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All About King John, Magna Carta & Worcester

This year marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. There are many national and international events taking place, but the man behind the original document – King John – is buried right here, in Worcester Cathedral. Susan Macleod who's the cathedral's Operational Manager tells us more.

Why was the King buried at Worcester Cathedral?
King John contracted dysentery at Lynn in 1216. Just before his death, John managed to dictate a brief will. The codicil of the will still survives and is usually on display in the cathedral library. As part of that, John requested: 'I will that my body be buried in the church of St. Mary and St. Wulfstan of Worcester'. John had links to the canonisation of St Wulfstan, who is also buried in Worcester Cathedral and whose shrine he had visited many times during trips to Worcester.

What does his tomb tell us about the man himself?
The effigy on King Johns tomb is said to be a likeness of him and the tomb itself has been opened twice. John was found to be 5ft 6½ inches tall. A robe of crimson damask was originally covering the body. The remains of a sword lay down the left side of the body and parts of the scabbard were also found.

And why is the Magna Carta so important in our history?
It is said that 800 years ago Magna Carta changed the course of history. It was the first document in which an English King was forced to have limitations of power over his subjects. Magna Carta is a significant document not only to the people of Worcestershire and the United Kingdom but also on a global level. It was fundamental in the process of change which has led us to ideologies of freedom, democracy and equality in the modern world.

Sir Robert Worcester who is leading the national commemorations be visiting to give a talk, but tell about some of your other events.

From 6th March there will be an Exhibition in the Cathedral about King John and Magna Carta, it will be free to come and see. Groups visiting the Cathedral can book a talk about King John, which will be delivered in the Quire where his tomb lies. On Sunday 14th June everyone is welcome to join a special Evensong Service to mark the 800th Anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta by King John. This will follow a national peal of bells during the afternoon. There are plans to have a series of free lunchtime concerts during the 800th anniversary week from 15th June, culminating in a ticketed concert on the evening of Friday 19th June.

And there's also plans for a drama?
Yes! Worcester Cathedral has commissioned a new Play about King John and Magna Carta, which we plan to take on tour to 40 local schools. The play will be high energy and high impact and lots of fun. Some of the schools will be able to come and see the play in the Cathedral right next to King John's tomb! We will also have performances of Shakespeare’s King John performed here in October 2016, marking the 800th anniversary of King John's death.

For more information about everything happening at Worcester Cathedral to mark the Magna Carta's 800th anniversary, please visit www.worcestercathedral.co.uk or get regular updates by following the cathedral on Twitter and Facebook.