Kings and Queens - John

Following on from Richard the Lionheart is King John.  We have all seen John portrayed as the "bad guy" in numerous films/books about Robin Hood or King Richard's crusades.

John was born to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, he was the youngest of 5 sons and Henry's favourite. There are differing opinions as to when John was born; Christmas 1166 or 1167 in Oxford. When John's brother Richard the Lionheart (now King of England) was imprisoned in Germany John tried to seize control of the crown. Richard reclaimed his throne in 1194 and John was banished. The two brothers did reconcile when Richard's successor, his nephew Arthur, was captured by Phillip II in 1196.  When Richard died in 1199 John became King.

Another war with France was triggered by John's second marriage to Isabella who was the Angoulame heiress.  Isabella had been betrothed to Hugh de Lusignan. A rebellion broke out, John was ordered to appear before Phillip II of France and when he did not it meant war between France and England once again.  By 1206 John had managed to lose Normandy, Maine, Anjou and some of Poitou, he was determined to win back these lands but war costs money. To raise this money his government became ruthless and taxes soared, John exploited his feudal rights even more harshly than before.

Obviously the Barons were not happy and negotiations between John and his Barons broke down. In May 1215 a civil war started which resulted in the rebels seizing London. On 19th June at Runnymede on the River Thames John signed the Magna Carta. This document is one of England's most famous and important pieces of paper, it limits royal power, ensures feudal rights and restated English law. It states that the monarch falls as much under the law as his/her people and that their rights as individuals are to be upheld even against the wishes of the monarch.

Unfortunately John claimed the document was signed under duress, Pope Innocent took his side and a bloody civil war carried on. During this time John laid waste to the Scottish border and the northern counties. At the barons request Prince Louis of France invaded and the civil war continued until Johns death in October 1216. His death at age 49 brought the succession of his son Henry III to the throne and peace returned.


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