Magna Carta in Parliament

05 February 2015

On Thursday 5 February 2015, the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta were displayed in the Houses of Parliament – bringing together the documents that established the principle of the rule of law in the place where law is made in the UK today. 

The four copies of the 1215 Magna Carta manuscripts were loaned to Parliament for one day by the organisations that hold and display them on a permanent basis – two from the British Library, one from Salisbury Cathedral and one from Lincoln Cathedral – to launch the Magna Carta & Parliament exhibition.

As part of the celebrations in Parliament, 200 school children from around the country had the opportunity to see the Magna Carta manuscripts on display.

The continuing impact of Magna Carta

The one-day event closed with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who has called for a Magna Carta to protect the rights of users of the World Wide Web. He addressed an assembled audience of representatives of the legal profession, Commonwealth and Parliamentarians on the continuing impact of Magna Carta on the rule of law and individual rights around the world.

After the display in Parliament, the Magna Carta manuscripts will be returned to their home institutions, where they will be on display in their own major exhibitions marking the 800th anniversary.

Speaking ahead of the event, The Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza, said:

'Magna Carta established the principle of the rule of law and equality before the law; for 800 years we have been influenced by its contents and it remains one of the most important political documents in the world, with countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada tracing constitutional influences back to Magna Carta. How fitting it is, therefore, that we celebrate this exceptional document by uniting the surviving original copies from 1215 in the home of British law-making today.'

The Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, said:

'Over the past eight centuries the public and their Parliament have shaped society and changed the way we live our lives. The sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and the Montfort parliament of 1265 marked the start of the journey towards modern rights and representation, paving the way for the House of Commons and democracy as we know it today. Throughout 2015, the Parliament in the Making programme will commemorate these major anniversaries with public events, activities, and exhibitions across the UK. These anniversaries should be seized upon as the opportunity both to praise our past and focus on our future.'

Magna Carta & Parliament exhibition

The exhibition charts the constitutional journey from Magna Carta to today’s parliamentary democracy using iconic documents from the Parliamentary Archives, including the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Great Reform Act 1832.

The exhibition is open to members of the public visiting Parliament between 9 and 26 February 2015, and elements of it will be on display at venues across the UK as part of the Parliamentary Archives' De Montfort outreach project.

The event is part of a year-long programme of cultural events, activities, education and online resources delivered by the House of Commons and the House of Lords - 2015: Parliament in the Making.

Further information

Image: House of Lords 2015 / Photography by Roger Harris

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