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In praise of older men

Some Americans have qualms about Presidential candidate John McCain's age. He will shortly celebrate his 72nd birthday. In Britain many of the present-day freedom fighters who are opposing the destruction of their country are in an older age group, and some of them may have doubts about the ability of older men and women to defend liberty. So we think it's interesting that four men vital to the cause of Magna Carta were in their 60s or 70s in 1215 -

64-year-old William d' Aubigné rode with the knights to Runnymede. After John repudiated Magna Carta, d' Aubigné mounted a valiant resistance, holding Rochester Castle against siege engines until he was starved out. He fought with William Marshal to expel the French from England in 1217.

65-year-old Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, alerted the knights to their rights by reading them the century-old Charter of Liberties, which affirmed that the king was not above the law – no man was. Langton helped to draft Magna Carta. When John went to war, Langton refused to excommunicate the rebel knights, a step which would have rendered their lives and fortunes forfeit. For three months he refused to deliver the strategic castle of Rochester to John, handing it to d' Aubigné instead. In 1225, when Langton was 75, he had Magna Carta reissued by Henry III.

69-year-old William Marshal helped to negotiate Magna Carta. After John died in 1216, Marshal had Henry III crowned, and Magna Carta reissued. In 1217, acting as regent, and with the ease of a practiced horseman and warrior, he rode into battle to expel the French from England.

72-year-old Roger Bigod rode with the knights and bishops to Runnymede. When John repudiated Magna Carta and declared war, Bigod was the linchpin of resistance.

Without them, Magna Carta would never have been and could never have survived its first years of existence.

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