I watched Melvyn Bragg’s ’12 books that changed the world’ programme yesterday. That ace medieval paperback, ‘The Magna Carta’ by John Plantagenet (ghost written by Baron Robert Fitzwalter) was being featured. Melvyn, resplendent in white fluffy gloves, reverentially fingered a signed copy of the great tome at Salisbury Cathedral.
Quiff-boy Bragg, rightly enthused about what a great piece of work this was – The Magna Carta, the very first document ever to enshrine the basic rights of the individual in law. Imagine that. The very first ever, ever, ever – and as Bragg correctly informed us, it was an English achievement. Not British, or European, but English…..
This great document of England, for so long buried by our Brit-centred conniving establishment into a distant memory of inconsequential waste paper is the pivotal moment of documented freedom. Countries all over the world have used it as a basis for their own bill of rights…. Including the United Nations human rights charter….
But what I didn’t know was that the 5th amendment of the U.S. Declaration of Independence was taken virtually line for line verbatim from Magna Carta….
It’s just amazing isn’t it? In any other country, the Magna Carta, this defining episode in human history would be celebrated and enshrined in the consciousness of its people. Magna Carta Day, swearing on the Magna Carta, Order of the Magna Carta – but not here, not in the UK – and especially not in England. If it is mentioned at all, it is spuriously and ignorantly absorbed into a British identity.
I asked my kids – all 4 of them have gone through the state education system, None of them were taught anything about Magna Carta, 2 of them have never even heard of it…..
The tragedy is, I wasn’t at all surprised at their replies…..