A spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime pageant brought the streets of Salisbury to life with a carnival of colour as Wiltshire celebrated the birth of our nation’s present day liberties 800 years on from the sealing of the Magna Carta.
The celebrations took place on the evening of Monday 15 June, eight centuries to the day since King John met the group of rebel barons at Runnymede and consented to a series of promises for new civic liberties ranging from the protection of church rights to access to swift and fair justice.
The spirits of the barons were reborn in the guise of a series of larger-than-life puppets, representing the diverse communities that make up Wiltshire. The barons paraded through the city from the Market Square to the Cathedral, which itself plays host to the most intact copy of the Magna Carta in existence.
Each of the barons lead a delegation from communities across Wiltshire. Hundreds participated in the pageant and thousands lined the streets of the city as the procession weaved its way to its destination, where dignitaries took part in the signing of a new Magna Carta statement for Wiltshire in the 21st century.
The event was organised by Wiltshire Council, working in partnership with Salisbury Cathedral and Salisbury City Council and a range of other partner organisations.
Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “The sealing of the Magna Carta marked a watershed in our place as ordinary British subjects – ultimately it sparked our parliamentary democracy and rule of law, but it also stands out as the first time the people of this nation had their voices heard.”
The pageant was a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, not only of this historic anniversary, but also of our 21st century liberties.
The Very Rev’d June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, said: “This day – the day on which Magna Carta was actually sealed 800 years ago – is a hugely significant anniversary for the Cathedral, the city of Salisbury and the county.
As we celebrate with members of the community and visitors, we should remember what this day is all about – justice, equality, fairness and compassion – such values the church, national and local government should celebrate and share.”