Number eight in the series of: “The Naughty Nine, Badly Behaved Monarchs and Regents of England” is non-other than King John. Known as John Lackland, King John was the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the younger brother of Richard I. During his reign, he was strong-armed in accepting the Magna Carta and lost most of England’s assets in France.
John was Henry’s favourite son, however Henry was not able to bequeath to him the lands he had wanted; therefore the nickname of “Lackland” was created. Still he was given the lordship of Ireland and the succession to the earldom of Gloucester. In 1185 John traveled Ireland for several months and netted a reputation for irresponsibility and negligence, none which appeared to rule out his favor in his father’s eyes.
In July of 1189, Richard became King. John was given the titles of Count of Mortain, Lord of Ireland, given finances, land and married the Heiress to Gloucester, Isabella. There was price for titles, marriage, money and land: John was to not set foot in England while Richard was away on crusade.
John reneged on his promise. Upon Richard naming their nephew Arthur (who was the son of their late brother Geoffrey) as his heir, John decided it was high time for a return to England. News traveled back that Richard was apprehended by Emperor Henry VI. This gave John the notion to combine his volunteer army with King Philip II of France and attempt to seize control of the realm. Richard returned in 1194 and John’s punishments for his transgressions were banishment and all his lands were seized from him. Later in May of the same year, he reunited with his brother and recouped several of the lands lost earlier.
Soon after Richard’s death, John became The Duke of Normandy, and in May was crowned King of England. In 1199 John had his marriage to Isabella annulled on claims they were related by blood. He married another Isabella, the heiress to Angoulême, who at the time was betrothed to Hugh IX de Lusignan. The next year the Lusignans likely angered by John’s marriage, dissented and sought out the help of Philip. King Philip demanded John to come before him. John being John rebuffed and war followed.
With nearly all of his French assets lost, John had no choice but to stay in England. With his losses and arrogance, John did not have the enamored following as he once did. He devised a scheme to recoup his losses through unrealistic taxes and exploiting his entitlements. His actions would soon be the foundation for the tyranny allegations that would he would be accused of.
John was soon excommunicated after falling out of favour with the Pope in the choice of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This meant England was no longer under the security of the church and no services performed. Even after all that, John was secretly storing as money as possible, which in turn caused the currency to be greatly devalued. As he continued to ruin the economy he required the nobles to pay him in order for them to retain their lands. Although John conceded with the Church and the excommunication was lifted, it did not get any better.
The despotic policies and merciless taxation to fund the war in France had John in such a battle with his Barons it became known as The Barons War. In 1215 insurgent Baron leaders trooped on London where they were greeted by a swelling crowd of defectors from John’s royalist followers. The demands of this group would soon turn into the most pivotal document in English history: the Magna Carta.
John realising peace would be the better option met them at Runnymede on 15th June 1215 to agree to their demands and seal the Magna Carta. It was a significant document which fixed parameters on the powers of the King, laid out the feudal responsibilities of the barons, confirmed the rights of the Church, and granted privileges to all freemen of the realm and their heirs forever. It was the first written constitution.
His allowances did not guarantee peace for long as the Barons’ War continued. The barons pursued French assistance and Prince Louis of France landed in England reinforced by attacks from the North by Alexander II of Scotland. John escaped and according to what history says, he lost most of his personal belongings and the crown jewels when crossing the tidal estuaries of the Wash. John contracted dysentery and died at Newark Castle in October 1216.
John’s reputation was tarnished, even as he was still alive. His distrustful and arrogant attitude mired his diplomatic capabilities. His vengeful ways and fights with his barons made it problematic and even intolerable for anyone to hold him in positive favour. John lacked the honour and trustworthiness that people look for in a monarch. His few positive qualities cannot compensate his for his deceit and tyranny. He may have been cultured, well-travelled and literate, but that cannot outweigh his deceit and tyrannical ways. Therefore his addition as number eight on the list of “The Naughty Nine” is hereby declared.
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