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John
John from the Historia Anglorum'
King of England (more...)
Reign 6 April 1199 – 19 October 1216 (&0000000000000017.00000017 years, &0000000000000196.000000196 days)
Coronation 27 May 1199
Predecessor Richard I
Successor Henry III
Consort Isabel, Countess of Gloucester
m. 1189; ann. 1199
Isabella of Angoulême
m. 1200; wid. 1216
Issue
Henry III of England
Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall
Joan, Queen of Scots
Isabella, Holy Roman Empress
Eleanor, Countess of Pembroke
House House of Plantagenet
Father Henry II of England
Mother Eleanor of Aquitaine
Born 24 December 1167(1167-12-24)
Beaumont Palace, Oxford
Died 19 October 1216 (aged 50)
Newark Castle, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire
Burial Worcester Cathedral

John (24 December 1167 – 19 October 1216[1]) was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death. He acceded to the throne as the younger brother of King Richard I, who died without issue. John was the youngest of five sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, and was their second surviving son to ascend the throne; thus, he continued the line of Plantagenet or Angevin kings of England. Prior to his coronation, he was Earl of Cornwall and Gloucester, but this title reverted to the Crown once he became King. John's oldest surviving brother, Richard, became king upon the death of their father in 1189, and John was made Count of Mortain (France). When Richard refused to honour their father's wishes and surrender Aquitaine to him as well, John staged a rebellion. The rebellion failed, and John lost all potential claims to lands in France.

During his lifetime John acquired two epithets. One was "Lackland" (French: Sans Terre), because, as his father's youngest son, he did not inherit land out of his family's holdings, and because as King he lost significant territory to France.[2] The other was "Softsword" signifying his supposed lack of prowess in battle.[3]

Apart from entering popular legend as the enemy of Robin Hood, he is perhaps best-known for having acquiesced – to the barons of English nobility – to seal Magna Carta, a document which limited kingly power in England and which is popularly thought as an early step in the evolution of limited government.

Contents

Early life

As the youngest of the sons of Henry II, John could expect no inheritance. His family life was tumultuous, as his older brothers all became involved in rebellions against Henry. His mother, Eleanor, was imprisoned by Henry in 1173, when John was about five years old. As a child, John was betrothed to Alais, daughter and heiress of Humbert III of Savoy. It was hoped that by this marriage the Angevin dynasty would extend its influence beyond the Alps, because John was promised the inheritance of Savoy, Piemonte, Maurienne, and the other possessions of Count Humbert. King Henry promised his young son castles in Normandy which had been previously promised to his brother Geoffrey; this promise was for some time a bone of contention between Henry and Geoffrey. Alais made the trip over the Alps and joined Henry's court, but she died before being married. Gerald of Wales relates that King Henry had a curious painting in a chamber of Winchester Castle, depicting an eagle being attacked by three of its chicks, while a fourth chick crouched, waiting for its chance to strike. When asked the meaning of this picture, King Henry said:

"The four young ones of the eagle are my four sons,... who will not cease persecuting me even unto death. And the youngest, whom I now embrace with such tender affection, will someday afflict me more grievously and perilously than all the others."
John on a stag hunt, from De Rege Johanne.

Before his accession, John had already acquired a reputation for treachery, having conspired sometimes with and sometimes against his elder brothers, Henry, Richard and Geoffrey. In 1184, John and Richard both claimed that they were the rightful heir to Aquitaine, one of many unfriendly encounters between the two. In 1185, John became the ruler of Ireland, whose people grew to despise him, causing John to leave after only eight months.

Richard's absence

During Richard's absence on the Third Crusade from 1190 to 1194, John attempted to overthrow William Longchamp, the Bishop of Ely and Richard's designated justiciar. This was one of the events that inspired later writers to cast John as the villain in their reworking of the legend of Robin Hood.

John was more popular than Longchamp in London, and in October 1191 the leading citizens of the city opened the gates to him while Longchamp was confined in the tower. John promised the city the right to govern itself as a commune in return for recognition as Richard's heir presumptive.[4] While returning from the Crusade, Richard was captured by Leopold V, Duke of Austria, and handed over to Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who held him for ransom. Meanwhile, John had joined forces with Philip Augustus, King of France, and they sent a letter to Henry asking him to keep Richard away from England for as long as possible, offering payment to keep Richard imprisoned. Henry declined their offer, and once Richard's ransom was paid by his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine (who had to pawn the Crown Jewels of England to do so), he was set free. Upon the release, John pleaded for forgiveness from Richard, who granted it and named him heir presumptive.

Reign

Dispute with Arthur

On Richard's death (6 April 1199) John was accepted in Normandy and England. He was crowned king at Westminster on 27 May, Ascension Day. But Anjou, Maine, and Brittany declared for Arthur, son of his older brother Geoffrey. Some regarded his young nephew, Arthur of Brittany, as the rightful heir. Arthur fought his uncle for the throne, with the support of King Philip II of France. The conflict between Arthur and John had fatal consequences. By the May 1200 Treaty of Le Goulet, Philip recognised John over Arthur, and the two came to terms regarding John's vassalage for Normandy and the Angevin territories, but the peace was ephemeral.

The war upset the barons of Poitou, where John ruled as Count, enough for them to seek redress from the King of France, who was King John's feudal overlord with respect to the territories on the Continent. In 1202, John was summoned to the French court to answer the Poitevin barons' charges, one of which was his marriage to Isobel of Angoulême, who was already engaged to Hugh de Lusignan. Philip Augustus summoned John to his court when the Lusignans pleaded for his help. John refused, and, under feudal law, because of his failure of service to his lord, Philip declared all John's French lands and territories, except Gascony in the southwest, forfeit and immediately occupied them. Philip invested Arthur with all the fiefs of which he had deprived John, except for Normandy, and betrothed him to his daughter Marie.

Needing to supply a war across the English Channel, in 1203 John ordered all shipyards (including inland ports such as Gloucester) in England to provide at least one ship, with places such as the newly-built Portsmouth being responsible for several. He made Portsmouth the new home of the navy. (The Anglo-Saxon kings, such as Edward the Confessor, had royal harbours constructed on the south coast at Sandwich, and most importantly, Hastings.) By the end of 1204, he had 45 large galleys available to him, and from then on an average of four new ones every year. He also created an Admiralty of four admirals, responsible for various parts of the new navy. During John's reign, major improvements were made in ship design, including the addition of sails and removable forecastles. He also created the first big transport ships, called buisses. John is sometimes credited with the founding of the modern Royal Navy. What is known about this navy comes from the Pipe Rolls, since these achievements are ignored by the chroniclers and early historians.

In the hope of avoiding trouble in England and Wales while he was away fighting to recover his French lands, in 1205, John formed an alliance by marrying off his illegitimate daughter, Joan, to the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great.

As part of the war, Arthur attempted to kidnap his own grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, at Mirebeau, but was defeated and captured by John's forces. Arthur was imprisoned first at Falaise and then at Rouen. After this, Arthur's fate remains unknown. The annals of Margam Abbey give the following entry for 3 April 1203:

"After King John had captured Arthur and kept him alive in prison for some time in the castle of Rouen... when John was drunk he slew Arthur with his own hand and tying a heavy stone to the body cast it into the Seine."[citation needed]. Another source states that his body was weighted and thrown into the castle moat.

However, Hubert de Burgh, the officer commanding the Rouen fortress, claimed to have delivered Arthur around Easter 1203 to agents of the King sent to castrate him and that Arthur had died of shock. Hubert later retracted his statement and claimed Arthur still lived. Notwithstanding Hubert's retraction, no one ever saw Arthur alive again. Assuming that he was murdered, Brittany, and later Normandy, rebelled against John.

John also imprisoned his niece, Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany. Eleanor remained a prisoner until her death in 1241. Through deeds such as these, John acquired a reputation for ruthlessness.

Dealings with Bordeaux

In 1203, John exempted the citizens and merchants of Bordeaux from the Grande Coutume, which was the principal tax on their exports. In exchange, the regions of Bordeaux, Bayonne and Dax pledged support against the French Crown. 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.[5]

Dispute with the Pope

Pope Innocent III and King John had a disagreement about who would become Archbishop of Canterbury which lasted from 1205 until 1213.

When Archbishop of Canterbury Hubert Walter died on 13 July 1205, John became involved in a dispute with Pope Innocent III. The Canterbury Cathedral chapter claimed the sole right to elect Hubert's successor and favoured Reginald, a candidate out of their midst. However, both the English bishops and the King had an interest in the choice of successor to this powerful office. The king wanted John de Gray, one of his own men, so he could influence the church more.[6] When their dispute could not be settled, the Chapter secretly elected one of their members as Archbishop. A second election imposed by John resulted in another nominee. When they both appeared in Rome, Innocent disavowed both elections, and his candidate, Stephen Langton, was elected over the objections of John's observers. John was supported in his position by the English barons and many of the English bishops, and refused to accept Langton.

John expelled the Chapter in July 1207, to which the Pope reacted by placing an interdict on the kingdom. John immediately retaliated by closing down the churches. Although he issued instructions for the confiscation of all church possessions, individual institutions were able to negotiate terms for managing their own properties and keeping the produce of their estates.[7] After his excommunication John tightened these measures and he accrued significant sums from the income of vacant sees and abbeys: for example, the church lost an estimated 100,000 marks to the Crown in 1213.[8] The Pope, realising that too long a period without church services could lead to loss of faith, gave permission for some churches to hold Mass behind closed doors in 1209. In 1212, they allowed last rites to the dying. While the interdict was a burden to many, it did not result in rebellion against John.

Excommunication and Papal Supremacy

In November 1209 John was excommunicated, and in February 1213, Innocent threatened stronger measures unless John submitted. The papal terms for submission were accepted in the presence of the papal legate Pandulph in May 1213 (according to Matthew Paris, at the Templar Church at Dover);[9] in addition, John offered to surrender the Kingdom of England to God and the Saints Peter and Paul for a feudal service of 1,000 marks annually, 700 for England and 300 for Ireland.[8] With this submission, formalised in the Bulla Aurea (Golden Bull), John gained the valuable support of his papal overlord in his new dispute with the English barons.

Dispute with the barons

Coming to terms with Llywelyn I, Prince of Gwynedd, following the Welsh Uprising of 1211 and settling his dispute with the papacy, John turned his attentions back to his overseas interests. The European wars culminated in defeat at the Battle of Bouvines (1214), which forced the king to accept an unfavourable peace with France after having failed to get help from King Mohammed el-Nasir of Morocco.[10] This tale of the king's willingness to convert to Islam in exchange for help originates from an account by Matthew Paris, who was trying to bring the king further into disrepute, and may well have been fabricated.[11]

This finally turned the barons against him (some had already rebelled against him after he was excommunicated), and he met their leaders along with their French and Scots allies at Runnymede, near London on 15 June 1215 to seal the Great Charter, called in Latin Magna Carta. Because he had sealed under duress, however, John received approval from his overlord the Pope to break his word as soon as hostilities had ceased, provoking the First Barons' War and an invited French invasion by Prince Louis of France (whom the majority of the English barons had invited to replace John on the throne and had him proclaimed king in London in May 1216). John travelled around the country to oppose the rebel forces, directing, among other operations, a two-month siege of the rebel-held Rochester Castle.

Death

John's tomb effigy

Retreating from the French invasion, John took a safe route around the marshy area of the Wash to avoid the rebel held area of East Anglia. His slow baggage train (including the Crown Jewels), however, took a direct route across it and was lost to the unexpected incoming tide. This dealt John a terrible blow, which affected his health and state of mind. Succumbing to dysentery and moving from place to place, he stayed one night at Sleaford Castle before dying on 18 October (or possibly 19 October) 1216, at Newark Castle (then in Lincolnshire, now on Nottinghamshire's border with that county). Numerous, possibly fictitious, accounts circulated soon after his death that he had been killed by poisoned ale, poisoned plums or a "surfeit of peaches".[12][13]

He was buried in Worcester Cathedral in the city of Worcester.

His nine-year-old son succeeded him and became King Henry III of England (1216–72), and although Louis continued to claim the English throne, the barons switched their allegiance to the new king, forcing Louis to give up his claim and sign the Treaty of Lambeth in 1217.

Legacy

King John's tomb

King John's reign has traditionally been characterised as one of the most disastrous in English history, earning him the nickname "Bad King John": it began with military defeats – he lost Normandy to Philip Augustus of France in his first five years on the throne – and ended with England torn by civil war and himself on the verge of being forced out of power. In 1213, he made England a papal fief to resolve a conflict with the Catholic Church, and his rebellious barons forced him to seal Magna Carta in 1215, the act for which he is best remembered.

King John is also responsible for the creation of another English cultural icon, the historic, medieval London Bridge. To finance the construction of a large bridge across the Thames, King John set a precedent by allowing houses, shops, and a church to be built on top of the historic London Bridge, making it a tourist attraction.

As far as the administration of his kingdom went, John functioned as an efficient ruler, but he lost approval of the English barons by taxing them in ways outside those traditionally allowed by feudal overlords. The tax known as scutage, payment made instead of providing knights (as required by feudal law), became particularly unpopular. John was a very fair-minded and well informed king, however, often acting as a judge in the Royal Courts, and his justice was much sought after. Also, John's employment of an able Chancellor and certain clerks resulted in the first proper set of records, the Pipe Rolls. Tudor historiography was particularly interested in him, for his independence from the papacy (or lack of it) – this atmosphere produced not only Shakespeare's own King John but also its model The Troublesome Reign of King John and John Bale's Kynge Johan.

Winston Churchill summarised the legacy of John's reign: "When the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns".[14] Medieval historian C. Warren Hollister called John an "enigmatic figure": In 2006, he was selected by the BBC History Magazine as the 13th century's worst Briton.[15]

Marriage and issue

In 1189, John was married to Isabel of Gloucester, daughter and heiress of William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester (she is given several alternative names by history, including Avisa, Hawise, Joan, and Eleanor). They had no children, and John had their marriage annulled on the grounds of consanguinity, some time before or shortly after his accession to the throne, which took place on 6 April 1199, and she was never acknowledged as queen. (She then married Geoffrey de Mandeville as her second husband and Hubert de Burgh as her third).

John remarried, on 24 August 1200, Isabella of Angoulême, who was twenty years his junior. She was the daughter of Aymer Taillefer, Count of Angoulême. John had kidnapped her from her fiancé, Hugh X of Lusignan.[citation needed]

Isabella bore five children:

John is given a great taste for lechery by the chroniclers of his age, and even allowing some embellishment, he did have many illegitimate children. Matthew Paris accuses him of being envious of many of his barons and kinsfolk, and seducing their more attractive daughters and sisters. Roger of Wendover describes an incident that occurred when John became enamoured of Margaret, the wife of Eustace de Vesci and an illegitimate daughter of King William I of Scotland. Eustace substituted a prostitute in her place when the king came to Margaret's bed in the dark of night; the next morning, when John boasted to Vesci of how good his wife was in bed, Vesci confessed and fled.

John had the following illegitimate children:

By an unknown mistress (or mistresses) John fathered:

  • Geoffrey FitzRoy, who went on expedition to Poitou in 1205 and died there.
  • John FitzRoy, a clerk in 1201.
  • Henry FitzRoy, who died in 1245.
  • Osbert Gifford, who was given lands in Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Sussex, and is last seen alive in 1216.
  • Eudes FitzRoy, who accompanied his half-brother Richard on Crusade and died in the Holy Land in 1241.
  • Bartholomew FitzRoy, a member of the order of Friars Preachers.
  • Maud FitzRoy, Abbess of Barking, who died in 1252.
  • Isabel FitzRoy, wife of Richard Fitz Ives.
  • Philip FitzRoy, found living in 1263.

(The surname of FitzRoy is Norman-French for son of the king.)

Genealogy

Depictions in fiction

King John as shown in Cassell's History of England (1902)

These reflect the overwhelming view of his reputation:

Notes

  1. ^ Some sources indicate he died on 18 October
  2. ^ "King John was not a Good Man". Icons of England. http://www.icons.org.uk/theicons/collection/magna-carta/biography/king-john. Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  3. ^ http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/king_john.htm
  4. ^ Stephen Inwood, 'A History of London', London: Macmillan, 1998, p.58.
  5. ^ Hugh Johnson, Vintage: The Story of Wine p.142. Simon and Schuster 1989
  6. ^ Haines, Roy Martin (2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: John de Gray. Oxford University Press. 
  7. ^ Poole, Stephen (1993). "King John and the Interdict". From Domesday Book to Magna Carta 1087–1216. Oxford History of England (2 ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 446–447. ISBN 0-19-285287-6. 
  8. ^ a b Harper-Bill, Christopher (1999). "John and the church of Rome". in Church, S. D. King John New Interpretations. Woodbridge, England: Boydell and Brewer. pp. 306–7. ISBN 0-85115-736-X. 
  9. ^ Knights Templar Church at English Heritage website
  10. ^ Q&A: Sharia law
  11. ^ Church, Stephen (1999). The household knights of King John. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 66. ISBN 9780521553193. "As an accurate account of an event the story has little value" 
  12. ^ Given-Wilson, Chris (1996). An Illustrated History of Late Medieval England. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-7190-4152-X. 
  13. ^ Child, G. C. (9 May 1857). "Medical History of the early kings of England". Medical Times and Gazette (London) 14: 457. 
  14. ^ Humes, James C. (1994). The Wit & Wisdom of Winston Churchill: p.155
  15. ^ BBC

References

  • King John, by W.L. Warren ISBN 0-520-03643-3
  • The Feudal Kingdom of England 1042–1216, by Frank Barlow ISBN 0-582-49504-0
  • Medieval Europe: A Short History (Seventh Edition), by C. Warren Hollister ISBN 0-07-029637-5

External links

John of England
Born: 1166 24 December Died: 1216 19 October
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Richard I
King of England
1199–1216
Succeeded by
Henry III¹
New title
Lord of Ireland
1185–1216
French nobility
Preceded by
Eleanor and Richard I
Duke of Aquitaine
1199–1216
with Eleanor (1199–1204)
Succeeded by
Henry III¹
Preceded by
Richard I of England
Duke of Normandy
1199–1204
Annexed by France²
Count of Maine
1199–1203
Notes and references
1. Louis VIII of France was proclaimed king after the First Barons' War but was never crowned. Having been accepted as king by the barons4 as well as by Alexander II of Scotland5, there is a good case for acknowledging Louis as King of England, though he gave up his claim in 1217 with the Treaty of Lambeth.
2. The County of Maine and the Duchy of Normandy were annexed by the Kingdom of France – and permanently lost to the Kingdom of England – in 1203 and 1204, respectively.
3. The Lordship of Ireland nominally took over the island, with Papal approval (see the Papal bull Laudabiliter), from the High Kings of Ireland, the title being lost by Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair in the late 12th century. The English retained only nominal overlordship of Ireland (see The Pale) until the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland in the 16th century.
4. Carpenter, David, The Struggle for Mastery, The Penguin History of Britain 1066–1284 page 300: "Louis, eldest son of the king of France, to whom the rebels had offered the throne, held London and the allegiance of nineteen of the twenty-seven greatest barons."
5. ibid in The Struggle for Mastery, page 299: "... Carlisle was surrendered to Alexander who then came south to do homage to Louis for the Northern Counties."

Simple English

File:King
John of England

King John of England (24 December 1166 – 18 October 1216) was the son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

He reigned as King of England from 6 April 1199, until his death. He got to the throne as the younger brother of Richard I ('Richard the Lionheart'). King John is also famous for his part in the Robin Hood stories where he plays one of Robin's enemies.

Popular culture suggests that many people did not like him, but we do not know what ordinary people thought.

We do know that disputes arose between John and his barons and bishops. Because of this the nobles forced him to sign the agreement called Magna Carta, and this limited his power.

John's reign was important, but not successful from England's point of view. He tried several times to recover land in France which had been lost, but did not succeed.

Contents

Family history

As the youngest son of Henry II, John could expect no inheritance. His family life was tumultuous, as his older brothers all became involved in rebellions against Henry. His mother, Eleanor, was imprisoned by Henry in 1173, when John was about five years old.

Gerald of Wales relates that King Henry had a curious painting in a chamber of Winchester Castle, showing an eagle being attacked by three of its chicks, while a fourth chick crouched, waiting for its chance to strike. When asked the meaning of this picture, King Henry said:

"The four young ones of the eagle are my four sons,... who will not cease persecuting me even unto death. And the youngest, whom I now embrace with such tender affection, will someday afflict me more grievously and perilously than all the others."

As a young man, John already had a reputation for treachery. He conspired sometimes with and sometimes against his elder brothers, Henry, Richard and Geoffrey. In 1184, John and Richard both claimed that they were the rightful heir to Aquitaine, one of many unfriendly encounters between the two.

Richard's absence

File:King John from De Rege
John on a stag hunt, from De Rege Johanne.

Richard was absent on the Third Crusade from 1190 to 1194. John attempted to overthrow William Longchamp, the Bishop of Ely, who was Richard's designated 'chief justiciar' (like a Regent or Prime Minister). This was one of the events which led later writers to cast John as the villain in the legend of Robin Hood.

John was more popular than Longchamp in London. In October 1191 the leading citizens of the city opened the gates to John while Longchamp was confined in the tower. John promised the city the right to govern itself as a commune in return for recognition as Richard's heir presumptive.[1]

As he returned from the Crusade, Richard was captured by Leopold V, Duke of Austria, and handed over to Henry VI, the Holy Roman Emperor, who held him for ransom. Meanwhile, John had joined forces with Philip Augustus, King of France. They sent a letter to Henry asking him to keep Richard away from England for as long as possible, offering payment to keep Richard imprisoned. Henry declined their offer, and got his ransom from Eleanor of Aquitaine (who had to pawn the Crown Jewels). Richard was set free. Upon the release, John begged forgiveness from Richard, who granted it and named him heir presumptive.[2]

John's reign

Dispute with Arthur

On Richard's death (6 April 1199) John was accepted in Normandy and England. He was crowned king at Westminster on 27 May, Ascension Day.

However, Anjou, Maine, and Brittany declared for Arthur of Brittany, son of his elder brother Geoffrey. Arthur fought his uncle for the throne, with the support of Philip II of France. The conflict between Arthur and John had serious consequences for both. Finally, Philip recognised John over Arthur. The price paid was John's agreement to be Philip's vassal in Normandy and Angevin.

Nevertheless, conflicts continued until in 1202 Philip declared all John's French lands and territories, except Gascony in the southwest, forfeit and immediately occupied them. Philip gave Arthur all the land he had taken from John, except for Normandy, and betrothed him to his daughter Marie.

John now needed to fight to get back 'his' land in France. In 1203 John ordered all shipyards in England to provide at least one ship, with the newly-built Portsmouth Naval Base to provide several. He made Portsmouth the new home of the navy. By the end of 1204, John had 45 large ships available to him, and from then on an average of four new ones every year. He also created an Admiralty of four admirals, responsible for various parts of the new navy. During John's reign, major improvements were made in ship design. He also created the first big transport ships. John is sometimes credited with the founding of the modern Royal Navy.

As part of the war, Arthur attempted to kidnap his own grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, at Mirebeau, but was defeated and captured by John's forces. Arthur was imprisoned first at Falaise and then at Rouen. After this, Arthur's fate remains unknown, but it is believed that he was murdered by John. Assuming that he was murdered, Brittany, and later Normandy, rebelled against John. John also imprisoned his niece, Eleanor. Through deeds such as these, John acquired a reputation for ruthlessness.

Dealings with Bordeaux

In 1203, John exempted the citizens and merchants of Bordeaux from the Grande Coutume, which was the principal tax on their exports. In exchange, the regions of Bordeaux, Bayonne and Dax pledged support against the French Crown. 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.[3]

Lost lands and disputes

Normandy seized by the French

In June 1204, the fall of Rouen allowed Phillip to annex Normandy and also take parts of Anjou and Poitou.

John needed money for his army, but the loss of the French territories, especially Normandy, greatly reduced the state income. A huge tax would be needed to reclaim these territories. He imposed the first income tax, raising the (then) huge sum of £70,000.

Dispute with the Pope

[[File:|thumb|Pope Innocent III and King John had a disagreement about who would become Archbishop of Canterbury which lasted from 1205 until 1213.]] When Archbishop of Canterbury Hubert Walter died on 13 July 1205, John became involved in a dispute with Pope Innocent III. The Canterbury Cathedral Chapter claimed the sole right to elect Hubert's successor, and favoured Reginald, a candidate out of their midst. However, both the English bishops and the King had an interest in the choice of successor to this powerful office. The king wanted John de Gray, one of his own men.[4] When their dispute could not be settled, the Chapter secretly elected one of their members as Archbishop. A second election imposed by John resulted in another nominee. When they both appeared in the Vatican, Innocent disavowed (rejected) both elections, and his candidate, Stephen Langton, was elected despite the objections of John's observers. John was supported in his position by the English barons and many of the English bishops, and refused to accept Langton.

John expelled (dismissed) the Canterbury Chapter in July 1207, to which the Pope reacted by placing an interdict on the kingdom.[5] John retaliated by closing down the churches. He confiscated (on paper) all church possessions, but individual churches were able to negotiate terms for managing their own properties and keeping the produce of their estates.[6] After his excommunication, John tightened these measures and he got plenty from the income of vacant sees and abbeys. For example, the church lost an estimated 100,000 marks to the Crown in 1213.[7] The Pope gave permission for some churches to hold Mass behind closed doors in 1209. In 1212, they allowed last rites to the dying. While the interdict was a burden to many, it did not result in rebellion against John.

Excommunication and Papal Supremacy

In November 1209 John was excommunicated, and in February 1213, Innocent threatened stronger measures unless John submitted. The papal terms for submission were accepted in the presence of the papal legate Pandulph in May 1213 (according to Matthew Paris, at the Knights Templar Church at Dover);[8] in addition, John offered to surrender the Kingdom of England to God and the Saints Peter and Paul for a feudal service of 1,000 marks annually, 700 for England and 300 for Ireland.[7] With this submission, written in a document, John gained the support of his papal overlord in his new dispute with the English barons.

After settling his dispute with the papacy, John turned his attentions back to France. The European wars ended in defeat at the Battle of Bouvines in July 1214, which forced the king to accept an unfavourable peace with France.[9]

Rebellion

Magna Carta

The heavy scutage [10] levy for the failed campaign was the last straw, and when John attempted to raise more in September 1214, many barons refused to pay. The barons no longer believed that John was capable of regaining his lost lands.

In May 1215, Robert Fitz Walter led forty barons to renounce homage to the king at Northampton. The so-called 'Army of God' marched on London, taking the capital as well as taking Lincoln and Exeter.

John met their leaders and with their French and Scots allies at Runnymede, near London, on 15 June 1215. There they sealed the Great Charter, called in Latin Magna Carta. It established a council of 25 barons to see John kept to the clauses like protection from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, parliamentary assent for taxation, and scutage limitations.

Because he was forced to seal the charter, John sought approval to break it, from his overlord the Pope. Denouncing it as "not only shameful and demeaning but also illegal and unjust", the Pope agreed. This provoked the First Barons' War. The barons invited a French invasion by Prince Louis of France, and Louis accepted the offer of the crown of England as a reward for his support.

War with the Barons

John travelled around the country to oppose the rebel forces, and directed a two-month siege of the rebel-held Rochester Castle. While a small force arrived in rebel-held London in November, the Scots under their king, Alexander II, invaded northern England. By the end of December, John was leading an murderous expedition in the north, culminating with the sacking of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The French retook Rochester and much of the south, although the royalists held on to Windsor and Dover.

With the momentum swinging from John, some of his generals, including his half-brother William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury, went to the rebel side. By the end of the summer, Louis held a third of the country and had the support of two-third of the barons. In September, Alexander II travelled down to pay homage to Louis at Dover, where the French pretender had being laying siege to Dover Castle.

Death

Retreating from the French invasion, John took a safe route around the marshy area of The Wash to avoid the rebel held area of East Anglia. His slow baggage train (including the Crown Jewels), took a direct route across it and was lost to the incoming tide. This dealt John a terrible blow, which affected his health and state of mind. Succumbing to dysentery and moving from place to place, he died at Newark Castle.[11][12] He was buried in Worcester Cathedral.

His nine-year-old son succeeded him and became King Henry III of England (1216–72). The barons switched their allegiance to the new king, forcing Louis to give up his claim and sign the Treaty of Lambeth in 1217.

Legacy

File:King John's
King John's tomb

King John's reign began with military defeats – he lost Normandy to Philip II of France in his first five years on the throne. His reign ended with England torn by civil war and himself on the verge of being forced out of power. In 1213, he made England a papal fief to resolve a conflict with the Catholic Church, and his rebellious barons forced him to seal Magna Carta in 1215, the act for which he is best remembered.

John is responsible for the creation of another English cultural icon, the historic, medieval London Bridge. To finance the construction of a large bridge across the Thames, King John allowed houses, shops, and a church to be built on top of the bridge.

John was an efficient ruler, but he lost approval of the barons by taxing them in ways outside those traditionally allowed by feudal overlords. The tax known as scutage became particularly unpopular. John was a fair-minded and well informed king, however. He often sat as a judge in the Royal Courts, and his justice was much sought after. Also, John's employment of an able Chancellor and clerks resulted in the first proper set of records.

Winston Churchill summarised the legacy of John's reign: "When the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns".[13] Medieval historian C. Warren Hollister called John an "enigmatic figure":

"...talented in some respects, good at administrative detail, but suspicious, unscrupulous, and mistrusted. He was compared in a recent scholarly article, perhaps unfairly, with Richard Nixon. His crisis-prone career was sabotaged repeatedly by the halfheartedness with which his vassals supported him—and the energy with which some of them opposed him".[14]

Marriage and issue

In 1189, John was married to Isabel of Gloucester. They had no children. John had their marriage annulled, and she was never acknowledged as queen. John remarried, on 24 August 1200, Isabella of Angoulême, who was twenty years his junior. John had kidnapped her from her fiancé, Hugh X of Lusignan.

Isabella bore five children:

  • Henry III (1207–1272), King of England.
  • Richard (1209–1272), 1st Earl of Cornwall.
  • Joan (1210–1238), Queen Consort of Alexander II of Scotland.
  • Isabella (1214–1241), Consort of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor.
  • Eleanor (1215–1275), who married William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, and later married Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester.

John had many illegitimate children. Matthew Paris accuses him of seducing the more attractive daughters and sisters of his barons and relatives. John had these illegitimate children:

  • Joan, the wife of Llywelyn the Great.
  • Richard Fitz Roy, (by his cousin, Adela)
  • Oliver FitzRoy, (by a mistress named Hawise) who accompanied the papal legate Pelayo to Damietta in 1218, and never returned.
  • Geoffrey FitzRoy, who went on expedition to Poitou in 1205 and died there.
  • John FitzRoy, a clerk in 1201.
  • Henry FitzRoy, who died in 1245.
  • Osbert Gifford, who was given lands in Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Sussex, and is last seen alive in 1216.
  • Eudes FitzRoy, who accompanied his half-brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, on Crusade and died in the Holy Land in 1241.
  • Bartholomew FitzRoy, a member of the order of Friars Preachers.
  • Maud FitzRoy, Abbess of Barking, who died in 1252.
  • Isabel FitzRoy, wife of Richard Fitz Ives.
  • Philip FitzRoy, found living in 1263.

The surname Fitzroy is Norman-French for 'son of the king'.

References

  1. Inwood, Stephen 1998. A history of London. Macmillan, London. p58
  2. 'Heir presumptive' = John was next in line for the throne.
  3. Hugh Johnson 1989. Vintage: the story of wine p142. Simon and Schuster
  4. Haines, Roy (2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: John de Gray. Oxford University Press. 
  5. An interdict against a country was the equivalent of excommunication against an individual. It would cause all the churches to be closed, and almost all the sacraments to be disallowed.
  6. Poole, Stephen (1993). "King John and the Interdict". From Domesday Book to Magna Carta 1087–1216. Oxford History of England (2 ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 446–447. ISBN 0-19-285287-6. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Harper-Bill, Christopher (1999). "John and the church of Rome". In Church, S. D. King John New Interpretations. Woodbridge, England: Boydell and Brewer. pp. 306–7. ISBN 0-85115-736-X. 
  8. "Knights Templar Church at English Heritage website". English-heritage.org.uk. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.194. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  9. Church, Stephen (1999). The household knights of King John. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 66. ISBN 9780521553193. "As an accurate account of an event the story has little value" 
  10. Scutage: in the law of England under the feudal system, this allowed a knight to 'buy out' of military service due to the Crown. Its name derived from the knightly shield (in Latin: scutum).
  11. Given-Wilson, Chris (1996). An Illustrated History of Late Medieval England. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-7190-4152-X. 
  12. Child, G. C. (9 May 1857). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Medical History of the early kings of England"]. Medical Times and Gazette (London) 14: 457. 
  13. Humes, James C. 1994. The wit & wisdom of Winston Churchill: p155
  14. Hollister, Charles (1998). Medieval Europe: a short history. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 256. ISBN 0-07-029729-0. 







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