National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons

The Magna Carta Trust 1999

The following information concerning the Magna Carta Trust was furnished through the kindness of Mr. Tim Williams, Honorary Secretary of the Magna Carta Trust. We asked for information about the Trust to provide to our members. We have copied relevant portions of an article which he sent to us for that purpose. The thank him for his interest and his extraordinary dedication to Runnymede and Magna Carta.

THE MAGNA CHARTA TRUST

It was in October 1956 that senior representatives from the judiciary, church, various County and District Councils, The English Speaking Union, The Pilgrims of Great Britain, The Royal Empire Society, The Victoria League, The Overseas League, The National Trust and all the High Commissioners came together to plan the Magna Carta Trust as successor to the Magna Carta Society.

The meeting had before them a letter from the then Prime Minister (The Rt. Hon. Sir Anthony Eden, KG, MC, MP) capturing the significance of the new Trust's aims:

AI am glad to have this opportunity to send a message to the inaugural meeting of the Magna Carta Trust.

The 15 June 1215 is rightly regarded as one o the most notable days in the history of the world. Those who were at Runnymede that day could not know the consequences that were to flow from their proceedings. The granting of Magna Carta marked the road to individual freedom, to Parliamentary democracy and to the supremacy of the law. The principals of Magna Carta, developed over the centuries by the Common Law, are the heritage now, not only of those who live in these islands, but in countless millions of all races and creeds throughout the world.

It is most fitting that a Trust should be formed to commemorate so great a moment in history, and I send my best wishes for your success.@

It was Lord Evershed, Master of the Rolls who formally proposed the formation of the Trust with the following objects:

                    The perpetuation of the principles of Magna Carta.

                    The preservation for reverent public use of sites associated with Magna Carta.

The Commemoration triennially, and on such special occasions as shall be determined by the Trust, of the grant of Magna Carta as the source of the constitutional liberties of all English-speaking peoples, and a common bond of peace between them.

One of the first actions of the newly created Trust was to seek to create a memorial to mark Magna Carta. A lease of land at the Runnymede Meadows, Egham, was put in hand and the great generosity of the American Bar Association, the Dulverton Trust, and The Pilgrim Trust saw preparation of the site and the commissioning of the architect, Sir Edward Maude, to create a memorial on the gentle slopes of Cooper=s Hill overlooking the Runnymede Meadow. In the subsequent thirty-eight years the Trust has been chaired by Lord Denning, Lord Donaldson and presently by the Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas Bingham.

Most of the energies of the Trust have been centered around triennial celebrations rotating amongst the five Charter Towns: (City of Canterbury, City of London, Runnymede Borough, City of St. Albans and Borough of St. Edmundsbury). These celebrations have taken many forms including rededication ceremonies, pageants, dinners, plays and lectures. However, the Trust has been heavily constrained in view of the financial burden of maintaining and safeguarding the memorial and its site at Runnymede and the reasonableness of financial support that it could seek from its Trustees and their representative organizations.

More recently, Sir Thomas Bingham and fellow Trustees have made a concerted effort to secure the Trust on a proper financial footing and the generosity of the Charter Towns, the American Bar Association, the Inns of Court, and the Law Society Trust has enabled it to be more ambitious in raising the profile and underscoring the significance of Magna Carta. Initiatives have included a major City based lecture by Sir James Holt, former Professor of Mediaeval History and Master of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. His Excellency The Prime Minister of India, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao, visited the memorial site at Runnymede during his four-day official visit to Britain in March of last year. This was seen very much as a pilgrimage and a tribute to the historic Magna Carta, a source of inspiration throughout the world, as an affirmation of the values of Freedom, Democracy and the Rule of Law, which the people of India cherish and have enshrined in their constitution.

Runnymede Borough Council, has, with the encouragement of the Trust, financed a detailed appraisal for creating an interpretation/heritage centre for the many thousands of visitors to this area who at the moment, whilst enjoying its natural beauty, come away with little or no information as to Magna Carta, its historical significance, or the great constitutional principles derived from it.  scheme to improve the interpretation of the Meadow sites now being pursued by the National Trust, as the principal and owner. It is hoped that financial support will be forth-coming to enable this attractive project to go forward and capture the enormous national and international significance that Magna Carta gave to democratic principles and the rule of law.

If any of our members would like additional information, you may contact Mr. Williams directly to his E-mail address at williamst@runnymede.gov.uk.   You may also send an E-mail to our office.

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