Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/John (1167?-1216)
JOHN (1167?–1216), king of England, youngest son of Henry II and his queen, Eleanor, was probably born at Oxford on 24 Dec. 1167 (Robert of Torigni, sub an.; Prose Chronicle, ap. Hearne, Robert of Gloucester, ii. 484; in 1166, Diceto, i. 325), and was in his boyhood nicknamed Lackland by his father, who divided his dominions among his elder sons. Henry loved him above any of his brothers, and made constant efforts to provide well for him. His education seems to have been committed to Ranulf de Glanville [q. v.] As early as 1171 a marriage was proposed for him with Alice, daughter and heiress of Humbert III, count of Maurienne, and before Christmas 1172 the marriage contract was signed; it was agreed that if Humbert left no son John should be heir of all his dominions, and if it turned out otherwise should have a rich provision. On his side Henry in February 1173 proposed to give him the castles and districts of Chinon, Loudun, and Mirebeau. This marriage scheme failed owing to the refusal of John's eldest brother Henry, as count of Anjou, to part with any of his territories. At the close of the war which ensued it was agreed, on 30 Sept. 1174, that a provision should be made for John; he was to have Nottingham and Marlborough, and certain castles and rents in Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, and on the death of Reginald, earl of Cornwall, Henry kept the larger part of his possessions in his own hand, in order to bestow them on John. On 28 Sept. 1176 William, earl of Gloucester, agreed to give his daughter Isabella, more usually called Hadwisa or Avice, in marriage to John, and to make him heir of all his lands in the west of England and Glamorgan.
At a council at Oxford in May 1177 Henry declared John king of Ireland; he received the homage of the Norman lords of Irish lands as holding of him, as well as of his father, and Hugh de Lacy was appointed viceroy. After the death of his eldest brother John was, by Henry's command, taken to Normandy by Glanville in July 1183, and having crossed from Dover to Witsand met his father, who tried to prevail on Richard to give up the duchy of Aquitaine to John to be held of him as count of Poitou. Richard refused, and Henry declared that John and his brother Geoffrey, count of Brittany [q. v.], might make war upon him. John spent Christmas with his father at Le Mans, and in the following summer after Henry's return to England he and Geoffrey wasted Richard's lands. All three brothers were summoned to England in November by their father, who brought about a reconciliation. John remained at his father's court. In the spring of 1185 he expressed his wish to go on the crusade, but his father would not suffer him. On Mid-Lent Sunday, 31 March, Henry knighted him at Windsor, and sent him to govern Ireland. He sailed from Milford on 24 April, in company with Glanville and with a large force of mercenaries in sixty ships; landed the next day at Waterford, and was received by John Comyn [q. v.], archbishop of Dublin, and many of the King's lords, together with several Irishmen of rank. He treated the Irishmen with insolence, he or his followers pulling their long beards in mockery. They consequently deserted the English cause, and kept the kings of Limerick, Cork, and Connaught from coming to do fealty to him. John went to Dublin and alienated other Irish allies by granting away their lands, appointed unfit men as governors of the coast towns and other places, and offended the colonists by his overbearing conduct. On his arrival castles were built at Tibragny and Ardfinnan on the river Suir, and from them his men ravaged Munster, but were defeated with great loss by Donnell O'Brien, king of Limerick. As he spent on his own pleasures the money which he should have used in paying his mercenaries, the latter deserted to the Irish in large numbers, and John's force was soon so weakened that in September his father recalled him. Nevertheless Henry, on hearing of the murder of Hugh de Lacy, which took place on 25 July 1186, again sent him to Ireland to seize Lacy's lands. While he was waiting for a favourable wind he was recalled by his father, who had received tidings of the death of Geoffrey (19 Aug. 1186).
Henry had requested Urban III to allow him to have one of his sons crowned king of Ireland, and at Christmas two legates landed at Dover, bringing the pope's consent, and a crown of peacocks' feathers set in gold. John and the archbishop of Dublin were sent to meet them, but other business compelled Henry to put off the ceremony of coronation. Early in 1187 John was sent into Normandy; the king joined him at Aumâle, and in May gave him command of a fourth division of his army. In conjunction with Richard, John carried on operations in Berry; they were besieged by Philip of France in Châteauroux until 23 June, when the siege was raised. In June 1188, during Philip's invasion of Berry, John was sent by his father into Normandy, and crossed from Shoreham to Dieppe. Henry followed him later. Henry's partiality towards John offended Richard, who believed that his father wished to oust him from the succession in John's favour, and he accordingly allied himself with Philip. At the conference at La Ferté-Bernard on 4 June 1189, Henry proposed to Philip that John should marry his sister Adela, who had been affianced to Richard, but Philip would not consent, and demanded that John should go on the crusade. While Henry was suffering defeat and loss through his eagerness to forward John's interests, John was false to him, and secretly made an agreement with his brother Richard, the ally of his father's enemy. The unexpected news of this treachery gave Henry his death-blow [see under Henry II].
On the death of his father (6 July 1189) Richard received John graciously; gave him the county of Mortain, which had been granted to him by his father, though it is doubtful whether he had yet had possession of it; and promised him 4,000l. a year from land in England, and the hand of the heiress of the Earl of Gloucester, to whom he was already betrothed. On returning to England with Richard he further received from him the castles and honours of Marlborough, Luggarshall, Lancaster, Bolsover, and the Peak, the town of Nottingham, the honours of Tickhill and Wallingford, and the county of Derby, with the honour of Peverell. His marriage with Avice of Gloucester took place at Marlborough on 29 Aug., in spite of the remonstrance of Archbishop Baldwin, for John and his bride were related in the third degree. While his appeal was pending, Baldwin laid his lands under an interdict, which was relaxed in November by the legate, John of Anagni. In October the king sent John to receive the homage of the Welsh princes. Before the end of the year he received the four counties of Dorset, Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall, with all rights of jurisdiction. When Richard was about to leave Normandy and go on his crusade he caused John to swear at the council which he held in March that he would not enter England for the next three years without his leave, but the queen-mother persuaded the king to release him from this oath. This was a mistake, for Richard had made him so powerful that his presence in England was dangerous to the peace of the kingdom when the king was not there to overawe him. He returned by the beginning of 1191.
The grant of the four counties and the inheritance of his wife gave John almost kingly power in the west, while his other possessions enabled him to exert a strong influence in different parts of the kingdom, and especially in the Midlands, where he had many adherents. He had his own justiciar, chancellor, and other great officers, who held his courts and carried on administrative business, and he kept virtually royal state, residing chiefly at Lancaster or Marlborough (Hoveden, iii. Pref. xxv, xxxiii, lii, liii, with references). The unpopularity of Richard's chancellor, William Longchamp, bishop of Ely, made it easy for John to advance his own interests by placing himself at the head of the opposition to his brother's minister. His first object was to secure his succession to the throne. To do this it was necessary to crush Longchamp, for Richard intended that, if he had no children, his nephew Arthur should succeed him (Benedict, ii. 137). On 4 March a discussion took place between John and the chancellor about the right to the constableship of certain castles, apparently those of Nottingham and Tickhill, which were not included in the grant of the honours received by John, and as to the yearly income which he was to have from the exchequer. In the absence of Longchamp on the Welsh borders the disputed castles were surrendered to him by their constables, and John espoused the cause of Gerard de Camville, who broke into revolt against Longchamp [see Camville, Gerard De]. Longchamp felt himself overmatched. An arbitration between John and the chancellor was held at Winchester on 25 April, and the decision was favourable to John; he was declared heir to the throne, and as such received the homages of the earls and bishops present, and though he surrendered the castles, the chancellor was forced to deliver them to two of his friends to be held for the king. The arrival of Walter of Coutances, archbishop of Rouen, with powers from Richard put a check on John, and restored the balance of the parties. After a short renewal of hostilities another meeting was held at Winchester on 28 July 1191, and an award less favourable to John was published; the constables of the two castles were changed, Gerard was to be tried, and John was not to oppose the decision of the court; no mention. was made of the succession (Hoveden, iii. 134 n. and sqq.; Richard Of Devizes, pp. 32, 33; William Of Newburgh, ii. 46; Norgate, Angevin Kings, ii. 300). In September the news of the arrest of Archbishop Geoffrey [q. v.] was brought to John by his counsellor, Hugh of Nunant, bishop of Coventry. He saw the advantage to be gained from the affair, called a meeting of nobles and bishops at Reading, and invited Geoffrey to come to him there. At a council held at the bridge of Loddon, near Reading, it was decided to depose the chancellor. After making an attempt to bribe John, Longchamp promised to appear before the council and stand his trial. John marched out to meet him, but Longchamp made hastily for London. John followed him; the two parties skirmished just outside one of the suburbs, and John's justiciar was slain. The city was divided, the majority being on John's side, for a commune had been set up, and the citizens were anxious to have it confirmed. Longchamp shut himself in the Tower, and John and his friends reaching the city at night were admitted joyfully, the citizens coming out to meet him with torches and shouts of welcome. The next day, 8 Oct., he held a meeting of magnates and citizens at St. Paul's. In virtue of the king's commission the archbishop of Rouen assumed the office of chief justiciar, John and the other magnates swore to uphold the commune; all took an oath of fidelity to Richard and to John as his successor, and it is said that the assembly appointed John 'ruler of the whole kingdom,' and decreed that he should nominate the constables of all the castles except three (Richard Of Devizes, pp. 38, 39). Longchamp surrendered and left England.
John was for a while kept in check by the new justiciar. He spent Christmas at Howden with Hugh, bishop of Durham, then under the excommunication of Archbishop Geoffrey, and was therefore himself regarded as excommunicate by the archbishop. Longchamp threatened him with excommunication if he did not make him amends before Quinquagesima Sunday, and sent him an offer of 500l. if he would procure his restoration. The presence of the discredited and unpopular Longchamp in England would be certain to lead to strife, from which John anticipated personal advantage. He therefore consented to his proposal. About the same time Philip of France began to use him as a means of troubling Richard's dominions, and offered him his sister Adela in marriage, promising to give him with her all Richard's continental possessions. The queen-mother's return to England on 11 Feb. interrupted John's design of visiting France. The threat that if he set sail all his English lands and castles would be seized kept him at home. About the middle of March Longchamp, relying on John's promise, returned to England, and sent to the council then gathered in London to demand his restoration. The lords on learning from John that the chancellor's restoration depended on him, and that Longchamp had bribed him to take his side, offered him the larger bribe of two thousand marks, which converted him to their views. The chancellor was fined and forced to leave the country. Immediately after Christmas John received a message from Philip, telling him of the captivity of Richard, and renewing his offer to him. He crossed to Normandy, and demanded an oath of fealty from the seneschal and the barons. They refused, saying that they hoped that their lord would return. In February 1193 John went to Philip, did homage to him for Normandy and the rest of Richard's continental dominions, and it was said for England also, and swore to marry Adela, though his wife Avice was living, and to give up Gisors and the Norman Vexin in exchange for part of Flanders, Philip promising to help him to gain his brother's lands. On returning to England he gathered a force of foreign mercenaries, and took possession of Wallingford and Windsor, met the justices in London, and demanded that they should swear fealty to him, declaring that Richard was dead. They were incredulous and refused, and he went off in a rage to fortify his castles and make raids on the king's lands, expecting a force of French and Flemish to come over to help him. The justices retaliated, and called the people of the coast to arms, so that the foreigners were unable to land. John lost ground rapidly; the castles of Windsor, Wallingford, and the Peak were reduced, Archbishop Geoffrey and Bishop Hugh of Durham besieged Tickhill, and by May John was prepared to submit. A doubt as to the king's return caused the justices to be unwilling to push him too far, and they made a truce with him until 1 Nov. In July he heard that the emperor had agreed to liberate Richard on the fulfilment of certain conditions, Philip sending to bid him 'beware, for the devil was unloosed' (Hoveden, iii. 216).
John dared not abide his brother's return. He at once joined Philip in Normandy, and went with him into France. An offer of peace, sent by Richard to Philip, included terms of reconciliation with John, and when the king allowed him to have all the castles and lands which he had bestowed on him John returned to Normandy and swore fealty to Richard's representatives. The constables of the Norman castles, however, refused to deliver them to him, and he went off again in wrath to Philip, who gave him the castles of Driencourt and Arques. When the date of Richard's return drew near John joined Philip in sending an embassy to the emperor in January 1194, offering him a large sum to prolong the king's captivity until Michaelmas. The emperor showed the king John's letter when he met him at Mentz on 2 Feb. Meanwhile, despairing of the success of his offer, John sent a messenger to England to order that his castles should be put in a state of defence against the king. His messenger incautiously boasted at the table to Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, the new chief justiciar, about his master's influence with the French king and other matters. On hearing of this the mayor of London had him arrested. The council thereupon decreed that John should be deprived of all his English lands. The archbishop and bishops excommunicated him at Westminster; the bishop of Durham again laid siege to Tickhill; David, earl of Huntingdon, and the Earl of Chester besieged Nottingham; the justiciar took Marlborough, and received the surrender of the castle of Lancaster and of St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, which one of John's party held for him after having turned out the monks. On Richard's landing on 13 March Tickhill surrendered. The king at once marched to Nottingham, and its surrender on the 28th completed the reduction of John's English possessions. On 31 March Richard demanded judgment against John, and it was decreed that if he did not answer the summons of the court within forty days his English fiefs should be forfeited, and he should be incapable of succeeding to the throne. In May he met the king in Normandy, and through the mediation of the queen-mother the brothers were reconciled, though Richard did not for a while give him back any of his lands, but kept him in a position of dependence. John saw that it had become his interest to support his brother against Philip; he prepared to defend Rouen against the French, and surprised the garrison of Evreux, cut off the heads of three hundred men, and stuck them on stakes round the walls, but did not take the castle, and displeased the king by his cruelty. In company with the Earls of Huntingdon and Arundel he made an attempt on Vaudreuil, and was put to flight by Philip. In 1195 Richard granted him the county of Mortain, the honour of Eye, and the earldom of Gloucester, keeping the castles in his own hands, and giving him in lieu of his other lands a pension of 8,000l. Angevin. In 1196 he took Gamaches in Ponthieu; on 19 May led a company of Brabantine mercenaries against Beauvais; captured the bishop and many others, and delivered them to Richard. These services seem to have so far atoned for his past unfaithfulness as to cause him to be regarded as his brother's heir (Angevin Kings, ii. 381). At this time he upheld his deputy in Ireland in his quarrel with Archbishop John Comyn. During Philip's invasion of Normandy in the autumn of 1198 John burnt Neufbourg and captured some French knights. Early in 1199 Philip informed Richard that John had again entered into an alliance with him. Richard for the moment believed the story, though his brother swore it was false, and seized the possessions of John, who retired to Brittany, and stayed with his nephew Arthur. Before long the king was convinced that Philip had deceived him, and when he was dying in the beginning of April declared John his successor in England and all his dominions, and made those who were present take an oath of fealty to him.
John was in his twenty-second year at the date of his brother's death. He had been brought up amidst family dissensions and intrigues; his father had pitted him against his brothers, and he had learnt to be ungrateful and unfaithful to him. All the vices of his house appear in his character unredeemed by any greatness. He was mean, false, vindictive, and abominably cruel. At once greedy and extravagant he extorted money from his subjects, and spent it in an ignoble manner. He had a violent temper and a stubborn disposition, but he lacked real firmness of mind, and was at heart a coward. Although not without capacity he was so frivolous and slothful that at the most critical times he would behave like a fool. His levity was constant, and he indulged in jesting at moments which specially demanded decorum and gravity. While he was abjectly superstitious he was habitually profane and irreligious, though he once or twice yielded to religious emotion. He was self-indulgent and scandalously immoral, and no small part of the hatred with which his nobles came to regard him was due to the injuries which his unbridled lust inflicted on them and their families (for John's character see Stubbs, Preface to Walter Of Coventry, vol. ii. pp. xiv-xix).
Immediately after Richard's funeral he went to Chinon, where the treasure of Anjou was kept, and having sworn to carry out the late king's will and to respect the customs ot the lands he should govern received the keys. He sent for Bishop Hugh of Lincoln [q. v.], in whose company he visited the tombs of his father and brother at Fontevraud, and for three days behaved in an exemplary manner. On Easter Sunday, 18 March, which he spent at Beaufort, he relapsed into his usual habits, spoke with such irreverent levity that Hugh refused his offering, sent three times during the bishop's sermon to ask him to stop because he wanted his breakfast, and left the church without communicating (Magna Vita, pp. 287-93). The next Sunday he was invested with the insignia of the duchy at Rouen.
Meanwhile, though the Normans acknowledged John willingly, the lords of Anjou, Maine, and Touraine met together, and declared that according to their customs the son of an elder brother came before a younger brother. John's nephew, Arthur [q. v.], and his mother, Constance, marched with a force of Bretons into Anjou and Maine, were joyfully received, and nearly surprised John at Le Mans, while Philip took Evreux, and, joining them at Le Mans, received Arthur's homage, and soon after accepted him as his ward. In May John made a raid on Le Mans, punished the citizens, and leaving his mother and the mercenary leader, Mercadier, to ravage Anjou set out for England, whither he had previously sent Archbishop Hubert and William Marshall to secure the country for him. On the news of Richard's death much disorder ensued, and a strong party among the baronage acted as though they did not consider John's succession a matter of course. John's envoys received an oath of fealty tohim from his men, earls, barons, citizens, and freeholders, and proceeding to Northampton met the doubtful earls. They, on the envoys' promise that John would do justly by them, also swore to be faithful to him. On the 25th the king landed at Shoreham, and on the 27th was crowned at Westminster by Archbishop Hubert, who made a speech insisting strongly on the right of the nation to elect their king, and declaring that John was chosen. The choice was confirmed by the shouts of the people. When administering the usual oaths, he also adjured John not to take the kingly office unless he was steadfastly minded to keep them, and John answered that by God's help he would do so. John did not usurp the throne; he was chosen by the nation as the fittest of the royal line to reign, and was lawfully crowned and anointed. He did not communicate at his coronation. After appointing Geoffrey FitzPeter chief justiciar and Archbishop Hubert chancellor he went the next day to worship at St. Albans, and thence to Canterbury and St. Edmunds. He visited Northampton on 5 June, expecting that William, king of Scots, would meet him and do homage. Instead of coming William demanded Northumberland and Cumberland, and threatened war. John put these shires under the care of William of Stuteville, and on the 20th sailed for Normandy with a large force, crossing from Shoreham to Dieppe. On 24 June he made a truce with Philip at Rouen until 16 Aug., when the two kings had a conference between Boutavant and Le Goulet. Philip demanded the Vexin for himself, and for Arthur Anjou, Maine, Poitou, and Touraine, complaining that John had entered on his brother's continental fiefs without doing homage. John was in a position to refuse. The Count of Flanders had done homage to him, the French lords of Richard's party had accepted him as their head, and his nephew Otto was acknowledged by the pope as the rightful claimant of the empire. War began, and though Philip gained some successes he quarrelled with William des Roches, the leader of the Breton army, and was consequently forced to evacuate Maine. William des Roches received John at Le Mans, and delivered Arthur and Constance into his care. On the same day, 22 Sept., Arthur was secretly warned that his uncle would imprison him. The Viscount of Thouars was with John, and had been forced by him to give up Chinon; he, Arthur, and Constance escaped from Le Mans together in the night.
A truce was made in October, and before it ended the two kings held another conference near Les Andelys in the middle of January 1200. Philip, who had his own embarrassments (Angevin Kings, ii. 395), agreed to easier terms. John's niece Blanche, daughter of his sister Eleanor and Alfonso IX of Castile, was to marry Philip's son Louis, and John was to give with her the city and county of Evreux, all the castles in Normandy held by Philip at Richard's death, and three thousand marks, and he further promised to give no help to his nephew Otto. He returned to England, sailing from Barfleur, and landing at Portsmouth on 27 Feb. Although he had already received the unusually heavy scutage of two marks he demanded a carucage of 3s. on each ploughland to make up the sum to be paid on Blanche's marriage. He went to York to meet the king of Scots, who failed to attend, and there demanded the carucage from certain Cistercian abbots.
On their answering that they must first receive the directions of a general chapter of their order, he bade his sheriffs annoy them by all means in their power and deny them justice. Archbishop Hubert prevailed on him to withdraw this order, and paid him one thousand marks from them, but John was not appeased. In the end of April he again crossed to Normandy, and on 22 May concluded the treaty with Philip at Le Goulet. He was acknowledged king of England and duke of Normandy, with the right to the homage of Brittany, which he then received from Arthur. Besides the concessions already promised he gave certain places in Berry with his niece to Louis; he renounced the alliance of the Count of Flanders and of Otto, and one thousand marks of the money he had promised was remitted. All difficulties with Philip and Arthur seemed at an end, and the peaceable possession of his continental dominions secured.
The fresh difficulties in which John became involved were of his own making. Anxious to form a grander marriage, and perhaps dissatisfied at having no children by Avice, he had obtained a divorce from her from the bishops of Normandy and Aquitaine, on the ground of consanguinity, probably procuring by fraud a sanction from the pope, who was angered at the step when too late (compare Coggeshall, p. 103, and Diceto, ii. 167). He did not give up her inheritance, for he granted the county of Gloucester to William de Montfort, count of Evreux, husband of Avice's elder sister, Mabel, in exchange for the count's own possessions which had been ceded to the French, keeping the rest apparently in his own hands. Avice afterwards married Geoffrey de Mandeville, son of Geoffrey FitzPeter, earl of Essex, the chief justiciar. John sent ambassadors to the king of Portugal to solicit his daughter in marriage, but changed his mind, and it is said, at the suggestion of Philip, proposed to marry Isabella, daughter of Ademar, count of Angoulême [see Isabella of Angoulême]. First he made a progress through his continental dominions in June and July, and on 30 July arrived at Chinon, where his marriage probably took place. Isabella was, however, contracted to Hugh le Brun, eldest son of Hugh IX, count of La Marche, and her father took her from his custody to marry her to John, who thus made a dangerous enemy. John took his young wife, then about twelve years of age, over to England, and had her crowned with himself at Westminster on 8 Oct. While in London he visited Bishop Hugh of Lincoln, then on his deathbed (Magna Vita, pp. 335, 336). He went to Lincoln on the 21st to meet the king of Scots, who the next day did homage to him. On the 23rd the funeral procession of Bishop Hugh arrived; both the kings went out from the city to meet it, and John acted as one of the bearers (ib. pp. 371, 372). Moved by the bishop's death he promised the Cistercians to build them an abbey; he first granted the manor of Faringdon in Berkshire to the mother-house at Citeaux, and afterwards built his abbey at Beaulieu in Hampshire, granting Faringdon to the convent as a cell (Tanner, Notitia, pp. 18, 164; Monasticon, v. 680–2). When he revisited Lincoln in January 1201 he tried unsuccessfully to persuade the chapter to forego their right of election. A quarrel was in progress between him and Archbishop Geoffrey of York [q. v.], and on going to Beverley on the 10th he stayed with one of Geoffrey's excommunicated opponents. The archbishop refused to allow the canons to welcome him, and he commanded that Geoffrey's servants should be imprisoned. After visiting Scarborough with his queen he went through the northern parts of his kingdom, everywhere fining the people on the plea that they had injured his forests. At York on 1–4 March he was reconciled to the archbishop, and on the 25th, Easter-day, he and his queen wore their crowns at Canterbury, his court being largely attended by magnates.
Meanwhile Hugh le Brun, in revenge for the loss of his wife, was stirring up the Poitevin lords against him. In return John ordered the seneschal of Normandy to take Driencourt, then belonging to Ralph Count of Eu, Hugh's brother. War began on the Norman border, and before long Philip went to the help of John's enemies. John ordered his forces to assemble at Portsmouth on 13 May 1201. On this the earls met at Leicester, and declared that they would not cross the sea unless he granted them their rights. He demanded their castles, and showed that he meant to enforce the demand. They yielded, and on their assembling, John, in lieu of their service, took money, with which he could pay an army of mercenaries. In company with his queen he sailed from Portsmouth with a well trained force. He had an amicable conference with Philip on the isle of Andelys, and on 1 July visited Paris, where Philip entertained him honourably. At Chinon, which he made his headquarters, he summoned the Poitevin lords to appear, sending them an appeal of treason against himself and the late king, and calling on them to do battle with the champions he should select from his followers. They refused, saying that they would be judged by their peers. He then commissioned Robert of Turnham to act against them, declared Moncontour the castle of Geoffrey of Lusignan, Hugh's brother forfeited, and made alliance with his father-in-law, the Count of Angoulême. The Poitevins applied to Philip, and at their request Philip summoned him to appear before his court of French lords and receive the judgment of his peers. On 25 March 1202 John met Philip at Le Goulet, and was requested to give up his continental possessions to Arthur. He refused, but probably about this time agreed to be judged by his peers, and offered Boutavant and Tillières as pledges. When the appointed day came he did not appear, and the French nobles sentenced him to forfeit all his fiefs for disobedience to his suzerain. Philip at once took Boutavant, Tillières, and a line of border fortresses as far north as Eu, John apparently having made no special effort to prepare for the war by strengthening the border. Then Philip marched south, and laid siege to Radepont on the Andella on 8 July. Being forced by John to raise the siege about the 16th, he occupied Aumale and took Gournay, where he gave Arthur his daughter in marriage, invested him with all John's fiefs except Normandy, which he no doubt reserved for himself, and furnished him with men and money (for order of events see Angevin Kings, ii. 404, n. 3). John seems to have done little until, on 30 July, he heard that his mother was besieged by Arthur and the Poitevin lords in Mirebeau. He hastened thither, and arriving on 1 Aug. found the place almost in the hands of the enemy. He surprised and totally routed the besiegers, taking prisoners Arthur, Hugh le Brun and his brother Geoffrey of Lusignan, two hundred French knights, and Arthur's sister, Eleanor of Brittany. He put his prisoners in irons, sent them off in wagons to be kept, some in Norman and some in English prisons. He is said to have starved twenty-two to death in Corfe Castle (Margam Annals, p. 26; Hardy, Pref. to Patent Rolls, p. 34). Arthur he imprisoned at Falaise. Eleanor he imprisoned at Bristol, where she was kept in captivity all the rest of her life. He foolishly allowed himself to he persuaded to release Hugh and his brother. On hearing of Arthur's misfortune Philip, after burning Tours, retired to Paris. John did further damage to Tours, in anger at its having fallen into Philip's hands, and sent a force into Brittany which took Dol, and laid waste Fougères and the country round. He had an interview with Arthur at Falaise, and made him many offers if he would consent to abandon the French alliance, but the young count answered him haughtily. It is said that after John's attempt to blind and mutilate him had been foiled [see under Arthur, Count of Brittany], a report was spread that he had died. The report was believed by the Bretons, and they invaded Anjou and took Angers. In order to appease them the report was contradicted, and the true story became known. Arthur was then removed to Rouen, and though his fate is involved in mystery there can be no reasonable doubt that his uncle slew him there. It is probable that he killed him in a fit of drunken rage, and threw his body into the Seine on 3 April 1203 (Margam Annals, a. 1204). John had been wasting his time in feasting and sloth, usually lying in bed until dinner. It is stated, apparently in error, that on Arthur's death the Breton lords assembled at Vannes, and sent to Philip charging John with his murder, and demanding that he should be summoned to answer for it (Le Baud, Histoire de Bretagne, p. 210, quoting Robert Blondel, who can scarcely be recognised as an authority on the matter), and that on his non-appearance the court of peers of France sentenced him to be deprived of all his fiefs for the murder. Louis and his agents in 1216 asserted this condemnation, and their assertion was believed in England (Fœdera, i. 140; Wendover, iii. 373; Matt. Paris, iii. 652, 657; Thorn, col. 2420). On the other hand it is argued with great probability that the story was invented by the French in 1216; there is no earlier authority for it. A letter of Innocent III, written 7 March 1205, proves that the pope, though informed that sentence had been pronounced against John, did not know that it was for the murder of Arthur. It is improbable that the Bretons knew the date of the murder; Philip certainly was not sure whether Arthur was dead or alive some months later (Coggeshall, p. 145). The meeting of the Bretons at Vannes may have taken place on the false news of Arthur's death. John was there condemned to forfeiture in 1202; he killed his nephew subsequently, and it was readily believed in 1216 that he had been condemned to forfeiture and even to death for the murder (the subject has for the first time been worked out by M. Ch. Bémont, see 'La Condemnation de Jean Sans-terre,' Revue Historique, xxxii. 33-74, 290-311).
After giving help to the Bretons and Poitevins, Philip continued his conquests in Normandy, and the Norman lords seeing John's inactivity began to go over to the French side. To all their remonstrances John would only reply, 'Let him go on; whatever he takes I shall retake it in a single day,' and he remained so careless and cheerful that men thought he must be bewitched. In August, however, he laid siege to Alençon, which had been delivered to the French, and both there and at Bressoles was disgracefully put to flight. At last Philip laid siege to Château Gaillard, the fortress which Richard had built to keep the Seine and defend Rouen. A large force gathered by John and sent under the command of William Marshall failed to intercept the French, and John apparently made no effort on behalf of the Château (Hardy, Itinerary, Pref. to Patent Rolls; Angevin Kings, ii. 419). On 6 Dec. he returned to England, and at a council at Oxford on 2 Jan. 1204 obtained from his lords the grant of a seventh of movables, on the plea that their desertion of him had caused the loss of his castles; they had returned home when they found it impossible to rouse him to action. This grant was general, and even the goods of the parish churches were not exempt. He further took two marks and a half on the knight's fee, and this ecclesiastics were bound to pay as well as laymen. Château Gaillard fell on 6 March. John sent an embassy to ask peace of Philip, who replied that he would grant none until Arthur were delivered to him alive, or if he were dead, until his sister Eleanor was sent to him to dispose of in marriage, along with all the continental fiefs. The constables of his castles abroad asked whether they were to expect help from him, and he answered that they must provide for themselves. By 1 July Philip had become master of the whole duchy, John remaining at his ease in England, and declaring that he would recover all his losses by the help of the money that he was extorting from his people (Wendover, iii. 181). The loss of Normandy owing to his pusillanimity disgusted his barons with him. Those of them who, having lands on both sides of the Channel, chose to keep what they had in England, became wholly English in feeling, and their policy was thenceforward solely decided by the course of affairs in England. John's evil rule became specially grievous when he was constantly present. He and his people were brought close together, and the result was that they forced him to yield to their just demands, and finally rejected him altogether.
The fear of losing all that he had in Poitou and Anjou so far roused John that at a council at Northampton in May 1205 he summoned his forces to meet him at Porchester at Whitsuntide. When all was ready he was with difficulty dissuaded from the expedition by Archbishop Hubert and William Marshall; he had allowed the time for action to slip by; it was now too late. He dismissed his army and ships, but embarked with a small following as if about to cross; landing again at Wareham, and pretending that the expedition had come to nought because his lords neglected to follow him. He accordingly made them pay for having been dismissed to their homes. Philip at once gained all Poitou except Rochelle, Thouars, and Niort, and on 23 June Chinon surrendered. Finding in 1206 that Almeric, viscount of Thouars, who had by that time surrendered to Philip, and his brother Guy, the seneschal of Brittany, were disaffected towards the French king, John gathered an army, and, sailing from Portsmouth, landed at Rochelle on 8 July. Many joined him, and on 1 Aug. he took Montauban. Almeric and several Poitevin lords allied themselves with him, and with their help he took Angers, and ravaged in Anjou and the districts of Nantes, Rennes, and La Mée. Philip ravaged the viscounty of Thouars, and John and the viscount evidently did not dare to meet him. John agreed to a truce for two years,concluded on 26 Oct., by which he surrendered his claim to all his former dominions north of the Loire (Rigord, William of Armorica, Chroniques de St.-Denys ap. Recueil, xvii. 60, 81, 393; Fœdera, i. 95; Wendover, iii. 187). Before the truce was signed he went off to Rochelle, and on 12 Dec. landed at Portsmouth. On 8 Jan. 1207 he met the bishops and abbots at Westminster, and asked them to make him a grant to be levied on the benefices of the clergy. They refused, and the matter was adjourned. He renewed his request at Oxford on 9 Feb., and on their refusal being repeated obtained from the barons the grant of a thirteenth on the movables of the laity. After prohibiting a council of the clergy he sent out letters to them requesting that they would likewise pay the thirteenth. Archbishop Geoffrey refused to allow his clergy to pay, and went into exile [see Geoffrey, Archbishop of York].
By the death of Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, on 12 July 1205, John lost a wise counsellor, whose control he had borne with impatience. His death was followed by a course of violent action on the king's part, which led to a breach of the long-standing alliance between the crown and the church. On hearing the news John hurried to Canterbury, disposed of the archbishop's effects as he chose, and obtained a promise from the chapter that they would not proceed to a new election before 30 Nov. The younger monks, however, elected the sub-prior Reginald secretly and without application to the king. The king heard of his election, and was highly displeased; the suffragan bishops appealed to Pope Innocent III because the election had been made without them, and the monks appealed against the bishops. John sent down messengers exhorting the monks to elect John de Grey, bishop of Norwich, one of his special friends, and offering them rewards if they would do so. They yielded, and on the 11th, in the presence of the king, elected and enthroned John de Grey, to whom John at once granted the temporalities, sending some of the monks to obtain the pope's confirmation and the pall. Their application was opposed by the agent of the sub-prior. John sent money to bribe the Roman officials, and, while declaring that the monks might elect whom they would, charged them to elect no one but his nominee. In the autumn the pope heard the case, quashed both the elections, and, a party of the monks being before him, caused them to elect Cardinal Stephen Langton. John was angry, and refused to receive Stephen into favour. On 17 June the pope consecrated Stephen himself. John, on findingthat the monks meant to adhere to Stephen, ordered an armed force to turn them out of their house, seized their property, and committed their church to the care of the monks of St. Augustine's. On 27 Aug. Innocent wrote to the bishops of London, Ely, and Worcester, bidding them try to persuade John, and if they failed lay the kingdom, under an interdict, and on 19 Nov. wrote again commanding the publication of the interdict. In January 1208 John declared that he would give way, and on 19 Feb. had an interview with Simon Langton, the archbishop's brother, at which, according to John's account, Simon said that the king must submit himself wholly to the archbishop. The negotiation failed. The three bishops besought the king to avoid an interdict, but he swore 'by God's teeth,' for that and 'God's feet' were his usual forms of oath, that if any one published the interdict he would send all the prelates, clerks, and monks in England off to the pope, and would seize their goods, and that if he caught a Roman in his kingdom he would tear out his eyes and cut off his nose. On 23 or 24 March 1208 the three bishops published the interdict, and with two other bishops left the kingdom. Then John sent to the pope offering to accept the archbishop, to place the temporalities in the pope's hands, and to restore the monks, provided that he need not receive Stephen into favour. Innocent bade him put the temporalities into the hands of the three bishops, to whom he sent authority to relax the interdict as soon as an agreement was made. Negotiations went on throughout the summer and autumn, and on 12 Jan. 1209 the pope wrote to John declaring him excommunicate unless he yielded within three months. John seized the property of the bishops who had fled; confiscated the revenues of the clergy and monks, and outlawed them, though he threatened to hang any one who did them harm. In order to enforce the fidelity of the barons he demanded hostages. Maud, the wife of William de Braose [q. v.], told his messengers that she would not give her children to a man who had murdered his own nephew. For the present she and her husband escaped. John ordered William of Scotland to give security that he would not receive his enemies or make alliances displeasing to him. William neglected to appear for the purpose, and John marched northwards with a large force, arriving at Norham on 4 Aug. There William made terms, delivered his two daughters, Margaret [see Burgh, Hubert de] and Isabella [see Bigod, Roger, fourth Earl of Norfolk], to him, bound himself to pay 13,000l., and gave hostages from the Scottish lords. On his return John ordered all fences to be destroyed in the forests, and exacted an oath of fealty from all freeholders of twelve years old and upwards, compelling the Welsh to come to Woodstock for the purpose. While there he hanged three clerks of Oxford for the murder of a woman, and this occasioned a large migration of scholars from the university. Communication with Rome was not wholly suspended, and negotiations went on with reference to the archbishop. Some restitutions of lands to the bishops seemed to point to an inclination to yield on the king's side, but when Langton came over on 2 Oct. with a safe-conduct no arrangement was made, and he left the kingdom.
Meanwhile matters went on easily in England; the interdict did not press heavily on such of the laity as were not specially pious, for there was not an entire suspension of the ordinances of religion (see William of Coventry, ii. Preface, xlv, xlvi n.) As John was well supplied with money from the revenues of the church, there was no general taxation, and the country was prosperous (Worcester Annals, p. 397). The sentence of excommunication, though seemingly published in France, was not published in England; the bishops who fled left the duty to those who remained behind. It was known, but still his nobles did not avoid the king's society; indeed he had them in his power by holding hostages from them, and he dealt severely with any one who withdrew from him. Always prone to make favourites of men of low birth and evil character, John, was at this time much under the influence of a certain clerk Alexander the Mason, who was enriched out of the spoils of the church, and who stirred him up to acts of special cruelty. The quarrel between the pope and his nephew Otto IV hardened his heart, and he made no further attempts to be reconciled. He extorted large sums from the clergy and monks, and especially from the Cistercians, whom he turned out of their houses in September, forcing them to ransom themselves by a payment of twenty-seven thousand marks, the only exceptions being his own foundation of Beaulieu and the abbey of Margam in Glamorgan, where he quartered himself and his troops while proceeding to Ireland.
With the threefold object of overthrowing the power of the Lacys, establishing order and the supremacy of the crown, and taking vengeance on William de Braose and his wife, John landed at Waterford from Pembroke in the middle of June 1210. At Dublin he received the homage of many Irish chiefs. In July he took Carrickfergus, seized the lands of the Lacys and banished the Earl of Ulster, built several fortresses, appointed sheriffs and other officers to carry out the English system of law, coined new money, and leaving the government in the hands of John Grey (d. 1214) [q. v.], bishop of Norwich, returned to England towards the end of August, bringing with him Maud de Braose and her son, who had been taken and whom he starved to death [see under Braose, William De]. He arrested all the Jews in England, and made them pay him sixty-six thousand marks, of which ten thousand marks came from the Bristol jewry, and was extorted from the head of the community by knocking out one of his teeth each day until he agreed that the sum should be paid. He spent Christmas at York, the see being in his hands since the departure of Geoffrey. In 1211 he made an expedition into North Wales, entered the Snowdon district, compelled the submission of Llywelyn, and raised fortresses. Returning to England in August he met two papal envoys, Durand and Pandulf, at a council at Northampton, where he consented that the archbishop, bishops, and monks then in exile should return home; but as he refused to restore their possessions the conference was ineffectual, and the envoys threatened that the pope would proceed to yet severer measures. At this council he took a scutage of two marks for the Welsh war. William of Scotland sought his alliance, and sent his son Alexander to John, who knighted him on 4 March 1212. In this year (1212) the pope issued a bull, declaring John excommunicate by name and deposed from the throne, and entrusted its execution to Philip of France, who at once began preparations for an invasion of England. The hatred felt for John by his lords became active. Llywelyn broke the peace made the year before, destroyed his castles, slew his men, and burnt many places. John marched to Nottingham with a large army, and there hanged twenty-eight Welsh youths whom he held as hostages. While he was there, probably in August, a message was brought him from the Scottish king that treason was being plotted against him. A message from Llywelyn's wife, Joan (d. 1237) [q. v.], his natural daughter, warned him of another plot, and he thereupon shut himself in the castle and dismissed his army. At the end of the month he visited York, and thence went to Durham. A hermit of Wakefield named Peter of Pomfret, who appears to have prophesied evil of him before, foretold that by the next Ascension day, 23 May, his reign would be over and his crown have passed to another. John caused him to be brought before him, questioned him, and committed him to prison at Corfe. In order to keep a hold upon his lords he again exacted hostages from those whom he suspected; he found no proof of plots against himself, but outlawed Eustace de Vesci and Robert Fitzwalter and confiscated their lands; he seized the castles of some others, and kept the country quiet by force. He tried to propitiate the people by mitigating theexactions of the forest courts, and guarded himself against future claims by compelling the prelates to seal deeds declaring that his exactions from them had been freely granted. One of his ablest clerks, Geoffrey of Norwich, withdrew from the exchequer, saying that it did not become a beneficed clerk to keep company with an excommunicate. John imprisoned him at Bristol, and caused a heavy leaden cope to be placed upon him, so that he died of misery and want. John strengthened himself against Philip by forming an alliance with Reginald, count of Boulogne, and shortly afterwards with Ferrand, count of Flanders, and during the early part of 1213 made active preparations to repel invasion. By sea he was far stronger than Philip, and an English fleet took several French ships about the mouth of the Seine and burnt Dieppe. All the force of the kingdom was summoned to meet in arms at Dover the week after Easter under penalty of 'culvertage,' a declaration of infamy for cowardice and perpetual slavery. An immense force and large stores having been gathered, he sent detachments to various ports, keeping the remainder encamped on Barham Down, near Canterbury. Meanwhile he was full of uneasiness; his lords' hatred of him had become so strong that, it is said, they sent messages to Philip inviting him to invade the land (Annalsof Worcester, iv. 402; Robert of Auxerre, an. 1213; Genealogy of Counts of Flanders, c. 27). There were rumours of a conspiracy to offer the crown to Simon of Montfort (Ann. of Dunstable, iii. 33; Wendover, iii. 248). The prophecy of Peter troubled him as Ascension day drew near. When, therefore, two knights of the Temple brought him a message from Pandulf urging him to seek reconciliation, he sent them back with an invitation to the envoy to come to England at once. He met Pandulf at Dover on 13 May, and on the 15th the terms of submission were ratified. He swore to be reconciled to the archbishop, and the exiled bishops and monks, and to all others, lay and clerical, concerned in the quarrel, and to make full restitution to them. Moreover he placed England and Ireland under the suzerainty of the pope, promising for himself and his successors to pay one thousand marks yearly tribute to the Roman see, seven hundred marks for England and three hundred for Ireland, and swore to do fealty and liege homage to Innocent and his successors, for he believed that no prince in Christendom would dare to invade a kingdom that was under the protection of the pope (Walter of Coventry, ii. 210). The act of homage was subscribed on the eve of Ascension day, and on the morrow he caused Peter to be drawn from Corfe to Wareham and there hanged along with his son. It was said that the hermit had spoken truth, for that John ceased to reign when he became the pope's vassal. The acknowledgment of the pope's suzerainty, however, was not at the time generally felt to be a disgrace. Meanwhile Philip entered Flanders with an army, and gathered a large fleet at Damme. But an English fleet under the command of the Earl of Salisbury, and in conjunction with the counts of Boulogne and Holland, destroyed and made prizes of so many vessels that Philip ordered the rest to be burnt. The battle seems to have taken place on or immediately before 1 June (Canon of Laon, an. 1213). It seems probable that the French ships were gathered for an invasion of England, but that Pandulf forbade the attempt. Philip (William Of Armorica, sub an.; Wendover, iii. 256) after this check evacuated Flanders, whither John sent a strong force to uphold the cause of the count. John proposed to remove all danger of invasion by carrying the war into France, and proposed to the barons that he should invade Poitou. They refused to go with him on the plea that he was still excommunicate. On 16 July, however, the archbishop and the exiled bishops landed at Dover, and, as the king avoided meeting them, went to him at Winchester, where he repeated his promise of restitution, renewed the oath of his consecration, pledged himself to do justice to all, and observe the laws of Henry I. He fell at their feet, and with many tears implored their mercy. Accordingly they pronounced absolution on the 20th, and conducted him into the church during the service of the mass. A council was summoned to meet at St. Albans in August to assess the damages suffered by the prelates, and an embassy was sent to the pope on divers matters. John renewed his request that the barons would join in an invasion of Poitou. The northern lords answered that they were not bound to go beyond sea, and returned home. John having embarked with his personal following, sailed as far as Jersey and then came back in anger at having been deserted. He marched northwards with the intention of punishing the lords who had left him. At Northampton he was overtaken by Archbishop Stephen, who reminded him of his oath at Winchester to proceed against no one without the judgment of his court. Nevertheless he went on in a fury towards Nottingham, followed by Stephen, who at last prevailed on him to appoint a day for the barons to appear at his court. John went on to York and thence to Durham, and returned to London by the end of September. While he was absent the council met at St. Albans on 4 Aug. 1213. It was attended not only by bishops and magnates, but by representatives from the townships in the king's demesne, each sending the reeve and four men. Besides inquiring into the losses of the prelates it discussed the state of the kingdom, and the promise of the king to observe the laws of Henry I. On the 25th another council was held at St.Paul's, at which the archbishop produced and read Henry's charter, and all the barons swore before him that they would, if need be, fight for the liberties therein contained, and the archbishop promised them his help. On 2 Oct. Geoffrey FitzPeter the justiciar died. John disliked and feared him, both because he restrained him from evil, and because he was widely connected with baronial families. On hearing of his death John declared that he and the late archbishop would meet in hell, and swore by God's feet that he was now for the first time king and lord of England. He gave the justiciarship to Peter des Roches, the Poitevin bishop of Winchester, and the barons were much displeased at the appointment of a foreigner. On the 3rd he delivered the deed surrendering his kingdom to the pope to the legate, Nicolas of Tusculum, before an assembly gathered in St. Paul's. As he failed to meet a council appointed to be held at Reading, the bishops and magnates adjourned to Wallingford, where they found him on 3 Nov. There he promised to make restitution to the bishops, and was reconciled to the northern barons (Annals of Dunstable, iii. 40). Probably, in consequence of this meeting, he sent out a summons on the 7th for a council to meet at Oxford, to which were to come, along with the barons and knights, four discreet men as representatives from each county, to advise with him on the affairs of the kingdom. It is not known whether the council met; the writ marks an important stage in the rise of parliamentary representation (Constitutional History, i. 528; Select Charters, pp. 278, 279). John was, of course, aware of the resolve of the barons to insist on a reform, and was further deeply mortified at being forced by the pope to be reconciled to the archbishop and bishops; he is said to have tried to bribe Innocent to desert their cause. Matthew Paris says that about this time he sent an embassy to the emir of Morocco, offering to place himself and his kingdom under his suzerainty, to pay him tribute, and even to adopt Mahometanism. That an embassy was sent to the emir seems fairly certain, though the particulars of the story are probably embellishments added either by the chronicler or his informant, Robert of London, one of the envoys. John held another council at Reading on 8 Dec., about the losses of the bishops. In obedience to a letter received from the pope some progress was made in filling up the vacant benefices throughout the country. The legate accepted the king's candidates.
The alliances built up by his father and brother gave John a strong position as against France, and he became the centre of continental opposition to Philip. On the east and north-east of France he was in alliance against Philip with his nephew the emperor, Otto IV, with the Counts of Boulogne, Flanders, and Holland, with the Dukes of Limburg, Brabant, and Louvain, and with other lords. He now had a large force acting in Flanders under his natural brother, William de Longespée, earl of Salisbury (1196-1226) [q. v.], in conjunction with his allies. Raymond VI, count of Toulouse, who had been despoiled of his dominions, came to him in England, did homage to him for Toulouse, and like other enemies of Philip received money from him. He determined to invade Poitou while Philip was engaged with the allied armies in Flanders, and on 15 Feb. 1214 landed at Rochelle, which still belonged to him, at the head of a large force. Having gained some trifling successes in the neighbourhood of Rochelle, he was soon joined by several Poitevins, and in May 1214 attacked the possessions of Geoffrey de Lusignan. The Lusignans, Hugh le Brun, count of La Marche, the Count of Eu, and Geoffrey, his ancient enemies, made a treaty of alliance with him at Partenay, and he promised his daughter Joan in marriage to Hugh's eldest son. Thus reinforced, and having regained part of Poitou, he advanced into Anjou, where he took Beaufort, Ancenis, and on 17 June Angers. On the 19th he formed the siege of Roche-aux-Moins, a strong fortress which commanded the road between Angers and Nantes. It was obstinately defended. The siege is said to have lasted three weeks, though it probably ended on 3 July (comp. William of Armorica with Hardy, Itinerary). Louis, Philip's eldest son, advanced to its relief, and when he was within about a day's march John, finding that the Poitevin lords would not fight, and believing that he was betrayed, broke up his camp, and, leaving his siege train behind him, retreated in disorder across the Loire, and on the 9th again took up his quarters at Rochelle. Louis quickly regained the places in Anjou which John had taken. On the 27th the combined forces of the emperor, the English under Salisbury, the Flemish, the Lorrainers, and the other allies were defeated by Philip at the decisive battle of Bouvines on the river Margne, and the confederacy which threatened France on the north-east was crushed. The defeat reduced John to utter impotence. On the approach of Philip his allies openly deserted him, and made their peace with the French king, who about 14 Sept. granted John a truce for five years. John returned to England on 15 Nov. completely discredited. During his absence the interdict had been removed on 29 June, and the barons had held a meeting at St. Edmunds, at which they swore that, unless the king granted a charter of liberties on the lines of the charter of Henry I, they would resort to arms. They determined to make their demands after Christmas, and meanwhile to prepare for resistance. John, who had spent on the war in Flanders forty thousand marks wrung from the Cistercians, demanded a scutage from the lords who had not helped him in his late expedition. Some agreed, but the northern lords refused to pay, and the matter was deferred. He attempted to break the alliance between the prelates and nobles by granting a charter on 21 Nov. providing for canonical elections, but the device failed.
After holding his Christmas court hurriedly at Worcester, John went to London and lodged at the Temple, where, on 6 Jan. 1215, the barons who had met at St. Edmunds came to him in arms and demanded certain liberties. Alarmed at their steadfast manner he requested that the matter might stand over until after the first Sunday after Easter (26 April), and as he unwillingly consented that the archbishop, the Bishop of Ely, and William Marshall should bind themselves that he should then give them satisfaction, the barons agreed. In order to strengthen himself, he again published the charter to the church, and offered privileges to the barons, caused an oath of fealty and homage to be taken throughout England, on 4 March took the crusaders' cross at London, and sent word to the pope that a revolt was being plotted. Innocent exhorted him to listen to all just demands, and at the same time wrote to the archbishop forbidding plots against the king. In Easter week the northern lords assembled at Stamford, and a general gathering was held at Brackley in Northamptonshire, on the expiration of the truce. John sent to ask their demands, and they sent him a schedule of them, adding that if he did not grant them they would make war upon him. John indignantly refused, declaring that to grant what they asked would make him a slave. They defied him, chose Robert FitzWalter for their captain, with the title of marshal of the army of God and of holy church, threatened some royal castles, and marched to London. John left the city on the 9th and went to Windsor, and on the 24th the barons were welcomed by the London citizens. Risings against the king's officers broke out in Devonshire and Northamptonshire, the barons besieged the Tower, and the northern party seized Lincoln. Meanwhile John went into Wiltshire, and remained there quietly until the middle of May, and at the end of the month moved to Windsor Castle. During this time he sent abroad for mercenaries, and complained to the pope; his party dwindled rapidly, and fearing lest the barons should become masters of his castles he promised to grant their demands. A conference was arranged for 9 June 1215 and put off to the 15th, when John met the barons at Runnymede, between Staines and Windsor. He was attended by Archbishop Stephen and several bishops, by Pandulf and a few lay nobles. The barons presented their articles, and John set his seal to the Great Charter (Magna Carta) which was framed upon them (Select Charters, pp. 281-98). In the charter the liberties of all classes alike were carefully guarded. His tyranny had set the men of every class against him. Both the Welsh princes and the Scottish king were believed to be on the baronial side; they had suffered from his oppression, and justice was secured for them. The mercenary leaders on whom he relied were to be deprived of the custody of the royal castles, and the bands of foreign soldiers in his pay were to be dismissed. The execution of the charter was entrusted to twenty-five barons, chosen by the baronage, who swore that if he violated it they would restrain him by force of arms. The charter was virtually a treaty between him and his subjects; he granted it 'on the understanding that he was to retain the allegiance of the nation' (Const. Hist. i. 530). Steps were taken to fulfil the provisions, which were to have immediate effect; John ordering that knights should be elected in each shire to inquire into evil customs, and that the mercenaries at Dover should be released; there was also a restoration of castles on both sides.
Meanwhile John was secretly raging, and his wrath being fanned by the taunts of his mercenary captains, he worked himself into a state of fury, gnashing his teeth, and gnawing straws and bits of stick. He plotted how he might get the better of the barons; he sent to the pope and Philip of France to beg their help, fortified his castles and garrisoned them with mercenaries. On 16 Aug. 1215 he refused to appear at a meeting of prelates and lords held at Brackley to complete the general restitution, declaring that since the peace he had been wronged in various ways, and that it was not safe for him to venture in such a gathering. At Brackley papal letters were produced directing the excommunication of his enemies and of disturbers of the peace. An attempt made by the bishops to persuade him to meet the barons failed, and he went to Sandwich, and remained there, at Dover, and at Canterbury until 9 Oct., securing the adherence of the Cinque ports, and collecting forces from abroad. The excommunication was published. Langton left England, and John seized the estates of the see, but failed to get possession of Rochester Castle. The baronage was divided, several magnates took the king's side; the remainder sought help from France, formally abjured their allegiance, and elected Louis, son of Philip, as king. War began, and on 11 Oct. John laid siege to Rochester Castle, arriving there in person two days later. The castle was surrendered on the 30th, and John wanted to hang all the garrison, but was prevented by his mercenary captain, Savaric de Mauleon. He wasted a large part of Kent, and his men stabled their horses in the choir of Rochester Cathedral. Although a fleet which was coming to his aid was shipwrecked, the taking of Rochester gave him much strength; he remained there until 6 Dec., and a fortnight later marched northward with part of his forces. He spent Christmas at Nottingham, overthrew the castles of the northern lords, marched as far as Berwick in the middle of January 1216, in order to curb the Scots, who had overrun Northumberland, renewed his ravages on his return southwards, and about the middle of March joined the rest of his forces, which had been engaged in plundering the eastern counties, and with them took Colchester. This 'was the highest point that his fortunes ever reached' (ib. ii. 11). Only two strongholds were left to the northern barons. In December the pope caused the rebel lords to be excommunicated by name; their cause seemed lost, and several of them made their peace with the king. The legate Gualo forbade Louis to invade England, but was answered by the pleas that John had forfeited his right to succeed by his rebellion against Richard, that he had therefore never been a rightful king, and that he had forfeited the crown first by the murder of Arthur, and again by surrendering it to the pope without the consent of his barons. Innocent disallowed similar pleas which the ambassadors of Philip laid before him (Matt. Paris, ii. 651-63).
On 27 Feb. some French lords landed at London with a large following and joined the rebel lords, and on 21 May Louis himself landed at Stonor, near Sandwich, in defiance of the papal prohibition. John, who had gone down to Dover on 26 April, and remained there or in the immediate neighbourhood watching the coast, left Folkestone in much distress and alarm on 20 May, and retreated to Winchester. Finding that Louis, who received the homages of the barons at London on 2 June, was likely to advance to Winchester, John left it on the 5th, setting the city on fire, and retired to his strongholds at Wareham and Corfe, where he remained from the 23rd to 17 July. Winchester was surrendered on 14 June, and some of the earls who had as yet adhered to John, and among them his father's son the Earl of Salisbury, deserted him. Louis rapidly gained many places, and received the homage of the northern barons and of the king of Scots. He turned his attention to the sieges of Dover and Windsor, which still held out for the king. John still had a few lords who remained faithful to him, and was supported besides by his foreign friends and mercenary captains; he left Corfe, and made a raid on the Welsh march, reaching Shrewsbury on 4 Aug.; he retook Worcester on the 16th, and returned to Corfe on the 25th, having done much damage to the castles and lands of the barons on his march, though he had not advanced his cause, for Louis was master of nearly the whole kingdom except the west. Early in September he marched by Chippenham and Oxford, intending to relieve Windsor, and advanced as far as Reading, but finding that the besiegers under the Count of Nevers were in strong force, he turned northwards and marched by Aylesbury to Bedford, intending to intercept the Scottish king on his return. The baronial army raised the siege of Windsor, pursued him fruitlessly as far as Cambridge, which he reached on the 16th, and then gave up the pursuit. Everywhere he ravaged mercilessly, even destroying the churches. He raised the siege of Lincoln, marched as far north as Grimsby, where he was on 3 Oct., pillaged the church of Crowland and burnt the crops of the monastery, and put a body of the baronial forces to flight at King's Lynn. Again setting out on a northward march he lost all his baggage and some of his men in crossing the Welland. In bitter grief at this loss he went on to the Cistercian abbey of Swineshead, where he is said to have surfeited himself with peaches and a kind of new beer. This brought on a slight attack of dysentery, which was followed by fever. On the 14th he went as far as Sleaford, where he was bled, and sent a letter to the new pope, Honorius, commending his children to him. With great difficulty he reached Newark on the 16th. His physician, the abbot of Croxton, heard his confession and gave him the sacrament. He made a short will, and declared his son Henry his successor. While he lay dying messengers arrived from a number of lords who wished to be reconciled to him, but he could not attend to them. He died on the 19th. In accordance with his directions he was buried in the cathedral church of Worcester, in front of the high altar. Before the end of the century it was generally believed that he was poisoned by a monk of Swineshead (Wikes), and there is a legend that as he intended to violate a nun, the sister of the abbot, a monk gave him three poisoned pears while he sat at table talking wildly about the scarcity of food which he intended to bring upon the country (Hemingburgh, i. 252; also in Higden and other later writers). In his later years he seems to have had some serious difference with his queen, is said to have 'hanged her gallants over her bed' (Matt. Paris, ii. 565), and in December 1214 ordered her to be kept in confinement at Gloucester (Patent Rolls, p. 124).
By his wife John left five children: Henry, who succeeded him as Henry III [q. v.]; Richard, earl of Cornwall [q. v.]; Joan, queen of Scotland (1210-1238) [q. v.]; Isabella (1214-1241) [q. v.], wife of the Emperor Frederic II; and Eleanor, born 1215, wife of (1) William Marshall, earl of Pembroke, 23 April 1224, and (2) Simon of Montfort, earl of Leicester, 7 Jan. 1239; she died in the convent of Montargis in France, 1274. Of John's illegitimate children may be mentioned Richard, who slew Eustace the Monk after the sea-fight of 1217; Oliver, who joined the crusade against Damietta, 1218; and Joan (d. 1237) [q. v.], who married Llywelyn of Wales.