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It's Magna Carta Day


Magna Carta is Latin for Great Charter, and is one of the most important documents in political history. Drawn up in Britain and signed on 15th June 1215, it outlines the rights of the common people and limits the powers of the monarchy. Since then it has been used as the basis for civil liberties around the World, advancing the cause of liberty, constitutionalism and parliamentarianism.


When people talk about the Magna Carta, the same question comes up time and again: Where is the original? Believe it or not, there was never one original Magna Carta. Of all the 13th century versions of the Magna Carta from 1215 to 1300, only 17 copies survive. You can see different copies of the Magna Carta at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Lincoln Cathedral, the British Library in London, Salisbury Cathedral, the National Archives in DC and in Canberra, Australia.

Only four of the 1215 copies survived and only one was bearing King John’s seal. Of these, one copy is kept in the Salisbury Cathedral. It had a relative quiet time in the last 798 years. Another is in the Lincoln Cathedral. It is written in an official style. This is the copy that traveled to the U.S. several times. It arrived in 1939 at the outbreak of WWII, and was stored at Fort Knox to be sheltered during the war, together with The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

The other two remaining copies have been in the British Library since the 1620s.



Salisbury Cathedral

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