Well, actually, it is a British document that is coming our way! A copy of the 800-year old Magna Carta is destined for exhibition in Canada this summer.

Just what is the Magna Carta, you might be wondering to yourself.

The centuries old document is a precedent-setting, hand-written agreement that emerged from a Middle Ages gathering at Runnymede in England. Then monarch, King John, met with some dissatisfied subjects/barons who expressed numerous grievances about how they and their property were treated. The end result of this exchange was the drawing up of the Magna Carta.

There are two excellent resources about the Magna Carta, if you wish to learn more about this feudal time and document.

One, you can check it out at Great backgrounder to the document and a useful file of education activities for teachers.

Also, for a child’s perspective on the Magna Carta, you might want to check out Eileen Cameron‘s historical fiction, Rupert’s Parchment Story of Magna Carta, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger. 

Source: cover photo
Source: cover photo

In this hardcover storybook, Rupert has the good fortune to travel to the meeting with the sheets of parchment obtained from his father who happens to be in the business of parchment making. There, at the Runnymede site, scribes would be responsible for recording the proceedings on these sheets of parchment.

Author Cameron is successful at placing young Rupert on the edge of the historic moment. Rupert sees King John’s entrance to the meadow and, later, the monarch listening to the list of injustices put forth by the barons, along with religious leaders.

At one point, the angry king strides away from the discontent of the barons but was calmed by a voice of reason from Bishop Langton.

All of this keeps Rupert busy meeting the needs of supplying the scribes with more parchment and pens and lots of chances to listen and observe the goings on.

The scenes of this busy day are captured in Doris Ettlinger’s colourful illustrations. She portrays the settings and costumes of the feudal era along with putting a human face on the participants.

Ultimately, a resolution is reached with the Barons pledging support to the King in exchange for a guarantee of their rights. The written document of rights receives the royal seal in a precedent setting document, called the Magna Carta, the Great Charter.

The book’s contents include a glossary, Q & A, and a comparison chart to illustrate the influence of the 1215 document content on the 1791 Bill of Rights. The historical written Magna Carta impacted many later documents that were drawn up in Britain, Canada, the United States and other countries with a tie to British legal tradition.

This colourful story about Rupert will have a strong appeal to young readers.

Cameron finishes her book with a quote, in calligraphic script:

No free man shall be imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions except by the judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

The Magna Carta is coming!

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