October 29, 2018

Magna Carta caper thwarted


We devote much time around here to talking about how democracy has been stolen at home and abroad. So it’s almost refreshing to read about it happening its most literal, Hollywood caper, form.

That’s just the tingle one gets from reading Gregory Katz’s report for AP that last Thursday a man was arrested on the suspicion that he was trying to steal one of four original Magna Cartas from Salisbury Cathedral.

For the social studies forgetters among us, let’s brush up on “The Great Charter”:

The document, granted by King John in 1215, established the principle that the king was subject to the law, rather than above it. It also stipulated that “no free man shall be seized or imprisoned … except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”

It is a direct ancestor of our constitution, which we’ve lately thought of as being in something of a crisis.

The suspect was able to break through one of the two glass coverings protecting the document. And he would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling . . . church staffers.

As Katz reports, “The 45-year-old suspect was arrested on suspicion of attempted theft, possession of a weapon and criminal damage, police said. He has not been identified or charged.”

No damage done to the document itself, but it will take a little breather out of view while its casing can be repaired or replaced.




Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.