Magna Carta: the rap battle

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By Judge John Hack on

BBC children’s telly sketch team pump up the volume over ancient rights


To get down with the kids — and by that, we mean the real kids, namely, children — you have to rap.

And while lawyers are probably fed up to the eyeteeth with Magna Carta-related reports — not least after having been subjected to reams of propaganda from the government’s own celebration of the 800th anniversary, the Global Law Summit — the BBC is now trying to interest children in the origins of English civil liberties.

CBBC stalwart, Horrible Histories, has just produced a rap song and video encapsulating the clash and then deal cut between a group of self-interested early 13th century barons and King John, whom many adult historians regard as petty at the best of times and cruelly psychopathic at the worst.

“We’re ticked off, big time,” the barons inform a slightly effete King John in the CBBC version. A bishop then pronounces that the only way the dispute can be settled is through a “grievance battle” and up pumps the beat.

The barons tell the King that they can’t pay their tax, because, “we lost all our money when you lost France — the Norman bit, anyway”.

The monarch then comes over all homeboy, rapping:

“I thought I was King,” before grasping his own crotch and saying “I’m holding his seal”.