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Here’s a meeting that I shall be attending, although not, at this stage, presenting at, owing to the possibly ambitious list of things to which I’m already committed over the next three or four months. (What; me, bite off more than I can chew? Never!) The line up looks superb, so I’m very much looking forward to listening and absorbing. Registration is now open, and more details are here: http://events.history.ac.uk/event/show/9753

Ritual, State & Lordship

The conference will take place on 16 July 2013 at the New College of the Humanities, London, between 0900 and 1830. Registration cost: £5 for students/£10 for salaried attendees, to be paid on the day. In order to register please email the organisers at RitualsConference@hotmail.co.uk no later than 7 July.

Organisers: Lars Kjær (NCH), Levi Roach (Exeter), Sophie Ambler (KCL)

Bjorn Weiler (Aberystwyth): Introductory Remarks

Charles Insley (Manchester): Ottonians with Pipe Rolls?  Kingship and Symbolic Action in the Kingdom of the English

Levi Roach (Exeter): Full of Sound and Theory Signifying Nothing? Social Anthropology and the “Late Anglo-Saxon State”

Benjamin Wild (Sherborne): King Henry III and the Power of Aesthetics: Art & Ceremony in Thirteenth-Century England

Sophie Ambler (KCL): Making and Re-Making the King: the Ritual power of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Thirteenth-Century England

Christopher Tilley (KCL): “Communities of the Mind”: Ritual and Perception of Collective Political Identity in Thirteenth-Century England

Kenneth Duggan (KCL): The Ritualistic Importance of Gallows in England in the High Middle Ages

Lars Kjær (NCH): Hunting, Sociability and the Experience of Royal Favour

Nicholas Vincent (UEA): Concluding Remarks

If I were a more organized individual – and none of that snorting thank you – I’d have been prepared with a stimulating and intelligent contribution to the celebrations for today’s 797th anniversary of the first issue of Magna Carta, 15th June 1215. Trust me, when it’s the 800th anniversary, there will be dancing llamas.[1]

For now, you’ll have to make do with a pretty picture of one of the four surviving engrossments of the first issue, the famous British Library Magna Carta (although, they actually have two of the 1215 issue, one of the 1225 reissue from Henry III’s minority, and – as an inspeximus – a number of versions of the 1265 reissue under the baronial government of Simon de Montfort, addressed to different counties[2]); and a link to their marvellous manuscripts blog, which is also celebrating this auspicious occasion with some pictures and commentary. Their series of Treasures in Full, which has a section dedicated to the Magna Carta and its context is well worth a visit, and you can click through to it from the image below.

Magna Carta

London, BL, MS Cotton Augustus ii.106

I admit to being a Magna Carta fan, not that I recommend it as bedtime reading, unless you are suffering advanced insomnia, but I think this talismanic document is one of the reasons I am a medievalist. I remember first being taken to look at it as a child of seven, and despite their having nothing but high school historical education, the awe in which my parents held this manky bit of old skin. They had – in fact still have – a poster of the Augustus engrossment, complete with English translation, which hangs (of all places) in the spare toilet at their house in Melbourne. It’s amazing how many hours people tend to sit in there, gazing at it… (If you’re curious, the opposite wall has the Rosetta Stone, and the side wall has a piece of medieval stained glass from the Burrell Collection. My folks were well into collecting ‘cultural’ artefacts when they travelled in the 1980s. Their house is an eclectic and joyful muddle of souvenirs elevated to the status of museum pieces.) I think I absorbed their reverent attitude long before I understood anything about King John and his barons; the wonder of being in the presence of such ancient written thoughts; a vague but powerful sensation of the significance of historical documents. I still often make a pilgrimage to St Pancras to look at it when I am in town.

So happy birthday, Magna Carta. And thanks for everything.


[1] There will also be a conference, and a bunch of other events to mark the occasion. I can hardly wait! See the Magna Carta 2015 webpage for more info: http://magnacarta800th.com/
[2] I take these figures from the most recent and thorough census of extant copies, prepared by Nicholas Vincent and Hugh Doherty for Sotheby’s on the occasion of the sale of the 1297 engrossment formerly owned by Ross Perot, see: The Magna Carta (Sotheby’s: New York, 2007). The BL copies are: (1215) MS Cotton Charter xiii.31a; MS Augustus ii.106 (shown here); (1225) MS Additional 46144; (1265) Cotton Claudius ii. (Statutes etc.) f.128v (138v, 125v); and MS Harley 489 ff. 4r-8v.

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I teach and research at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in the School of Philosophical, Historial and International Studies, Monash University (Australia). Views expressed here are my own and not representative of the CMRS, SOPHIS or Monash.

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Twitter: @KB_Neal

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