That old joke is so typical of English humour. Recently the 800th anniversary of the signing of the charter was commemorated by a ceremony at Runnymede (just off junction 13 of the M25) where it was signed in 1215. That is a date every English schoolchild remembers – dinner time. The charter was inspired by pre-1066 (the most remembered historical date) Anglo Saxon laws recorded in the Textus Roffensis. By making illegal the absolute power of the monarch, the document assumed an importance that grew over time, coming to represent the right to protection against arbitrary and unjust rule. In feudal times it wasn’t emancipation for most people, but it was an important step on the road.
The 200th anniversary of the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo was also commemorated this month. In the West Country our Wellington Monument, built by public subscription, was finally completed in 1853. It was started in 1817 but work paused when subscriptions dried up as the Duke had fallen out of favour when he became Conservative Prime Minister. The people were rebelling – but we won’t mention that. The 50 metre high obelisk (clearly seen from the M5 north of junction 27) is in need of a few quid for renovation. The National Trust general manager for the site said; “We had to fence off the tower several years ago because of falling debris”.
Priorities it seems are confused. Democracy for us was getting the vote. The Representation of the People Act 1918 finally gave us that vote. That’s our centenary. Women had to wait until The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 to get voting rights at 21 - the same as men.
I wonder, as part of the WW1 remembrance, if they have organised a new monument to be erected in Parliament Square to commemorate the Act? Maybe The Labour Party should campaign for it.