Beware of the Snake!

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You know, I hate snakes. I hate them with a passion. I like to look at them in a cage in a zoo, but I hate to see them when they are out in the wild. I have never liked them – they give me the heebie-jeebies. I really learned to hate them on the day that a rattlesnake bit both of our dogs when we lived in the wine country in northern California’s Sonoma County.

But, I have to say that I wasn’t afraid of the snake in today’s photo. Not one bit! This snake (and there was an entire brood of them!) was at the Lavender Festival in Roswell, Georgia, this past Saturday. Look closely. Do you see what most of the snake’s body is made of?  Yep, those are bottle caps! What an ingenious craft item – everyone was remarking on how clever it was! There was something that ran inside the bottle caps from head to tail that was flexible so you could twist the snake into whatever shape you wanted and it would hold that pose. I can’t even draw a squiggly line on a piece of paper…

Did I buy one? Nope. After all, I hate snakes!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1215, following a revolt by the English nobility against his rule, King John put his royal seal on the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter.” The document, primarily a peace treaty between John and his barons, guaranteed the king would respect feudal rights and privileges, uphold the freedom of the church, and maintain the nation’s laws. Although more a reactionary than a progressive document in its day, the Magna Carta was seen as a cornerstone in the development of democratic England by later generations.

John became king of England after the death of his brother, King Richard the Lion-Hearted, in 1199. King John’s reign was by all accounts a failure. He lost the duchy of Normandy to the French king then taxed the nobility heavily to pay for his misadventures. He quarreled with Pope Innocent III and sold church offices to build up the royal coffers. Following the defeat of a campaign to regain Normandy in 1214, Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury, called on the disgruntled barons to demand a charter of liberties from the king.

In 1215, the barons rose up against the king’s abuses. John had no choice but to give in to their demands. Earlier kings of England had granted concessions to their barons, but they were vaguely worded and issued voluntarily. The document drawn up for John, however, forced him to make specific guarantees of the rights and privileges of his barons and the freedom of the church. On June 15, 1215, John met the barons at Runnymede on the Thames and set his seal to the Articles of the Barons, which after minor revision was formally issued as the Magna Carta.

The charter consisted of a preamble and 63 clauses dealing mainly with feudal concerns that had little impact outside 13th century England. However, the document was remarkable in that it implied there were laws the king was bound to observe, thus precluding any claim to absolutism by the English monarchy. Of greatest interest to later generations was clause 39, stating “no free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised [dispossessed] or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised…except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” This clause has been celebrated as an early guarantee of trial by jury and of habeas corpus and inspired England’s Petition of Right (1628) and the Habeas Corpus Act (1679).

In immediate terms, the Magna Carta was a failure–civil war broke out the same year, and John ignored his obligations. When he died in 1216 the Magna Carta was reissued with some changes by his son, King Henry III, and then reissued again in 1217. That year, the rebellious barons were defeated by the king’s forces. In 1225, Henry III voluntarily reissued the Magna Carta a third time, and it formally entered English statute law.

Four original copies of the Magna Carta of 1215 exist today: one in Lincoln Cathedral, one in Salisbury Cathedral, and two in the British Museum.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: More than 65 million men from 30 countries fought in WWI. Nearly 10 million died. The Allies (The Entente Powers) lost about 6 million soldiers. The Central Powers lost about 4 million. Approximately 20 million more were wounded.

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