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John, King of England

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Title: John, King of England  
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Subject: Henry III of England, Richard I of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England, 1202
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John, King of England

During the truce of 1206–1208, John focused on building up his financial and military resources in preparation for another attempt to recapture Normandy.[143] John used some of this money to pay for new alliances on Philip's eastern frontiers, where the growth in Capetian power was beginning to concern France's neighbours.[143] By 1212 John had successfully concluded alliances with Renault of Dammartin, who controlled Boulogne, and Count Ferdinand of Flanders, as well as Otto IV, a contender for the crown of Holy Roman Emperor in Germany; Otto was also John's nephew.[143] The invasion plans for 1212 were postponed because of fresh English baronial unrest about service in Poitou.[143] Philip seized the initiative in 1213, sending his son, Prince Louis, to invade Flanders with the intention of next launching an invasion of England.[143] John was forced to postpone his own invasion plans to counter this threat. He launched his new fleet to attack the French at the harbour of Damme.[144] The attack was a success, destroying Philip's vessels and any chances of an invasion of England that year.[144] John hoped to exploit this advantage by invading himself late in 1213, but baronial discontent again delayed his invasion plans until early 1214, in what would prove to be his final Continental campaign.[144]

Scotland, Ireland and Wales

A drawing of King John wearing a crown and a red robe. The king is sat down and stroking two hunting dogs.
A 13th-century depiction of John with two hunting dogs

In the late 12th and early 13th centuries the border and political relationship between England and Scotland was disputed, with the kings of Scotland claiming parts of what is now northern England. John's father, Henry II, had forced William of Scotland to swear fealty to him at the Treaty of Falaise in 1174.[145] This had been rescinded by Richard I in exchange for financial compensation in 1189, but the relationship remained uneasy.[146] John began his reign by reasserting his sovereignty over the disputed northern counties. He refused William's request for the earldom of Northumbria, but did not intervene in Scotland itself and focused on his continental problems.[147] The two kings maintained a friendly relationship, meeting in 1206 and 1207,[148] until it was rumoured in 1209 that William was intending to ally himself with Philip II of France.[149] John invaded Scotland and forced William to sign the Treaty of Norham, which gave John control of William's daughters and required a payment of £10,000.[150] This effectively crippled William's power north of the border, and by 1212 John had to intervene militarily to support the Scottish king against his internal rivals.[150][nb 16] John made no efforts to reinvigorate the Treaty of Falaise, though, and both William and Alexander remained independent kings, supported by, but not owing fealty to, John.[152]

John remained Lord of Ireland throughout his reign. He drew on the country for resources to fight his war with Philip on the continent.[153] Conflict continued in Ireland between the Anglo-Norman settlers and the indigenous Irish chieftains, with John manipulating both groups to expand his wealth and power in the country.[153] During Richard's rule, John had successfully increased the size of his lands in Ireland, and he continued this policy as king.[154] In 1210 the king crossed into Ireland with a large army to crush a rebellion by the Anglo-Norman lords; he reasserted his control of the country and used a new charter to order compliance with English laws and customs in Ireland.[155] John stopped short of trying to actively enforce this charter on the native Irish kingdoms, but historian David Carpenter suspects that he might have done so, had the baronial conflict in England not intervened. Simmering tensions remained with the native Irish leaders even after John left for England.[156]

Royal power in Wales was unevenly applied, with the country divided between the marcher lords along the borders, royal territories in Pembrokeshire and the more independent native Welsh lords of North Wales. John took a close interest in Wales and knew the country well, visiting every year between 1204 and 1211 and marrying his illegitimate daughter, Joan, to the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great.[157] The king used the marcher lords and the native Welsh to increase his own territory and power, striking a sequence of increasingly precise deals backed by royal military power with the Welsh rulers.[158] A major royal expedition to enforce these agreements occurred in 1211, after Llywelyn attempted to exploit the instability caused by the removal of William de Braose, through the Welsh uprising of 1211.[159] John's invasion, striking into the Welsh heartlands, was a military success. Llywelyn came to terms that included an expansion of John's power across much of Wales, albeit only temporarily.[159]

Dispute with the Pope

A painting of Pope Innocent III, wearing his formal robes and a tall, pointed hat.
Pope Innocent III, who excommunicated John in 1209

When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Hubert Walter, died on 13 July 1205, John became involved in a dispute with Pope Innocent III that would lead to the king's excommunication. The Norman and Angevin kings had traditionally exercised a great deal of power over the church within their territories. From the 1040s onwards, however, successive popes had put forward a reforming message that emphasised the importance of the church being "governed more coherently and more hierarchically from the centre" and established "its own sphere of authority and jurisdiction, separate from and independent of that of the lay ruler", in the words of historian Richard Huscroft.[160] After the 1140s, these principles had been largely accepted within the English church, albeit with an element of concern about centralising authority in Rome.[161] These changes brought the customary rights of lay rulers such as John over ecclesiastical appointments into question.[161] Pope Innocent was, according to historian Ralph Turner, an "ambitious and aggressive" religious leader, insistent on his rights and responsibilities within the church.[162]

John wanted John de Gray, the Bishop of Norwich and one of his own supporters, to be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury after the death of Walter, but the cathedral chapter for Canterbury Cathedral claimed the exclusive right to elect Walter's successor. They favoured Reginald, the chapter's sub-prior.[163] To complicate matters, the bishops of the province of Canterbury also claimed the right to appoint the next archbishop.[163] The chapter secretly elected Reginald and he travelled to Rome to be confirmed; the bishops challenged the appointment and the matter was taken before Innocent.[164] John forced the Canterbury chapter to change their support to John de Gray, and a messenger was sent to Rome to inform the papacy of the new decision.[165] Innocent disavowed both Reginald and John de Gray, and instead appointed his own candidate, Stephen Langton. John refused Innocent's request that he consent to Langton's appointment, but the pope consecrated Langton anyway in June 1207.[165]

John was incensed about what he perceived as an abrogation of his customary right as monarch to influence the election.[165] He complained both about the choice of Langton as an individual, as John felt he was overly influenced by the Capetian court in Paris, and about the process as a whole.[166] He barred Langton from entering England and seized the lands of the archbishopric and other papal possessions.[166] Innocent set a commission in place to try to convince John to change his mind, but to no avail. Innocent then placed an interdict on England in March 1208, prohibiting clergy from conducting religious services, with the exception of baptisms for the young, and confessions and absolutions for the dying.[167]

A photograph of a tall stone castle keep; most of the towers are square, but one is circular.
Rochester Castle, one of the many properties owned by the disputed archbishopric of Canterbury, and an important fortification in the final years of John's reign

John treated the interdict as "the equivalent of a papal declaration of war".[168] He responded by attempting to punish Innocent personally and to drive a wedge between those English clergy that might support him and those allying themselves firmly with the authorities in Rome.[168] John seized the lands of those clergy unwilling to conduct services, as well as those estates linked to Innocent himself; he arrested the illicit concubines that many clerics kept during the period, only releasing them after the payment of fines; he seized the lands of members of the church who had fled England, and he promised protection for those clergy willing to remain loyal to him.[168] In many cases, individual institutions were able to negotiate terms for managing their own properties and keeping the produce of their estates.[169] By 1209 the situation showed no signs of resolution, and Innocent threatened to excommunicate John if he did not acquiesce to Langton's appointment.[170] When this threat failed, Innocent excommunicated the king in November 1209.[170] Although theoretically a significant blow to John's legitimacy, this did not appear to greatly worry the king.[170] Two of John’s close allies, Emperor Otto and Count Raymond VI of Toulouse, had already suffered the same punishment themselves, and the significance of excommunication had been somewhat devalued.[170] John simply tightened his existing measures and accrued significant sums from the income of vacant sees and abbeys: one 1213 estimate, for example, suggested the church had lost an estimated 100,000 marks (equivalent to £66,666 at the time) to John.[171] Official figures suggest that around 14% of annual income from the English church was being appropriated by John each year.[172]

Innocent gave some dispensations as the crisis progressed.[173] Monastic communities were allowed to celebrate mass in private from 1209 onwards, and late in 1212 the viaticum for the dying was authorised.[174] The rules on burials and lay access to churches appear to have been steadily circumvented, at least unofficially.[173] Although the interdict was a burden to much of the population, it did not result in rebellion against John. By 1213, though, John was increasingly worried about the threat of French invasion.[175] Some contemporary chroniclers suggested that in January Philip II of France had been charged with deposing John on behalf of the papacy, although it appears that Innocent merely prepared secret letters in case Innocent needed to claim the credit if Philip did successfully invade England.[176]

Under mounting political pressure, John finally negotiated terms for a reconciliation, and the papal terms for submission were accepted in the presence of the [181]

Failure in France and the First Barons' War (1215–16)

An illuminated picture of two armies of mounted knights fighting; the French side are on the left, the Imperial on the right.
The French victory at the battle of Bouvines doomed John's plan to retake Normandy in 1214 and led to the First Barons' War.

Tensions and discontent

Tensions between John and the barons had been growing for several years, as demonstrated by the 1212 plot against the king.[182] Many of the disaffected barons came from the north of England; that faction was often labelled by contemporaries and historians as "the Northerners". The northern barons rarely had any personal stake in the conflict in France, and many of them owed large sums of money to John; the revolt has been characterised as "a rebellion of the king's debtors".[183] Many of John's military household joined the rebels, particularly amongst those that John had appointed to administrative roles across England; their local links and loyalties outweighed their personal loyalty to John.[184] Tension also grew across North Wales, where opposition to the 1211 treaty between John and Llywelyn was turning into open conflict.[185] For some the appointment of Peter des Roches as justiciar was an important factor, as he was considered an "abrasive foreigner" by many of the barons.[186] The failure of John's French military campaign in 1214 was probably the final straw that precipitated the baronial uprising during John's final years as king; James Holt describes the path to civil war as "direct, short and unavoidable" following the defeat at Bouvines.[187]

Failure of the 1214 French campaign

In 1214 John began his final campaign to reclaim Normandy from Philip. John was optimistic, as he had successfully built up alliances with the Emperor Otto, Renaud of Boulogne and Count Ferdinand of Flanders; he was enjoying papal favour; and he had successfully built up substantial funds to pay for the deployment of his experienced army.[188] Nonetheless, when John left for Poitou in February 1214, many barons refused to provide military service; mercenary knights had to fill the gaps.[189] John's plan was to split Philip's forces by pushing north-east from Poitou towards Paris, whilst Otto, Renaud and Ferdinand, supported by William Longespée, marched south-west from Flanders.[189]

The first part of the campaign went well, with John outmanoeuvring the forces under the command of Prince Louis and retaking the county of Anjou by the end of June.[190] John besieged the castle of Roche-au-Moine, a key stronghold, forcing Louis to give battle against John's larger army.[191] The local Angevin nobles refused to advance with the king; left at something of a disadvantage, John retreated back to La Rochelle.[191] Shortly afterwards, Philip won the hard-fought battle of Bouvines in the east against Otto and John's other allies, bringing an end to John's hopes of retaking Normandy.[192] A peace agreement was signed in which John returned Anjou to Philip and paid the French king compensation; the truce was intended to last for six years.[192] John arrived back in England in October.[192]

Pre-war tensions and Magna Carta

A photograph of a page of Magna Carta, a wide page of dense, small medieval writing.
An original version of Magna Carta, agreed by John and the barons in 1215

Within a few months of John's return, rebel barons in the north and east of England were organising resistance to his rule.[193] John held a council in London in January 1215 to discuss potential reforms and sponsored discussions in Oxford between his agents and the rebels during the spring.[194] John appears to have been playing for time until Pope Innocent III could send letters giving him explicit papal support. This was particularly important for John, as a way of pressuring the barons but also as a way of controlling Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury.[195] In the meantime, John began to recruit fresh mercenary forces from Poitou, although some were later sent back to avoid giving the impression that the king was escalating the conflict.[194] John announced his intent to become a crusader, a move which gave him additional political protection under church law.[196]

Letters of support from the pope arrived in April but by then the rebel barons had organised. They congregated at [198]

John met the rebel leaders at Runnymede, near Windsor Castle, on 15 June 1215.[198] Langton's efforts at mediation created a charter capturing the proposed peace agreement; it was later renamed Magna Carta, or "Great Charter".[199] The charter went beyond simply addressing specific baronial complaints, and formed a wider proposal for political reform, albeit one focusing on the rights of free men, not serfs and unfree labour.[200] It promised the protection of church rights, protection from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, new taxation only with baronial consent and limitations on scutage and other feudal payments.[201] A council of twenty-five neutral barons would be created to monitor and ensure John's future adherence to the charter, whilst the rebel army would stand down and London would be surrendered to the king.[202]

Neither John nor the rebel barons seriously attempted to implement the peace accord.[202] The rebel barons suspected that the proposed baronial council would be unacceptable to John and that he would challenge the legality of the charter; they packed the baronial council with their own hardliners and refused to demobilise their forces or surrender London as agreed.[203] Despite his promises to the contrary, John appealed to Innocent for help, observing that the charter compromised the pope's rights under the 1213 agreement that had appointed him John's feudal lord.[204] Innocent obliged; he declared the charter "not only shameful and demeaning, but illegal and unjust" and excommunicated the rebel barons.[204] The failure of the agreement led rapidly to the First Barons' War.[204]

War with the barons

A map of England showing King John's march north and back south with solid black and dashed arrows.
John's campaign from September 1215 to March 1216

The rebels made the first move in the war, seizing the strategic Rochester Castle, owned by Langton but left almost unguarded by the archbishop.[205] John was well prepared for a conflict. He had stockpiled money to pay for mercenaries and ensured the support of the powerful marcher lords with their own feudal forces, such as William Marshal and Ranulf of Chester.[206] The rebels lacked the engineering expertise or heavy equipment necessary to assault the network of royal castles that cut off the northern rebel barons from those in the south.[207] John's strategy was to isolate the rebel barons in London, protect his own supply lines to his key source of mercenaries in Flanders, prevent the French from landing in the south-east, and then win the war through slow attrition.[205] John put off dealing with the badly deteriorating situation in North Wales, where Llywelyn the Great was leading a rebellion against the 1211 settlement.[208]

John's campaign started well. In November John retook Rochester Castle from rebel baron William d'Aubigny in a sophisticated assault. One chronicler had not seen "a siege so hard pressed or so strongly resisted", whilst historian Reginald Brown describes it as "one of the greatest [siege] operations in England up to that time".[209] Having regained the south-east John split his forces, sending William Longespée to retake the north side of London and East Anglia, whilst John himself headed north via Nottingham to attack the estates of the northern barons.[210] Both operations were successful and the majority of the remaining rebels were pinned down in London.[210] In January 1216 John marched against Alexander II of Scotland, who had allied himself with the rebel cause.[211] John took back Alexander's possessions in northern England in a rapid campaign and pushed up towards Edinburgh over a ten-day period.[211]

The rebel barons responded by inviting Prince Louis of France to lead them: Louis had a claim to the English throne by virtue of his marriage to Blanche of Castile, a granddaughter of Henry II.[212] Philip may have provided him with private support but refused to openly support Louis, who was excommunicated by Innocent for taking part in the war against John.[212] Louis' planned arrival in England presented a significant problem for John, as the prince would bring with him naval vessels and siege engines essential to the rebel cause.[213] Once John contained Alexander in Scotland, he marched south to deal with the challenge of the coming invasion.[211]

Prince Louis intended to land in the south of England in May 1216, and John assembled a naval force to intercept him.[210] Unfortunately for John, his fleet was dispersed by bad storms and Louis landed unopposed in [214] John saw several of his military household desert to the rebels, including his half-brother, William Longespée. By the end of the summer the rebels had regained the south-east of England and parts of the north.[214]


A photograph of the tomb of King John; a large carved, square, stone block supports a carved effigy of the king lying down.
King John's tomb in Worcester Cathedral

In September 1216 John began a fresh, vigorous attack. He marched from the Cotswolds, feigned an offensive to relieve the besieged Windsor Castle, and attacked eastwards around London to Cambridge to separate the rebel-held areas of Lincolnshire and East Anglia.[215] From there he travelled north to relieve the rebel siege at Lincoln and back east to King's Lynn, probably to order further supplies from the continent.[216][nb 17] In King's Lynn, John contracted dysentery, which would ultimately prove fatal.[216] Meanwhile, Alexander II invaded northern England again, taking Carlisle in August and then marching south to give homage to Prince Louis for his English possessions; John narrowly missed intercepting Alexander along the way.[217] Tensions between Louis and the English barons began to increase, prompting a wave of desertions, including William Marshal's son William and William Longespée, who both returned to John's faction.[218]

The king returned west but is said to have lost a significant part of his baggage train along the way.[219] Roger of Wendover provides the most graphic account of this, suggesting that the king's belongings, including the Crown Jewels, were lost as he crossed one of the tidal estuaries which empties into the Wash, being sucked in by quicksand and whirlpools.[219] Accounts of the incident vary considerably between the various chroniclers and the exact location of the incident has never been confirmed; the losses may have involved only a few of his pack-horses.[220] Modern historians assert that by October 1216 John faced a "stalemate", "a military situation uncompromised by defeat".[221]

John's illness grew worse and by the time he reached Newark Castle he was unable to travel any farther; John died on the night of 18 October.[4][222] Numerous – probably fictitious – accounts circulated soon after his death that he had been killed by poisoned ale, poisoned plums or a "surfeit of peaches".[223] His body was escorted south by a company of mercenaries and he was buried in Worcester Cathedral in front of the altar of St Wulfstan.[224] A new sarcophagus with an effigy was made for him in 1232, in which his remains now rest.[225]


In the aftermath of John's death William Marshal was declared the protector of the nine-year-old Henry III.[226] The civil war continued until royalist victories at the battles of Lincoln and Dover in 1217. Louis gave up his claim to the English throne and signed the Treaty of Lambeth.[226] The failed Magna Carta agreement was resuscitated by Marshal's protectorate and reissued in an edited form in 1217 as a basis for future government.[227] Henry III continued his attempts to reclaim Normandy and Anjou until 1259, but John's continental losses and the consequent growth of Capetian power in the 13th century proved to mark a "turning point in European history".[228]

John's first wife, Isabel, Countess of Gloucester, was released from imprisonment in 1214; she remarried twice, and died in 1217. John's second wife, Isabella of Angoulême, left England for Angoulême soon after the king's death; she became a powerful regional leader, but largely abandoned the children she had had by John.[229] John had five legitimate children, all by Isabella. His eldest son, Henry III, ruled as king for the majority of the 13th century. Richard became a noted European leader and ultimately the King of the Romans in the Holy Roman Empire.[230] Joan married Alexander II of Scotland to become his queen consort.[150] Isabella married the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.[231] His youngest daughter, Eleanor, married William Marshal's son, also called William, and later the famous English rebel Simon de Montfort.[232] John had a number of illegitimate children by various mistresses, including nine sons – Richard, Oliver, John, Geoffrey, Henry, Osbert Gifford, Eudes, Bartholomew and probably Philip – and three daughters – Joan, Maud and probably Isabel.[233] Of these, Joan became the most famous, marrying Prince Llywelyn the Great of Wales.[234]


A medieval sketch of Matthew Paris, dressed as a monk and on his hands and knees.
Matthew Paris, one of the first historians of John's reign

Historical interpretations of John have been subject to considerable change over the years. Medieval chroniclers provided the first contemporary, or near contemporary, histories of John's reign. One group of chroniclers wrote early in John's life, or around the time of his accession, including Richard of Devizes, William of Newburgh, Roger of Hoveden and Ralph de Diceto.[235] These historians were generally unsympathetic to John's behaviour under Richard's rule, but slightly more positive towards the very earliest years of John's reign.[236] Reliable accounts of the middle and later parts of John's reign are more limited, with Gervase of Canterbury and Ralph of Coggeshall writing the main accounts; neither of them were positive about John's performance as king.[237] Much of John's later, negative reputation was established by two chroniclers writing after the king's death, Roger of Wendover and Matthew Paris, the latter claiming that John attempted conversion to Islam, a story which is considered to be untrue by modern historians.[238]

In the 16th century political and religious changes altered the attitude of historians towards John. Tudor historians were generally favourably inclined towards the king, focusing on John's opposition to the Papacy and his promotion of the special rights and prerogatives of a king. Revisionist histories written by John Foxe, William Tyndale and Robert Barnes portrayed John as an early Protestant hero, and John Foxe included the king in his Book of Martyrs.[239] John Speed's Historie of Great Britaine in 1632 praised John's "great renown" as a king; he blamed the bias of medieval chroniclers for the king's poor reputation.[240]

A photograph of the wood block print of the Book of Martyrs. The book's title is in the centre and various scenes from the book are depicted around it.
John Foxe's Book of Martyrs, officially titled Acts and Monuments, which took a positive view of John's reign

By the Victorian period in the 19th century historians were more inclined to draw on the judgements of the chroniclers and to focus on John's moral personality. [241] Historians in the "Whiggish" tradition, focusing on documents such as the Domesday Book and Magna Carta, trace a progressive and universalist course of political and economic development in England over the medieval period.[242] These historians were often inclined to see John's reign, and his signing of Magna Carta in particular, as a positive step in the constitutional development of England, despite the flaws of the king himself.[242] Winston Churchill, for example, argued that "[w]hen the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns".[243]

In the 1940s, new interpretations of John's reign began to emerge, based on research into the record evidence of his reign, such as pipe rolls, charters, court documents and similar primary records. Notably, an essay by Vivian Galbraith in 1945 proposed a "new approach" to understanding the ruler.[244] The use of recorded evidence was combined with an increased scepticism about two of the most colourful chroniclers of John's reign, Roger of Wendover and Matthew Paris.[245] In many cases the detail provided by these chroniclers, both writing after John's death, was challenged by modern historians.[246] Interpretations of Magna Carta and the role of the rebel barons in 1215 have been significantly revised: although the charter's symbolic, constitutional value for later generations is unquestionable, in the context of John's reign most historians now consider it a failed peace agreement between "partisan" factions.[247] There has been increasing debate about the nature of John's Irish policies. Specialists in Irish medieval history, such as Sean Duffy, have challenged the conventional narrative established by Lewis Warren, suggesting that Ireland was less stable by 1216 than was previously supposed.[248]

Most historians today, including John's recent biographers Ralph Turner and Lewis Warren, argue that John was an unsuccessful monarch, but note that his failings were exaggerated by 12th- and 13th-century chroniclers.[2] Jim Bradbury notes the current consensus that John was a "hard-working administrator, an able man, an able general", albeit, as Turner suggests, with "distasteful, even dangerous personality traits", including pettiness, spitefulness and cruelty.[249] John Gillingham, author of a major biography of Richard I, follows this line too, although he considers John a less effective general than do Turner or Warren; Bradbury takes a moderate line, but suggests that in recent years modern historians have been overly lenient towards John's numerous faults.[250] Popular historian Frank McLynn maintains a counter-revisionist perspective on John, arguing that the king's modern reputation amongst historians is "bizarre", and that as a monarch John "fails almost all those [tests] that can be legitimately set".[251]

Popular representations

A photograph of the first page of Shakespeare's play
Shakespeare's play The Life and Death of King John

Popular representations of John first began to emerge during the Tudor period, mirroring the revisionist histories of the time.[239] The anonymous play The Troublesome Reign of King John portrayed the king as a "proto-Protestant martyr", similar to that shown in John Bale's morality play Kynge Johan, in which John attempts to save England from the "evil agents of the Roman Church".[252] By contrast, Shakespeare's King John, a relatively anti-Catholic play that draws on The Troublesome Reign for its source material, offers a more "balanced, dual view of a complex monarch as both a proto-Protestant victim of Rome's machinations and as a weak, selfishly motivated ruler".[253] Anthony Munday's play The Downfall and The Death of Robert Earl of Huntington portrays many of John's negative traits, but adopts a positive interpretation of the king's stand against the Roman Catholic Church, in line with the contemporary views of the Tudor monarchs.[254] By the middle of the 17th century, plays such as Robert Davenport's King John and Matilda, although based largely on the earlier Elizabethan works, were transferring the role of Protestant champion to the barons and focusing more on the tyrannical aspects of John's behaviour.[255]

Nineteenth-century fictional depictions of John were heavily influenced by Sir Walter Scott's historical romance, Ivanhoe, which presented "an almost totally unfavourable picture" of the king; the work drew on Victorian histories of the period and on Shakespeare's play.[256] Scott's work influenced the late 19th-century children's writer Howard Pyle's book The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, which in turn established John as the principal villain within the traditional Robin Hood narrative.[257] During the 20th century, John was normally depicted in fictional books and films alongside Robin Hood. Sam De Grasse's role as John in the black-and-white 1922 film version shows John committing numerous atrocities and acts of torture.[258] Claude Rains played John in the 1938 colour version alongside Errol Flynn, starting a trend for films to depict John as an "effeminate ... arrogant and cowardly stay-at-home".[259] The character of John acts either to highlight the virtues of King Richard, or contrasts with the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is usually the "swashbuckling villain" opposing Robin.[259] An extreme version of this trend can be seen in the Disney cartoon version, for example, which depicts John, voiced by Peter Ustinov, as a "cowardly, thumbsucking lion".[260] Popular works that depict John beyond the Robin Hood legends, such as James Goldman's play and later film, The Lion in Winter, set in 1183, commonly present him as an "effete weakling", in this instance contrasted with the more masculine Henry II.[261]



  1. ^ Historians are divided in their use of the terms "Plantagenet" and "Angevin" in regards to Henry II and his sons. Some class Henry II to be the first Plantagenet King of England; others refer to Henry, Richard and John as the Angevin dynasty, and consider Henry III to be the first Plantagenet ruler.
  2. ^ The term [6]
  3. ^ Henry II also bit and gnawed his fingers; extreme rage is considered by many historians to be a trait of the Angevin kings.[20]
  4. ^ Nonetheless, the treaty did offer Arthur certain protections as John's vassal.[62]
  5. ^ Angoulême and Limoges were strategically located counties that had traditionally exercised a high degree of autonomy. They formed a key route for communications between Anjou and Gascony. Many of the details surrounding these counties during this period are uncertain and subject to historical debate, but it would appear that both the English and French dynasties had been attempting to apply influence and build alliances with the key families in the region for many years before the flash point in 1202.[65]
  6. ^ This interpretation has been challenged by John Gillingham, whose minority view is that Richard, unlike John, successfully defended Normandy with a similar level of military resources.[71]
  7. ^ Although all modern biographers of John believe that he had his rival, Arthur, killed, the details of the Margam Abbey account can be questioned; as Frank McLynn points out, the Welsh monks appear "curiously well-informed" about the details of the incident in France.[72]
  8. ^ For positive interpretations of John's military skills in the campaign see Kate Norgate, who argues that John's attempt to relieve Château Gaillard was a "masterpiece of ingenuity"; Ralph Turner terms his performance as a general "capable"; Lewis Warren places the blame on John's inability to inspire loyalty amongst the local nobles, rather than a simple lack of military skill. Frank McLynn is more damning, describing the military aspects of the campaign as a "disastrous failure".[75]
  9. ^ David Carpenter provides an accessible summary of Power's argument on the collapse of Normandy.[78]
  10. ^ The degree to which John was a genuine innovator in financial matters, as opposed to simply embracing expediency, has been contested. Frank Barlow, for example, argues that he was exercising a policy of expediency rather than genuine reform.[98]
  11. ^ One consequence of this was an expansion of the wine trade with the Continent. In 1203, the citizens and merchants of Bordeaux were exempted from the Grande Coutume, which was the principal tax on their exports. In exchange, the regions of Bordeaux, Bayonne and Dax pledged support against the French Crown. The unblocked ports gave Gascon merchants open access to the English wine market for the first time. The following year, John granted the same exemptions to La Rochelle and Poitou.[102]
  12. ^ Early medieval financial figures have no easy contemporary equivalent, due to the different role of money in the economy.
  13. ^ Both the mark and the pound sterling were accountancy terms in this period; a mark was worth around two-thirds of a pound.
  14. ^ The most notable piece of evidence for any later royal affairs is the famous entry on the fine roll of Christmas 1204 involving Hugh de Neville's wife. This entry notes that de Neville's wife offered the king 200 chickens if she could spend a night with her husband, Hugh. This is conventionally interpreted as implying that she was having an affair with the king but in this case wished to have sex with her husband instead – thus the humorous fine. An alternative explanation is that she was tired of Hugh being sent away on royal service and the fine was a light-hearted way of convincing John to ensure that her husband remained at court for a night.[125]
  15. ^ These estimates are based on chronicler accounts, the date of Isabella's parents' marriage and on the date of birth of her first child.[126]
  16. ^ William's son, Alexander II, would later state that he had been betrothed in 1212 to John's daughter, Joan. Current scholarship considers Alexander's claim unreliable.[151]
  17. ^ The town of King's Lynn was simply called Lynn in the 13th century.


  1. ^ Norgate (1902), pp.1-2.
  2. ^ a b Bradbury (2007), p.353.
  3. ^ Turner, p.23.
  4. ^ a b Fryde, Greenway, Porter and Roy, p.37.
  5. ^ a b Warren, p.21.
  6. ^ Norgate (1887), p.169.
  7. ^ Barlow, p.275; Warren, p.23.
  8. ^ Barlow, p.284.
  9. ^ a b Barlow, p.305.
  10. ^ Warren, p.27.
  11. ^ Barlow, p.281.
  12. ^ a b c Turner, p.31.
  13. ^ a b Warren, p.26.
  14. ^ Turner, p.31; Warren, p.26.
  15. ^ McLynn, pp.27, 77.
  16. ^ Warren, p.140.
  17. ^ Warren, pp.139–40; McLynn, p.78
  18. ^ a b McLynn, p.78.
  19. ^ Warren, p.139; McLynn, p.78; Danziger and Gillingham, p.26.
  20. ^ a b McLynn, p.78, 94; Turner, p.30.
  21. ^ a b Carpenter (2004), p.223; Turner, p.35.
  22. ^ McLynn, p.36.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h Turner, p.36.
  24. ^ a b Carpenter (2004), p.223.
  25. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.243.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i Turner, p.37.
  27. ^ a b Warren, p.35.
  28. ^ a b Warren, p.36.
  29. ^ a b Warren, p.37.
  30. ^ Turner, p.39; Warren, p.38.
  31. ^ Turner, p.38.
  32. ^ a b c d Warren, p.38.
  33. ^ Warren, pp.38–9.
  34. ^ Warren, pp.39–40.
  35. ^ Barlow, p.293; Warren p.39.
  36. ^ a b c Warren, p.40.
  37. ^ Warren, p.39.
  38. ^ Warren, p.41.
  39. ^ Warren, pp.40–1.
  40. ^ Inwood, p.58.
  41. ^ Warren, p.42.
  42. ^ a b c Warren, p.43.
  43. ^ a b c d Warren, p.44.
  44. ^ a b Warren, p.45.
  45. ^ a b Warren, p.46.
  46. ^ Warren, pp.46–7.
  47. ^ a b c d Warren, p.47.
  48. ^ Fryde (2007), p.336.
  49. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.264.
  50. ^ Barlow, p.305; Turner, p.48.
  51. ^ a b Warren, p.53.
  52. ^ Warren, p.51.
  53. ^ Barrett, p.91.
  54. ^ Warren, pp.57–8; Barlow, p.280.
  55. ^ Warren, p.57.
  56. ^ Warren, p.59.
  57. ^ Huscroft, pp.169–70.
  58. ^ Huscroft, p.170.
  59. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.264; Turner, p.100.
  60. ^ a b Warren, p.54.
  61. ^ a b c d e Turner, p.98.
  62. ^ a b Warren, p.55.
  63. ^ Warren, p.63.
  64. ^ a b c d e f g Turner, p.99.
  65. ^ Vincent, pp.168-182.
  66. ^ Turner, pp.98–9.
  67. ^ a b c d e Turner, p.100.
  68. ^ Turner, pp.100–1.
  69. ^ a b c d e f Turner, p.101.
  70. ^ Holt (1984), p.94; Turner, p.94; Bradbury (1998), p.159; Moss, p.119.
  71. ^ Gillingham (1994), p.76.
  72. ^ a b McLynn, p.306.
  73. ^ a b Warren, p.83.
  74. ^ a b c d e f g h Turner, p.102.
  75. ^ Norgate (1902), p.96; Turner, p.98; Warren, p.88; McLynn, p.473.
  76. ^ Power, pp.135–6.
  77. ^ Power, p.135.
  78. ^ Carpenter (2004), pp.264–5.
  79. ^ Turner, pp.102–3.
  80. ^ Turner, p.103.
  81. ^ a b c d e Turner, p.149.
  82. ^ Warren, p.178; Turner, p.156.
  83. ^ Warren, p.127.
  84. ^ Bartlett, p.200.
  85. ^ Warren, p.130.
  86. ^ a b Warren, p.132.
  87. ^ Warren, p.132; Huscroft, p.171.
  88. ^ Huscroft, p.182.
  89. ^ Huscroft, p.184.
  90. ^ McLynn, p.366; Hunnisett, pp.1–3.
  91. ^ a b Warren, pp.143–4.
  92. ^ Warren, p.144.
  93. ^ McLynn, p.366.
  94. ^ a b Carpenter (2004), p.273.
  95. ^ Turner, p.79.
  96. ^ Lawler and Lawler, p.6.
  97. ^ McLynn, p.288.
  98. ^ Barlow, p.331.
  99. ^ a b c Turner, p.87.
  100. ^ a b c Carpenter (2004), p.272.
  101. ^ Hodgett, p. 57; Johnson, p.142.
  102. ^ Johnson, p.142.
  103. ^ Turner, p.95.
  104. ^ Turner, p.148.
  105. ^ Danziger and Gillingham, p. 44.
  106. ^ Bolton pp.32–3.
  107. ^ Stenton, p.163.
  108. ^ Bolton, p.40.
  109. ^ Barlow, p.329.
  110. ^ Turner, pp.144–5; Church (1999), p.133.
  111. ^ Turner, p.144.
  112. ^ Turner, p.147.
  113. ^ a b Turner, p.145.
  114. ^ Barlow, p.326.
  115. ^ Huscroft, p.70.
  116. ^ a b Huscroft, p.170; Mason, p.128.
  117. ^ a b Warren, p.184.
  118. ^ Warren, p.185.
  119. ^ Warren, p.184; Turner, p.23.
  120. ^ a b Warren, p.185; Turner, p.169.
  121. ^ Turner, p.139.
  122. ^ a b c Turner, p.166.
  123. ^ Turner, p.166, Vincent, p.193.
  124. ^ Vincent, p.193.
  125. ^ Vincent, p.197, attributing the original idea to a private communication from Sir James Holt.
  126. ^ a b Vincent, pp.174–5.
  127. ^ Vincent, p.175.
  128. ^ Vincent, p.184.
  129. ^ Vincent, p.196.
  130. ^ Turner, p.98; Vincent, p.196.
  131. ^ Jordan, cited Turner, p.12.
  132. ^ McLynn, p.290.
  133. ^ McLynn, pp.78, 290.
  134. ^ Turner, p.120.
  135. ^ Turner, p.120; Carpenter (2004), p.276.
  136. ^ a b c d e f Turner, p.106.
  137. ^ a b c d e Turner, pp.106–7.
  138. ^ a b c d e f Turner, p.107.
  139. ^ a b Barlow, p.336.
  140. ^ a b Warren, p.123.
  141. ^ Turner, p.106; Warren, p.123
  142. ^ Turner, pp.107–8.
  143. ^ a b c d e Turner, p.108.
  144. ^ a b c Turner, p.109.
  145. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.224.
  146. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.255.
  147. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.277; Duncan, p.251.
  148. ^ Duncan, p.252.
  149. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.277; Duncan, p.260
  150. ^ a b c Carpenter (2004), p.277.
  151. ^ Carpenter, p.277; Duncan, p.264.
  152. ^ Duncan, p.268.
  153. ^ a b Carpenter (2004), p.278.
  154. ^ Carpenter (2004), pp.278–9.
  155. ^ Carpenter (2004), pp.280–1.
  156. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.282; Duffy, pp.242–3.
  157. ^ Carpenter (2004), pp.282–3.
  158. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.283.
  159. ^ a b Carpenter (2004), p.284.
  160. ^ Huscroft, p.190.
  161. ^ a b Huscroft, p.189; Turner, p.121.
  162. ^ Turner, p.119.
  163. ^ a b Turner, p.125.
  164. ^ Turner, pp.125–6.
  165. ^ a b c Turner, p.126.
  166. ^ a b Turner, p.127.
  167. ^ Turner, p.128; Harper-Bill, p.304.
  168. ^ a b c Turner, p.128.
  169. ^ Poole, pp.446–7.
  170. ^ a b c d Turner, p.131.
  171. ^ Harper-Bill, p.306.
  172. ^ Harper-Bill, p.307.
  173. ^ a b Harper-Bill, p.304.
  174. ^ Harper-Bill, pp.304–5.
  175. ^ Turner, p.133.
  176. ^ Bartlett, pp.404–5; Turner, p.133.
  177. ^ Turner, p.133; Lloyd, p.213.
  178. ^ Turner, p.133; Harper-Bill, p.308.
  179. ^ Turner, pp.133–4.
  180. ^ a b Turner, p.134.
  181. ^ Harper-Bill, p.308.
  182. ^ Turner, pp.173–4.
  183. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.273, after Holt (1961).
  184. ^ Church (1999), p.154.
  185. ^ Rowlands, pp.284–5.
  186. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.287.
  187. ^ Turner, pp.173–4; Holt (1961), p.100.
  188. ^ Barlow, p.335.
  189. ^ a b Carpenter (2004), p.286.
  190. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.286; Warren, p.221.
  191. ^ a b Warren, p.222.
  192. ^ a b c Warren, p.224.
  193. ^ Turner, p.174.
  194. ^ a b Turner, p.178.
  195. ^ Turner, p.179.
  196. ^ Warren, p.233.
  197. ^ Turner, p.174, p.179.
  198. ^ a b c d Turner, p.180.
  199. ^ Turner, pp.180, 182.
  200. ^ Turner, p.182.
  201. ^ Turner, p.184-5.
  202. ^ a b Turner, p.189.
  203. ^ Turner, pp.189–190.
  204. ^ a b c Turner, p.190.
  205. ^ a b Turner, p.192.
  206. ^ Turner, p.191.
  207. ^ Turner, p.191; Barlow, p.354.
  208. ^ Rowlands, pp.286–7.
  209. ^ Turner, p.192 citing Brown, pp.10–11; Turner, p.193.
  210. ^ a b c d e Turner, p.193.
  211. ^ a b c Duncan, p.267.
  212. ^ a b Turner, pp.191–2.
  213. ^ Barlow, p.356.
  214. ^ a b Turner, p.194.
  215. ^ Turner, p.194; Warren, p.253.
  216. ^ a b Warren, p.253.
  217. ^ Turner, p.194; Duncan, p.267; Warren, p.253.
  218. ^ McLynn, p.455; Warren, p.253.
  219. ^ a b Warren, p.254.
  220. ^ Warren, pp.284–5; Barlow, p.356.
  221. ^ Turner, p.195; Barlow, p.357.
  222. ^ Warren, pp.254–5.
  223. ^ Given-Wilson, p.87.
  224. ^ Warren, p.255; McLynn, p.460.
  225. ^ Danziger and Gillingham, p.270.
  226. ^ a b McLynn, p.460.
  227. ^ Danziger and Gillinham, p.271; Huscroft, p.151.
  228. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.270.
  229. ^ Vincent, p.206.
  230. ^ Carpenter (1996), p.223.
  231. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.344.
  232. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.306.
  233. ^ Richardson, p.9.
  234. ^ Carpenter (2004), p.328.
  235. ^ Gillingham (2007), p.2.
  236. ^ Holt (1963), p.19, cited Gillingham (2007) p.4.
  237. ^ Warren, p.7; Gillingham (2007), p.15.
  238. ^ Warren, pp.11, 14.
  239. ^ a b Bevington, p.432.
  240. ^ Gillingham (2007), p.4.
  241. ^ Norgate (1902), p.286; Ramsay, p.502.
  242. ^ a b Dyer, p.4; Coss, p.81.
  243. ^ Churchill, p.190.
  244. ^ Galbraith, pp.128–30, cited Gillingham (2007), p.1.
  245. ^ Turner, pp.22–3.
  246. ^ Warren, pp.11–6.
  247. ^ Huscroft, p.174; Barlow, p.353.
  248. ^ Duffy, pp.221, 245.
  249. ^ Bradbury (2007), p.353; Turner, p.23.
  250. ^ Bradbury (2007), p.361.
  251. ^ McLynn, pp.472–3.
  252. ^ Curren-Aquino (1989a), p.19.; Harris, p.91.
  253. ^ Curren-Aquino (1989a), p.19; McEachern, p.329; Bevington, p.454.
  254. ^ Potter, p.70.
  255. ^ Maley, p.50.
  256. ^ Tulloch, p.497.
  257. ^ D'Ammassa, p.94.
  258. ^ Aberth, p.166.
  259. ^ a b Potter, p.210.
  260. ^ Potter, p.218.
  261. ^ Elliott, pp.109–10.


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John, King of England
Born: 24 December 1166 Died: 19 October 1216
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Richard I
King of England
Duke of Normandy
Count of Maine

Succeeded by
Henry III
New title Lord of Ireland
Preceded by
Eleanor and Richard I
Duke of Aquitaine
with Eleanor (1199–1204)

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