RUNNYMEDE, SURREY, , England, June 14 (UPI) -- A new statue of Queen Elizabeth II was unveiled and 200 boats sailed the River Thames Sunday as Britain prepares to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta on Monday.
The fabled historic document, signed June 15, 1215, was the first official document that held citizens and government leaders to common law. It was spurred by English rebels who believed the monarchy was cruel, greedy and above the law.
Sunday, the statue was unveiled in Runnymede and attended by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported.
The pageant of 200 13th century replica vessels glided along the River Thames, carrying a replica of the document that is a major foundation piece of Britain's modern democracy.
"Magna Carta was a milestone in world history, and its birthplace at Runnymede deserves a lasting legacy," said the Surrey County Council, one of the organizers of the ceremony, USA Today reported.
The Magna Carta, also known as the Great Charter, was also instrumental in the establishment of the United States and its constitution. Some historians say the document was drafted and ratified in Britain, but is even more revered in the United States.
"The basis of the Magna Carta is a bastion against tyranny and against over-mighty government," Derek Taylor, the author of the book Magna Carta in 20 Places, told USA TODAY, adding that the charter's importance in America "can't be underestimated."
Britain is holding celebrations all year long for the charter's octocentennial.
There are only four known surviving copies of the Magna Carta, two of which are kept at cathedrals in the British cities of Lincoln and Salisbury. The other two are held in the British Library, the USA Today report said.