Eight hundred years ago, on June 15, King John signed the Magna Carta, a groundbreaking document that enshrined basic freedoms, put limits on the power of the crown and paved the way for modern Western democracy.
On June 15, the season finale of the fifth season of George RR Martin’s epic saga Game Of Thrones premiered in Australia.
Thoughtful folk have quietly celebrated the anniversary of the Magna Carta. Yet more vociferous folk have taken to the internet to bemoan and bewail the events of the GOT finale, as if Martin had somehow broken the words of his own Magna Carta, that being his A Song Of Ice and Fire series.
However, I would argue that Martin’s Magna Carta is radically different to that of 1215; and the author has, in effect, as stuck as firmly to his own beliefs as we have internalised those of the Magna Carta. (FYI: There are no GOT spoilers in this piece.)
The Magna Carta said that the king was not above the law.
George RR Martin said that whoever sat on the Iron Throne was their own law.
The Magna Carta promised us peace.
George RR Martin offered us excitement.
The Magna Carta said that any man who had not broken the law could not have his liberty or property removed by the state.
George RR Martin said that any man, woman or king could have their liberty, property – and life – removed at any time.
Life in the time of the Magna Carta was nasty, brutish and short.
Life in the time of Game Of Thrones is nasty, brutish and short.
The Magna Carta gave us trial by jury.
George RR Martin gave us trial by mad monks, trial by combat – even trial by one’s own father.
The Magna Carta led to Westminster.
George RR Martin led us to Winterfell.
The Magna Carta gave us a world fit for nobility.
George RR Martin gave us a world fit for heroes.
The Magna Carta gave us habeas corpus.
George RR Martin gave us walking corpses.
The Magna Carta contains some of the most famous words in the world, words that have inspired millions and stood the test of time.
George RR Martin’s books contain some of the most famous words in the world, words that have inspired millions and have stood the test of time.
The Magna Carta changed the world.
George RR Martin changed fiction … and television.
Excitement. Adventure. A world fit for heroes. A cruel, brutish world untouched by the sentiments of the Magna Carta. Anyone who has read Martin’s books knows what to expect from his works and his world … and to be surprised at this point by what may happen smacks of a certain naivete. The unexpected death of Ned Stark (well, for those new to the books) in season one set the tone; not to expect more thorns among those delightful red roses is just wishful thinking.
To quote another venerable cultural artefact – Flying High – we, as viewers and readers, have bought our tickets; we knew what we were getting into.
We can’t now complain if the plane crashes.
My ebook military thriller, The Spartan, is out now on Amazon.