Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see one of the world’s rarest, oldest, and most important documents, the 1215 Magna Carta, in a Library of Congress exhibit illuminating the “Great Charter” as the basis for America’s freedom, liberty, and justice.
The 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta — the foundation for our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and its Bill of Rights — is honored at the Library’s exhibit “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” through Jan. 19, 2015.
The centerpiece is the 1215 Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of only four originals still in existence. Some 40 barons coerced King John into granting several rights and liberties by agreeing to the Magna Carta (Great Charter).
No Taxation Without Representation, Trial by Jury, Due Process, Habeus Corpus,.. come to life in this display, not only through this treasured medieval document, but also in:
- George Washington’s notes written on a 1787 draft of America’s Constitution.
- James Madison’s 1789 copy of the “proposed Bill of Rights”, with his notes and cross-outs.
- Paul Revere’s 1766 hand-colored etching celebrating “…Rejoicings for the Repeal of the Stamp Act 1766”. As we know, colonists’ protests against Britain’s Stamp Act set the stage for America’s independence movement. (No taxation without representation, rather ironic in D.C., which has no vote in the U.S. Congress…)
In addition to these fascinating historical works, many of the exhibit’s 75 items show the Magna Carta in culture — from Robin Hood to hip-hop rapper Jay Z.
- Illustration “Robin Hood Defies King John…” reminds us that “history has not been kind to King John,” the Library points out, whether his cruelty in the Robin Hood legend or his weakness in Shakespeare’s “Life and Death of King John”. A Shakespeare First Folio is opened to that play.
- John Philip Sousa’s 1927 “Magna Charta March” sheet music is emblazoned with a regal medieval painting and lettering in red white and blue, and black. “March King” Sousa may’ve made a boo-boo with “Magna Charta” instead of “Magna Carta”. What’s in a name, or in an “h”.
- Jay Z, a.k.a. Shawn Corey Carter, launched his “Magna Carta Holy Grail” album July 4, 2013 at England’s Salisbury Cathedral, home to one of the four original 1215 Magna Cartas (the other two are in the British Library). Jay Z photos are next to a copy of Billboard 200 showing that the album debuted as #1. It went double platinum just two months after release. Gee.
Political cartoons illustrate the Great Charter’s principle that no one is greater than the law, even a king.
Epitomizing this is Edward Sorel’s 1974 caricature of President Nixon, a.k.a. Richard Milhous Nixon, as “Milhous I: Lord of San Clemente, Duke of Key Biscayne, Captain of Watergate”.
Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, a.k.a. Princess Anne, opened the ten-week exhibit on Nov. 6 with fanfare, procession, herald trumpets, choirs, speeches, and more.
The ceremony occurred 75 years after this Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta was entrusted to the Library of Congress for safekeeping as Britain entered World War Two.
The handover was re-enacted by Lord Lothian, whose predecessor was British Ambassador to the U.S. and presented this Magna Carta to the Library on Nov. 28, 1939.
A photo in the exhibit shows the first handover. The Library displayed the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta until the U.S. joined the war, then sent the treasured document to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and returned it to post-war England in 1946.
“The integrity of the rule of law has been very difficult to maintain,” noted Princess Anne, a descendant of King John. “This remarkable exhibit is really very important and timely as we take for granted our freedom and liberty.”
Its timeliness and importance were underscored by opening just before Veterans Day and weeks before Thanksgiving.
For more info: “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor”, free, through Jan. 19, 2015, Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, South Gallery, second floor, 10 First Street. S.E., Washington, D.C. Its companion book, “Magna Carta: Muse & Mentor” (Library of Congress in association with Thomson Reuters) with 200 images, a foreword by Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and essays by leading U.S. and U.K. Magna Carta scholars, is available at the Library’s shop,www.loc.gov/shop, or by ordering through 888-682-3557. Anniversary events throughout England, http://magnacarta800th.com/events.