24 December 1167, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, at Beaumont Palace, Oxford


  1. 29 August 1189 Isabella of Gloucester, at Marlborough Castle, Wiltshire (divorced 1199)
  2. 24 August 1200 Isabelle of Angouleme, at Bordeaux, France


27 May 1199, at Westminster Abbey, London


18 October 1216 at Newark Castle, Lincolnshire


Worcester Cathedral

Succeeded by:

Henry III (son)

ntrusting and untrustworthy, ruthless, cruel, greedy, predatory, unpredictable – few adjectives are too uncomplimentary for John. He first turned on his own father, secretly supporting a rebellion against him.

He then conspired (quite unsuccessfully) to steal the throne from his older brother, Richard. When he did finally inherit the crown, he immediately discarded his English wife, Isabella.

Then, having married a captivating 12-year-old French heiress, Isabelle, he continued to pursue the unwilling wives and daughters of his English barons. John was also reputed to have murdered his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, a rival claimant to the English throne.

John did have some successes as king. He subdued a rebellion in Wales (albeit with impermanent results). He increased England’s influence in Scotland and in Ireland. He expanded the royal administration and laid the first beginnings of a royal navy.

He also, however, alienated two significant constituencies – the church and the barons. An argument with the pope over the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury led to a papal interdict on the entire country for six years. All across England, churches were closed and the people deprived of all sacraments, except baptism and the last rites, until John finally capitulated.

The barons were aggrieved by John’s military losses in France. England’s continental possession dwindled. Gone were all of Normandy and Anjou, and most of Aquitaine. And there was worse! Having inherited an empty treasury, John aggressively raised taxes in creative ways and against long-standing policies.

The barons united and, as a curb on John’s extortionate behavior, forced him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. When John then turned on them, they invited Prince Louis of France to invade England on their behalf. John was losing, with the rebels and the French in control of southeast England, when he took ill and died.

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