WATCH: Magna Carta anniversary exhibition opens in North East

A special exhibition commemorating 800 years of Magna Carta opens in the North East tomorrow.

The centrepiece of Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt, at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, is the only surviving 1216 issue of the charter, on loan from Durham Cathedral.

A copy of the Magna Carta.

A copy of the Magna Carta.

Magna Carta is celebrated as the founding document of democracy after King John sealed the original charter in 1215. The agreement played a vital role in establishing the rule of law – the idea that all authority is subject to legal constraint.

The communities of Alnwick and Warkworth are to receive a facsimile of the 1215 edition of the Magna Carta as part of the anniversary and both are planning special celebratory events.

The Durham exhibition tells the story of revolt bringing together treasures and objects from across the UK such as the Bosworth Crucifix, and, on loan from the Parliamentary Archives, London, the trial record of Charles I, the 1689 Draft Declaration of Rights and the Great Reform Act of 1832.

It will show visitors how the barons that opposed tyrannical King John were no longer loyal subjects, but acting as rebellious citizens.

No free man shall be arrested, or imprisoned, or dispossessed, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined ... except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.

Magna Carta

The exhibition takes the ‘great charter’ as a starting point for sharing historical stories of revolt and the people behind rebellion.

Dr Christian Liddy, senior lecturer at Durham Univeristy’s Department of History and academic curator of the exhibition, said: “Resistance to authority has a central place in the history of citizenship.

“800 years after Magna Carta was first agreed, this exhibition explores how and why there has always been a thin line separating the rebel from the citizen.”

From the charter, the displays continue by exploring the Wars of the Roses (1455-85), showcasing the Bosworth Crucifix (on loan from the Society of Antiquities, London), which is thought to have been carried at the head of private masses conducted for Richard III.

In January 1649, King Charles I was put on trial and executed by his own subjects. The British Civil Wars (1638-60) section of the exhibition includes a pair of leather gloves reportedly worn by Charles I at his execution, on loan from Lambeth Palace Library.

Displays on the Jacobite cause of the 17th and 18th centuries explore the uprisings that attempted to restore the Stuart kings to the throne.

Visitors will see the 1689 Draft Declaration of Rights (precursor to the Bill of Rights), presented to William and Mary as part of the offer of the crown, after James II was deposed.

In the 19th century, the public pushed for parliamentary reform, leading to rioting around Britain during the early 1830s. Parliament passed the 1832 Great Reform Act in response, which will be on show in the exhibition’s Chartism displays.

A second gallery at Palace Green Library considers the relationship between religion and rebellion. When King Henry VIII broke ties with Rome in the 1530s, Catholics were seen as rebels and traitors. Objects on display from Ushaw College, such as a recusant chalice, c. 1650, show how Catholics resisted authority by worshipping in secret.

The final gallery brings the story of the changing face of revolt up to date through an audio-visual presentation. Exploring rebellion in the 20th and 21st centuries, the display moves from local forms of resistance, including the Jarrow Crusade (1936) and the Miners’ Strike (1984-5) to the international, such as the Arab Spring (from 2010) and the Occupy Movement (2011).

Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt is on display from tomorrow to August 31. The exhibition will be open from 10am to 6pm daily. An accompanying programme of events and activities also runs.

Entry to the exhibition is £7.50 for adults, £6.50 for children (five-16)and concessions, and free for children under five (up to two per full paying adult). Family tickets (two paying adults and two children) are £25 and the rate for groups of nine or more people booking together is £6.50 per person.

Admission is via timed tickets and advance booking is recommended. Tickets for the exhibition are available via Ticketmaster online or telephone 0844 8440444. Visitors to Palace Green Library can buy tickets in person at the reception desk.