Find out about Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary

 

© John William Edmund Doyle

It’s 800 years since King John and his barons signed Magna Carta, the first formal document curbing a king’s rights and guaranteeing the rights of individuals.

This document became the cornerstone of modern freedom and to celebrate the anniversary it’s worth travelling to the locations with direct relevance to the liberties we enjoy today. Magna carta cum statutis angliae (Great Charter with English Statutes), early 14th-century

There are six historic trails in England to choose from – full of interesting places to visit and things to do during this special year.

Here we look at one trail, London to Windsor – and see what’s on offer.

The only place to be named in Magna Carta is the City in London – as it has such a key role in the events leading to the charter’s signing.

King John granted the City the right to appoint its own mayor, who needed royal approval and to swear an oath of allegiance – a practice that continues to this day.

The City’s Heritage Gallery houses a 1297 Magna Carta and free Magna Carta and the City guided walks start at Blackfriars Station at 11am daily until 20 September.

Take a trip to The British Library where a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition called Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy runs until 1 September.

Together – for the first time – are the iconic documents and artefacts that tell the story of Magna Carta: two of the four original 1215 Magna Carta documents, plus Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and one of the original copies of the US Bill of Rights (both on display in the UK for the first time).

There are also stunning manuscripts, paintings, statues and royal relics to enjoy. 

Don’t forget also to visit Runnymede – a pretty landscape beside the Thames – where King John’s historically sealed the democratic document on 15 June 1215. Nowadays there are also memorials to JF Kennedy and the Commonwealth Air Forces.

Magna Carta memorial at Runnymede 

 © Len Williams

The attractive meadows, with far-reaching views from Cooper’s Hill, are just 60 minutes from London – and great for delving into history, taking a boat ride on the river, enjoying a picnic or just strolling through the countryside.

Round off your historic hotel stay with a trip out to Windsor Castle to see the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.

Windsor Castle 

© David Diliff

The Queen spends most weekends in the castle, which is open to the public and full of gorgeous art and historic antiques in a splendid interior.

Magna Carta Island is nearby, as are the ancient ruins of a Benedictine priory and a 2,500-year-old yew tree at Ankerwycke, which were both standing at the time of the event in 1215.

Stay: The Good Hotel Guide has plenty of great hotels in London but why not try The Rookery for added history?

The Rookery 

Right in the centre of Smithfield, this luxury, characterful hotel is named after the 18th-century term given to this then-lawless quarter and rooms are named after a motley Clerkenwell crew.