The Amateur Historian's Guide to the Heart of
|runnymede @ trust.org.uk|
|LOCATED||4 miles southeast of Windsor, just north of Egham, off A308|
|OPEN||Daylight hours, daily, year-round|
|ADMISSION||Free of charge; fee for parking|
Okay, you caught us. Runnymede's not in Berkshire; it's in Surrey, which was covered in our second book, Day Trips South of London. However, we chose to include Runnymede in this book for your convenience; it's located closer to Windsor than to any of the medieval and Tudor sites we covered in that book. In addition, its history is associated more closely with Windsor.
In a way, a visit to Runnymede is rather anticlimactic. One of the most important legal documents in all of history was negotiated on this site, but all there is to show for it is a fairly minor monument. And that was sponsored by the American Bar Association.
Still, it was here (in this very cow pasture!), along the banks of the River Thames, that a somewhat humbled (at least for the moment) King John met with his rebellious barons to relinquish key royal perks...such as the lucrative "bennie" of dipping into the nobility's personal coffers at whim. Known as the Magna Carta, this agreement was an important step toward limiting the right of the monarchy, defending the rights of subjects and creating a benchmark for democratic governments for ages to come. The text of the "Great Charter" is displayed alongside the memorial.
While you're at Runnymede...
Across the river from Runnymede you can find the ruins of the 11th-Century Priory of St. Mary. If you are into nature, you can also seek out the Ankerwycke Yew, a tree thought to be more than 2,000 years old.
If you'd like a little diversion from exploring medieval and Tudor times, you can arrange for a boat trip on the Thames from Runnymede and Windsor. Contact French Brothers in Windsor at 01753-851900.
The Amateur Historian's Guide to the Heart of England
Sarah Valente Kettler & Carole Trimble
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