A witness to history


A tree over two thousand five hundred years old sits on an island in the Field of Runnymede, in England’s county of Berkshire. While the Druids may have worshipped there (the yew is their traditional tree of death, representing the month of December in their calendar as Robert Graves discusses in The White Goddess (in which the year dies and the sun is reborn); it is still plentiful in European graveyards), tradition and history say that one of the founding events of English democracy occurred here: the signing of the Magna Carta between King John and his fractious barons on June the 15th 1215. Other stories further recount that Henry the 8th wooed and dallied with Anne Boleyn beneath its bowers in the 1530’s, and may have even proposed to his future decapitee there.

Known as the Ankerwycke Yew, the primitive bill of rights signed here paved the way for the modern Anglo Saxon flavour of democracy and constitutional arrangement, though the balances took several more centuries of to and fro conflict between crown and barons, church and state, king and country and the changes created by the Napoleonic wars and long imperial age. Now nearly 10 metres in girth, it sits in the ruins of an old priory destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries. Many of these sites took over Pagan ones, and the already mature yew passed into the custody of the nuns in 1160, and lived by their graveyard. Source: The Earth Story..

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