in 1215, 800 years ago, King John of England puts his seal to the Magna Carta.
John: An Awful King
WHEN John came to the throne he lost his temper and flung himself on the floor, foaming at the mouth and biting the rushes. He was thus a Bad King. Indeed, he had begun badly as a Bad Prince, having attempted to answer the Irish Question (*) by pulling the beards of the aged Irish chiefs, which was a Bad Thing and the wrong answer.
Prince Arthur A Tragedy in Little
John had a little nephew called Little Arthur, who was writing a little History of England in quite a small dungeon, and whose little blue eyes John had ordered to be put out with some weeny red-hot irons. The gaoler Hubert, however, who was a Good Man, wept so much that he put out the red-hot irons instead. John was therefore compelled to do the little deed himself with a large, smallish knife, thus becoming the first memorable wicked uncle.
(*) N.B. The Irish Question at this time consisted of: (1) Some Norman Barons, who lived in a Pail (near Dublin), (2) The natives and Irish Chieftains, who were beyond the Pail, living in bogs, beards, etc.
John was so bad that the Pope decided to put the whole country under an Interdict, i.e. he gave orders that no one was to be born or die or marry (except in Church porches). But John was still not cured of his Badness; so the Pope sent a Bull to England to excommunicate John himself. In spite of the King's efforts to prevent it the Bull succeeded in landing and gave orders that John himself was not to be born or marry or die (except in Church porches); that no one was to obey him or stand him a drink or tell him the right time or the answer to the Irish Question or anything nice. So at last John gave way and he and his subjects began once more to be born and to marry and to die, etc. etc.
THERE also happened in this reign the memorable Charta, known as Magna Charter on account of the Latin Magna (great) and Charter (a Charter); this was the first of the famous Chartas and Gartas of the Realm and was invented by the Barons on a desert island in the Thames called Ganymede. By congregating there, armed to the teeth, the Barons compelled John to sign the Magna Charter, which said:
1. That no one was to be put to death, save for some reason (except the Common People).
2. That everyone should be free (except the Common People).
3. That everything should be of the same weight and measure throughout the Realm (except the Common People).
4. That the Courts should be stationary, instead of following a very tiresome medieval official known as the King's Person all over the country.
5. That `no person should be fined to his utter ruin' (except the King's Person).
6. That the Barons should not be tried except by a special jury of other Barons who would understand.
Magna Charter was therefore the chief cause of Democracy in England, and thus a Good Thing for everyone (except the Common People).
After this King John hadn't a leg to stand on and was therefore known as `John Lackshanks'.
Final Acts of Misgovernment
John finally demonstrated his utter incompetence by losing the Crown and all his clothes in the wash and then dying of a surfeit of peaches and no cider; thus his awful reign came to an end.
From W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman: “1066 and All That”, a “Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings, and 2 Genuine Dates”
… who summarised the whole affair far better than I ever could.
More about the Magna Charta, seriously, on:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta
and, even more seriously, about “1066 and All That” on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1066_and_All_That
Depicted below is a romanticised 19th-century recreation of King John signing the Magna Carta by James William Edmund Doyle (1822 – 1892) from “A Chronicle of England: B.C. 55 – A.D. 1485” #history #europeanhistory #medievalhistory #magnacarta #MagnaCarta800th