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of the original Magna Carta was removed or was substantially rewritten within ten years, with almost all the clauses repealed in modern times, it remains a cornerstone of the British constitution.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