(-1216), King of England (1199-1216)
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John was elected as the third Plantagenet king of England on the death of his crusading brother, Richard I the Lion Heart in 1199. Although able, he became nortorious for his misrule which resulted in the barons and Church forcing him to grant the Magna Carta, the Great Charter of liberties to avert civil war in 1215.

King John was a man of great ability which was rarely glimpsed during his reign which was marked by the more base aspects of his nature. History has regarded him as the worst King that ever ruled England - so much so that no royal child has since born his name. Yet the ignobility of this king did England a great if unwitting service for the magnates, the clergy and the commonality became so incensed with their monarch towards the end of his reign that they conspired together to make King John seal the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 by the Thames - the Great Charter which established clearly that henceforth no person, whatever his rank, was above the law of the land and that none could change the law without general assent.

John was invested as the duke of Normandy on the death of his brother, Richard I in and crowned king of England in May.

His nephew Arthur I, duke of Brittany, backed up by King Philip II of France, was recognized as Richard's successor in Anjou and Maine. In 1200, by the Treaty of Le Goulet, John was recognized as successor in all of Richard I's French possessions in return for financial and territorial concessions to Philip II.

It was early in King Johns reign however that he lost most of the French possessions which had come to the Kings of England with the crowning of Henry II (1189- 1189). When the barons of Normandy rallied around John's feudal lord King Phillip II of France who had declared the dukedom to be forfeit, the barons of England were so disgusted with John's misrule that they refused to ride with him to do battle.

During the final year of John's reign, some half of the magnates of England conspired to put Louis the dauphin (crown-prince) on the English throne but on John's death of dysentry in 1216 all rallied around his son who was crowned Henry III.

Following his abortive campaign in France, King John returned to England in October 1214 to face much widespread discontent, centred mainly on the northern, East Anglian, and home counties. After lengthy negotiations in which both the king and the barons appealed to the Pope, civil war broke out in May 1215.

The king was forced to negotiate again when London went over to the rebel barons in May. On June 19 he accepted the baronial terms embodied in the Magna Carta at Runnymede. The Great Charter ensured feudal rights and restated English law.

The more intransigent of the barons soon rendered the settlement unworkable and the king almost immediately appeal to Pope Innocent against it, claiming it had been extracted from him under duress. Pope Innocent supported the King's side and the country was again thrown into civil war. King John captured Rochester castle and proceeded to lay waste to the northern counties and the Scottish border.

The dauphin Louis (later Louis VIII of France) invaded England at the invitation of the barons and weakened the king's cause. Although King John continued to prosecute the war vigorously, his death in 1216 left the issues undecided.

King John's death made peace possible by way of compromise; the rebel barons were restored; his son succeeded to the throne as King Henry III and the dauphin Louis returned to France.

King John died on October 19th, 1216, at Newark Castle in Nottinghamshire and is buried at Worcester Cathedral.

With the loss of the Duchy of Normandy the barons of Norman blood who held estates on both sides of the English Channel lost their Norman holdings and were thus forced to soon think of themselves as English.

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Early Years

The youngest (fifth) and favourite son of King Henry II (1154-1189) and Eleanor of Aquitaine, John was born on December 24th, 1166 or 1667. As the youngest son, he could expect no inheritance and thus was surnamed "Lackland".

In 1173, Henry II planned to assign to John extensive lands on his marriage to the daughter of Humbert III, count of Maurienne (Savoy) but the scheme was defeated by the rebellion it provoked among John's elder brothers, Henry and Richard. Various provisions were made for him in England from 1174 to 1176, including his succession to the earldom of Gloucester.

John was also granted the lordship of Ireland in 1177. He visited ireland from April 1185 till late in the year and acquired a reputation for reckless irresponsibility. Despite this, he continued in his father's favour, contributing to the rebellion in June 1189 of his older surviving brother, later Richard I, Coeur de Lion (Lion Heart) during which, for reasons which remain obscure, he deserted his father for the cause of his brother.

On the accession of his brother as Richard I in July 1189, John was made count of Moratin, confirmed as lord of Ireland, granted lands and revenues in England worth �6,000 per annum and married to Isabella, heiress to the earldom of Gloucester.

In March 1190, John promised not to enter England during the absence of his brother the king during his England, an oath which he broke when Richard I reconised his nephew, the three-year-old Arthur I, duke of Brittany, and son of his deceased elder brother Geoffrey as his heir to the throne in October, 1190.

John led the opposition to Richard I's chancellor, William Longchamp, and, on recieving the news in January 1193 that Richard I, had been imprisoned in Germany on his way back from the Richard I, allied himself with King Philip II Augustus of France in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the English throne. Although John was was forced to accept a truce in April, he made further arrangements with Philip for the division of Richard I's possessions and for rebellion in England.

On Richard's return early in 1194, John was banished from the kingdom and deprived of all his lands. Reconciled with the King in May 1195, he recovered some of his estates, including Mortain and Ireland.

It was only after the Bretons had surrendered Arthur to Philip II in 1196 that John was fully rehabilitated and Richard I recognized him as his heir.

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Seige of Rochester Castle

Following the breakdown of the settlement reached by the Magna Carta of 1215, King John left for the continent to raise a mercenary army with which to fight the barons. In May 1216, during the king's absence, London went over to the cause of the barons. The king landed at Dover with his army of foreign mercenaries in September and the barons captured Rochester to bar his route to London.

The first challenge to the barons at Rochester came on Wednesday, September 30th when, under a blanket of arrows loosed by their longbows, the barons poured down the castle hill to totally overwhelm the small expeditionary force sent by King John.

Two days later, a larger force arrived to deal witht he rebels. The barons again poured forth from the castle but their force was split into two, one half enticed over the wooden bridge crossing the river Medway which protected one side of the castle. Having drawn the force over the bridge, the royal army burnt it behind them by catapulting jars of burning pitch at the wooden structure. Thus isolated, Robert Fitzwalter was forced to return to London.

Simon de Montford was to burn another wooden London built on the site of the 1216 structure with fireships, fifty years later.

The remaining rebels still held the castle which had recently been refurbished by the king at great expense. On November 11th, the royal forces broke through the twenty-foot high curtain wall of the castle and forced a hundred of the rebels to retreat to the five-storey keep, only seventy feet square (although the tallest of its kind in England, at 113 feet high).

The king himself arrived at Rochester to take command of his army. The barons had not counted on a protracted seige and, although possessed of a well within the keep, lack of provisions soon forced them to kill and eat their steeds.

Besieged and starving, picked off by the king's barons (a weapon which could pick off a soldier at 500 feet and was thought so dreadfull the church had tried to ban its use three times), and bombarded with burning pitch, and dead animals to spread disease within the keep, the barons were bound to face defeat in time but the king could not afford to wait - not only was his mercenary army costing £1,000 a day, but rumour was rife that the dauphin Louis might invade to aid the barons and claim the English crown as his own.

King John is reputed to have had those rebels who surrendered killed (contrary to the accepted rules of warfare at the time) and their mutilated bodies catapulted back into the keep as a warning to the defenders.

While keeping the castle under constant attack to distract the defenders, the King set miners to work to dig beneath the foundations of the south-east tower of the keep, supporting it on wooden props. He ordered forty of the fattest swine to be supplied so that their fat (burning at 1,000°F) could be used to fire the foundations of the tower, the intense heat not only burning the props supporting the tower but also cracking its masonry.

With the south-eastern quarter of the keep destroyed on November 30th, the remainder of the rebels battled on desperately against the King's forces before being fianlly overcome.

King John chose to ignore the accepted conventions of warfare whereby combatants who surrendered were entitled to fair treatment. It is said that the hands and feet of the first defenders were cut off on the orders of the monarch. The captured barons were imprisoned and King John was disauded from hanging the rest of the defenders only by the counsel that such an act might encourage widespread popular discontent. In the vent, only one of the defenders was hanged.

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King Henry III

King John's son who was elected king of England after his death in 1216.

Stephen Langton   (-1228)

The English cardinal whose appointment as archbishop of Canterbury (1207-) precipitated the quarrel between King John and Pope Innocent III, playing an important part in the crisis by which the barons forced the king to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.

Robert Fitzwalter   (-)

Leader of the barons during the rebellion of 1215, Fitzwalter was cut off at the seige of Rochester Castle and forced to return to London.

William the Marshal   (-)

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1166.Dec.24Birth of the future King John, fifth and favourite son of Henry II (1154-1189) by Eleanor of Aquitaine
1173Henry II plans to assign to John (John I)extensive lands on his marriage to the daughter of Humbert III, count of Maurienne (Savoy)
The scheme is thwarted by the rebellion it provoked among John's elder brothers, Henry and Richard
1185.AprPrince John visits Ireland
As Lord of Ireland, he acquires a reputation for reckless irresponsibility
1189.JunHenry II's favouritism of Prince John contributes to the rebellion of his elder brother Richard, later Richard I
For reasons which remain obscure, John deserted his father for the cause of his brother
1189.JulOn the accession of Richard I, Prince John made count of Moratin, confirmed as lord of Ireland, granted lands and revenues in England worth �6,000 per annum and married to Isabella, heiress to the earldom of Gloucester
1190.MarPrince John promises not to enter England during the absence of his brother, king Richard I, on crusade
1190.OctPrince John breaks his oath and returns to England after Richard I reconises thier nephew, the 3-year-old Arthur I, duke of Brittany, and son of their deceased elder brother Geoffrey as his heir
1193.JanNews reaches Prince John that Richard I is imprisoned in Germany while returning from the crusade
He allies himself with King Philip II Augustus of France in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the English throne
1193.AprPrince John forced to accept a truce but further arrangements with Philip II of France for the division of Richard I's possessions and for rebellion in England
1194Prince John banished from the kingdom and deprived of all his lands
1194.MarRichard I lands at Sandwich
1195.MayPrince John reconciled with King Richard I and recovers some of his estates, including Mortain and Ireland
1196Truce concluded between Richard I and Philip Augustus of France
1196Richard I recognises Prince John as his heir
1198.Jan.08Innocent III becomes Pope
1199.MarRichard I wounded by a crossbow bolt shot by Bertrand de Gourdon during the seige of the castle of Chalus
1199.Apr.06Death of king Richard I from a crossbow bolt wound. His brother John becomes king of England
1199.Apr.25Crowning of King John as Duke of Normandy
1199.MayImportant appointments in England
1199.May.27King John crowned king of England
1200.May.22Treaty of le Goulet King John recognized as successor in all of Richard I's French possessions in return for financial and territorial concessions to Philip II of France
1200.AugCrowning of King John and Isabella
1200.Aug.24marriage of King John to Isabella of Angouleme
1200.Nov.22William does homage to King John
1201King John grants a charter to the Stannaries (Cornwall)
1201Strengthening fo Banbury Castle
1201.MayKing John sails to Normandy
1201.JunPhilippe II entertains King John in Paris
1202.Apr.28King John fails to attend the summons to the court of Philip II
circa 1202.AprPhilip II sides with the Lusignans
1202.JulArthur, nephew of King John, knighted
1202.Aug.01Battle of Mirebeau
1203Robert FitzWalter and Saire de Quincey surrender the Castle of Ruil to the King of France when a French army arrives
1203.Apr.03Murder of Arthur, nephew of King John
1204Goodrich given to William Marshal
1204.Apr.01Death of Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of King John
The king loses her political skill and influence in Europe
circa 1204.AprEnglish peace negotiations with France
1204.JunKing John loses Normandy which is taken by Philip II of France
1205.JanRiver Thames freezes over
1205.FebPhilippe II of France plans invasion
1205.JunKing John prepares an invasion
1205.Jul.13Death of Hubert Walter
circa 1205.JulMore English castles in France fall to the French
1205.DecKing John forces election of De Gray
1206.JunKing John defends Aquitaine
1206.Oct.26Truce between King John and Philip II of France
1206.DecStephen Langton selected as Archbishop of Canterbury by the Pope
1207Stephen Langton appointed archbishop of Canterbury
King John refused to acknowledge Langton as archbishop for six years although the country was placed under interdict
1207Earl of Leicester loses his lands
1207Building of Odiham Castle
1207Marshall inherits the lands of Leinster in Ireland
1207.AugPope threatens to place England under an interdict
circa 1208.AprEngland placed under interdict by the Pope
1209Stephen Langton lands at Dover
1209.AugKing John prepares to invade Scotland
1209.NovExcommunication of King John by the Pope
1210Improvement of the defences at Kenilworth Castle
1210.Jun.10King John lands in Ireland
1211Excommunication of King John (1209) is served
1211.JulKing John makes peace with Wales
1212King John extorts money from the barons
1212William gives son as hostage
1212.AugDiscontent of the barons results in an unsuccessful plot to murder or desert King John during a campaign planned against the Welsh
1212.NovKing John accepts te demands of the Pope
1213.MarKing John prepares against invasion by the French
1213.May.30Defeat of the French fleet
1213.JulLifting of the excommunication of King John
1213.Sep.26The Papal envoy arives in England
1213.NovKing John meets the Barons
1214.Feb.01Peter Des Roches become Justiciar
1214.Feb.02King John sails for France
1214.Feb.02+King John lands at La Rochelle to launch his long-planned campaign against the French
(achieving nothing, John was forced to accept a truce lasting until 1220)
1214.Jun.29Interdict on England lifted
1214.Oct.15King John returns from France to face widespread discontent, centred mainly on the northern, East Anglian, and home counties
1214.Dec.04Death of William the Lyon, king of Scotland
1214.Dec.05Alexander II becomes King of the Scots
1215Colchester Castle occupied by the French
1215Fortification of Wallingford Castle
1215.JanKing John meets the Barons in London
1215.Mar.04King John takes oath for crusade
1215.Apr.01The Pope sides with King John against the barons
1215.May.12The Barons' War; civil war breaks out after lengthy negotiations in which both sides appealed to the Pope
1215.May.17London goes over to the rebels, against King John
Largely through the influence of Robert Fitzwalter, standard-bearer of the city
1215.May.27A truce is sought
1215.Jun.19The Magna Carta sealed at Runnymede by King John to stave off civil war with the barons
1215.SepKing John lands at Dover
Rebel barons capture Rochester Castle between the King and London
1215.Sep.30The rebel barons holding Rochester Castle repel a small force sent by King John
1215.Oct.02Forces of the rebel barons holding Rochester Castle are divided and half of them isolated, dispersing or escaping to London
1215.Nov.11Royal forces break through the curtain wall of Rochester Castle
1215.Nov.30King John captures Rochester Castle from the barons after a seige of 7 weeks
1216.FebSmall French fleet lands at London
1216.FebKing John puts down the revolt
1216.May.18King John's fleet hit by a storm
1216.May.21Prince Louis of France claims the English Throne
1216.JunKings John fights rebels in East Anglia
1216.OctKing John attacks Berwick
1216.Oct.19Death of King John (1199-), succeeded by his son as Henry III

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In 1213, King John (1199-1216) ordered hawswers at Bridport, commanding the town to make them 'by night and day'.

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John Lackland
  by K Norgates , 1902

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