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AHRC researcher authenticates major Magna Carta find

Date: 08/02/2015

As a result of the AHRC's landmark research into the Magna Carta, a previously unknown copy of the 1300 Magna Carta has been discovered in Sandwich, Kent.

The find was made when Professor Nicholas Vincent (UEA), Principal Investigator on the Magna Carta project, asked Kent County Council's community history officer, Dr Mark Bateson, to look up a copy of Sandwich's Charter of the Forest. This led to the discovery of the Magna Carta in the Sandwich archive in Maidstone.

The document was discovered and authenticated only weeks before the recent Magna Carta unification event at the British Library brought together the four surviving 1215 editions. The discovery is of great significance as it survives with its partner Forest Charter of 1300. Only one other pair is known, kept at Oriel College, Oxford.

Like the other copies of Magna Carta, the Sandwich charter is a over half a metre in length. It has been badly damaged by damp, is missing about a third of its text, and its royal seal has disappeared. It had survived, against the odds and unbeknownst to its archivists, in a scrapbook compiled by a British Museum official, E. Salisbury, at the end of the 19th century.

The 1300 Magna Carta, issued by Edward I, was apparently the last drawn up by the royal chancery and distributed under the king's seal. The discovery of the Sandwich Magna Carta brings the number of surviving originals of 1300 to seven. The total number of Magna Carta known to exist worldwide is now twenty-four, of which four have been discovered by the AHRC project researchers.

That the newly discovered exemplar was sent to Sandwich, one of the Cinque Ports, suggests that the Charters were sent to as many as fifty towns and ports.

Professor Vincent said:

It must have been much more widely distributed than previously thought because if Sandwich had one ... the chances are it went out to a lot of other towns. And it is very likely that there are one or two out there somewhere that no one has spotted yet.

Read more from the Magna Carta Project, on the Magna Carta Project website.

Notes to Editors

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class research in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and many more. Each year the AHRC spends approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training often in collaboration with partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds provide considerable economic, social and cultural benefits to the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to: www.ahrc.ac.uk


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