emphatic circumstances

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
During the full-blown civil war that followed, towns and castles were besieged, men were slaughtered, the royal treasure was (infamously) lost in boggy ground near the Wash and the French king’s heir was invited to England to replace John. Once the war was ended by John’s death from dysentery during the night of 18–19 October 1216, almost no one would have believed that the charter agreed the previous year was anything more than a brave but flawed attempt to restrain a king, which had failed in the most emphatic circumstances imaginable.

Excerpt from Realm Divided
Dan Jones

Hi. What does the bold part mean? I have looked up the word “emphatic” and it seems that the bold part means “definite and clear circumstances”. But what is “definite and clear circumstances”?
Thank you.
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    But what is “definite and clear circumstances”?
    The writer is probably referring to the King's death, although strictly speaking this had nothing at all to do with the success or failure of Magna Carta (which is what is being discussed here). I think the point being made is that the king had not been restrained by Magna Carta; he reneged on it almost immediately after agreeing to it, and this in turn led to the First Barons' War, when the French king’s heir, Louis, was invited to England to replace John. John died while the war was still at a relatively early stage.

    Personally, I think the writer is considerably overstating the case. Magna Carta had been agreed to by the king, and John's successor, Henry III, was himself in a weak position, being only nine years old at the time. By agreeing to most of Magna Carta, Henry could get the support of the rebel barons against Louis (which is what actually happened). I find it difficult to imagine that "almost no one would have believed" this would happen.
     
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    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Or "strong circumstances". That his failure to comply led to a war within a few months of the signing could certainly be considered strongly definite and clear.
    Thank you. So can I think “emphatic circumstances” means “intense conditions”, which refers to the Barons War?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thank you. So can I think “emphatic circumstances” means “intense conditions”, which refers to the Barons War?
    Yes, I think you must be right. I had thought the writer was referring to John's death (there are few things more emphatic than death), but "failure" of Magna Carta "in the most emphatic circumstances imaginable" must refer to the bloodiness of the war described in the previous sentence. However, I still think the writer must be seriously lacking in imagination if these are the most emphatic circumstances he can think of. What if Louis had won? He later became King Louis VIII of France, and England would thereby become a French province. Losing the entire country is rather worse than merely losing the crown jewels (as John is said to have done).
     
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