King John Was Not A Good Man

King John Was Not A Good Man

We took on a new crew member today, our friend Poppy, who we know from the Bahamas. We took a walk with her past Greyfriars, which unfortunately was not open today, and then into the Cathedral. This contains the tomb of King John, who you may remember was a monarch of limited moral compass.
Tomb of King John
John is mostly famous for being evil and signing the Magna Carta, the foundation of constitutional government and human rights. Of course, he immediately renounced it and had the Pope issue a papal bull declaring it null and void, but then John died of dysentery the following year, and the barons got to keep most of their charter. Apart from trial by jury, let’s see what other rights were enshrined by the Magna Carta.

Women’s rights for instance:

No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of any person except her husband….

Hmmm, not so good. How about environmental protection?

All forests that have been created in our reign shall at once be disafforested…

Protection of religious minorities?

If a man dies owing money to Jews, his wife may have her dower and pay nothing towards the debt from it…

Equality under the law?

Earls and barons shall be fined only by their equals…

Surely there must have been some other good things in the Magna Carta? Well yes, the right to keep your horses and carts:

No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent…

Nobody can force you to build bridges if you don’t want to:

No town or person shall be forced to build bridges over rivers…

Most importantly, protection from scutage:

No scutage or aid may be levied in our kingdom without its general consent, unless it is for the ransom of our person, to make our eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry our eldest daughter…

Just think, if it were not for the Magna Carta, the people of England could have been subjected to scutage for Princess Anne’s second marriage as well as her first. Such is the foundation of English liberty. Of course, the protections of the Magna Carta only applied to free men, and most of the population in medieval times were serfs. The feudal system was never actually repealed in England but the condition of serfdom descends through the legitimate male line. There are so many bastards in English history that serfdom died out.

Another interesting royal ended up interred in Worcester Cathedral, Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII and older brother of Henry VIII.
Tomb of Prince Arthur
Arthur did not live long enough to be king, but he was old enough to be joined in a vital political marriage with the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon, when they were both teenagers. He died six months later. Rather than let the vital alliance go to waste, she was remarried to Arthur’s younger brother, the future Henry VIII. In order for this marriage to be legal, she had to declare that the first marriage had not been consummated, so that it could be annulled. Later, when she failed to produce a male heir and Henry VIII wanted to remarry, he challenged this statement, and declared that the marriage with Arthur was valid and that his marriage was not.

So, the important legal question which has vexed historians ever since is, “When you put two teenagers in bed together for six months, are they going to work out how to have sex?” Well, duh.

In other news the swans are massing within sight of the cathedral…
Swans massing
… and are sending off columns on military maneuvers.
Column of swans
They are clearly planning something. We are out of here first thing tomorrow, and just have to hope that it is not too late.

One thought on “King John Was Not A Good Man

  1. Well done. Great photos and editorial, which will be incredibly helpful when I try and sort out my own pictures. Very addled by heat here in Precko, so that won’t happen soon. oh, and trying to avoid stepping on Weaver Fish, a menace od which I was happily ignorant.

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