Legal Widow

We survived the St George’s Day celebrations on the local rugby fields at the weekend, although Deminimus was hit by a stray longbow arrow and Subjudice and her little coven of friends unpicked St George’s chain-mail while he wasn’t looking, leaving his bottom exposed to the biting winds.

Liability had to do a project on St George at school and is proud of knowing that he represents England, soldiers and syphilis all at the same time.

Her foolish teacher encouraged the class to look up patron saints for all members of their families and lent Liability her saints index, whereupon we were treated to puzzling lectures on St Dymphna (patron of family happiness, murdered by her father) and obscure patrons of children such as St Bathild (kidnapped, sold into child slavery in France – still, she became Queen Mother).

“Look up lawyers,” said the Lawyer.

“You’ve got four,” said Liability. “That’s more than most people get. Accountants only have one. Let’s see, we’ve got Raymond of Penyafort… Oh, he actually wrote laws, and you just carry them out, don’t you?” “Which is hard as well,” said the Lawyer.

“And you’ve got St Mark – he’s there because of all that writing, I expect. And you’ve got Thomas More. Oh, I see, he was Chancellor and resigned because he didn’t want the king to get remarried. What’s that got to do with lawyers, Mum?”

“Point of principle,” I said. “Something lawyers used to have. Times have changed.”

“It just shows you can’t kick against the pricks,” said the Lawyer, displaying breathtaking cynicism. “What happened to him?”

“Beheaded,” said Liability.

“See?” said the Lawyer.

“Oh look, he’s also in charge of difficult marriages, Mum,” said Liability.

“Let me see that,” I said, grabbing the book and looking up the marital strife section. Quite a few saintly women in difficult marriages also have disappointing children on the list, I noted, before the Lawyer took the book off me.

“Here we are, we want to know about St Ivo. 13th century, Brittany, studied law from the age of 14 – so obviously no doubts about vocation there. I hope you’re listening Subjudice and don’t give me any more nonsense about wanting to study theatre makeup for GCSE…” he began.

Subjudice rolled her eyes. “Sounds totally boring, Dad.”

“No, he was a great man, and great men are not boring. Look, he represented the poor in trial and settled claims out of court to save them money. I bet he reached his pro bono targets by the end of the first quarter, jammy dodger. And he fought the tax system, which he said was unfair, and tried to get people out of paying. Wow! I bet most tax lawyers don’t know they’ve got someone up in heaven who actually agrees with them.”

“Yes, but look at this,” I said. “He refused bribes and he practised asceticism. How representative is that?”

“I don’t take bribes,” said the Lawyer sniffily. “And I’ve got three children to put through private schooling. My life is de facto ascetic.” He looked jolly pleased with himself to have got that Latin in there.

“All right Mr Chips,” I said. “What does this mean? ‘Sanctus Ivo erat Brito, Advocatus, et non latro, Res miranda populo.'”

“Umm…” said the Lawyer.

Subjudice’s extracurricular tuition rode to the rescue. “Ivo was a Breton and a lawyer, not a bandit. A thing of wonder to the people,” she said.

“There you are,” said the Lawyer. “St Ivo: a man for our times.”