Why does St Edmundsbury celebrate the Magna Carta?
Bury St Edmunds is a founder member and trustee of the Magna Carta Trust. The Trust was formed in 1957 to commemorate and promote the rights given by the charter.
The five “charter towns” are all trustees: City of London, St Albans, Canterbury, Bury St. Edmunds and Runnymede. Each town has a link to the charter. The Abbey was where the Barons met and decided to make King John sign it.
Each town takes it in turn to host a celebration of the charter every three years, so each town has 15 years between hosting the arrangements. The first celebration was in 1959 and was a ten-day pageant held in the Abbey Gardens in June. Bury has also held the celebrations in 1974, 1989 and 2004.
The 800th anniversary of the Barons meeting at Bury in 1214 is being held in addition to the Magna Carta Trust timetable.
What is the link to Bury St Edmunds?
The motto of the Borough of St. Edmundsbury, Sacrarium Regis, Cunabula Legis, means Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law. The King is St. Edmund, King of the East Angles, who was killed by invading Danes in 869. His shrine stood for centuries in the medieval Abbey of St. Edmund, and from him the town derived its name. Cradle of the Law refers to the tradition that in 1214 the barons of England met in the Abbey Church and swore that they would force King John to accept the Charter of Liberties later known as Magna Carta.
The shields of those nobles can be seen around the ceiling of the St Edmundsbury Cathedral. They were put up in 1967, financed by an American organisation called the Dames of the Magna Carta. One clause of the Magna Carta says that 25 barons would be elected to a commission which would monitor the King's compliance with the charter. The names of those 25 barons are recorded on a plaque on a column of the ruined Abbey in the Abbey Gardens.