830 years ago, Prince John (future King John the Landless), using the fact that his brother Richard the Lionheart was taken prisoner in Germany, tried to seize the throne of England.
Setting out on the Third Crusade, King Richard announced in 1190 the son of his deceased brother Geoffrey as his successor, and Lord Chancellor William de Longchamp was his regent. His brother John, unhappy with Richard's decision, orchestrated a conspiracy. This was the reason to inscribe Prince John as the villain in the legend of Hereward, which served as the basis for the legend of Robin Hood.
The exact date of birth of Prince John (John) is unknown - 1166 or 1167. He was the youngest son of Henry II Plantagenet and Alienora of Aquitaine. Unlike his older brothers, John, although he was Henry's favorite, did not receive any of the vast estates in France, for which he was nicknamed "Landless". However, his father granted him large estates in England and Ireland. The mother's favorite was Richard.
It seemed that he had no chance of the throne. Already during the life of his father, his co-ruler was the eldest son, Henry the Young King. However, Alienora, having grown cold to her husband, played a political game in favor of her sons Henry, Richard and Geoffrey, the dukes of Aquitaine and Brittany. In 1173 they raised a mutiny against their father, relying on the support of the French king Louis VII. Henry II suppressed the rebellion of his sons and their allies. He made peace with his sons, and imprisoned his wife in one of the castles. True, with the preservation of the position of the Queen and Duchess of Aquitaine, with all possible comfort.
In 1182 Henry the Young King and Geoffrey rebelled again. Young Heinrich fled to the French. But in 1183 he died of dysentery. Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, was killed in a knightly tournament in 1186. Richard and John survived. Richard was considered the king's heir, but he was afraid of losing his rights to the throne and lands because of Henry's greater love for his youngest son, John. The last years of Henry's reign were spent in conflict between his sons. John, with the assistance of his father, tried to get possession of a part of Aquitaine. Also a participant in the conflict was the French king Philip II Augustus, who tried to use swaras in the English royal house to his advantage. The last three years of Henry's reign were spent in war with France, his heir Richard either supported his father or fought against him. As a result, peace was concluded in the summer of 1189. Henry promised to marry Richard to Alice (Adele of France), sister of King Philip, and to take part in the crusade.
Henry died in July 1189. Richard became king. He freed his mother. Alienora became the ruler of England for a while. Bishop William de Longchamp also received great power. Richard, collecting money and preparing the fleet, went on a crusade, starting a struggle for power and land in the East. When Alienora left for the continent, Chancellor Longchamp received supreme power. The absence of the king, the policies of Longchamp and the taxes on the war displeased the barons. Prince John decided to take advantage of this, who led a conspiracy against Longchamp, in fact, against his brother.
John broke his oath to Richard, according to which he promised not to return to England for three years without the permission of the king. The issue of succession to the throne became the cause of the conflict. Longchamp, at the behest of Richard, named Arthur, the son of the deceased Geoffrey, the heir. John opposed this by supporting the rebellious barons. As a result, John took up, forced Longchamp to give up the post of chancellor and leave the country. In October 1191, John was recognized as Richard's heir.
Meanwhile, Richard fell out with the French. The French king Philip returned to Europe and began to seize Richard's castles in Normandy. Richard the Lionheart, unable to recapture Jerusalem, and because of the situation in England and France, decided to return. Philip of France turned against Richard the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The emperor ordered Richard to be detained. In December 1192, Richard was arrested and a large ransom was demanded.
Prince John announced the death of Richard and tried to take the throne. In 1193, the news came that Richard was alive. Then John and King Philip began to offer money to Emperor Henry, so that he would detain Richard further. But the German princes forced the emperor to release Richard. Alienora of Aquitaine raised a significant sum for this. In early 1194, Richard returned to the country. John was expelled, his land was confiscated. True, soon John was forgiven, part of the property was returned and declared the heir.
For barons, knights, clergy, townspeople and peasants, Richard's return was not a holiday. They also continued to collect a ransom for the emperor and immediately began collecting taxes for a new war with France. They squeezed literally everything from the people, demanded fines and ransoms from John's supporters and "gifts" from all citizens ("on the occasion of the joy of the royal return"). After staying in the country for less than a month, Richard left for the war in Normandy. He never returned to England and laid down his head during the siege of one of the castles in 1199. So the throne passed to John.
Monument to Richard I in the courtyard of the Palace of Westminster
The reign of John Landless is considered one of the most unfortunate in stories England. True, it is worth remembering that he got a heavy inheritance. Richard the Lionheart went to war with France and ravaged the country with war taxes and ransoms.
John lost the war on the continent. Philip, under the pretext of defending the rights of Arthur, the son of John's elder brother Geoffrey, who had legal claims to the throne, and with the support of a part of the Norman nobility, invaded Normandy in 1202. He bestowed on Arthur almost all of John's possessions in France. King John was able to take Arthur prisoner and he soon died in prison. But the war was lost by 1204. John lost the ancestral lands of the Plantagenets on the continent: Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine and part of Poitou. All this time, military training sessions were held, which, coupled with the lost war, caused the legitimate indignation of the English barons.
In 1205, John came into conflict with Pope Innocent III, which became part of a larger confrontation between the secular rulers and Rome. The Pope appointed Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. John refused to acknowledge this decision. In 1208, the Pope imposed an interdict on England (Latin interdictum - prohibition) - a temporary ban on all church activities and requirements (for example, chrismation, confession, marriages, etc.). In response, the king seized the church lands and began to collect taxes from them. In 1209, the Pope excommunicated John from the church, then deprived him of his right to the throne. As a result, Innocent announced a crusade against John, which was to be led by France. The English king, who was opposed by the clergy and barons, and was not supported by the knights and townspeople, dissatisfied with the excessive tax oppression, was forced to throw out the white flag. In 1213, the excommunication was lifted, John recognized himself as a vassal of the Roman throne and pledged to pay an annual tribute to the Pope. This further weakened the authority of the king in England.
In 1214, John again opposed France, but was defeated. England lost most of its continental possessions. The defeat in the war with France was the reason for the revolt of the barons, who were supported by all classes, knights, townspeople and the top of the free peasantry. The barons wanted to weaken the central government, the church - to return the lost positions and lands. The knights and townspeople, who usually supported the king, were unhappy with unsuccessful policies, theft of officials, and excessive taxes. They demanded to cleanse and strengthen the central and local authorities. The peasants protested against the heavy tax burden.
John demanded that an extremely large shield tax be collected from the barons who did not participate in the campaign. New levies angered the nobility. The uprising was led by the barons of the northern counties. Stephen Langton also supported the rebels. The barons made a number of demands to the king, John refused to accept them. In May 1215, the baronial army moved to London. The capital opened the gates. Almost all the English nobility supported the rebels. Left alone, King John signed the terms of the rebels on June 15, 1215. Later this document was called "Magna Carta". He limited royal power in the interests of the barons. In particular, the rights of the king as a suzerain were reduced, his rights to collect taxes. The charter reflected the interests of the church, chivalry and townspeople, the interests of the peasantry (most of the people) were not protected.
This agreement could not be sustainable because both sides were not satisfied. John almost immediately refused to carry it out, called in mercenaries from the continent (Vikings) and renewed the war with the barons. He also turned to the pope for help, he declared the charter illegal. Stephen Langton was summoned to the "carpet" in Rome. John successfully attacked the castles of the rebels, took them one by one. The barons were unable to organize a general resistance. Therefore, they called for the help of the French prince Louis and in 1216 proclaimed him king of London. After that, part of the nobility went over to the side of John, the war took on the character of a civil war. And in the north, the Scots invaded England.
In October 1216, John died. His son Henry III became his heir under the regency of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. Most of the English nobility recognized King Henry. Louis, having lost a number of battles, was forced to yield and return to France.
King John signs the Charter of Liberties. Artist Arthur Michael
The Legend of Robin Hood and Prince John
Thus, the reign of John-John was extremely unfortunate for England and the people. Defeats at France and the loss of a significant portion of the continent's holdings. Unsuccessful confrontation with the Roman throne. The ruin of the country with taxes. The victory of the rebellion of the barons, the weakening of royal power and the strengthening of the positions of the large feudal lords, which was clearly not in the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people.
True, a number of researchers note that the reign of John was not so disastrous when compared with the period of the kingdom of Richard and Henry III. John got a heavy legacy: a devastated country and people, a war on the continent. Obviously, he did not possess brilliant state and military talents, so he could not correct the situation. But you shouldn't make a villain out of him either, he was a typical politician, a ruler of that time.
His reign became part of the Robin Hood legend. The people, crushed by extortions, bled from wars of conquest and internal uprisings, created the image of Robin Hood - the defender of ordinary people. It was based on the image of the leader of the popular Anglo-Saxon resistance during the Norman conquest of England by Hereward. He led the resistance against the invaders in the XNUMXth century. Also, this image was superimposed on mythological, pre-Christian traditions and beliefs - the cult of a forest deity and a symbolic duel between summer and winter, so characteristic of the Celtic tradition.
In the eyes of the people, Robin Hood protected the common people from the greedy and vicious Prince John and his people. And Richard the Lionheart is shown as a noble warrior who is fair to ordinary people. True, there is no historical reliability in this legend. Richard practically did not live and did not rule in England, for him his homeland was fiefdoms in France. He dug England to the bottom to fight in the East and in France. His wars were not in the national interests; they did not bring any profit or honor to the country. John, like other rulers, fought for power, fought, but unsuccessfully. His challenge to the pope, his attempt to save the lands in France and the fight against the rebellious barons were in the interests of the country (a strong royal power is more beneficial to the common people than the rule of large feudal lords). As a result, he was made the "scapegoat" for all the failures and failures.
Monument to Robin Hood in Nottingham