WASHINGTON – The only original copy of the 1297 Magna Carta outside of England was taken out of its display case at the National Archives Monday for a one-time press photo opportunity. Archives officials admonished jostling photographers and cameramen to keep their distance from the russet-colored document, considered the foundation of English law.
"No heavy breathing or drooling on the document," teased the National Archives' Susan Cooper. The parchment may have been out of its display case, but it was still sealed in a glass-topped encasement.
This copy of the Magna Carta – the only one in private hands – was owned for centuries by an English family, the Brudenells. Texas billionaire Ross Perot bought it for $1.5 million in 1984 from relatives of the family and loaned it in 1985 to the National Archives, but he terminated the loan last year, took back the document, and sold it at auction for $21.3 million to David Rubenstein, managing director of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm in Washington, D.C.
A permanent homeRubenstein arranged for the Magna Carta to be placed on permanent display in the West Rotunda Gallery of the Archives.
"To me, the only place that's appropriate for the Magna Carta in the United States is the National Archives," Rubenstein said.
Archivist Allen Weinstein said he expects the Magna Carta to remain on public display at the archives for at least the next 500 years.
"This great charter of freedoms has had a profound and lasting influence on our charters of freedom – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights – all of which are on permanent display in the Rotunda of this building," said Weinstein.
After the brief photo-op, the Magna Carta went back into its display case and will be back on public display March 12. The other three original copies of the 1297 Magna Carta remain firmly in English hands.
Our readers may like to click the link, and put the ignorant Americans right on the erosion of our rights, and laws. There are some very interesting comments on there.