King John Plantagenet King of England 1199-1216

John was the youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine, his siblings included Henry The Younger King (his eldest brother) and Richard I , the Lionheart. Already you can get a sense of te context and perspective in which John’s life and destiny would take shape. Born into Angevin Empire and Plantagenent Empire where scheming and plotting were rife, he grew-up fearing that forces were intent on working against him and determined to outmaneuver those closest to him. Historians have often cited John as the weak, manipulating and jealous younger son was this really true?

  • Henry II had earlier favoured Richard but overtime he swung towards John. Leading Richard to firmly align with the Anevin interests and base himself in France, seeking constantly to strengthen his position and ensure his dominance in the line of succession.
  • 1185 John received the Lordship of Ireland which had been won by his father Henry II but when John went there he managed single-handedly to alienate both the English colonists and the Irish Kings, dashing the progress his father had achieved.
  • 1189 Nicknamed Lackland in contrast to his successful brother Richard, he had not initially joined his brother in rebellion but when he realised his father was dying, he turned his allegiance to Richard as a turncoat.
  • 1189 John married Isabel, a daughter of the Duke of Gloucester. They had no children and shortly before John became king the marriage was annulled on the grounds that Isabel was John’s second cousin.
  • 1191-1194 whilst Richard was away at the Crusades, John further conspired with Philip II Augustus of France to rebel against his absent brother. Despite this treachery, some two months later Richard forgave his brother.
  • 1199 5 years later Richard extends this forgiveness further naming John as his heir. Doubts were rife about his likely competence and ability to take-on his brother’s mantle but he managed to do so, very smoothly, encountering only some armed insurrection and opposition in the heart of Anjou.
  • 1200 John married Isabella of Angouleme, a French noble woman who became Countess of Angouleme in the year 1202.This caused bad blood and enraged Hugh de Lusignan (of Poitou) to appeal to Philip II Augustus of France for justice and action. It was to have dire consequences, directly leading to the collapse of the Angevin Empire with which he had by default been entrusted.
    • Isabella meanwhile bore 5 children to King John
    • in 1218 2 years after John’s death Isabella did marry Hugh de Lusigna’s son n having a further 4 children by Hugh, making a total of 9 collectively, they would be known as ‘The Lusignans’ in English history, joining John in England and enjoying his disproportionate patronage their power and privilege would be deeply resented in England. This would create a dangerous suspicion of foreigners interfering in England going forward, ironic given all the Plantagenents were descended from the Anglo-Norman realms and a line traced back to William I.
    • Her eldest son would become Henry III ascending to the throne at just 9 years of age.
  • 1203-4 it was believed that John had murdered his own nephew Arthur of Brittany, this left him with few allies and when Philip invaded Normandy and Anjou, few came to his aid, particularly as he cowardly retreated to England, becoming known for his lack of resolve as SoftSword.  Having lost Anjou and Normandy he retreated further into the British Isles, revisiting Ireland and the North of England extensively.
  • Over the next 10 years he built-up his war chest and sought to prepare for counter attack on Philip, to buy favour and diplomatic power to support his proposed campaign. Philip planned to invade England in response.
  • 1207 Henry son of Isabella and John was born, reigning from just 9 years old for 56 years, one of the longest reigns of any King of England, surpassed only by Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II.
  • 1209 Richard would become Earl of Cornwall amongst many other titles and on eof the richest men in England.
  • 1210 their daughter Joan was born, she would marry King Alexander II of Scotland and became Queen Consort of Scotland aged only 11.
  • 1213 John had mastered falling out with those with influence and foolishly with the Papacy over the appointment of Stephen Langton, which was an attempt to get papal support for an injunction against Philip II, but in the end it was the English Naval victory at Damme that halted Philip’s plans.
  • 1214 daughter Isabella was born. In July 1235 she married Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and became a Holy Roman Empress.
  • 1214 with the Battle of Bouvines his expensively acquired allies were defeated and this in itself eventually led to Baronial rebellion against John and he was pressed into signing Magna Carter with no intention of keeping to it’s contents and obligations. This final act brought the full weight of rebellion and civil war to England and led many of his subjects to commit to the cause of Philip II as French King.
  • 1215 Eleanor was born, she was only 1 year old when her father died. In January 1238 she married Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester who became engaged in a power struggle with her brother, King Henry III.
  • 1216 John dies  have caught dysentery, in retreat from the French and having lost purportedly a significant amount of his baggage that might have included his Crown Jewels.
  • His and Isabella’s eldest son Henry succeeds John as Henry III, only a 9 year old child, how would he cope…how would help and hinder him along the way…

The passing of time has shown that whilst introducing and signing Magna Carter, a critical document in the future development of democracy it was more by default than by a desire to engineer a better form of government, his oppressive style did not reap the political and military successes demanded. John was a poor King for England and largely responsible for the loss and decline of the Angevin Empire, hardly a success…so how would his son and heir fair in what was to shape the next reign…