by James Daugherty
This was a well-written book especially considering that with the material it covered, it could have been a snoozefest. Instead, the story of the Magna Charta was told in a lively, engaging manner.
The book starts with an overview of feudalism and what life, in general, was like in the 12th century. The story picks up at King Henry II, William the Conqueror’s great grandson, and father of Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland (as he was teasingly called). The family dynamic is explored a little and then members of the family die until John is finally made king. (It was between him and his nephew, but he had his nephew (16 years old) imprisoned and the boy was never heard from again).
John is a tempest of a king. He liked to live well and, as is well-known in history, taxed the bejeezus out of people, causing the rise of heroes like Robin Hood and his Merry Men to come to the aid of the poor, overburdened subjects. He also found himself at war a lot – with practically everybody – and even got himself excommunicated by the Pope. He was a Kingzilla and the Barons and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Stephen Langton) had enough. They put together a document protecting the liberties of free peoples and subjecting the king to the rule of law. They forced him to sign it at Runnymede.
A civil war ensued, John eventually died and the Magna Charta was reinstated under the rule of his son, Henry III (9 years-old).
Daugherty then writes of the reverberations of this document through history as we hear echoes of it in the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and more.
If one has ever sat on a porch and listened to an old man in a rocking chair that is both wise and a good storyteller – that is the experience of this book. It was a good summation about the origins of a very important document for the free world.