Biography of JOHN (Lackland) - Archontology
JOHN (Lackland)


b. 24 Dec 1167, Oxford
d. 18 (or 19) Oct 1216, Newark Castle, Nottinghamshire

Title: Dominus Anglie (Lord of England) [to 27 May 1199]
  Dei Gracia Rex Anglie Dominus Hibernie Dux Normannie et Aqitannie Comes Andegavie (By the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou) [ 27 May 1199 - 18/19 Oct 1216] [1]
Term: 27 May 1199 - 18/19 Oct 1216
Chronology: between 19 Apr 1199 and 25 May 1199, meeting at Northampton, where bishops and magnates swore fealty to John and the king's peace was proclaimed [2]
  27 May 1199, crowned, Westminster Abbey
  18/19 Oct 1216, died
Names/titles: Dominus Hibernie (Lord of Ireland) [from May 1177]; Count of Mortain [from 20 Jul [?] 1189]; styled Earl of Gloucester [from 3 Sep 1189]; nickname: John "Lackland"
John was the youngest son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and was given at an early age the nickname of Lackland because, unlike his elder brothers, he received no apanage in the continental provinces. However, his father spared no effort to ensure John's future. He was betrothed to Isabella, the heiress of the earldom of Gloucester (1176). The Council at Oxford bestowed on him the lordship of Ireland (1177), but all further attempts of Henry II to extend the youngest son's estates met with resistance of other sons, especially Richard, who succeeded Henry II as Richard I in 1189. He created John count of Mortain and confirmed him as Lord of Ireland. John was married to Isabella of Gloucester on 22 Aug 1189. In the absence of Richard, John conspired against his brother, but was pardoned on Richard's return from the Holy Land. John was not an indisputable heir to the throne of England when Richard I died in 1199. Although Richard named John as his successor on death-bed, the rival faction supported Arthur I Duke of Brittany, 12-year-old son of John's elder brother, Geoffrey IV of Brittany (died in 1186). With the support of the barons of Normandy, John was invested with the insignia of the duchy on 25 Apr 1199 at Rouen. William Marshal and Hubert Walter archbishop of Canterbury arrived in England and secured John's coronation at Westminster on 27 May 1199. In less than a month, John again landed in Normandy to fight for his continental possessions [3]. He divorced Isabella of Gloucester and married Isabella, the heiress to Angoulême (24 Aug 1200). John captured Arthur of Brittany in the Battle of Mirebeau-en-Poitou (1 Aug 1202) and later had him murdered, but was forced to abandon Normandy in the war with King Philippe II of France (1204). In the next two years Anjou, Maine, and parts of Poitou were also lost. A conflict with the papacy, which arose from the election of Stephen Langton (1206) to the see of Canterbury, resulted in John's excommunication (1209) and an interdict laid on England by Pope Innocent III, who authorized Philippe II of France to invade England and deprive John of his kingdom. While preparations were being made in France, John surrendered his kingdom to the papal nuncio, Pandulf, at the house of the Templars near Dover (15 May 1213), receiving it back as a vassal. He was absolved from excommunication in July 1213, and the interdict was finally relaxed on 2 Jul 1214. After another unsuccessful attempt to recover his continental possessions (1214) [4], John faced a baronial rebellion, which broke out in May 1215. London was surrendered to the barons and the king was forced to accept the Articles of the Barons. The Great Charter (Magna Carta) was drafted at Runnymede, Surrey, and sealed by John on 15 Jun 1215. However, the king, using the papal bull against the charter, renewed the civil war. The barons appealed to Prince Louis of France (later King Louis VIII), who landed in England on 21 May 1216 to claim the English crown (see a note on Louis' claim). John continued to wage war, but died at Newark in the night of 18/19 Oct 1216.

[1] The first and only Great Seal of King John bore the title of REX ANGLIE. He also added to the royal style, on the obverse of his seal and also in his documents, DOMINUS HIBERNIE.
[2] The meeting was convened by Archbishop Walter and William Marshal sent from Normandy to England by John to assist the justiciar Geoffrey FitzPeter. There is no precise date for the meeting, but it occurred between 19 Apr 1199 (the date of Walter and Marshal's arrival is unknown, but it could not have taken place before 18 Apr 1199) and 25 May 1199 (date of John's arrival).
[3] Geoffrey FitzPeter (chief justiciar 11 Jul 1198 - 14 Oct 1213) carried out administration in the absence of John (prior to his landing in England on 25 May 1199; 20 Jun 1199 - 25 Feb 1200; in the summer of 1200; May/Jun 1201 - 6 Dec 1203; 1 Jun 1206 - 12 Dec 1206).
[4] Peter des Roches bishop of Winchester was guardian of the realm (appointed 1 Feb 1214) during the king's absence (Feb 1214 - Oct 1214).
[5] Handbook of British Chronology (1986)
[6] "The Reign of King John", by Sidney Painter (Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore 1949);
[7] "England under the Angevin Kings", by Kate Norgate (Macmillan, London 1887);
  Image: drawing of King John in the "Chronicle of England" by Peter of Langtoft (probably written and illuminated during the reign of Edward II, 1307-1327).