There’s been plenty of publicity for the exhibition at the British Library of the Magna Carta so I dropped in whilst in London last Sunday to have a look.
The striking thing is how much impact an old piece of sheep skin covered in ink can make. The Latin script is written in a very fine hand which is impeccably neat. Round the corner is a translation into English blown up to wall poster size. I stood there and read the whole thing and wondered why I was the only person doing so at the time. Spot the lawyer !
The historical context is interesting because King John was a weak king who had lost many of the lands that had been conquered by his forefathers. It was because of his weakness that he came under pressure from his Barons. The Magna Carta was akin to a settlement agreement between the King and his Barons written by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Provision 39 of the document reads as follows: ” No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”
800 years on, these words still reverberate in a country which value its freedom. This piece of old sheep skin is well worth a visit to the British Library.