Salisbury Cathedral—this is where the Magna Carta is kept. There are serious gaps in my education, so I’m grateful for these little field trips that fill them in a bit. It seems the Magna Carta was an agreement made in 1215 between some feudal barons and King John, and not primarily a declaration of the rights of man—as one might have been led to believe. John had gotten into some wars that resulted in a few of the barons losing their property. They were not happy about him being able to do that. Can you imagine—the leader of your country gets you into wars that end up bankrupting your country? Not cool. These barons, who lived in the lands all around, lobbied for some guarantees regarding both their rights and their property as opposed to those of the King. And, after some threatening and cajoling, they managed to get the King to meet at a field near here called Runymeade where he signed the one page document limiting his own powers.
It does have a single clause, clause 29, that states the rights of citizens to due process—a few sentences that paved the way for a lot of declarations and documents to come. That little part is justly celebrated.
29. No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.
It’s one of the first documents to lay out an agreement between a ruler and ruled—holding them mutually repsonsible by a written document, which in itelf was a bit of new idea, and on top of that, it established that the rule of law superseded the whims of the King. That was a big deal.
But there’s more to the story. The King, understandably, wasn’t happy with having limitations put on his powers, especially in writing, so he appealed to the Pope. (England was a Catholic country then.) The Pope, a sort of higher authority, had the document annulled one year after it was signed—so much for the rights of man.
The King died a year after that and a temp was installed to manage things until young Henry was of age. The barons took advantage of this turn of events and forced a re-signing of the document, though it was slightly different this time.
By the late 1800’s, pretty much the entire thing had been repealed—only clauses 1, 9 and 29 were still applicable by 1969. But it’s accepted that even in adapted and adulterated form it laid the conceptual foundation for rule-by-law (and not whim) and some sort of general concept of human rights.
A group of us decided to bike the 19 miles to the festival site, as it was a gorgeous day and the route would take us mostly there via rural roads. It was lovely, though there were a couple of big hills we would end up feeling the next day.
After some tricky GPS work we found the festival site. The event is called End of the Road and it features a lot of up-and-coming acts ,as opposed to the big draws that many other Euro summer festivals feature. The choice of acts seems very hand-picked. I caught Savages—a powerful act with a great look. Their sound is a wee bit reminiscent of some acts from back in the day—Joy Division was mentioned by some—but they’ll move past that pretty soon I imagine. Really strong.
Our own set was strengthened in some ways by being trimmed to 90 minutes for the festival. We tend to take out ballads for festivals, as we expect the audiences to be a little restless having been standing and listening to music all day. It worked.