2015 Press Releases

National Archives Celebrates 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta
Press Release · Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Washington, DC

Celebration includes special display, rare loan to Great Britain, and Magna Carta cake!

Washington, DC…The National Archives celebrates the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta this year with the display of an original 1297 Magna Carta on loan from David Rubenstein, the rare loan to the United Kingdom of a document inspired by the Magna Carta, a featured document display, special programs, and the first-ever visit of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to the National Archives!

Magna Carta Day June 15th Programs

Book Talk: In the Shadow of the Great Charter
Monday, June 15, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater, National Archives Museum

Celebrate the actual 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with Dr. Robert Pallitto, professor of Political Science and author of In the Shadow of the Great Charter: Common Law Constitutionalism and the Magna Carta. Dr. Pallitto will discuss Charter’s origins, history, and nature, and will explore its explicit use of “the law of the land” to protect subjects’ rights and liberty. A book signing will follow the program.

Birthday celebration snack: Magna Carta Cake!
Monday, June 15, 1:30–2:30 p.m., McGowan Theater Lobby

Join us for a slice of Magna Carta cake! Free cake with an image of Magna Carta will be served to the first 200 attendees.

Panel Discussion: Magna Carta and the Constitution
Monday, June 15, at 7 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater

To celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, the National Archives and The Constitutional Sources Project present a discussion on the influence of Magna Carta on American constitutionalism, including its place in the charters of the American colonies, its impact on the era of the Founding Fathers, and its continued influence today. Moderated by Judge Royce Lamberth, Senior United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, panelists include: Jennifer Paxton, historian and medieval specialist, Catholic University of America; Robert Pallitto, author of In the Shadow of the Great Charter; and Bruce O’Brien, Magna Carta expert from the University of Mary Washington, who served on scholar advisory Board for the Library of Congress’s Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibit.

Rare original 1297 Magna Carta on view at the National Archives
Records of Rights Gallery, National Archives Museum, Washington, DC

The document, written on parchment in 1297 with iron gall ink, is one of four surviving 1297 versions of Magna Carta in the world today. This rare document is the centerpiece of the Records of Rights permanent exhibition. State-of-the-art technology allows visitors to easily “read” the Latin document through a translation feature and to explore the connections between Magna Carta and American legal history, as well as the elements of Magna Carta that influenced our own Charters of Freedom, and thus the records of rights featured in the exhibit. Magna Carta is on loan to the National Archives from its owner David M. Rubenstein, philanthropist and co-founder of the Carlyle Group.

During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land."

Related Featured Document Display: Articles of Association, 10/20/1774
June 4 – July 29, National Archives Museum East Rotunda Gallery

The Articles of Association instituted a colony-wide trade boycott against Great Britain. The boycott was initiated in response to the Intolerable Acts--acts colonists believed to violate their sacred rights and the ancient rule of law asserted in Magna Carta. This document was signed by George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Jay, Patrick Henry, Roger Sherman and dozens of other founders. The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Documents” exhibit is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of The Coca-Cola Company.

First-ever visit by The Prince of Wales to the National Archives
As part of this historic celebration, The Prince visited the National Archives on March 18 to see the Charters of Freedom and the 1297 Magna Carta, now embodied in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. While was his 20th official visit to Washington, DC, this was The Prince’s first visit to the National Archives. Magna Carta, first issued in 1215 by King John of England, established for the first time that the king was subject to the law, not above it, and set out a new political order. It is widely viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy.

Related Document Display in Great Britain through September 1, 2015
To honor this special anniversary, the National Archives is loaning the Delaware ratification of the Bill of Rights to the UK as part of the British Library’s landmark exhibition, Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy. This loan marks the first time this national treasure will travel outside the United States. The British exhibit follows the journey of Magna Carta from its medieval roots in 1215, tracking its evolution from medieval peace treaty to global rallying cry against arbitrary use of power.

The Delaware ratification of the Bill of Rights is one of the 14 original copies of the document produced in 1789, of which 12 are known to survive. This copy was sent to Delaware which attached its certificate of ratification on the document and returned it to the federal government. The first ten amendments to the Constitution, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, proposed in the document were engrossed by the Senate Engrossing Clerk Benjamin Bankson on a single sheet of parchment, and contain clauses guaranteeing Americans a number of personal freedoms and instruments to limit the power of government.

Related National Archives online resources

National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, is located on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Museum hours are 10 am to 5:30 pm. The building is Metro accessible on the Yellow and Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter station.

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For press information contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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