Parliament House is currently

The Magna Carta is currently undergoing important conservation work 

The Australian Parliament’s 1297 Inspeximus issue of Magna Carta was taken off display on 2 December 2016 to undergo an extensive conservation and testing program for the first time in fifty years.

 

The conservation work will be completed by the University of Melbourne’s Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation. During this time, you can see a replica in the Magna Carta display, which is located on the first floor Senate side, adjacent to the Making Laws exhibition.

 

This extensive conservation and rehousing program will ensure that the Parliament’s 1297 Magna Cartathe only one in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only four copies worldwidewill continue to be preserved for future generations.

 

Regular updates on this important and exciting conservation work will be posted here.

What is the Magna Carta? 

The Magna Carta lies at the heart of Australian parliamentary democracy. Parliament House has a 1297 edition of the Magna Carta—one of only four in existence, and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.

Edward I (1272–1307) Inspeximus issue of Magna Carta, 1297, ink on vellum. Parliament House Art Collection.

 

The Magna Carta (Latin for the ‘Great Charter’) is famous around the world as the foundation stone of constitutional and parliamentary government.

It confirmed the rule of law—the principle that nobody, not even the monarch, is above the law—and, among other freedoms, laid the basis for establishing trial by jury, outlawing arbitrary detention, and ensuring that there should be no taxation without representation.

Over the centuries, its principles have been incorporated into the common law of many nations, and embodied in such momentous documents as the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, of course, Australia’s own Constitution.

Created for a peace that was doomed to fail

The Magna Carta was originally drafted in 1215, as a peace treaty between King John and a group of barons who had rebelled against his feudal and cruel system of demanding excessive taxes and military support.

Following his defeat against the French in 1214, King John was in a weakened position and was forced to come to terms with the barons. Their demands were incorporated into the first Magna Carta.

This first Magna Carta was a failure, though. King John broke his promises after just six weeks.

An idea that wouldn’t die

King John died in October 1216, but the Magna Carta did not die with him. Just one month later, the first revision was issued. Two more revisions, in 1217 and 1225, ensued under the reign of Henry III, King John’s son.

Henry’s successor, Edward I, confirmed the 1225 version and in 1297 issued the Inspeximus Magna Carta (‘Inspeximus’ is Latin for ‘we have inspected’—an inspeximus issue of a charter is one that inspects and confirms a charter made by a former king).

It is this edition of the Magna Carta that was officially placed on the English statutes. One of only four surviving copies of the original manuscript is held at Parliament House.

Learn more about the Magna Carta

Explore the online exhibition

Order the bookletAustralia's Magna Cartasecond edition

Magna Carta Conservation Updates

Episode 6: Turning the page

The conservators find a previously unrecorded inscription on the back of the Magna Carta parchment.

Episode 5: Unravelling the secrets of the seal

The conservation team investigate the composition and condition of the wax seal and cords attached to the Magna Carta. 

Episode 4: Ink and parchment

With the Magna Carta successfully removed from its case, a thorough examination of the 800 year old document begins. 

Episode 3: An unexpected complication

The conservation team encounter an unforeseen interruption in their efforts to open the Magna Carta case.

Episode 2: Opening the case

The conservation team begin the task of opening the Magna Carta case which has been sealed for fifty years.

Episode 1: An introduction

The Director of the Parliament House Art Collection Justine van Mourik explains the history and importance of the Parliament’s 1297 Magna Carta and the significance of the conservation program.

 

 

Magna Carta for kids

 

Are you and your kids ready to take the Magna Carta Discovery Trail challenge?

 

How tall was King Edward 1? Who bought the 1297 Magna Carta for the Australian Parliament?

 

The free Magna Carta Kids Discovery Trail is a fun way for the whole family to explore Parliament House.

 

Ask our friendly staff at the Information Desk for the Trail brochure, or download and bring it with you.

 

Download the Magna Carta Kids Discovery Trail brochure

Explore Magna Carta on the Democracy Walk

All of the foundation documents for Australia’s democracy can be found in the Parliamentary Triangle. Download this self guided tour to discover these documents beginning with the 1297 Magna Carta at Parliament House. Explore their stories and see Australia’s democracy in action.

Download the Democracy Walk brochure

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