“How the Magna Carta ruined my life.” by King John
Late at night at Worcester Cathedral …
I’ve been summoned from my eternal rest to comment on this ridiculous Magna Carta anniversary.
They asked, “John! Would you say a few words please on the occasion of 800 years of the Magna Carta?”
Like I care. I mean it was so long ago. Who can remember?
Well if I have to say something about that infernal document it’s this… The Magna Carta ruined my life!
Those damn nobles. Really I should have tried them all for treason, chopped their heads off and be done with it. Now all that history remembers me for is being forced to sign that stupid charter by the nobles … like I was some kind of tyrant or something. Oooohhhh Big Bad John!
Do you think it was easy to be born the last of 5 sons when your parents are the most powerful people of their time?
Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine! They could have had their own reality show. They crown Henry Jr. King of England. They marry Geoffrey off so he can have Brittany. They even gave the baby William, Poitiers. Richard gets Mummy’s Aquitaine. Me. I get nothing! Bupkis.
Thanks to that stroke of genius, I got stuck with the nickname John “Lack Land”! Mummy and Father got a big chuckle out of that one. Obviously, they missed the parent/tutor conference on, “Nurturing Your Child’s Positive Self Esteem”.
At least I wasn’t stupid enough to join my brothers’ rebellion against Father. I got some land then and Dad liked me best. But then Father died and Richard took away most of my lands when he was king. And of course, Mummy liked Richard best.
“Oh Richie, I want YOU to be Duke of Aquitaine.” “Oh Richie, you’re so brave to go on a Crusade. I shall call you Lionheart.” (Not Richard ‘Could Care Less About England’ Heart.) “Oh Richie, of course you can have all my money for your ransom. John can just tax the people more.”
Yes I get the blame for all the taxes! And Richard comes out smelling like a rose. But he doesn’t bother to come to England. No, He doesn’t want to rule England. It’s why he’s rarely here. England’s just a cash cow for him.
But everyone LOVED Richard. Never mind that I’m the one in England holding down the fort and running everything. Do I get credit for that? No. But the damn fool dies with a stupid arrow to the shoulder. And I FINALLY get to be King – on my own!
Of course, Mummy blames me for losing Normandy, Anjou and Poitiers to the French (she really hates the Capets). She made me promise on her deathbed to try to get it all back – and I better not lose Aquitaine or she was going to haunt me from the grave. All that warring didn’t make the nobles very happy…and of course I had to tax them all again. Then I had to invent new taxes. War is NOT cheap. And it wasn’t easy getting the Angevin Empire back, but I had to keep going. Mummy was scary enough in life, I didn’t want to deal with her ghost!
All this taxing made the nobles really unhappy. And then the Pope gets his mitre in a twist because I want to appoint my guy to be Archbishop of Canterbury. He went with someone else. I said no way and then the next thing you know he excommunicates me! What’s up with that? So I tax the church. Really, come on now. What did the Pope truly expect me to do!
Then the nobles started plotting against me. Saying I was a tyrant and a bad king and God didn’t like me anymore. They wrote down all their complaints on one great big piece of paper they called the ‘Magna Carta”. What a stupid name. They just should have called it, The Nobles Are in a Snit Charter.
They said I couldn’t tax them without their consent! WHAT??? They all owed me money … and they’re grumbling about paying their fair share in taxes.
I’m the KING!! I can tax whoever I want, whenever I want.
Then there was all this nonsense about the rights of “free men”. They weren’t free. They were my vassals. They pledged an oath to me as their liege lord. And they’re upset because I’m asking them to fight against the French. The FRENCH?!?!
Their Charter said I couldn’t imprison them or banish them or outlaw them or prosecute them unless their peers agreed to it. And I couldn’t delay justice. That the king (me!) wasn’t above the law. What poppycock! Then they threw in all this stuff about fishing on the Thames and when widows could re-marry which totally confused me.
I knew these whiny traitors would rebel against me if I didn’t sign the damn thing. I could lose my throne. So I signed it. I crossed my fingers and I didn’t’ mean it. I had no intention of paying it any mind.
And then a miracle from God occurred. Who would have believed that the Pope would null and void the charter? He even threatened the nobles (and me again!) with excommunication if we did observe it. I had a really good laugh at that one. The great Magna Carta was over before it had even begun. That was so rich!
But those traitorous nobles asked the French King’s son to invade England and they would make him king. The nobles had completely lost their minds! (As if Louis would pay any mind to their precious Magna Carta either. What fools.)
All their scheming came to naught, because I died and the invasion ended. That charter should have died with me and no one would have ever heard of it. But my silly son Henry resurrected the Magna Carta and the rest is history.
Unfortunately, I’m irrevocably tied to that piece of paper. And it’s hailed as this document of freedom, justice, liberty. What nonsense. It was just a bunch of disgruntled nobles who tried to get back at me because they owed me money.
I’m the King. The barons are traitors. I should have chopped their heads off! Why is that so hard for people to understand?
And even though my name is on the Charter, I’m cast as the villain for the rest of time. Historians call me “wicked”, “petty”, “sinful”. That’s a complete distortion of who I am. I should sue. I’m always portrayed as the bad guy in stories, like Robin Hood. I never even knew a Robin Hood. Even A.A. Milne said I had my “little ways”. I don’t think that’s a compliment.
I have regretted signing the Magna Carta every day of my death. If I hadn’t, no one would think me a bad king at all!
Mummy always said I would go down in history as the “Worst. King. Ever!” Well I certainly don’t think that’s true. I’ve got strong competition with Richard III, even Henry VIII.
People may think I murdered my nephew Arthur, my older brother Geoffrey’s boy, to claim the throne. It was a dark night. I’m not sure what happened. But I’m only accused of killing one nephew. Richard III’s accused of murdering two.
And Henry VIII did far worse than I! Alright, I divorced my first wife like he did, but I did not chop my second wife’s head off. Then again, Isabella was a precocious little 12-year-old when I married her and she only got more delightful as she grew.
Henry chopped off two of his wives heads and divorced yet another wife. That’s worse than anything I ever did. And of course, he got to chop off any noble’s head he wanted to, whenever he wanted to. He wasn’t paying attention to the Magna Carta and no one gave him grief about it. Lucky king!
But in the end, I did sign the Magna Carta, “showing that no man is above the law” – blah, blah, blah, even a king. What rot! But that’s history brownie points for me. So I’m not the worst king ever. In fact Winston Churchill went so far as to say, “the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labors of virtuous sovereigns”. So there.
This is complete parody and is in no way meant to be accurate.