An original copy of the Magna Carta has surfaced in Kent

Amazing! Original Magna Carta Copy Found in Scrapbook.

An original copy of the Magna Carta has been discovered in a scrapbook in Kent, England.

The tattered document dates back to 1300, 85 years after King John of England was compelled to sign the first agreement limiting the rights of kings. This version was issued by King Edward I (King John’s grandson), who was under pressure from the church and the barons to reaffirm good governance, said Sophie Ambler, a research associate with the Magna Carta Project.

The charter is more than 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) long, but about one-third of the text is missing, according to the Magna Carta Project. Water damage has eaten away at the paper, and the royal seal is missing. Nevertheless, the date of issue survives at the bottom of the document, Ambler said. Determining the authenticity of the charter was relatively straightforward, she added: The layout, handwriting and text all match what would be expected from a Magna Carta of this time.

The Magna Carta, the document that became the precursor to modern constitutional law and basically the blueprint for modern democracy, was signed into action by King John in 1215, because he was, in general, just a bad king. Not necessarily evil, just bad at his job of being a King. He lost land, he got England excommunicated, etc. What got him into the most trouble was when he upset a bunch of people over taxation. However, contrary to what modern legends say, his tax hikes were not aimed at the peasants but the nobility and the clergy, aka the rich people. Which meant that the people who had any kind of societal power at the time were majorly pissed off.

As far as we know, only four copies of this most important of historical documents has survived over the centuries, so naturally this is a pretty impressive find.

It is not yet determined what will happen to this new copy but odds are it will stay in Kent.

Photo credit: Sandwich Town Council

Photo credit: Sandwich Town Council

  7 comments for “An original copy of the Magna Carta has surfaced in Kent

  1. BobM
    February 10, 2015 at 10:20 PM

    The Magna Carta was signed in 1215. This copy is from 1300. Should we therefore refer to it as an original? How would we define original in a case like this? King John’s signature? King John’s royal seal? He was well dead by 1300 :-).

  2. Paul Zenon
    February 10, 2015 at 11:28 PM

    I love the fact that the phrase ‘well dead’ is used by someone with an interest in this sort of thing!

  3. John
    February 10, 2015 at 11:45 PM

    An to think it was totally written without spell-check or wikipedea for reference.

  4. RandyRandy
    February 11, 2015 at 12:12 AM

    Totally. Fer sure.

  5. David H
    February 11, 2015 at 1:02 AM

    Magna Carta existed only in handwritten copies from 1215 until 1508 when London printer Richard Pynson produced the first printed version.

    In the 1200s, Magna Carta went “viral,” as it were, in medieval England.
    According to contemporary chronicles, copies were sent out from the royal chancery to bishops, sheriffs and others throughout the land. No one knows how many copies were distributed.
    Four copies of the original Magna Carta survive: two in the British Library, and others in the archives of Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral.
    King John, was the first ruler to agree to the terms (albeit not happily) of the charter.
    Henry III reissued a version of the charter in 1225 and later, King Edward I reissued it 1297.
    All of them can probably be considered “original copies,” as all were handwritten in ink on vellum.

  6. RandyRandy
    February 11, 2015 at 1:07 AM

    It could be worse. Like when an original version of an “original” Gospel is discovered, even though it dates 300 – 500 years after the alleged death of Christ and any disciples or eyewitnesses; an edited, rewritten copy of a copy of a copy, claimed to be an authentic record. Don’t get me started on that.

    Apparently, this Magna Carta copy was an “original reissue” from 1300, as the linked article states: “[It] dates back to 1300, 85 years after King John of England was compelled to sign the first agreement… This version was issued by King Edward I (King John’s grandson)… After King John, England’s kings periodically reaffirmed and reissued the Magna Carta, as was the case with this version.” A Genuine Reproduction!

    Call this find a Magna Carta reboot. Or maybe Magna Carta: TNG. Heck, Hollywood keeps remaking the same Spiderman films today…

    Btw, does anyone else relish the delicious irony of this slice of history being sandwiched in a scrapbook in the Sandwich town archives? What a pickle!

  7. Eve
    February 11, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    By the way, the four actual original copies have just gone on display at the British Library to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

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