Following his imprisonment in 1810, Sir Francis Burdett (1770–1844) gained widespread notoriety as a defender of the rights and liberties of the people. As with Wilkes and Lilburne before him, Burdett’s reputation was reinforced by his supporters, who regularly associated him with Magna Carta in the press and in popular prints. In this etching, made in 1811 by John Raphael Smith (1752–1812), Burdett – surrounded by weighty legal tomes – holds out ‘Magna Charta’ to the viewer. In the background the Tower of London looms large, as a reminder of where Burdett was imprisoned by Parliament, and where others also risked being sent if the principles of the Great Charter were forgotten. As this print shows, Burdett and his champions were fully aware of the symbolic power of Magna Carta, which they invoked to great popular success.
- Article by:
- Alex Lock
Dr Alexander Lock discusses Magna Carta’s relationship to parliamentary reform and to radicals fighting oppressive government. Find out how this medieval peace settlement was reinvented as a potent symbol of liberty and justice.