The date is 15th June 1215 and in Runnymede, Windsor, King John has just sealed one of the most important documents in Medieval England. A document that has become recognised as a cornerstone of liberty influencing much of the civilised world even in the 21st century- that document is Magna Carta.
The date is 15th June 2015 and King John’s Descendant; Queen Elizabeth II is at Runnymede to attend a commemoration event marking the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. Her Majesty is being accompanied to Runnymede by The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke of Cambridge as well as The Princess Royal and Sir
Timothy Lawrence. The Queen kindly agreed to become Patron of the Magna Carta Trust in October 2011, and it is in this role that Her Majesty will be attending the commemoration events in Windsor.
Magna Carta was sealed by the royal seal between King John and feudal barons at Runnemede close to Windsor Castle. It was a series of written promises between John and his subjects that he, the king, would govern England and deal with its people by the customs of feudal law. Magna Carta was in such an attempt by the barons to stop the King of England abusing his power, King John’s rule was in effect becoming restrained by the very document he sealed.
Magna Carta promised laws that were good and fair and stated that everyone shall have access to courts and that costs and money should not be an issue if someone wanted to take a problem to court. The way Magna Carta was enforced in England was simple, twenty-five barons were given the job of ensuring that King John carried out the terms set in the historical charter and if necessary. The charter states that the baron’s could use force if the king wasn’t complying.
The 15th June commemorations at Runnymede are not the only celebrations of Magna Carta happening. A series of events have happened in Runnymede in the run up to The Queen’s visit including a river pageant, where a replica of the Magna Carta was carried downstream the River Thames and Royal Barge Gloriana led 200 boats from Hurley to Runnymede in just two days. As well as the river pageant, there will be various Magna Carta exhibitions held across the country throughout the year whilst in July, there will be a mock trial of the barons at Westminster Hall.
On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the principles set out in the historical charter still stand in the 21st century. Freedom, democracy and law and Magna Carta is evoked when fundamental freedoms come under threat from overzealous governments. If it’s not enough that Magna Carta principles still stand 800 years later, the charter also inspired some of the greatest ideas of freedom and democracy. Documents including the ancient writ of Habeas Corpus passed by Parliament in 1679, amendments to the Constitution of the United States and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
So as Windsor and the world commemorate 800 years of Law and Liberty, it appears that Magna Carta’s best days lie ahead as many millions of people across the globe have inherited the legacy of that fateful day in history, a day that will be remembered for the next 800 years and beyond- 15th June 1215.
Featured Photo Credit: James Joel