King John: Magna Carta, rebellion and delusion


King John of England

King John dominated England from 1199 to 1216, succeeding his brother, Richard the Lionheart.
(Image credit ranking: Culture Club / Contributor through Getty Photographs)

King John became as soon as the ruler of England from Would possibly maybe maybe even 27, 1199 to Oct. 19, 1216, succeeding his brother Richard “The Lionheart”. John is easiest known for sealing the Magna Carta, which became as soon as step one against a structure within the UK and a provide of inspiration for democratic actions that followed. Alternatively, he additionally drew England exact into a bloody civil conflict when he reneged on the agreements made within the Magna Carta and became as soon as broadly hated by contemporary chroniclers.

John, King of England, became as soon as the final surviving son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine when he ascended to the throne because the fourth Plantagenet monarch. The Dwelling of Plantagenet would trek on to rule England for 300 years, making it the longest reigning royal house within the nation’s history. 

Alternatively, beneath John, the Plantagenets misplaced necessary portions of territory, especially in France. It is in section attributable to failures luxuriate in that in his reign that John became as soon as poorly conception of in his respect respect era, resulting in him being depicted as a villain in tales luxuriate in Robin Hood.

Alternatively, the image of King John shouldn’t be as easy as it would possibly maybe well appear in accordance to some as much as the moment scholars. “With the passing of time, it is some distance extraordinarily easy to write simplistic caricatures of long-wearisome historical figures comparable to John, portraying them as exact or mistaken in accordance to our respect biases and standards. Nothing is ever that straightforward,” Gash Barratt, who has a PhD in history from King’s College London, wrote for All About History magazine.

King John and his family

John became as soon as born in 1166, and would be the youngest of Henry II’s eight legit kids with Eleanor of Aquitaine. As the youngest son with three older brothers sooner than him within the line of succession, John became as soon as not anticipated to changed into king and became as soon as most unlikely to inherit mighty from his great oldsters. 

Primarily essentially based mostly on historian Stephen Church, author of “King John: England, Magna Carta and the Making of a Tyrant” (PAN, 2016), it became as soon as Henry II that gave John the nickname “John Lackland” which became as soon as a, “decrease than supportive jibe,” indicating that he did not predict his son to manipulate mighty territory in his future.

Alternatively, the territory held between Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine became as soon as huge, stretching from the Pyrenees (south western France) within the south to the border of Scotland within the north. How this land would be inherited by their competitive sons would prove to be some degree of contention for the family. 

Primarily essentially based mostly on Barrett, the eldest surviving son, Henry, would changed into king of England (in an uncommon turn of events, whereas his father became as soon as light alive), Richard would inherit Aquitaine from his mother, Geoffrey married the heiress of Brittany bringing that land into their orbit and the daughters were to be married off for political impact spherical Europe. 

John became as soon as at chance of manipulate some fragment of Normandy and Anjou and Ireland.

Map of the Angevin kingdom, ruled by Henry II, Richard I and John

The wedding of John’s oldsters, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, created with out a doubt one of many strongest kingdoms of the medieval era, considered here in orange. (Image credit ranking: Print Collector / Contributor through Getty Photographs)

With so mighty land in France, this additionally precipitated increasing tensions between Henry II and Louis VII, and the French king is acknowledged to contain finished into the familial tensions in England to drive a wedge between father and sons. 

“Simmering tensions between father and sons erupted into launch conflict in 1173, fueled by the Capetian king of France Louis VII,” wrote Barrett. “While Henry II defeated the coalition of forces ranged in opposition to him and became as soon as reconciled along with his kids, the underlying issues never disappeared. The young Henry died in 1183 having taken up arms in opposition to his brother Richard, whereupon Henry II reassigned England, Normandy and Anjou to Richard and gave Aquitaine to John.”

Alternatively, Richard became as soon as unwilling to resign Aquitaine to his younger brother on the grounds that he had no army or administrative trip. “Richard, having fought for eight years to impose his authority upon Aquitaine, wouldn’t resign it for the unsure authority proposed by Henry’s map. 

On account of this reality, John became as soon as charged by his father to lead an army into Richard’s territories. Ragged splendid 15, John became as soon as no match for Richard, even having joined forces with their brother Geoffrey of Brittany,” wrote Graham E. Seel, author of “King John: An Underrated King” (Anthem Press, 2012).

In 1184, Henry II, having returned to the throne after the death of Henry the Younger King, known as his sons together to reconcile their differences. Richard would stay the Duke of Aquitaine, however John became as soon as knighted and would changed into Lord of Ireland. He became as soon as despatched with 300 knights to connect his protect watch over of the island.

John’s first taste of energy

John arrived in Ireland in 1185 along with his knights, along with cavalry, archers and spherical 60 ships. He had before all the pieces been named as Viceroy of Ireland by his father in 1177, per chance with an gaze to giving him greater authority within the long flee. Alternatively, his trip in Ireland did not trek successfully. 

While some contemporary and approach-contemporary sources accuse John of being abrasive and adversarial against the Irish aristocracy, developing pointless stress with the ruling households, Seel parts the finger of blame at Hugh de Lacy, the Constable of Dublin and Lord of Meath for encouraging the Irish lords to face up to John’s rule.

“Potentially within the kill 20 years senior to John, it is life like to speculate that Hugh de Lacy seemed upon the young John as an upstart, and duly grew to changed into emboldened to face up to,” wrote Seel. John became as soon as met with a guerilla resistance to his makes an try to position in pressure his protect watch over militarily and became as soon as pressured to shut abet to England.

“John lacked the unravel to fetch his rule in Ireland a reality. He became as soon as abet in England in time for Christmas. The English commentators were disappointed. They saw in John’s return a failure to protect an eye fixed on his sources accurately,” wrote Church. 

John would fetch a 2nd chance to prove himself in Ireland when he grew to changed into king.

John Vs. Richard the Lionheart

Richard the Lionheart

Even conception Richard I left to fight within the Third Campaign rapidly after turning into king, he appears to be like to had been reluctant to leave his brother John accountable of the nation. (Image credit ranking: Hulton Archive / Stringer through Getty Photographs)

In 1186, Geoffrey died without warning on the age of 27, presumably in an accident, even supposing accounts vary. This came at a time when Geoffrey had allied himself with the original king of France, Philip, in opposition to Henry II. 

Philip became to Richard and convinced him to lift an army in opposition to his father in 1187. Primarily essentially based mostly on Barrett, the conflict proved to be humiliating for Henry who became as soon as pressured exact into a peace in 1189 and took to Chinon Fortress injured and in miserable health. 

“Henry requested to predict the list of rebels who had became in opposition to him, on the end of the list became as soon as John’s title – he had switched sides on the final minute when he saw that his father’s space became as soon as hopeless. The betrayal of his youngest son became as soon as the closing straw,” wrote Barrett. 

Henry II is acknowledged to contain died the following day on July 6, 1189.

Richard I became as soon as now king and whereas he had raised the rebellion in opposition to his father, the final-minute swap of John to his trigger did not endear him to his younger brother.

So, when Richard appeared to lead the Third Campaign within the Holy Land, he did not settle on John left accountable of the kingdom in his absence. 

“As a precaution in opposition to this chance, Richard gave protect watch over of executive in every of his nation-states to trusted officials and refused to account for who his successor would be would possibly well presumably light he fail to shut abet house,” wrote Barrett. “It would possibly successfully had been finest to protect John some distance from the reins of energy, however this form of considered snub splendid fueled John’s sense of injustice and provoked the behavior Richard became as soon as looking to forestall.”

John tried and failed to mutter his authority in Richard’s absence, however became as soon as resisted by the king’s real supporters at courtroom. Alternatively, when Richard became as soon as captured and imprisoned on his formula abet to England in Dec, 1192, John allied with Philip of France, exchanging territory for the French king’s favor.

Without native enhance, John became as soon as chased out of England to Normandy when Richard within the kill returned in 1194. The brothers would reconcile, however Richard stripped his brother of most of his possessions and titles, attach for his title of Lord of Ireland. “John became as soon as, as soon as extra, Lackland,” wrote Seel.

John as king

On April 6, 1199, Richard the Lionheart died without warning on campaign whereas suppressing a revolt in France. He had been hit by a crossbow lunge and died from the ensuing injure turning into contaminated. 

In spite of their history, John had been named as Richard’s inheritor. From the begin, there were seemingly issues among the barons of England about having John ascend to the throne.

“On hearing that John had been named as Richard’s inheritor, two of the leisurely king’s most influential officials, William Marshal and Hubert Walter, debated that you would possibly imagine choices. Walter’s preliminary response became as soon as to enhance the disclose of Richard’s nephew, Arthur of Brittany,” wrote Barratt. Alternatively, the pair agreed to abet John as having the stronger disclose.

With his coronation on Would possibly maybe maybe even 27, 1199, John “Lackland” became as soon as now with out a doubt one of many strongest men in western Europe. His early years appear to had been worthwhile too, with a peace settlement along with his frail ally Philip Augustus, king of France in 1200. 

“Up-to-the-minute chroniclers praised John in comparison along with his brother’s bellicose nature, specifically the trend Richard had shipped English silver in some unspecified time in the future of the channel to expend on Norman castles and mercenaries, conveniently forgetting that it became as soon as John’s recklessness that proficient key lands to Philip and necessitated Richard’s campaigns of reconquest,” wrote Barratt.

The treaty additionally made the connection between the English crown and France extra outlined, making John a vassal of the French king, which would possibly well presumably weaken his standing within the long flee, in accordance to Barratt. 

Philip would within the kill strip John of his protect watch over of Normandy, Anjou and parts of Aquitaine within the long flee years, forcing John to retreat abet to England in 1203 and atmosphere the stage for unrest to shut for John’s reign.

King John and the Magna Carta

King John and the Magna Carta

King John will likely be shown signing the Magna Carta on June 15, 1215, however truly he would contain applied his seal to the doc to fetch it legitimate. (Image credit ranking: Heritage Photographs / Contributor through Getty Photographs)

Back in England, King John instituted a different of taxation reforms and launched original levies to plan mammoth sums of cash to the throne. These integrated what we would now undercover agent as customs tasks and profits tax, however additionally extra punitive penalties ‘for the exact of the king’ on brains who were suspected of being disloyal, in accordance to Barratt.

“Ruling by ache became as soon as not a tactic designed to grab hearts and minds, and John’s repute became as soon as sullied additional by accusations of seducing the wives and daughters of his nobles, despite the indisputable reality that mighty of the proof appears to be like to talk in self assurance to his first marriage,” wrote Barratt. John additionally truly feel out of favor with the Vatican when he refused to accept Pope Innocent III’s recommendation of archbishop of Canterbury. 

“As a consequence, the imposition in1208 of an Interdict by Pope Innocent had been a severe sentence on all of John’s matters. Interdict suspended all event of the sacraments except baptizing infants,” wrote Dan Jones in “In the Reign of King John” (Apollo, 2020). In response, John seized church property.

Now not at as soon as, John made peace with the Pope by bowing sooner than him in 1213 and making England a papal fief with a formal settlement known as the Bulla Aurea or Golden Bull. While this appears to be like to contain upset some abet in England, in accordance to Barratt, it additionally locked Innocent III in as an ally in opposition to Philip and John’s varied enemies at house and in one other nation.

The barons of the north of England were increasingly turning in opposition to John and rebelling in opposition to his rule. In 1214, as John accumulated an army to online page online Philip as soon as extra in France, many refused to enhance an expedition to the continent, claiming their allegiance to the crown splendid extended as some distance as England’s borders. Defeat in France saw John return chastened as soon as extra and the native barons emboldened to fetch requires, committing him to swap on June 15, 1215.

“These requires were ultimately hammered out exact into a structure, which became as soon as counseled by the king at Runnymede in 1215 – a doc we now know as Magna Carta,” wrote Barratt. The Magna Carta consisted of 63 provisions comparable to pointing out no one became as soon as above the regulation, that property disputes must be settled in courtroom and that all people had a appropriate to a pleasant trial.

The Magna Carta has gone down in history as a necessary doc within the articulation of suggestions of non-public liberty, limited monarchy and restrained executive that will proceed to be explored within the centuries to shut, especially in some unspecified time in the future of the Enlightenment. 

“Magna Carta exercised a sturdy impact both on the United States Constitution and on the constitutions of the an infinite different of states,” in accordance to the Library of Congress. Alternatively, John snappy seemed for how out of following its edicts and appeared to the Pope for wait on.

“On August 24, Innocent condemned and invalidated the Magna Carta, on the grounds both that settlement of any dispute about the behavior of executive pertained to the pope as overlord, and that John had been coerced into acquiescence,” wrote Christopher Harper-Bill in “King John: New Interpretations” (Boydell Press, 1999).

Civil Warfare and death

The First Barons' War

Reneging on the phrases of the Magna Carta led to civil conflict between King John and lots of of the great barons of England. (Image credit ranking: Hulton Archive / Stringer through Getty Photographs)

Having reneged on his deal with the barons, John became as soon as snappy met with civil conflict, a assortment of events that likely “blackened forever the title of the ruling King John,” in accordance to Jones. The conflict, known as the First Barons’ Warfare, raged from 1215 to 1217 with the barons led by Robert Fitzwalter. They introduced Prince Louis, the son of Philip II of France, to England in 1216 to reveal the throne and he became as soon as proclaimed King of England in London, even supposing he became as soon as not crowned.

“The conflict dragged on into 1216 and became as soon as splendid ended by John’s ignominious death from dysentery on the end of a thunderstorm whereas staying at Newark Fortress. One extra colorful epic of his death acknowledged that John became as soon as ‘individually summoned to hell by the Devil’,” wrote Barratt.

John had been heading to Lynn in Norfolk in Sept. 1216 when he contracted cru, traveling to Newark Fortress in Nottinghamshire sooner than turning into too in miserable health to trek back and forth additional. He died on Oct. 19. His son, Henry, became as soon as named as his successor and became as soon as crowned on Oct. 28, 1216 having splendid just not too long within the past marked his ninth birthday.

The legacy left on the abet of by John, King of England, became as soon as largely formed by the contemporary historians. The most successfully-known, an English Benedictine monk named Matthew Paris, famously referred to him as a “tyrant as a replacement of a king,” in accordance to the British Library, in recounting how the lords of England felt about their monarch. It is this depiction that went on to inspire many of King John’s appearances in standard fiction, comparable to Robin Hood.

“Over the centuries, the tale of Robin Hood grew to consist of John, a king who epitomised tyranny and oppression, as Robin’s enemy. If reality be told, the earliest written tales of Robin Hood title the king as ‘Edward’,” wrote Jones. 

Extra sources

Richard the Lionheart is easiest known for his exploits within the Third Campaign and his clash with Saladin, who you would possibly learn mighty extra about as successfully.

For added crusader tales, survey no additional than our in-depth clarification of the Knights Templar and their role within the an infinite different of conflicts.


  • The Burdened out Kings: Henry II, His Sons and the Wars for the Plantagenet Crown” by Gash Barratt (Faber & Faber, 2019)
  • King John: England, Magna Carta and the Making of a Tyrant” by Stephen Church (PAN, 2016)
  • King John: An Underrated King” by Graham E. Seel (Anthem Press, 2012)
  • In the Reign of King John” Dan Jones (Apollo, 2020)
  • “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” Library of Congress
  • King John: New Interpretations” edited by S. D. Church (Boydell Press, 1999)
  • “Portrait of King John from Matthew Paris’s Historia Anglorum” British Library
Jonathan Gordon

Jonathan is the Editor of All About History magazine, working the on a conventional foundation operations of the logo. He has a Bachelor’s stage in History from the University of Leeds. He has beforehand labored as Editor of video sport magazines video games™ and X-ONE and tech magazines iCreate and Apps. He is currently essentially based in Bournemouth, UK.