The "Great Charter"
Magna Carta returns to its display at the National Archives
The 1297 Magna Carta—essentially the great grandparent to our Declaration of Independence—has just returned to the National Archives after a year of absence. This documentation of a major turning point in world history actually completes the Charters of Freedom, which also collectively includes the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The more-than 700-year-old parchment was away undergoing intensive conservation treatment and is now in a new, state-of-the-art encasement with an interactive display. The document is on permanent loan from private owner David Rubenstein, who purchased it at auction for 21.3 million dollars. It is the only version of Magna Carta found outside of Great Britain and Australia.
Now that the document is reinstalled in the National Archives west Rotunda gallery, two touch screens will allow visitors to explore the 1297 Magna Carta, its role in the progression of our society and learn about life in the 13th century, when a group of his subjects forced King John of England to accept Magna Carta. It was a direct challenge to the English monarch’s authority, requiring that he accept that his will is not arbitrary, and exerting the power of the law of the land; it was the first attempt at preserving basic legal rights for all free men in England.
The charter inspired early settlers in New England and, later, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.
Visitors to the exhibit may read transcripts of and magnify all three of the Charters of Freedom documents including an English translation of the Latin text of Magna Carta.