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Magna Carta - not what it seems

Posted by
CElliottUK (Reading, United Kingdom) on 10 September 2013 in Architecture.

Most people have heard of the Magna Carta-the great statement about the rights of ordinary people. Many elements of it are now enshrined in laws all over the world, from India to America.

What a great bit of forward thinking by King John!

Nope, it's all not quite what it seems.

King John was bloody useless.

Inept in battle, he lost huge areas of land, including Normandy, caused the unnecessary death of 10,000's of people in his continuing, ineffective campaigns, raised taxes against the laws of the land to pay for his follies, and had a nasty and spiteful personality. He was also inept in politics, launching crusades to try and get the favour of the Pope, who wrote him off as "Insincere"

Against this Background, the Baron's would normally kill him, and put in a better king, but all the contenders were even more inept than John, so, they forced him to sign a document, which limited his power. That was the Magna Carta. Straight after signing it, he revoked most of the power limiting clauses, but some remained, and those are the ones-fair right to jury by peers, clauses about inheritance and money lending, that we remember today.

That said, even the fairer clauses have now been repealed, leaving only 3 on the UK statute book today - The freedom of the church, the rights of "Ancient Liberties" in London, and the famous right to Jury

" NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right"

This needed to be written in because King John had a habit of randomly killing, maiming and jailing anyone at any time, for no good reason. It was The Barons, not King John, who should be remembered for laying down the foundation of trial by your equals.

Not a great moment in our history, when you look at the facts.

To add to my disappointment, I found out that there is no English memorial to the Magna Carta, this one is American, and next to it, an Indian one. Somehow, it seems to me, that the lack of a British memorial reflects the fact that whilst the rest of the world think that the Magna Carta was a great moment, us Brits know that it was a truly bad part of our history - but that we've "Spin Doctored" the facts to make us look good.


PS On a lighter note - I spent ages trying to find out what "We will sell to no man" means. I couldn't, so, you have my permission to use it to ward off door-to-door salesmen, Jehovah's witnesses, people who phone you selling Payment Protection Plan claims etc. "Sir , have you been mis-sold Payment Protection Plan Insurance", "Mate, what you are doing goes against the Magna Carta", "WTF?"

OLYMPUS E-P5 1/800 second F/11.0 ISO 1600 28 mm (35mm equiv.)

J.R. from Urasoe City, Japan

Thanks for the education, will they be holding a heavy metal concert here soon:)

10 Sep 2013 5:58am

Doug from Burnham-on-Sea, United Kingdom

I suppose you could say it gave us some sort of principle to begin with though. John's brother Richard wasn't much better, after all almost as soon as he could he skipped the country to go enter a fight that could never be won and shouldn't have happened !

10 Sep 2013 6:36am

ursulakatariina from Ed, Sweden

Great shot and interesting words.

10 Sep 2013 7:07am

Curly from South Shields, United Kingdom

We will sell to no man - is this not a reference to officials accepting bribes in exchange for your liberty and the due course of law?
Interesting looking memorial, where is it?

10 Sep 2013 7:41am

@Curly: I really don't know, I spent 2-3 hours on Sunday afternoon trying to find out(Yeah, I know,... sad person with nothing better to do)

Curly from South Shields, United Kingdom

I meant is this what Runnymeade looks like?

10 Sep 2013 7:42am

@Curly: Yep, really not what I was expecting. The Runnymede area is a delightful, tended meadow, next to a busy road going from the South of Windsor down to the M3, with a wooded area to the right. Go into the woods and the first thing you find is a nice, large memorial to John F Kennedy, come out of the woods, walk on 200 yards and go back into them, and this is what you find. I am having a rant, but, the only lumps of stonework are 2 associated with America, and one given by India. Thankyou to both countries, but I think that there is no British commemorative stone is just not right.

grouser from Ludlow, United Kingdom

Top notch doc Chris

10 Sep 2013 9:15am

Ronnie 2¢ from Atlantic Shores, United Kingdom

Heartening to hear that "Ancient Liberties" are preserved in the City of London. Woman who complained about the way I was crushed against her on the Circle Line other day must have been unaware.

10 Sep 2013 9:20am

Anthony Morgan Lambert from Bielefeld (Old West Wales Boy), Germany

A nicely balanced Image and a great bit of history.

10 Sep 2013 9:36am

Ralph Jones from Detroit, United States

Thanks for the history lesson. I will now spend the rest of my morning coffee time googling King John.

10 Sep 2013 11:01am

Devi from Chennai, India

Thanks for all the info. What a terrible KIng he must have been!!!

10 Sep 2013 11:01am

The Mouse from Barcelona, Spain

I would read that as selling your mates in order to avoid trouble yourself.

10 Sep 2013 2:00pm

Don from Spokane, United States

A fascinating account of a the Magna Carta's actual source. What a bad number he was!

10 Sep 2013 2:50pm

Judy Clark from United States

Amazing what history books teach us that ends up being distorted, or false.
Thanks for sharing all the information, Chris.

10 Sep 2013 2:53pm

Jeff from Pembroke Dock, United Kingdom

Big Bad John, lost the royal baubles in the wash, and died of the shites .

10 Sep 2013 3:49pm

Elaine Hancock from Rockville, United States

Really interesting information. Nothing like what I had learned at all!

10 Sep 2013 6:10pm

Ruthiebear from Titusville, NJ, United States

Hmmm. That is some information you present. I like this image though.

10 Sep 2013 6:34pm

kiwisa from North Shore, New Zealand

I believe there are 4 copies of the Magna Carta and eventually saw the one in Salisbury Cathedral. Will definitely remember to claim the Magna Carta to the next salesman.;)

10 Sep 2013 7:58pm

Philip from London, United Kingdom

i think i might use that last quote!

12 Sep 2013 7:12am

franz from Baden, Austria

having just finished reading a history of scotland, i'm not at all surprised at your estimation of king john ... i'd even go further and claim that most kings - english and otherwise - were inept, unjust, greedy, bloodthirsty of plain mad, no matter what we've learned about them in history lessons ... ;-)
interesting though stark looking monument, btw ...

19 Sep 2013 8:42pm

1/800 second
ISO 1600
28 mm (35mm equiv.)