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Magna Carta Originals to Commemorate 800th Anniversary
July 17, 2013

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Magna Carta

To commemorate the 800th anniversary of the approval of Magna Carta, the British Library will display all four surviving original copies of the famous document for three days only, in June 2015. It will be the first time that the four copies have been together since they were created.

King John affixed his royal seal to Magna Carta (Latin for "The Great Charter") on June 15, 1215, at the behest of many powerful English barons who wanted more protection for their rights and their property. Magna Carta is widely regarded as one of the inspirations for the U.S. Constitution and for British common law and civil liberties. The document, to which King John agreed in the presence of 25 nobles in a field at Runnymede, stipulates that the king is subject to law, not above it, a significant concession from a monarchy that had long held that kings ruled with ultimate authority.

The British Library owns two copies already. One other copy is at Lincoln Cathedral, and Salisbury Cathedral has the fourth.

The British Library will allow 1,215 people, chosen through a special competition, to attend a special ceremony honoring the four Magna Carta copies. The ceremony will be part of a yearlong celebration.

Magna Carta (full name Magna Carta Libertatum or "The Great Charter of the Liberties of England") became quite famous in the years after its inception, and many later copies were made. A total of 17 (not including the original four) survive. Of those, 15 are in Britain, one is in Australia, and one is in America's National Archives.

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