Magna Franka

Clothar's signature So this is the anniversary of the Edict of Paris, the Frankish equivalent of Magna Carta. Which tells you basically that there is no Frankish or any other equivalent of Magna Carta.

For starters, you never heard of it. Nor had I. For another, we’re not sure what year it was issued; probably 614 unless it was 615. (Magna Carta was definitely 1215.) How we know it was Oct. 18, if we really are sure, is anyone’s guess. (Magna Carta was definitely June 15.) For a third, it was only in force briefly. (Only three articles of Magna Carta still are, and so much the worse for us, but it trumped statute law for centuries and was incorporated into it for hundreds of years more.) For a fourth, we only have one surviving manuscript, made more than a century later so it can’t have been that important. (True, we have only four original 1215 Magna Cartas, but dozens of later amended versions). For a fifth, it came from King Clothar II voluntarily, and made other people more subordinate to the king. (Magna Carta was wrenched from the claws of Bad King John and put a serious brake on his aspiration to unchecked royal power.) For a sixth, it didn’t protect the common people. (Magna Carta is often called an elite deal but the text, and the consequences, show how unreasonable and rigidly “progressive” this forced interpretation is.)

Apart from that, yeah, pretty similar. And what’s even more depressing is that France, atrociously misgoverned through most of its history, was a lot better governed than most places. It was more prosperous, more lawful, more respectful of individuals and more reasonable. I know, I know, it’s the place with Philip the Fair, Louis XIV, Robespierre and Napoleon. And I sometimes think it was mostly fear of English mockery that kept them from being far worse. But for all that, if you couldn’t live in the Anglosphere, in most periods of history from the fall of Rome on you’d seriously consider France.

The very phrase “Magna Carta of the Frankish nobility” shows just how far it was from Magna Carta itself, with its guarantees for “every free man”. And just how precious our heritage is given its scarcity.