Posts Tagged ‘John’

The Magna Clause

Posted in General, On This Day on June 14th, 2015 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Your social studies teacher insisted that the Magna Carta was the foundation of every liberty we now enjoy. In fact, the actual document reads more like the bylines of a country club.

Is there is a traffic dispute in falconry? Check the Magna Carta to see which hawk has the right of way.

What is the proper etiquette when two nobles show up at St. Cuthbert’s Fair wearing the same style of armor? (Whoever paid more has the right to disembowel the haberdasher.)

What is the proper way to torture a Jew? (Divide your torture instruments into meat and dairy implements. The rack is considered dairy; eye gouging is definitely meat.)

So, how did the Magna Carta gets that liberal reputation? It is all based on a single clause, the 39th if you are counting. “No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” King John did have a vicious temper, so that clause was a good idea. Now, every free man in England was protected! In fact, so were the serfs–nearly half of the population–because they were the property of freemen.

Of course, such an all-encompassing right was not the actual intention of the Barons who coerced John into signing the Magna Carta. It was more of a begrudged generalization.

They certainly meant the privilege for themselves–the greatest nobles of the realm. But then the Archbishop of Canterbury, being the token literate and official stenographer, brought up a good point! What about the knights who served the great lords? They were Normans, too, and of good stock; some were even in-laws, the type who would marry the Baron’s ugliest niece. Include them, too, in the clause.

However, if you include those knights, you have to cover their families as well. But some of the knights’ children were marrying into the trades, people who actually were English. The grandchildren wouldn’t even be speaking French. Does the right extend to knights but not their in-laws? Barons hated all the complications of thinking.

The Archbishop had another idea; he had a monopoly on them. “Let’s use the term freemen. Yes, it is broad and vague, but tactful. Besides, it only limits the tyranny of the king. You nobles still have the right to terrorize everyone on your estates.”

And with that comforting thought, the Nobles approved the Magna Carta.

King John’s Involuntary Gift to Us

Posted in On This Day on June 15th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

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.