The first claim the Middle Ages makes on our interest is that of piety. We owe so much to it; the men of the Middle Ages transmitted to us both the learning of the pre-Christian ages and the civilization of Christianity. Over and above that they had their own gifts to give us, and in this country before all others it is our medieval ancestors who have made us what we are. We have never broken the living links which bind us to them; their words, their thoughts, their habits, are ours; they have set their stamp on our roads, our fields, our hedges, our districts, on our buildings and our building, on our laws and our law.
But even more ancient and more persistent was the force of law: the ancient law of the folk, older than the king, preserved in the memory of men before the days of written records, declared by the country-side, made effective by the power of the crown and the wisdom of the king's skilled servants, and yet, as Magna Carta declared, above the king.