Magna Carta 800: Sharing the Legacy of Freedom
In celebration of its 800th birthday, a rare 1217 version of the Magna Carta from Hereford Cathedral in England will be on display at the New-York Historical Society for one week only. The watershed document remains an enduring symbol of liberty. It granted protection against tyrannical rule, defended civil liberties, and was a central source of inspiration for future constitutional documents, including the U.S. Constitution. New-York Historical will be the Hereford Magna Carta's exclusive U.S. appearance and its first stop on a global tour.
The Magna Carta, or “Great Charter,” was initially developed in 1215 and issued by King John as a peace treaty with rebel barons to address specific grievances of his rule. Although the treaty did not hold, the document established the principle that everyone, even the king, was subject to the law, with all free men granted the right to justice and a fair trial.
The display will include the “King's Writ,” distributed by King John to local officials to broadcast and disseminate the Charter. It is the only surviving copy of such a writ. In addition, important documents from our Library relating to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will be on view.
The Magna Carta 800 Global Tour is made possible through a partnership between Hereford Cathedral, the UK’s GREAT Britain Campaign, and British Airways.