John Lackland – King John of England

John was the youngest son of Henry II was born 1167. Although John gained the nickname Lackland because he received no major fiefs from his father he remained his father’s favourite son. He joined his brother Richard I to conspire against his father. Following his father’s death in 1189 Richard became King. Richard duly bestowed upon John a number of Lordships.

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He married Isabella of Gloucester, who was sixteen years old, in 1189 and divorced her as she failed to produce any children and an heir to throne.

John fell out with Richard following him appointing Arthur the duke of Brittany as the successor to the throne. John whilst Richard was away on the third crusade plotted against him with the assistance of Philip II of France. When Richard was taken prison and held in Germany John tried to prolong his imprisonment and take the throne for himself but was denied by Eleanor and others loyal to Richard. Richard after his release eventually pardoned John and named him as his successor.

John became King in 1189 following Richard’s death and following the divorce remarried Isabella of Angouleme.

Arthur, duke of Brittany and John’s nephew, made claim to the throne and proved a danger and John won a considerable victory at Mirebeau gaining him great respect. Arthur was held prisoner and was treated cruelly and was murdered whilst imprisoned rumoured to be upon John’s orders. This created tensions with his subjects in France and he lost possession of Normandy, Maine, Anjou and others. The overall losses damaged his reputation immensely a trait of John’s.

John had further complication when the archbishop of Canterbury died and the monks elected successor was rejected by John that created great anger with the pope that placed England in interdict in 1208.

Problems arose in Ireland with the Anglo-Norman lords which John managed to temporarily overthrow. However on his return to England there was hostility from the English barons over costly expeditions to France to recovers lands that John had previously lost. John continued to try to raise revenue from the barons who refused and rose up against John eventually getting John to agree to the terms of the Magna Carta in 1215 at Runnymede. This was the  first of a series of concessions by which English monarchs lost powers in raising taxes without the agreement of the barons.

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The Magna Carta however failed to stop John behaviour as he chose simply to ignore it and waged war against the barons. This could have been the end of the Plantagenet reign if it was not for John’s death in 1216. This allowed peace and a quick agreement to install John’s son Henry III under the regent of William Marshal to continue the Plantagenet dynasty.

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If you wold like to know more about King John I would recommend the following book:

King John (The Yale English Monarchs Series)

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