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Memorial to the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. What sort of milestone was the Magna Carta? See below...


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A Personal Note (Archive)

May 25, 2015

15th June 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. In Runnymede Meadow King John put his signature to a document limiting his powers, and recognising that a monarch was not above the law. But was this actually the milestone it seemed to be?

In the build up to the historic meeting at Runnymede, the barons of England had been slowly excluded from positions of government. King John wanted a professional administration based on merit, and this strange idea upset the representatives of hereditary power. Marginalising the barons also suited John's highly suspicious nature. While he would sit for hours listening to disputes between humble citizens, and showing great generosity to them, to anyone who was a potential threat John was ruthless and cruel. Any minor legal infringement, the building of a weir on baronial property without the king's permission for example, would be used to deliver crippling fines and debts. Sons would be kept as hostages for good behaviour. Barons would be swapped around between castles to prevent any one man becoming too closely associated with such dramatic symbols of influence. In the case of William de Briouse, who refused to hand over a hostage, his wife and child were captured and disappeared into Windsor Castle. It is possible that they were starved to death there - or at least that's what Roger of Wendover suggests. Eventually this threat to traditional privilege became too much and in 1214 the barons went into rebellion. Actually it wasn't so much the barons who rebelled as their hot headed young sons. Older, calmer heads still sided with the king. The famous Magna Carta of 1215 was an attempt by a moderate group of barons and bishops to bring everyone together at Runnymede and agree final terms. The document emerging from negotiations was primarily an attempt to save old privileges, rather than a charter for a new world. For some reason the words "any baron" were replaced during drafting of the document with the words "any free man". Quite why this was done is not understood, but it gave a sense of universal relevance to the Magna Carta, which was seized upon when the Magna Carta became fashionable in the seventeenth century.

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The InfoBritain view of history (with thanks to The Simpsons)


Historical news for June

15th June 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of King John's signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede Meadow near Windsor Castle. 15th June sees 4500 guests taking part in a special event at Runnymede. Although all tickets for the event are now allocated, large outdoor screens will be provided at the site to allow other visitors to join in. A new commemorative art work by Hew Locke will also be unveiled.

2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. His former home of Chartwell, now a National Trust property, is marking the event with a special exhibition. The exhibition displays personal items and documents which have rarerly been seen in public before. The exhibition runs 25th April - 25th July 2015.

An exhibition of salted paper prints, one of the earliest forms of photography, is currently being staged at the Tate Britain. Dating back to 1839, the fragility of these prints means very few survive, making this a rare opportunity to experience some of the world's earliest photography. The event runs 25th February - 27th June 2015. For more details go to

Meanwhile in Bradford, at the National Media Museum, the world's oldest photographic society, the Royal Photographic Society will be displaying 200 of its most historic images. The exhibition begins on 20th March, and runs until 21st June 2015. For more information go to




Anniversaries for June

1st June 1967: The Beatles release Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

16th June 1967: The 1967 Monteray Pop Festival begins at Monteray Fair Ground in California. This three day concert would see the first major American appearances of The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ravi Shanka, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding.

19th June 1961: Kuwait declares independence from Britain, ending sixty two years of British influence.

23rd June 1757: British forces led by Robert Clive defeat the army of Sirajud Daulah at the Battle of Plassey. This victory allows the East India Company to annex Bengal.

24th June 2010: The longest match in tennis history finally ends at Wimbledon, after eleven hours and five minutes of play over three days. The final set alone was longer than the previous longest match.

27th June 1760: Cherokee warriors defeat British forces at Echoee Pass in North Carolina during the Anglo Cherokee War. This war would end in 1761, followed by a visit of Cherokee leaders to London. Their warm welcome in Britain angered American colonists, and become one of the grievances leading to the American War of Independence.

28th June 1969: Following a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, New York City, groups of gay people begin rioting in the city.


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