Magna Carta

city of london magna carta

2015 sees the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the foundation of liberty. Discover the City of London’s unique connections with the charter and see one of the finest 13th century examples, on display this summer in the City of London’s Heritage Gallery.

Magna Carta, meaning ‘The Great Charter,’ is one of the most important documents in UK history and is well known throughout the world. The Magna Carta was, in effect, a peace treaty between King John and the Barons, who were at,what you could call, a civil war with the King since he began his reign in 1199. In Normandy King John lost a lot of land and, as he could not get money back, he heavily taxed the barons, much to their distain. When King John moved to wealthy Westminster, he wanted to get in the local baron’s, the then Mayor of London, good books and called for a mayoral charter to be issued, which happened in 1215. This charter allowed the city of London to choose their own Lord Mayor, in a bid to get the city on his side. However, within a week, the barons had taken control and the city was almost in a state of civil war.

The strife between the warring parties culminated in a meeting at Runnymede on 15th June, near to the date the Magna Carta was sealed. Essentially, the Magna Carta is the source of the restriction of rights on the monarch or head of state to run things as they want and to follow the rules of the law. Magna Carta was eventually sealed on 19th June and established, for the first time, the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. Around a third of the original Magna Carta was removed or was substantially rewritten within ten years, with almost all the clauses repealed in modern times, it remains a cornerstone of the British constitution.

London’s Heritage Gallery, located in the Guildhall Art Gallery, provides history fans with a unique atmosphere with their 2015 display. Many of the artefacts are rarely on public display, so this gallery provides a unique opportunity to get up close with objects that tell London’s story, all from within its historic heart. Take a look at the other commemorative events, below, that celebrate 800 years of the Magna Carta.

2015 commemorative events

Magna Carta Exhibition, Temple Church, February onwards

Shakespeare’s Globe’s ‘King John’, Temple Church, 10 – 19 April

Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ & Marlowe’s ‘Edward II’, St Bartholomew the Great, 8 May – 4 July

Free daily Magna Carta and the City walks, meet at Blackfriars Station, 1 June – 21 September

The Huguenots of Spitalfields Festival, 1 June – 26 September

1297 Magna Carta on display, City of London Heritage Gallery, 6 June – 30 September

21st Century Magna Carta, City of London Festival, Bishopsgate Institute, 8 July

No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action, Guildhall Art Gallery, 11 July – 13 December

Magna-Crafta, Archikids Festival, 25 – 26 July

Son et Lumière, Guildhall Yard, 19 September

Temple Open Weekend, Temple Church, 19 – 20 September

For further details please visit

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