Magna Carta memorial, Runnymede


Runnymede, near Windsor in the south of England, is the location for the historic meeting between King John (r. 1199-1216) and the barons that led to the creation of Magna Carta in 1215.

With certain exceptions — including a plaque laid by the Prime Minister of India in 1997 and a small memorial lodge belonging to the National Trust — the site of Runnymede is dominated by American monuments. The most magnificent of the memorials is a flood-lit neo-classical rotunda erected in 1957 by the American Bar Association. Designed by the English architect Sir Edward Maufe (1883-1974), the rotunda is filled with American stars and houses a pedestal dedicated to ‘Magna Carta symbol of freedom under law’.

Nearby is an oak tree planted in 1987 by the Secretary of the United States Army with soil from Virginia, as well as a small cenotaph commemorating the assassinated President John F. Kennedy (1917-63). The Kennedy memorial was consciously placed at Runnymede in order to strengthen Anglo-American relations during the Cold War and to promote the notion that America, ‘the Land of the Free’, had inherited the ideals of liberty from England’s Magna Carta sealed at Runnymede. In her speech dedicating the monument to Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth II stated that Magna Carta was ‘a part of the heritage which the people of the United States of America share with us’, and that it was therefore ‘altogether fitting’ that Runnymede ‘should be the site of Britain’s memorial to the late President ’.

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Photograph of the American Bar Association Memorial to Magna Carta, Runnymede
2014, Runnymede
© Alison Avery
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