Lincoln and the Magna Carta

023 Barons' ShieldsOn June 15, 1215 – or 19th according to some sources – at a place called Runneymede (near Windsor) on the River Thames, King John of England reluctantly signed a treaty with the powerful barons of the realm. The document was a series of written promises that John would govern the country and deal with its people according to the customs of feudal law. In other words, the charter was an attempt by the barons to stop John from abusing his power and the people of England suffering as a consequence. The charter became known as the Magna Carta: Latin for the Great Charter. Here are a couple of artistic interpretations of the signing:


19th century coloured wood engraving of king John signing the Magna Carta. Public Domain


Link John Magna Charta by Ernest Normand, 1900. Uploaded by william Avery. Public domain

By 1215, John had been king for 16 years, and had a series of mistakes, misdemeanours, and cruel or treacherous acts behind him and at last the barons had snapped. I intend to look at some of these in another post, but today, I want to think about the Magna Carta.

2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Several copies were originally made and delivered to religious establishments all over the country. Only four of these copies are still in existence today: two in the British Library, one in Salisbury Cathedral and one belongs to Lincoln Cathedral but is on display in Lincoln Castle. Lincoln’s copy has been in the city since it was sealed by King John – it even has instructions to deliver to ‘Lincolnia’ written on the back.

Lincoln is also the only place in the world where you can find an original copy of Magna Carta together with the Charter of the Forest, issued in 1217 to amplify the document, and is one of only two surviving copies.

Throughout the summer, Lincoln has been celebrating this momentous signing, along with several other places around the country. And since Lincoln is only 7 miles away from where we live, Husband and I decided to pop along and have a look.

Lincoln Castle is worth a post on its own – another one I have planned for later on. It’s a fine old Norman structure, unusual in having two keeps. The County Law Courts are still located inside the castle, as is the old prison – well worth a visit in itself. It is in the subterranean vault inside the prison building that the Magna Carta is on display. It’s the red brick building in the photo (bottom left) below.

Unfortunately, the controlled lighting in the vaults makes taking photographs impossible. Flash photography is a no-no. So I have no photos of the documents to show. But there are some online that can be seen.

As part of the anniversary celebrations in Lincoln, the organisers have created the Barons’ Charter Trail for children to follow. Twenty five fun ‘barons’ have been created, all painted in bright colours and given amusing names like ‘Truck Driver Baron’, ‘Wild Flower Baron’ and ‘Lincolnshire Waterways Baron’. They are spread out across the cultural and commercial areas of Central Lincoln. On finding all 25, and copied down the code for each, children collect a bag of King John’s gold – in other words, chocolate money.

We found all of these ‘barons’ and here is a selection of them:

The barons’ shields, used as the header image above, are on display on the wall outside the vault where the documents are housed.

A week after this visit to Lincoln Castle, we had a visit to nearby Newark Castle, where a  re-enactment group were putting on a display about John and medieval life in general. We have some good photos of that event, too. Needless to say, John is featured a lot this summer. He was an interesting character, and one of the most memorable kings in English history.

About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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75 Responses to Lincoln and the Magna Carta

  1. irinadim says:

    Wonderful post, Millie.

  2. I love the pictures and the history about the Magna Carta! What an informative and colorful post! Love it Millie!

  3. irinadim says:

    Reblogged this on Irina's Poetry Corner and commented:
    Wonderful post by Millie Thom to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta!

  4. This was very interesting. Did not know much about Magna Carta, thanks for this lovely post I enjoyed reading it.

  5. Very informative and interesting post Millie! ❤ The detailed information you provided is very useful for someone like me who has never heard of Magna Carta 😉 The castle looks really beautiful and has a great history behind it. Thank you for sharing all these marvelous photos and post with us dear!

  6. It is quite amazing that these copies have survived for so long. 800 years is a huge chunk of history and I suppose there might be loads of celebrations to mark the anniversary? And I love all those barons. They look a bit like gigantic chess pieces.

    • milliethom says:

      Several places are putting on displays and activities for this anniversary, Amanda, Runneymede and London in particular, as well as Lincoln. Newark Castle, not far from Lincoln had a re-enactment about King john last week and are having a dramatization of the signing of the Magna Carta in a couple of weeks. The barons will be on display until October and the Magna Carta and other documents is now permanently on display in Lincoln Castle. The barons have been a big attraction with tourists and locals alike. Thank you for reading! 🙂

  7. Bekki Hill says:

    Thanks for the post Millie. Very interesting and those barons are very entertaining. It also reminded me of one of my dad’s favourite Jokes, ‘Where was the magna carta signed?’

    • milliethom says:

      Your dad sounds like a nice, jovial sort. 😀 As for the barons, they’re a lot of fun and look great dotted about the city. Lincoln’s a lovely city, especially the ‘uphill’ area, where the cathedral and castle are. It’s a nice, invigorating walk up Steep Hill to get there if you park in the lower, shopping area. Uphill is where most of the Roman remains are, too, because that’s where the fort of Lindum was. Uphill is where the famous Christmas market is, too, and that’s well worth a visit.

      • Bekki Hill says:

        I’ve only been to Lincoln once – about 30 years ago, so only have a vague memory of it being rather attractive and historic. Making mental note here as somewhere else to visit in the Wild North!

      • milliethom says:

        Lincoln’s quite a thriving city, particularly as a relatively ‘new’ university city. Our eldest daughter has lived in Lincoln since she did her PhD there. The city’s worth a visit – as are so many places! I’m away this week up in Hadrian’s Wall country. I love it up here in the even Wilder North. Needless to say, blogging time is limited, so I’ll try to catch up a bit once I get home. 🙂

  8. Norma says:

    Thanks for sharing Millie. I loved those ‘barons’. They look so cute with eye popping colours. 🙂

  9. exiledprospero says:

    These barons could be adapted to the matryoshka doll concept: one baron on the outside, and countless sartorially-challenged barons within.

  10. This is very interesting. I love the photos and the colorful barons, and especially the chocolate money 🙂 The Magna Carta art is quite beautiful also. Wonderful, Millie!

    • milliethom says:

      Hi LT. Sorry for this late reply, but I’ve been away for the last eight days, up in Northumberland – with no internet for most of the time. Whilst up there, we visited my aunt (my father’s sister) and she told me something about their mother’s name. (I knew very little about Dad’s side of the family because we rarely saw them when we were young.) It seemed strange, after talking to you about your grandfather’s name, to find out that my maternal grandmother was a Greenwood.
      Thank you for liking my post!

      • Millie, I think being away somewhere without Internet for a few days sounds great 🙂 Greenwood? Ha ha, that is funny..who knows, we might be related 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        Having no internet was certainly restful. But now I’m home, I have so much to catch up on. I don’t suppose I’ll catch up on everything on WP though – there’s just too much of it. Yes, I thought the coincidence over the name was funny, especially as we’d only just spoken about it. All these years and I never knew I was a quarter Greenwood. We may be related, at that. 🙂

  11. Wow – fascinating Millie. The work is so interesting!

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, JL. The Magna Carta is so famous and is viewed as having laid the foundation stones of justice for all people, not just the wealthy and privileged. Although it was essentially an English document, I think the stipulations have spread to many other countries. Of course, at the time, King John had no intention of obeying them! John

  12. I loved the barons and that little interactive took me with it – I got lost hahaha.

  13. You make history so interesting! It’s amazing that the British have always been so careful to conserve those pieces of history – the physical ones as well as the traditions. I wonder what it would be like to visit the British Library… and whether it’s open to the public.

    • milliethom says:

      Hi again. I’m back home now, after eight days away, so I’ll be doing some catching up over the next few days. As for the British Library, I’ve never been there myself, either. But as far as I know, certain rooms are open daily, but you need a pass for the Reading Room to do research. I’ll have to check it all up if I decide to to go there. Of course it’s open for exhibitions. We rarely go down to London, but I’m hoping to do so soon. 🙂

  14. Such wonderful photos of castles! I love castles. Of course, we don’t have any of those in the US. So its a treat to get to see them. I also loved the photos of the barons! Thanks for sharing these with us.

  15. Reblogged this on HarsH ReaLiTy and commented:
    I really like the photos of the barons! This is actually one of my favorite topics in European history. If only we could make some “current leaders” sign some binding documents now! -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here, please visit their blog.

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you so much for reblogging this OM. It’s much appreciated. I’m late replying because I’ve been away for over a week, with no internet! I agree that this period of history is fascinating. King John is always linked to the tales about Robin Hood, too. The area around Lincoln was once a part of Sherwood Forest and King John died in Newark Castle, fifteen miles away from Lincoln. I think it would be a little more problematic getting modern-day leaders to sign anything at all! It would be great if we could…! Mind you, John signed, but had no intention of honouring the treaty. He was back at war with the barons three months later. Typical John… or perhaps, typical politician… 🙂

  16. Always love reading about the history of my home city. It was a pleasant surprise to see Opinionated Man reblogging about it! 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you so much. I’m not from Lincoln by birth, but have been in this area (near to Collingham) for some years now. One of my daughters lives in Lincoln and did her doctorate at the uni there. It’s a lovely old city. The Magna Carta celebrations were excellent, too. I was as surprised as you to see OM reblogging my post, but delighted that he did! I’ve been away for the last eight days, with no internet for most of it, so I’m sorry to be late in replying to you. 🙂

  17. Galit Balli says:

    Loved the post Millie 🙂

  18. Janice Wald says:

    Amazing photos. I teach about King John and the Magna Carta. Nice to meet you.

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you, Janice. I taught about King John for years, too, and find him a fascinating characer … the whole ‘Good King John, Bad King John?’ thing. There are so many places celebrating the Magna Carta this year, and I just happen to live near to Lincoln, where they’ve made a great event out of it. It’s lovely to meet you, too, so thank you for dropping by!

  19. inesephoto says:

    Thank you for the wonderful post and photos!

  20. Rhys Jones says:

    A very interesting post! …. Much less known, but of great significance to the town where I live, is that King John signed the Droitwich Charter on 1st August 1215. See

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you, Rhys! And thank you for the link. I’d never heard of the Droitwich Charter, although I knew John signed several around that time. I hope Droitwich made something of it during the June celebrations. It would have been good for the tourism there.

  21. Aquileana says:

    Such an informative post… I much enjoyed the reading, dear Millie… The pics are great and I particularly loved the barons, depicted in a Pop art style. Very rad 😎
    All my best wishes. Aquileana ⭐

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you, Aquileana. 🙂 I’m very behind with reading posts, as I’ve been away from home for a while. I’ll be doing some ‘catching up’ as soon as I get myself organised. Best wishes to you, too. 😀

  22. My boy learned about the MC two yrs ago in First Grade in European history so I ran him through this post. SO cool you got to visit Lincoln!!

  23. Pingback: King John is at Newark! | Millie Thom

  24. Pingback: Reunion and Farewell To The Barons | Millie Thom

  25. Pingback: The Mini-Barons Celebrate Christmas | Millie Thom

  26. Pingback: The Battle of Lincoln Fair (1): Preparations | Millie Thom

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