EIGHT hundred years after it was signed, one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta has been identified as being from Canterbury.
The remarkable discovery unveiled in a new book Magna Carta by Professor David Carpenter, reinforces the role that Canterbury and Archbishop Stephen Langton had in one of the most famous and revolutionary documents in our history.
Cressida Williams, head of archives and library at Canterbury Cathedral, explains:
“Professor David Carpenter has compared the text of a transcription made in the 1290s of the 1215 Magna Carta then held at the cathedral with one of the two copies of the 1215 Magna Carta in the British Library. He has shown that the text is the same. The Canterbury Cathedral Magna Carta was given to Sir Robert Cotton in 1630 by Sir Edward Dering, the Constable of Dover Castle, who was a collector of archive material from Canterbury Cathedral.
“We are delighted to know that, after 800 years, Canterbury Cathedral’s copy of Magna Carta still survives.”
One of the co-Investigators on Professor Carpenter’s project was Professor Louise Wilkinson, an expert in medieval history at Canterbury Christ Church University. She said the news was “an amazing discovery: “Canterbury has a unique connection to Magna Carta. The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Stephen Langton, was the central figure and lead negotiator between the king and barons during the meetings at Runnymede in 1215.
“He was probably involved in drafting the charter which, for the first time in history placed limitations upon the king, making him subject to the law, and protected the rights of freemen to justice and fair trials.”
Of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, one is held in Lincoln Cathedral, one In Salisbury Cathedral, and two in the Cotton Collection at the British Library. It is one of these two that has been identified as the Canterbury Magna Carta. The news comes just in time for the city’s commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, which will be held across Canterbury later in the summer. The British Library will exhibit a copy of the Canterbury Magna Carta in a major new exhibition, Magna Carta: Law, Liberty and Legacy, from March 13 to September 1.
Herne Bay Times, January 28th 2015