Published in Brexit Central
When I first decided that I would like to apply to become a Member of Parliament, one of the key criteria was to stand for a recognised Constituency that had played a pivotal role in our nation’s history, heritage and democratic tradition. The City of Lincoln was certainly at the top of the list and in fact, in the year I was elected (2010), Lincoln became the oldest constituency in continuous existence in the United Kingdom having been established in 1265.
In 2015 we celebrated the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta - and we have one of the four original copies here in our Castle - some say the best of the originals… This year in Lincoln we now mark the 800th anniversary of two hugely significant and pivotal events in the history of the United Kingdom – where we took back control of both our liberty and our nation. The events and characters in 1217 bear more than a striking resemblance to the same events facing our great Country in 2017 – and despite the best efforts of the Labour Party, Scottish Nationalists, Liberal Democrats and some on my own side of the House, I am confident that the same result will be achieved again (without the bloodshed and the sacking of our beautiful City though!).
On 20th May 1217, the Second Battle of Lincoln took place. This pitted the forces of France, who were occupying the City of Lincoln, against those forces of King Henry III under the command of William Marshall. The City was one of the major cities in the whole of England and of utmost strategic importance. Despite the fall of the City late in the previous year, the Castle itself, had been kept in the hands of the Crown by a formidable woman, Nicholaa de la Haye. Due to the bravery of de la Haye and Marshall, and their soldiers, they defeated the invaders and Lincoln was eventually rescued. Given that London at the time was effectively already in the hands of the French, if Lincoln Castle had fallen alongside the already occupied City, historians predict that we, as a Country, would have again been under foreign rule - 1066 all over again.
Fast forward a few months to 6th November 1217. In conjunction with the re-establishment of the Magna Carta, a companion Charter was created entitled The Charter of the Forest - AKA 'The Charter of the Common Man'. Whilst the former was based on protecting the rights of the Barons and the aristocracy, the latter was based on re-establishing the rights of free men.
This Charter was needed because the practices of the two previous Kings (Richard and John) had not only increasingly placed restrictions on the usage of Royal Forest Land (forest in those days also included heathland, moors and fields) by common men, they were also declaring more and more land to be defined as Royal Forest. This greatly affected those who used the land to live: for industry, cultivation, housing and grazing. In effect, the Kings had not only been guilty of land grabbing, they were making life harder for those who needed that land to survive and thrive.
The Charter prevented the monarchy from taking land without a form of due process and re-established land boundaries from the time before the two Kings had taken the throne. It also started the process of limiting unaccountable sovereign power and providing real rights to all. By happy (or planned…) coincidence, today, the only place in the world where you can see original copies of the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest alongside each other is actually in our Lincoln Castle.
Whilst there are clear parallels with today, and the displayed need and action by the people of our Country to wish to return our Sovereignty to our shores, certainly perhaps one can suggest that our Prime Minister is more than a worthy successor to de la Haye in defending our nation. Further, the very British principles behind the events 800 years ago are the same now as they were then; sticking to key principles, delivering the will of the people and not giving in when events are making life tough. As can be seen by the joy that some of my fellow Parliamentarians have met the last few week's events with, many do not share or understand these principles. What of course is so disturbing is that they boldly state they do, when we all know their game. They clearly want to thwart or overturn the Referendum result and to not only delay it, but to damage it and damage our Country’s good name and standing in the world – all for their own ends. My sound colleagues and I on the Brexit Select Committee see examples of this self-interest and self-absorption every week from some Members. It is becoming a bore, but is necessary to continually remind them to respect the Referendum result.
Come what may though, this year, in the shape of the forthcoming Great Repeal Act, we will see a new version of that original Charter of the Forest. We took back control in 1217, I am proud to say that we will do so in 2017.