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House of Angevin - King John

Name: King John
Father: Henry II
Mother: Eleanor of Aquitaine
Born: December 24, 1166 at Beaumont Palace : Oxford
Ascended to the throne: April 6, 1199 aged 32 years
Crowned: May 27, 1199 at Westminster Abbey
Married:(1) Isabella of Gloucester, (annulled 1199)
Married (2): Isabella, Daughter of Count of Angouleme
Died: October 18, 1216 at Newark Castle, aged 49 years, 9 months, and 24 days
Buried at: Worcester

John was nicknamed Lackland, probably because, as the youngest of Henry II's five sons, it was difficult to find a portion of his father's French possessions for him to inherit. He was acting king from 1189 during his brother Richard the Lion-Heart's absence on the Third Crusade. The legend of Robin Hood dates from this time in which John is portrayed as Bad King John. He was involved in intrigues against his absent brother, but became king in 1199 when Richard was killed in battle in France.

Most of his reign was dominated by war with France. Following the peace treaty of Le Goulet there was a brief peace, but fighting resumed again in 1202. John had lost Normandy and almost all the other English possessions in France to Philip II of France by 1204. He spent the next decade trying to regain these without success and was finally defeated by Philip Augustus at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214. He was also in conflict with the Church. In 1205 he disputed the pope's choice of Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury, and Pope Innocent III placed England under an interdict, suspending all religious services, including baptisms, marriages, and burials. John retaliated by seizing church revenues, and in 1209 was excommunicated. Eventually, John submitted, accepting the papal nominee, and agreed to hold the kingdom as a fief of the papacy; an annual monetary tribute was paid to the popes for the next 150 years by successive English monarchs.

His repressive policies and ruthless taxation to fund the warin France brought him into conflict with his barons which became known as the Barons War. In 1215 rebel baron leaders marched on London where they were welcomed by an increasing band of defectors from Johnís royalist supporters. Their demands were drawn up in a document which became the known as the Magna Carta. John sort peace and met them at Runnymede where on 15th June 1215 he agreed to their demands and sealed the Magna Carta. It was a remarkable document which set limits on the powers of the king, laid out the feudal obligations of the barons, confirmed the liberties of the Church, and granted rights to all freemen of the realm and their heirs for ever. It was the first written constitution.
Read and view the Magna Carta.

His concessions did not buy peace for long and the Barons War continued. The barons sought French aid and Prince Louis of France landed in England supported by attacks from the North by Alexander II of Scotland. John fled and according to legend lost most of his baggage and the crown jewels when crossing the tidal estuaries of the Wash. He became ill with dysentery and died at Newark Castle in October 1216.

Timeline for King John

1199 John accedes to the throne on the death of his brother, Richard I.
1204 England loses most of its possessions in France.
1205 John refuses to accept Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury
1208 Pope Innocent III issues an Interdict against England, banning all church services except baptisms and funerals
1209 Pope Innocent III excommunicates John for his confiscation of ecclesiastical property
1209 Cambridge University founded
1212 Innocent III declares that John is no longer the rightful King
1213 John submits to the Popeís demands and accepts the authority of the Pope
1214 Philip Augustus of France defeats the English at the Battle of Bouvines
1215 Beginning of the Barons' war. The English Barons march to London to demand rights which they lay down in the Magna Carta.
1215 John meets the English barons at Runnymede, agrees to their demands, and seals the Magna Carta which set limits on the powers of the monarch, lays out the feudal obligations of the barons, confirms the liberties of the Church, and grants rights to all freemen of the realm and their heirs for ever. It is the first written constitution.
1215 The Pope decrees that John need not adhere to the Magna Carta, and civil war breaks out
1216 The barons seek French aid in their fight against John. Prince Louis of France lands in England and captures the Tower of London
1216 John flees North and loses his war chest of cash and jewels in the Wash estuary
1216 John dies of a fever at Newark and is buried Worcester Cathedral