Bits & Pieces on King John

King John is best known for signing the Magna Carta, a document that established the principle that the king was subject to the law and limited his power. His initial reaction to the Magna Carta, which also granted certain liberties to his feudal barons, was one of anger and resistance. He reneged on the agreement after signing it in June 1215, and even sought the help of the Pope to annul it. His barons rebelled with the aid of the Scots and the French, in what is known as the First Barons’ War.

Magna Carta – file provided by the British Library from its digital collections. Public domain.

More trivia on King John

  1. He was called John “Lackland” because he was not given any land by his father, King Henry II, when each of his brothers were granted land, including Hal (Normandy), Geoffrey (Brittany (through his marriage)), and Richard (Aquitaine).
  2. John is known for the break up of the Angevin Empire, losing the lands in France controlled by the English kings, which were inherited by his father, Henry II, and his brother, Richard I.
  3. John was excommunicated by Pope Innocent III in November 1209 for several reasons, including his refusal to accept the Pope’s choice for the Archbishop of Canterbury and his attempts to interfere with the Church’s judicial authority.
  4. After the French prince Louis invaded England in May 1216 and rebels took London, John fled to the west to secure his castles in the Marches. By mid-September he had turned east, intent on intercepting the Scots who’d gone to Dover to offer fealty to Louis. He missed the Scots, but chased rebels from Lincoln and headed further east. Crossing the Wash near King’s Lynn, John’s baggage train, and supposedly his royal treasury, was lost to rising tides in the marsh.
  5. John died of dysentery at Newark Castle about a week after losing his treasury in October 1216.

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