Isn’t it just amazing the Magna Carta can go “on tour?”
After learning the Magna Carta would be making the rounds in two major cities in our province, I knew I’d be buying tickets. And since I also know my sister and brother are both history majors, I knew they’d be buying tickets too. So we arranged to see it together.
After studying the Magna Carta a number of years ago in our Story of the World history curriculum, we learned the details regarding John, the brother of Richard the Lionheart. While Richard was off in the Crusades (ending up imprisoned by Leopold of Austria, among a series of other unfortunate events,) John, who became known as John Lackland, stepped into the shoes as king, of his own accord.
Our children came to call him evil King John. And if any of you have seen the animated version of Robin Hood, the thumb sucking lion who steals from the poor (and calls for his mummy in his sleep) is this very king they are portraying.
If you’re interested in showing your children a quick animated video clip of the history behind the Magna Carta (history in a nutshell tidbit), be sure to view the video below from a British website called The British Library.
The Magna Carta (meaning Great Charter) was displayed at Old Historic Fort York in downtown Toronto. Couldn’t have had a lovelier day for riding the GO train into the city, and the wee walk over to the Fort from the train station.
You’ve probably duly noted that we haven’t an actual photo of the Magna Carta or the Charter of the Forest to show you since photography of the documents weren’t allowed. The Latin copy below was $7 at the front desk shop ($12 if you purchase the English translation.)
The room was packed to overflowing with curious patrons and history enthusiasts, all wanting a glimpse of the charter responsible for our rights and freedoms passed down to our nation today. It was encased in glass with a personal security guard, as well as one for the Charter of the Forest.
The version on tour wasn’t the first 1215 document drawn up by King John (which, by the way, ended up ripped up by Pope Innocent III three months after it was written.) The Pope was furious with the barons he thought bullied John into signing the charter, saying it brought shame to royal rights. The charter was re-written several times after this, the last formal one being written in the year 1300 and sealed by King Edward I.
I had no idea the wax seal on these documents were as large as they are. I’m guessing they are at least 4 inches in length and maybe 3 inches wide? Really quite something that they have been preserved as well as this for all this time.
The second charter displayed, also with King Edward’s seal on it from 1300, was the the Charter of the Forest (the original written and sealed in 1217 by young King Henry III), granting the rights of common access to the private land the king originally lay claim to.
If you get the opportunity to travel to England (or are lucky enough to actually live in England), make sure in 2016 you find your way to Durham Cathedral (built in 1093!) where these documents are housed. The cathedral was originally built as a monastic cathedral for Benedictine monks. There are great reveals coming to it in the way of the Great Kitchen (one of only two remaining monastic kitchens in England), and the monks’ dormitory.
After viewing both documents on tour, we perused the grounds of the Fort, which is situated in what seems the oddest spot, encased inside old stone walls smack in the middle of the enormous city of Toronto, skyscrapers and the CN Tower peering down into the grounds.
Our last little jaunt of the day was for a caffeine fix at the closest coffee shop, where we found this toy soldier monument designed by Douglas Coupland and intended as a dedication to the War of 1812 and the triumph of the British (in gold) holding Canada. The soldier depicted in gold is of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment (thanks cousin C for translating those initials for us on his backpack).
As you can see, our shadows are long, so we’re at the end of our full and enjoyable day in the city. Little did we know how long that long would be. Our train seemed to have some track switching difficulties and we ended up parked for an extra forty minutes on the tracks. Had this happened en route to the Magna Carta I may have been distraught, but at the end of the day, we sat content and fulfilled, having witnessed a piece of the past up close; a piece that has given us the freedom of our here and now.
For more Magna Carta learning, and teacher resources and timelines, check out the website Magna Carta 2015 Canada.