Monday, 5 January 2015

Magna Carta- on- Thames

 The River Thames has made an appearance many times in my blog. It's the river that runs in front of the House of Parliament in London so very well-known all over the world.What  is probably less known is how beautiful it is,  from the source onwards. In a short space of time it passes through lush green countryside, beautiful Oxford, little villages, historical monuments like Runnymede famous for the Magna Charter. It flows under famous bridges built by famous paople like  the engineer, Brunel and past famous buildings like Big Ben and Hampton Court, all the way to the sea.
It's seen a lot happen, witnessed a lot of important things. While important historical events have been taking place along its banks people have been quietly enjoying its peaceful and serene yet breath-taking beauty.
Whether you want to sit and dream or walk and get some exercise the River Thames is generous in its gifts of beauty, inspiration and the joys of life.
When you walk along the stretch of the Thames at Runnymede you are constantly aware of important historical events. There is a war memorial for all those who went missing in the Second World war and a piece of land that is actually American soil. Then there is the Island where the Barons compelled King John to sign the Magna Carta. There will be a lot of  talk about  this in 2015 because it happened
eight hundred years ago in 1215 during the reign of King John.
The Magna Carta is often talked about as the beginning of democracy and a guarantee of liberty for all men. Really it was the barons who wanted their own possessions preserved and so they sought to limit the king's power and preserve the rights and privileges of the nobility. It does however put forward the important idea that the king should be under the law and lays down some fundamental principles that stand for all time.
Here is a verse about the Magna Carta from a book called 'A Ryhming History of Britain, by James Muirden,

The barons started a campaign
Against his rule, and, as a starter,
requested him to sign a Charter.
Though Magna Carta's been around
So long, and has a hallowed sound,
Not much of it turns out to be
To do with Rights and Liberty
(Clause 35, for instance, states
We ought to unify our weights).
In any case, its sealing wax
Had hardly cooled before the cracks
Of civil strife were widening.
The barons rose against the king,
And even managed to persuade
The French prince, Louis, to invade.

My brother gave me a book for Christmas when I was ten which was greatly loved then  by many Bristish schoolchildren. It is a parody of the traditional textbooks used to teach history. You have to know about history for it to make you smile though, otherwise the humour in it seems lost.

It's called '1066 and all that' written by W.C Sellar and R.J. Yeatman in 1930.
Here's how they describe  the conditions of the Magna Carta.

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 by King John.

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.

This is what really happened according to Historians.

Within weeks of signing the Magna Carta King John turned against the barons and started to make war on them. At first he was successful but then things went wrong on a campaign in Lincolnshire. All King John's household belongings disappeared in the quicksands of the Wash, and he died from dysentery after eating too many peaches and drinking too much cider.

So get ready to commemorate the eight hundred years of Magna Carta.
While all the time the Thames flows  softly on, caressing its banks that are home to so many little creatures and placidly smoothing all the history that is reflected in its shining waters.


Controversial flood water channel

Where lovers meet

On the way to Runnymede

A home by the river

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