After more than a week of octocentennial celebrations, Obiter is in rehab in a darkened room somewhere inter Windleshor et Stanes. However for readers who missed out, here’s a selection of memorable moments.
Top of the bill must be the master of the rolls’ deadpan reminder of the provision that ‘to no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice’.
In front of an audience including the head of state and the head of government, Lord Dyson continued: ‘These words still have a thrilling majesty even today. The foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot. With those ringing words in our minds, it now gives me great pleasure to invite the prime minister to speak.’
Another splendidly contemporary observation came from LSE boffin Francesca Klug, who told the Law Society’s Magna Carta debate that the great charter so hailed by the current government is also a perfect example of its human rights bogeyman the ‘living instrument’.
A know-your-audience award should go to Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption, who opened an address to the Franco-British Lawyers’ Society by comparing the ‘turgid’ Magna Carta unfavourably with the 1789 Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, ‘the only one of these two documents that speaks to us in the 21st century’.
However the 1215 charter had at least one fan at the Alternative Magna Carta Festival, ‘an afternoon of freedoms, literature, Britishness, arts, protest, digital rights and more’ at the Guardian’s old headquarters in Clerkenwell. Land reform campaigner Kevin Cahill contrasted the charter with more recent communications from Whitehall: ‘It’s probably the last great official document primarily about power that’s been made publicly available in the UK.’
However the highlight of Obiter’s week was attending the unveiling by the speaker of the House of Commons of the first British memorial to Magna Carta at Runnymede.
The riverside memorial, a statue of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the robes of the Order of the Garter, isn’t quite to Obiter’s taste, but we applaud the sentiment behind it. And especially the contribution of the project’s sponsors, headed by Sheikh Marei Mubarak Mahfouz bin Mahfouz of Saudi Arabia.
Obiter warmly welcomes any Saudi commitment to the principles of Magna Carta, even by a private citizen.