Thursday, June 15, 2006


This Day in Pre Renaissance History

On this day in 1215 at Runnymede, King John (the bad guy in Robin Hood) sealed the Magna Carta. John might well have been illiterate, so he did not sign it--in fact, no English monarch signed it until Queen Elizabeth II did in 1965. I don't think it contains many citizen rights, but my medieval Latin is rusty. It certainly puts some limits on the monarchy's power.

I was born in 1965.
John is a fascinating figure with a reputation much worse than he deserves. Much of his bad press (and much of the resentment of the barons that resulted in Runnymede) is a result of his raising taxes to ransom his idiot brother Richard (Coeur de Lion).

John should have left Richard to rot in Trifels Castle.
Maybe Doug, but John Lackland (Sans Terre for you Francophiles or true afionados as they were speaking Norman French @ the English court in Johns time)was one of the worst English kings. No English King ever will be named John. If there were any cowpies in which to step, he didn't miss many.

When I think of bad press, I think of Richard III, the last English King to die in battle. (1485. Just think, seven more year sand Columbus would land on Hispanola) It was like Michael Moore and Ann Coulter ganged up on his reputation but the winners write history and as nearly as I can determine, back then hsitory and fiction seemd to have been more closely aligned than they are today.

Maybe we should sponsor a essay contest: :Identify your least favorite English King and explain why."

Was it Stephen who died of a surfeit of lampreys?
Richard III had his reputation extensively blackened by Wm. Shakespeare, who was largely trying to curry favor with Elizabeth I. (As I understand the history.) He comes to mind for me, too.

I disagree that John was a particularly bad king. He wasn't as bad as his ransomed brother, for instance. He was probably better than either Henry VI or George III, who were both insane. George IV (George III's regent) was pretty much a disaster. The Stuarts were all pretty bad (specifically including James VI and I). It wouldn't be hard to go on.

That whole, "there'll never be another King John" thing is exactly what I was referring to when I said his reputation was undeservedly bad. "Never be another Charles" would have been a better rule (and I say that without intending to imply anything about the current heir apparent).

I think John was bad but you are right in that he had plenty of company, including his brother. There was another son besides Geoffrey, whom I seem to recall was killed in a tournament from a fall from a horse, but his name escapes me. I don't know whta happened to him but something did as he was older than John.

In that regard, I jsutr read an article in Military History Quarterly that suggests that Edward I (Longshanks) reputation as a military commender is largely undeserved.

Ok, Good English Kings: Henry III, John's son, (the Builder, you have to like that); Edward III; Henry V (Once more unto the breach; Cry God for Harry; We happy few: Kiss me Kate.) William III (wasn't he gay, hence no heirs?); Georges V and VI.


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