The Magna Carta Hoax

The following is the first long-form article that I published. It was a ‘Member Creation’ on johnlebon.com. Originally published 2 May 2019.

In writing the article I followed JLB’s “Primary Source Research Methodology.” I believe it is still free to the public. I would encourage anyone reading this article to read the methodology first.

The process of researching the article was deeply revealing. What I learned does not just apply to the fabricated tales of history but has far wider implications for the stories that we are fed on a daily basis. I don’t want to spoil the surprise but the implications of what I discovered in this piece changed the way I view the world.

The discoveries in the follow-up, The ‘Alfred the Great Hoax,’ were even greater. If you only read one piece, read the ‘Alfred the Great Hoax.’

If anyone finds anything of significance in this piece and its follow up, I would encourage them to start implementing this type of framework in their own inevitable dealings with the wild claims of authority and consensus.

It is all very well reading someone else’s research, but far better to critically examine for oneself.

After I completed the piece I received a reply to an email I had sent to an ‘expert’ in the field. This tied together the whole piece nicely. I include the response highlights as comments below. I would advise you to read the original article first.

And so here it is: The Magna Carta Hoax

For those interested in more history hoax investigations, the two finest researchers are:

One thought on “The Magna Carta Hoax

  • April 13, 2020 at 9:39 am
    Permalink

    This comment was originally made on JLB’s website where the piece was first published. 03 May 2019.

    An Immediate update!!

    In the section on the 1215 Salisbury engrossement, I noted that it is claimed to have been always present at Salisbury Cathedral. I mentioned that I had emailed the Cathedral Archives and had no reply. Well, I received one a couple of days ago. As the article had already been submitted I saved the email response for a comment but it tied up the whole project for me.

    For anyone who has read the article, this is worth a read for the added lulz.

    Here is the relevant section of my email:

    Is it the generally accepted view that the 1215 Salisbury engrossment has always been present and known about in Salisbury
    cathedral or was it lost/forgotten and then rediscovered at some
    point?
    Is the main evidence for the 1215 providence from the handwriting comparison with other Salisbury scribes of the time?
    The evidence for the 1215 document being in the archives from the earliest times seems to come from a copy in a 13th century cartulary
    in the cathedral. What is the providence of this document? When was it
    discovered?

    4 Assuming it is correct that the 1215 document was in the Salisbury
    archives from the earliest times, and that it has always been present
    and known about, what evidence do we have for this? Is it mentioned in
    various documents throughout the subsequent ages of which we still
    have copies? What is the earliest primary sources that we have where
    the claims (that the 1215 document has always been present) were made?
    For example, do we have writings of Victorian scholars making this
    claim or perhaps earlier antiquarians or other documents of the
    cathedral?

    5.Or is this a more recent claim, which evidence described above supports

    Forgive me for bothering you. If you are able to help me with any
    information regarding those three points I’d be very grateful. I’ve
    been trying to research them but keep getting to dead ends.

    Thanking you in advance.

    The email I received back was from a very nice lady called Emily Naish who was the person that discovered the copy of the Magna Carta mentioned in the “13th-century cartulary” which I referenced in my article and in the email I sent. This is relevant as in the article I mentioned this confirming evidence for the provenance of the 1215 engrossment was found just months before the 800th-anniversary celebrations.

    As “History Today” puts it:

    Emily Naish, the archivist of Salisbury Cathedral, has recently made the important discovery that there is a copy of the text of the surviving Salisbury copy in another manuscript (ff. 5v-7v of the Salisbury Cathedral cartulary, ‘Liber Evidentiarum C’, compiled before 1284). While there has been discussion of the possible date of the Salisbury Magna Carta, there had been, until recently, few serious attempts to identify the location of its scribe and therefore the place where this copy was produced. Further examination of the handwriting of known Salisbury scribes from the first decades of the 13th century convincingly indicates that the Salisbury Magna Carta was written by a scribe from Salisbury Cathedral.
    https://www.historytoday.com/scribes-salisbury-magna-carta

    The email I have received back from the archivist at Salisbury Cathedral, Emily Naish herself, explains how we can know that the 1215 Salisbury engrossment as having always been present as follows:

    As you mention the evidence that the Salisbury engrossment has been in the Cathedral’s possession since the medieval period is the fact
    that a 13th century copy of it which exists in volume in the archive
    collection known as Liber C or Liber Evidentiarum C – the C stands for
    ‘Chapter’ which is the top level governing committee of the Cathedral.
    Liber C is a cartulary – compiled mainly in the 13th century. A
    cartulary is essentially a volume in which copies of important
    documents were copied and thus acted as a back-up in case the original
    was lost. The fact that a full copy of Magna Carta exists in Liber C
    is evidence that it was in the Cathedral’s possession from the 13th
    century. I’ve attached a photo of the start of Magna Carta in Liber
    C.

    It is the case that the Salisbury MC was mislaid by the Cathedral
    authorities in the early 19th century. The Royal Commissioners
    compiling ‘The Statutes of the Realm’ (published in 9 volumes between
    1810 and 1825) had enquired of the Cathedral about the Magna Carta
    however as it could not be located by the Cathedral authorities it was
    omitted from the final publication. It was later ‘rediscovered’ –
    probably it was simply misfiled in the library or muniment collection
    (it would originally have been stored folded up).

    You may have read David Carpenter’s Magna Carta, Penguin, 2015. Here
    he discussed a theory that the original distribution of Magna Cart in
    1215 was to Bishops – hence the reason for evidence that 3 of the
    surviving 1215s where in the ownership of Cathedrals.

    We know for sure that it was on display in the Cathedral Library in
    1901 as it was then listed in the survey printed by the Historical
    Manuscripts Commission but none to my knowledge has investigated
    further the earliest written reference to Magna Carta here – that
    would be a very interesting project!

    There is no evidence that I am aware of that the handwriting compares
    with other Salisbury based scribes. It is likely that there was a
    scriptorium at the Cathedral’s site in 1215 (now called Old Sarum) and
    indeed around 60 manuscript books survive from that time. Nicolas
    Vincent did undertake an initial examination of other early 13th
    century documents in the archive but to match for certain the scribe
    that wrote the Salisbury Magna Carta with other documents in the
    archive and library would require an immense amount of study.

    This email is even more startling because in all the official history it was rediscovered in 1810 ish. The cathedrals own archivist says this is untrue, they could not even find it in 1810, it was thought lost! The earliest documentary evidence they have for it is in Salisbury Cathedral is in fact 1901!!!

    History Today and other sources I checked say that handwriting comparisons to other 13th-century Salisbury scribes convincingly indicate the provenance. The archivist says that this has not happened and the one that person who tried it came up with no matches!

    I had asked for evidence that the 13th-century cartulary was also a primary source from then. No evidence has been provided other than to reiterate the claim that it is a 13th-century cartulary which was discovered in the last few years!!!!!!

    To my question, if there is documentary evidence of its presence at Salisbury Cathedral throughout the ages, the lovely Miss Naish comments *

    “We know for sure that it was on display in the Cathedral Library in1901 as it was then listed in the survey printed by the Historical
    Manuscripts Commission but none to my knowledge has investigated
    further the earliest written reference to Magna Carta here – that
    would be a very interesting project! “*

    Yes, it is an interesting project. I’ve done it. I had thought the earliest was 1810. Turns out it is 1901 and there aren’t any earlier. No one has investigated earlier documentary evidence. Seems strange no one at the archives has bothered to check!

    Wonder why?

    This episode makes me question even more strongly the tales of rediscovery in the 17th century by Sir Cotton and that any such tales should be rejected as primary sources until we find them actually documented. Which leaves us with the mid-19th century as the earliest date for any of the engrossments.

Leave a Reply