A medieval market town has discovered it owns an original version of the Magna Carta
By Nicholas Hellen The Times 13 November 2011
A MEDIEVAL market town has discovered it owns an original version of Magna Carta, potentially worth about 20 million pounds, rather than a copy worth only 10,000 pounds.
It was identified in the collection of Faversham town council in Kent by academic experts prompted by the auction of a version from 1297 owned by Ross Perot, who ran for the US presidency against Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. In 2007 that version had fetched $US21.3m (about $A20.8 million at today’s rates).
Confirmation of the find comes ahead of the announcement of celebrations to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the 1215 charter that established the right of freeborn Englishmen to be punished only under the law of the land.
Nicholas Vincent, an authority on Magna Carta and professor of medieval history at the University of East Anglia, said: “There is an original from 1300 in Faversham that the people of Faversham knew about but nobody else did, that they had insured for 10,000 pounds ($A15,000) but must be actually worth more like 20m pounds ($A31m). That came as a bit of a surprise to them.”
Susan Brockman, Faversham’s town clerk, said she had already known it was valuable but admitted she had no idea of its true worth. “I’ve always looked on it as an original copy,” she said. She emphasised that the town had insured it in line with advice but declined to specify for how much.
Its true status escaped the scrutiny of even the Faversham Society, which commissioned an academic expert to translate 17 other charters granted to the town.
At the heart of the confusion about Faversham’s Magna Carta is that it was issued by Edward I in 1300, not by King John who was forced by his barons to agree to Magna Carta on June 15, 1215.
Vincent said: “It’s an original Magna Carta. It is of substantial historical interest – from 1300, the last reissue with the king’s seal. Reissues are legally binding texts, not just a clerk copying them out, and they carry the full weight of statute law.”
Hugh Doherty, a history research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford who has searched for new versions of Magna Carta with Vincent, said Faversham was issued with one because it was linked to the Cinque Ports, the series of historic coastal towns in Kent and Sussex.
Original article here