Magna Carta

Magna Carta (‘the Great Charter’) was agreed between King John and his barons on 15 June 1215. It regulated the feudal customs of the kingdom, and has since become one of the great symbols of freedom and the rule of law. If there was a first, master charter to which King John put his seal in 1215, it has not survived. Instead there are a number of later ‘engrossments’ or exemplifications of the text, revised according the political priorities of the time, which were officially issued to English counties by the royal chancery. Some seventeen have survived, and their survival has ensured that Magna Carta is present in the imagination not only as a symbol of the rule of law, but also as a physical object which, much like the American Declaration of Independence, somehow embodies the spirit, or genius, of a nation.

 

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In Latin, on parchment; approx. 490 x 422 mm

William Marshal’s equestrian seal in green wax on the right (well preserved); Cardinal Guala’s seal in white wax on the left (entirely defaced)