The original Magna Carta, or the Great Charter of the Liberties of England, was sealed (but not signed) under oath by King John in 1215 on the bank of the River Thames at Runnymede in Surrey. It limited the powers of the king and accepted that no-one could be punished except through the law of the land; this is a right that still exists. The themes of the Magna Carta have led to just laws in countries throughout the world.
Plans for this great charter were made at St Albans two years beforehand when a Council met in the Abbey on 4th August 1213. To commemorate this event, 800 years later, a new ‘Charter’ has been created in St Albans.
A whole skin of parchment was donated by William Cowley Parchment Works, and the work began. Fairness, Justice, Equality and Human Rights are the essence of the first Magna Carta and these words head the 2013 version.
The 1215 great charter was witnessed by a wide representation of the Barons of England. The new 2013 charter has been witnessed by a representation of the citizens of St Albans and its surrounds as was possible. The Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire with her husband head the columns of signatures, followed by Lord and Lady Salisbury. The High Sherriff of the county also signed, as did the Mayor, Annie Brewster (right).
This huge administrative task was masterminded by Rosemary Stevens.
Included too are a butcher, miller and baker, plumber, electrician, goldsmith, tailor, market stallholder, rugmaker, landscape gardener, a street sweeper (see above) and a street musician. A local garden centre, newspaper and radio are represented, also local socities. Judges from the Crown Court, an architect, archaeologists, sports representative, a famous pub, St Albans School, a bank manager, supermarket manager and the manager of a shop selling the latest technological gadgets – which today may seem rather futuristic, but no doubt by 2114 will seem very quaint – are all represented.
Signatures and occupations on their own may have looked a little boring, so colour was added starting with the joining of the signatures of the Bowman James Rose and his wife Liz (right) by an arrow with regal red fletching. Others were linked with suitable symbols and illustrations, including the street sweeper’s cart (see above right), making the document very lively and vibrant.
This is a terrific and significant document and all credit must go to everyone involved in such a wonderful enterprise.