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Man, 46, is charged with attempted theft over Salisbury Magna Carta

Man, 46, who ‘tried to steal £20million Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral’ is charged with attempted theft and criminal damage

  • Mark Royden, 46, of Devon, will appear in court over the incident in October
  • A man smashed the glass screen around the document before he was restrained
  • £20million document is one of four remaining in existence from 1215 original

A 46-year-old man was today charged with trying to steal one of the oldest surviving copies of the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral.

Alarms were set off at the cathedral on October 25 when a hooded man tried to smash the glass box surrounding the ancient manuscript, before an American tourist grabbed hold of the suspect and restrained him until police arrived.

Mark Royden, from Devon, has been charged with attempted theft and criminal damage and will appear at Salisbury Magistrates Court on Friday June 28.

An alarm sounded when somebody smashed the glass case surrounding the Magna Carta in October (pictured, the damaged display)

Members of the public watch as a fire engine arrives at Salisbury Cathedral during the incident last year

Members of the public watch as a fire engine arrives at Salisbury Cathedral during the incident last year 

The Magna Carta was not damaged and nobody was injured in the incident.

After the incident the manuscript was held in storage while work was carried out to replace the outer casing but it went back on display in February.

Salisbury Cathedral’s copy of the text is one of four that remain in existence from the original 1215 charter.

King John issued the Magna Carta after agreeing peace terms with a band of rebel barons and it is now one of the world’s most celebrated legal documents.

It established for the first time that neither monarch nor government was above the law and set out principles of liberty which echoed through the centuries.

The charter was imposed upon the king by a group of his subjects, the feudal barons, and limited his powers on the likes of punishing a ‘freeman’, unless through the law of the land.

But the document didn’t last long, with Pope Innocent III annulling it in August 1215, because it was a ‘shameful and demeaning agreement, forced upon the King by violence and fear’.

After King John died, his successor Henry III thought it was a good idea and brought it back.

Three clauses of the 63 are still in force today – freedom of the English Church, the ancient liberties of the City of London and a right to due process.

It was written in Latin by hand, by an expert scribe, on parchment. The Magna Carta was not signed, but sealed, and at the bottom of our Magna Carta you can see the marks where King John’s seal was once attached.

The ancient document is housed in a case of two-inch thick glass, which is in turn encased in this tent at the cathedral 

The ancient document is housed in a case of two-inch thick glass, which is in turn encased in this tent at the cathedral 

There are just four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. Two are kept in the British Library, one is in Lincoln Cathedral and one at Salisbury Cathedral, which is the best preserved manuscript.

Shortly after the originals were sealed, 250 copies were made but just 17 are thought to still exist. 

The October disturbance once again thrust the Wiltshire city into the spotlight after it became the focal point of tensions between Russia and Britain.

Two Russian men were accused of attempting to assassinate former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury using a highly toxic nerve agent.

The pair prompted ridicule when they claimed they had been visiting the city as tourists and wanted to see the cathedral.  

The document (pictured in Salisbury Cathedral) was not damaged during the incident

The document (pictured in Salisbury Cathedral) was not damaged during the incident 

The incident once again thrust Salisbury into the spotlight after the Skripal poisonings. Pictured is the cathedral

The incident once again thrust Salisbury into the spotlight after the Skripal poisonings. Pictured is the cathedral 

How many original Magna Carta manuscripts are still in existence?

Eight centuries after King John sent copies of the first Magna Carta across his kingdom, just four remain.

Two of the survivors are kept at the British Library, were they lay alongside the other two copies which are found at Lincoln and Salisbury Cathedrals.

Salisbury Cathedral’s copy of the Magna Carta is said to be the best preserved of the four remaining original copies. It is housed in the cathedral’s Chapter House as part of an exhibition that received more than £400,000 of Heritage Lottery funding three years ago. 

The two British Library copies came from the private library of the MP and and antique collector Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection of preserved documents laid the foundation for the library back in 1753.

One of these manuscripts was almost destroyed in a fire in 1731, suffering some damage but remaining largely intact. 

Staff at the British Museum Library in the early 19th century also made it harder to read by using outdated techniques to flatten and mount the historic document.

The Salisbury Magna Carta has been at the Cathedral since the 13th century. It may have been deposited there by William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury and one of King John’s chief advisers, or it may have come from Elias of Dereham, who supervised the building of the Cathedral from the 1220s.

The manuscript has rarely left the Cathedral in its 800 year history.

The Lincoln Magna Carta has belonged to the Cathedral for 800 years. It is arriving at the British Library directly from the United States after going on display in Massachusetts and Washington, DC, where over 200,000 people viewed it.

On its return to Lincoln, the manuscript will move from the Cathedral into a new permanent home at the ‘Magna Carta Vault’ in nearby Lincoln Castle.

Source: British Library

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