Yes, everyone, the day has finally arrived! It’s June 15th! You know what that means, right? Today commemorates the…wait for it…
795th Anniversary of the Signing (well, seal-affixing) of Magna Carta!!!
I know that you have all had this day marked on your calendars for a while; I expect that you all are at your local pubs celebrating. Me? What am I doing to celebrate this momentous day? Well, the celebrations for me started on Friday. My last essay for Hugh was the following question: How far did Magna Carta fulfill the intentions of its makers? We spent a good hour and a half talking about Magna Carta (and, by that, I mean Hugh talked for an hour and a half whilst I rapidly tried to write down the brilliant things that he was saying), so that was a great way to kick off the celebrations.
On Saturday, I ventured to Runnymede, which is the meadow in which Magna Carta was signed. John was at Windsor, and the barons were in Staines; Runnymede is in the middle of those two. The issue with all of these medieval sites to which I’ve been venturing this year is that they’re either a) in the middle of nowhere (i.e., Sutton Hoo) or b) in the middle of a huge highway (i.e. Runnymede). Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, don’t worry – I’m fine, and I’m always safe. Always. Anyway, there really isn’t anything to the meadows – they’re just meadows, which was fantastic. The weather was actually quite beautiful, so I was able to frolic in the meadows for a bit. There are three memorials scattered throughout Runnymede; one, which was set up by the American Bar Association, commemorates the signing of Magna Carta. Another commemorates those who served in the British Armed Forces. The last one commemorates JFK. Fun fact: The land on which the memorials dedicated to Magna Carta and JFK are actually American territory. So, in essence, I went home for the weekend. But, yes, I was able to visit where the barons negotiated with a) each other and b) King John and eventually where Magna Carta was signed. It was awesome. That’s one of the coolest things about this year – I’ve been able to physically be in the same places about which I’ve studied. Talk about making Beowulf come to life! Field trips are kind of hard to arrange when you’re a medieval studies student in America. Here, though, you just hop on a train and *bam* – you’re at the same place where Raedwald most likely stood.
More medieval nerdery related to Magna Carta will happen shortly, so watch this space.
Now, I’m not going to go into what Magna Carta exactly established (FYI – the 1215 original statement did not, in fact, create English democracy as we know it; that came with the later reissues), but it is a document worth celebrating nonetheless. So go out and show your pride for this document!