Friday, 15 June 2007
Magna Carta Day
In June 1215 objections to various policies - and most of all, the high handed behaviour, of King John led to some of England's Barons joining together and on June 10th they seized London. As a result King John was forced to accept their demands and sign a formal document in a meadow at Runnymede, by the River Thames. That event occured on June 15th.
That document was a Great Charter [latin - Magna Carta] - and is revered as the first in a line of developments which replace despotism with the rule of law. King John renounced it as soon as he was able, but 'Magna Carta' was reaffirmed by his successors. Sadly, my observation is that Magna Carta is more revered in the United States and elsewhere, than in England itself.
It should be celebrated. The Rule of Law - the idea that power must be exercised according to law, rather than the personal whims or interests of those who hold the authority to make decisions affecting the rest of their community - is the foundation of modern democracy and liberty.
There are of course many myths attached to Magna Carta, and the Victorians in particularly romanticised it terribly - but a few individuals stood up to an abuse of power - and we all have benefitted from the consequences. They weren't the first - and certainly weren't the last - but as we reflect on the great events in the history of Freedom - Parliament's resistance to Charles I; the Glorious Revolution of 1688; The Declaration of Independence 1776; The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen 1789 - lets remember and honour that June day back in 1215.
The text can be read at http://www.bl.uk/treasures/magnacarta/translation.html. Other information can be found at