Stunning photo: What happened here, 795 years ago?

Runnymede, Magna Carta Isle, photo by Wyrdlight, Antony McCallum, 2008 (Wikimedia)

What event critical to western history and the development of the democratic republic in the U.S. happened here in 1215?

A teacher might use some of these photos explaining the steps to the Constitution, in English law and the heritage of U.S. laws.  Other than the Magna Carta, all the events of Runnymede get overlooked in American studies of history. Antony McCallum, working under the name Wyrdlight, took these stunning shots of this historic meadow.  (He photographs stuff for studies of history, it appears.)

Maybe it’s a geography story.

View of Runnymede Meadow from Engham Village -- Wyrdlight photo through Wikimedia

View of Runnymede Meadow from Engham Village -- Wyrdlight photo through Wikimedia

Several monuments to different events of the past millennium populate the site.  The American Bar Association dedicated a memorial to the Magna Carta there — a small thing open to the air, but with a beautiful ceiling that is probably worth the trip to see it once you get to England.

Wikipedia explains briefly, with a note that the ABA plans to meet there again in 2015, the 800th anniversary of the Great Charter:

Magna Carta Memorial

The Magna Carta Memorial & view towards the ‘medes’

Engraved stone recalling the 1985 ABA visit

Situated in a grassed enclosure on the lower slopes of Cooper’s Hill, this memorial is of a domed classical style, containing a pillar of English granite on which is inscribed “To commemorate Magna Carta, symbol of Freedom Under Law”. The memorial was created by the American Bar Association to a design by Sir Edward Maufe R.A., and was unveiled on 18 July 1957 at a ceremony attended by American and English lawyers.[5]

Since 1957 representatives of the ABA have visited and rededicated the Memorial renewing pledges to the Great Charter. In 1971 and 1985 commemorative stones were placed on the Memorial plinth. In July 2000 the ABA came:

to celebrate Magna Carta, foundation of the rule of law for ages past and for the new millennium.

In 2007 on its 50th anniversary the ABA again visited Runnymede and during the convention installed as President Charles Rhyne who devised Law Day which seeks in the USA an annual reaffirmation of faith in the forces of law for peace.

The ABA will be meeting at Runnymede in 2015 on the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the original charter.

The Magna Carta Memorial is administered by the Magna Carta Trust, which is chaired by the Master of the Rolls.[10]

In 2008, flood lights were installed to light the memorial at night, but due to vandalism they now lie smashed.

I’ll wager the lights get fixed before 2015.

Detail of ceiling of the Magna Carta Memorial, Runnymede - Wikimedia image

Detail of ceiling of the Magna Carta Memorial detailing play of light, and star pattern, Runnymede - Wikimedia image

More, resources:

8 Responses to Stunning photo: What happened here, 795 years ago?

  1. […] An encore post: What event critical to western history and the development of the democratic republic in the U.S. happened here in 1215? […]


  2. […] This is mostly an encore post. Share this:TwitterStumbleUponDiggRedditFacebookEmailLinkedInPinterestTumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]


  3. Porlock Junior says:

    By George, I think you’re right. At least, mentioning it in any context of law rather than boring old irrelevant history.

    There I go invoking the patron saint of a foreign country. Very dubious practice, but probably not actionable even in Oklahoma.


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    I think the Oklahoma ballot initiative makes it illegal to refer to the Magna Carta in court. Anyone know for sure?


  5. Porlock Junior says:

    Firestorm schmirestorm, I’m not so sure about this.

    My point of view is doubtless biased, as one who heard of the Magna Carta from a fairly ridiculously early age (in a family with a certain Anglophilia, to be sure) and steadily for the well over 50 years since then. I recall an occasion of sneering with my high-school friends at a motivational patriotic speaker who had praised the great originality of our Declaration of Independence without noting that it was based on ideas from furriners. (My friend, btw, was most scornful of the guy’s ignoring the French.)

    In various recent years when governments on both sides of the pond have worked diligently to eliminate habeas corpus (one specializing in secret prisons, the other in brazenly locking up suspects for weeks and weeks without charge), my little sampling of the press from both sides seems to show more Magna Carta invocations from the US (though h.c. is arguably more a 17th-century doctrine). I grant, though, that more Americans ought to know that the language of the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment is lifted from the Magna Carta.

    BTW, visit the national shrines to American independence in Philadelphia if you want a convenient place to pick up Magna Carta texts and memorabilia over here. Nope, no recognition or appreciation of pre-1776 history in this country.

    And you do know who got around to putting a modest monument on the site.

    So, I seem to see a variety of attitudes here, and believe it or not, some of us Yanks are badly annoyed by Palin et al., who would repeal due-process protections if they could: some so annoyed that they voted against putting her a heartbeat from the top job. I rather think that one hears what one wants to hear, and perhaps learns to tune out the ignorant chauvinists in one’s own country when possible while being acutely aware when those in distant lands make a loud noise.

    On the lighter side, there’s an aspect of Runnymede that I learned only a few years ago, which one would not infer from the beautiful pictures shown here: It’s a couple of miles from Heathrow. I had the privilege of being in the neighborhood when it was the hottest place on the hottest day in English history, possibly not the best time to have chosen. And Jeebus a hundred degrees F is hotter there than in California, and I’m not kidding — humidity and lack of air stirring, you know, plus the amazing lack of any readiness for hot weather. But I digress.

    Here’s to not letting any sovereigns, hereditary or republican, make off with our life, liberty, or property.


  6. James Hanley says:


    No firestorm from this quarter. As an Amurrican, I fully agree with you.


  7. Richard Thomas says:

    Thanks for this. At the risk of opening up a fire storm of abuse, this is why we inferior foreigners get so hacked off at the prating about American exceptionalism from people like Sarah Palin, Huckerbee and Romney – Newt Gingrich is actually more culpable since I believe he considers himself a historian – very interesting. Your President got it right. Pretty well every country sees itself as special and is right to do so. This is not to say that the USA has not anything to commend it – quite the reverse but not fortissimo to the detriment of everywhere else. Many do so blindly by attacking anyone who might think, let alone say, different and this in itself is perhaps revealing. If you can’t see that your country is not perfect in every way then you may not be doing it full justice.


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