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John and Nenry III (1199-1272)
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John and Nenry III (1199-1272)‘He was a great prince hut hardly a happy one'
Annals of Barnwell Priory, on King John


John (1199-1216)
John, born 1167, was nicknamed ‘Lackland’ by his father Henry II, though he gained large estates through gifts and marriage to Isabella of Gloucester. Capable, clever, scheming and untrustworthy, John conspired against both his father and brother, trying to seize the throne in 1193 during Richard’s absence. On becoming king in 1199, he struggled to prevent Henry’s empire from fragmenting, but died in 1216 in the shadow of failure, his name forever linked to Magna Carta - called the ‘greatest constitutional document of all times’ - signed by the Thames at Runnymede.

In 1204, John lost control of Normandy, a humiliation that earned him the mocking name ‘soft-sword’. ‘No man may ever trust him, for his heart is soft and cowardly,’ sang the troubadour Bertrand de Born.

To maintain his grip on England and win back lost lands in France, John rode roughshod over the rights of Church and nobles. He also raised taxes - stirring up more unrest.

In 1215 a rebellious group of nobles backed John into a corner, forcing him to agree to the ‘rights’ enshrined in Magna Carta. John was still fighting the French (having, by tradition, added loss of the crown jewels in the Wash to that of Normandy) when he died in 1216.

‘At Runnymede, at Runnymede, Your rights were won at Runnymede’
Rudyard Kipling


Henry III (1216-72)
Born at Winchester in 1207, Henry was the eldest son of King John and his second wife, Isabella of Angouleme. Still a minor, Henry began his reign under a regent, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke.

From 1234 Henry took government into his own hands, and in 1236 married Eleanor of Provence, proving a faithful husband and tolerant father. Described by the chronicler Nicholas Trivet as ‘of moderate stature, with the lid of one eye rather drooping, robust in strength but impulsive in action’, he flew into rages whenever challenged and his choice of toadying foreign councillors offended the English nobility.

In 1258, Henry grudgingly accepted a baronial ‘Privy Council’. The following year he signed away more lands to the French king, Louis IX, so that now only Gascony remained in English hands. Henry’s brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, was the sharpest thorn in the king’s flesh. Clever and popular, in 1263 de Montfort led a revolt and at Lewes (12 May 1264) captured Prince Edward (later Edward I). He then summoned a parliament - of barons, knights from the shires and burgesses from the towns - seen as the forerunner of modern parlia-ments. In 1265, however, Prince Edward turned the tables at Evesham, where de Montfort was killed. The last six years of Henry’s reign passed peacefully.

The king goes a’hunting
All medieval kings enjoyed hunting and hawking, and John was no exception. He was also literate and good at the details of government.

John and Nenry III (1199-1272)


John's tomb
King John died of dysentery at Newark in 1216. His tomb is situated in the chancel of Worcester Cathedral.

John and Nenry III (1199-1272)


Less talented than he thought
Henry Ill’s tomb-effigy in Westminster Abbey. Henry had a somewhat exalted view of his royal status, but lacked real royal ability.

John and Nenry III (1199-1272)




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