It’s not often that The Royal Mint commemorate an event which occurred as many as 800 years ago, but the Magna Carta warrants every bit of recognition in this very special anniversary year.
In 1215, after King John violated a number of the ancient laws and customs by which England had been governed, his barons forced him to agree to a new set of rules. They rebelled against excessive taxes, formed an army and captured London. John had no choice but to negotiate. To appease the rebels, he produced the Magna Carta and the Royal Seal was attached on 15th June of that year at Runnymede, near Windsor Castle.
That historic moment is captured on a new £2 coin and features King John holding the Magna Carta and flanked by two barons. Designed by veteran coin artist John Bergdahl, the very distinctive medieval-style lettering is also befitting of the era.
But the edge inscription FOUNDATION OF LIBERTY is the most accurate and succinct description of what the Magna Carta or ‘Great Charter’ represents.
It is certain that King John had not intended to produce a parchment enshrining the basic tenets of human rights, but the elements of the Magna Carta were just that. For the first time an English king had set detailed limits on royal authority and, crucially, made clear that the king was subject to the law and not above it.
The Magna Carta was arguably the most significant early influence on creating the rule of constitutional law today in the English-speaking world. In fact, it is still cited in many legal cases today – even in America.
The Magna Carta £2 is due to enter general circulation later this year – make sure you keep an eye out for one in your change!