Do not let the French fool you. Waterloo was a victory for the Allied armies, commanded by the Duke of Wellington and the Prussians, commanded by Marshal Bl├╝cher. Furthermore, the defeat was catastrophic for France as, indeed, Napoleon's victorious and not so victorious wars had been. It was the end of France as a great power and even the attempt to create a European Union on French lines is not turning out to be the success it had been hoped for. Well, not for France.


First a notice of what promises to be an interesting talk at the British Library about the other Charters. It is called Statutes, Constitutions and a Golden Bull: Early European Parallels to Magna Carta. The Golden Bull has been mentioned on this blog before but the others,the Statute of Pamiers (1212, the Constitutions of Melfi (1231) and the imperial land peace of Mainz (1235) sound very interesting as well. If humanly possible, I shall be there and report on the event.

Meanwhile, I have been reminded by a blog reader of the chapter on King John (An Awful King) and the Magna Charter in that best of all history books, 1066 And All That. (Here is an excellent history quiz published in the Guardian that is taken from the test papers of that fine book; here is the text of the book but I would still recommend that people acquire a paper edition for the illustrations if nothing else.)

Meanwhile, what do the authors say in Chapter 19?

"Magna Charter

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 mediaeval 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'."

That, I think, makes it all crystal clear. I shall be asking questions later. 


Really, I should not spend so much time on detective stories and matters related but Martin Edwards's recent book on the Detection Club and its denizens is good enough and important enough to merit a long posting on the secondary blog.

The last lines of Mr Edwards’s book are:
The last word belongs to Christie. In 1940, at the height of the Blitz, when she could not know if she or her family and friends would survive for long, she inscribed a copy of Sad Cypress: “Wars may come and wars may go, but MURDER goes on forever!”
How right she was. Furthermore, despite all predictions to the contrary, traditional murder and detective fiction go on forever. Nothing could prove that more clearly than the popularity of the British Library series of reprints, first of Victorian but more recently of various half-forgotten Golden Age detective novels and collections of short stories, all of which have been immensely popular.

Martin Edwards’s role in publishing and publicizing the series cannot be overestimated. He has chosen the books, provided highly knowledgeable introductions to a number of them and edited collections of short stories. While doing all that he has been writing his own books and running a blog about detective fiction that is to be recommended to anyone who is even half-way interested in the subject. His greatest achievement to date, however, is this massive volume, a history of the Detection Club in the thirties and forties, a collection of biographies of the extraordinary people who were its members and, incidentally, a history of the genre in the period. That is what I call a useful book.

The rest of this posting is here and the details of the book are:

Martin Edwards:                     The Golden Age of Murder

The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story

2015                                        London

                                                HarperCollinsPublishers

And here is Dorothy L. Sayers with Eric the Skull:


Today is Magna Carta Day as the great document was signed on June 15, 1215, though there is a slight problem with it all as dates before September 14, 1752 were in the Julian Calendar, the ones after, in the Gregorian Calendar. The Wikipedia entry gives a reasonable background and explanation of its importance at the time and even greater importance since (though, as we know, the document was not unique in the thirteenth century).

This might be of interest to this blog's readers: only three of the clauses have remained in English law but they are of great importance:
I. FIRST, We have granted to God, and by this our present Charter have confirmed, for Us and our Heirs for ever, that the Church of England shall be free, and shall have all her whole Rights and Liberties inviolable. We have granted also, and given to all the Freemen of our Realm, for Us and our Heirs for ever, these Liberties under-written, to have and to hold to them and their Heirs, of Us and our Heirs for ever.

IX. THE City of London shall have all the old Liberties and Customs which it hath been used to have. Moreover We will and grant, that all other Cities, Boroughs, Towns, and the Barons of the Five Ports, as with all other Ports, shall have all their Liberties and free Customs.

XXIX. 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.
Some useful (or more or less useful) links on the subject:

The British Library, though it is hosting the biggest and most important exhibition on the Magna Carta, has recently adopted a rather jocular style on its website, which I find rather irritating. Nor do I think someone from the Monty Python team is the best person to narrate the story but that is what the powers that be at the BL have decided. For those of greater tolerance than the author of this posting, here is the link.

A better summary on the BBC History Magazine website. The best collection of articles are in two very different publications: spiked-online and the latest issue of History Today. In particular, here is a selection of the most important and interesting books on the subject, chosen by Nigel Saul.

Of course, what really matters today of all days is the actual text of the document. without it we cannot even begin to discuss what influence it has had in various countries and centuries and whether any of the clauses can or should be revived for our own use. Here is the English translation of the 1215 text.

Working on that article about the under-appreciated Lady Knightley, whose activity sends me into complete exhaustion, I have been reading Conservative Women by G. E. Maguire, published in 1998 at an early stage of studies devoted to the subject. Dr Maguire cautions against the assumption that is still widespread despite studies like hers that the movement for women's political involvement and suffragism were entirely on the left. I have no doubt that the forthcoming film Suffragette will uphold that hoary old tenet.

If we look at the history of women's rights, we find the following:

The Primrose League, a Conservative organization, was the first political group to admit women, Conservatives like Lord robert Cecil, the Earl of Lytton, Lady Selborne and Lady Betty Balfour worked tirelessly for somen's suffraage - sometimes even uniting their efforts with those of the Pankhursts or Millicent Fawcett.

It was a Conservative dominated coalition government that gave women over thirty the vote in 1918 and an entirely Conservative one that gave women the right to vote on the same terms as men in 1928.

The first woman member of Parliament, Lady Astor, was a Conservative. It was Harold Macmillan's government that introduced equal pay for teachers and non-industrial civil servants. Later, Edward Heath ordered the formation of the Cripps Committee whose job was to examine the legal disabilities against women and recommend legislation to remove them. Finally, and most obviously, the Conservatives were the first and, to this day, the only, party to choose a woman leader.

Women have mobilized in mass numbers since the days of the Primrose League for the Conservative Party. it has been estimated that, if women had not been given the vote, the Labour Party would have been in power almost continuously since 1945. It would not be going too far to say that women have provided the basis for Conservative Party dominance in the twentieth century.
A few qualifications need to be made. Lady Astor was the first woman MP to take her seat in the House not the first woman to be elected, it was Constance Markievicz who was not Polish except by marriage or Irish but an English aristocrat whose family owned an estate in County Sligo. Also, there are a couple of other parties in the UK now who have women leaders, both, however regional ones: the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

Finally, I cannot resist pointing out that H. H. Asquith, Miss Helena Bonham Carter's great-grandfather, that Prime Minister in an entirely Liberal government, was a staunch opponent of women's suffrage, which is one reason why it was not introduced till after the First World War. Will this be mentioned when the publicity for the new film hits the media?

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