Welcome to this part of our site. We are delighted to be celebrating Magna Carta and its legacy here at the Temple, at the heart of legal and constitutional London. I hope that you will be able to visit us before long, and to see this special and historic place for yourself. We have a specialMagna Carta Exhibition in the Round Church, which (we are glad to see!) our many visitors are clearly enjoying.
We are an active Church in the Church of England, and have one of the finest choirs in England; the choir is broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. We hope you will, if you are due to be in London, be able to join us for a choral service here.
We have been closely linked to Magna Carta and its legacy ever since 1214.
- The Temple was King John’s London headquarters, 1214-5. From here he issued two vital preliminary charters, and here in January 1215 the barons confronted him for the first time with the demand that he subject himself to the rule of a charter.
- The hero of Magna Carta was William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. He mediated between John and the barons, secured the agreement embodied in Magna Carta and was one of the King’s advisors at Runnymede. When John died the Marshal became guardian of the boy-king Henry III and of the kingdom. He re-issued Magna Carta under his own seal in 1216 and 1217, and so ensured its survival. He was buried in the Temple’s Round Church, where his effigy still lies.
- William’s heir, William Marshal the second Earl, was one of the Surety Barons at Runnymede. He then fought alongside his father at the Battle of Lincoln to save the kingdom for Henry III. He married Henry’s sister. He too was buried in the Round, next to his father, where his effigy still lies.
- The Temple’s Chancel was built, 1135-40, to be the funerary chapel of Henry III and his queen. With Henry’s re-issue of Magna Carta in 1225 the Charter was secure.
- The Temple’s Common Law lawyers led the resistance in the 17th century against the Stuart kings’ absolutism. The lawyers – such as Coke and Selden – repeatedly invoked Magna Carta.
- In the same decades the Temple’s lawyers were drawing up the constitutions for the early American colonies. Links with the USA have been strong ever since. Five members of Inner / Middle Temple signed the Declaration of Independence, seven the Constitution. The American Ambassador to London and US Chief Justice Roberts are both Benchers of Middle Temple.
- The Temple has since 1608 been the collegiate Church of the legal colleges Inner and Middle Temple, and stands at the heart of this unforgettably beautiful and historic part of London.
With best wishes from the Temple Church
Robin Griffith-Jones, DLitt,
The Reverend and Valiant Master of the Temple
Click here to download the book: Magna Carta 1215-2015: London’s Temple and The Road to the Rule of Law.