The Magna Carta was signed 800 years ago today.
1. It was originally called the Charter of Runnymede and only later became known as the Magna Carta.
2. Of the original 20 or so copies, only four survive. Two are in the British Library in London and the others are in the cathedrals of Salisbury and Lincoln.
3. The document was around 3,500 words long and hand-written in Latin on sheepskin,
4. Contrary to the image on the new £2 coin showing King John with a quill in his hand, the Magna Carta was sealed not signed.
5. One of the most important clauses said that no free man should be ‘seized, imprisoned, disseised (have his property confiscated) or outlawed or exiled or in any way destroyed’ without first having been tried by a court.
6. The Magna Carta Memorial in Runnymede, was financed by the American Bar Association rather than any British organisation. Its inscription reads: “To commemorate Magna Carta, symbol of Freedom Under Law”.
7. Thomas Jefferson used it as one of the inspirations for the American Declaration of Independence and it has been cited by many world leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
8. David Cameron famously failed to recall the English translation of Magna Carter (Great Charter) when quiized on the David Letterman show in the USA in 2013. ‘You have found me out. That is bad, I have ended my career on your show tonight’ he told the talk show host.
9. An acre at Runnymede is officially American soil, the land being ceded to the USA in 1965 as a tribute to President Kennedy.