Mock Treason Trial To Mark 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta

News Release from The Supreme Court, UK

Magna Carta Barons prepare to face their fate as mock treason trial draws near

Leading figures from the worlds of law, politics and academia are preparing to defend their historical alter egos from the charge of treason next week.

To mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a mock trial of barons and bishops will take place next Friday (31 July) in front of a tribunal formed by Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer of the US Supreme Court, and Dame Sian Elias, Chief Justice of New Zealand.

Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster – for centuries the home of England’s highest law courts – will once again play host to legal argument for this special event.

Chief among those claiming the barons should be found guilty will be King John, played by Clive Anderson, the presenter, comedy writer and former barrister. The King’s counsel, James Eadie QC, will make the case that the barons extorted far more than they were entitled when forcing the King to agree their terms – and that they were disloyal to the man to whom they had all sworn allegiance.

Nathalie Lieven QC will in turn seek to defend the barons, arguing that they were simply responding to the king’s tyrannical behaviour and that the restrictions in Magna Carta were fully justified in serving the wider public interest. She will be trying to save one of the barons’ leaders, Robert FitzWalter, played by Professor David Carpenter of King’s College London.

Two other key witnesses will be called by the court. Archbishop Stephen Langton will be played by Lord Lisvane, former Clerk of the House of Commons, while Lord Judge, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, will play William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke.

Modern-day Peers and bishops in the audience will answer the charges briefly as part of a representative group, though will not be expected to plead their case!

The event is being organised jointly by the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee and the UK Supreme Court.

Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, said: “Judges never usually comment before a case, but in this instance I think I can safely make an exception. We will be deciding whether, setting aside the global impact of some of the ideas embedded in Magna Carta, the barons’ actions in 1215 could be justified in law.

“We can’t promise a polished theatrical performance, but we do hope to offer a creative and interesting way of retelling the great Magna Carta story that encourages people to think about the battle of wills and principles that lay behind this world famous treaty.”

More than 500 members of the public applied for free tickets for the event, which have now all been allocated.

The Judges’ verdict will be published on the Supreme Court website immediately after the mock trial.

UKSC contacts
Ben Wilson – Head of Communications
020 7960 1887
Cheryl Walmsley – Communications & Outreach Manager
020 7960 1886