Berkeley Castle celebrating 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta

PUBLISHED: 12:39 28 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:39 28 April 2015

Berkeley Castle

Berkeley Castle


Visit Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire on May 3 or 4 (May Bank Holiday weekend) to enjoy an authentic re-enactment of the days leading up to the sealing of Magna Carta.

Magna Carta / Photo: Courtesy of the British LibraryMagna Carta / Photo: Courtesy of the British Library

Feudals Living History group will set up camp at the Castle and put on a series of performances featuring the Berkeley family’s ancestors and their crucial role in sealing the Charter that changed English history. Activities will take place in the encampment from 11am and throughout the day; archers will train on the bowling green and a military display will take place at 2pm, where Earl Robert de Berkeley will be armoured and armed by his squires before trying to win the peasantry over to the idea of the ‘Great Charter’. There will also be a tourney involving the Knights and sergeants and the day will finish with an archery competition on the bowling green.

The Berkeley family are the only descendants in the male line of one of the barons present at the sealing of the Magna Carta who still live in the same ancestral home. Charles Berkeley said: “It is astonishing to think that our family has a connection to modern law and democracy. I feel very honoured. The 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Great Charter is a great opportunity to celebrate our connections.”

Robert de Berkeley did, however, pay something of a price for his rebellion. Charles Berkeley continued: “King John actually took Berkeley Castle from the family for about seven or eight years. During the Civil War the castle was attacked by both sides. It must have been tough times.”

David Smith, the Berkeley Castle archivist, has curated a representative selection of original documents, dating from 1154 and up to the 15th Century. They will be on display to the public for the first time and show the complex way by which Robert Fitzharding acquired the honour of Berkeley. He supported Henry Duke of Normandy, later Henry II, in his fight against King Stephen. Robert drafted several charters but Henry refused to confirm them because Robert was asking too high a price.

Berkeley CastleBerkeley Castle

Over the course of history the Berkeley family acquired huge tranches of land and the documents on display chart some of this acquisition. It was possible for the Berkeley family to ride from Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire to Berkeley Square in London, stopping over on their own property at each stage of the journey. The original documents will be on display on 3 and 4 May and then facsimiles will be displayed until the end of June.

For more information visit

Berkeley Castle, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, GL13 9BQ Tel: 01453 810303

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