England: How to Celebrate the Magna Carta’s 800th Anniversary

An image from the opening of Law Library of Congress' 'Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor' exhibition, courtesy of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Facebook page.
An image from the opening of Law Library of Congress’ ‘Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor’ exhibition, courtesy of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Facebook page.

The Magna Carta, the charter and symbol of England’s liberties, will celebrate its 800th anniversary in 2015 and, consequentially, the country’s museums, historical societies and businesses have planned a year’s worth of events and activities to mark the occasion. Originally put forth by King John in 1215, the Magna Carta was meant to appease the country’s overtaxed barons. Instead, the King and the barons went to war, and revised versions of the document were reissued in 1216, 1217, and 1225. The Magna Carta has since influenced many great documents in history, including America’s Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Though King John originally signed the document in June of 1215, England is celebrating the document for a whole year, beginning with an exhibit at the British Library, held in collaboration with Lincoln and Salisbury Cathedrals between February 2 to 4. The event will bring together—for the first time—all four surviving copies of the Magna Carta. When the exhibit closes on the 5th, the four artifacts will be carefully transported to Parliament, where the display will continue.) The library has also commissioned “a large-scale artwork by a leading British artist” and has planned a series of public events.

Information about the hundreds of other events that are scheduled for the rest of the year can be found at the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary site. Top attractions include a specially-commissioned BBC documentary, a Magna Carta tourism trail, numerous legal lecture series, a masquerade ball, as well as an international commemoration event in June at Runnymede Meadows, where King John originally signed the document, with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance. The previously closed Lincoln Castle will also re-open with a new high-security underground vault, designed to the house and preserve the seminal document for centuries to come.

Unsurprisingly, there is also a slew of Magna Carta-themed merchandise available to buy, including cufflinks, umbrellas, and a decidedly historically-inaccurate USB drive.

If you plan on being in England this year, be sure to factor in some time to celebrate the country’s great historical milestone.

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