight for freedom and rights and the rule of law is a global story, but one that should be extra special to everyone living in the UK since its origins and dramas – from the freedom to choose our rulers and religion, to equality of opportunity and the right to live without fear of unlawful imprisonment – are so inextricably linked to the history of Britain itself.
“All these, and many other freedoms, are charted in this unique young person’s guide in a highly accessible and visually stunning style which all began when the will of the king was first challenged by 25 barons in the water meadow at Runnymede on 15 June 1215.”
Four copies of the original 1215 charter still exist. Two are held by the British Library, one by Lincoln Cathedral and one in Salisbury Cathedral.
Earlier this year, a 1300 copy of the charter was discovered in the Kent County Council’s archives in Maidstone. It is thought to be worth up to £10 million.
In 2011, former education secretary Michael Gove announced that a copy of the King James Bible would be sent to all schools to mark its 400th anniversary. The scheme was privately funded and the bibles were sent out in 2012.
Magna Carta to Malala: primary schools to receive new ‘freedom’ guide
By Anita Singh, 21 Apr 2015
Click here to read the original article.
Pupils are to learn how sealing of Magna Carta in 1215 continues to shape the world we live in.
Every primary school in Britain is to receive a souvenir copy of Magna Carta and a guide explaining the links between the historic document and such modern freedoms as the end of apartheid, legalisation of same-sex marriage and the Scottish referendum.
The guide, billed as “a young person’s guide to 800 years in the fight for freedom”, is written in the style of a tabloid newspaper in order to make the history lesson easily accessible.
It explains the legacy of Magna Carta, taking in the US declaration of independence, the abolition of slavery, suffragettes and the Civil Rights movement.
More recent events include the Leveson Inquiry, the Arab Spring, St Andrew’s golf club voting to accept women and Malala Yousef winning the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
Edward Snowden’s leak of classified US intelligence documents will be taught alongside news of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and the Church of England’s vote ro ordain women as priests.
The project is being funded through charitable donations to the Magna Carta Trust, which counts the Queen as patron.
The 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta takes place on June 15. The Queen and Duke of Cambridge will attend a commemoration event at the site in Runnymede, Surrey, where the document was sealed.
Sir Robert Worcester, chairman of the Trust’s 800th Anniversary Committee, said this year represents the best opportunity to explain the events of 1215 to primary school children.
He said: “The fight for freedom and rights and the rule of law is a global story, but one that should be extra special to everyone living in the UK since its origins and dramas – from the freedom to choose our rulers and religion to equality of opportunity and the right to live without fear of unlawful imprisonment – are so inextricably linked to the history of Britain itself.
“Freedoms are being eroded faster than they can be won. That’s why it is vital to take the time to step back and look with wonder at what has been achieved over the last 800 years.”
The copy of Magna Carta is a facsimile of the document kept at Salisbury Cathedral, one of only four original copies.
The guide, called the Magna Carta Chronicle, has been written by Christopher Lloyd, who said: “Few people carry an interconnected narrative of the past around in their heads because history has not been taught in schools this way for several generations.
“That’s why important stories such as how we have come to enjoy today’s liberties and freedoms can so easily get lost.”
The Magna Carta Chronicle is published by What On Earth? priced £8.99. To order your copy call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk
The Magna Carta explained
By Telegraph Reporters and PA
21 Apr 2015
Click here to read the original article.
Every primary school in Britain is to receive a souvenir copy of Magna Carta. Here is a Q&A about the document.
The Magna Carta was granted 800 years ago. So what is it, how did it come about, and what does it do today?
• What is Magna Carta?
Magna Carta is an 800-year-old document containing the idea that no-one is above the law, and it still forms the foundation of many modern ideas and documents today.
• What does Magna Carta mean?
It means “Great Charter” in Latin. In fact the whole document is in Latin.
• When and where was Magna Carta granted?
Magna Carta was first drawn up in 1215, granted by King John on June 15 at Runnymede near the River Thames in Surrey. A different version (the one we draw from today) was reissued by John’s son, Henry III, 10 years later in 1225. Magna Carta was finally enrolled on the statute book (meaning it became part of English law) by Edward I in 1297.
• How many of the original Magna Carta documents survive?
King John sent copies of the first Magna Carta across his kingdom – though we are not certain about the actual number. Today only four survive: one in Lincoln Cathedral, one in Salisbury Cathedral, and two in the British Library.
• Why was Magna Carta first written and granted?
Despite what it stands for today, Magna Carta was not written with lofty ideas of justice and liberty in mind. It was originally meant as a peace treaty between King John (of Robin Hood fame) and his barons, with whom he was at war. The barons had captured London and John found himself in a political mess – he needed a quick get-out solution.
• Did Magna Carta achieve its short-term aims of creating peace?
Not at all – in fact it failed spectacularly. Although John agreed to Magna Carta at first, he quickly became bitter when its terms were forced upon him. He wrote to the Pope to get it annulled. The Pope actually happened to agree with John (for once), saying Magna Carta was “illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people”. He then declared the charter “null and void of all validity for ever”.
Full-scale civil war then broke out between John and his barons. It only ended after John’s death from illness in 1216.
• Is it true that King John never “signed” Magna Carta?
Yes, at least not in the way we think of signing. Back in the Middle Ages kings never signed their name on documents to pass them into law. Instead John used his Great Seal to authenticate the document. This subtlety has confused many people over the years. Most recently the Royal Mint has been criticised for the design on its commemorative 800th anniversary £2 coin, which shows John brandishing the document and a quill.
• Why did John’s son reissue Magna Carta?
Henry III came to the throne aged just nine. A few days into his reign, important men around the young king issued a new version of Magna Carta to try to regain the barons’ support. When Henry reached 18 years old he reissued a greatly-revised version in his own name. This 1225 document was granted explicitly in return for a tax payment by the whole kingdom.
• How much of Magna Carta is relevant today?
The original Magna Carta had 63 clauses. A third of this text was either cut or rewritten for the 1225 version. Today, only three of the original 63 clauses remain on the statute books. Of these three survivors one defends the liberties and rights of the English Church, another confirms the liberties and customs of London and other towns, and the third gives all English subjects the right to justice and a fair trial.
There are some very good reasons the other 60 clauses have been dropped. Many are very specific to the Middle Ages – dealing with property ownership, the workings of the justice system, and taxes with no modern equivalent (“scutage” and “socage” anyone?)
Other clauses that we have dispensed with include a law banning fish weirs on rivers, the dismissal of specific individual royal servants, and the standardisation of weights and measures we do not use any more.
• How important is that clause about justice and a fair trial?
It is incredibly important today, but it was buried deep in the original document and made very little splash in 1215. Part of its success is its adaptability to all sorts of situations throughout the centuries.
If you were wondering what the actual text was, here it is (translated into modern English of course):
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell, to no-one deny or delay right or justice.”
That basically means the law belongs to everyone, not just the powerful. It is the bedrock of our society today.
• When has Magna Carta been used throughout the centuries?
In 1265 – just 40 years after Henry III’s final reissuing of Magna Carta – the relationship between the promises made by the king and the granting of taxation paved the way for the first English Parliament.
In the next century, Parliament interpreted Magna Carta as a right to a fair trial for all subjects.
During the Stuart period, and particularly in the English Civil War, Magna Carta was used to restrain the power of monarchs (at a time when monarchs on the continent were supremely powerful).
There are strong influences from Magna Carta in the American Bill of Rights (written in 1791). To this day there is a 1297 copy in the National Archives in Washington DC.
Even more recently, we can see the basic principles of Magna Carta very clearly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – penned in 1948 just after the Second World War.
When King John stuck his seal on that parchment eight centuries ago, he could not possibly have known the magnitude of what he was doing.
April 18, 2015
Why Magna Carta Matters
By Christopher Lloyd
In the Weekend Telegraph, Saturday 18th April 2015
The story of our 800-year struggle for freedom is more important today than ever.
IT WAS ONLY in August last year that the slightly gruff voice of an elderly American gentleman caught me unprepared on the end of my mobile phone.
I was on my way back from giving a lecture at a school in Northamptonshire. My hands-free was playing up. I could hardly make out the words from the crackles, but I got this gist: “It’s Sir Robert Worcester here – I hear you’re the guy who does timelines…..”
So began what has turned into what feels like the most exhilarating, high-speed partnership in the history of publishing.
In just four months, we have conceived, designed, created, written, illustrated and printed the Magna Carta Chronicle – a Young Person’s Guide to 800 years in the Fight for Freedom. The book is published officially on Tuesday this week.
I vaguely remembered Bob, founder of opinion poll company Mori (now IPSUS Mori), from my days at The Sunday Times as Technology Correspondent. That was 25 years ago – now Bob, 82, still behaves as if he is not yet past his peak. Not by a long shot. I have yet to meet anyone half his age with even half his energy, commitment and attention to detail.
So it was with good cause that last year George Osborne appointed Bob to be chairman of a committee charged with donating £1m of public money to causes to help celebrate this year’s 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta by bad King John.
Like me, you may be wondering how and why such generosity can be justified in times of stringent national austerity?
Having immersed myself in the Magna Carta Chronicle project over the last few months, I am convinced that the answer lies in the power and significance of this narrative for young people. The focus of the 800^th anniversary celebrations should be especially important to anyone teaching school children at KS 2 and 3 and for all parents with kids aged between 6 and 15.
For a good part of the 800 years since King John was surrounded by those rebellious barons at Runnymede, Britain’s national identity has been forged by a roller-coaster story concerning the evolution of what we now call freedom and rights.
It is a heart-wrenching tale that involves the forces of mother nature and chance just as much as the heroes, heroines and villains of traditional history.
The saga hits home hardest when you design a timeline. Soon after John’s humiliation, the broad narrative sweep takes in the appalling desolation of the Black Death, quickly followed by the resulting sumptuary laws designed to keep those pesky peasants who survived in check. Then comes Caxton’s subversive printing press, the Reformation, settlements in the New World, the American Declaration of Independence, the French revolution and tempestuous Simon Bolivar liberating the colonies of South America.
Fast on the heels of his horses comes the abolition of slavery, the Chartists, the opening of primary schools and universal suffrage. Finally, following two devastating world wars, the UN issues its declaration of universal human rights – a ‘Magna Carta for the modern age’, homosexuality is decriminalised, the Berlin Wall falls, woman become priests – no, I mean bishops…
As you can see, it’s a story that affects us all from cradle to grave.
The problem is it’s rarely, if ever, told – at least not as an interconnected narrative like this – to children in British primary schools today.
Ever since the time of Henry VIII us British have been brilliant at preaching our idea of liberties and freedom to other nations and cultures. Exporting our views around the world has become a national speciality, be it on the Mayflower, via the Empire or through the play-by-the-rules mentality of our great global sporting contributions: football, rugby and cricket.
But in our rush to preach, we seem to have forgotten – to the drastic cost of the present younger generation – how to tell the story to ourselves. We are still so used to projecting our narrative onto a global stage that the idea of telling it to our children is ironically alien to us.
We shouldn’t be so surprised that most young people in our multi-cultural society have little idea of the narrative of British values, the very essence of what Theresa May harks on about as being critical to the future cohesion of British society.
Freedom of expression, tolerance of alternative opinions, a lack of discrimination, equal opportunities and respect for diversity – all of these are core to the evolved psyche of our nation formed over 800 years. But they are under extreme threat, not least because we have lost the ability to tell the story of how they were fought and won over generations to young people today.
The fault falls mostly to an education system that has been so chopped up and fragmented by educational experts and politicians that telling any giant sweeping cross-curricular narrative over time has become almost impossible.
The snag is that the evolution of our national story cuts across ALL subject areas – from literature (JS Mill) to politics (The Great Reform Bill) and religion (the Reformation) to Technology (Edward Snowden) and Biology (The Black Death) – at the same time history, drama, debating and reading through non-fiction (literacy) course through it all.
Timetables, bells, different teachers for different subjects – they are all anathema to the big interconnected, cross-curricular picture – with the result that pitching to a young mind the fight for freedoms and liberties over the last 800 years is not especially easy or intuitive for many teachers (and parents). As a result our story of the emergence of our values has become lost.
So the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta celebrations may possibly be the best chance we will have to do this for a generation, if not longer.
When King John sealed that parchment in the summer of 1215 no-one could possibly know what history might make of the event. Now, 800 years later, we do. But how are we to tell the story in an engaging way in an age where young people are everything from reluctant readers to conscientious objectors when it comes to the study of history? And most schools are still in a mindset that’s obsessed with fragmenting knowledge into bite size chunks…
I have three suggestions – all of which we have incorporated in to the new official young person’s guide to Magna Carta – The Magna Carta Chronicle – which is published this Tuesday.
The first is to make the story irresistibly and stunningly visual. Wallbook artist Andy Forshaw has created the most beautiful giant fold-out timeline of about 100 key moments from 1215 to 2015. Let’s stick it on every bedroom and classroom wall!
Second, there is something extraordinarily powerful about telling stories from the past in the style of newspaper reportage, as if they happened yesterday. This makes reading non-fiction fun, engaging and relevant. News is the heartbeat of most young people’s online information fix. When seen in print, stories told in this style have more power than ever.
Finally, we must appeal to the innate sense of curiosity in a young person’s mind. A 50-question multiple-choice quiz is designed to unlock conversation between pupils and teachers, children and parents. The idea is that young people challenge adults, even if only to prove how much more they know than their supposedly wiser elders. All the correct answers are hidden somewhere inside the book, of course. There is joy in the discovery of the right answer. A little shot of dopamine goes a long way to creating a lifelong love of learning.
On Tuesday evening this week we will celebrate – at a launch party in central London – the launch of the Magna Carta Chronicle, made possible thanks to the support of the Magna Carta 800th committee.
Its aim will be to help revive the telling of our national story – one that has helped form our modern identify as a tolerant, multi-cultural nation, respective of diversity. It’s as a result of this narrative that we are a people who reasonably expect others who choose to come and live here to abide by our values, above all else expunging intolerance, discrimination and extremism.
That’s why I can’t think of a more important story that needs to be told to our young people today – the 800 years in the fight for freedom from 1215 to 2015.
And to think that if Bob hadn’t made that crackly telephone call just a few months ago, I may never have realised myself quite how much celebrating Magna Carta matters.
April 16, 2015
The Queen to attend Magna Carta 800th Anniversary event
16th April 2015
Surrey News – click here to read the article as it appeared on the site.
Her Majesty The Queen will mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta at the site in Runnymede where the historic document was sealed.
Accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty will attend a commemoration event at Runnymede Meadows on 15 June.
The Duke of Cambridge, The Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence will also be present.
Details of the event, which is being organised by Surrey County Council and the National Trust, are being finalised.
It is expected to include speeches, music and art together with a rededication of the American Bar Association’s Magna Carta Memorial.
Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for Community Services Helyn Clack said: “This anniversary will be an occasion of immense local, national and international importance so it is fitting that The Queen and other members of The Royal Family will help to celebrate it in the county that gave Magna Carta to the world.
“It will be a delight and honour to welcome them all to the site where history was made 800 years ago and I have no doubt that they will ensure the Runnymede event will be the jewel in the crown of the celebrations here and across the globe.”
Sealed by King John at Runnymede in 1215, Magna Carta is considered one of the first steps towards modern democracy.
The Queen is patron of the Magna Carta Trust for the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.
April 14, 2015
At 800 And Aging Well, The Magna Carta Is Still A Big Draw
Ari Shapiro, NPR, 13th April 2015.
Click here to read the full article.
The British Library is now showing original manuscripts of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, the first time they’ve come to the United Kingdom.
But those documents are not the main event at this exhibition. It’s the Magna Carta, issued by King John in 1215 — more than 500 years before the American documents, as library curator Julian Harrison notes.
This exhibit, “Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy,” is all part of an effort to show how the English document shaped today’s world. The publicity describes this as a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. And for once, that does not seem like exaggeration.
The British Library is displaying two original copies of the Magna Carta. Harrison can recite the key passage of the text by heart — translated into modern English from the original Latin:
“No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned save by the lawful judgment of their 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.”
In 1215, it was revolutionary for a king to say that not even he was above the law.
Of course, King John did not actually want to issue this document. He was at war with English barons; they gave him no choice. Then the king went behind their backs and secretly wrote a letter to Pope Innocent III, saying, “I have been forced to sign this awful thing!”
“What people often don’t realize is that Magna Carta itself was only valid for 10 weeks,” Harrison says.
The pope responded with a letter known as a “papal bull,” which is also on display.
“The pope says, ‘I declare the charter to be null and void of all validity forever,” Harrison says.
And yet the document became the foundation of the modern judicial system.
“It’s incredible, isn’t it?” adds Harrison.
This exhibition includes videos where modern-day leaders describe the Magna Carta’s relevance. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer talks about what it means for today’s court rulings.
“The tradition of not imprisoning people without an ability to go to court and show that it’s arbitrary is something that long predates our own Constitution, and that we were picking up a tradition that Magna Carta exemplifies, and the strength of that tradition lies in its history,” Breyer says.
Finally, Harrison, the curator, leads me into the room where two of the original Magna Carta manuscripts are on display. One is illegible; it was nearly destroyed in a fire. The other is clearly written in Latin calligraphy on a sheepskin parchment. It’s a single page, and the writing is tiny.
“The scribe, we estimate, would have taken at least eight hours to write it out. There’s actually part of the manuscript, he actually missed one of the clauses, and he adds it at the bottom of the document,” Harrison says.
People are coming from all over the world to see the most successful exhibition the British Library has ever mounted. It continues through the end of August.
Visitor Jill Murdoch, from central England, says there’s something special about laying eyes on the original artifact.
“The idea that comes to mind is you can go online and look at a picture of an elephant or a giraffe, but there’s nothing like going to Africa and actually seeing one wild,” she says. “So to see the actual document that it was written on in 12-hundred and something is extraordinary. It’s an extraordinary experience.”
April 1, 2015
Lincoln Castle reopens after £22m refurbishment
The BBC, Wednesday 1st April.
Lincoln Castle has re-opened following a £22m renovation.
The work, which has taken four years, has seen a vault built to house one of the original copies of the Magna Carta, ready for its 800th anniversary in June.
A new wall walk has been installed and the Victorian prison will also reopen to visitors.
The work was funded by Lincolnshire County Council, Heritage Lottery money and private donations.
The high-security underground vault will house the 1215 Magna Carta, alongside an original copy of the Charter of the Forest, which was signed two years later.
Castle manager Rachael Thomas said the Lincoln Castle Revealed project has given the document “the home it deserves”.
“Not only is Magna Carta a cornerstone of our justice system, but it has served as an inspiration to other nations around the globe,” she said.
The county council, which runs the castle, said it hopes the vault will make the castle an attraction for international visitors.
Built by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century, it has been closed for the last three months while finishing touches were made to the refurbishment work.
Work was disrupted when a Saxon skeleton was found in 2013 and more recently when adaptations had to be found to accommodate bats on the site.
Cash for the improvements came from the council, Heritage Lottery Fund, European Regional Development Fund, David Ross Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and private donations.
March 22, 2015
Magna Carta, Tunis and why tourists are still a soft but effective target
The Independent, Friday 20th March 2015
Click here to read the article as it appeared in The Independent
Last Wednesday morning I had the good fortune to visit Salisbury Cathedral, which is making much of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. Over the centuries, the cathedral has cared well for its copy of King John’s “Great Charter” of rights under the law, and it is arguably the best version of the four originals that still exist. To mark the anniversary, the twin virtues of human rights and tourism are elegantly combined in an exhibition that draws you through the Cloister to the Chapter House – the loftily spiritual home for this powerful document.
The exhibition tells of a struggle for liberty that began at Runnymede (now uncomfortably close to Heathrow) and still underpins the concept of human rights in the 21st century. This accord between the King and his barons also enshrines the principle of free movement: “In future it shall be lawful for any man to leave and return to our kingdom unharmed and without fear.”
Looking at visitors’ comments in Salisbury, I was taken by one response which read: “The world has never been safer. Have no fear.” British travellers tend to take our own human rights for granted, and these days a “great charter” is a fully laden wide-bodied jet going to Alicante.
But only one hour later, and 1,500 miles to the south, the wanton slaughter of innocents had begun in Tunis, at the 200-year-old palace resting on ancient foundations. A museum became the venue for a massacre by evil-doers seeking to bludgeon the 21st-century world back to the Middle Ages.
The 22 deaths at the Bardo Museum represent only a tiny proportion of the dreadful carnage prevailing in much of North Africa and the Middle East. But for grieving families, each is an unimaginable loss. And for the people of Tunisia, who depend on tourism, life is going to get a whole lot harder. Holiday-makers are the softest of targets, but attacking them is the fast track to destabilising any nation dependent on tourism.
The Shining Path led the way in Peru in the 1980s; the very threat that Machu Picchu visitors were a legitimate target for the Maoist guerrillas wrecked the tourist industry there. Then, in the 1990s, terrorists in Egypt adopted the strategy – most bloodily in 1997 when 62 people were killed at Luxor. Four years ago, the Argana Café in the Marrakech tourist hub of Djemaa el-Fna was bombed with the loss of 19 lives. Now it is the turn of Tunisia.
I would happily return to any or all of those places in a heartbeat; a rational assessment of risk indicates overwhelming odds in favour of a safe, rewarding experience. But I can understand anxieties about travel to North Africa.
So, where do we go from here? Some travel organisations have a blunt, immediate response: anywhere but Tunisia and its neighbours. Cruise lines can easily bypass ports that they perceive as risky, and turn off the tap of wealth that trickles in with a big ship. Package holiday companies have more complicated business models, with commitments to hotels and fleets of aircraft to deploy. But, as Thomson showed when it abruptly cancelled its entire programme to Kenya last year, the perception of danger can wipe out thousands of holidays and the benefits they bring to host communities.
If tourism in North Africa was not already looking bleak, Egypt has now decided to toughen up its visa regime for anyone with the temerity to venture beyond the mass-market Sinai peninsula.
The Arab Spring first blossomed in Tunisia in 2011, but was contaminated as it spread across North Africa. Last week, the boss of Kuoni, Derek Jones, summed up the scale of the slump in Egypt. “Cairo and Luxor were a big percentage of our business five years ago,” he told the TTG Industry Leaders Forum. And how much do they constitute now? “Zero.”
At present, Egyptian immigration bureaucracy is trivial for most visitors. It’s a two-class system. If you are going no further than Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab or Taba on the Red Sea, you are welcomed in, free of charge so long as your passport has at least six months to run. Everyone else can buy a “visa” – really just a revenue-raising stamp for your passport – which you can obtain without fuss.
From 15 May, it becomes a three-class system. The sunseekers of Sharm continue to get an exemption for stays up to a fortnight – which covers the vast majority of holidaymakers there. Groups of tourists booked through Egyptian travel agents can also whizz through immigration. The rest of us – typically independent travellers and business people – must apply in advance to the local Egyptian Consulate for permission, with payment only in Postal Orders or cash (and “no Scottish notes” the London Consulate helpfully points out).
Anything that entangles a journey in red tape and constricts the freedom to travel is a retreat from an open, generous world. And to stifle visitor numbers is to play into the hands of those who want to deny the joy of 21st-century travel.
To try to get some perspective in the aftermath of this latest, wretched atrocity, consider the memorial to the 191 victims of the Madrid train bombings, carried out 11 years ago this month. You can find this shrine to lost loves on the concourse at the Atocha railway station in the Spanish capital.
“No fear, no revenge, just peace,” insists an inscription. “Let happiness come to our hearts again.”
Hopeless optimism? Perhaps, but hope is at the heart of every journey.
March 19, 2015
Magna Carta: Lincoln gets ready for its close-up
The Telegraph Travel, 19th March
Having toured the world, Lincoln’s Magna Carta is finally coming to rest in a dramatic new setting which will open next month. Sophie Campbell visits ahead of the fanfare.
There are conditions attached; there always are with a superstar. In the case of Lincoln’s Magna Carta, these include temperature (maximum 22C), humidity (40 per cent) and its own personal bodyguard in the form of Chris Woods, the director of the National Conservation Service, who has to be there if it is handled. Like many celebrities, it lives in a vacuum (well almost) and hates light.
As we know, this year is a big one for the four surviving versions of the charter that resulted from King John’s fractious meeting with his barons at Runnymede in 1215. There are new exhibitions at Salisbury Cathedral, which owns one, and the British Library, which owns two. All four documents starred in a February “Unification” event for bigwigs, scholars and 1,250 lucky members of the public.
But Lincoln’s Magna Carta is to the others what Diana Ross is to the Supremes. Not so much for its quality, although it has finely justified calligraphy and holes for a diamond-shaped seal.
No, Lincoln is the only Magna Carta that tours like a diva. London, St Albans, America (twice), Australia. At the end of its triumphant 2014 tour of America, it flew back on an Airbus 380 with its own bed.
Faced with a star of this magnitude, what could Lincolnshire County Council do but build it a dedicated vault, within the walls of Lincoln’s Norman castle and under the gaze of its actual owner, next-door Lincoln Cathedral?
“We started talking about it 10 years ago,” said Mary Powell, who works in tourism for the council and has led on the project from the start. “And of course we thought ahead to 2015, but the castle was also in a terrible state of repair.”
Now here we were on the Wall Walk, high above the six-acre castle bailey. Sections were open before, but it’s now a full circuit and, along with the Vault, is part of the £22 million “Lincoln Castle Revealed” project opening on April 1.
This is the highest point of the Lincoln Edge, carefully chosen by the Norman invaders, and far below farmland stretched away into haze. To one side of us was the cathedral, golden in the light. On the other, within the bailey, a vertical cylinder of trendily rusted steel held a new lift shaft that opens up the wall to wheelchair users. While digging its foundations, workmen found 10 Saxon burials, including a male skeleton in a sarcophagus, and below that Roman remains, possibly from the fort that once ran from the hilltop all the way down to the River Witham.
Beyond this lay two former prisons, one Georgian, one Victorian, and between them the semi-circular roof of the Magna Carta Vault. To the west were the National Skills Centre, housing workshops for “dirty” skills such as masonry and “clean” skills such as textiles, and Lincoln Crown Court.
At ground level, the castle has been opened up so that Lincoln residents can walk through as they cross the city, visiting the café or shop. Paying visitors can access the Wall Walk and the restored prisons, as well as the Vault.
Everything smelled of paint that day. The shop was being stocked, the café – in the room that once housed Magna Carta – was yet to serve any food, and in the prison chapel council employees were experimenting with dummy heads.
I can’t get that image out of my mind. The Victorian prison briefly adopted the “separate system”, the idea being to isolate prisoners, one man per cell, and tall walls divided the exercise yard into cake slices of space, one man per slice. As they filed into head-height chapel pews, each closed a partition behind him, so he was standing in a coffin-shaped space, blind to everything but the preacher. The preacher looked out over a sea of disembodied heads; hence the dummies.
The rest was what you might call “Porridge Vernacular”, with metal walkways and an upper landing. Cells contained displays on prison life and the smaller female wing was partly dedicated to archaeological finds, including the Saxon sarcophagus. A glass floor revealed the basement, converted for use by school groups so that children can dress up and lock themselves (temporarily) in cells.
And so to the vault, which was crawling with busy men in hard hats and hi-vis vests. “Ten years and we’re still going right to the wire,” said Mary wryly, “but you know, all the guys working here are so, so proud of what they’ve done.”
I’m not surprised. The Vault and auditorium were of superb quality, with polished-concrete walls and stairs curving down around the lift shaft to a 210-degree floor-to-ceiling video installation, setting the document in context. A double-height wall showed the entire text of Magna Carta, translated from Latin into English, with the key clauses – the only ones, please note, to have survived in modern legislation – picked out in gold.
The vault itself was the size of a small truck. The first part was polished concrete and the second – the inner sanctum – womb-like terracotta. All was dim. All was quiet. Magna Carta was not there.
Of course it wasn’t. It was recovering from the rigours of the Unification Tour, relaxing in the Lincolnshire Archives, and will appear just in time for the opening. Meanwhile there were three holes in the floor awaiting display cases from Italy: turns out it will share its space with a 1217 Charter of the Forest – almost an appendix – and in front of them will sit the warm-up act, a visiting document that will change every few months. The first will be a “John Charter” from 1213, awarding liberties and freedoms to Lincoln Cathedral.
I barely scratched the surface in Lincoln. There was a stupendous cathedral roof tour, where the guide’s torchlight picked up Norman tunnels disappearing inside the walls, roof spaces bristling with thousand-year-old oak beams, and views on to unwitting visitors in the nave and transepts below. There was the Exchequer Gate, leading to the market square, where Magna Carta may well have been kept in the cathedral archives (it’s said to have hung on the wall for years).
It seems to me that Magna Carta Bagging makes the perfect jaunt, travelling between Lincoln and Salisbury via London, seeing all four documents in situ and in style. The Supremes of early medieval history would expect no less.
Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall visit 1297 Magna Carta & US memorials
The BBC, 19th March 2015
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have visited monuments to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr as part of their trip to the US.
They were joined by figures from the American civil rights movement, Jesse Jackson and Congressman John Lewis.
Later, speaking at an environmental conference, the prince called on governments and businesses to end the dumping of plastics into the oceans.
The couple will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday.
The couple – who arrived in Washington DC for their three-day visit on Tuesday – were given a guided tour of the Lincoln Memorial sculpture, pausing at the spot where Dr King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963.
At Dr King’s nearby memorial, they met Rev Jackson and Congressman Lewis, who helped organise the famous civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 – dramatised in the recent movie Selma.
The prince and duchess were also given a tour of Mount Vernon – home of America’s first president, George Washington.
The duchess also paid a visit to Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre Company.
Prince Charles also visited the National Archives, where he viewed the United States’ Charters of Freedom and the 1297 version of the Magna Carta.
He later told leading delegates to an environmental conference on marine waste of his concerns about the “increasing quantity of plastic waste” in oceans.
He said he had been “haunted” by images of seabirds found dead after mistakenly eating plastic, and called for better recycling and disposal of plastics.
The solution to problems caused by a “throw-away society” was to move towards a circular economy, where “materials are recovered, recycled and reused instead of created, used and then thrown away”, he said.
March 12, 2015
Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, British Library, review: ‘rich and authoritative’
The Telegraph, 12th March 2015
By Sameer Rahim.
Click here to read this article on The Telegraph.
‘On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a rich and authoritative new exhibition at the British Library explores how the original treaty came to be written and its enormous political legacy. Bringing together two original manuscripts from 1215, plus an early draft and later iterations, the show is a feast for anyone with an interest in medieval history or how the freedoms we cherish were devised and defended.
King John, having lost much of his territory in Northern France, taxed his wealthy subjects severely. The barons were powerful enough to force him to the negotiating table, and in 1215 they agreed the “Carta de Ronemede”. Its 63 clauses covered many issues, from the right to claim inheritance unhindered to fishing in the Thames. Though many are now obsolete, these rulings showed that the king could not pass laws without consulting those whom they affected. Clauses 39 and 40 – which guarantee the right to a fair and speedy trial – are still in force today.
The first half of this exhibition tells this fascinating story with exceptional clarity. There are many beautiful illuminated medieval manuscripts as well as lovely scene-setting objects, including the magnificent Savernake hunting horn made from ivory and silver. (John loved hunting.) Looking at the copies of the Magna Carta side by side you see how its status was gradually elevated. A 1216 manuscript is on a single sheet with cramped writing, while later versions are more elaborately presented on larger sheets and in a smoother hand.
In the second half, it tells the equally significant story of how Magna Carta has been interpreted over the centuries. During the English Civil War, Magna Carta became iconic. Later, it inspired Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (his personal copy is on display here) and Nelson Mandela. As Lord Bingham wrote: “The significance of Magna Carta lay not only in what it actually said, but in what later generations claimed and believed it has said.”
The curators – mindful perhaps of visiting schoolchildren – have done an excellent job with the visual multimedia. You can watch a video of Bill Clinton extolling Magna Carta or a recent Horrible Histories sketch in which the barons and King John face off in a competitive rap. Yet nothing can match the thrill of looking at the first copy of Magna Carta, and wondering what John and the barons would think if they could know that their patched-together treaty had become the bedrock of the nation’s constitution – and an inspiration to those fighting tyranny all over the world.
Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy is at the British Library from March 13 to September 1 (Tickets: 01937 546546; bl.uk)’
March 11, 2015
Churchill plan to give Magna Carta copy to US revealed at new British Library exhibition
The BBC, 11 March 2015.
Churchill planned to give the US the Lincoln Cathedral copy of the Magna Carta – seen here with the four surviving original copies, which were brought together for the first time in February to launch the exhibition. Two are included in the new British Library exhibition
Government papers revealing Churchill’s part in the bid to boost US support are on display at the British Library.
Also on display for the first time in the UK are the US Declaration of Independence and the US Bill of Rights, alongside two Magna Carta manuscripts.
Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy marks the manuscript’s 800th anniversary.
Magna Carta, authorised on 15 June 1215, is considered one of the first steps towards parliamentary democracy. It included the principle that no one was above the law, including the King.
As World War Two broke out, one of the original copies was stranded in America, following its display at a trade fair in New York.
Foreign Office papers now on display at the British Library show the Cabinet contemplated giving the manuscript to the United States as a gift, describing it as “the only really adequate gesture which it is in our power to make in return for the means to preserve our country.”
Winston Churchill had added handwritten comments in favour of the proposal but it fell through as the Magna Carta was not the government’s to give away.
It actually belonged to Lincoln Cathedral and for the rest of the war it was guarded at Fort Knox before being returned in 1946.
More than 200 items are on display in Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.
They include King John’s teeth and thumb bone and 800 year old clothes and crozier belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Archbishop Walter.
The exhibition also includes two molars and a thumb bone (above) belonging to medieval monarch King John, who granted the charter of the Magna Carta. They are on display alongside his original will and fragments of clothing taken from the King’s tomb in 1797, when it was opened to verify that the King was buried there.
Prominent politicians, historians and public figures including Aung San Suu Kyi, Bill Clinton and William Hague have given interviews on what Magna Carta means today, which will feature in the exhibition, alongside a recent Horrible Histories Magna Carta ‘rap battle’ between King John and the Barons.
Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy opens on Friday 13 March and runs until 1 September 2015 at the British Library. Click here for more information.
March 9, 2015
A Magna Carta for Ethiopia?
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam, A Magna Carta for Ethiopia?, in Open Salon, 1st March, California State University, San Bernardino, CA., USA.
I am celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta Libertatum or the Great Charter of English Liberties.
Whoa! Hold it! I understand your question!
Why is a guy born in Africa (Ethiopia) now living in America celebrating a document written by a bunch of disgruntled and rebellious English barons quarrelling with a feudal monarch over taxes and restoration of their feudal privileges in Medieval England 800 years ago?
No, I do not like feudalism or monarchies. I grew up in feudal Ethiopia. I saw wretchedness, decadence and decay. The first government I ever knew was a monarchy. A swift stroke of the socialist sickle put that monarchy to eternal rest. For me, feudalism and monarchies are quaint anachronisms. I recall reading Karl Marx describing feudalism as the cradle of capitalism. In 1974, the impetuous and feckless junior officers in the Ethiopian military thought they could make a beeline to socialism from feudalism on the wings of martial law.
I am certainly not celebrating the Magna Carta because King John was a philosopher king. John was the consummate scoundrel. He was treacherous, traitorous, greedy and cruel. John was the kind of royal villain who “can smile as he murdered”. They said, “Hell itself is defiled by the fouler presence of King John.”
John was a vindictive tyrant. He arrested, detained and jailed his subjects at will. He exacted outrageous taxes to fill his coffers, sate his greed and wage war so he could enrich himself even more. His “scutage” tax (payment by a feudal landowner to be excused from military service or provide a knight) on the barons and “amercements” (fines) were elaborate extortion schemes.
John was so greedy that he dispossessed his subjects of their land, horses, carts, corn and wood without legal process. He used the Royal Forests as a major source of revenue and made it the citadel of corruption in his reign. He literally sold justice. Since the royal system of justice had complete jurisdiction over all matters in the kingdom, litigants were required to pay the monarch fees. Depending on the state of his cash flow at a particular moment, John would regularly sell legal rights and privileges to the highest bidder. John surrounded himself with mercenary thugs who fought his wars. He meddled in the affairs of religion. He was a power hungry power monger.
If my description of King John sounds like the average African dictator or thugtator of the 21st Century, the similarities are not that far-fetched. Today, from one end of Africa to the other, African dictator’s arrest, jail, harass and intimidate their opposition at will. African dictators use their kangaroo courts to persecute their opponents, subvert justice and even sell it to the highest bidder out in the open. They dispossess their poorest citizens of their forested ancestral lands, and hand over millions of hectares to foreign “investors” literally for pennies, which in turn burn down the forests to establish their commercial farms. They massacre their citizens who oppose them without raising arms. They jail, torture and exile their political opposition. They steal hundreds of millions of dollars from their people every year and fatten their foreign bank accounts. They meddle in religion and promote communal strife to cling to power. They are warmongers visiting death and destruction on their people. They commit crimes against humanity and genocide. At least two African “heads of state” have been indicted by the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court. Like King John, African dictators “can smile as they murder” but they can also murder as they smile. ‘Tis true, Hell itself is defiled by the fouler presence of African dictators and thugtators.
Why am I celebrating the English Magna Carta?
To answer my own question, I have to go back some fifty years when I was a teenager in Ethiopia. I was a bookish type. I was very fortunate to have access to the great works of world literature and philosophy. I was quite familiar with the American literati of the 1960s. I also read popular works of fiction in Amharic.
I was most fascinated by the law. From a very young age, I was exposed to the world of litigation. I tagged along to observe court proceedings in the high courts in Addis Ababa and other courts in outlying areas. I remember vividly the legal scribes sitting under makeshift kiosks on the side streets outside the court compounds cranking out pleadings in exquisite Amharic penmanship with a Bic ballpoint pen. I enjoyed listening to silver-tongued lawyers and discerning judges talking and arguing points of law, particularly procedure, and not just in the courtroom. The eloquence of diction, cogency of arguments and spellbinding oratory of some of the lawyers and the razor sharp questions and incisive wit of the judges back then left a lifelong impression on me. They were great role models for me.
I read the Ethiopian Penal and Civil Codes in Amharic in bits and pieces, especially after listening to the lawyers and judges arguing about them. I especially liked criminal and civil procedure (sine sirat). The civil procedure code (Fitha Beher) was less than 245 pages bound in a small volume. The criminal procedure code was a mere 69 pages appended to the penal code. Neither was hard reading at all.
I was most fascinated by legal arguments over violations of procedural rules. Did the police investigate the alleged crime the right way? Was the arrest made on probable cause? Did the police preserve the evidence properly? Were the documents presented in a civil case properly authenticated? Is there sufficient basis to grant an injunction (Mageja)?
I still have my original collection of Ethiopian Codes to this day, one-half century later (see picture above). I now know that the criminal and civil procedural rules in the Codes were highly advanced even by today’s standards. True, oxidative degradation (aging) has taken a toll on my one-half century volumes. The paper is turning yellow and the glue on the spine of those volumes dried out and separated long ago; but I still peruse the Codes from time to time to marvel at how modern and advanced those procedures were.
Thirty years later, I had my chance to stand up for one of the greatest procedural protections of the American people in the California Supreme Court, the right against self-incrimination guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As I walked the steps of that Court in Sacramento, CA for oral argument, I looked up at the imposing Ionic columns and for a brief moment remembered the great lawyers and judges in my childhood, and I smiled.
There was also H.I.M. Haile Selassie’s 1955 Revised Ethiopian Constitution. I never witnessed a constitutional argument in any case I observed in court, or any discussion of it outside of court. I occasionally heard learned judges and lawyers referring to “The Constitution” (Hige Mengist) from time to time, but none of their discussions registered or resonated in my mind.
As I studied that Constitution over the years, I became fascinated by the uncanny similarity of Chapter III to the American Bill of Rights. Chapter III could be described as the “Ethiopian Bill of Rights”. H.I.M. Haile Selassie’s adoption of such broad liberties for his subjects even in principle testifies to some irrepressible modernizing impulse he cherished at the core of his extreme political conservatism as a monarch. Yet, few enjoyed those constitutional liberties. Like most monarchs in history, H.I.M. outlived his usefulness.
I would wager to say Chapter III of the 1955 Revised Constitution of Ethiopia, with a few exceptions, is a virtual carbon copy of the American Bill of Rights and other amendments to the U.S. Constitution:
No one shall be denied the equal protection of the laws… No one within the Empire may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law… No one may be deprived of his property except… by judicial procedures established by law… Ethiopian subjects shall have the right to assemble peaceably… No one may be arrested without a warrant issued by a court… Every arrested person shall be brought before the judicial authority within forty-eight hours of his arrest… In all criminal prosecutions the accused… shall have the right to a speedy trial and to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process… for obtaining witnesses in his favor at the expense of the Government and to have the assistance of a counsel for his defense [at government expense]. (It was not until 1963 that poor defendants in the United States got the right to government-appointed counsel in state criminal prosecutions, 8 years after it was guaranteed in the Imperial Constitution.) No person accused of and arrested for a crime shall be presumed guilty until so proved…. No one shall be punished twice for the same offence… No one shall be subjected to cruel and inhuman punishment… All persons and all private domiciles shall be exempt from unlawful searches and seizures… no one shall have the right to bring suit against the Emperor… No one within the Empire may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law… The present revised Constitution… shall be the supreme law of the Empire…
The 1994 Ethiopian Constitution of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) is equally beneficent in words with its grant of liberties and freedoms. Under Chapter III “HUMAN RIGHTS” are listed the following liberties which virtually replicate the American Bill of Rights:
No one shall be deprived of his liberty except in accordance with such procedures as are laid down by law…. arrested or detained without being charged or convicted of a crime except in accordance with [due process]… Everyone shall have the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Anyone arrested on criminal charges shall have the right to be informed promptly and in detail… of the nature and cause of the charge against him. Everyone shall have the right to keep silent and be warned promptly [and] that any statement he may make may be used in evidence against him. Everyone shall have the right to be brought before a court of law within 48 hours after his arrest. Everyone shall be entitled to an inalienable right of habeas corpus… Anyone arrested shall have the right to be released on bail. Everyone charged with an offence shall be entitled to a public hearing before an ordinary court of law without undue delay… Everyone charged with an offence shall be adequately informed in writing of the charges brought against him. Everyone charged with an offence shall have the right to defend himself through legal assistance of his own choosing and to have free legal assistance assigned to him by the government… [The] Constitution is the supreme law of the land….
The TPLF copied and pasted much of the American Bill of Rights into its constitution and promptly shredded it into pieces.
Where did H.I.M. Haile Selassie get his ideas about civil liberties and personal freedoms in the 1955 Revised Ethiopian Constitution?
Where did the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front get its ideas about civil liberties and personal freedoms in its 1994 Constitution?
There is no question that H.I.M. Haile Selassie adopted the bulk of the American Bill of Rights right down to the phraseology as highlighted above.
There is also no question the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front got its ideas about civil liberties and personal freedoms from the 1955 Revised Ethiopian Constitution.
So, the $64 thousand dollar question is: Where did the Americans get many of their ideas about important individual liberties and freedoms?
They got it from the Magna Carta. The enumerated liberties in the American Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution) dealing with freedom of petition (1st amendment), due process of law (5th and 14th amendments) which covers a whole slew of individual liberties, taking and just compensation (5th amendment), neutral magistrate (4th amendment), no excessive bails and fines (8th amendment), speedy public trials, confrontation of accusers, jury trial and impartial jury (6th amendment), supreme law of the land (Art. VI), writ of habeas corpus (Article I, Section IX), as well as freedom of travel and of privacy and other rights have their origins in the Magna Carta.
There lies my answer to my question. I am celebrating the Magna Carta because a good part our DNA for constitutional liberties and freedoms as Ethiopians trace its lineage to the Magna Carta. This fact may come as a surprise to some; but it is undeniable that the genotype of Ethiopian constitutional liberties carries with it the inherited instructions of the genetic code of the Magna Carta. However, I do not believe that heritage or lineage is unique to Ethiopia. The phenotype of every modern constitution that aspires and pledges to protect individual liberties may be different, but all can trace their genotypes directly to the Magna Carta.
What is Magna Carta?
The Magna Carta was the first legal document drafted by the ruled and imposed on the rulers. It is the first bold effort by the ruled to subjugate their rulers to the rule of law. It is the first effort undertaken to create a binding political contract between the rulers and the ruled, with the ruled writing the rules and securing for themselves and their posterity specific written guarantees of liberties and property protections. Of course, the document was tailored for English baron of freeholders against the exercise of royal arbitrary power.
There have been great legal codes before the Magna Carta beginning with the Ten Commandments. The Code of Justinian assembled collections of laws and legal interpretations of the Roman jurists. The Romans also made the law accessible to the plebeians by recording it in the Twelve Tables and posting it in the Roman Forum so that the plebeians are aware of their rights and protect themselves against abuse of power by the patricians. Solon’s Laws aimed to resolve conflict between the landed aristocracy and peasantry in ancient Athens. Solon’s Laws made it possible for any Athenian, not just a wronged party, to initiate a lawsuit. It also established an appellate process for review of the decisions of the magistrates to a court of the citizens at large. The Hammurabic Code of ancient Babylon consisted of 282 laws dealing with a whole range of issues including household and family matters, civil liability and even military service. That Code is today remembered for its draconian punishment of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.
None of the legal documents preceding the Magna Carta were predicated on the principle of the rule of law. None of the laws originated in the sovereignty of the common people nor were they enacted with their consent. The common people had little say in the making of the laws that were imposed upon them. They were expected to obey and follow the laws and live out their miserable lives in quiet desperation. The commoners never dared to impose limits on the powers of their rulers.
Prior to the Magna Carta, King John and his royal predecessors had ruled using the principle of vis et voluntas (“force and will”). John did whatever he wanted because he believed as the king he was above the law and accountable to no earthly power (save perhaps the Holy See). It was a generally accepted fact of medieval English politics that English monarchs should rule in accordance with the prevailing social customs and the common law (judgment and decrees of the courts) aided by the able counsel of the leading members of the kingdom. John’s predecessor Henry II in fact had introduced functional legal procedures which provided protections against deprivation of property without legal process.
The question was what to do if the king disregarded his own laws, the laws of his predecessors, ignored custom and simply refused to be bound by a judicial decree or anything else?
Such was the problem the barons had with King John in the years preceding 1215. John was dismissive and oppressive of the barons. He waged war on them. He sent bailiffs to jail them without evidence or proof of wrongdoing. He demanded feudal payments and taxes from them. He refused to comply with his own laws and shunned the existing legal process.
The barons wanted restraints on John’s arbitrary powers. They wanted him to abide by his own laws and the customs of the land. In June 1215, a group of angry armed barons showed up at Runnymede, a water-meadow alongside the River Thames, not far from London to “discuss” their grievances with King John. They were actually there to deliver an ultimatum to John: Stop your tyrannical ways or prepare to deal with a rebellion and most likely civil war.
John was in no position to negotiate. He had recently suffered an ignominious defeat following his invasion of France. The barons bore the financial burdens of paying for John’s mercenary army by paying “scutage”. They had no interest in John’s feud with the French king and would not support him. John had lashed out against the barons for their refusal to support his military adventures. John’s negotiating position had also been weakened by his ongoing problems with Pope Innocent III in Rome as early as 1208. His attempts to interfere in the appointment of bishops and meddle in the church’s financial affairs earned him a papal excommunication in 1209.
The rebellious barons who showed up at Runnymede in June 1215 were not happy campers. A month earlier, they had taken control of London and felt they had a strong negotiating hand. They had their Articles of the Barons drafted and all they needed was John’s signature. There was not much left for John to wheel and deal. The “negotiations” concluded on June 15, 1215 when King John reluctantly affixed his royal seal on the Magna Carta. John averted a civil war and made peace with his rebellious barons and regained their allegiance.
Although John signed the Magna Carta, he had no intention of upholding its terms despite his express agreement to do so “in good faith and without any evil intention” (Cl. 63).
Within weeks, the Magna Carta agreement was unravelling. John was particularly bothered by the provision dealing with implementation of the Magna Carta. He found clause 61, the security clause, particularly odious. In that clause, he felt he had given away the royal store of power. He had conceded that “the barons shall choose any twenty-five barons of the realm as they wish, who with all their might are to observe, maintain and cause to be observed the peace and liberties which we have granted”. He had effectively brought himself under baronial supervision and monitoring. Clause 61 was a clever move by the barons because they knew John was a snake in the grass.
John did not disappoint. He sent messengers to the Pope in the summer of 1215 requesting annulment of the Magna Carta. The barons struck back by refusing to give up the city of London unless and until John implemented the Magna Carta. In August 1215, Pope Innocent III issued a “papal bull” (an official letter with a seal “bulla”) declaring the Magna Carta “illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people”, and “null and void of all validity forever”.
In September 1215, civil war broke out between King John and his barons. As usual, John enlisted his army of mercenaries to fight the barons. The barons in turn invited the heir to the French throne to come and become king. The French invaded England in 1216. John died of dysentery during that war.
Henry III succeeded John to the throne at age 9. In November 1216, a revised version of the Magna Carta was issued to regain the loyalty and support of the barons. In 1217, yet another version of the Magna Carta was granted after the expulsion of the French. When Henry reached the age of 18, he issued a significantly revised version which was enrolled on the statute book by King Edward I in 1297.
What is in the Magna Carta of 1215?
The Magna Carta is a document of extraordinary insight, foresight and breadth in terms of its articulation of “English liberties.”
It covers a variety of issues ranging from methods of lodging specific grievances regarding land ownership to the regulation of the justice system, taxes (“scutage” and “socage” [periodic payments for using land], and removal of fish from various rivers and standardization of various weights and measures and so on.
The most notable clauses (Cl.) of the Magna Carta spell out the nature of “English liberties” and resonate to the present day through multitudes of modern constitutions and international human rights treaties and conventions.
In the 1215 Magna Carta, King John agreed to recognize and accept a whole slew of liberties guaranteed to his subjects (barons) that are stunning by the standards of any age. Specifically, he agreed to
• observe the Charter and the liberties set forth therein of his “own free will with good faith and [to bind his] heirs forever” (Cl.1);
• impose “no scutage (taxes) unless by the common council of our kingdom (Cl. 12);
• that “Common Pleas [ordinary lawsuits] [so that they] shall not follow our court, but shall be held in a fixed place” (Cl. 17);
• exempt “A free-man [from being] amerced [given an arbitrary fine] for a small offence… (Cl. 20);
• prohibit his “sheriffs, constables, coroners, [and] bailiffs [from] holding
• pleas of [which should be dealt with by] our Crown” (Cl. 24);
• prohibit his “constables and bailiffs [from] taking the corn or other goods of any one, without instantly paying money for them” (Cl. 28); or “tak[ing] the horses or carts of any free-man without the consent of the said free-man (Cl. 29); or “tak[ing] another man’s wood, for our castles or other uses” (Cl. 31);
• terminate use of the ‘writ of præcipe [order to show cause] by which a free-man may lose his court [right of trial in his own lord’s court]” (Cl. 34).
• prohibit the practice in which a “ bailiff shall put any man to his law, upon his own simple affirmation, without credible witnesses produced for that purpose” (Cl. 38);
• stop the practice of “seizing, imprisoning, dispossessing, outlawing, condemning or committing to prison any free man except by the legal
• judgment of his peers, or by the laws of the land” (Cl. 39);
• not to “sell, deny, or delay right or justice” (Cl. 40);
• guarantee that it “shall be lawful to any person to go out of our kingdom, and to return, safely and securely (Cl. 42);
• appoint only “justiciaries, constables, sheriffs, or bailiffs [unless they] know the laws of the land, and are well disposed to observe them” (Cl. 45);
• compensate and make “immediate” restitution to those who have been “disseised [wrongfully removed from possession of property] or dispossessed by us, without a legal verdict of their peers, of their lands, castles, liberties, or rights” (Cl. 52);
• make restitution of “all fines that have been made by us unjustly, or contrary to the laws of the land; and all amercements [fines] that have been imposed unjustly, or contrary to the laws of the land” (Cl. 55);
• agreed to the appointment of “twenty-five barons [elected freely] who shall with their whole power, observe, keep, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties which we have granted to them [in the Magna Carta] (Cl. 61).
The Magna Carta also included un-libertarian terms. It provided that, “no man shall be apprehended or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman, for the death of any other man except her husband” (Cl. 54). A widow could not be “compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband. But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent (Cl. 8). Six hundred years later, the British philosopher John Stuart Mills wrote, “I consider it presumption in anyone to pretend to decide what women are or are not, can or cannot be, by natural constitution. They have always hitherto been kept, as far as regards spontaneous development, in so unnatural a state, that their nature cannot but have been greatly distorted and disguised…” American women got the constitutional right to vote in 1920. There are still countries in the world in the second decade of the 21st Century where women do not have the right to vote.
The Magna Carta also included a streak of the millennia-old bigotry against Jews. It provided, “If anyone has borrowed anything from the Jews and die before that debt be paid, the debt shall pay no interest so long as his heir shall be under age… And if any one shall die indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower and shall pay nothing of that debt…” (Cls. 10, 11.)
Although the 1215 Magna Carta contained 63 clauses when it was first granted, only a few remain part of English law today. In 1969, the Statute Law (Repeals) Act repealed almost all of the 1225 Magna Carta, except Clauses 1, 9, 29. It has also been superseded by the Human Rights Act of 1998.
The legacy of the Magna Carta as I see it
Learned scholars, lawyers, judges and others will continue to argue about the relevance and significance of the Magna Carta for another 800 years. Did the Magna Carta give all persons in the kingdom or just the “free barons” the right to justice and a fair trial? Did it have any relevance to the unfree peasants (“villeins”) who had to apply to their own lords for justice? Did the Magna Carta guarantee the right to trial by jury? Establish the supremacy of the principle of the rule of law? Institutionalize the due process of law? Did it establish for the very first time a constitutional framework (social contract) between government and citizens? Make practical the idea of individual liberty? Institutionalize the principle of the law of the land to which all (including kings, prime ministers, presidents, congresses, parliaments, etc.,) must submit?
Despite scholarly disagreements, there is substantial consensus that the Magna Carta inspired the framers of the American Constitution (1787) and the drafters of the American Bill of Rights [first ten amendments] (1791) in their quintessential pursuit to limit the arbitrary exercise of governmental power. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] (1948), which has been signed by virtually every country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe also reflects the text and spirit of the Magna Carta. When Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the committee that drafted the UDHR, she dreamt of a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” with respect to equality, dignity and rights. I agree with her. I do not believe there is Ethiopian “rights”, American “rights”, English “rights”, Chinese “rights”, Egyptian “rights”… I believe there is only human rights.
For me, a dyed-in-the-wool and unapologetic Ethiopian- American constitutional lawyer and scholar, the Magna Carta has enormous symbolic appeal. I understand the Magna Carta as a quintessentially procedural legal document predicated on the twin principles of government accountability and transparency. Those who exercise power shall be held accountable under the supreme law of the land for their actions and omissions by a set of rules and standards. The relationship between the rulers and the ruled must be strictly regulated by a set of clear procedures. No ruler shall have the power to deprive any citizen of life liberty or property without due process of law. I believe the Magna Carta is the first constitutional document in human history to put the brakes on the arbitrary exercise of power and shield individual liberty from the vagaries and capriciousness of those corrupted by power.
William Gladstone who served as British Prime Minister on four separate occasions in the 19th Century, mindful of the Magna Carta observed, “As the British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded from the womb and the long gestation of progressive history, so the American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.” ‘Tis true that imperfect Constitution which turned a blind eye to slavery, is, undoubtedly, a work of extraordinary collective genius.
My view of liberty is a very simple one. I believe liberty predates government. I do not believe government can “grant” rights and freedoms to its citizens. Government, being the collective invention of citizens, exists only to protect the lives, liberties and properties of its citizens.
I have this wacky way of explaining my views on the relationship between government and citizens. I regard government as a watchdog (almost literally) for its masters, the people. (Pardon me if I sound like I am maligning man’s and woman’s best friend with my descriptive metaphor. ) The only function of this watchdog is to protect the lives, liberties and properties of its masters. This watchdog is naturally treacherous and must be watched at all times with eagle eyes and extreme vigilance by its masters. This watchdog has an inbred and ineradicable trait of always turning against its masters unless it is held tightly on a very short chain leash. The constitution is the chain leash on the “government dog”. The shorter the leash, the better and safer it is for the dog’s masters. Thomas Jefferson aptly observed, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” The government exists to serve the people, not the other way around. The masters of the dog should never fear the dog.
That is why I believe all government officials, leaders, institutions and anyone exercising power should be chained at all times with the “supreme law” of the land, placed under eternal vigilance and held strictly accountable for their actions and omissions. James Madison, one of the foremost framers of the American Constitution wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” I would say if governments did not degenerate into demons, men and women could bring out their best and aspire to be angels.
I wholeheartedly agree with John Adams, the second president of the United States who observed, “There is danger from all men [and women]. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man [or woman] living with power to endanger the public liberty.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned, “The clearest way to show what the rule of law means to us in everyday life is to recall what has happened when there is no rule of law.” Could he have been foretelling the present fate of Africa?
On July 28, 2014, President Obama told a town hall meeting of Young African Leaders, “Regardless of the resources a country possesses, regardless of how talented the people are, if you do not have a basic system of rule of law, of respect for civil rights and human rights, if you do not give people a credible, legitimate way to work through the political process to express their aspirations, if you don’t respect basic freedom of speech and freedom of assembly … it is very rare for a country to succeed.”
Ethiopia needs to succeed as a nation and as a people. Africa needs to succeed as a continent. Today, Ethiopia is in its end stage of becoming a completely failed state. So are many other African countries. I doubt there is a single, not one, African state that would not collapse within days (not weeks) but for Western charity and loans. Contemporary African regimes exist because they are bankrolled by the tax dollars of the Western countries. That is such a bitter pill to swallow!
Over the past five years, cynicism and pessimism have whittled down my hopes and dreams for the rule of law and a peaceful transition to multiparty democracy in Africa. Every day I ask myself, “Is there any hope for Africa?” For Ethiopia? Does Africa’s destiny hang in the balance between the audacity of hope and the rapacity of despair? Is Africa condemned to a future of civil wars, genocides, anarchy, lawlessness and crimes against humanity? Does Africa’s best hope hang on the strings attached to its multilateral loans and aid? Will Africa be buried under a mountain of international debt while predatory foreign investors officiate at its funeral? Is Africa doomed to become the permanent object of charity, sympathy and pity for the rest of the world? Is Africa floating on a turbulent sea of hope or drowning in an ocean of despair? Is there something buried deeply in the African ethos (character), logos (logic of the African mind), pathos (spirit/soul) and bathos (African narrative of the trivial into the sublime) that makes Africans extremely susceptible to the triple deadly cancers of brutality, despotism and corruption? Is Africa the infernal stage of Dante’s “divine comedy”?: “Abandon all hope, you who enter [live] here [in Africa].”
I am sure there will be some among my readership who would question and even criticize me for joyfully celebrating the Magna Carta. After all, it is a document of white people. (I have got to tell the truth!) It is the founding document of the wicked colonial oppressors and the rest of it. The Magna Carta could not possibly have relevance to Black, Brown, Yellow and, yes, Green people. With the exception of Green people, I ask the rest to look at their own constitutions. I would like to ask them where the liberties enshrined in their dusty constitutions originated. I would be glad to know which one of their liberties they are willing to surrender to their governments.
Elie Weisel said, “Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future.” So I have chosen to dream about the path of hope – the rule of law administered through a competent independent judiciary to promote freedom, justice and equality– for Ethiopia and the African continent and forswear the path of despair. It is not easy to hope and dream when an entire continent is enveloped and trapped in a long night of dictatorship and oppression. It is in such melancholy state that I find myself reflecting on the words of Henry Francis Lyte:
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see:
O thou who changest not, abide with me!
I must confess to my readers the great sadness I feel as I conclude this joyful commentary on the Magna Carta.
I am deeply, deeply pained by the irony that I can freely celebrate and cherish an English charter of liberties written 800 years ago which is not even law today, yet I cannot do the same for the Ethiopian Constitution written only twenty years ago to usher a new era of freedom, justice and equality because it is not worth the paper it is written on!
It is time for an Ethiopian Magna Carta!!!
March 5, 2015
King John reunited with Magna Carta
4 March 2015
King John has been reunited with Magna Carta at a special event to commemorate Worcestershire as the Home of Liberty and Democracy.
Thirteenth Century barons have stormed their way into the historic Worcester Cathedral, resting place of King John and home of his great tomb, surmounted by the oldest royal effigy in England.
There they confronted him with a copy of Magna Carta, recreating the moment 800 years ago that put in place one of the most important building blocks on the road to democracy in Britain and the world.
The re-enactment highlights the role Worcestershire has played time and again in the struggle for Liberty and Democracy. From Magna Carta to the English Civil War and beyond, the beautiful hills, lands and rivers of Worcestershire have borne witness to the struggles and battles that have created the freedoms we enjoy today.
To celebrate this legacy, an unparalleled programme of historic, immersive and fun events will take place here in the heart of England over the next 18 months. Details of all events can be found at www.visitworcestershire.org/magnacarta. The main events are listed later in this press pack.
Worcestershire, Home of Liberty and Democracy is a programme supported by Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Worcester Cathedral, Museums Worcestershire, the Simon de Montfort Society, Battle of Evesham 2015, Worcestershire County Council, Worcester City Council, Wychavon District Council, Worcestershire Historical Society, Visit Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce and the University of Worcester.
King John and Magna Carta
2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta by King John. For the first time, the rule of law was given precedence over the rule of the monarch.
By the time of this momentous event on 19 June 1215, King John had already formed a special relationship with Worcester and the surrounding county. He often visited Worcester Cathedral to worship at the shrine of Saint Wulfstan. His favourite hunting grounds were nearby in forests at Wyre, Feckenham and The Chase.
But his relationship with the county was destined to be bittersweet. As civil war brewed and the King was forced to concede many of his powers under Magna Carta, Worcester declared for the rebellious barons.
In July 1216, the King’s forces recaptured the city, but the monarch’s days were numbered. He died in October that year, specifying in his will that he be buried in Worcester Cathedral. His will and artefacts will be on display in the Cathedral library from September 2015.
John’s great tomb is a masterpiece of early thirteenth-century sculpture. It gives Worcestershire a direct link to the story of Magna Carta, and to the story of Liberty and Democracy, that is genuinely unique.
The Very Reverend Peter Atkinson, Dean of Worcester, said: “Worcester Cathedral boasts a unique role in the story of Magna Carta that no other place can claim. We have King John’s tomb and his will, giving visitors a direct connection with the monarch who, whether he liked it or not, sealed the document that established the principle of the rule of law.”
January 14, 2015
Society of Antiquaries of London announces historic exhibition for Magna Carta 800
14th January, 2015, Culture 24
The Society of Antiguaries has released details of its plans to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta with a free exhibition exploring its priceless manuscripts of The Great Charter.
Grants from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the Headley Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts will fund an exhibition, uniting and displaying the Society’s three copies of the charter for the first time.
Magna Carta Through the Ages (May 26 – July 31) will explore the antiquarian interest in the charter through the centuries and the ways in which Magna Carta has continued to be relevant to successive generations.
The star exhibits will be the Society’s three remarkable copies.
They comprise a copy of the 1215 charter, made from a discarded draft, which gives an insight into the process by which the terms of Magna Carta were negotiated, a unique roll copy of the reissue in 1225 and a copy of the 1225 reissue in an early 14th-century collection of statutes, showing how Magna Carta was received in a 14th-century legal context.
Describing the manuscripts as “extraordinary finds”, Stephen Church, a Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, said the medieval copies will allow people to understand how the text was received and used by 13th-century people.
“The fact that they are copies, rather than official communications from the king, shows just how important it was for those at the sharp end of the reforms to possess their own copies of Magna Carta,” he pointed out.
King John sealed Magna Carta at Runnymede, on the banks of the River Thames, on June 15 1215 in an attempt to make peace with his rebellious barons.
Copies were distributed throughout the kingdom. Although its promise of religious rights, protection from illegal imprisonment, justice and limitations on feudal payments were largely ignored during the remainder of John’s reign, subsequent medieval kings reissued it in various forms as they vied for support and popularity.
Many historians argue that its significance became largely symbolic in the middle ages until the 16th and 17th centuries, when it became a symbol of freedom, justice and democracy in both England and her colonies.
January 13, 2015
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond MP at Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Dinner
Rt. Hon. Hammond, Philip (Foreign Secretary to the United Kingdom), Speech delivered at Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Dinner, The Guildhall, City of London Corporation, 12th January 2015.
Lord Dyson, thank you for your introduction earlier and mark for the excellent dinner which I hope will fuel everyone through this brief interlude… until some pudding-shaped relief arrives in due course.
It is said that Winston Churchill once sent his pudding back to the chef with the complaint that it “had no theme”…
I hope my remarks do not fall into the same trap if only because, in the “Magna Carta”, we have a theme as rich as the finest of desserts.
As Foreign Secretary, I recognise the Magna Carta is a major part of Britain’s “brand” as the home of democracy and the rule of law.
But it is as someone has already remarked this evening as a Member of Parliament for the constituency where it was sealed, that the Magna Carta has a particular claim on my attention. From time to time I find myself placed in the invidious position of being asked to name a favourite place in my constituency.
I can tell you this is not a question any MP would relish answering.
But I am readily able to nominate Runnymede: a special place for its historic significance but also because, despite its proximity to the M25 and to Heathrow, the meadow of Runnymede retains a surprising quality of tranquillity & beauty.
And thanks to the vision and work of the American Bar Association, whose 800-strong delegation I look forward to welcoming there in the Summer, it houses a fitting memorial designed by Sir Edward Maufe to that landmark event which we remember tonight.
But the MP for Runnymede shouldn’t be allowed to monopolise the Parliamentary interest in the events of 1215. Any self-respecting Member of Parliament should be focussed on the significance of Magna Carta in the evolution of our Parliamentary democracy.
Indeed, shouldn’t any citizen in any democracy anywhere, at least have the opportunity to become familiar with the role Magna Carta has played in the evolution of democracy to the present day?
Creating these opportunities is what the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee is doing so expertly. I delight to highlight, in particular, the contribution of Sir Robert Worcester, over the twenty-one years he has been a trustee of the Magna Carta Trust, and now as the spearhead of these commemorations.
I also want to recognise the important support over many years given to the Magna Carta Trust by the Corporation of London and to thank the Corporation for hosting us tonight in the magnificent surroundings of Guildhall and treating us to a private view of its 1297 example of the Magna Carta, a reminder of the role that London has played in the story of Magna Carta from the very start. And I applaud to the work going on in Surrey County Council, the National Trust and Runnymede Borough Council to ensure that Runnymede itself will be even more memorable to visitors in the future.
I am delighted to be speaking tonight alongside His Excellency, Matthew Barzun, the US Ambassador to the Court of St James. Your presence, Ambassador, is a reminder that Magna Carta has played an important role in the constitutional, social, political and legal development, not just of this country, but also of the United States of America. You could say the United States was one of the Magna Carta’s first great export successes. And if I may in the true spirit of TTIP, we are delighted that the US is now so closely engaged with us in seeking out new markets for the values it represents.
But exactly what is it that makes an 800 year old, hotchpotch of a document worth commemorating? Not that it mandates the removal of all fish weirs from the Thames and the Medway, clearly. Nor, surely, the provision preventing men from being arrested or imprisoned on the testimony of a woman, unless the case involved the death of her husband? In fact, a cursory glance at the specifics might suggest that much of Magna Carta actually has very little to do with our present day understanding of the principles of Democracy and Human Rights.
Its enduring significance lies in two themes – money and justice – which run through the document.
It was sealed at a point in time when the barons had been pushed to their limit by a King who had used his arbitrary power to extort and appropriate their property, more or less at will. When the rebels arrived in Runnymede they came determined to circumscribe the power of the monarch. And they must have been emboldened by their experience in London, which effectively had joined the rebellion by opening its gates to the rebel barons, so setting an example for other towns to follow.
Indeed some might say that Magna Carta’s origins in this confrontation between a King who ignored the economic and political interests of those from whom he derived his power are a powerful reminder to modern politicians of the dangers for a State which tries to live beyond its means and disregards the interests of those who fund it.
Of course, the settlement between monarch and barons was short-lived. But the ground-breaking concept of “equality before the law”, and the understanding that Magna Carta inspired about the relationships between State, the individual and justice, has endured… An understanding that power is not to be exercised in an arbitrary and unconstrained way; that the State is answerable to its citizens; that there must be due process… In short the “rule of law”: the most important of the principles that underpin the strong institutions and accountable government on which this nation and many others have built their success. And upon which long-term sustainable economic and political success of nations still depends – wherever we look in the world.
For where political competition, rule of law, and free speech are lacking, social stability will be vulnerable at best, and absent at worst. And without these vital nutrients the ground will not provide a fertile medium in which innovation and entrepreneurialism can take root – and prosperity can flourish. Conversely, where societies can begin to nurture entrepreneurialism and economic development, the demand for greater rule of law and personal freedom typically grows. In other words, the rule of law, good governance and economic success are mutually reinforcing.
Our Prime Minister has described this insight as the “Golden Thread” that enables a nation to thrive. And that provides a model for those not yet thriving, but aspiring to do so.
In our foreign policy, promoting this Golden Thread of rule of law, strong institutions and accountable government should not be understood as token altruism, tacked on to an otherwise morally- neutral foreign policy. The foreign policy of a democratic nation must have a single, unifying goal: the relentless pursuit of the long-term enlightened national interest – that is, the interests of its citizens, present and future.
But that is not to suggest that the projection of our values is relegated to the margins of foreign policy making. On the contrary, the rule of law, good governance, and the accountability that rests on equality before the law and freedom of speech… these are the building blocks of successful societies and the very expression of our national self-interest.
And since successful societies are the building blocks of the global security and prosperity to which our nation aspires, so the rule of law, good governance, and accountability are fundamental enablers of our own national security and prosperity objectives. So that “enlightened national interest” involves an understanding that where we can contribute to better governance and the rule of law in other countries we will be enhancing their stability and development and so enhancing our own security and prosperity.
And reflecting on the history of Magna Carta can guide any democracy which seeks to uphold the rule of law across the world.
First, we should remember Magna Carta was not a big bang moment when out of nothing a free and just society came into being in this country overnight. Rather it was a critical step on an incremental process towards parliamentary democracy as we know it. (Witness, for example, the huge time lag between Magna Carta and universal suffrage in this country or between the US Constitution which it inspired and the repeal of segregation laws in the United States.) So we should be measured in our expectations and patient wherever evolutionary reform is in train… so long as the direction of travel is the right one.
Secondly, Magna Carta has, through the ages, shown a capacity to inspire beyond its borders. In India, the world’s largest democracy and throughout the Commonwealth it has made its presence felt. In the US, where its image adorns the great doors of the Supreme Court, Magna Carta provided inspiration for the founding fathers. And as the world recovered from the trauma of World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt heralded the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an “international Magna Carta”. In its preamble the Declaration clearly reflects the spirit of the ancient document as it warns: “it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”.
So the history of Magna Carta teaches us that its values are …incremental in their establishment, …universal in their relevance, …and adaptable in their application.
This has three implications for how we should approach the promotion of Magna Carta principles around the world. First, we should aim primarily to inspire by example. As Gladstone said, the first principle of good foreign policy is good government at home. We must constantly be working to address the deficiencies of our own systems if we want to be credible in urging other countries to emulate them.
Secondly, while a body of international law inspired by Magna Carta prescribes what are near universally accepted standards, we should not seek to impose one-size-fits-all solutions on other nations. We must recognise that democracy and the rule of law takes time to take root; and that its precise form will reflect where a nation is on its development pathway and the culture and the traditions which make it unique. That is the approach taken by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which the Government funds, to strengthen parliaments, political parties and civil society around the world – sharing the UK’s own experience and expertise, while recognising that our experience cannot simply be grafted onto a foreign culture.
Thirdly, in any one country we should above all concern ourselves with the trajectory that political and judicial development is taking. Where it is pointed towards better governance and greater adherence to the rule of law, we should ask ourselves, can we exert a material influence, can we work with the grain? And we should see an economic, as well as a political challenge: how can we target our development assistance to support the emergence of the kind of open government and rule-of-law based societies that enable long-term economic success? And where countries are heading in the opposite direction, we must have the courage to say so. Not sitting in judgement, but speaking candidly, as would any individual concerned that their neighbour is acting in a way contrary to his own interests and those of the neighbourhood as a whole, warning of the consequences of turning one’s back on the lessons of 800 years of history.
But we didn’t build our system in a day – and when we urge others to adopt it, we should pause to remember that with appropriate humility. The road from Magna Carta to our modern democracy is surely the greatest (if perhaps the most extended) illustration of the virtue of evolution, over revolution. So in 2015, both as Foreign Secretary and as Member of Parliament for Runnymede, I am committed to ensuring that the legacy of the 800th anniversary commemoration of Magna Carta is local, national and global in its reach.
As Patron of the Egham Museum, I am proud of the outreach work the museum is doing to bring learning about Magna Carta to schoolchildren across my constituency. As a member of the Government I am proud of the ‘surprising’ £1 million grant we have made to support the 800th Commemoration.
And as Foreign Secretary I am proud to be able to tell you that the FCO’s network of Embassies is already playing a part in supporting the Magna Carta commemorations in the United States, where the Hereford Magna Carta had a well received exhibition in Texas last year and – the Lincoln Magna Carta – one of only four 1215 originals – is on display in the Library of Congress. And our High Commissions across the Commonwealth and our Embassies worldwide will be amplifying the messages of the Magna Carta 800th Commemoration in their public diplomacy, drawing on the impressive educational and historical materials that organisations around the UK are generating under the leadership of the Magna Carta Trust. So it may be 800 years old, but it is as powerful a representation of the values that underpin our nation, as it has ever been.
Magna Carta, a Great British brand, timeless… priceless… class-leading… a top export of Britain’s knowledge economy: available open-source… no copyright… no patents. Its codification of rights and responsibilities… the foundations of our prosperous, vibrant and, in the end, democratic society… available free to any nation that aspires to a more prosperous future.
Long may Magna Carta and its principles flourish…
Let us celebrate it as Britain’s gift to the world…
…and an unrivalled inspiration to the defence of our collective liberty.