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Contributed by Olexander Barnes

Yesterday was the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. The British High Commission in Wellington marked the occasion by holding an event to celebrate all things British and to honour her Majesty the Queen with the unveiling of a new portrait, and to reference the Queen’s Birthday the hashtag for the event was #QBP2015

The event was held in Wellington’s Shed 6 and attended by many prominent politicians and dignitaries, including Labour leader Andrew Little, National List MP Kawaljit Singh Bakshi and the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington John Dew among others.

(Left to Right) British High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair, Minister for Internal Affiars Peter Dunne and Deputy High Commissioner Patrick Reilly, toast GREAT Britain. © Olexander Barnes

The hall was filled with an abundance of GREAT Britain messages and banners, accompanied by the obligatory Union Jacks. Guests were greeted for instance, by images of actors like Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman from their hit TV show Sherlock.

The formal part of the evening was started with an introduction and greeting by acting MC, the deputy head of the British High Commission Patrick Reilly. This was then followed by a speech by the British High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair, who talked of the historical significance of the Magna Carta, not just in British Law but also in American and New Zealand law.

There was then a small interlude where a short informative film about the history behind the Magna Carta was played, as narrated by Monty Python star Terry Jones.

At the conclusion of the film, a first round of toasts were had in honour of Britain, the Magna Carta and the Queen. The whiskey that was used for these toasts had been recreated to match that of a couple of bottles of 19th century whiskey that had been found under the floorboards in Ernest Shackleton’s hut in the Antarctic in 2010.

The unveiled portrait of her Majesty the Queen by David Bailey © Olexander Barnes

When Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne took to the podium his speech highlighted the strong historical and current connection that the United Kingdom and New Zealand share, as well as humourously emphasising our strong sporting rivalry with the upcoming Rugby World Cup to be played in England later this year.

A second round of toasts was had to honour this partnership, and then it was time for the unveiling of a special photographic portrait of the Queen. The portrait is a limited edition print by British photographer David Bailey, which is only being made available to a select number of British High Commissions and Embassies around the world.

The singing of the national anthems of both countries © Olexander Barnes

Thus with the curtains pulled back and the portrait officially unveiled, a quartet sang the national anthems of both countries and the official portion of the night was brought to a close.

  • See also our report on the Magna Carta and events being held throughout the year to mark its 800th anniversary.