I was intrigued to hear about the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta this year – on 15th June 2015. From 13th March – 1st September 2015, the British Library will be showcasing Magna Carta – Law, Liberty, Legacy, an intriguing exhibition which I can’t wait to visit.
So – whilst waiting for March – a friend and I thought – let’s go to Runnymede – there must be some sort of monument to where Magna Carta was signed. There is indeed a monument, one created and paid for by the American Bar Association and thank goodness they did that. Without it, we would have nothing – just a rather muddy field in the middle of a park. Today, the monument is protected by the National Trust.
So, park in the tearooms carpark (free to National Trust members) and start walking across the field – we recommend (unlike us to our cost!) wearing wellies and bringing a change of shoes with you.
You first meet another American monument – one that commemorates the assassinated president JFK. Be prepared to walk up the winding stairs – the steps of contemplation – where at the top, you will find his monument.
It is rather poignant – I have to say.
Descending and continuing upfield, you see the pagoda protecting the stone erected to commemorate Magna Carta. Walking up to the monument, you can feel the weight of history bearing down for what this spot represents – our freedoms protected under law.
Designed by Sir Edward Maufe RA and dedicated on 28th July 1957, the monument was commissioned by the American Bar Association. Built in Portland Stone, eight octagonal pillars support a domed classical temple in the Greek style. In the middle, a pillar of English granite is inscribed with the words:
“To commemorate Magna Carta symbol of Freedom under Law”
A copy of Magna Carta was taken by the Pilgrim Fathers over to America and it formed the basis for the American constitution and the 1791 United States Bill of Rights. It also shaped the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the English barons who forced King John to subscribe to Magna Carta, on one summer’s day at Runnymede all those years ago.
Contributor and photographer: Sue Lowry
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