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The Magna Carta and Runnymede


One of the most important documents of the modern era – the Magna Carta – was sealed by King John I at Runnymede in June 1215. The site where this momentous event took place is just down the hill from Royal Holloway. The location beside the River Thames is described in the charter as ‘in the meadow that is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines.’

Runnymede was chosen because it was a conveniently large meeting place close to Windsor Castle where the King and his entourage had come from for the negotiations.

The reason why the Magna Carta is one of the most important documents to ever be signed is because it lays out how England is governed. For example, the document ruled that the English Church should be free and that every citizen has the right to justice and a fair trial by a jury of peers (habeas corpus).

Magna Carta has also influenced many common law and other documents across the world, such as the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is considered one of the most important documents in the history of democracy.

Today, the site is marked by the Magna Carta Memorial, which stands at the foot of Cooper’s Hill slopes, near Kingswood halls of residence. The memorial is in the form of a domed classical temple, which contains a pillar of English granite. 

This has the inscription ‘To commemorate Magna Carta, symbol of Freedom Under Law.’

Now, the spot is owned by the National Trust, which ensures the preservation of the countryside surrounding Runnymede. Nearby stands the John F. Kennedy Memorial and the Air Forces Memorial. The combination of three such historically significant memorials draws many thousands of visitors each year.

Magna Carta Lecture Series

In 2005, a special lecture series was launched by Royal Holloway in association with the Magna Carta Trust. 

The lectures are delivered by a prestigious guest speaker every year and will run until 2015. The nation will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 2015. 

Eight outstanding lectures have established this proud tradition, bringing hundreds of visitors to Royal Holloway to share these inspiring occasions with our staff and students.

In 2013, former UN commissioner Dr Bertie Ramcharan will give a short summary of the human rights vision at the time of the founding of the UN, discuss the challenges of protection ever since, assess where protection efforts are now, and offer some thoughts for the future.



For more information about these lectures and speakers, please see Magna Carta Lectures|.





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