Magna Carta’s 800th Birthday

800 years ago, king John, put his seal to The great charter. His barons demanded this of him; they had had enough of his tyranny.

No longer would they allow him to lock them up without charge, to hold their families hostage, murder who he liked,  steal their lands and possessions, extort them with taxes and have control over who was appointed in the powerful church.

Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury had just returned from exile in France, and was instrumental in Magna Carta coming about. He was there when it was sealed.

800 years ago today it was either agree to the charter or have civil war. And the French were waiting in the wings to invade if given half a chance.

Stephens brother Simon (briefly Archbishop of York at the time of Magna Carta) also played a key part, and would later be Chancellor in France and encourage an invasion  of England by the French Prince when king John reneged on Magna Carta.

It seems we have a lot to thank the Langtons for. And yet the history books wrongly state they were born in Langton by Wragby, in Lincolnshire.

The mistake comes from Powicke who in 1928 gives a reference to a manuscript talking of a mill at Langton which he claims is Langton by Wragby. However, manuscripts of this time rarely identified the specific village as the context (the names involved, the other places mentioned) made it clear which Langton village was being written about. In this case, you have a mill (which of course, requires water) which cannot have been at Langton by Wragby as it has no river.

The brothers actually came from Langton by Horncastle where there is a river and a mill as seen in other deeds in relation to the Langtons, including one in 1236 in which Simon Langton is sorting out the dowrie of his brother Walter’s widow. And other deeds exist showing their father Henry Langton, also at Langton by Horncastle. 

There appear to be no deeds which talk of any Langtons at Langton by Wragby in the time period (1100-1300) which is no surprise as it was very small at the time of Domesday and probably was not a significant settlement in the following centuries.

History books should not be taken at face value. Mistakes are often made and it’s important to use your own brain to evaluate the evidence and see if you agree with the conclusions reached. Much like scientific research, such as the PACE trial in chronic fatigue syndrome, that concluded graded exercise therapy (GET) leads to recovery in patients, when in face the opposite is true, as shown in the recently published survey conducted by the ME Association which found the majority of patients had a decline in health following GET.

Thankfully, we are free to challenge erroneous conclusions, in large part due to the work of the Langtons and the Barons in opposition to king John 800 years ago, though with our rights ever being eroded in this modern age, and the voices of individuals increasingly drowned out, you have to wonder if it isn’t time for a new Magna Carta. As was the case 800 years ago though, people have to be pushed very hard before they finally say, enough is enough.

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