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Magna Carta and Bad King John

BRLSI 6th July 2015
Sean McGly, of the Open University
Notes by William Gaskell

King John is known to us as a “Rotter”.
There were 3 ways of judging a king:
1.       Knight
2.       Priest
3.       Judge
King John lived in the shadow of his older brother, King Richard the Lionheart. They were of the Angevin Dynasty, the counts of Anjou,. King Richard had bankrupted the country with crusades.
King John earned the nickname “mollygladum” which means “soft sword” for paying tribute to the king of France early in his reign for the protection of English lands in France.
King John is known to have murdered his nephew Prince Arthur out of jealousy perhaps as he was set to be next in line for the throne as the son of King Richard.
King John was tenacious despite his failures; he was only partially competent as a warrior, following up victories with moments of bad judgements leading to defeats.
He suffered an invasion of the French lands by the King Phillip Augustus of France.
“Scutage” was the tax he tried to levy many times during his reign which was a shield tax to raise mercenaries. He raised it 11 times in his 16 year reign whilst his father, Henry II, raised it only 6 times in 32 years, but both ended up raising a similar amount in total for all the levies.
John was very corrupt in resolving legal cases, he would prevaricate about judgement perniciously unless a bribe was made to in in order to settle the case in someone’s favour and then would also be prone to imposing harsh fines even more perniciously.
King John created interdict in 1213 for 2 years.
·         King John was excommunicated
John made bad decisions especially regarding the people who mattered most to him, his sister, Matilda, was starved to death in his custody.
Barons unhappy at having to pay many levies of scutage tax after failed campaigns in France. They got offended by the situation. Ultimately this led them to take over much of the country with the support of the French, eventually taking London and forcing King John to sign Magna Carta.
Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was architect of Magna Carta, his interest was to promote the English Church.
French occupation of England by King Louis, (prince of France but acknowledged by King Alexander of Scotland to be king of England but never crowned), between 1216-1217 lasting until the Battle of Sandwich.
King John died in 1216 and was succeeded by King Henry III.
King John committed atrocities in order to keep people guessing what he’d do next. He was taken seriously for fear of retribution.
I think he wasn’t taken seriously because he was called “lacklands” before he inherited from his brother and Magna Carta sought to make his position of responsibility more serious.


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