Rare Magna Carta copies mark 800 years of democracy

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jun 13, 2015 00:15 IST

The Magna Carta — or Great Charter — was the foundation on which modern democracy was built over the centuries, and surviving copies of the historic document are now on display as various events are held in the UK and elsewhere to mark its 800th anniversary.

On 15 June 1215, King John sealed the Magna Carta at Runnymede, Surrey, and over the next few years it was reissued a number of times. Of the versions reissued in the 13th century, only 17 originals remain and four of those sit in Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries.

Mentioning India as one of the places where the principles of Magna Carta remain influential, foreign secretary Philip Hammond (MP for Runnymede) said, “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”.

Besides the UK government, events, talks and exhibitions have been organised by the British Library and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, where some of the originals are based.

On Thursday, Cambridge made images of a rare copy of Magna Carta at St John’s College digitally available to coincide with the the 800th anniversary.

The copy, which is owned by St John’s College at the university, dates back to the reign of Edward I (1272-1307), and is one of just a handful of surviving statute rolls that recite clauses from the famous charter. Edward I was one of the monarchs who reissued a version of the Magna Carta, which was originally produced in 1215, during the reign of King John.

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