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HOME   -   PEOPLE IN HISTORY A-Z   -   KING JOHN OF ENGLAND

 
   


King John of England, 1167 - 1216

 

John of England 1167 - 1216

King John was the one who had to sign the  Magna Carta after his barons revolted.

John ruled England 1199 - 1216 and was an educated man who loved hunting and traveling.

With the dark side of his personality he could also be a suspicious, unforgiving, and double-crossing weasel.


 

John's nickname was John Lackland, or as the French called him Jean Sans Terre.

 

John's Famous Family

John's father was  Henry II. His mother was the beautiful and smart  Eleanor of Aquitaine, who by the way was brilliantly depicted by the great Katherine Hepburn in the movie  The Lion in Winter.

Back to John.

Henry and Eleanor had five sons and three daughters.

The oldest son was William who died at age three. Henry Jr. was son number two. Son number three was John's very famous brother
 Richard the Lionheart. Number four was  Geoffrey. John was his parents' youngest son and his father's favorite.

John's sisters were Matilda, Eleanor Jr., and Joan.

John's mother Eleanor was married once before — to Louis VII. The marriage was annulled in the year 1152. Eleanor and Louis had two daughters.

 

1167 - 1188

It was the year 1173. John was 16 years old. John's father had it all figured out. His favorite son would marry the daughter of Humbert III, count of Maurienne (Savoy), which would mean lots of lands for John. Unfortunately for John, the marriage proposal didn't sit right with John's elder brothers, a greedy bunch. The brothers started a rebellion during the years 1173 - 1174.

See also the Anglo-Norman Rebellion of 1173


This marriage was off and father Henry arranged another marriage via which John would become the Earl of Gloucester.

In 1177, John was given the lordship of Ireland. John went and visited Ireland in April 1185 and stayed until late 1185. While in Ireland, John partied the house down, which didn't help his reputation.

Father Henry kept preferring son John. John's brother Richard was finally fed up with it and raised serious stink. John, son of a smart mother, figured that father Henry would probably kick the bucket fairly soon. So John made friends with Richard and turned against his father.

 

1189 - 1199

Richard became king after the death of his father in 1189. Richard was very generous towards his brother John. He made him Count of Mortain, France, and gave him lands and revenues in England.

MAP LOCATION OF MORTAIN, FRANCE
MAP LOCATION OF MORTAIN, FRANCE


As it had already been arranged by his father, John now married Isabella, heiress to the earldom of Gloucester.

Richard was no fool. When he was fixing to go on  crusade, he made his brother John promise not to enter England while he was away. John promised and kept his word. That is, until October 1190, when Richard announced that their nephew  Arthur I, son of their late brother  Geoffrey, would be successor to the throne.

This ticked John off and he returned to England in order to kick butt and take names.

During Richard's absence (1190 - 1191),  William Longchamp and  Hugh de Puiset were entrusted with the running of the country. William soon managed to get rid of Hugh. William was loyal to Richard, but he was a Frenchman.

John thought this was an opportune time to convince the English citizens that he, John, should become king. Now.

Thus, in 1191, John declared himself ruler. Many people, however, kept their loyalty to Richard and disliked John's presumptuous actions. In addition, clever and powerful mother Eleanor wished to see her son Richard on the throne, rather than her son John.

In January 1193, John received news that Richard, on his way back from the crusade, had been imprisoned in Germany by Holy German Emperor  Henry VI. John thought that was excellent news and teamed up with French King  Philip II to get some backup to take over the throne for good.

But easier planned than done. Richard's loyal supporters forced John to accept a truce in April 1193.

John continued scheming with Philip. On paper, they divided Richard's belongings amongst each other, just in case something actually should happen to Richard, God forbid. To make sure it would, they were also planning a rebellion in England.


When Richard came back to England in early 1194, he issued John a one-way ticked into exile and all his lands were confiscated. John apologized to Richard and, amazingly enough, Richard forgave him. By May 1194, the brothers were best friends again. Richard gave John back some of his estates including Mortain and Ireland.

But there was still the nephew Arthur issue that John wanted to be taken care of. And solved it got. In 1196, the Brits handed Arthur over to Philip II of France. Dungeon storage optional. Richard announced that John would be his successor, Arthur who?

 

King of England 1199 - 1216

Richard died in April 1199 and John became king of England. Finally. But not undisputed. The people weren't blind and some thought that Arthur had been dealt a foul hand.

Greedy Philip II of France decided there was potentially some money to be made with his prisoner, Arthur. Philip switched game plans and loyalties, turned against John, voted for Arthur as English ruler, and organized a propaganda campaign accordingly. In Anjou and Maine everybody was convinced that Arthur was the rightful king of England. Death to John.


A year down the road: