Name: John I "Lackland" Plantagenet King of ENGLAND 1 2
Name: 3rd Earl of GLOUCESTER , John King of England 3
Birth: 24 DEC 1166 in Kings Manor House, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England 4
Death: 19 OCT 1216 in Newark Castle, Nottinghamshire, England 4
Bullet 1215 SIGNED THE MAGNA CHARTA
Burial: Cathedral, Worcester, Worcestershire, England
Matthew Paris wrote, 'Foul as it is, hell itself is defiled by the presence of King John', and this pretty well sums up John's reputation--until 1944, that is. For in that year Professor Galbraith demonstrated in a lecture to an astonished world that the chief chronicle source for the reign of John was utterly unreliable. Since then bad King John has been getting better and better, until now he is nearly well again, and a leading scholar in the field has seriously warned us that the twentieth century could well create it own John myth.
A man who can create so many myths, or rather have them created about him, is clearly outstanding in some way, but the myths hide the truth. Plainly the chroniclers who invented stories about him after his death can tell us little, and we should not take too much notice of people who condemned John for carrying out his father's (and his brother's officials'] policies and administratrive routines, nor indeed those who condemned him because of the bitter troubles that happened in the succeeding reign, troubles which were in no means entirely of John's making. Recent historians have turned to the administrative records of his reign, and found there a very different picture; but still the lingering doubts remain--were these records the result of John's skill and application or of those of his able staff?
John was a paunchy little man, five feet five inches tall, with erect head, staring eyes, flaring nostrils and thick lips set in a cruel pout, as his splendid monument at Worcester shows. He had the tempestous nature of all his family, and a driving demoniac energy: Professor Barlow says that 'he prowled around his kingdom,' which is an evocative phrase, but it would be truer to say that he raced around it. He was fastidious about his person--taking more baths than several other medieval kings put together, and owning the ultimate in luxury, for that time, a dressing-gown. He loved good food and drink, and gambled a great deal, though he usually lost--the results of his typical impatience and carelessness are recorded on his expense rolls; above all things he loved women. Some say his 'elopment' was the cause of his loss of Normandy. He was generous to the poor (for instance, he remitted to them the penalties of the forest law), and to his servants; at the least he went through the motions of being a Christian king. He was extortionate, though if one considers the terrific increase in his outgoings (a mercenary soldier cost him 200 per cent more in wages than he would have in Henry II's day) one can understand some of his actions in the field. He was deeply concerned about justice, took care to attend to court business, and listened to supplicants with sympathy; he had also an urgent desire for peace in the land, saying that his peace was to be observed 'even if we have granted it to a dog.' But for all that, he had two totally unredeeming vices; he was suspicious, and enjoyed a cloak-and-dagger atmosphere--simply he did not inspire trust in his subjects. Dr. Warren says of him with some justice that if he had lived in the twentieth centure he would have adored to run a secret police.
He was born at Oxford on Christmas Eve 1167. He was oblated for a monk at the abbey of Fontevrault at the age of one year, but was back at court by the time he was six--plainly he had no vocation, but he probably picked up at this early stage his fastidiousness and his passion for books: his library followed him wherever he went. He was his father's favourite, but he turned against the old man when his chance came, as he did against Richard (who had been very generous to his brother) when the latter was in captivity in 1193. The episode was a miserable failure, but it possibly sowed the seeds of distrust for John in England, where they began to sprout luxuriantly in 1199 when Richard died and John came to the throne.
Immeditaely the challenge came: Philip Augustus, the wily King of France, was backing John's nephew, Prince Arthur of Brittany (son of John's elder brother Geoffrey) as a contender for the throne, and England's French possessions fell prey to civil war. John found grave difficultly in dealing with the situation for a number of reasons, but in 1202 he made the remarkable coup of capturing Arthur by force-marching his troups eighty miles in forty-eight hours; but then his prosecution of the war became listless, and he lost much sympathy by his brutal murder of Arthur whilst in a drunken rage. By 1204 Normandy was lost.
The loss of Normandy seemed to wake John up, and he now deployed his every energy in building up the coastal defences of Britain, now faced with an enemy the other side of the Channel, instead of just more of her own territory. The navy was built up, and the army, and John poured a quarter of his annual revenue into defence. But he could not persuade the baronage to support him in a counterstroke to regain Normandy: the barons of the north country had never owned land in Normandy and did not see why they should pay to regain southerners's castles for them. These 'Northerners' as they called themselves, were a hive of discontent, and more was to be heard from them. Meanwhile, John sailed angrily about in the Channel, cursing ineffectually.
Other troubles were to come first, however. In 1205 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Hubert Walker, died, and John assumed that he would have the choice of the new archbishop. However, Pope Innocent III was no man to support secular control over church appointments, and supported the right of the monks of Canterbury to select their own archbishop. For two years the storms blew betwen England and Rome, then Stephen Langton was appointed. Meanwhile John had driven the monks into exile and appropriated the revenues of the archdiocese. He had fallen out also with his half-brother, Geoffrey Archbishop or York, over tax-collection, and he too fled abroad while John collected his revenues. Four bishops joined in his fight--tension was growing to the snapping point. In 1208 the Pope put an Interdict on England, which in effect meant the clergy went on stike, or, in certain cases and areas, worked to rule. John began negotiations with Innocent, but, finding that he demanded unconditional surrender, stopped them and took over all ecclesiastical properties and incomes. He did leave the clergy sufficient to live, though barely; but he still gained a large increment to his usual finances. In November 1209 the Pope took the final step of excommjunicating the King, which, in that it made him an outlaw in Christendom, did far more damage than the Interdict.
John used his enlarged treasury to restore order in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and to rebuild the old alliance with Otto IV of Germany and the Count of Flanders against Philip Augustus. He planned a two-pronged attack on France, to take place in 1212. But that year turned out an unlucky one for John, for the barons again refused to serve abroad, and the army he had was needed to put down a revolt in Wales; the Pope was threatening to demote him, and Philip Augustus was planning a massive invasion of England. John had to give in in one direction, for the prssure was much too great: he chose the Pope, and wisely so. He agreed to return to the status quo in the matter of church property and establishment, and to pay compensation; he further resigned his kingdom into the hands of the Pope, to receive it back in return for his homage and an annual tribute of 1,000 marks (a mark being two-thirds of a pound].
He had won a notable ally in Innocent III, who supported him faithfully throughout his troubles. Then his fleet, his own creation, had the good luck to find the French fleet at anchor and unprotected, destroyed it, and so made a French invasion impossible. On the crest of a wave, John determined to put his two-pronged invasion plan into action, but once more the northern barons refused to play, and he set off to punish them. Stephen Langton had arrived on the scene by now and managed to persuade John not to provoke the barons further.
In 1214 he finally managed to put his long cherished plan into action, but the two attacks were not properly coordinated; Otto was defeated at Bouvines, and John was deserted by his Poitevin knights.
In 1215 John faced a baronage in turmoil: they could point to the failure of his expensive schemes, he ascribed his failure to their total lack of support. The situation could not be more tense. John's nervousness can be seen in his taking of the cross, a blatant attempt to reinforce his alliance with the papacy. In April the Northerners met at Stamford; they were by now a mixture of northerners and southerners--the name was now merely a nickname--but by and large they were the younger element in the kingdom, roughnecks out for a spree. They moved south and were let into London by a faction, and received the expected encouragement from Philip Augustus in the form of siege engines brought over by one Eustace, a renegade monk turned pirate.
John offered arbitration, but the barons turned it down, and while he put his faith in an appeal to Rome, Stephen Langton, in cooperation with William Marshal and other more stable and sensible barons, were working on the Northerners' demands to incorporate them into a general charter, which would not only govern feudal relationships, but would also lay down a more general pattern of legality in government. On 15 June John fixed his seal to the draft of Magna Carta, and on 19 June attested copies were sent to all parts of the kingdom.
The King did his part thoroughly, though for how long he would have continued is another matter, but the barons continued to distrust him. They remained in arms, organising tournaments as their excuse, saying that the prize would be 'a bear a certain lady would send.' This was civil war, and John took to it with a fiendish glee. He reduced the north and the east, and was about to mop up the remainder of the opposition in London when Philip Augustus' son Louis landed in force to help the barons (May 1216). John had been riding hard for months, and was sick with dysentery after a bout of over-eating; whilst crossing the Wash, the whole of his baggage-train was lost. At Neward Castle on 18 October, he died, desiring to be buried near his patron saint Wulfstan in Worcester Cathedral.
He was by no means a good man, and his energies could well have been put to a better use, but in a different situation he might well have made a great king. His constant failure was discipline, over himself first, and others second. John reminds me of nothing so much as the type of person who is brilliant in many ways, and has many gifts, but leaves after two terms 'not suited to teaching in this type of school.' [Who's Who in the Middle Ages, John Fines, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1995]
Father: Henry II "Curt Mantel" King of ENGLAND b: 5 MAR 1132/33 in Le Mans, Sarthe, Maine/Pays-de-la-Loire, France
Mother: Eleanor of AQUITAINE b: 1123 in Chateau de Belin-Beliet, Gironde, Aquitaine, France
Agatha de FERRERS b: ABT 1169 in Tutbury, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England
- Isabel FITZROY b: ABT 1186
Suzanne Plantagenet de WARENNE b: ABT 1168 in Surrey, England
- Richard FITZROY , Lord of Chilham b: ABT 1186 in Winchester, Hampshire, England
Clemence le BOTELER b: ABT 1175
in No Marriage 5
- Joan PLANTAGENET b: 22 JUL 1190 in Newark Castle, Nottinghamshire, England
Isabel FITZROBERT , 3rd Countess of Gloucester b: ABT 1173 in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, England
29 AUG 1189
in 1st husband 1st wife - Divorced 1199 6
Isabella Taillefer de ANGOULEME b: 1188 in Angouleme, Charente, Poitou-Charentes, France
24 AUG 1200
in Bordeaux, Gironde, France 4
- Henry III Plantagenet King of ENGLAND b: 1 OCT 1207 in Winchester Castle, Winchester, Hampshire, England
- Richard PLANTAGENET , 1st Earl of Cornwall, HRE b: 5 JAN 1208/09 in Winchester Castle, Hampshire, England
- Joan PLANTAGENET , Princess of England b: 22 JUL 1210 in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England
- Isabel Princess of ENGLAND b: 1214 in Winchester, Hampshire, England
- Eleanor PLANTAGENET , Princess of England b: 1215 in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England
- Title: Magna Charta Sureties 1215, Frederick Lewis Weis, additions by Walter Lee Sheppard Jr, 5th Edition, 1999
Page: 88-4, 161-12
- Title: Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists, 7th Edition, by Frederick Lewis Weis, additions by Walter Lee Shippard Jr., 1999
- Title: Complete Peerage of England Scotland Ireland Great Britain and the United Kingdom, by G. E Cokayne, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2000
- Title: Magna Charta Sureties 1215, Frederick Lewis Weis, additions by Walter Lee Sheppard Jr, 5th Edition, 1999
- Title: Newsgroup: soc.genealogy.medieval, at groups - google.com
Page: Douglas Richardson, 14 Nov 2001
- Title: Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 106th Edition, Charles Mosley Editor-in-Chief, 1999