Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?

Yesterday saw the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.  (Where did King John sign it?  At the bottom.)

It promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons, in some ways being the forerunner to the Human Rights Act – which makes the appearance of David Cameron – the man who wants to scrap the Act – at the commemorations somewhat ironic.

Anyway, there was an event in Leicester Market to commemorate the anniversary.

We had a talk from two people about the ruling of England in the years leading up to 1215, interspersed with some music of the time, played on instruments of the period, and with some background information on the development of musical notation into the form we know today.

Following this another man in period costume talked a little about the Magna Carta, and reading – appropriately for a marketplace – the following extract:

“There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom. There shall also be a standard width of dyed cloth, russet, and haberject, namely two ells within the selvedges. Weights are to be standardised similarly.”

Maybe not as lavish as the commemorations at Runnymede, but a nice little way to mark the anniversary nonetheless.

(Title courtesy of the late, great Tony Hancock)


  1. Haberject is believed to be woollen cloth, of mixed colours, worn chiefly by monks. If anyone has a couple of ells going spare, I'd love to make a new skirt!!