John “Lackland” King of England (the bad king) was born December 24, 1167 or 1177, to Henri II, King of England (1133-1189) and Eleonore d’Aquitaine, Duchess d’Aquitaine (1122-1204). He was also the younger brother and successor to King Richard (the good king).
John was made King of Ireland in 1177, Comte de Mortain in 1189, and his reign as King of England began with his crowning in London on May 27, 1199 when he succeeded his brother Richard, who had left on crusade. He was crowned a second time October 8, 1200 at Westminster Abbey, with his second wife.
King John is seen as a villain, this impression having been fostered through the retelling of the legend of Robin Hood, who supposedly took up the cause of the people against King John’s exhorbitant taxes by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
In 1173, John was betrothed to Alix de Maurienne (1166-1174), daughter of Humbert III, Comte de Maurienne and his third wife Klementia von Zähringen, and an agreement was reached where John would inherit the county of Maurienne if Humbert had no sons by his wife.
He became betrothed to Isabel (Avise), Countess of Gloucester in 1176 and married her as her first husband on August 29, 1189 and they divorced (annulled on the grounds of consanguinity) before August 30, 1199. Isabel was the daughter of William FitzRobert II, Earl of Gloucester and his wife Avise de Beaumont. She remarried in 1214 to Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, and again in 1217 to Hubert de Burgh, who became Earl of Kent afterward, in 1227. Isabel died in 1217.
He was then betrothed to Alix de France, daughter of Louis VII, King of France and his second wife Infanta doña Constanza de Castilla in 1193. The betrothal was arranged by King Richard, who himself had been betrothed to Alix de France at one time. Alix returned to France in Aug 1195.
John’s second marriage was to Isabelle d’Angoulême on August 24, 1200 as her first husband. Isabelle was the daughter of Aymar “Taillefer”, Comte d’Angoulême and his wife Alix de Courtenay. She was crowned Queen Consort on October 8, 1200 at Westminster Abbey. King John and his second wife had five children: Henry III, King of England (1207-1272); Richard, King of England and the Romans (1209-1272); Joan of England (1210-1238); Isabella of England (1214-1241); and Eleanor (1215-1275).
After John’s death in 1216 in Newark Castle in Lincolnshire, she married again in 1220 to Hugues XI, de Lusignan, Comte de la Marche.
John also had numerous mistresses, the majority of whom were unknown. Those that were known were the daughter of Hamelin d’Anjou, Earl of Surrey and his wife Isabelle de Warenne; Clementia, the wife of Henry Pinel; a woman named Hawise (possibly ‘de Tracy’); and a woman named Susanna, her origins unknown.
There were several children born to him of several of his mistresses, including: Joan “Joanna” of England, Lady of Wales (1190-1237); Oliver ( -1219); Osbert Gifford ( -1246); Geoffrey FitzRoy ( -1205); Sir John FitzJohn ( -1242); Odo FitzRoy ( -1242); Henry FitzRoy; Richard Constable of Wallingford Castle; Matilda Abbess of Barking; Isabella la Blanche; Richard FitzRoy ( -1245).
John died October 18 or 19, 1216 at Newark Castle in Lincolnshire and was buried at Worcester Cathedral, Worcestershire.
Up until 1944 King John was considered to be a horrid man and even worse king. In 1944, it was demonstrated that the main source for information about the reign of John was at best unreliable. These new findings caused a change in perception of King John, possibly resulting in a further skewed view of John on the positive side.
Those attempting to find a more accurate view of John are doing so through examination of the administrative records of the time. Even with these records, however, there is some doubt expressed about whether the records are to be taken at face value or whether John or his staff were able to skillfully produce records portraying him in a more positive light.
John’s energetic, fastidious nature belied his appearance, paunchy, 5′ 5″ tall with “erect head, staring eyes, flaring nostrils and thick lips set in a cruel pout.” It was said that “he prowled around his kingdom.” He was very clean, routinely taking numerous baths, enjoyed food and drink, gambled, and loved women.
Contradictory to the legend we have become accustomed to, he assisted the poor by providing the proceeds from the forest law and was generous to his servants.
His legend may in fact have been fueled by knowledge of his highly suspicious nature and enjoyment of intrigues and secrets. He also acted against his father, as he did against Richard while the latter was held captive in 1193.
Although John would not be considered a ‘good’ man, in different circumstances he could have been a great king.
King John was 24th great grandfather to my children.
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