great-seal-king-john-eton-college-british-library-magna-carta-law-liberty-legacyThe largest ever exhibition related to the Magna Carta opens at the British Library in King’s Cross tomorrow to mark the 800th anniversary of the document’s sealing. Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy features two original Magna Carta manuscripts from 1215 as well as 1215 document, the Articles of the Barons (known as ‘draft’ of the Magna Carta), the Petition of Right (1628), the English Bill of Rights (1689), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). It will also display two of the most celebrated documents in American history – the Delaware copy of the Bill of Rights and Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence (both on loan from the US National Archives) –  along with UK cabinet papers from 1941 in which it was proposed an original Magna Carta manuscript from 1215 be given to the US in return for their support in World War II and artefacts including King John’s teeth, thumb bone and fragments of clothing taken from his tomb in 1797 as well as his will. The exhibition tells the story of the Magna Carta from its creation in 1215 through to its later use by people fighting for various rights and freedoms and its continuing impact on the world today. There’s also a series of interviews with politicians, historians and public figures including Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi, former US President Bill Clinton and William Hague. Runs until 1st September. Admission charge applies. For more – and a digitised gallery of artifacts – visit www.bl.uk/magna-carta-exhibition. PICTURE: Great Seal of King John, 1203 © Eton College Archives on display in Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.

The first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington opens at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square today. Marking the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington: Triumphs, Politics, and Passions explores Wellington’s political and military career as well as his personal life. Highlights include Goya’s 1812 portrait of Wellington following his entry into Madrid (later modified to recognise further battle honours and awards), and Thomas Lawrence’s famous portrait painted in 1815, the same year as the Battle of Waterloo (the painting, which normally hangs in Apsley House, was used as the basis of the design of the £5 British note from 1971 to 1991). The exhibition of 59 portraits and other works also includes rarely seen works loaned by Wellington’s family include a John Hoppner portrait of the duke as a young soldier and a daguerreotype portrait taken by Antoine Claudet for Wellington’s 75th birthday in 1844. Runs until 7th June. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk or for more on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, see www.waterloo200.org.

An exhibition celebrating the works of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen opens at the V&A in South Kensington on Saturday. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty presents his works in 10 sections which focus on everything from McQueen’s roots in London, his “skilful subversion of traditional tailoring practices”, his fascination with the animal world and his longstanding interest in Eastern cultures. At the centre of the exhibition is The Cabinet of Curiosities, a display showcasing more than 100 garments and accessories and shown with film footage from his many catwalk presentations. The exhibition runs until 2nd August. Admission charge applies but you’ll have to be quick – the exhibition has already set the record for the most ever advance sales for an exhibition at the museum. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/savagebeauty.

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• It’s Museums at Night weekend which means its your chance to see some of London’s best museums after hours. Culture24’s annual event, which runs from 18th to 20th May, features more than 5o late openings and special events in London – from after dark visits to Aspley House, the former home of the Duke of Wellington, to the chance to hear about the history of ‘Bedlam’, one of the world’s oldest psychiatric facilities, at the Bethlem Archives & Museum and Bethlem Gallery, and a “Cinderella shoe” workshop at the Design Museum. As well as organisations like the British Museum and National Gallery, among the lesser known museums taking part are the Cuming Museum in Southwark, the British Dental Association Museum, and the Ragged School Museum in Mile End. For all the details, follow this link

Saturday sees the opening of a new V&A exhibition featuring more than 60 ballgowns dating from 1950 to the present day – the first exhibition to be held in the newly renovated Fashion Galleries. Among those gowns on display as part of Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 will be royal ballgowns including a Norman Hartnell gown designed for Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Catherine Walker’s ‘Elvis Dress’ worn by Princess Diana (pictured), and gowns worn by today’s young royals. There will also be gowns worn by celebrities including Sandra Bullock, Liz Hurley and Bianca Jagger and works by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Jenny Packham and a metallic leather dress designed by Gareth Hugh specifically for the exhibition. Runs from 19th May to 6th January. Admission charge applies. See www.vam.ac.uk for more. PICTURE: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The man credited with popularising the modern-day limerick, Edward Lear, has been honored with a green plaque at his former house in Westminster. The Westminster Council plaque was unveiled on Saturday – what would have been his 200th birthday – at 15 Stratford Place where he lived from 1853 until 1869. Lear, who was born in Holloway and raised in Grays Inn Road, was famous for his work The Owl and the Pussycat, and as well as for his writings, was also noted as an artist and illustrator. Councillor Robert Davis reportedly had a go himself at a limerick in honour of the artisy: “There once was man named Lear, who lived in a spot close to here. This plaque unveiled today, is a fitting way, to pay tribute on his two hundreth year”.

• On Now: The Queen: Art and Image. Having been on tour across Britian, this exhibition features some of the most remarkable images ever created of the Queen opened at the National Portrait Gallery this week. Containing works by Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz, Pietro Annigoni and Andy Warhol, the exhibition is the most wide-ranging exhibition of images in different media ever devoted to a single royal sitter. Highlights include full-length 1954-55 painting by Annigoni (pictured, right, it’s displayed with his 1969 portrait), Lucian Freud’s 2000-01 portrait and Thomas Struth’s recent large-scale photograph of both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as well as a never previously loaned 1967 portrait by Gerhard Richter and a specially commissioned holographic portrait. Runs until 21st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Regent by Pietro Annigoni, 1954-5. The Fishmongers’ Company