Thursday, 19 June 2014

Magna Carta and British Values

I am thrilled that David Cameron thinks knowledge of Magna Carta is a key element in the make up of 'British Values. I would though be even more thrilled if I thought he had ever read it, in particular that he had read and absorbed Clause 2.

For this clause is the one about Inheritance Tax.  Yes -I suspect very few people know that Inheritance tax (IHT) was alive and well in 13th century England, but it's true.  In the medieval world all land was technically owned by the king and only held by a baron or knight for his life. I say technically because the custom had grown that the king would always grant the land back to the deceased baron's heir providing he paid a 'relief' or 'fine' -in effect a medieval form of IHT.

King John had abused this custom by upping the customary amount paid by heirs to unheard of levels and it was this high rate of IHT which had incensed many barons who, just like most people today, wanted to be able to pass on their house or estate to their heirs.

The actual clause reads as follows:

If any of our earls or barons holding from us in chief by knights service dies, and at his death his heir be of full age and owes relief he shall have his inheritance on payment of the old relief , namely the heir or heirs of an earl £100 for a whole earl's barony, the heir or heirs of a baron £100 for the whole barony, the heir or heirs of a knight 100 shillings (£5) at the most for a whole knights fee; and he who owes less shall give less according to the ancient usage of the fief 

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