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The iconic vellum manuscript Ð dated October 12, 1297, when Edward IÕs Parliament reissued Magna Carta for the final time Ð will now return to the United States at the National Archives in Washington, DC where it had been on display alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution since arriving in America over 22 years ago.

Just 17 13th century copies of Magna Carta survive and Ð together with another 1297 copy in the National Library of Australia (purchased by the Australian government for £12,500 in 1952) Ð this is one of only two residing outside England.

Ross Perot, the Texan billionaire who twice ran for President in the 1990s, had bought it in 1984 for $1.5m from descendants of James Thomas Brudenell, the Earl of Cardigan who led the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War.

Originally intended for the shire of Buckingham, it was documented in the possession of the Brudenell family of Deene Park, Northamptonshire since the late 14th or early 15th centuries. It is not known how the document came into the possession of the Brudenell family, but it was probably through one of two family members who were distinguished lawyers. It was being sold at SothebyÕs New York to benefit the charitable activities of The Perot Foundation.

Mr Rubenstein, who worked in the White House in the Carter administration and is managing director of global private equity firm The Carlyle Group, met little opposition in pursuit of the document he called Òa beacon for freedomÓ. SothebyÕs estimate had been $20m-30m. ÒI am privileged to be the new owner, but I am only the temporary custodian. This is a gift to the American people. It is important to me that it stay in the United States,Ó he said.

Roland Arkell