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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Magna Carta on show at British Library

King John signing the Magna Carta at Runnymede on June 15, 1215 

For the first time in 800 years, the four surviving original versions of the Magna Carta have been brought together at the British Library in London.

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing, in any way.....except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

It's incredible when you think that this document, which was signed in a paddock outside London eight hundred years ago, is still relevant today.

It meant that nobody was above the law, including a monarch, and even though King John signed it - under protest - he soon changed his mind and had it annulled by the Pope.  It wasn't until his successors revived it years after his death, that the document's importance became clear.

When war broke out in 1939, it was being exhibited at the World Fair in New York, but because it couldn't be returned safely to England across the Atlantic, it was kept at the Library of Congress for several years. And when America entered the war, it was moved into Fort Knox until 1946.

More than 43,000 people from across the world applied for tickets to the exhibition in London but only 1,215 got the chance to see the four charters over three days.

Academics and Magna Carta experts will get a unique chance to study the four documents side by side, looking at differences in text, handwriting, and condition for clues to their past.