Get Carta


Michael: So, ladies and gentlemen, time for my next guest, and we're fortunate to have one of the country's movers and shakers with us here this evening. An earl, no less - yes, there's no expense spared on my show - someone who can quite rightly claim that the hand of history is on his shoulder. Would you please welcome John de Lacey, 1st Earl of Lincoln.

de Lacey: Thank you, thank you very much.

Michael: Thank you for being here with us this evening.

de Lacey: The pleasure is entirely mine. It's good of you to invite me.

Michael: Now, first things first - how does one address an earl? Your earlship? Your highness?

de Lacey: Please call me John.

Michael: Ok, John it is - ooh, seems a bit informal to be addressing a member of the nobility as John. Well John, thank you for coming. Now, I referred to you in the introduction as a 'mover and shaker'. And that's not exaggeration, is it? You are genuinely one of the most powerful men in the country today, are you not?

de Lacey: Well, I... It's not really for me to say. I hope, however that I use whatever little influence I have to its best advantage.

Michael. Ah, ever modest. I think I would be right in saying that that influence is felt in the highest circles in the land?

de Lacey: Well, possibly, possibly.

Michael: And now, of course, your influence will be felt even more keenly with the publication of your latest document. I have it here; I'll just unfurl it so that the audience can see. Ooh, it's quite tricky. There we go - can everybody see that? Magna Carta, ladies and gentlemen.

de Lacey: Absolutely, yes. I can't, of course, take the whole credit for it. There are quite a number of us who were involved in the project. But yes, hopefully it will prove to be popular.

Michael: Well, I was... Hang on, let me just roll it up and... Yes, I was skimming through it last night, and I have to say, it is a cracking good read.

de Lacey: Thank you. Thank you.

Michael: So, for the benefit of our audience, tell us what it's about.

de Lacey: Yes, well, it's basically a new charter.

Michael: Ooh, a charter. We like a good charter, don't we ladies and gentlemen?

de Lacey: Well, this one is designed to establish certain rights for various groups within society - the church, the barons and so forth - and ensure that certain legal procedures are observed.

Michael: Fascinating. And I understand that the King himself is bound by this document?

de Lacey: Indeed he is. King John has been sympathetic to our aims right through this process, and has been more than happy to endorse the charter.

Michael: Well, you say that, of course, but a little bird tells me that the King is now refusing to accept it?

de Lacey: No, no, he's all for it. There may be one or two niggling little legal issues to iron out, but that's just politics. Pitched battles and the occasional siege are all part of the process. We're enjoying a lively debate, let's put it that way. The important point is that what we have here is an opportunity to bring about a very real and lasting change.

Michael: Ok then, so tell us why this document is so important? How, for example, am I going to be better off as a result of Magna Carta?

de Lacey: You Michael? Well not at all - nothing in there for interviewers!

Michael: Fair enough! I should have known better than to ask, shouldn't I? But for the average freeman in the street, then - what about him?

de Lacey: Oh, it's going to make a big, big difference. Much of this document won't affect him directly, of course. It's designed to confer specific rights to barons and members of the church, but obviously what's good for us will be good for everybody else. But there are some direct benefits. We've got habeas corpus, of course.

Michael: Ah yes, now I've heard of this. What exactly is a habeas corpus?

de Lacey: The habeas corpus?

Michael: Yes, how are these habeas corpuses going to affect us all, and will we get one each?

de Lacey: Your habeas corpus will prevent you from being unlawfully detained. Which I think is quite a handy thing to have.

Michael: Fascinating, fascinating. I understand that Magna Carta also guarantees that I will not be forced to build a bridge over a river? Is that right?

de Lacey: Well, yes, strictly speaking that's right enough. To be honest, that's not a particularly important clause. We only stuck it in there because Mad Hugh Bigod kept banging on about it. Personally, I think it's silly. I mean, have you ever been forced to build a bridge over a river?

Michael: No.

de Lacey: No, of course not. And neither have I.

Michael: All the same, it's nice to know that I'm protected by law.

de Lacey: Okay, if that works for you, then fair enough. Personally, I think all that stuff about fish weirs and so on is going to seem pretty weird in seven or eight hundred years time. People are going to look back and wonder what we were all on.

Michael: You think Magna Carta will be around for that long, then?

de Lacey: Well if not our charter, then something very much like it.

Michael: Another Carta? What would that be called, do you think?

de Lacey: Well, that's not important, but -

Michael: Macro Carta, perhaps? Or Splendido Carta?

de Lacey: Possibly, yes. But the thing is, what we're doing here is establishing people's rights within a legal framework, and defining the limits of the power of the state. This has been done before, of course, but hopefully our charter will have a more lasting impact. What this means is that it offers an alternative way for barons, clergy and freemen to enforce their rights, rather than just going around sticking their swords into people. And I think this can only be a good thing.

Michael: Well that's marvellous.

de Lacey: Yes, yes, it is. And although, as I previously intimated, the protections that Magna Carta offers are limited, I think it will give rise to other charters, other agreements and constitutions that will do more to enshrine our rights. Oh, I'm not saying that it will completely replace the traditional method of sticking swords into people. Ironically, I think we may have a good deal more of that to do to get this accepted. And I have no doubt that those who come after us will have a similar scrap on their hands. But once these agreements are in place, I think we're all going to be better off.

Michael: Well I hope so. It certainly won't be as messy. So do you see a time when, let's say, a tenant farmer is automatically protected from being flogged to death by his landlord, or perhaps a freeman can be protected from forfeiting his estate to the crown at the whim of the king?

de Lacey: Not automatically, no. I think it is important to point out that we are not providing some kind of wizard's staff, which will magically protect everyone from harm. The rights we are establishing and the laws we are enacting are tools - it's up to the individual to use those tools to their best advantage.

Michael: And you think they will do that?

de Lacey: Oh absolutely. No doubt about it. People won't take their rights for granted; they are bound to exercise them, or else run the risk of losing them. If they don't, then the sacrifices we have made, the victories we have won and the struggles we have endured will have been for nothing. And that is unthinkable.

Michael: Well I wish you the very best of luck with it. And if you decide to write a sequel, be sure to come back and tell us all about it, won't you?

de Lacey: I certainly will, Michael.

Michael: Well, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, John de Lacey, the 1st Earl of Lincoln!

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