A truly stellar sequence of anniversaries all occur during 2015. In 1215 the Magna Carta was signed by King John; in 1415 the battle of Agincourt was won by Henry V; Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. All three are crucial moments in the forging of the british nation and all need to be celebrated. I find it a most sobering of thoughts that St John the Baptist is older than all these anniversaries and all three will have been announced at sunday morning worship - just as I announce less amazing notices every sunday.
The theme of the Wadworth Gala on the 7th June will be the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo - so who are you going to come as - Wellington or Napoleon? How do we celebrate the other two? Plus there also some other notable anniversaries which could be easily overshadowed - 75 years since the Battle of Britain and 70 years since VE day and VJ day. 100 years since the battles of Ypres and Gallipoli. I have no answers to this conundrum - answers on a post card - and look out for updates.
No “sing along an epiphany” this year as we thought we would go for a summer sing a long - perhaps to commemorate one of the above anniversaries.
Why does Magna Carta matter? It has been said that it is Britain’s greatest export.
• It is a foundation stone of the freedoms enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people in more than 100 countries
• It enshrined the rule of law in English society ‘due process’.
• It limited the power of authoritarian rule ‘no one is above the law’
• It paved the way for trial by jury
• It proclaimed certain religious liberties
• It defined limits on taxation ‘no taxation without representation’
At Agincourt, the English were outnumbered up to six to one so the result represented a massive shift in power from France to England. But most crucially perhaps, it spelled the end of plate and chain armour (which could only be afforded by the ruling elite) as a significant defence, as English longbows proved exceedingly effective at piercing it at close range. Beyond the massive loss of nearly an entire generation of the French ruling aristocracy, this meant that a simple peasant could be trained to take the life of a noble Knight, Duke, Prince or King. Thus spelling the beginning of the end for military justifications of monarchical and fuedal structures, although economic and other realities beyond military considerations meant these structures prevailed for centuries after.
Waterloo was so important because it destroyed the French Empire which was sweeping Europe and threatening to create a united Europe. After the French defeat, Europe was split into small states with a delicate balance of power and Britain no longer needed to become involved in European affairs. The peace lasted for nearly a century, with some minor conflicts in between, until the Germans and the French fell out in 1914 and dragged Britain into a European War. If Napoleon had won - we would be speaking French now.
So how do we do justice to this stellar year of celebrations? Each event has shaped what it means to be british - the church has been part of it all - so the church should remain part, central to our national celebrations. Remembering our church celebrations predate any of these secular events, we must not forget that our christians roots have shaped this nation far more than any of these historical events. So central to a remembrance of Magna Carta, Agincourt and Waterloo must be the church and our faith.
So watch out for more in 2015