To the British Library for their excellent Magna Carta – Law, Liberty, Legacy Exhbition*
Although 800 years old, the two copies of the Magna Carta in the exhibition aren’t, in themselves, impressive. One was damaged by fire in the 1700s, then brutally ‘restored’ by an incompetent Victorian, so is completely unreadable. The other is a piece of parchment about 60x40cm covered in small dense text – no seals, no illuminated letters, no pictures (see above).
And a great deal of the content is unimpressive as well – the removal of fish weirs from the Thames and the Medway, a clause saying that no town will be forced to build bridges over rivers, and a great deal about inheritance rights. So what is it that gives Magna Carta its reputation as a cornerstone of freedom and democracy? Continue reading