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JFK Memorial at Runnymede

Visitor relaxing beside the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, Surrey.
Visitor relaxing beside the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, Surrey. | © National Trust Images/John Millar

The symbolic significance of Runnymede in the history of democracy meant that it was chosen as the site of the British memorial to the life of President John F. Kennedy, who powerfully championed the ideals of freedom. On 14 May 1965, Her Majesty was joined by President Kennedy’s widow, Jackie, and their two children to inaugurate the memorial.

During her speech, the Queen also formally bequeathed to the United States the acre of land on which the Portland stone memorial is located, meaning that when you step through the gate, you pass from British to American soil.

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The JFK Memorial

This video tells the story of the John F Kennedy Memorial and why it is located at Runnymede.

The memorial was designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, an architect and landscape designer who drew inspiration for the site from The Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan's allegory of life as a journey.

There are 50 steep steps to the memorial, reflecting the number of American states. Each stone of the path represents an individual pilgrim on their personal journey. The surrounding English woods and the passing of the seasons reflecting the life and mystery of nature.

The memorial stone itself is a seven-tonne block of Portland stone, carved with the words of Kennedy’s inaugural address on 20 January 1961. Alan Collins sculpted them in a flowing pattern across the stone to embody the natural flow and eternal impact of Kennedy’s words, as if the stone itself is speaking.

Pebble and brick steps flanked by bright green trees and leafy shrubs at Runnymede, Surrey
Pebble and brick steps flanked by bright green trees and leafy shrubs at Runnymede, Surrey | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

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