John (b. 1167 r.1199-1216)
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John (b. 1167 r.1199-1216)

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He was the very worst of all our kings: a man whom no oaths could bind, no pressure of conscience, no consideration of policy, restrain from evil; a faithless son, a treacherous brother, an ungrateful master; to his people a hated tyrant. Polluted with every crime that could disgrace a man, false to every obligation that should blind a king, he had lost half his inheritance by sloth, and ruined and desolated the rest. ... In the whole view there is no redeeming trait; John seems as incapable of receiving a good impression as of carrying into effect a wise resolution.
Bishop William Stubbs, The Constitutional History of England.

Additional Information on
John (b. 1167 r.1199-1216)

John was the brother of Richard I, and the fourth son of Henry II. John was unpopular because of his history of plotting against family members and betraying allies. He was therefore regarded as untrustworthy because he had been disloyal to Richard, and has generally been regarded throughout history as a bad king, although one could say he was unfortunate to have followed in the footsteps of such a popular and heroic king. John's achievements have mostly been overlooked. He had also inherited a kingdom made penniless by Richard's expensive foreign wars, and although he faced such challenges with great vigour he fought a losing battle and died in the shadow of failure.

John had none of Richard's military skill or courage and before long he had lost most of the lands in France that his brother had ruled - having failed to win them back he was called 'soft sword' and 'Lackland' (lost land). In 1208, after some petty quarrelling with the Pope, John was excommunicated - this did nothing to help his cause. He also took away the rights of his subjects to hunt or grow food in the royal forests, so that he could hunt in peace - increasing the barons' anger - and in 1214, prompted by heavy taxation and other such annoyances the barons rose against him. In 1215 John was eventually forced to concede to the barons, reluctantly signing a treaty with them - the Magna Carta (Latin for Great Charter). This was famous for including a promise that all people should have the right to justice. Never before had an English king signed such a treaty, and so in fact the concession was almost more important than the document itself - the 'cornerstone of English Liberties'. However, John never kept the promises he made in the treaty and so he and the barons battled on until he died exhausted with fighting.


'Foul as it is, hell itself is defiled by the fouler prescence of John.' The terrible view of his contemporaries has passed into the sober judgement of history ... John was the worst outcome of the Plantagenets. He united into one mass of wickedness their insolence, their selfishness, their unbridled lust, their cruelty and tyranny, their shamelessness, their superstition, their cynical indifference to honour or truth.
- J.R. Green, The History of the English People.

His death saved the kingdom from his descendants.
- Bishop William Stubbs, The Constitutional History of England.

Unfortunately for his reputation, John was not a great benefactor to monasteries which kept chronicles.
- W.C. Warren, King John. Advanced Category Search

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