King John


Known as Lackland and Softsword, John was king when the French laid siege to Chateau Gaillard.


National Affiliation: England
Occupation: King of England
Allies: Hubert de Burgh
Enemies: Henry II, Richard I, King Philip II, Prince Louis
Castles: Chateau Gaillard, Dover Castle
Personality: Shortsighted, Willful

Known as Lackland and Softsword, John succeeded his brother, Richard I, to the throne of England in 1199. Though an impassioned individual, he had little skill in either diplomacy or war. His abrasive personality and frequent affairs with married ladies of court cost him alliances in England, while his lack of foresight compromised almost all of his nation’s holdings on the continent.

For these and many other reasons, the Barons of England forced John to sign the Magna Carta, limiting his rights to absolute rule. When John ignored its provisions, the Barons invited the French prince, Louis, to conquer England and claim the crown.

To this day, historians debate John’s role and depiction. Was he truly a fool in king’s clothing, or did contemporaries and artists exaggerate the man’s shortcomings?