Your RDA of Irony

King John’s Involuntary Gift to Us

Fortunately, King John was Anti-Semitic; so it was unlikely that he would have married Ayn Rand. She would never have let him sign the Magna Carta on this–or any other day–in 1215.

You could imagine their conversation at Runnymede.

John: Well, I’ve lost another war. This never happened to Richard. Perhaps heterosexuals don’t belong in the army. In any case, the barons are demanding that I sign this charter guaranteeing them all sorts of rights and protections.

Ayn: Only a weakling wants anything in writing. If these barons want their rights, they must seize them.

John: If I don’t sign, they’ll kill me.

Ayn: Only a weakling dies.

But John did sign–and immediately reneged on the terms. The barons decided to oust the little weasel and invited the French crown prince Louis (what else) to be king of England.

John, who had the remarkable ability of being both unscrupulous and incompetent, was losing this war, too. England seemed likely to be ruled by King Louis I. But John took the initiative and actually did something decisive that completely undermined his opposition: he dropped dead. The death was suitably ridiculous: a surfeit of peaches and ale. Yet, it effectively ended the rebellion.

The barons realized that John’s heir, his nine year-old son Henry, would make a much more malleable king than an adult French prince. In return for the barons’ allegiance, the regency of Henry III un-reneged the Magna Carta. And it has been in effect ever since.

  1. Leah says:

    Haven’t you always wondered about all those surfeit stories? I mean, you *can* die of a surfeit of ale but it takes years, and as for the peaches I think they could only do you good, unless they’d been nobbled, which is really the only way it makes any sense. I would guess that being the M.E. in medieval anyplace was a political rather than a scientific job, and if the boss wanted you to put down “surfeit of lampreys” as the cause of death rather than “surfeit of poison”, you just shrugged your shoulders and inscrIubed it on vellum.

  2. Leah says:

    It’s late and “u” is next to “i” on the keyboard. I suppose one can’t copyedit these postings.

  3. Bob Kincaid says:

    “Ever since?” Maybe in Engelond.

    Here, across the pond, another “little weasel” (and I expect you’ll be getting grief from the little weasels’ union fpr the unfavorable comparison) has since re-reneged.

  4. Bob Kincaid says:

    “peaches” was colloquial olde english for “sycophantic, syphillitic courtiers.”

  5. Bob Kincaid says:

    Leah, you worrey 2 musch. Eye head to re-reed just two fine yore tipe-0!

    “Nobbled?” This site is better than Reader’s Digest!

  6. Leah, I have corrected–none too discreetly–your typo.

    Mr. Kincaid, being of auld British stock, takes a possessive pride in how he misspells English. After all, it is his language to mutilate. (Leah and I are just immigrant guests.)

    As for “CSI Medieval England”, I don’t see why John couldn’t have died of dysentary. Occasionally, bad things happen to bad people.

    p.s. Last night, TCM showed “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Could that film be any better? And if Olivia de Havilland is reading this blog, you were very charming and nearly as beautiful as Errol.

  7. Rene says:

    You gotta love a guy who thinks Olivia de Havilland is hot…or even knows who she is.

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