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Legal Minds

12 June 2014 / by / in

Magna Carta

2015 will witness the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, legal worthies will no doubt consider this a cause for celebration. The Great Charter will be held up as the blueprint for the development of the protection of human rights and the rule of law in England and Wales and the forerunner of the United States constitution.

In truth the Magna Carta did not survive 3 months. King John was coerced to sign the charter by the barons at Runnymede on 15th June 1215, it was annulled by the papal bull (“Esti Kavissimus”) of Innocent III at Anagni on 24th August 1215. The Pope declared that King John had been impelled to enter an unlawful and unjust agreement, “base and shameful”.

Sadly the diminutive Pope died the following year in July 1216 (malaria at Perugia), King John joined him in October (dysentery at Newark) as did one of the leading barons Eustace de Vesci (arrow to the head at Barnard Castle). Eustace de Vesci was one of “the Northerners” whose grievances with the King were mainly personal and he was driven by jealousy and self interest rather than philanthropy; in that King John had attempted to seduce his wife and he did not wish to contribute towards King John’s wars by providing men or paying the tax or “scutage” levied by the Crown.

The Northerners, de Vesci, de Percy and de Montbegon were more interested in evading tax or dodging the draft than seeking to enshrine civil liberties into our constitution by Magna Carta, plus ca change.


John Bechelet

John specialises in commercial and civil fraud litigation. Admitted as a solicitor in 1983, John worked in private practice and in-house for a leading life assurance company before establishing Bivonas with Antony Brown in 1997. John has extensive experience in a wide range of courts and tribunals including the UK Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Divisional Court. He has been involved in a number of important reported cases.