Skip to Content

October 22, 2015

English – Speaking Union: My Magna Carta winners announced

Wednesday, 21st October
The English – Speaking Union. Click here to read this article as it originally appeared.

The English-Speaking Union is delighted to announce the overall winners of the My Magna Carta international creative writing competition, following the grand final at Dartmouth House on Thursday 15 October 2015.

13 finalists from all corners of the globe presented their entries to an invited audience, leaving the judging panel with a very tough decision. Judges and audience members alike were overwhelmed by the quality of each presentation.

Jane Josefowicz
, from the USA, won the overall Junior prize and Mfundo Radebe, from South Africa, won the overall Senior prize. Jane and Mfundo each received a certificate and a manuscript of their winning entry, published on parchment thanks to William Cowley. Marie Georgette Spiteri, from Malta, was awarded a special commendation in the junior category, and Sofija Jovanovic, from Serbia, won a special commendation in the senior category. Mfundo’s and Jane’s essays can be read here, along with all of the other finalists’ entries.

All of the finalists enjoyed a full week in London, with cultural activities, public speaking training and opportunities to exchange ideas and make new friends.

“My favourite thing about being involved with the My Magna Carta Competition…was meeting a lot of new people – we clicked right away”

Sofija Jovanovic, Serbia, My Magna Carta Finalist (Special Commendation)

The judging panel consisted of [Chair] Professor Kate Williams (author, historian, broadcaster and lecturer at Royal Holloway), Professor Sir Robert Worcester (Chair of Magna Carta 800th Committee and former ESU Governor), Professor Justin Champion (Professor of the History of Ideas, President of the Historical Association and advisor to the 2015 Magna Carta Exhibition) and Professor James Raven (Deputy Chairman of the ESU, Fellow of Magdalene College University of Cambridge and Professor of Modern History The University of Essex and author).

“I believe that young people are still inspired by the Magna Carta because they want to make a better world…they want to increase equality and diversity”

Professor Kate Williams (Chair)

My Magna Carta was run in partnership with Royal Holloway, University of London. The ESU is grateful to the Magna Carta 800th Committee for its funding.

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.
Landmark document

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.

May 18, 2015

Bishops and Barons to go on Trial… 800 years after alleged crimes

The, 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?’

Click here for a chance to view the proceedings from the public gallery.

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.

Click here for more information about the Magna Carta Chronicle.

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,IWC Replica Watches 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.


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

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.

For more details visit or contact [email protected]

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.

Click here for more information about the Magna Carta Chronicle



Recently Added

By Topic