Magna Carta Sketches

Saturday I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see the Magna Carta, on loan from the Hereford Cathedral. I spent an hour driving in circles searching for parking. At last, several blocks from the museum, I found a metered spot next to a park where two girls in huge pink dresses and a bevy of male attendants (wearing tuxedos and hideous pink shirts that matched the dresses) were having their Quinceañera photos shot. I started chunking quarters in the meter. I fed the machine about $3 worth of quarters before my math-challenged brain realized it was only giving me THREE MINUTES per quarter. By then I only had 39 minutes on the meter, which was barely enough time to walk to the museum and stand in line for a ticket. So it was back in the car and several more long loops around the museum before the previously "Full" parking garage was no longer full. I parked, went to the Museum, and saw some history.

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The exhibit included displays about the time and culture that produced the Magna Carta, and a lot of very interesting information. I was disappointed that the only authentic items in the exhibit were the Magna Carta itself and the King's Writ. Everything else (period tools, costume, weapons) were reproductions. There were two blacksmith's hammers that the display invited viewers to "try" to lift. They were HEAVY, but I lifted them. Yes, I'm worthy of Mjolnir.

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Apparently oak galls were used for dye as well as ink. I wonder whose fun job it was to climb trees and harvest all those wasp-larva-infested lumps.

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Peppercorns used to be more valuable than gold. Who would have thought? (I hate peppercorns.)

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Obviously I was not going to copy out the full text of the Magna Carta. I did sketch how it had been folded-- in half, then into thirds. The script was so tiny and delicate. No one has penmanship like that anymore. No space was wasted, the lines were crammed so closely together. It's humbling to stand in front of a piece of parchment that was here long before I was born, and (hopefully) will be around long after I'm dead.

The exhibit also said that 17,000 people in the USA can trace their ancestry back to the twenty-five barons who forced King John to seal the Magna Carta. Seventeen thousand from twenty-five! They were fruitful and multiplied indeed.