15 June 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – the Great Charter – regarded by many as the foundation of liberty and democracy in the United Kingdom and across the world.
Magna Carta was initially drafted to make peace between King John of England and rebel barons, with whom he was at war. It looked to outline the civil rights of individuals and put in place laws which even the King himself would have to adhere to.
Magna Carta is approximately 4,000 words long and contains 63 clauses which, in short, look to protect church rights, protect against illegal imprisonment, uphold the right to a fair trial and place limitations on tax and other payments to the crown. It was re-issued 10 years later by Henry III, King John’s son, and, in 1297, it was enrolled on the statute book by Edward I – which meant it became part of English law. Only three of the original clauses remain part of English law today, but, nonetheless, Magna Carta is considered to be the foundation on which many of the rights we hold dear to this day were built . One of the clauses in particular, clause 39 is at the heart of law today:
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled. Nor will we proceed with force against him. Except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”
Alongside many events, exhibitions and commemorations marking the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the anniversary has been chosen as one of the themes for the 2015 UK £2 coins.
The coin design is by established coin designer, John Bergdahl. Taking inspiration from the art of the middle ages and the royal seal used to authorise Magna Carta itself, John Bergdahl’s design is symbolic of King John’s acceptance of Magna Carta. It features King John with a bishop and a baron on either side with the words ‘Magna Carta’ and the years ‘1215 – 2015’ adding to the medieval style.
Many depictions of this historic moment, such as the painting that features on the Brilliant Uncirculated packaging by A.C. Michael, feature similar symbolism, with a bishop and baron on either side of King John.
As well as a commemorative coin, a new set of special stamps has been issued by Royal Mail to mark the anniversary. Perfectly combining the commemorations, the Magna Carta PNC includes both the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta £2 coin and the six stamp set.
Click here to see the full commemorative coin range, which includes Brilliant Uncirculated, Silver Proof, Silver Proof Piedfort and Gold Proof coins.