|King John attacks a castle, BL Royal MS 16 G VI f.373v|
Thursday, 26 June 2014
Saturday, 21 June 2014
|Nicholas Vincent and Claire Breay with Prime Minister David Cameron|
Friday, 20 June 2014
|Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015|
(Third Millennium Publishing, forthcoming)
In August 2014, Third Millennium Publishing will release Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015, a richly illustrated commentary on the Charter and its subsequent history, for which Magna Carta Project Principal Investigator Nicholas Vincent is the leading author.
Nick contributes four of the book's nine chapters, which address the origin and context of Magna Carta, the Charter's life in the thirteenth century, and Magna Carta as an artifact. The book's contents list can be found here.
Sample pages from Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom, can be viewed here. They include splendid colour images of thirteenth-century manuscripts, coins, seals, castles and tombs (and much else) .
The book is available to pre-order now. A proportion of the revenue from every copy sold will go to the Magna Carta Trust.
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
|19th C bronze showing Langton overseeing King John's|
issue of Magna Carta
In an article for English Historical Review in 2011, David Carpenter (co-investigator of the Magna Carta Project) set out to reassess the role played by Stephen Langton (archbishop of Canterbury 1207-1226) in the drafting of Magna Carta in 1215, as well as in the Charter's subsequent survival.
'After King John’s settlement with the pope in 1213, his archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, was at last able to enter England. That he then played a major part in national affairs is undisputed. What is disputed is his precise contribution to Magna Carta. At one extreme, historians have ascribed to Langton all that was best in the charter: the way it asserts the fundamental principle that the ruler is subject to the law, and the way too it reaches out to a wide constituency and is not just a selfish baronial document. At the other extreme, led by J.C. Holt, they have argued that Langton contributed little to the charter’s fundamentals, and was a mediator and moderator rather than an originator. These divergent views reflect contemporary testimony. In the (often challenged) account of the St Albans abbey chronicler, Roger of Wendover, Langton seems very much the fons et origo of Magna Carta. In the accounts of Ralph of Coggeshall and the Barnwell chronicle, in contrast, he is far less prominent and appears essentially as an intermediary between the sides. This article will seek to reveal a Langtonian role in the shaping and survival of the charter very different from that found in previous accounts; it will relate that role to the archbishop’s doubts about the validity of the 1215 charter, doubts only removed in the final and definitive version of 1225; and, lastly, using evidence hitherto ignored, it will expose the seeming hypocrisy of Langton’s conduct when set against the principles of the charter and the canons of his own academic thought.'
Sunday, 15 June 2014
|Pine's engraving of Magna Carta 1215|
‘King John was trying to suffocate Magna Carta at birth and he had good reasons for doing so. One, perhaps, only impinged slightly on the fringes of his thought. Hitherto, if civil wars had been fought for any positive end, they had been fought on behalf of an individual, a Robert Curthose or a young King Henry, or in the interests of the participants in seeking land, office, and power. Now a civil war was being fought for a cause, a programme, not for one individual or even several, but for a document, a simple piece of parchment. The rebellion which King John faced was thus quite novel. It was the first of a long line which led through the Provisions of 1258-9 and the Ordinance of 1311 down to the Grand Remonstrance of 1641. Of all these Magna Carta was the ancestor and was so recognized by its progeny...
The men who were responsible for the Great Charter of 1215 asserted one great principle. In their view the realm was more than a geographic or administrative unit. It was a community. As such, it was capable of possessing rights and liberties. Magna Carta was indeed a statement of these rights and liberties, which could be asserted against any member of the community, even and especially against the King. The durability of Magna Carta is to be explained by the general utility of this central concept. Once it was established, the rights it subsumed could be expanded, amended, and further defined. Judgement by peers could become trial by jury. Per legem terrae could become due process of law. That the constitutional history of England has been in Stubb’s words ‘a commentary on this charter’, was a result of the Promethean quality of the Act of 1215.’ (J. C. Holt, The Northerners (1961))
Thursday, 5 June 2014
Back in 2012, members of the Magna Carta Project team met to produce a new translation of Magna Carta and, along the way, got an insight into how the drafters of the Charter set about their task in 1215. Soon you'll be able to listen to the discussion clause by clause but, for now, here's a preview.