King John: The Phony King of England?

  • Erika 

Last week we took a week off for a funeral. Not very fun, but it was nice to visit with family. This week we jumped forward a few centuries to the 12th century and King John – “The phony King of England’. I told the kids when we started that they would all know who King John was, and none of them believed me. Sure enough though, when I showed them a picture of Disney’s Robin Hood portrayal of King John they all knew something about him. Obviously the movie is dramatized and many elements are fictitious, but they knew he loved money and that taxes were really high.

King John
1167 AD – 1216 AD

Royal Family

  • Youngest child of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, born Dec 1167.
  • Nicknamed John Lackland and John Softsword
  • After his father died, his brother Richard became king.
  • After Richard died in 1199 John became king.
  • Many people thought John’s nephew, Arthur, the son of his older brother Geoffery, should be the king, including Philip II of France.
  • King John from the Robin Hood legends.
Map of Britain 1190 - beginning of King John's reign
Disney's King John

Next King – John or Arthur??

  • King Philip attacked Normandy, which was controlled by Britain at that time, in support of Arthur’s claim to the throne.
  • King John is thought to have killed Arthur.
  • After the death of Arthur, King Philip took away most of King John’s French possessions, greatly affecting John’s income.

King John Begins to Anger the Barons

  • Due to losing income generating areas of France, trying to regain them, and the cost of the Crusades, King John was in constant need for money.
  • John raised taxes incredibly high
  • The king increased the fees that baron’s had to pay to inherit property and when their daughters got married.
  • He would keep land that was to be passed on (whether from barons or the church) and take the income from those lands.
  • He would release people who had committed crimes if they paid him enough money.

And Now King John Angers the Pope

  • John refused the Pope’s appointment of Stephen Langton as the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1205. 
  • As a result King John was excommunicated and all of the churches in England were closed for 6 years.
  • King John eventually backed down after the Pope declared that John no longer had a right to call himself the king.
  • John was also afraid for his life, and worried about his eternal salvation (at that time people who were excommunicated were believed to not be able to enter Heaven).

The Magna Carta

  • The barons and overtaxed merchants were finally so fed up they drafted a charter detailing the powers a king should hold and those that were the rights of the people – Magna Carta. (This document was critical in the formation of most democracies since.)
  • King John quickly broke the promises he made in the charter and the barons made war on him.
  • John made his way to Newark Castle, losing his baggage train to an incoming tide on the way that held his belongings, including some of the crown jewels he had inherited from his grandmother.
  • He died of dysentery at Newark.

Magna Carta - King John forced to sign
Britain 1215 - End of King John's reign

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