Understand the legacy of Magna Carta at an HMNS Distinguished Lecture

Nearly 800 years ago, on a summer day on the banks of the river Thames, 25 barons gathered waiting for King John. The document they sealed, under fluttering pendants, would come to underpin our modern conceptions of liberty, freedom and justice. But why — let alone how?

We would come to call this document Magna Carta – the “Great Charter.” But how did it come about?

There were many, many medieval charters. Yet, this is the one that became embedded in the consciousness of England and then the world. What relevance could this document possibly still hold for us as Americans, an ocean away and 800 years later?

Tonight we’ll answer these questions at “A Universal Charter? The Legacy of the Magna Carta” as part of our Distinguished Lecture series. Featuring Sir Robert Rogers, Clerk of the British House of Commons – an office that dates back to 1363 – we will delve into the history and influence of Magna Carta.

Join HMNS in giving our distinguished speaker a big Texas welcome at his lecture tonight in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre!

 

Robert - full regaliaA Universal Charter? The Legacy of the Magna Carta
Sir Robert Rogers, Clerk of the British House of Commons
Wednesday, February 19, 6:30 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

About the Speaker:
Sir Robert is well accustomed to the ways in which the old lives with the new. One of his tasks is to endorse Parliamentary bills in Norman French — but they are prepared using some of the most advanced text-handling software in the world.

Also an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple Inn of Court (the Temple Church plays a part in the story of Magna Carta), Sir Robert Rogers is author of two miscellanies about the British Parliament: “Order! Order!” and “Who Goes Home?” He’s the joint author of “How Parliament Works,” now going into its seventh edition.

UPCOMING MAGNA CARTA LECTURES:
Tickets $18, HMNS members $12
www.hmns.org/lectures

13th Century Sword & Buckler: Origins of the Knightly Fighting Arts
John Clements, Association for Renaissance Martial Arts
Wednesday, February 26, 6:30 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

The liberal arts in medieval times were those subjects studied by a free man — who was free precisely because he was armed and trained in the fighting arts. Much of what is known of 13th century sword and buckler training is documented in the only surviving fencing manual of the period. John Clements, martial arts historian, will describe the science of defense developed in this period, as well as the arms, armor and chivalric work of knights. This lecture will be followed by a live demonstration of medieval martial arts.

Conquest, Wars and Liberties of the Realm: the Long Run-Up to Magna Carta
Bruce O’Brien, Ph.D., International Early English Laws Project.
Wednesday, March 12, 6:30 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

To understand Magna Carta, one has to understand England’s past. Much has to do with the obligations of kings and their subjects, which was a point of negotiation. This process is writ large in pre-conquest Anglo-Saxon laws, in the monuments of the Norman kings such as Domesday Book and the coronation charter of Henry I, and in the legal reforms instituted by Henry II, which formed the basis for what came to be known as the Common Law.

Medieval Genealogy
Lynna Kay Shuffield, Genealogist
Wednesday, April 16, 6 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

Do you have royal lineage? Are you a descendant of a rebellious baron? Genealogy researcher Lynna Kay Shuffield will review tips to help you trace your family to medieval Europe. For those with English roots there is a fair chance you may find a Magna Carta link. Over 3,000 Texans are currently registered as descendants of the Magna Carta Dames and Barons from Runnymede. You do not need to be an avid genealogy researcher to enjoy this program.

ADDITIONAL MAGNA CARTA PROGRAMS

ADULT CLASS: Introduction to the Sword
Thursday, February 27, 6 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

The sword is an important symbol of power — from the gladius of gladiators to the light saber of the Jedi. It has been used to change history. Whether leading a conquest of the Normans or to helping to secure the seed of democracy, the sword is an important symbol of martial skill. Thought of as a “lost art,” swordsmanship is still taught using the writing and illustrations passed down from Renaissance sword masters. Learn the basics of this martial art in this class lead by John Clements, director Association of Renaissance Martial Arts. This program is for participants age 15 and up.

ADULT CLASS: Calligraphy, From Quill to Pen
Thursday, May 15, 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m
Click here for tickets

Saturday, June 21, 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Click here for tickets

Calligraphy — from ancient Greek kallos for “beauty” and graphe for “writing” — is a visual art dating back to at least 5,000 BC, although our western letter forms were standardized during in the 8th century. In this beginner-level class, Cindy Haller, Houston Calligraphy Guild instructor, will teach you to use a dip pen (our modern answer to the quill) and ink to create the Italic script, and introduce you to the history of English script writing. All supplies are provided and are yours to keep. Participants must be 15 years of age or older.

Happy Magna-tine’s Day: Magna Carta exhibit now open

It’s finally here, folks – our Magna Carta exhibit is open to the public! For the first time ever, this document has traveled from its home in Hereford Cathedral to come to Houston.

HMNS hosted a press event yesterday, with presentations by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Reverend Canon Chris Pullin of Hereford Cathedral, and British Consul General Andrew Millar. Here are some highlights:

Mayor Parker opened the event remarking that “Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in the world.” Saying that she was glad to come to the event not just as mayor of Houston, but as a Museum member, she continued, “It’s an exciting time for the City of Houston and a wonderful, wonderful day for the Houston Museum of Natural Science.”

Next the Reverend Canon Chris Pullin, Chancellor for Hereford Cathedral, spoke. With cheerful excitement, he mentioned how it was quite likely that more people would see Magna Carta at HMNS in the next six months than would at Hereford in the next “20 or 25 years.” He went on to describe Houston as a fitting destination for Magna Carta, in part because of the role Houston had in building America’s space program. While these events may not seem related, he drew comparisons between “an American project that did something for the whole world” and a British document, which has come to “represent a step forward for the whole of humanity,” laying out ideas for “what it is to live properly with respect to one another in this world.”

British Consul General Andrew Millar called it “a momentous day,” speaking on the role Magna Carta continues to play in the modern quest for justice, calling it “the foundation of human rights.” Underscoring how important it is for today’s youth to have an understanding of rights and justice, he continued, “I will definitely be bringing my children. I hope everybody else brings theirs as well.”

And it seems that many children, in fact, will get to see the document. According to Joel A. Bartsch, President and CEO of HMNS, over 4,000 students already have tickets to come see Magna Carta on field trips.

IMG_20140213_133601We were also fortunate to have several descendants of the barons (the 25 barons who forced King John to accept Magna Carta) at the press conference. These descendents are a few of over 100 living in the Houston area. Margaret Gene Harris, descended from 14 barons, said, “To bring [Magna Carta] to the Houston area … that is magnificent.” On learning about her heritage and connection with the document, she remarked that when she was younger, “I didn’t care a whit and feather about genealogy,” but now has deep-held respect for her ancestors. “You find out they are human beings,” which gives Gene Harris a new perspective on the document.

Another descendent, Nedaye G. Potts, said that seeing Magna Carta in person was, “in a word, awesome.” Bill Griffith, descended from 16 barons, shared this sentiment, stating, “It’s very exciting to see it in person. There’s a big difference in seeing the actual document.”

IMG_20140213_133944“It’s a privilege to be able to see it,” remarked Susan Tillman. “It takes the abstract and makes it concrete. There are very few documents that have been produced through the lifetime of man that have held relevance right up to today, and this is one of them.”

So there you have it! Magna Carta at HMNS is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see one of the most influential documents in history. So don’t wait, join the British sensation today!

Educator How-To: Create your own medieval ID with basic heraldry

Heraldry is a unique identification system developed in the Middle Ages to aid in the identification of fully armored knights on the battle or tournament field. The roots of heraldry lay in the insignia, seals, and symbols used in ancient times for individual and/or national identification purposes.

Heraldic designs were applied to shields, tunics, horse blankets, and other items. These graphic designs functioned much like a team jersey by identifying individual players. A variety of emblems were used to adorn shields and many are the same as modern team mascots.

Colors (Tinctures)
These devices were bold in design, so as to be immediately recognizable at distance. Bright contrasting colors and bold graphics were employed for maximum visibility.

Two metals and five colors are used in heraldry.

Metals:

  • Or: Gold (yellow)
  • Argent: Silver (white)

Hearaldry 1Colors:

  • Gules: Bright red
  • Azure: Royal blue
  • Vert: Emerald green
  • Sable: Black
  • Purpure: Royal purple (rarely used)

Hearaldry 2

Field Divisions
The shield may be divided. Two common reasons for division are differentiating, to avoid conflict with a similar coat of arms, and marshalling, combining two or more designs into one.

Hearaldry 3

An example of extreme marshalling.

 Charges
A charge is an emblem or device occupying the field of a shield. I only address emblems in this paper. Below are some common charges, but there are many more, each with a meaning.

Hearaldry 4

(Click here for more examples of charges.)

Design Your Own Shield
In order to design your very own shield, you will need the following items:

  • Copy of the shield template
  • Markers
  • Pencil
  • Emblem design you want to use
  • Ruler

Questions to consider:

  • Do I want to separate the field?
  • What emblem(s) do I want to use?
  • How will I make the best use of color to create a contrasting design?

Use a pencil to sketch out your design. Putting a copy of your emblem under the shield template and carefully sketching against a sunny window allows you to trace your design onto the shield.

Use markers to apply color. White is used to represent silver and yellow is used for gold.