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“The seal likes it!”
“I will not lick that stamp!”
“...something smells and we all had a bath last month”
Magna Carta is a document written in Medieval Doctor's Latin which was presented to King John of England to sign and deliver to an assembly of nobles and clergy in May 1215. Or pay a fine of £5.00, six groats and a herd of cattle. John agreed to put his seal on the document who was enticed out of his diving pool and added his flipper mark, with the encouragement of a lot of fresh fish. The seal's name is not recorded but the smell of raw herring can be still detected by anyone who shoves their nose closer to the document.
edit So What's this all about?
So lets scroll back to the Middle Ages. No iPads or Internet then and if you wanted to send a text message to anyone, you first had to skin an animal and clean it as paper was very expensive then. King John had a lot of paper as he was King of England. His opponents had to do deal with stinky old animal skins. Since John didn't want to have his stationery used, Magna Carta was written on the back of a live goat by an agile scribe. Only when the both sides nodded that they agreed with the terms, was the goat then butchered and provided that night's main course. The skin, of course, was saved and then copied onto other goats who were then slaughtered to make 20 copies.
To give the document a bit more gravitas than just 'Something We Agreed on the Back of a Goat', chroniclers gave it the name of 'Magna Carta'. This would latter led to confusion amongst England's peasantry who believed Magna was a woman who had made the King agree to stop being a thieving Royal Bastard. Prayers were offered to 'Magna' and there was a petition to make her a saint when she died. That no one knew where or when she died led to some fantastic stories about Magna going on Crusade and liberating the Holy Land from the Saracens. The Catholic Church were reluctant to make her saint - not on the grounds that she didn't exist - but they thought the English had been a bunch of ignorant oiks to have King John sign anything without their approval.
So here are the important clauses of Magna Carta:
- Tea to be drunk at 4.00pm.
- Four poster beds to be equipped with thick curtains.
- No man is an Island.
- No fishing after dark.
- Queuing mandatory.
Other clauses were written so densely that no one could decipher the scribe's handwriting. The fishing clause caused a lot of arguments. Some wondered if this provision also covered crabs, crayfish and winkles. After much debate, they were excluded and given to King John's seal.
edit Rumble at Runnymede
King John had hoped that his mercenaries would surround Runnymede and Kill All Traitors. Except, being foreign, they had taken a wrong turn and were heading towards Runcorn where they were eaten by the hungry locals. Without troops, John finally nodded the document through and then, as he was out of range from a swift capture, denounced the agreement and urged everyone to take up arms and defend their king. John's blatant treaty violations (the Royal Seal also ate all the fish) led to a renewal of war.
John fled North but then lost everything in The Wash after mixing his red stockings and white jacket in the laundry basket. He died shortly after as he had nothing clean to wear. His last words were 'where is my seal???'
edit Revisions, Crossing Outs and Other Sundry Changes
The Magna Carta was 'revised' in 1217 to remove all the odious clauses about fish. About the only provision not revoked was the one about 'Hasbro Corpus Chris Christi' and one about that if you pay taxes, the English Crown had the right to keep spare farthings. It was then discarded until another rebel called Simon Del Monte rebelled against King Henry III over the issue of orange juice and used Magna Carta as his rallying war cry. He was just in time because by then all but four copies of the parchment had been recycled as pie tin bases to prevent soggy bottoms.
Del Monte used Magna Carta to call a parliament to elect a new King. However the Plantagenet Party were victorious and Prince Edward became King. He crushed Del Monte but left the fleshy bits to be added in all future cartons.
Many centuries later, Thomas Jefferson obtained a copy of Magna Carta. He liked what he read and persuaded Benjamin Franklin and George Washington to incorporate it into the United States Bill of Rights. They decided to exclude provisions about fishing rights which is why anglers have the right to sit on the edge of river banks with a box of maggots and a flask of hot coffee without fear of arrest or ridicule.