John initially adopted a defensive posture similar to that of Accompanied by William de Roches, his seneschal in Anjou, he swung his mercenary army rapidly south to protect her. John's position in France was considerably strengthened by the victory at Mirebeau, but John's treatment of his new prisoners and of his ally, William de Roches, quickly undermined these gains. De Roches was a powerful Anjou noble, but John largely ignored him, causing considerable offence, whilst the king kept the rebel leaders in such bad conditions that twenty-two of them died.
Further desertions of John's local allies at the beginning of steadily reduced John's freedom to manoeuvre in the region. After this, Arthur's fate remains uncertain, but modern historians believe he was murdered by John. The eastern border region of Normandy had been extensively cultivated by Philip and his predecessors for several years, whilst Angevin authority in the south had been undermined by Richard's giving away of various key castles some years before.
John's mother Eleanor died the following month. The nature of government under the Angevin monarchs was ill-defined and uncertain. John's predecessors had ruled using the principle of vis et voluntas , or "force and will", taking executive and sometimes arbitrary decisions, often justified on the basis that a king was above the law. John inherited a sophisticated system of administration in England, with a range of royal agents answering to the Royal Household: The administration of justice was of particular importance to John.
Several new processes had been introduced to English law under Henry II, including novel disseisin and mort d'ancestor. One of John's principal challenges was acquiring the large sums of money needed for his proposed campaigns to reclaim Normandy. Revenue from the royal demesne was inflexible and had been diminishing slowly since the Norman conquest. Matters were not helped by Richard's sale of many royal properties in , and taxation played a much smaller role in royal income than in later centuries.
English kings had widespread feudal rights which could be used to generate income, including the scutage system, in which feudal military service was avoided by a cash payment to the king. He derived income from fines, court fees and the sale of charters and other privileges. The result was a sequence of innovative but unpopular financial measures.
At the start of John's reign there was a sudden change in prices , as bad harvests and high demand for food resulted in much higher prices for grain and animals. This inflationary pressure was to continue for the rest of the 13th century and had long-term economic consequences for England.
The result was political unrest across the country. John's royal household was based around several groups of followers. One group was the familiares regis , John's immediate friends and knights who travelled around the country with him. They also played an important role in organising and leading military campaigns.
This intensified under John's rule, with many lesser nobles arriving from the continent to take up positions at court; many were mercenary leaders from Poitou. This trend for the king to rely on his own men at the expense of the barons was exacerbated by the tradition of Angevin royal ira et malevolentia — "anger and ill-will" — and John's own personality. John was deeply suspicious of the barons, particularly those with sufficient power and wealth to potentially challenge the king. John's personal life greatly affected his reign. Contemporary chroniclers state that John was sinfully lustful and lacking in piety.
None of John's known illegitimate children were born after he remarried, and there is no actual documentary proof of adultery after that point, although John certainly had female friends amongst the court throughout the period. John married Isabella whilst she was relatively young — her exact date of birth is uncertain, and estimates place her between at most 15 and more probably towards nine years old at the time of her marriage.
John, King of England
Chroniclers recorded that John had a "mad infatuation" with Isabella, and certainly John had conjugal relationships with Isabella between at least and ; they had five children. John's lack of religious conviction has been noted by contemporary chroniclers and later historians, with some suspecting that John was at best impious, or even atheistic , a very serious issue at the time.
They commented on the paucity of John's charitable donations to the church. During the remainder of his reign, John focused on trying to retake Normandy. John spent much of securing England against a potential French invasion. John had already begun to improve his Channel forces before the loss of Normandy and he rapidly built up further maritime capabilities after its collapse. Most of these ships were placed along the Cinque Ports , but Portsmouth was also enlarged.
During the truce of —, John focused on building up his financial and military resources in preparation for another attempt to recapture Normandy. He launched his new fleet to attack the French at the harbour of Damme. In the late 12th and early 13th centuries the border and political relationship between England and Scotland was disputed, with the kings of Scotland claiming parts of what is now northern England.
He refused William's request for the earldom of Northumbria , but did not intervene in Scotland itself and focused on his continental problems. John remained Lord of Ireland throughout his reign. He drew on the country for resources to fight his war with Philip on the continent. Simmering tensions remained with the native Irish leaders even after John left for England. Royal power in Wales was unevenly applied, with the country divided between the marcher lords along the borders, royal territories in Pembrokeshire and the more independent native Welsh lords of North Wales. John took a close interest in Wales and knew the country well, visiting every year between and and marrying his illegitimate daughter, Joan , to the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great.
Llywelyn came to terms that included an expansion of John's power across much of Wales, albeit only temporarily. The Norman and Angevin kings had traditionally exercised a great deal of power over the church within their territories. From the s onwards, however, successive popes had put forward a reforming message that emphasised the importance of the church being "governed more coherently and more hierarchically from the centre" and established "its own sphere of authority and jurisdiction, separate from and independent of that of the lay ruler", in the words of historian Richard Huscroft.
Accession to the throne
John wanted John de Gray , the Bishop of Norwich and one of his own supporters, to be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury after the death of Walter, but the cathedral chapter for Canterbury Cathedral claimed the exclusive right to elect Walter's successor. They favoured Reginald , the chapter's sub-prior. John refused Innocent's request that he consent to Langton's appointment, but the pope consecrated Langton anyway in June John was incensed about what he perceived as an abrogation of his customary right as monarch to influence the election.
Innocent then placed an interdict on England in March , prohibiting clergy from conducting religious services, with the exception of baptisms for the young, and confessions and absolutions for the dying. John treated the interdict as "the equivalent of a papal declaration of war". Innocent gave some dispensations as the crisis progressed. By , though, John was increasingly worried about the threat of French invasion. Under mounting political pressure, John finally negotiated terms for a reconciliation, and the papal terms for submission were accepted in the presence of the papal legate Pandulf Verraccio in May at the Templar Church at Dover.
This resolution produced mixed responses. Although some chroniclers felt that John had been humiliated by the sequence of events, there was little public reaction. Tensions between John and the barons had been growing for several years, as demonstrated by the plot against the king. The northern barons rarely had any personal stake in the conflict in France, and many of them owed large sums of money to John; the revolt has been characterised as "a rebellion of the king's debtors".
In John began his final campaign to reclaim Normandy from Philip. John was optimistic, as he had successfully built up alliances with the Emperor Otto, Renaud of Boulogne and Count Ferdinand of Flanders; he was enjoying papal favour; and he had successfully built up substantial funds to pay for the deployment of his experienced army. The first part of the campaign went well, with John outmanoeuvring the forces under the command of Prince Louis and retaking the county of Anjou by the end of June. Within a few months of John's return, rebel barons in the north and east of England were organising resistance to his rule.
This was particularly important for John, as a way of pressuring the barons but also as a way of controlling Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Letters of support from the pope arrived in April but by then the rebel barons had organised. They congregated at Northampton in May and renounced their feudal ties to John, appointing Robert fitz Walter as their military leader.
John met the rebel leaders at Runnymede , near Windsor Castle , on 15 June Neither John nor the rebel barons seriously attempted to implement the peace accord. The rebels made the first move in the war, seizing the strategic Rochester Castle , owned by Langton but left almost unguarded by the archbishop. He had stockpiled money to pay for mercenaries and ensured the support of the powerful marcher lords with their own feudal forces, such as William Marshal and Ranulf of Chester.
John's campaign started well. One chronicler had not seen "a siege so hard pressed or so strongly resisted", whilst historian Reginald Brown describes it as "one of the greatest [siege] operations in England up to that time". The rebel barons responded by inviting the French prince Louis to lead them: Louis had a claim to the English throne by virtue of his marriage to Blanche of Castile , a granddaughter of Henry II.
Prince Louis intended to land in the south of England in May , and John assembled a naval force to intercept him. By the end of the summer the rebels had regained the south-east of England and parts of the north. In September , John began a fresh, vigorous attack. He marched from the Cotswolds , feigned an offensive to relieve the besieged Windsor Castle , and attacked eastwards around London to Cambridge to separate the rebel-held areas of Lincolnshire and East Anglia.
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The king returned west but is said to have lost a significant part of his baggage train along the way. Louis gave up his claim to the English throne and signed the Treaty of Lambeth. John's first wife, Isabel, Countess of Gloucester , was released from imprisonment in ; she remarried twice, and died in Historical interpretations of John have been subject to considerable change over the years. Medieval chroniclers provided the first contemporary, or near contemporary, histories of John's reign.
One group of chroniclers wrote early in John's life, or around the time of his accession, including Richard of Devizes , William of Newburgh , Roger of Hoveden and Ralph de Diceto. In the 16th century political and religious changes altered the attitude of historians towards John. Tudor historians were generally favourably inclined towards the king, focusing on John's opposition to the Papacy and his promotion of the special rights and prerogatives of a king.
By the Victorian period in the 19th century, historians were more inclined to draw on the judgements of the chroniclers and to focus on John's moral personality. Kate Norgate , for example, argued that John's downfall had been due not to his failure in war or strategy, but due to his "almost superhuman wickedness", whilst James Ramsay blamed John's family background and his cruel personality for his downfall. In the s, new interpretations of John's reign began to emerge, based on research into the record evidence of his reign, such as pipe rolls , charters, court documents and similar primary records.
Notably, an essay by Vivian Galbraith in proposed a "new approach" to understanding the ruler. Specialists in Irish medieval history, such as Sean Duffy, have challenged the conventional narrative established by Lewis Warren , suggesting that Ireland was less stable by than was previously supposed. Most historians today, including John's recent biographers Ralph Turner and Lewis Warren, argue that John was an unsuccessful monarch, but note that his failings were exaggerated by 12th- and 13th-century chroniclers.
Popular representations of John first began to emerge during the Tudor period, mirroring the revisionist histories of the time. Nineteenth-century fictional depictions of John were heavily influenced by Sir Walter Scott 's historical romance, Ivanhoe , which presented "an almost totally unfavourable picture" of the king; the work drew on 19th century histories of the period and on Shakespeare's play.
Sam De Grasse 's role as John in the black-and-white film version shows John committing numerous atrocities and acts of torture.
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Milne 's poem for children, "King John's Christmas". From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the King of England. For the play by William Shakespeare, see King John play.
Tomb effigy of King John, Worcester Cathedral. Isabella, Countess of Gloucester m. Normandy campaigns of — Economy of England in the Middle Ages. Cultural depictions of John of England. Ancestors of John, King of England 8. Fulk V of Anjou 4. Geoffrey V of Anjou 9. Ermengarde of Maine 2.
Henry II of England Henry I of England 5. Matilda of Scotland 1. John of England William IX of Aquitaine 6. William X of Aquitaine Philippa of Toulouse 3. Eleanor of Aquitaine Dangereuse de l'Isle Bouchard. They formed a key route for communications between Anjou and Gascony. Many of the details surrounding these counties during this period are uncertain and subject to historical debate, but it would appear that both the English and French dynasties had been attempting to apply influence and build alliances with the key families in the region for many years before the flash point in Frank McLynn is more damning, describing the military aspects of the campaign as a "disastrous failure".
Frank Barlow, for example, argues that he was exercising a policy of expediency rather than genuine reform. In , the citizens and merchants of Bordeaux were exempted from the Grande Coutume , which was the principal tax on their exports. The unblocked ports gave Gascon merchants open access to the English wine market for the first time. The following year, John granted the same exemptions to La Rochelle and Poitou.
This entry notes that de Neville's wife offered the king chickens if she could spend a night with her husband, Hugh. This is conventionally interpreted as implying that she was having an affair with the king but in this case wished to have sex with her husband instead — thus the humorous fine. An alternative explanation is that she was tired of Hugh being sent away on royal service and the fine was a light-hearted way of convincing John to ensure that her husband remained at court for a night.
Current scholarship considers Alexander's claim unreliable. Medieval History on Film. Personality and History," in Church ed The Penguin History of Britain — Church, Stephen King John: England, Magna Carta and the Making of a Tyrant.
Youth and rivalry for the crown
King John Resurgent," in Curren-Aquino ed b. University of Delaware Press. Danziger, Danny and John Gillingham. The Year of the Magna Carta. The People of Britain, — Roy eds Handbook of British Chronology, third edition. Kingship, Chivalry, and War in the Twelfth Century. Gillingham, John The Angevin Empire. Illinois Studies in Language and Literature.
A Study in the Reign of King John. Essays in Honour of J. The Story of Wine. Lawler, John and Gail Gates Lawler. Loewenstein, David and Janel M. Maley, Willy and Margaret Tudeau-Clayton. New Angles on Englishness and the Bard. Yet within five years, he had lost almost all these continental territories to Philip Augustus. Are you a Magna Carta expert? To raise the massive armies and fleets this enterprise would require, he wrung unprecedented sums of money from England. Taxes were suddenly demanded on an almost annual basis. Nobles were charged gargantuan sums to inherit their lands.
Royal justices imposed exorbitant fines for trifling offences.
10 Facts About King John
The lands of the Church were seized, and the Jews were imprisoned and tortured until they agreed to pay up. But it was all for nothing. When the king finally launched his long-planned continental campaign in , it was a disaster. John, true to form, shied away from battle when challenged by French forces, and his allies in the north were defeated in a decisive clash with Philip Augustus.
He returned to England that autumn with his treasury empty and his dreams of re-conquest in tatters. Polishing a replica of King John's tomb. With their tyrannical ruler over a barrel, his subjects demanded reform. John dodged their demands for six months, until in May they came out in open rebellion and seized London. With his capital held against him, the king was forced to negotiate, and obliged to make concessions when he met his critics the following month at Runnymede. Such is the general background that led to Magna Carta, a charge-sheet aimed squarely at King John and his many acts of misgovernment.
The king did not issue it willingly, but under pressure from his opponents and in the hope of buying time. As soon as the meeting at Runnymede had broken up, John wrote to the pope complaining that the charter had been exacted under duress, and the pope obligingly declared it invalid.
Within a few weeks both sides were again at war. Exclusive access to the historic text. King John did not survive for much longer. Worn out by the exhaustion of fighting a losing war, he contracted dysentery in October and died a few days later at Newark Castle. Its most contentious clauses, that allowed the barons to make war on the king should he transgress, were removed, but the bulk of the detail remained.
Today the detail is no longer relevant. King John had indulged in precisely that sort of unjust behaviour, and his subjects had called him to account for it.