The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta was celebrated today with a grand ceremony at Runnymede on the Thames, and BRITAIN magazine was there to see the excitement unfold.
Today has been a day of jubilant celebration at Runnymede on the banks of the River Thames as HM The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge and HRH The Princess Royal joined the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in marking the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
The location for today’s ceremony, in which HM The Queen unveiled a plaque in honour of Magna Carta, was significant as it was here that King John was coerced into sealing the charter, which for the first time conceded rights to civilians and which forms the basis of modern democracy, in 1215.
In a message, Her Majesty said: “Runnymede is an ancient and resonant meeting place and it is fitting that we should assemble again here where the Great Charter was sealed 800 years ago today.
“The values of Magna Carta are not just important to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, but across the world. Its principles are significant and enduring.”
Earlier in the day, Her Majesty’s grandson, the Duke of Cambridge, met with members of Surrey County Council, who organised the event, and also performers who had entertained the crowd throughout the morning. The Duke also formally dedicated a piece of artwork specially commissioned for the anniversary by Hew Locke, called The Jurors, which represents past and ongoing struggles for freedom across the world.
The appreciation of our civil liberties was an abiding theme for the day, with Prime Minister David Cameron saying: “Eight hundred years ago today King John put his seal to a document that would change the world. Back then it was revolutionary, altering forever the balance of power between the governors and the governed.”
Indeed, so significant was Magna Carta that it was the subject of one of former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill’s, most famous speeches: “But we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.”
As if in a nod to the parallels made by Churchill, this morning there was also a rededication of the Magna Carta Memorial at Runnymede, which was first erected by the American Bar Association in 1957. This moving ceremony, which included members of the Knights Templar and the Temple Choir, who performed a rousing version of Handel’s Let Justice and Judgement, was presided over by HRH The Princess Royal and was followed with a flypast by The Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight 2015.
The Magna Carta Foundation of Liberty Runnymede 800 event has been a celebration of what this historic charter means today as well as a reminder for us all to continue to campaign for civil liberties across the world. There was a genuine buzz on site and it was a real privilege for BRITAIN magazine to witness it all first hand.
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