The Magna Carta or "The Great Charter" issued in the name of 13th century British monarch King John, turns 800 today, and the anniversary event will be observed with an extravagant ceremony in Runnymede, the meadow near Windsor where the king capitulated to the demands of a handful of his barons to affix his royal seal to the original document that guaranteed individuals certain freedoms and rights.
The Magna Carta or “The Great Charter” issued in the name of 13th century British monarch King John, turns 800 today, and the anniversary event will be observed with an extravagant ceremony in Runnymede, the meadow near Windsor where the king capitulated to the demands of a handful of his barons to affix his royal seal to the original document that guaranteed individuals certain freedoms and rights.
Monday’s event is expected to feature the presence of 500 American lawyers traveling with the American Bar Association, a host of England’s foremost jurists and scholars and – as a sign of how far monarchs have come since medieval times, with British monarch Queen Elizabeth II attending not on sufferance, but of her own free will.
The Queen and members of the Royal Family are to attend an event e in Surrey, close to the River Thames, where King John of England sealed the original document in 1215.
The charter first protected the rights and freedoms of society as well as establishing that the King was subject to the law rather than being above it.
A major new art installation will also be unveiled in the Runnymede meadows.
The BBC reports that The Queen will be joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge, Princess Anne and her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence as well as Prime Minister David Cameron and other dignitaries from around the world.
The Royal Barge Gloriana has been leading a flotilla of 200 boats along the River Thames to mark the anniversary
The formal ceremony will take place from 9.15 a.m. (local time) with entertainment starting from 7 a.m., including musical and spoken word
There will also be a rededication of the American Bar Association’s Magna Carta Memorial and a new art installation commissioned for the anniversary will be unveiled in the meadows.
The work, called The Jurors, is inspired by the 39th clause of Magna Carta, which gives the right to a jury trial.
A replica of the Great Charter began its journey down the Thames on Saturday as part of the commemorations.
Events are also being held in other parts of the country, including Salisbury Cathedral, where one of the original copies of Magna Carta is held
There are just four known copies of the original Magna Carta in existence today, from an estimated 13 that were made.
Two are held by the British Library, with Salisbury Cathedral and Lincoln Cathedral holding the others.
The New York Times has quoted U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., as saying that the events of 800 years ago marked the commencement of a major undertaking in human history.
Renowned former English judge Lord Denning called the Magna Carta “the greatest constitutional document of all times, as it set the foundation for the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.
There is also another school of thought that the Magna Carta is not worth all the adulation it is receiving in modern times, with some legal experts expressing the view that some of the rights mentioned in the original have been misread and misinterpreted through the centuries gone by.