On This Day

King John

King of England King John

Profession: King of England


Biography: Born to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, John was nicknamed "Lackland" in his youth by his father as he was his youngest son and had no obvious land inheritances. He would eventually become the favorite son after his elder brothers and mother launched a failed rebellion against Henry. Nevertheless his elder brother Richard the Lionheart succeeded in 1189. John was by this time a serious contender for the throne, having been previously installed as Lord of Ireland and now with landholdings throughout England. He was proclaimed king in 1199 upon Richard's death, who died with only a single illegitimate son.

War soon broke out in France over his territories in Normandy. Failing to defeat the French king, his empire in northern France collapsed in 1204, and he lost his continental holdings, and spent considerable amount of his time as king and royal revenue attempting to reclaim them. These fiscal policies, as well as John's treatment of his barons, led to several plots against him by the powerful landholders in England. Eventually John and the rebellious nobles signed the famous Magna Carta document in 1215, which limited John's royal authority, imposed protection for the baron's from illegal imprisonment and safety for the Church's landholdings. Neither side complied with the terms, and the First Barons' War broke out shortly after.

John died during the rebellion. He is remembered popularly as a petty and spiteful king with a reputation for cruelty, though other historians have also noted he was an able king who helped reform royal administration. The Magna Carta, though largely ineffective in its time, became a much vaunted document of liberty and freedom from tyranny, and was reissued by successive monarchs. It is seen today as an important step in the constitutional development of the United Kingdom.

Birthplace: Oxford, England

Died: October 19, 1216
Cause of Death: Dysentery

Articles and Photos

Historical Events

  • 1202-04-28 King Philip II expels King John of England ("Lackland") from France
  • 1207-07-15 King John of England expels Canterbury monks for supporting Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton.
  • 1207-08-28 King John of England grants small town of Liverpool a charter (right to elect a mayor and aldermen)
  • 1210-11-01 King John of England begins imprisoning Jews
  • 1213-05-15 King John of England names Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury
  • 1214-07-02 Battle of La Roche-aux-Moines (Angers), part of King John of England's attempt to reclaim Normandy from France
  • 1214-07-27 1st battle of Bouvines - King Philip II of France vs Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV and King John of England; as a result John lost Normandy and his other possessions in France (hence his nickname John "Lackland")
  • 1215-03-04 King John of England makes an oath to the Pope as a crusader to gain the support of Innocent III
  • 1215-05-12 English barons serve ultimatum on King John which eventually leads to the creation and signing of the Magna Carta
  • 1215-06-15 King John signs Magna Carta at Runnymede, near Windsor, England
  • 1216-05-21 French crown prince Louis enters England, having been invited by barons at war with King John
  • 1216-10-12 King John of England loses his crown jewels in The Wash as the flood tide swamps his wagons, probably near Fosdyke, perhaps near Sutton Bridge
  • 1216-10-19 King John of England dies at Newark-on-Trent and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry
  • 1216-10-28 Henry III aged nine is crowned King of England at Gloucester Cathedral after the death of his father King John (2nd coronation in 1220)
  • 2015-06-15 800 year anniversary of "the birthplace of modern democracy", the signing of the Magna Carta by King John at Runymede, England

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