What is the Magna Carta?

The world famous document was written in 1215, issued be King John.

One of only four remaining original copies is kept at Salisbury Cathedral, and on public display within the Chapter House.

Salisbury's copy is also the best preserved of the originals.

2 of the others are kept at the British Library, with the fourth at Lincoln Cathedral.

Magna Carta original document - Feb 2015 (Mike Draper) (3)
The Magna Carta copy at Salisbury Cathedral is on display in the Chapter House

WHY WAS THE MAGNA CARTA WRITTEN?

The document is a 'charter of rights' which sets out rules and clauses which originally aimed to prevent civil war between the King and rebel barons.

It was signed at Runnymede on June 15th 1215.

It's now seen as a symbol of justice, fairness and human rights, and the early stages of constitutional government.

Royal Mint Magna Carta (Royal Mint)
A special commemorative £2 coin was put out by the Royal Mint to mark the 800th anniversary of the document in 2015

There are more than 60 clauses within the document itself - rules set out within it include:

  • The right to a fair trial
  • The assumption that no-one is above the law
  • The freedom of the English Church 
  • No-one should be have their right to justice delayed

After the document was compiled and signed by King John, copies were sent around the country as proof of the King's decisions.

Magna Carta original document - Feb 2015 (Mike Draper) (7)

The copy within Salisbury Cathedral is kept within a glass case to protect the document

It was written on parchment by an expert scribe, and wasn't directly signed but sealed by the monarch.

You can see the marks where the seal was once attached to the document on the copy that's on display at Salisbury Cathedral.

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