Brother of Richard the Lionheart
Born: Beaumont Palace, Oxford, England.
December 24, 1166.
Parents: King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Count Geoffrey of Anjou and Empress Matilda.
Duke William X of Aquitaine and Aenor of Chatellerault.
Married: (1) Isabella of Gloucester on August 1189 at Marlborough, Wiltshire.
(2) Isabella of Angouleme in 1200. Died 1246. Buried at Fontevraud Abbey.
Children: Five by Isabella of Angouleme.
Notably King Henry III, Richard, Isabella and Eleanor. Plus five illegitimate children.
Succeeded to the throne of England: April 6, 1199.
Crowned: at Westminster Abbey May 27, 1199.
Authority: King of England, with claims to Scotland, Wales and western France; Lord of Ireland from 1185.
Rule: 17 years.
Died: Newark Castle, Nottinghamshire, October 18, 1216.
Buried: Worcester Cathedral, England.
Biography of King John 1199 – 1216
King John of England is a controversial figure in English history. His reign, which lasted from 1199 until his death in 1216, was marked by a series of conflicts both within England and with its neighboring countries. John was born in 1166, the youngest son of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. His older brothers were Richard the Lionheart, who succeeded Henry II as king, and Geoﬀrey, who died young.
As a young prince, John was not expected to inherit the throne. He was given the nickname “Lackland” because his father did not provide him with any territories to rule over. However, John was given extensive training in military tactics, administration, and diplomacy. He served as his brother Richard’s chief administrator while Richard was away on the Third Crusade.
When Richard died in 1199, John became king of England. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey in May of that year. John inherited a kingdom that was financially strained from Richard’s wars and the ransom paid to secure his release from captivity. In addition, there were ongoing conflicts with France, Scotland, and Wales.
John’s reign got oﬀ to a rocky start. He was not well-liked by his nobles or the general population. His first major decision as king was to revoke the charters of the English cities that Richard had granted. This move was deeply unpopular and led to a rebellion known as the First Barons’ War. The barons were led by Robert Fitzwalter, who had been one of Richard’s closest advisors. They demanded that John restore their charters and limit his powers as king.
John initially tried to fight the rebellion, but he was not successful. He lacked the military support he needed to defeat the barons. In June 1215, he was forced to sign the Magna Carta, a document that limited the power of the king and protected the rights of the barons. The Magna Carta is one of the most important legal documents in English history and is still considered a symbol of individual liberty and democracy today.
Despite the signing of the Magna Carta, John’s reign continued to be marked by conflict. He continued to fight with the French king, Philip II, over control of territory in France. In 1214, he suﬀered a major defeat at the Battle of Bouvines, which eﬀectively ended his hopes of regaining control of his French lands. John’s military failures and high taxes continued to make him deeply unpopular with the English people.
In addition to his political troubles, John’s personal life was also tumultuous. He was married twice, first to Isabella of Gloucester and then to Isabella of Angoulême. He had at least five children, including the future king Henry III, but his relationship with his family was strained. He was known for his temper and his tendency to lash out at those around him. He was also accused of being greedy and vindictive.
John’s health began to decline in the early 1210s. He suﬀered from a number of ailments, including dysentery and a fever. He spent much of his time traveling around England, trying to put down rebellions and collect taxes. He died in October 1216, possibly from dysentery or poisoning.
King John is remembered for his failures as a leader and his personal shortcomings, but he also played a significant role in shaping English law and government. The Magna Carta, which he was forced to sign, is still considered a foundational document of English liberty. Despite his faults, John’s reign helped lay the groundwork for the development of English democracy and the rule of law.