King Charles I won a legal battle with King John yesterday in the Virginia Supreme Court.

John granted his barons the Magna Carta in 1215. Before losing his head at the Tower, Charles (through royal governor Sir William Berkeley) granted title in 1642 for ownership of oystering grounds beneath Carter's Cove, a tributary of the Rappahannock River in Lancaster County.

Recently the area became a matter of issue as Virginia sought to lease the cove to someone else. The state's position was that King Charles had no right, under the Magna Carta, to grant such titles without the consent of Parliament. A dozen current heirs of Charles' beneficiaries objected. At this point, it needs to be noted that laws--and actions taken under those laws--that were in effect when this nation became independent remained in effect under the new republic.

"We hold," said the state's august high court, "the King had the power acting through the royal governors to grant the bed of Carter's Cove to private persons."

Thanks, Your Majesty.

In a lot of ways, royalty still reigns. The oldest law still on the books in the District of Columbia dates, for example, from 1278. Curiously, it still has relevancy. Of that, more later.