Lincoln is the only place in the world where you can see original copies of Magna Carta (1215) and the Charter of the Forest (1217) in one place, two iconic documents dating to the early 13th century.
History of the 1215 Magna Carta
Magna Carta is known as the first charter to limit the power of the monarchy and to uphold the rights of the individual going on to form the foundations of democracy as we know it today. It was officially sealed by King John in 1215 under pressure from a group of rebellious barons.
When King John died just a year later, copies of the charter were spread to religious houses in England including Lincoln and the city is now home to one of only four remaining copies. Hugh of Wells, the then Bishop of Lincoln, was present at the signing and made sure a copy was brought back to the Cathedral.
Magna Carta has since influenced the world, directly influencing event the United States of America Bill and Rights and Constitution.
Only four 1215 copies of the document survive today, and Lincoln’s parchment has been in the city ever since it was sealed by King John. Indeed, Lincoln's copy has instructions to deliver to 'Lincolnia' written on the back - the only surviving copy with such markings.
You can see an England translation of Magna Carta on the National Archives website.
History of the 1217 Charter of the Forest
King Henry III took the throne after the death of King John at Newark in 1216 and, under the guidance of the famous meideval knight William Marshall, put his seal to the Charter of the Forest in 1217.
This charter complemented Magna Carta's clauses with particular reference to the forests of the land, re-establishing the rights of the people using them.
Only two copies of the original 1217 Charter of the Forest survive today, one of which can be seen in Lincoln alongside its 1215 Magna Carta counterpart.
You can see an English translation of the charter on the National Archives website.
Where to See the Documents
The subterranean David P J Ross Magna Carta Vault is found in Lincoln Castle where you can see the document, alongside the Charter of the Forest, for yourself. You can also explore Magna Carta through the wall of words and a stunning 210 degree cinema screen with a film explaining its story and significance.
Lincoln is also the only place in the world where you can find an original copy of Magna Carta together with a copy of the original Charter of the Forest.
Please note: at certain times during the year Magna Carta is at rest and unavailable. Please see the Lincoln Castle website for details of which documents are on display and when.
The two charters belong to Lincoln Cathedral and are on loan to Lincoln Castle, a seat for justice from its beginnings. A facsimile of Magna Carta can be found in the Cathedral.