Where the Story of Magna Carta Begins and Ends


In a sense, Lincoln is where the story of Magna Carta begins and ends. A young Lincolnshire cleric called Stephen Langton studied at the schools of Lincoln Cathedral, and later became Archbishop of Canterbury. He instilled in Magna Carta his ideas on just kingship. But King John renounced Magna Carta within weeks of agreeing to it. He cut a swathe through Lincolnshire in a civil war to save his throne. Illness ended his life in Newark Castle, a residence of the bishops of Lincoln. Fighting continued, until the climax was reached in a battle in Lincoln which defeated the French prince and rebel barons, asserting the succession of John’s son Henry III to the English throne.

Lincoln’s is the only 1215 Magna Carta in sufficiently good condition to travel. In recent years, it has travelled to the United States and to Australia. In 2013 and 2014 plans are being developed for it to retrace the Magna Carta story from St Albans to Bury St Edmunds and then to cross the Atlantic to visit some of the places where the legacy of Magna Carta shines brightest.